Summer is here, so celebrate the season of al fresco dining with these fresh, flavoursome salad recipes.
The arrival of summer is always exciting. But this year, after two months spent in lockdown, the season of picnics, free-flowing dresses and leisurely afternoons spent lounging in the park feels especially welcome.
Yet while warm weather has an instant effect on our mood, it also makes us reluctant to spend too long standing over a hot stove. All we crave is crisp textures and vibrant flavours – and, ideally, quick recipes that don’t require turning the oven on.
With that in mind, we’re turning to colourful, flavoursome salads made for weeknight dinners in the garden and picnics in the park. And to help you maximise your al fresco dining time, we’ve rounded up five recipes from top chefs who really know how to throw together a fresh, zingy bowl in minutes.
Been pining for Pret’s BLT sandwiches throughout lockdown? Melissa Hemsley’s masterful twist on the classic sandwich is one dish we could quite happily eat from one end of the week to the next. Aaron Bertelsen’s baby beet salad, meanwhile, is a sweet, earthy delight using the best produce of the season – while his shaved fennel and apple salad with smoked mackerel offers a sweet-savoury contrast that will liven up any lunchbox.
If you’re a fan of Mediterranean cuisine, then Erin Gleeson’s chickpea and torn mozzarella salad is a brilliantly healthy bowl without masses of leaves. And Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern-inspired cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad makes for a seriously joyous feast. Happy eating…
Yotam Ottolenghi’s cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad recipe
Yotam says: “It was a little moment of revelation, I remember, when I first combined roasted cauliflower and raw grated cauliflower in the same dish. So different from one another, but working so well combined. This is lovely as it is, served as part of a spread, or spooned alongside some roast chicken or lamb.
“Don’t throw away the leaves of the cauliflower here. They’re lovely to eat, roasted and crisp, or grated raw as you would the rest of the cauliflower. If you want to get ahead, roast the cauliflower up to 4–6 hours in advance. Keep at room temperature and then just combine with the remaining ingredients when ready to serve.”
- 1 large cauliflower (800g)
- 1 medium onion, roughly sliced (130g)
- 80ml olive oil
- 25g parsley, roughly chopped
- 10g mint, roughly chopped
- 10g tarragon, roughly chopped
- seeds from ½ medium pomegranate (80g) 40g pistachio kernels, lightly toasted and roughly chopped
- 1 tsp ground cumin 1½ tbsp lemon juice salt
Preheat the oven to 200°C fan.
Coarsely grate a third of the cauliflower and set aside in a bowl. Break the remaining cauliflower into florets, roughly 3cm wide, and add these to a separate bowl with the cauliflower leaves, if you have any, and onion.
Toss everything together with 2 tablespoons of oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt, then spread out on a large parchment-lined baking tray. Roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked through and golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Once cool, put the roasted vegetables into a large bowl with the 50ml oil, the grated cauliflower and the remaining ingredients, along with ¼ teaspoon of salt. Toss gently, just to combine, then transfer to a platter and serve.
Extracted from Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi (£27, Ebury Press), out now
Melissa Hemsley’s BLT salad with asparagus recipe
Melissa says: “This is a spring meets summer salad for when asparagus is in season and the warm weather is luring you outside for your lunch break. When asparagus are out of season, make this with green beans or broccoli.
This is delicious served cold as a part of a packed lunch or a picnic but also very tasty as a warm dish with the bacon and asparagus straight from the oven and the eggs still hot, yolks oozing. Be sure to use good-quality bacon or swap the bacon for a handful of anchovies or fried halloumi slices.”
Serves 4 as a side or starter
Tip: use any salad leaf, and add in that bit of leftover cucumber or celery for extra crunch.
