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We recently got invited to a family barbecue. It was a very informal and enjoyable affair, with all invited asked to bring some sides and salads (not to mention a bottle of wine or two!).

It made me think about salads, and what do they bring to the table? If you think of salads as just lettuce, tomato wedges and chunks of cucumber, you really are missing out; with such a variety of vegetables, herbs and fruits in season, there is no longer any need for a boring salad.

There are endless amounts of wonderful combinations you can use to make it as simple or complex as you require.

Liven up your salads this summer with in season herbs

I like to add radishescucumbercelery and spring onions for extra crunch, all cut into small, even pieces. Peeled ribbons or slices of courgette, beetroot and carrots are a delicious addition too.

If adding peppers, corn, peas or broad beans, don’t overcook them; there’s nothing worse than overcooked vegetables in a salad.

Beetroot is a great addition to any salad

Some of my favourite salads are the ones that don’t take too much time to make: it’s literally out to the garden and pull whatever leaves are ready, with a few tomatoes from the tunnel and strawberries, and maybe some asparagus or fennel (which I thinly slice as its beautiful aniseed flavour works extremely well with fish).

I grab a few handfuls of fresh herbs too, like mint, parsley, basil, dill, oregano and fennel fronds, and add them just before serving.

I sometimes like a warm vegetable salad to accompany my cooked meats and this grilled vegetables and goat’s cheese salad is one of my favourites.

When it comes to salads, the dressings are important, as they can take salads to a new level with minimum effort. If using salad dressings, one thing to remember is that if you don’t dry the salad leaves after rinsing, the dressing won’t coat the leaves and will simply form a pool in the bottom of the serving bowl.

To ensure the best results, pat the leaves dry with a clean towel or preferably use a salad spinner. Some of the best dressings are the simplest; one of my favourites is a wholegrain mustard, lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning dressing. It’s great for fish dishes too. (See my Dalkey Mustard dressing recipe).

Beetroot is a great addition to any salad

When I’m making up a salad dressing, be it at home or in the restaurant, I usually have an oil element such as olive oil (preferably Extra Virgin), and mix this with an about one third acid, such as lemon juice, either red or white wine vinegar, and sometimes balsamic vinegar. I then add plenty of fresh herbs such as chervilparsleyoreganothyme or rosemary.

Sometimes I use chilli, but be careful when doing so: it’s difficult to remove the flavour of chilli once added. Try adding a little first and tasting, you can always add more if desired. Toss the salad gently with clean hands, adding a little dressing at a time - you can always add more!

Don’t be afraid to try some new ideas of your own - as it’s your creation, it’s sure to be delicious! Below are two of my latest ones. For more see our Taste of Summer section.


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