5 essential summer salads


Bright dishes for hot days, from Sami Tamimi’s watermelon and halloumi to Uyen Luu’s lemongrass steak, watercress and rice noodles

Sami Tamimi, Georgina Hayden, Simon Hopkinson, Uyen Luu and Anja Dunk

Sun 19 Jul 2020 10.00 BSTLast modified on Mon 20 Jul 2020 12.16 BST
Anja Dunk’s charred courgette, white bean, walnut and mint salad.
Anja Dunk’s charred courgette, white bean, walnut and mint salad. Food styling Marie-Ange Lapierre. Prop styling Pene Parker. Photograph: Jean Cazals/The Observer
Anja Dunk’s charred courgette, white bean, walnut and mint salad
Two things typical of a British summer are garden barbecues, and the barbecue being rained off. This salad, made inside on a griddle pan, has all the flavour of barbecued veg but none of the unpredictable weather risks.

Serves 2-3 hungry people on its own, or 4 if eaten with bread and cheese or a couple of grilled sausages on the side
white beans (cannellini/haricot/butter beans) 2 x 570g jars (drained weight 400g per jar)
courgettes 2 medium, approx 500g, sliced into rings of pound-coin thickness
extra virgin olive oil 4 tbsp, plus extra for drizzling
walnut pieces 80g
garlic 5 cloves, sliced thinly
banana shallots 2, diced finely (or half a red/pink onion)
red-wine vinegar 5 tbsp, plus extra if desired
mint 1 bunch, torn roughly
salt and pepper

Drain and rinse the beans, then put them onto a dish/platter.

Heat a griddle pan over the highest heat until it is smoking. It’s really important for it to be searing hot before adding the courgettes.

Put the courgettes into a bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and toss until evenly coated. Lay half of the courgettes into the griddle pan and cook for approximately one minute on each side until charred all over. Add the courgettes to the beans and repeat with the remaining.

Toast the walnut pieces for two minutes and add them to the beans.

Turn the heat off and add the garlic, shallots and red wine vinegar to the hot pan. Let this sizzle vigorously for 30 seconds before pouring it over the other ingredients.

Scatter the mint over the dish, followed by an extra glug of olive oil and some seasoning (I like it with a lot of freshly ground black pepper). Toss gently, taste and adjust with a little more vinegar if needed (depending on which beans you use it may take quite a bit more).

This is best after 10 minutes or so, to let the flavours sink in. It’s also great the next day, possibly even better, in the same way a stew is.
Anja Dunk is a food writer. Her book Strudel, Noodles and Dumplings: The New Taste of German Cooking is out now

Watermelon with fried halloumi and za’atar by Sami Tamimi

An easy, refreshing summer salad. If you have never tried this winning combination of cold watermelon and creamy, salty cheese before, then this is the time to give it a go. The olives, za’atar, chilli and herbs add layers of flavour that work in harmony.

Serves 4 as a starter or side, or 2 as a main
halloumi cheese 220g
olive oil 3 tbsp
small watermelon 1 (1.5 kg)
za’atar 1 tbsp
lime zest and juice of 1
sea salt flakes
kalamata olives 40g, pitted
green chilli 1 medium, thinly sliced on an angle
oregano leaves 1 tbsp
mint leaves 10 large

Cut the halloumi into 1cm-thick slices; pat dry using kitchen paper.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the cheese slices on a medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Transfer to a clean plate and leave to slightly cool.

In a small bowl, mix the rest of the olive oil, the za’atar and the lime zest and juice until well combined, then set aside.

Quarter the watermelon, remove the skin and cut each section of flesh widthways into 1cm-thick slices, then cut each slice in half, into smaller triangles, about 6cm long and 3cm wide. You will need 700g of flesh (discarding the seed if you like).

When ready to serve, spread the watermelon pieces out on a large platter or individual plates, followed by the halloumi. Spoon over the za’atar mixture and add a good sprinkle of salt.

Scatter the olives and chilli on and finish with the oregano and mint leaves, tearing them as you go along, and serve at once.
Sami Tamimi is a chef and food writer. Falastin by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley is out now

Broad bean, dill and tomato salad by Georgina Hayden

One of my earliest memories is podding broad beans with my yiayias (grandmas), and whenever I mention this, it seems like a popular memory for many, not just me. Doing this now with my own daughter, I can see why the older generations would enlist the help of any children in the vicinity. Not only is there something mindful and peaceful about shelling and podding the beans, but it also keeps small hands surprisingly busy and quiet. Of course, we can buy frozen all year round, as with peas, but taking the time to prepare broad beans while in season has to be one of the simplest joys in the kitchen, and makes the little beans taste all the sweeter. I love them cooked the Greek way, slowly simmered in a sweet tomato sauce. However, with the hot weather, I’ve taken my favourite dish and made it into a fresher, lighter salad. It may look simple, but it is far greater than the sum of its parts. Just be sure to be generous with the seasoning here, and serve with fresh, crusty bread – ideally koulouri or simit if you can. It may not look like a vast amount, but the beans are surprisingly filling. And addictive too.

