Salad days

The first warm rains have cracked summer open and, as we contemplate the liquid blue sky and ponder what it means for the weekend’s barbecue, we’re forced to contemplate the vexed issue of raw vegetables.

Salads are generally an after-thought in the British kitchen. The standard offering is a condensation-heavy bag of stalks and razor-edged leaves with a few chopped tomatoes and sliced cucumber shaken through it. This tangle is then dressed with a sour dribble of French Dressing from a crusty bottle with a greasy label that stopped being legible a few years after the best before date ran out.

So horrible is this concoction that, for years, I refused to go near a salad leaf that had the merest hint of a glisten. Salad dressing meant face-puckeringly bitter, viscous pools of what looked like saliva, dribbled over my meal by the demon god of unhappy meals. Discovering that you could shake oil, vinegar, honey, garlic and mustard together and make a salad dressing that actually improves the experience of eating foliage was astonishing.

And then there’s salad cream. It’s generally said to have been invented in 1914 by Heinz, but cream-and-egg-sauced lettuce leaves have decorated British dining room tables for several centuries. Eliza Acton gives a recipe for English Salad Sauce in Modern Cookery For Private Families (published 1845) and Mrs Beeton’s Household Management features a recipe for Salad Cream that’s astonishingly heavy-handed with the vinegar.

But it’s Mrs Beeton’s version that this recipe is based on. I’ve given the quantities for a basic, slightly bland mix that can then be seasoned and spiced with vinegar, cayenne, mustard and pepper to suit your tastebuds. You can dollop it onto your salad or I suspect it’d be rather good for dunking chips in.

Salad cream
Makes enough for several salads

4 medium eggs
75–100ml double cream
½-1 tsp Dijon mustard
1–2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Freshly ground white pepper
Cayenne pepper

1. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the eggs. Gently boil for 10 minutes, then lift out of the water and plunge into a bowl of iced water. Leave to cool, then peel the eggs, halve and scoop out the yolks.

2. Pound the egg yolks to a smooth paste in a pestle and mortar and scrape into a small bowl. Stir in 75ml cream then add ½ tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tbsp vinegar and a small pinch each of white pepper, cayenne and salt. Stir together, taste and add more cream, Dijon, vinegar, pepper, cayenne or salt to make a sauce that suits you.

The salad cream is ready to use straight away and will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, preferably in a sterilised jar.

You can read more of Jassy’s recipes and foodie-related blogging at the wonderful Gin and Crumpets.
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12 thoughts on “Salad days

  1. Worm
    May 18, 2011 at 13:07

    ooh! I am DEFINATELY making some of this as I currently have a surfeit of both salad and eggs (but not lampreys, unfortunately)

    I suppose its likeness to homemade mayo with its raw eggs also means it’s not suitable for pregnant women? -Hope so, as this means I won’t have to share any with my wife

    May 18, 2011 at 13:26

    @Worm The eggs are hard boiled. You could claim that it’s not suitable for pregnant women but I don’t think that would be strictly true.

  3. Worm
    May 18, 2011 at 13:48

    oh yeah, just realised that you did say to cook the eggs – d’oh!

    still not giving any to my wife though

  4. Gaw
    May 18, 2011 at 13:48

    Lovely piece of writing. However, the double cream sounds a bit much – my loyalties will remain with mayo or oil ‘n’ vinegar.

    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    May 18, 2011 at 14:18

    I’ve never understood how salad got a reputation as a food for dieters. There’s no other foodstuff in existence that benefits so much from the addition of sugary-oil/grease-fat, and is as inedible without it. Recent studies have shown that the dressing to make palatable one green-leaf side salad takes the calories of two Big-Macs and the saturates fat of one Greggs pasty. Saying that, I might try this recipe as the scones turned out very nice – thanks Jassy.

  6. Worm
    May 18, 2011 at 14:52

    is that actual science JJJJ?

    May 18, 2011 at 15:07

    Sounds like science to me.

    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    May 18, 2011 at 15:35

    In the broadest possible sense of the term it could maybe possibly be actual science? When I said ‘recent studies…’ what I actually meant was “recent peverse justifications for avoiding eating salad for lunch, based entirely on my liking of baked pastry dishes…’

  9. Gaw
    May 18, 2011 at 16:35

    The Times agrees with you Joey:

    However, anyone hoping that salad is the slimming option should read the nutritional information on the McDonald’s website, which reveals that simply switching from burger to salad will not help to shed the pounds.

    A chicken Caesar salad with dressing and croutons contains 425 calories and 21.4g of fat, compared with 253 calories and 7.7g of fat in a standard hamburger. Add a portion of fries to your burger and the calorie count climbs to 459, but is still less fatty than the salad at 16.7g.

    Joey Joe Joe Jr.
    May 18, 2011 at 16:52

    That’s brilliant Gaw. What I appear to be eating is not, in fact, a hamburger, but a low fat dressing for the tomato, onion, and lettuce salad it surrounds.

  11. Gaw
    May 18, 2011 at 19:00

    Wow. I’d never thought of a hamburger as basically a beef salad between two large croutons.

      May 20, 2011 at 07:37

      Arf! Comment of the month!

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