- 6 rashers of bacon
- 350g asparagus spears, woody ends snapped off
- 6 eggs
- leaves of 4 Little Gem lettuces
- 200g tomatoes, sliced (or halved if cherry tomatoes)
- Flesh of 1 large avocado, cubed
For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons chives, chopped 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons mustard
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon raw honey or maple syrup
- sea salt and black pepper
Preheat the grill to high, or the oven to fan 220°C/gas mark 9, and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Prepare the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together and seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
Place the bacon rashers and asparagus spears on the lined baking tray and either grill for 6–8 minutes (turning halfway) or roast in the oven for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large saucepan with boiling water and cook the eggs on a medium simmer for 6½ minutes. Remove from the pan and leave to cool in cold or iced water before peeling and cutting in half.
Place the lettuce leaves, tomatoes and avocado in a large serving bowl, drizzle over half the dressing and gently toss. Roughly chop up the cooked bacon and scatter over, along with the hot asparagus and egg halves, then drizzle over the rest of the dressing to serve.
Extracted from Eat Happy by Melissa Hemsley (£22, Ebury Press), out now
Erin Gleeson's chickpea and torn mozzarella salad recipe
- 1 can/430g chickpeas, drained
- 170g fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
- 2 spring onions, chopped
- 3 tbsp diced red onion
- 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- zest from ½ lemon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and serve alongside additional lemon wedges, salt and pepper. Best enjoyed outdoors!
Extracted from The Forest Feast Mediterranean: Simple Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by My Travels by Erin Gleeson (£26.99, Abrams Books), out now
Aaron Bertelsen’s baby beet salad recipe
Aaron says: “As this salad uses young beetroot, you can start making it in early spring. It is also a good way of ensuring that no part of the plant is wasted because the young leaves of the beet are used as a base for the salad. They have a great flavour that perfectly complements the sweet earthiness of the root.”
Preparation: 20 minutes
Cooking: 40 minutes
- 600g/1lb 5 oz raw baby beetroot, leaves still attached
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly smashed
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 200 g/7 oz beet leaves or other salad leaves
- 2 shallots, finely sliced
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 100g/3½ oz feta cheese, roughly crumbled
For the dressing
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons walnut oil
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6.
Trim the beetroots (beet), reserving some of the leaves. Wash the beets and place them in a baking pan with the garlic. Season with salt, add the oil and toss thoroughly. Cover the pan with aluminium foil and roast for 40 minutes, by which time the beetroot should be tender.
While the beets are cooking, make the dressing. Crush the garlic with the salt, then whisk in the lemon juice and oils. Set aside.
Once the beets are cooked, discard the garlic. When cool enough to handle, peel and cut the beets in half lengthwise. Place in a bowl with the beet or salad leaves (greens) and shallots; season with the pepper and more salt.
Add the herbs to the dressing, whisk together, then pour over the salad. Add the feta and toss gently. Garnish with the reserved beet leaves (greens).
Extracted from The Great Dixter Cookbook by Aaron Bertelsen (£24.95, Phaidon), out now
Aaron Bertelsen’s shaved fennel and apple salad with smoked mackerel recipe
Aaron says: “I love this salad because it brings together some of my favourite ingredients, with a little unexpected twist from the almonds, which bring welcome crunch and a deep toasted flavour. The recipe comes to me from a friend, Isabelle, who is training to be a chef. This dish makes a wonderful light lunch, but you could also serve it as a starter, or make it part of a larger spread by adding another couple of salads and some warm bread.”
Preparation: 15 minutes, plus cooling
Cooking: 10 minutes
- 75 g whole almonds, with skins on
- grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 2 apples, cored and diced
- 1 tablespoon capers, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch dill, coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- 175 g smoked mackerel fillets
For the vinaigrette:
- 1 tablespoon (apple) cider vinegar
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1–2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
- salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Put the almonds into a small roasting pan with the lemon zest and juice. Place in the oven and roast until the nuts are browned, about 10 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop.
Make the vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, oil and sugar in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and add a little more lemon juice or mustard, to taste.
Put the chopped almonds, fennel, apples, capers, dill and parsley into a bowl. Break up the mackerel fillets into chunks and add to the salad. Pour over the vinaigrette, toss gently and serve.
Extracted from Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots by Aaron Bertelsen (£24.95, Phaidon), out now
Photography: Jonathan Lovekin; Issy Croker; Andrew Montgomery; © 2019 Erin Gleeson