River Cottage Great Salads, by Gelf Alderson

Gelf Alderson’s River Cottage Great Salads, has a lot of beaut recipes for salads, but… it’s English, and so some of it just doesn’t apply to Australian cuisine, and more importantly, it’s not making the most of the abundance of Australian produce that we enjoy here. No macadamias, no mango, and no avocado.  (And certainly none of the scrumptious Australian native ingredients that are featured in Australian Native Cuisine by Andrew Fielke, though it’s hardly fair to expect it to.) I have another caveat too.  I evaluated the recipes in terms of some ‘salad facts’ that I learned from The Conversation. The authors (who are nutrition experts) recommend six categories of ingredients to ‘keep salad boredom at bay’: leaves, such as lettuce, rocket or spinach something sweet and juicy, such as tomato, pear, mango, peach or whatever is in season something with crunch, such as carrot, capsicum or broccolini a type of nut, such as cashew or macadamia a cheese, such as feta, bocconcini, mature cheddar, parmesan, edam something fragrant, such as mint, parsley, basil or coriander. And, they say, to make the salad into a complete meal, add macronutrients a healthy carbohydrate source (pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnips, taro, brown rice, quinoa, barley or brown pasta) a healthy fat source (avocado, olive oil, toasted seeds or nuts) a lean protein source (eggs, fish, chicken, tofu, tempeh, lentils or legumes). So, what does Great Salads have to offer? Is it worth the purchase price for an Australian cook?  Yes, I think so… ‘Salad boredom’ is not going to be a problem with these recipes, and some of them do make a complete meal. And of course we can adapt the recipes to take advantage of the produce we have here too! The Introduction The book begins with the usual yada-yada and then there’s a useful section on using seasonal produce.  It’s summer here right now, and most of what’s listed is available at this time of the year except for gooseberries.   Then there’s a long section on growing your own vegetables and herbs, and a smaller section on foraging. Then there’s a useful section on Salad techniques, including char-grilling and barbecuing v roasting, and adding ‘textural interest’ with different ways of prepping the veg: ribbons and shavings; grated, diced; julienned and batons.  (And it’s true, how different even an ordinary salad can look if it’s presented with a variety of shapes and textures.) Then it’s onto the recipes, which are arranged in seven chapters: Quick Hearty Light Spicy Lunchbox River Cottage Classics Dressings, Pickles and Krauts Quick means simple to make, serving two as a light lunch or four as a side.  Most of these do not make a ‘complete meal’ but they’re not intended to.  Among the most appealing are: Celeriac (or fennel, which we have in the garden) rhubarb, hazelnuts and parsley (but toasting & peeling hazelnuts (i.e. heating up the oven) isn’t my idea of simple.) Tomatoes and raspberries with mint (possibly with rivermint instead, and possibly with balsamic vinegar.) Cucumber, grapes, apple and almonds. (Yes, with fresh crunchy bread). Parsnip, chicory, orange and prunes.  (I dunno about this one.  Perhaps worth trying with some leftover parsnip.) Hearty means ‘big, colourful and comforting’, ‘warm generous recipes’. Recipes serve two as a main. Recipes in this section mostly make a ‘complete’ meal. Kale, apple, goat’s cheese and hazelnut butter.  (I’d go easy on the kale and more heavy-handed with the cheese because I love goat’s cheese, especially these ones from Meredith). Kidney beans with smoky tomato and onion salsa (I reckon this would be brilliant with potatoes roasted in their jackets.) Beetroot three ways with tamari seeds (perfect with beetroot fresh from the garden, and fresh homemade cottage cheese as a dressing !) Cavolo (or kale), peach, cashews and blue cheese.  (Three of my favourite ingredients in one recipe! I wonder how it would taste if we used sorrel instead of kale?) Light means suitable for snacking, for an accompaniment to a main meal and because they’re seasonal, they have a light carbon footprint. Roast asparagus, feta, almonds and sourdough croutons. (BTW, we experimented with roasting asparagus in the airfryer and #FreeTip it’s a bad idea.) Tomatoes, cucumber, redcurrants and mint. (The redcurrants are a problem.  My search led me to a site that sells them frozen, all the way from Poland.  Maybe substitute heritage tomatoes in different colours?) Peas, mint, oakleaf lettuce and grapes. yum! Apple with toasted hazelnuts and lime: a perfect mid-afternoon snack IMO. Crab with radishes, orange and watercress.  A very pretty dish! Spicy means aromatic, sweet, hot and invigorating spice! Roast cauliflower with pumpkin seed satay.  (Let’s hope we can get to the cauliflower this year before the possum does.) Mussels, fennel, chilli and cucumber. (Our mussels are bigger than the UK ones in the picture, so this would be even more enticing. They’re cooked in cider.

River Cottage Great Salads, by Gelf Alderson

Gelf Alderson’s River Cottage Great Salads, has a lot of beaut recipes for salads, but… it’s English, and so some of it just doesn’t apply to Australian cuisine, and more importantly, it’s not making the most of the abundance of Australian produce that we enjoy here. No macadamias, no mango, and no avocado.  (And certainly none of the scrumptious Australian native ingredients that are featured in Australian Native Cuisine by Andrew Fielke, though it’s hardly fair to expect it to.)

I have another caveat too.  I evaluated the recipes in terms of some ‘salad facts’ that I learned from The Conversation. The authors (who are nutrition experts) recommend six categories of ingredients to ‘keep salad boredom at bay’:

  1. leaves, such as lettuce, rocket or spinach
  2. something sweet and juicy, such as tomato, pear, mango, peach or whatever is in season
  3. something with crunch, such as carrot, capsicum or broccolini
  4. a type of nut, such as cashew or macadamia
  5. a cheese, such as feta, bocconcini, mature cheddar, parmesan, edam
  6. something fragrant, such as mint, parsley, basil or coriander.

