10 tasty salads for cold winter nights, from roasted cauliflower to grilled sardines

Who said salads had to be eaten in the summer? From Ottolenghi’s classic roast carrot concoction to Fare Sage’s warm fruit variety, there’s something for everyone

Barbecued vegetables, a la Henry Dimbleby.
Barbecued vegetables, a la Henry Dimbleby. Photograph: Daniel Reiter/Alamy
Barbecued vegetables, a la Henry Dimbleby. Photograph: Daniel Reiter/Alamy
Stuart Heritage

Last modified on Mon 14 Dec 2020 06.32 EST

This is a tricky time of year for food. The cold weather and dark evenings cry out for the comforting hit of stodge, and yet a part of you realises that it’s sensible to keep your powder dry for the non-stop gorgefest offered by Christmas. Luckily, there is a middle ground. Although nobody in their right mind would choose to eat a traditional salad in this weather, winter salads are another thing entirely. Light and simple, but substantial enough to get you served at a tier 2 pub, these recipes should do the job nicely.

Roast carrots with gingery tomatoes, quinoa and mint

Ottolenghi’s classic ... roast carrot salad.
Ottolenghi’s classic ... roast carrot salad. Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian

Obviously, even by hinting at the notion of warm salads, we find ourselves deep in Ottolenghi country. The man has a wealth of options to choose from, but a favourite will always be his recipe for roast carrots with gingery tomatoes, quinoa and mint. It’s an alchemy that balances the seasons incredibly well: the carrots are earthy and warming, but the addition of coriander and mint shoots the whole thing through with an irrepressible blast of sunshine.

Warm chicken salad

Allegra McEvedy’s warm chicken, farro and hazelnut salad feels like another magic trick. Isolate the majority of ingredients – chicken thighs, grains, onion, carrot, broccoli – and you’d have the basis for a very solid casserole. Instead they’re mixed with a vinaigrette and served with rocket and hazelnuts. “This feisty salad is a bit of a joy, which throughout the darker months has been bringing a little sunshine to my supper table for years,” she writes.

Bean and walnut salad

Sara Dickerman’s bean and walnut salad – from Bon Appetit – is outrageously comforting, thanks mainly to the dirty great fried egg that sits on top of it. And better still, if you obey the Dickerson-mandated shortcut and swap out the slightly time-intensive flageolets with a tin of cannellini beans, you can have it on your plate in a jiffy.

Hot potato salad

Hot potato salad with bacon.
Hot potato salad with bacon. Photograph: Courtesy of coleycooks.com

I have long been of the persuasion that a potato salad should be a year-round dish. What can be cool and creamy in the height of summer will easily transition into something with a bit more heft once the evenings start drawing in. Coley Cooks has a recipe for hot potato salad with bacon and long hots which is the perfect case in point. It’s rich and warm and salty and spicy in equal measure. Give this a chance and you’ll be making it on a weekly basis until spring.

Barbecue salad

On the other hand, perhaps you still see salads as summer and outdoorsy, and cannot be convinced otherwise. In that case, here’s Henry Dimbleby’s recipe for a warm barbecue salad, which requires only a few hefty vegetables tossed in dressing and heaped with parsley. The catch is that, to do it well, you have to make it outside on your barbecue.

Roasted cauliflower salad

I don’t know if cauliflower is still the same catch-all superfood that it was five years ago but, if you aren’t completely cauliflowered out, TheKitchn’s recipe for roasted cauliflower salad with chickpeas, feta and herbs is a thing of beauty. It’s Ottolenghi-level complicated, in terms of assembly and flavour profile, but is well worth the effort.

Wild rice salad

The vegans among us will be pleased to know that there are plenty of options for warm vegan salads. Veg Kitchen’s wild rice salad with corn and black-eyed peas, for example, is nothing less than gorgeous. Better still, it’s easy. Cook the rice, throw in a handful of other ingredients and you’re done.

Fried halloumi with warm harissa, rice and chickpea salad

Worried that we were starting to stray too far into the world of health food? Worry not – here’s a recipe for fried cheese. The bones of Delicious magazine’s fried halloumi with warm harissa, rice and chickpea salad are largely similar to that of the recipe above. However, thanks to the harissa, it’s spicier, thanks to a dollop of seasoned yoghurt, it’s creamier, and thanks to all the cheese, it’s probably even more delicious.

Grilled sardines with samphire and lettuce

Grilled sardines and samphire.
Grilled sardines and samphire. Composite: Getty Images

Tom Kerridge describes his grilled sardines with samphire and lettuce as “a perfect early summer supper”. And while that may be true, swap the barbecue for a griddle pan and this beautiful combination – sardines, little gems, samphire and vinaigrette – will be enough to blast away any traces of winter gloominess.

Warm fruit salad

Finally, it’s close enough to Christmas to allow yourself a bit of a treat. The Fare Sage has a recipe for a warm fruit salad that is more or less just a crumble without a topping. Made by baking nectarines, cherries, peaches and pineapple, and serving it with maple-sweetened cinnamon cream, there is no way that this counts as a proper salad. But it has the word “salad” in the title, and I’m not going to argue with authority like that.