When Dear Husband and I were still dating we both lived in Hillcrest, about a twenty five minute drive from Durban. This was almost twelve years ago now and I remember Hillcrest as a quaint small village, with little to very little going on. We loved a small town environment, in fact we still do. Visiting family in Durban last year we happened to drive through Hillcrest and with the literally hundreds of homes which now crowd that town, its large shopping centers and the main road traffic lights, it was sadly unrecognizable. I know we cannot stand in the way of progress, but being the place where I met Dear Husband, I could not help feeling devastated that they had put a giant chain store right on top of our “I met you right here” memories.
One of our favourite places to go on our day off was to The Pot and Kettle. The Pot & Kettle was, and I believe still is situated halfway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg in the absolutely beautiful Valley of 1000 Hills. Tranquil and quiet we would go there to take in the beautiful views and order something that we could eat with their homemade salad dressing. Whether or not they still make that dressing is something I started wondering about today as I write this post. I remember it had poppy seeds in it; that it was a thick luscious emulsion with which to lather up fresh salad leaves, but further than that I don’t remember much more. I do know this however; it gave excellent evidence that being able to make a great salad dressing is a kitchen must.
Because summer has finally arrived, and perhaps you, like me, are starting to look for meals that are lighter and fresher, and quite possibly include more salads, I am sharing a classic French Dressing Recipe.
Let’s have a quick chat about making a good dressing. Salad dressing are called emulsions, which is a fancy way of saying that it’s a mixture of things that actually do not mix, like vinegar and oil. When the vinegar is suspended in the oil, it forms a thick, glossy mixture, but because dressing is an unstable emulsion, unlike mayonnaise for example, it will separate when standing. This is why why you want to give dressings a really good shake before using.
A good dressing should complement your salad, and not overpower it. Which ingredients you use is up to you, but as a rule of thumb, use the best tasting olive oil you can afford. The traditional balance should be one part vinegar to three parts oil, but learn to trust your taste buds and be excited to experiment with different flavours and quantities of oil and vinegar. Try using cider vinegar with a mixture of half olive oil and half walnut oil, or use lemon juice instead of vinegar.
As for the mustard, I usually use Dijon, but you can use your favourite as long as you don’t add too much! Instead of balancing out the vinegar with sugar you can also use honey.
Remember that this is a classic / basic dressing and you can and for that matter should dress it up. Use fresh chopped herbs in your dressing for instance, something to compliment the main ingredient in your salad perhaps.
Remember to only dress salad at the very last minute, nothing worse than soggy leaves, yeah?
The salad in the pictures is a simple green salad I made with mixed leaves, rocket, cucumber, shaved Parmesan and some fresh pomegranate seeds. I was super excited to find pomegranates at my local and needed to use them in something. I managed to get sticky sweet pomegranate juice all over myself, the floor and the general kitchen area, which I thought showed my dedication to this salad. And pomegranates.
Anyway, let’s whisk up an emulsion.
- 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
- ⅓ cup (80 ml) olive oil
- 5 tsp. (25ml) white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. (5ml) Dijon mustard
- 1 Tbsp. (15ml) freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- Sea salt, sugar and black pepper to taste
- Make the dressing by combining the garlic, olive oil, vinegar and mustard in a bowl or blender and whisk together well.
- Season the dressing with the lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper.
- Allow to stand for 5 minutes.
- Taste and add more salt, sugar, or pepper as desired.