Summer Salads make the leap from Best Supporting Role to Star Attraction.
There will always be a certain demographic – that includes children and pie guzzling, fizzy brown beer drinkers – who will outraged by the idea of salad as anything other than an easily ignored garnish on their plate.
The rest of us are awakening to the idea of salad beyond a bowl of icy green leaves. A few fresh, seasonal ingredients – say, feta, sweet baby broad beans and a dusting of lemon zest – provide a strong supporting cast to a well-chosen cut of meat. But oomph it up a little and it can take the leading role in a delicious lunch or summer supper.
Here are a few of our favourite summer salads:
Seared Beef, Courgette and Ginger Salad
2 small courgettes per person
Pea shoots or watercress
2 spring onion per person
300g sirloin steak
For the dressing:
4tbsp olive oil
2tbsp Chinese rice wine
1tsp caster sugar
1tbsp soy sauce
1 x 2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
Mix all the ingredients for the dressing and set aside.
Pare the courgettes into fine ribbons. A mix of yellow and green looks great if you can get them. Finely chop the spring onion into elongated slices. Place the pea shoots or watercress in a large bowl and toss with the dressing and other ingredients.
Lightly oil the steak and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Sear in a hot griddle or frying pan for 2 mins each side. Allow to cool slightly, slice into thin strips and lay across a bed of the courgette and leaves.
For a slightly heartier version add a few salad potatoes such as Charlotte or Pink Fir Apple to the courgette mix.
Beetroot, Lentils, Feta and Mint
I had to think twice before including this salad. I cook it a lot, especially towards the end of summer but have never used a recipe. Thankfully quickly typing the key ingredients into Google threw up this Riverford Organics recipe and I trust them implicitly to organise it into easy quantities and instructions, so with only minor changes this is their version.
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp light soft brown sugar
2 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
120g Puy lentils
100g feta cheese, crumbled
Bunch of chopped mint
Preheat an oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Place the beets in a baking dish, add 5mm of water, then cover with foil. Place in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes until tender. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut into wedges.
Mix the sliced red onions with the sugar and vinegar and set aside for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Rinse the lentils in clean water. Place in a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender, about 20 mins. Season with salt and pepper and mix with all the other ingredients, including the beetroot. Tastes wonderful warm but equally yummy when cold and all the ingredients have had time to become real friends.
I eat this with Pitta bread, tearing off little bits and stuffing in the lentil mix. Truly delicious for lunch or supper.
Potato Salad with Fennel, Egg and Anchovies
This is quite a hearty salad that brings together a few punchy ingredients and different textures. The crunch of the fennel and the soft give of the egg. An absolute winner.
600g salad potatoes (Charlotte, Anya or similar
2 free range eggs
1 bulb fennel, finely sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
Soft salad leaves
8-12 anchovy fillets
Cut the potatoes into bite size pieces and boil until tender. Drain and allow to cool slightly. Boil the eggs. 4.5mins is good. Not quite hard-boiled. You want the yolk a bit squidgy. Finely slice the fennel. Mix the potatoes, fennel and salad leaves in a large bowl with a good glug of olive oil and the lemon juice.
Rip the eggs into pieces and scatter over the top. Drape the anchovy fillets over the salad and serve with crusty bread.
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