When I first came to England in the late 1980’s, it was impossible to get the kind of salad dressings I was used to in Canada. Back then the only commercially made dressing I used to be able to find was Heinz Salad Cream, a sort of variation on mayonnaise. As the years have gone by, more dressings have become available, and I can even source old favourites from Canada in speciality stores, but I rarely, if ever, buy them anymore. You see, despite their claims of ‘being able to help you better absorb vitamins’, commercially manufactured salad dressings are really not very good for you at all. Most contain hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, artificial favours and colours. Not only that, but you can make delicious salad dressings in your own kitchen for a fraction of the cost of the commercially prepared varieties. All you need are four ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand right now.
The most basic of vinaigrette recipes is simply oil, vinegar, flavouring and sweetener. So the first homemade dressing I learned to make was 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons vinegar, 1 generous teaspoon of Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon white sugar. Shaken together, this makes a very nice salad dressing. However with all the varieties of oils and vinegars available today you can be a lot more creative than that. I also tend to use honey these days instead of white sugar as it is much better for you. Of course, you can use maple syrup or Stevia if you prefer as well. I also like to use different varieties of mustard - from flavoured mustards with herbs in them to wholegrain mustard, which makes a really beautiful dressing. You can also add chopped fresh herbs (1 teaspoon is generally just about right) to the dressing as well. The only limits are your own imagination.
The proportions I now use, which make enough dressing to dress a large salad (often with leftovers which will keep in the fridge for a few days) are:
¼ cup oil
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons honey, maple syrup or other healthy sweetener
1 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (optional)
Here are some of my favourite recipes, many of which you can make for pennies.
Extra virgin olive oil
white wine vinegar
chopped tarragon and parsley
(You really only need a small amount of tarragon, it’s very powerful.)
Great for dressing a side salad, this is a traditional French salad dressing. Give it an Italian twist by using oregano instead of the tarragon.
Apple Balsamic vinegar
wholegrain Dijon mustard
Try this on a green salad with sliced apple and a few walnuts scattered through it.
mild olive oil or any vegetable oil
Great with just about any green salad, especially if you toss a few fresh pear slices in too.
Extra virgin olive oil
red wine or sherry vinegar
wholegrain or ordinary Dijon mustard
honey or maple syrup
This is good with heartier lettuces, especially the ones you get in the winter.
These are only a few possibilities, the variations are pretty much endless. The amazing thing is, now I’ve had all these wonderful homemade dressings, the commercially prepared ones hold little appeal, even those I used to really miss when I first came to England. Do try making your own salad dressing - it’s healthier, tastier and a whole lot cheaper too!