As soon as the weather gets warmer my craving for summer salads begins. The vegetable garden and greenhouse are bursting with fresh ripe produce begging to be harvested. We’ve had lots of broad beans, my absolutely favourite summer vegetable. The fresh peas never made it into the kitchen, we ate them all off the plants. The globe artichokes have now gone past their best for eating but the ones that survived my greed are now bursting into flower resembling giant blue and purple thistles. Even though we have tempting recipes for every season summer is definitely the best time for salads – both vegetables and fruit are bursting with sunny flavour. Salads have come a long way since my childish concept of lettuce, tomato, hardboiled egg, beetroot and maybe a few scallions. I still love that simple combination, particularly when served with the old-fashioned salad dressing, a gem of a recipe which was passed down in our family from Lydia Strangman, a Quaker lady who lived in the house in the 1900’s. Nowadays virtually anything can go into a salad, crisp and crunchy ripe juicy fruit, a myriad of salad leaves, Asian greens, fresh herbs of every colour and hue, edible flowers embellish a salad, rose petals, chive and zucchini blossoms, scarlet runners, violas all add magic. Tasty morsels of meat, fish – either fresh or smoked, make delicious additions. Shellfish are also irresistible. Spices are a feature of many of our salads, particularly in winter and the components can be a combination of fresh and cooked, as with a potato salad. At this stage the salad has become such a varied and exciting concept that in the hands of a creative cook it almost defies definition. As ever, a salad is only as good as the sum of its parts and the quality of the ingredients is crucial to the wow factor of the finished dish. Really good extra virgin olive oil and wine vinegar is an essential dressing for many salads, a good homemade mayonnaise is another asset. The latter takes less than 5 minutes to make by hand and the homemade variety raises a salad onto a new plain. Here are a few suggestions to tempt the tastebuds.
Shrimp and Rice Noodle Salad
450g (1lb) vermicelli noodles or fine rice noodles Dressing 110ml (4fl oz) soy sauce 50ml (2fl oz) rice or cider vinegar 50ml (2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil 1 thinly sliced red chilli 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger 2 tablespoons brown sugar or palm sugar 48 shrimps or 32 prawns, cooked and peeled 1 small organic cucumber 8 spring onion, sliced at a long angle 10g (1/2 oz) fresh coriander 10g (1/2 oz) fresh mint 110g (4ozs) chopped peanuts Lime wedges Put the noodles into a bowl. Cover with boiling water for 5-7 minutes or until just tender. Meanwhile make the dressing by combining all the ingredients in a bowl. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved. Drain the noodles well and toss in the dressing while still warm. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a melon baller or a sharp spoon and discard. Cut the cucumber into thin slices at a long angle. Add to the noodles with the prawns, spring onions, whole coriander and mint leaves. Toss well, taste and correct the seasoning. Scatter with chopped peanuts and serve with wedges of lime. Noodles of all types are a must have for your store cupboard, there are a million delicious salads you can make, they are also great added to soup or as an extra something in spring rolls.
Basmati Rice, Pea, Broad Bean and Dill Salad
225g (½lb) basmati rice
110g(¼lb) peas, shelled 110g(¼ lb) broad beans 4 tablespoons freshly chopped dill Cook the rice in lots of boiling salted water. Meanwhile cook the peas and broad beans separately in boiling salted water, drain. As soon as the rice is cooked, drain. Put in a wide bowl drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and some freshly squeezed lemon juice. When cold add the peas and broad beans and freshly chopped dill. Toss, taste and correct the seasoning.
Summer Salad with a Twist
You can vary this salad with whatever additions you have to hand, using a variety of summer salad leaves and baby spinach as a base.
Serves 8 350-500g (12-18oz) Summer leaves and baby spinach 1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced ½ cucumber, peeled and deseeded 6-8 tomatoes, chopped rind of 1 preserved lemon, chopped, optional 1 handful of flat parsley, chopped 1 avocado, peeled and diced 6 spring onions, chopped 6 radishes, quartered Verjuice vinaigrette: 3 shallots, peeled and finely diced 15ml (1 tablesp) lemon juice (juice of approx. ½ lemon) 45ml (3 tablesp.) white verjuice 125ml (4 fl.oz) extra virgin olive oil 2 tablesp. roughly chopped coriander Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper To make the dressing: Chop the shallots and macerate in lemon juice, verjuice and a good pinch of salt for 5-6 minutes. Whisk in the olive oil. Add the coriander. Taste and correct the seasoning. Combine all the salad ingredients except the summer leaves and baby spinach in a serving bowl and toss together lightly. Just before serving add the summer leaves and baby spinach and add enough vinaigrette to lightly coat the ingredients. Toss gently. Serve immediately.
Panzanella with Pan-grilled Chicken (Tuscan Bread Salad)
This is the best time of year for making Tuscan Bread Salad, the season of heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil. For this recipe, I use Declan Ryan’s sourdough bread from the Arbutus bakery. Pangrill the chicken breast and add to the salad to make an easy and delicious lunch or supper dish.
