After all that waiting…summer is here!
I spent most of the day in one of Stoke Newington’s green spots, the amazing Clissold Park. Just sitting on the grass, reading and chatting with friends and watching the world go by…all in all, life is good!
As it gets warmer, it is also time to say goodbye to winter favourites and bring lighter dishes on to the menu. In particular, I am a big fan of salads. I don’t mean just a couple of tomatoes, some iceberg lettuce and tinned sweetcorn. I like to add a lot of ingredients so that the final dish has a good combination of textures and tastes. Keeps things interesting. Today I made one with some torn cos lettuce, sliced vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, courgette, endives), croutons, fried halloumi, walnuts and toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds. To make this a bit more vibrant and in keeping with the season, I also added some shredded fresh mint.
I never work to a “salad recipe”, so instead here are a few general tips that I find work well for salads:
- Use seeds – I love adding toasted seeds (pumpkin, sunflower) for a nice nutty flavour. Poppy or sesame work well too.
- Add something substantial – salad makes a good summer meal if you add something to give it “body”. I love blue cheese (such as St Agur) with cold potatoes, feta with butternut squash, or just a few generous pieces of halloumi cheese.
- Croutons – use good bread (I like flatbread or sourdough bread), cut into cubes, drizzle over a little olive oil and toss so everything is well-coated. Bake in the oven at around 170°C until golden. This also provides lighter (less oily) croutons as compared to frying them.
- Dressing – I go with the simple 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, add a scant half spoon of salt, a pinch of sugar and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Shake in a jam jar, and you get a light, clean salad dressing. If too runny, add more oil, and if too thick, add more vinegar. Jazz it up with lemon juice in place of vinegar for a citrus twist, or add finely chopped chilli, lime zest or fresh mint. You can also make this into a nice cream dressing by adding a few generous tablespoons of double cream and then shaking well.
- Be seasonal – this is something that I really want to make a point of doing this year, so keep an eye out for what is local and/or seasonal. Asparagus, seasonal herbs, new potatoes…mmmm…