I’m always on the lookout for a new way of livening up my daily salads. I’ve long known that a bit of crunch along with something a little sweet is the way to make a hum drum salad sing. I’m not one for fruit in salads – that is an American taste that this Brit still cannot get around – but a little sweetness from a touch of balsamic or maple syrup in a dressing is usually a good way of getting me to enjoy a salad more.
Crunch is the real game-changer. I like to build my salads with a balance of textures (soft avocado, crunchy leaves, a few toasted nuts or seeds or even torn bits of toasted bread). That, plus a well-balanced dressing, with the right balance of acid and sweetness make me a happy salad eater.
I’ve been teaching granola in class for a while, but I’ve always treated it as a sweet breakfast item. When I saw it on a menu at The Flying Pig, Carlsbad, Ca I wondered why I’d never thought of putting it in a salad. Their salad of roast beets, goats cheese, leaves and balsamic dressing was topped with a sweet granola and was delicious (as was everything else on their menu). Having tried it, I fancied a bash at making a savoury one.
Now I’ve discovered savoury granola I’m a bit obsessed and have been chucking it on top of pasta and roasted vegetables left right and centre. I keep a jar of it in the kitchen and it lasts really well for a week or so. When I need to refresh it, I just pop it in a dry frying pan for a couple of minutes to toast it up. Feel free to play around with the flavours I used – cumin seeds are good as are thyme leaves and chopped rosemary.
I used kale in my salad because I’m a bit obsessed with kale and I find it heartier than other salad leaves. Feel free to substitute rocket [arugula] or watercress or even baby spinach.
The night I made this, my husband wasn’t thrilled at the lack of carbs so I cooked some pasta and stirred the salad into it along with some of the pasta cooking water to thin out the sauce. The cheese melted onto the pasta and I then topped it with the granola. It was really good.
Ingredients (serves 4)
12 golf ball size beetroot [beets]
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
A sprig of thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch of kale (or any hearty green salad leaf)
Half a tablespoon sherry, balsamic or red wine vinegar
a teaspoon of good olive oil
Feta or goats cheese to serve
For the granola:
1 ½ cups/150g rolled (old fashioned) oats
1/4 cup/40g sunflower seeds
1/4 cup/40g sesame seeds
1/4 cup/40g flaked or slivered almonds
2 tablespoons pure grade B maple syrup or honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
Half a teaspoon each of sea salt, fennel seeds and black pepper
A pinch of chilli flakes
1. Preheat the oven to 400F, 200C
2. Scrub the dirt off the beetroot [beets] but leave the skin on. Put them, whole, in an oven proof dish large enough for them to sit in a single, snug layer. Sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and a good pinch of salt and pepper along with the thyme and cover tightly with foil. Cook for around 40 minutes or until a knife easily pierces the beetroot. Set aside and be sure to keep the purple juices.
3. Mix together all the granola ingredients. I always use salad servers to get everything well mixed. Then scatter onto a foil-lined baking sheet. You want the layer of granola to be pretty thin, if it is too thick it will not crisp. Cook for 15 minutes then toss around and cook for a further 10-12 minutes. Be sure to use your sense of smell to make sure it isn’t burning as it can quickly go from beautiful golden and crunchy to burnt.
4. When the granola is ready, leave to cool on the tray. This can be done well ahead of time.
5. Finely shred the kale into a shallow wide bowl and toss with half a tablespoon of sherry, red wine or balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and a teaspoon of good olive oil. Toss well.
6. Add the beets to the kale and toss again. Be sure to scrape all the sweet purple juice into the salad from the cooking dish.
7. Finish the salad by crumbling goats cheese or Feta on top of the salad and sprinkling generously with the granola.