How To Make The Perfect Salad

How To Make The Perfect Salad

Stuck for warming, winter salad ideas? Did you know that some dressings can double up as marinades and stir-fry sauces for easy midweek dinners? Lucy Mackenzie wants to make you fall in love with making – and dressing – salads all year round. Here’s how…

Lucy Mackenzie began Lucy’s Dressings from her family kitchen in Suffolk. Her dream? To make eating your five-a-day as delicious as it can be. Today, her range of dressings, relishes and condiments are helping home cooks across the country up their culinary game. We caught up with Lucy for her ideas on everything from impressive dinner-party salads for this season to easy-to-recreate lunchbox options.

Can you tell us a bit about Lucy’s Dressings?

“I started Lucy’s from my kitchen table because I believed there was a way of transforming simple and fresh ingredients into something a little more exciting. I felt no one was bringing out exciting flavours or suggesting that dressings weren’t simply for salad. So I got to work sourcing local ingredients and making dressings the way I’d always made them. They’ve gone from creations I’d take to dinner parties in jam jars to now being stocked in Waitrose, Whole Foods, Ocado, Selfridges and Harrods.”

What’s your trick for making a simple salad seem much more gourmet?

“Texture and colour are super important in any salad. The base should be a mixture of leaves – and ideally an array of seasonal leaves. You want a combination of crunchy as well as succulent ingredients in the mix. I love to sprinkle some Munchy Seeds over my salad, as well as often adding some grains.

“It’s important to think about the layering up of both texture and colour – and you must always add some fresh herbs into the salad to take it to the next level. I’m a fan of Asian salads, so for me coriander is essential, but seasonal herbs really lift any type of salad. 

“Finally, the presentation of the salad can really elevate the dish. Over the years, I’ve bought some great serving dishes and they really do make a simple salad look all the more beautiful.”

What other ingredients do you recommend stocking up on?

“Cupboard essentials for me are pistachios, sunflower seeds, black and white sesame seeds and roasted hazelnuts. One thing I really like to do is roast nuts in batches and store them in jars so they’re ready to go straight into salads.”

How do you switch up your recipes each season?

“I try to shop seasonally and locally wherever possible, so my meals do naturally change with the seasons. For me, autumn and winter is all about roasting; in the summer, I switch the focus to a lot more marinating and barbecuing. 

How do you make salads work for winter too?

“I’m a strong believer that salads aren’t just for summer! Warm salads are perfect for the winter months. Adding roasted vegetables and grains is a delicious way to make them that little bit more seasonal and filling. Some combinations I love in the winter months are roasted butternut squash with rocket and burrata, adding blood orange to winter leaves, or using up leftover sprouts in warm salads.”

What are your favourite restaurant salads to recreate at home?

“I love all things Ottolenghi, so often recreate his recipes at home. A few of my favourite ones to recreate are his French beans with mangetout, hazelnuts and orange, or his saffron rice with berries, pistachios and mixed herbs. 

“I also take lots of inspiration from Petersham Nurseries in Richmond and Darsham Nurseries in Suffolk. I love the concept of eating what they grow in the nurseries, and it honestly makes the food all the more delicious. A few of my favourite dishes are Darsham Nurseries’ tomatoes with peaches, basil and a tomato vinaigrette; or octopus with watercress, fennel and lemon. Totally delish!”

You've got girlfriends coming for supper – what would you cook?

“When I have girlfriends coming over, I don’t want to spend my whole time cooking, so I always go for something quick, simple and delicious. An easy solution is to choose something that can be marinated for hours beforehand. I love to marinade chicken in turmeric, ginger and chilli; I can then quickly cook this up before we eat. I’d then serve this with healthy grains topped with lots of fresh herbs.

“Alternatively, I make something in advance like a delicious prawn curry for the winter months, which can then just slowly simmer while I have a drink or two and catch up with my girlfriends.”

What are the best salads to make on a tight budget?

“The crucial thing is to not buy bagged salad. Instead, buy whole heads of salad. They’re not only much cheaper but they last longer. I would also put something like pasta or brown rice into the salads to bulk them up, as well as adding a cheaper protein source such as eggs.”

Your condiments look delicious – tell us how you'd use them.

Blushing Beetroot Relish: “This is delicious with fishcakes, avocado on sourdough or in a beef sandwich. Mixing it with Greek yoghurt makes a delicious dip for crudité too.”

Lemon Mustard Mayonnaise: “Great in a leftover chicken sandwich, with a salmon steak or simply to dip your crudité or sweet potato fries in.”

Spiced Plum Chutney: “This chutney is so tasty with cheese and crackers, with a curry or a pulled-pork wrap with sour cream and cabbage. It’s also delicious with some freshly baked camembert on baguette dipped into it.”

Are dressings just meant to be used in salads? 

“Our dressings are made with cold-pressed rapeseed oil, meaning they have a higher burning point than olive oil. This means they are perfect for cooking with, so are great as a marinade and used in roasting or cooking. Our lime and chilli dressing is the perfect shortcut for busy people and is totally delicious in a stir fry. It’s made using all the ingredients you’d put in a stir fry yourself – it just saves you valuable time. I love to marinate salmon with it or just add it straight to the wok when cooking veggies and noodles.”

We’ve seen you add your dressings to soups too – which flavour combinations work best?

Lime and Chilli is great in chilli pumpkin soup. Try Ginger and Sesame in a butternut squash and coconut soup. Our Classic Balsamic dressing is delicious added to balsamic toasted tomato soup. 

Can you share some simple lunchbox recipes to inspire us? 

“I love Kilner jar salads on the go: put salad dressing in the bottom of your jar, then top with something crunchy like pepper or cucumber. Next in goes your salad and any extra bits. Once it’s lunchtime, just shake it to get the salad dressing covering the contents. The salads will keep in the Kilner jars for a few days if you want to prep in advance. 

I always meal prep my breakfasts, which I eat at my desk each morning while catching up on emails. At the moment, my favourite is a bircher muesli – I make a big batch on a Sunday night. For a short cut, I use Rude Health Bircher Mix, which I then soak overnight with coconut water and grated apple. I then put my serving in a jam jar in the morning, with banana and fresh berries.”

Finally, can you tell us what you’re working on next?

“Well, it is fairly top secret, but since SheerLuxe is our favourite… We’re super excited to reveal we will be bringing out plant-based and flavoured mayonnaises in January.”

For more recipe ideas, plus the full product selection from Lucy’s Dressings, visit

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