A salad just isn't complete without a decent dressing but, mayonnaise aside (I thoroughly enjoy Maille's) I have yet to find a ready prepared version to live up to it's marketing promises. Vinaigrette can be acidic and often the creamy sorts simply taste synthetic. Such expectations are problematic – what to do in a hurry? Life was transformed by the popularity of atomisers for oils and vinegars; a fine mist of both does the trick but, I'm continually searching for new ideas and flavours.

Whipping up vinaigrette is quick and easy – experiment with flavoured oils and vinegar according to the main salad component. Hazelnut oil adds soft warmth whilst rice wine vinegar adds fresh, light notes. Don't forget mustard, a vital ingredient of traditional vinaigrettes – it emulsifies, binds together the oil and vinegar, but is also available in flavours such as tarragon or pink peppercorn.

Do be light handed as additional flavour is incorporated, a drizzle is usually sufficient; begin with the standard ingredients then add the 'flavouring' a little at a time, continually tasting, until your optimum taste is achieved.

However, I do confess to a partiality towards creamy dressings. Delia Smith does a mean Caeser sauce and I wouldn't choose to prepare any other – garlic, anchovy and lime offer a balance in depth of flavour teamed with the perky lightness of lime and have recently developed a consuming passion for the all American, Ranch Dressing. Pale and soft with a hint of onion and garlic it is utterly moreish but, I craved a version which 'lifts' and freshens the palatte. A zesty, picante Ranch Dressing:

Zesty Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

makes about 350ml

  • 250ml good quality mayonnaise such as Maille's
  • 125ml crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 75ml buttermilk (or substitute with regular milk)
  • ½ shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic crushed against a decent pinch of Malden sea salt
  • 1 lime, zest finely chopped and juice
  • pinch white pepper
  • small bunch dill, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp, or to taste citrus togarashi seasoning (optional)*

Mix together all the ingredients, pour into a clean jar and chill before serving.

*Togarashi seasoning is a Japanese flavouring spice mix based on chilli and available from good
supermarkets or specialist Asian food suppliers.