Emma Grazette's Asian salad

I’m talking hefty, salads chock full of goodness and tangy, spiced dressings to bring them to life.

In stark contradiction to the general tone of things at this time of year, I have not yet embraced the sausage and bean stews, the pies and the roasts (don’t get me wrong, all have their place); instead I am stuck, like a record on repeat on Asian inspired salads. We’re not talking about a saucer of seaweed that you might pop on the side; I’m talking hefty, salads chock full of goodness and tangy, spiced dressings to bring them to life.

I say they are ‘inspired’ by Asian flavours, because in an effort to create dishes that are both full of flavour, with a nod to being seasonal and with a large dose of nutritious awareness, the ingredients I use aren’t always authentic, (such as the South American grain ‘quinoa’ in a Thai style salad, which unlike some Thai ingredients is very easy to get hold of). It works and it’s so darn good for you so I’m fine with it.

Ever the advocate of getting experimental, I have offered one or two optional or choose your own ingredients. I never like to get too hung up on following the recipe exactly, if you don’t fancy something – just use something you do like, it’ll be fine.

Here are 2 offerings, one of them vegetarian (and vegan); the chicken in the other could easily be substituted for fried crispy tofu (also vegan).

Thai style salad with quinoa, and red cabbage/ lime and peanut dressing

Emma Grazette Asian salad

For the salad:

– 4 small handfuls of quinoa – cooked as per packet instructions

– ¼ of a red cabbage – shredded

– 1 red onion or ½ a bunch of spring onions – thinly sliced

– 2 carrots – grated

– A large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

– A small handful of fresh mint (or Thai basil) leaves picked and chopped

– A good handful of cashew nuts

– 3 tbsp of black and white *sesame seeds (or use white if you only have them)

At this point you can get creative – my suggestions are:

EITHER: 1 tin of chickpeas (drained)

OR: cooked and cooled edamame beans

OR: more salady bits such as radishes, cucumber, green papaya

For the dressing:

– 3 limes – juiced

– 2 tbsp peanut or toasted sesame oil

– 1 heaped tbsp peanut butter

– 2 tbsp soy sauce

– 1 tsp honey

– 1 small birds eye chilli, finely chopped

  • Toast the sesame seeds gently until they begin to brown.
  • Toast the cashew nuts until lightly browned.
  • Combine all the salad ingredients (reserve half the sesame seeds for sprinkling on at the end) and toss together.
  • Combine all the dressing ingredients and mix together well, taste test it incase you feel it needs more of one flavour to balance it.
  • Dress the salad and, toss again and sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds.
  • That’s it – quick, fresh, clean and soooo tasty.

Serves 2-4 depending on hunger levels

* Both these recipes have cashews and sesame in common. Black sesame in particular not only makes the dish look special, but the tiny seeds offer a wealth of health giving benefits. Sesame seeds have a high mineral content and are a good source of vitamin B1, and to boot they contain more phytosterols than any other nut or seed (phytosterols can help decrease cholesterol and the risk of cancer). It’s well worth getting more seeds and nuts into your diet, they contain good fats (in moderation) but are powerhouses of minerals and goodness.

Chicken, sesame, miso and orange salad.


Sort of getting Christmassy with oranges; you might think the addition of orange is a bad idea here; I strongly suggest you try it before deciding.

– 2 chicken breasts – cooked and sliced or shredded (or if you’re rushed, pre cooked, already sliced chicken)

– 1 bag of mixed leaves (don’t go for the rocket and watercress it’s a bit strong flavoured for this)

– 2 oranges/ mandarins/ tangerines

– 1 courgette – cut into chunks

– A big handful of mangetout

– ½ a red onion – thinly sliced and OR 3 spring onions – thinly sliced

– A big handful of cashew nuts. If you really want to push the boat out go for an avocado or some beansprouts

– 2 tbsp black and white sesame seeds

 For the dressing:

– 1 tbsp *sweet white miso/ shiro miso paste

– 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

– 2 tsp rice vinegar

– 1 lemon – juiced

– 1 clove of garlic – finely chopped

– A good grind of black pepper

– 2 tbsp soy sauce

  • Lightly steam the courgette and mangetout.
  • Toast the sesame seeds gently until they begin to brown.
  • To easily segment the oranges, cut off both ends so the orange sits flat, in a curved motion cut off the skin from top to bottom all the way around, then – cut the segments out. Voila no pith.
  • Combine all the dressing ingredients and mix together well (taste check and add a touch more citrus/ salt etc if you feel yours needs it).
  • Combine the leaves, onions, orange, steamed veg, chicken, cashew nuts and avocado or beansprouts if using them.
  • Toss together, dress and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Serves 2

*Miso paste is the fermented paste of it imparts a pungent, deeply savoury, salty and meaty flavour called ‘umami’ it is often thought of as the 6th taste after sour, bitter, sweet, salty and pungent. There are other types of miso but the white variety is particularly suited to salads as it has a more gentle flavour. If using in other dishes, always add it at the end and avoid boiling it and destroying its goodness (as with most fermented foods, it is incredibly good for you).

You can see more from Emma at her own website, featuring more brilliant recipes and recommendations www.emmagrazette.com