How to make salads exciting

Bring some life into your lettuce leaves with these fresh tips from salad genius Courtney Roulston

Written by Courtney Roulston

Salads don’t have to be a chore. With a little creativity, you can create zesty, flavoursome bowls full of healthy ingredients that leave you feeling full and satisfied.

Courtney Roulston, best known as a finalist in 2010’s MasterChef and caterer for the AFL Sydney Swans, brings this passion for salads to life in her new book, The Salad Kitchen.

“Eating salads are a great way of keeping healthy and getting plenty of real food in your diet,” Courtney says. “I eat salads every day and never tire of them and never feel guilty after eating them. What's not to love!”

Ready to refresh your lettuce game? We had a chat with Courtney about her best ideas for healthy, delicious salads.

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What’s the best way to make a salad delicious?

1. Seasonal and fresh ingredients are a great place to start.

2. The dressing can make or break a salad as it ties everything together. Always make your own dressing and try to get a good balance of sour, sweet, salty and hot in any dressing, not just Asian style salads.

3. Texture is very important, so don`t be shy on throwing in a handful of chopped nuts, roasted seeds, toasted sourdough crumbs, julienne crisp apple or fried shallots to your salads.

What ingredients should every salad lover have on hand?

  • Fresh herbs are an absolute must! I use whole bunches of herbs and chop them roughly for texture and freshness.
  • Roasted nuts and seeds also make their way into many of my salads to boost protein and add crunch.
  • Preserved foods such as good quality tuna, cornichons, tinned chickpeas, olives and anchovies are super handy to have in your pantry.
  • Good quality olive oil and sea salt flakes.

"I find adding a warm element to a salad can make it feel a bit more of a meal."

What unexpected ingredients also work well in salads?

Unusual ingredients and variety are what can take a salad from a boring side dish to the star of the show. Dried and fresh fruits work really well in salads. Think fresh peaches, figs, apples, oranges, pomello, pears, plums, lychees, mango, pomegranate and watermelon. Or dried fruits such as cranberries, currants, raisins, dates, apricots and sour cherries.

How can you make a salad feel more like a meal?

I find adding a warm element to a salad can make it feel a bit more of a meal. Grilled steak, poached or grilled chicken, roast lamb, BBQ prawns, a slab of warm roast pumpkin, a poached egg or fried tofu are great options to make your salad a little more satisfying.

Grains and seeds such as quinoa, freekeh, French lentils, chickpeas, noodles, brown rice or couscous are great for bulking up a salad and making them a bit more filling.

What's your go-to salad when you're short on time?

Good quality tinned tuna mixed with a big handful of flat leaf parsley, some crushed black olives, sweet cherry tomatoes with a dressing of lemon, Dijon mustard, honey, olive oil and salt. It's super tasty and takes minutes to throw together. If I have time, a warm boiled egg broken over the top is ‘eggcellent’.

What are some healthy salad dressings?

I am a big believer that anything you make yourself is better than pre bought dressings that contain preservatives. Thick Greek yoghurt makes a great base for a dressing and has a lot less calories than mayonnaise.

Try these two ideas with a yoghurt base:

  • For a lamb salad, mix the yoghurt with lemon juice, lemon zest, fresh mint, honey and a pinch of sea salt.

  • For a warm roast vegetable salad, mix the yoghurt with toasted crushed cumin seeds, maple syrup and a pinch of sea salt.

    The Salad Kitchen by Courtney Roulston is available now from New Holland Publishers. Try some of Courtney's recipes at

Written by Courtney Roulston

Courtney Roulston was a finalist in 2010's MasterChef. She caters for the AFL Sydney Swans, and is the author of Salad Kitchen and Salads in a Jar, both available for New Holland Publishers.

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