Healthy winter food

In winter, our bodies need nourishing food, and we crave warm things.  Winter salads can include warm leaves, and nuts, or be served with warm halal meat or cheese.  They are also a brilliant way to make the most of the array of colourful, seasonal veg, which can be served warm too, like carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash and beetroot.  We can forget crunchy water-filled lettuce for now, and focus on darker green leaves with earthy, peppery flavours.  In winter, we still need as much folate as possible; the B vitamin, which comes from the Latin for leaf, folium.  This vitamin can only come from our food.  Leaves like spinach, swiss-chard, watercress, kale, rocket and types of lettuce (the darker the better) are the perfect sources.  They burn fat, are anti-ageing, good for the heart and gut, flight diabetes, and protect against toxins.  Pretty good, eh?  Chicory is also a great, vitamin-packed base for a salad, which is in season during the winter months, has a bitter and spicy taste, and can be eaten raw or cooked.  Of course, we also need protein, and some of our favourite salads include meat.  Try slicing some pink halal steak into an earthy salad of beetroot, rocket and lentils, or some roasted halal lamb leftovers to chicory, walnuts and roasted garlic, with a rich soy dressing.  Of course, you can always add the protein you need with a runny poached egg.

Winter salad inspiration

A great thing about salads is the diversity of tasty leaves that offer their own unique flavours and health benefits. But there are also so many other bases to try besides leaves, from oranges to red cabbage, as well as grains like pearl barley, long-grain rice, couscous, lentils or even puffed rice. (You can still add the leaves, but fewer. They don’t always have to dominate the dish.) The key is what you add to bring it to life: toasted seeds, like cumin or sesame seeds, or nuts from pine nuts to pistachios; fresh herbs, not forgetting seasonal thyme and sage, as well as halal cheeses and vinegars and oils that are rich and warm like walnut or sesame. We love adding roasted cauliflower or sautéed wild mushrooms. You can caramelise some sweet red onions, or grill some halal chicken skin to throw on top, for mouthwatering crunch. Halal chicken is also perfect for salads with raw or roasted sliced apples or pears, hazelnuts and honey, with a few fresh sage leaves.

The basics

A good way to think up a healthy winter salad is to think about adding as many colours as you can, ideally from seasonal produce, and also not to forget to use up what’s in the fridge, including any halal meat.  Salads can be complex, or incredibly simple.  Try adding things as obscure as leftover roast potatoes or wedges, which you can reheat if you’re serving your salad warm.  (Again, we aren’t shying away from carbs!)  Most things can be turned into salads later, with a little creativity.

Dress to impress

Salads are nothing without the right dressing.  Try dressings made from citrus fruits or cranberries, yoghurt, soy sauce, or a mint sauce or homemade pesto.  Handfuls of aromatic fresh herbs, strong-flavoured omega-rich oils, and the texture of nuts and seeds, thrown on or toasted… Experiment with oils and vinegars using the classic formula of one-part vinegar to three-parts oil.

A recipe

We love this salad, using our diced halal lamb.  You can simplify and change ingredients as you fancy.  We like the ease of the chickpeas and the sweetness of the tamarind.

Got any good winter salad recipes you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.