Salad dressings

Ciao again from the beautiful bay of Southern Italy. Whenever I come to Italy I feel like I'm coming home. I swear I was Italian in a previous life! I am totally in love with the slow and sedate pace of life during the day that is only punctuated by leisurely multi course lunches, great wine and the background scent of lemons.

Twirling through the streets of Sorrento at night however is a different story. The city comes to life. Children running and playing in between bites of fresh pizza and pasta whilst their family watches on. I notice that simplicity and fresh produce is the key to great Italian dishes.

Everywhere you look around this southern city you'll find the beautiful Sorrento lemon hanging from trees alongside rows and rows of tomatoes the size of a small child’s head... no joke! With both being so prevalent it's no wonder they're used in a variety of dishes.

One of the cheapest, tastiest antipasti dishes is by far bruschetta. Lightly dressed in olive oil, lemon juice and basil and seasoned with a touch of salt and a grinding of black peppercorns it is a MUST TRY (shouty caps and everything there). I like to make the dressing for this in advance at home so the flavours have a chance to mingle and it tastes even better.

Slice up some hunks of day old bread and whack the tomatoes on. If your bread is a day or so old it means it won’t fall apart with the juice of tomatoes on and it won’t taste soggy. I have an irrational fear of soggy bread as I may have mentioned so I definitely don’t use fresh bread.

One of the main inspirations I took from my first trip to Italy way back when, is simplicity. I take this and apply it to most of the recipes I create but in this case I applied it to dressings. Salad dressings are sooo easy to make. It’s all about getting the balance right though. Depending on what you want to dress, the balance of acid to oil can be crucial. 

One of my favourite dishes for a foodie pit-stop when I'm out and about is beef tataki from Yo Sushi, it's served with a fennel salad and that is where I got the idea for mine. Fennel is in season all year but at the moment it's at its best and readily available in supermarkets too. You can use both the bulb itself and the leafy greens as long as they're not yellow as they can taste quite bitter.

Fennel is definitely a love it or hate it kinda thing as it has such a strong aniseedy flavour. I've teamed it with some fresh herbs; parsley, coriander and mint finely chopped with a diced chilli and seasoned with salt and pepper are the perfect combination. 

When it comes to the oil and acid base of my dressings I use a ratio of 3 parts of a really good oil to 1 part lemon juice or balsamic for acidity. Due to the colour though, for this one I went with a very good extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. Give it a good shake and store it in the fridge for a maximum of 3 days if you are going to use it daily or just make it up as you need it.

Another of my favourite's is an easy honey and mustard. I love creamy dressings but it is so hard to find a low fat but still creamy option that tastes just as sinful. I use a mixture of mayo and non fat yoghurt as it drizzles better and you get the best of both worlds.

Add a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and a tablespoon of honey, then to balance the flavour I use some of the pickling liquid from silver skin onions. It has a tart sweetness to it that rounds the dressing nicely. Alternatively, throw in a slug of white wine vinegar and you're good to go.

Obviously to save on the washing up as I usually try and do HAHA, I put everything in a tupperware container (or one of the empty jars I keep to store things in) with a tight lid and gave it a good shake. Both of these dressings are simple to make and can be thrown on a leafy green salad or my fennel salad. Definitely the way forward with BBQ season right up on us!