And, they say, to make the salad into a complete meal, add macronutrients

  1. a healthy carbohydrate source (pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnips, taro, brown rice, quinoa, barley or brown pasta)
  2. a healthy fat source (avocado, olive oil, toasted seeds or nuts)
  3. a lean protein source (eggs, fish, chicken, tofu, tempeh, lentils or legumes).

So, what does Great Salads have to offer? Is it worth the purchase price for an Australian cook?  Yes, I think so… ‘Salad boredom’ is not going to be a problem with these recipes, and some of them do make a complete meal. And of course we can adapt the recipes to take advantage of the produce we have here too!


The Introduction

The book begins with the usual yada-yada and then there’s a useful section on using seasonal produce.  It’s summer here right now, and most of what’s listed is available at this time of the year except for gooseberries.   Then there’s a long section on growing your own vegetables and herbs, and a smaller section on foraging.

Then there’s a useful section on Salad techniques, including char-grilling and barbecuing v roasting, and adding ‘textural interest’ with different ways of prepping the veg: ribbons and shavings; grated, diced; julienned and batons.  (And it’s true, how different even an ordinary salad can look if it’s presented with a variety of shapes and textures.)

Then it’s onto the recipes, which are arranged in seven chapters:

  1. Quick
  2. Hearty
  3. Light
  4. Spicy
  5. Lunchbox
  6. River Cottage Classics
  7. Dressings, Pickles and Krauts

Quick means simple to make, serving two as a light lunch or four as a side.  Most of these do not make a ‘complete meal’ but they’re not intended to.  Among the most appealing are:

  • Celeriac (or fennel, which we have in the garden) rhubarb, hazelnuts and parsley (but toasting & peeling hazelnuts (i.e. heating up the oven) isn’t my idea of simple.)
  • Tomatoes and raspberries with mint (possibly with rivermint instead, and possibly with balsamic vinegar.)
  • Cucumber, grapes, apple and almonds. (Yes, with fresh crunchy bread).
  • Parsnip, chicory, orange and prunes.  (I dunno about this one.  Perhaps worth trying with some leftover parsnip.)

Hearty means ‘big, colourful and comforting’, ‘warm generous recipes’. Recipes serve two as a main. Recipes in this section mostly make a ‘complete’ meal.

  • Kale, apple, goat’s cheese and hazelnut butter.  (I’d go easy on the kale and more heavy-handed with the cheese because I love goat’s cheese, especially these ones from Meredith).
  • Kidney beans with smoky tomato and onion salsa (I reckon this would be brilliant with potatoes roasted in their jackets.)
  • Beetroot three ways with tamari seeds (perfect with beetroot fresh from the garden, and fresh homemade cottage cheese as a dressing !)
  • Cavolo (or kale), peach, cashews and blue cheese.  (Three of my favourite ingredients in one recipe! I wonder how it would taste if we used sorrel instead of kale?)

Light means suitable for snacking, for an accompaniment to a main meal and because they’re seasonal, they have a light carbon footprint.

  • Roast asparagus, feta, almonds and sourdough croutons. (BTW, we experimented with roasting asparagus in the airfryer and #FreeTip it’s a bad idea.)
  • Tomatoes, cucumber, redcurrants and mint. (The redcurrants are a problem.  My search led me to a site that sells them frozen, all the way from Poland.  Maybe substitute heritage tomatoes in different colours?)
  • Peas, mint, oakleaf lettuce and grapes. yum!
  • Apple with toasted hazelnuts and lime: a perfect mid-afternoon snack IMO.
  • Crab with radishes, orange and watercress.  A very pretty dish!

Spicy means aromatic, sweet, hot and invigorating spice!

  • Roast cauliflower with pumpkin seed satay.  (Let’s hope we can get to the cauliflower this year before the possum does.)
  • Mussels, fennel, chilli and cucumber. (Our mussels are bigger than the UK ones in the picture, so this would be even more enticing. They’re cooked in cider.)

Lunchbox is about portable, convenient food.

  • Roast squash (i.e. butternut pumpkin), plums, pumpkin seeds and lime
  • Speedy, herby, lemony beans (just those tins of mixed beans, really easy)
  • Roast squash, blackberries, feta and walnuts (We find feta too salty unless it’s soaked in milk beforehand.)
  • Green beans, five-spice crispy duck and bean sprouts.  (We will pinch the idea, but will cheat and use Luv-a-Duck.)
  • Bacon, new potatoes and lettuce with chunky tartare dressing — my favourite recipe in the whole book.

River Cottage Classics speak for themselves.

  • Potato salad with apples and cheddar looks very good indeed.
  • Carrot, cabbage, ginger and chilli slaw is appealing too — I’ve never thought of adding chilli to coleslaw…
  • Smoked mackerel niçoise.  (Hmm, I dunno about mackerel.  Apart from that the recipe looks pretty much like our version and we use tuna.)
  • Cheaty chicken Caesar salad is for using up leftover chicken, but ours usually goes into the stock pot.
  • Russian salad with sardines.  I love fresh sardines.  Yes, I’ll eat them out of a tin, but fresh caught sardines are divine. The ‘Russian’ salad is basically carrots, potatoes, celeriac, beans, gherkins and mayo, but it doesn’t have Dijon mustard…

Dressings, pickles and krauts… no surprises here but a good recipe for quick pickles if you haven’t already learned how to do this from Masterchef!

There’s also a directory, an index and acknowledgments.

Author: Gelf Alderson
Title: River Cottage Great Salads
Introduction by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Publisher: Bloomsbury, 2022
ISBN: 9781526639103, hbk., 254 pages
Review copy courtesy of Bloomsbury Australia.