Salad days! Even if the weather is what The Weather Man likes to call ‘unsettled’, it still means the afternoon might be fine and warm after a washout morning. So apart from barbecues and takeaways (going out is becoming limited again due to infections hike; albeit milder symptomatically, younger staff in hospitality are being decimated), we should be eating salads.
English salad tradition is dire. If you’re Gen X you will probably shudder to recall bowls of lettuce layered with a few radishes, a cucumber, mandatory beetroot and boiled eggs, all slathered in Heinz Salad Cream. Ham salad had a few slices of ham placed at the bottom. Chicken salad likewise, only chicken. Egg salad had double the amount of boiled egg.
While I’m far from sniffing at the above compositions, perhaps without the beetroot (ready-cooked, soused in vinegar) and with a lighter dressing, a summer salad doesn’t have to be boring. My recipe for a good summer salad is fresh produce, lots of plants, a protein insert and a crunch. I like my crunch.
If you eat meat, the protein element could be bavette, the cheapest beef steak cut, seared and sliced into a Thai beef salad. It could be chicken, cooked for the purpose of the salad or left over from a rotisserie takeout: classic Caesar, chicken and melon or chicken couscous. And bacon is pretty irresistible, with lettuce and blue cheese or warm potato and cucumber.
Fish, like smoked mackerel or Arbroath smokies makes great salad dishes. It doesn’t have to be smoked fish – have a look at the lemongrass fish and samphire recipe. And seafood doesn’t mean only prawn cocktail: see five spice shrimp and crispy noodles salad.
For vegetarian options the protein fix will usually be a grain of one type or another: spelt salad with courgette ribbons or giant couscous with tomatoes and peppers. It can be cheese: pear, halloumi and pumpkin or feta, grapes and walnuts.
That’s a bunch of suggestions, for more go to my content pages. And don’t forget dessert! This week’s featured cake is blueberry cornmeal tart.
I’m hoping for a spell of proper summer here in the UK, so we can enjoy the salads al fresco. For now keep safe and keep cooking delicious things!