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Christmas recipe: Strawberry and spinach salad with caramelised pecans

Diana Lampe 24 December 2016

Strawberry and spinach salad with caramelised pecans

Food writer Diana Lampe likes to incorporate beautiful seasonal fruit into her Christmas Day menu.

This delicious strawberry and spinach salad with caramelised pecans is originally from America. It looks very festive with the red strawberries, green leaves and pecans and fits in well with traditional Christmas fare.

Carolyn Forster shared this recipe with me many years ago and was happy for it to be passed on. It is a much loved salad in my family and circle of friends.

I have used cherries or berries when in season, instead of the strawberries in the salad. Sometimes I add sliced avocado to it as well. You may need to double these quantities for your Christmas table.

Strawberry and spinach salad with caramelised pecans

The pecans can be coated with caramel well ahead and stored in the fridge. Use strawberry vinegar in the dressing if you happen to have it on hand.

Serves 6

Caramelised pecans

  • 125g pecan halves
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water


  • 1 tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp grape seed oil or other mild tasting oil
  • 1 tbsp poppy seeds


  • 6 generous handfuls of baby spinach leaves and/or soft lettuce leaves
  • 1 small bunch parsley or chervil, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of celery heart with leaves
  • 4-6 spring onions, white and some green
  • 1 punnet of strawberries, washed and hulled

Caramelised pecans
Spread the pecans out on a tray and toast in a moderate oven (180C) for five minutes. Line a tray with a silicone mat or oiled baking paper.

Put the sugar and water in a small heavy-based saucepan over low heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar, then turn the heat up and bring to a steady boil. Don’t stir again, although you can give the pan a swirl.

Cook until the syrup turns to a rich golden brown caramel. This will take some time and you need to keep an eye on it. You can smell the burnt sugar as it turns. Work quickly and tip the pecans into the caramel and stir them around to coat completely. The caramel is extremely hot so take care. Quickly tip and spread the pecans and caramel out on the tray to set. When cold break it into pieces and store in a jar. Roughly chop the caramelised pecans to use in the salad.

The salad
Combine the dressing ingredients in a jar and whisk or shake. Taste and adjust to your liking. Wash the salad leaves and spin or pat dry. Slice the celery and spring onions finely and slightly on the diagonal. Cut the strawberries into halves or if large into quarters.

Place the salad leaves, parsley, celery and green onions, strawberries and two thirds of the caramelised pecans into a shallow salad bowl. Just before serving tip the dressing over the salad and turn everything carefully to coat well (I use my hands). The strawberries and pecans will to fall to the bottom, so arrange some of them on top of the salad. Serve the remaining caramelised pecans in a dish alongside for people to help themselves. Enjoy.

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