In the period from 1940s wartime ‘dig for Britain’ allotments and the 1990s, lettuce were the only green salad leaves generally available to the British. Spinach was something Popeye drank from a can, rocket was a technology we sold to the Americans, and Radicchio was the Italian kid who had moved next door and his parents had an ice cream van.
This is where the classic English salad comes from. Dad would lift a lettuce from the garden, and this would be dressed up with a range of immovable accompaniments including tomatoes, cucumber, radish and boiled eggs. The whole thing would be spooned over with Heinz Salad Cream.
The English salad can be saved from naffness if very fresh ingredients are used, the thing is arranged properly, and a homemade salad cream is drizzled over. The version given here is pretty much as I remember it from my grandmother’s kitchen table in Dukinfield, and comes from Simon Hopkinson’s The Prawn Cocktail Years.
- 2–3 gem or cos lettuce, leaved and washed
- 6 tomatoes, quartered
- 12 spring onions, trimmed
- 12 radishes, halved (place in ice-cold water to crisp)
- 4 eggs, boiled for 7 minutes and peeled
- 12 new potatoes, peeled and boiled
- 4 cooked beetroot, sliced
- Half a cucumber peeled and sliced
- Whites of 6 boiled eggs, chopped (see notes)
- Homemade salad cream
Arrange all the ingredients nicely on a plate. Sprinkle over the chopped egg whites and dress with swirls of salad cream.
These whites are yielded from the scraps generated by making homemade salad cream.