The Secrets Behind the Perfect Salad!

Plus four recipes to put more spring in your salad!

Are you stumped on how to whip up the single best salad ever? Well, we've spoken with nutritionist and author, Zoe Bingley-Pullin about what goes into perfecting the salad, how to store it and the hot new superfoods to throw in too!

14 Oct 2016 By Emma-Charlotte Bangay

Salads are the holy grail of spring dishes. There is nothing fresher for the palette – and the health – than a salad so we spoke to Zoe Bingley-Pullin, Nutritionist, Chef and Author of Falling In Love With Food about what it takes to perfect this pretty amazing dish!

“When putting together a salad – which can be considered a balanced meal – I like to use the following formula of a base, protein, low-GI carbs, healthy fats and crunch factor!” she enthuses.

And this doesn’t need to be an extracted process, Zoe adds. Even with minimal ingredients, the perfect salad can eventuate.

  • Base: “Rocket leaves which wilt well and offers a bitter taste to stimulate digestion.”
  • Protein: Zoe chooses cheese, such as a good quality full-fat organic feta.
  • Carbohydrates: “Cooked and cooled potato goes with anything,” she says, “it’s satisfying and a great source of resistant starch for gut health.”
  • Fat: Avocado! “Rich in healthy fats and offers a creamy taste and texture.”
  • Crunch: Get the crackle factor with fresh sprouts, Zoe suggests, as it’s a perfect source of fibre, protein, folate and Vitamin C.”

Salad Trends

Like any superfoods, certain salad ingredients come in and out of favour. This season, Zoe dishes up the best picks:

  • Fermented vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut. “This trend is still going strong and rightly so, great for digestive health and source of fibre.”
  • Kale chips as a topping for crunch are still very popular.
  • “Pomegranate seeds, not only for their taste and vibrant colour but also for their popularity as an antioxidant,” explains Zoe.

Salad Sins!

  • Forgetting the fat – adding a source of fat to our vegetables increases our ability to absorb the nutrients and antioxidants within the vegetables, good sources include olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds or a coconut milk based dressing.
  • Adding too many sources of fat, for example, oil-based dressing, avocado, nuts and seeds, meat and cheese – all offer a source of fat and when eaten in the one dish it’s a bit of fat overload!
  • Using commercial dressings – often full of poor quality oil, sugar, preservatives and additives best to skip and keep it simple with olive oil and lemon/apple cider vinegar and fresh herbs such as parsley, coriander, dill or basil.
  • Not using enough vegetables or variety, a handful of spinach doesn’t make a salad! A salad should be predominately made up of vegetables and dressed with protein, carbs and healthy fat to compliment the vegetables, not the other way around!
  • Forgetting the crunch element, food is always more fun and appealing when it has a variety of textures, if a salad is made up of soft ingredients it pays to add something crunchy to excite the taste buds, options include sprouts, toasted nuts, seeds or coconut flakes.

Best Garnishes? 

Presentation of salads fires up the taste – and most likely your instagram feed! Here are the best according to Zoe.

  1. “Fermented vegetables are tangy and refreshing taste while offering a source of good bacteria and fibre,” says Zoe.
  2. Chia Seeds are a great way to add healthy fats, fibre and a bit of crunch to food.
  3. Freshly grated ginger and turmeric. “Both potent anti-inflammatories which also add flavour.”

Still Hungry?

Add these denser fillings to make a side salad a main meal.

  1. Legumes such as chickpeas, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, black beans and lentils.
  2. “Crumbled vegetable patties or falafel,” suggests Zoe. “If you have left-overs, simply warm and crumble and gently toss through the salad,” she advises.
  3. Protein rich dressing such as hummus, healthy peanut or yoghurt dressing are also great toppings.

Storing Salads

Want to avoid #soggy? Then store your salads in the fridge always, suggests Zoe. “The length of time they are good for will vary depending on ingredients,” she adds. “As a guide keep covered and stored for approximately one to three days.” However salad will go soggy the longer kept, so always avoid dressing until serving and if you can put the salad together just before serving so the vegetables will retain more crunch. “Making sure salad leaves are well dried before use will also reduce the risk of soggy leaves!”

Here are four salads for you to try.

Freekeh Salad with Roasted Beetroot, Coriander and Lime

The Secrets Behind The Perfect Salad: SS16

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes


3 cups cooked freekeh (1 1⁄2 cup of raw freekeh, will double once cooked)
1 large beetroot, peeled and cut into small ¼
1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
½ cup slivered almonds, lightly toasted
1 bunch coriander, finely chopped


1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. tahini paste
½ tsp. honey
2 tsp. ground cumin
¼ cup EV olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Pre-heat the oven to 180C and cook the beetroot in the oven for 20 minutes. Combine the freekeh, beetroot, onion, hot pepper, almonds and coriander. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and toss with the freekeh.

Thai Pasta Salad with Spicy Cashew Dressing

The Secrets Behind The Perfect Salad: SS16

Serves: 2
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes


250g wholemeal spaghetti
1 cup carrot, julienned
¼ cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh mint, finely chopped
¼ cup raw cashews
1 tbsp. EV olive oil
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp. honey
1 lime, juiced
3 red chillies, julienned
½ bunch asparagus, blanched and cut through the middle
Extra water


Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook it for 10-15 minutes, al dente. Leave to cool to room temperature. In a blender, thoroughly combine cashews, olive oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, honey, lime juice and enough water to make a runny consistency. In a large mixing bowl add all of the remaining ingredients, apart from the asparagus but including the pasta and gently combine. Mix through the cashew dressing.

Serve in a large decorative platter with asparagus on top.

Kale, Quinoa and Blueberry Salad with Coconut Dressing

The Secrets Behind The Perfect Salad: SS16

Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 10 – 15 minutes


1 bunch of kale, stem removed and roughly chopped
1 punnet of blueberries
1 avocado, skin and pip removed, cubed
1 cup quinoa, cooked


2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. honey


In a large bowl gently mix all of the salad ingredients together. In a glass jar or small bowl mix together the dressing ingredients. Gently mix the two together and serve on a platter.

Vegetable Salad with Egg and Avocado Dressing

The Secrets Behind The Perfect Salad: SS16

Serves: 4
Cooking Time: 30 minutes


Avocado and honey dressing
1 tbsp of honey
1 avocado, diced
1 red chilli, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp mixed zest, (orange, lemon and lime)
⅓ cup of fresh mint leaves, picked
⅓ cup of fresh basil leaves, picked
¼ cup of olive oil
2 tbsp of water


1 red capsicum, trimmed and cut into 2-3 cm lengths
1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-3 cm lengths
1 cup raw broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
1 cup grated beetroot
1 cup grated carrot
2 cups fresh wild or baby rocket, washed
½ cups tamari roasted almonds
2 eggs, cooked to your liking, halved


Combine all dressing ingredients, blend until smooth. Set aside until needed. In a large mixing bowl, toss to combine the capsicum, beans, broccoli, beetroot,  rocket, carrot and almonds. Dress the salad and toss again. Place a handful of the salad onto a plate and top with the eggs.

Do you have a favourite salad? Share it with us below!

14 Oct 2016 By Emma-Charlotte Bangay


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