Serves 8 3-4 organic chicken breasts (weight 450g/1lb approx.) olive oil 1 sprig of rosemary sea salt and freshly ground pepper 450g (1lb) crusty sourdough country bread, cut into 1 inch (2.5cm) cubes 2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 125ml (4fl.oz) extra virgin olive oil 8 ripe tomatoes 1 red onion, roughly chopped 75g (3oz) black olives (weigh stoned) 1 bunch whole basil leaves, torn into ½ inch (1cm) pieces – about 24 2 tablesp. Balsamic vinegar 1 tablesp. white wine vinegar 125ml (4fl.oz) extra virgin olive oil salt and freshly ground pepper Coat each side of the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped rosemary. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Preheat the oven to 180C/350f/gas 4. Put the garlic and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the croutons of bread all at once and toss to coat evenly. Spread the bread on a baking sheet in the preheated oven and bake until golden, 5-6 minutes. Return the croutons to the bowl, add the onion, olives and basil leaves. Chop the tomato into 1 inch (2.5cm) pieces and add to the salad with all the juices. Heat a pan grill over a medium heat. Cook the chicken breasts on both sides until the chicken is firm to the touch. Remove to a clean plate and let rest. Cut the chicken into strips ½ inch (1cm) x 1 inch (2.5cm) and add to the salad. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together, toss to coat the salad. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve as soon as possible. Smoked Irish Salmon or Gravlax with Thai Cucumber Salad
1-2 small cucumbers 125ml (4fl.oz) sunflower oil 1½ tablesp. nam pla (fish sauce) 50ml (2fl.oz) white wine vinegar 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped 2 tablesp. Thai sweet chilli sauce 8-16 slices of thinly sliced smoked salmon or gravlax lime wedges Slice the cucumbers lengthwise into thin strips with a peeler or cheese slicer. Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing. Pour over the cucumber, toss gently. To serve: Arrange 1-2 slices of smoked salmon on a large white plate, put a portion of cucumber salad alongside. Garnish with a segment of lime. Repeat with the remainder.
Chorizo, Potato and Avocado Salad
2lb (900g) small potatoes (preferably waxy) 2 ozs (50g) walnut halves 1-2 fresh chorizo (depending on size) 2 fist fulls watercress sprigs or rocket leaves – enough for 4 people 1 Hass avocado 1 lime Dressing 2 teaspoons whole grain honey mustard 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil salt & freshly ground pepper Scrub the potatoes, cook in boiling salted water for 15-20 minutes or until just tender. Drain. Meanwhile make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together (add a little honey if honey mustard is unavailable). Heat a frying pan, add a little extra virgin olive oil, add in the walnuts and toss over a gentle heat until roasted and fragrant. Remove to a bowl. Slice the chorizo ⅓" thick and add to the pan. Cook over a medium heat until the oil runs and the chorizo begins to crisp. Peel and slice the potatoes. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss with a little of the dressing while still warm. Add the chorizo, chorizo oil and walnuts to the potato. Sprinkle a little dressing over the watercress sprigs or rocket leaves. Turn onto a wide shallow serving dish. Top with the potato, chorizo mixture. Peel and slice the avocado lengthwise or cube. Toss with a little freshly squeeze lime juice. Add to the salad. Drizzle with dressing, mix and lift gently to combine.
Satay Chicken Salad
The aromatic dressing that coats this moist crunchy salad is also delicious with fish and pork. 4 large handfuls mixed fresh organic salad greens 1 red pepper, quartered, deseeded, and finely sliced at an angle 3 tender stalks celery, thinly sliced at an angle 2 pan-grilled or poached chicken breasts, skin removed and sliced 3 spring onions, finely sliced 150g (5oz) French beans, cooked 1-3 minutes in boiling salted water. 75g (3oz) roasted peanuts 2 tablesp. chopped coriander Satay Dressing: 1 teasp. fresh ginger, finely grated 1 teasp. garlic, crushed 2 tablesp. peanut butter 250ml (8fl.oz) coconut milk juice and finely grated rind of 1unwaxed lemon (no pith) 1 teasp. red chilli, chopped 2 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded, (optional) salt and freshly ground black pepper Pan-grill or poach the chicken breasts, cool and slice. Put the salad greens, pepper, celery, chicken, spring onions, beans, peanuts and coriander into a large mixing bowl. Next make the dressing. Simply puree the dressing ingredients until smooth and creamy and toss through salad. Serve at once. How to poach chicken breast with an Asian flavour. Put the chicken breasts in a saute pan so they can sit in a single layer. Cover with light chicken stock or cold water, add 4-5 thin slices fresh ginger, 1 small red chilli or a pinch of chilli flakes, a few black peppercorns, a good pinch of salt and a spring onion. Bring slowly to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow the chicken to cool in the cooking liquid.
Baby Spinach, Beetroot and Sesame Salad
Baby spinach leaves (enough for 4 portions) 2 medium beetroot, peeled and cut into fine julienne Dressing: 2 tablesp. rice vinegar 2 teasp. soy sauce 1 teasp. sesame oil ½ teasp. sugar 1-2 tablesp. toasted sesame seeds Wash and dry the leaves, cut into strips if large. Peel and cut the beetroot into fine julienne. Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing. Just before serving toss the spinach and beetroot with the dressing, sprinkle with freshly toasted sesame seeds and serve. Foolproof food
Lydia Strangman’s Salad Dressing
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 level teasp. dry mustard
Pinch of salt
1 tablesp.(15g) dark soft brown sugar
1 tablesp. (15ml) brown malt vinegar
2-4 fl.ozs. (56-130ml) cream
Hard-boil the eggs for the dressing: bring a small saucepan of water to the boil, gently slide in the eggs, boil for 10 minutes (12 if they are very fresh), strain off the hot water and cover with cold water. Peel when cold.
Next make the Dressing. Cut 2 eggs in half, sieve the yolks into a bowl, add the sugar, a pinch of salt and the mustard. Blend in the vinegar and cream. Chop the egg whites and add some to the sauce. Keep the rest to scatter over the salad. Cover the dressing until needed.