To serve salad (… and ninety years ago British home cooks were using mixed leaves, garlic and olive oil!)

Even though it’s winter, salad is still a favourite meal. I guess now we live in warm, centrally heated houses having hot food is not so important. Now we have whatever we want to eat available all the year round, doing without ‘summer’ fruit and vegetables is a thing of the past. Part of me wishes to revert to the seasonal produce and treats we used to have – new potatoes, the first asparagus, the first strawberries! However our lives are so different now; what in a way is the difference between buying fruit from abroad such as mangoes which never grow here, and buying fruit from abroad out of season?

As I mentioned yesterday, loving salad and having variety in salad is not a new thing. Plonking a load of vegetables cut in chunks and slices, some of which have been cooked and pickled, and floppy eaves on your plate would have horrified diners in the 1920’s and 30’s as much as it does us now (although sometimes the ubiquitous salad garnish is reminiscent of jut that!)

This is how Modern Practical Cookery, published nearly ninety years ago suggests you should present your salad – note the use of garlic and the variety of leaves, and French dressing made with olive oil::

To serve salad

If you like the flavour of onion, the bowl in which the salad is to be served should be rubbed with a piece of garlic. This imparts the delicate oniony flavour which is such an improvement. Spring onions, too can be peeled and cut up with the other green plants (lettuce, mustard and cress, endive, batavia, watercress) or they can be added whole.
Chicory is often used in this kind of salad, but it is rather bitter so should be used sparingly. Wash it and trim it and cut it into small pieces.
Some people like their salad dressed in a plain French dressing. If you prefer it so, you should toss the salad plants in the dressing a minute or two before you are ready to serve the salad. If you do this too long beforehand, the leaves will lose their fresh colour.
Many would prefer to serve a salad cream, and this can be made at home or bought ready-made at any grocers.

… and this is their suggestion for dressings

French salad dressing

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ saltspoonful salt
  • ¾ saltspoonful salt made mustard
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 1½ tsp vinegar
  1. put the oil into a large basin and stir in dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly with a wooden spoon
  2. add drop by drop the vinegar, keeping it well stirred all the time

Toss the prepared salad into the dressing just before sending to table. If the green salad is allowed to lie in the vinegar for any length of time it will turn limp and black.

Home-made salad cream

  • 2 oz flour
  • 2 oz margarine,
  • ½ pint of milk and water
  • ¾ gill salad oil
  • 1 tsp of castor sugar
  • 3 tsp of mustard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • 1½ gills of vinegar plus extra to mix mustard
  1. melt the fat in the saucepan, stir in the flour, and, when it is mixed smoothly, add the milk and water
  2. bring to the boil land let boil for several minutes, stirring well
  3. turn it into a basin and cover with cold water
  4. When cold, pour off the water and whisk up the sauce
  5. whisk in the salad oil and vinegar adding only a very small quantity of watch at one time
  6. mix the mustard with the extra vinegar and add it with the sugar, salt and pepper to the cream
  7. thoroughly whisk and blend all the ingredients.
  8. bottle and use as required
  9. If the cream should become too thick, whisk in some more vinegar. You will find the cream keeps a good colour if you use half or all white  vinegar


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