David Atherton’s dressing recipes for summer salads

All salad dressings require a balance of texture and flavour, but you’ll be surprised with how peanut butter, avocado, mango, tahini and miso may transform your repertoire

Agood salad dressing adds new dimensions to a dish even with a single spoonful. It’s usually made with an emulsion of oil, but there are many other ways to get a thick and glossy dressing: whizzed mango or pureed sweet potato, say, deliver body while reducing calories, but my biggest tip is to add a teaspoon of white miso to your favourite dressing to give it an unctuous lift. Spring-into-summer salads are a staple, but whether they’re robust or light, a good dressing is a must.

Pretty in pink dressing

I always have pureed sweet potato portions in my freezer, because they’re so useful. Try adding 50g to your bread dough or stir some into a dressing as a low-fat way to sweeten and thicken in one fell swoop. You can use up any cooked sweet potato here, be it baked, roasted or boiled. And while we’re at the not-wasting, the pickling liquor from the beetroot jar will bring both tang and an amazing colour. The pickled beetroot in the salad, meanwhile, provides a hearty dose of anthocyanins.

Prep 5 min
Serves 2

30g sweet potato puree
30ml pickled beetroot liquor
15g wholegrain mustard
1 garlic clove
, peeled and minced
1 tsp salt
10g honey
5g dill fronds
, shredded

Put everything in a jar, seal and shake to combine. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Nut butter dressing

Salads packed with cooked wholegrains or roasted root veg match very well with an earthy, nutty dressing. Nut butters are already a smooth emulsion, so they’re perfect for dressings, and give a boost to your microbiome through indigestible fibre and polyphenols.

Prep 10 min
Serves 2

40g smooth peanut butter (or your choice of nut butter)
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1cm chunk fresh ginger, peeled and minced
20ml cider vinegar
10ml soy sauce
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground fenugreek
15ml honey
20ml water

Put everything in a jar, break down the peanut butter with a spoon, then put on an airtight lid and shake to combine. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Nuoc mam cham dressing

Salty, sweet, spicy, tangy, intense, the Vietnamese know how to liven up a dish with this traditional dipping sauce. This works brilliantly on noodle salads with crunchy veg, but it’s very versatile – I often splash some over stir-fries, or use it to dress a simple salad of tomatoes and fresh mint leaves.

Prep 5 min
Serves 2

2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled andminced
25ml lime or lemon juice
20ml rice-wine vinegar
20ml fish sauce
2 tsp palm sugar
 (or soft brown sugar)
1 tsp salt
10ml sriracha

Put everything in a jar, seal and shake to combine. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Tahini dressing

This fresh dressing is packed full of herbs. The herbs and zing of the lemon are tempered and rounded out with the creamy tahini and white miso. It is a bold dressing, and you can sub in whatever herbs you have in the fridge; I always make this when my herbs are starting to languish. I like it on warm salads, such as green beans, but it also stands up well to grains and roasted root veg.

Prep 10 min
Serves 2

30g light tahini
30ml lemon juice
1 garlic clove
, peeled and minced
1 tsp salt
3g white miso
8 tbsp (5g) fresh dill
,finely chopped
1⅓ tbsp (5g) fresh parsley, finely chopped
1⅔ tbsp (5g) fresh coriander, finely chopped
20ml warm water

Put the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and salt in a jar. Add the miso, press it with the back of a spoon until mixed in, then put on the lid and shake to combine. Add the chopped herbs and water, seal again and shake vigorously. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Whizzed mango dressing

It was a revelation when I realised that blended mango is the perfect consistency for a dressing. All you need is some flavour balance, and you have a wonderfully healthy dressing option – if your mango is not fully ripe, you may need to add a little honey. This dressing works best with crisp, fresh salads and slaws, but it can also be used as a fruity extra to a stir-fry or even as a dip for crudites.

Prep 5 min
Serves 2

90g mango flesh
20ml white-wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 garlic clove
, peeled and minced
1 tsp white miso

Put all the ingredients in a beaker and whizz with a stick blender until smooth. Transfer to a jar, seal and store in the fridge for up to a week.

Herby hit dressing

This will make even the simplest salad sing. Avocado brings the velvet body, while the herbs and spinach deliver an iron richness to give you a boost. It is a thick dressing, but slackens if used on a juicy salad. It also works well on warm new potatoes or swirled through hummus.

Prep 5 min
Serves 2

½ avocado, peeled and stoned
4 tbsp (15g) fresh parsley,stalks and leaves
2 tbsp (6g) fresh coriander, stalks and leaves
¾ tbsp (3g) fresh basil leaves
25g spinach leaves
10ml olive oil
1 tsp white-wine vinegar
Zest of 1 lemon
20ml lemon juice
½ tsp salt

Put everything in a beaker and whizz with a stick blender until smooth. Transfer to a jar, seal and store in the fridge for up to a week


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