Michael van Straten
Michael van Straten

Six Dressings

A splodge of malt vinegar and a slurp of cheap oil does not a dressing make. Yet this is the common offering in many homes and restaurants. I'm sure this is the reason why the awful "salad cream" has become so popular in the UK.
A good dressing not only intensifies and enhances the flavours of the dish you're adding it to, but can also supply a valuable bonus of nutrients to make your salad even healthier. First make sure that all your salad leaves are perfectly dry - a cheap plastic salad spinner should be an essential in anyone's kitchen. Dressings run off wet leaves, mingle with the water and form a sludge at the bottom of the salad bowl. Second, be sparing in your use of dressings as, unlike all the dips and sauces that you ladle onto your burger to disguise it's dreadful taste, these dressings are delicate and delicious.

There's no need to spend your money on bottles of ready made dressings bearing famous people's names, here's a basic recipe for my favourite dressing which you can make in advance and keep in a tightly stoppered bottle - an empty Grolsch beer bottle is ideal. Make any quantity you like as long as the proportions are the same. This makes one pint and is perfect for any sort of salad.

Two thirds of a pint of the best extra virgin olive oil you can afford
One third of a pint cider vinegar
One dessertspoon runny honey
One dessertspoon Dijon mustard
Two finely chopped spring onions (including green part)
One finely chopped clove garlic
A sprig of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
Ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together in a jug, except the rosemary and bay leaves, pour into the bottle, add bay leaves and rosemary and shake well before using. This dressing not only tastes good but has all the heart protective benefits of olive oil, garlic and onions, and the digestive benefits of cider vinegar, rosemary and bay.

Keep a bottle handy, but not in the fridge as the oil will solidify. Safely add it to almost any type of salad.


This is a wonderful piquant dressing ideally suited to fish or poultry salads. It will go equally well with a salad of rare roast beef.

A large pot of low fat live natural yoghurt
2 tablespoons strong horseradish sauce
A generous handful of fresh chopped herbs - parsley, thyme, chives and coriander
2 finely chopped cloves garlic
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon paprika
freshly ground black pepper

Place all the ingredients in a large jug or bowl and whisk thoroughly.

As well as calcium and beneficial bacteria from the yoghurt, the garlic is heart protective and helps lower cholesterol, the horseradish relieves catarrh and congested sinuses and the paprika stimulates the circulation.


This dressing is ideally suited to seafood salads and is wonderful sprinkled on prawns, crab, lobster, scallops or mussels. Ideally serve these shellfish on a bed of dark red radicchio lettuce with a layer of watercress surrounded by cherry tomatoes and thin rings of firm sweet red onion.

Fill a 250 ml bottle with walnut oil and add a sprig of fennel, a sprig of tarragon, and a sprig of dill. Cork and keep in a cool dark place for at least a week. Fill another 250 ml bottle with the best white wine vinegar you can find. Then add a tablespoon of coriander seeds and one teaspoon of hot dried red chillies, cork and keep in a cool dark place for at least a week.

To make the dressing use three measures of oil to one measure of vinegar, whisk together and pour over the salad. Walnut oil not only tastes good but does you good too. It has a distinctive flavour which is ideal with the strong tastes of shellfish and has very amounts of the harmful saturated fatty acids. It's rich in mono-unsaturates with a good balance between the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids making it the perfect protection against heart disease as it helps the body get rid of cholesterol.

The combination of fennel, tarragon, dill and coriander makes this dressing a great aid to good digestion and the antiseptic qualities of wine vinegar and chillies helps ward off the food poisoning bugs.


Salads of warm green vegetables are popular around the Mediterranean but have never really caught on here. Use this dressing and you'll serve up a highly unusual health-giving salad which most of your friends will not have tasted before. The dressing goes equally well with salads of cold cooked pasta or use it as an instant sauce for hot pasta dishes. Traditionally this dressing is served on warm cooked dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, chard and spring greens.

1 small tin anchovy fillets soaked in milk for 10 minutes then dried on kitchen paper
6 semi sundried tomatoes (I think they're called blush tomatoes)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and flattened with a knife blade
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a small food processor and whizz till smooth. If you haven't got one, pound the anchovies, tomatoes and garlic to a paste with a pestle and mortar or wooden spoon in a small bowl, add the oil, vinegar and pepper and whisk together.

The essential fatty acids from the anchovies are good for all joint problems, the garlic is heart protective and the enormous quantities of lycopene in the tomatoes protects against breast and prostate cancer.


This one's a bit naughty but very nice. It's perfect as a dressing for asparagus, tomato and onion salads, with cold duck or chicken salads, cold salmon salad or as a dip to serve with crudités of raw cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, red and green pepper, radishes, cucumber, celery and spring onions.

A generous handful of watercress, washed, dried and chopped
A generous handful of flat leaved parsley, washed, dried and chopped
A tablespoon of finely snipped chives
A teaspoon of lemon juice
200 ml low fat Hellmans mayonnaise

Put the watercress, parsley, chives and lemon juice into a food processor and whizz to a puree, stir it into the mayonnaise cover and refrigerate.

Yes, mayonnaise has got some cholesterol and saturated fat in it, but it's what you eat most of the time that matters and the occasional treat makes feasting on this dressing even more enjoyable. It has health benefits too as the watercress is highly protective against lung cancer and the parsley is a gentle diuretic which helps rid the body of accumulated water, so it's perfect for those monthly swollen ankles, puffy fingers and painful breasts.


Instead of spoonfuls of artery-clogging double cream use the light and surprising flavours of this unusual mixture on all fresh or cooked fruits and fruit salads.

A large carton of live natural yoghurt
The zest of a whole unwaxed lemon
The juice of half a lemon
A generous tablespoon of runny honey
Half a teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 roughly torn fresh mint leaves

Thoroughly mix the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice, honey and cinnamon, then stir in the mint.

This dressing provides millions of healthy beneficial bacteria that keep your intestines healthy and boost natural resistance. It also contains calcium for strong bones, bioflavonoids and vitamin C to ward off infections and the cinnamon and mint are great digestive aids.

For the perfect potato salad dressing substitute a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil for the lemon juice, leave out the honey and add a finely chopped clove of garlic and two finely chopped spring onions.


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