Salad days

Sim­ple switches make for a wide va­ri­ety of quick and easy meals

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Ev­ery­thing tastes so rich and sweet af­ter a sum­mer of sun­shine. Har­vests abound in a full flush of glo­ri­ous colours and flavours, mak­ing the pro­duc­tion of sim­ple, de­li­cious din­ners easy be­yond belief. As a kid I re­mem­ber Mum was al­ways busy bot­tling at this time of year. Her kitchen would be trans­formed into a pro­duc­tion line and we would have to climb over boxes and bot­tles just to get a glass of wa­ter. But there was still din­ner to con­tend with. She would send Dad out to the gar­den to dig new pota­toes, gather let­tuce, cu­cum­ber, spring onions and toma­toes. The pota­toes would get fired into a pot to boil, a lit­tle steak or chop would go into the fry­pan, and she would toss the salad with­out dress­ing it (en­sur­ing the left­overs would hold for lunch the next day).

Dad’s tamar­illo chut­ney would come out of the fridge, along with some of Mum’s home­made mayo, and our din­ner — one we loved — was on the table, done and dusted in less than half an hour.

Oc­ca­sion­ally I head back there to those good old meat-and-three-veg days, but more of­ten than not these days I like to build my sum­mer meals around the cen­tre­piece of a toss-and-serve salad.

Cooked pulses, grains and rice make a nour­ish­ing base for a salad meal that is both cheap and sat­is­fy­ing, and hav­ing these cooked at hand al­lows you to get a yummy one-dish din­ner on the table with very lit­tle ef­fort. Toss with dress­ing and add veg of your choice – raw or cooked, some nuts and seeds and a crum­ble of feta or some grilled haloumi.

Sim­ply by chang­ing the dress­ing you can cre­ate a dif­fer­ent flavour pro­file. Thin a big spoon of salsa verde or pesto with a lit­tle olive oil, or jazz up a clas­sic vinai­grette with a splash of pome­gran­ate mo­lasses. Some­times I make a tahini dress­ing with a big spoon­ful of tahini, le­mon, olive oil and a lit­tle gar­lic, or a creamy yoghurt one with runny nat­u­ral yoghurt, le­mon juice, toasted cu­min seeds and co­rian­der.

Served up on a big plat­ter with some baked chicken or lamb on the side, or piled with slices of grilled haloumi and a scat­ter of tamari al­monds for a vegetarian op­tion, these bulky sal­ads make a fab­u­lous one-dish meal that looks stun­ning and is won­der­fully sat­is­fy­ing to eat.

On another salad tan­gent, crusty cia­batta bread makes a great start for sal­ads like pan­zanella or fat­toush. Tear the bread into a bowl and driz­zle it with olive oil and red wine vine­gar. Add gar­lic, salt and pep­per and then pile in the salad veg — toma­toes, pep­pers, cu­cum­bers, onions. Add a shav­ing of parme­san or a crum­ble of feta and a hand­ful of soft, sweet basil and tangy rocket and it’s ready for the table.

This week’s salad recipes make the most of sum­mer’s bounty. Salad days rule.

BROC­COLI SALAD WITH VIET­NAMESE DRESS­ING

Ready in 30 mins Serves 4-6 1 large head broc­coli, cut into flo­rets 1 red pep­per, finely sliced 4 cups (250g) bean sprouts ½ cup roasted salted cashew nuts ½ cup co­rian­der leaves Viet­namese Caramel Chilli Dress­ing 1 cup raw sugar ¾ cup wa­ter 2 long red chill­ies, in­clud­ing seeds, very finely chopped finely grated zest of 1 lime ¼ cup lime juice 2 Tbsp fish sauce 1 tsp tamarind paste or con­cen­trate To make the dress­ing, com­bine sugar and wa­ter in a heavy-based pot, bring to a boil and boil un­til the bub­bles be­come very large and the colour is a rich gold (about 6 min­utes). Re­move from heat and stir in the chill­ies and lime zest. Al­low to cool for 5 min­utes then stir in the lime juice, fish sauce and tamarind. To make the salad, drop broc­coli flo­rets into a large pot of salted boil­ing wa­ter and cook for 3 min­utes. Drain, rinse un­der cold wa­ter to stop the cook­ing process and drain again. To serve, toss with all other in­gre­di­ents and ¼ cup of the dress­ing.

THAI WATERMELON SALAD

Ready in 10 mins Serves 4- 6 ¼ head ice­berg let­tuce, torn into chunks ¼ small watermelon, finely chopped into 2-3cm chunks ¼ cup each roasted salted peanuts and toasted co­conut flakes 1 spring onion, finely an­gle-sliced About 20 mint leaves, torn Fat-Free Chilli Dress­ing 1 Tbsp white or rice vine­gar 2 tsp fish sauce 2 tsp honey ½ long red chilli, finely an­gle-sliced, or more to taste To make dress­ing, place all in­gre­di­ents in a jar and shake to com­bine. To make the salad, ar­range let­tuce on a plat­ter, top with all the other salad in­gre­di­ents, driz­zle with dress­ing and serve.

CORN AND BLACK BEAN SALAD

Ready in 20 mins Serves 6 as a side 3 cups corn ker­nels 2 Tbsp olive oil 1 red pep­per, finely diced 2 cloves gar­lic, crushed 1 tsp ground cu­min ½ tsp chilli flakes or cayenne pep­per 400g can black beans, rinsed and drained 2 spring onions, finely sliced 1 av­o­cado, cut into chunks Juice of 1 lime or ½ a le­mon Salt and ground black pep­per, to taste Place corn in a fry­pan with olive oil, red pep­per, gar­lic, cu­min and chilli flakes and cook over a low heat un­til red pep­per is soft­ened (about 5-7 min­utes). Re­move from heat and add black beans, spring onions, av­o­cado, le­mon juice, salt and pep­per. Toss to­gether gen­tly be­fore serv­ing.

BROC­COLI SALAD WITH VIET­NAMESE DRESS­ING

CORN AND BLACK BEAN SALAD

THAI WATERMELON SALAD

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