Recipe: warm summer salads
- Credit: Archant
Whatever the sometimes moody May weather throws at us, you are guaranteed a plate of edible sunshine with a colourful new season salad. Stephen David, chef-director of Mackenzie David event catering, shows how
May weather is not known as the most predictable, but generally it turns out to be one of the nicest months on the East coast, if you excuse the odd shower or occasional blowy day. You might need a jacket as you sit out on the terrace for lunch, or to spark up the chimenea while the barbecue makes the first smoke signals of the year, but it isn’t total lunacy to start thinking al fresco entertaining. If you choose the right in-between-the-seasons menu, you can be prepared for all climatic conditions.
Warm dishes cover the divide between hot and cold. You can reach for more hearty ingredients if it’s still a bit chilly, or if there’s no cloud in the trademark azure blue Suffolk sky, you can let everything to cool down to a relaxed room temperature.
This warm salad recipe is the cook’s best friend. Totally adaptable you can take your pick of whatever the allotment and greengrocer has to offer in terms of textures, colours and flavours. We’re talking crunchy salads, crisp vegetables whichever way you like them (oven-roasted, thinly-shaved, lightly-pickled), tart fruits. If, like me, you seek the savoury depths of some protein for a heartier dish, look to farmed meats, spice up some poultry or red meat, or summer game such as duck, rabbit or pigeon. Fish works well too, especially something meaty-fleshed or smoked, and last but definitely not least, shellfish is a lovely choice too.
To cook your favoured meat or seafood, it needs good caramelised colour and browned flavour. Searing in a pan and then baking (as for the recipe here), or griddling on an outdoor barbecue or indoor chargrill are the best options, but for a speedy weekday supper, stir-frying in a really hot sauté pan works almost as well.
Think outside the usual produce box. Raw root vegetables are delicious shaved into fine slices, or cut into tiny dice and ‘cooked’ for an hour in a simple pickling cure. Things like asparagus, tenderstem broccoli and spring onions, all work well finely julienned or sliced into thin batons. Roast or simmer potatoes in the skins, slow-bake tomatoes to intensify the flavour, look out for delicious fronds of interesting greenery to top the salad, perhaps pea shoots and trendy microleaves, or just grab some herb sprigs and fennel bulb tops. Even things like beetroot leaves are delicious if you buy your beets bunched from a farm-shop.
Above all, have fun, keep the dressing as a staple and you can’t go too far wrong.
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Warm summer salad
You really can mix-and-match whatever you fancy or the fridge holds in store. I think of the recipe proportions roughly in quarters when it comes to quantities, split between the leaves, the vegetables, the textures/garnishes and the protein on top. The dressing keeps well in the fridge. I dress certain elements and leave the bed of leaves undressed, before finishing the salad as a whole with a good drizzle. You can make the salad your own with a flourish such as shavings of parmesan or other hard cheese, toasted pine nuts, pangratto breadcrumbs (golden-fried with garlic and chilli flakes, finished with lemon zest and shredded flat-leaf parsley) or a spiced seed mix.
The honey-mustard dressing is super-easy. Warm up 1 tbsp Suffolk honey with 1 rounded tbsp Colmans mustard until it combines, then whisk in 75ml of Aspall cyder vinegar and 200ml of good local rapeseed oil plus plenty of ground black pepper and a little salt to taste.
The pickled rhubarb here was cut into thin batons and brought to a simmer covered with a liquor of two parts cyder vinegar, two parts water, one part sugar, a couple of star anise and a few slices of ginger root, then left to sit for a few hours. You can replace wild greens such as the sea beet, samphire and sea purslane with spinach or chard leaves. Your butcher can prepare the quail for you as a crown of the breasts on-the-bone, keeping the legs and backbone as the base for an oriental soup. w
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