Serves 4 as a main
broad beans 1.5kg
spring onions 4
lemon 1
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil 3 tbsp
dill 20g
tomatoes 2 large, ripe, meaty (at least 200g in weight)
garlic ½ clove
feta 200g (optional)
fresh bread to serve, ideally koulouri or simit if possible

Pod the broad beans. Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the beans for 2 ½–3 minutes, depending on their size. Drain and immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Leave them for 5 minutes then remove the opaque skins, so that you are left with the vibrant green beans. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and toss through the broad beans, along with the juice of the lemon, a generous pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil. Chop the dill and stir through. Check the seasoning and leave to one side.

Place a box grater in a large shallow bowl and directly grate in the tomatoes – grating in all the flesh and seeds and discarding the skins. Finely grate in the peeled garlic clove, then stir in the final tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and season to taste. When the dressing is ready, pile the dressed broad beans on top of the grated tomatoes. Crudely break over a block of feta, if using, and serve with slices or chunks of fresh bread.
Georgina Hayden is a cook and food writer; georginahayden.com

Simon Hopkinson’s jellied chicken and cucumber salad

Since first considering the idea of this special, summertime salad, there crept in, along the way, a vague reference to the Sichuan bang-bang chicken. Note: as an added frivolity, you may like to remove the skin from the raw chicken breasts, salt them, grill or fry until crisp, then shred as a sprinkle over the finished dish.

Serves 4, as a light lunch
For the jellied chicken
chicken wings 4 (approx 300g), chopped into very small pieces using a heavy knife

dry sherry or Shaohsing rice wine 150ml
water 600ml
sea salt a scant tsp
star anise 1 – no more!
lemon juice of ½
lemon zest 4 strips
spring onions 3, trimmed and sliced
ginger 5-6 unpeeled slices
chicken breasts 2 large (450-500g total weight), skin attached
gelatine 2 leaves
mild green chilli 1 large, deseeded and very finely chopped
fresh coriander 4-5 sprigs, leaves chopped

For the cucumber salad
cucumbers 2, small-ish
salt 1 tsp
sugar 2 tsp
rice vinegar or cider vinegar 3 tsp
mayonnaise 4-5 tbsp mixed with 2-3 tsp Colman’s English mustard, to taste; it ought to be moderately punchy
sesame oil 2 tsp
chives 1 tbsp, very finely chopped

Put the chicken wings into a stainless-steel pan and add the next 8 ingredients. Slowly bring up to a simmer, allow a veil of scum to form on the surface and leave to only just simmer for an hour or so, covered; the stock must remain undisturbed to remain clear. Strain through a fine sieve into a deep, clean pan and allow to drip. Discard the exhausted solids. Allow to cool for 10 minutes.

Slip the chicken breasts into the stock then, once again, slowly bring up to a simmer. However, this time only simmer for 1 minute then turn off heat and cover. Leave for 20 minutes, then turn the breasts over, again simmer for 1 minute, cover and leave to cool completely. Lift out the chicken onto a plate and put in the fridge. Put the gelatine to soak in cold water.

Now quietly reduce the chicken stock by about one-third, skimming off any scum that forms (there should not be much), remove from the heat and stir in the gelatine until melted. Line a sieve/colander with a fine piece of cotton cloth (I use an old cotton napkin), suspended over a bowl and carefully pour the stock through. Allow to drip, then remove the sieve and put the stock to “jell” in the fridge.

Once set, mix up the jelly with a fork and stir in the chilli and coriander. Slice the chicken into really fine shreds and fold through the wobbly jelly until well mixed. Return to the fridge.

For the salad, slice the cucumbers not too thinly (between 0.5 and 1cm) on the diagonal; most accurate and easy using a mandolin. Then, stacking the slices in 3, cut into sticks to the same thickness. Place in a bowl and stir in the salt, sugar and vinegar. Leave to macerate for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, then strain through a sieve, discarding the liquid. Return to the bowl and stir in the mayonnaise/mustard mix, the sesame oil and the chives, and mix well.

To serve, take shallow bowls – soup plates, say, and preferably pre-chilled in the fridge – and arrange a generous tablespoonful of the jellied chicken on one side, then a similar-sized serving of the cucumber salad on the other. Serve without delay.
Simon Hopkinson is a food writer; simonhopkinson.tv

Garlic and lemongrass bavette steak, watercress, pea shoots and rice noodle salad by Uyen Luu

I have been enjoying versions of this beef noodle salad all summer. It has been a textural and refreshing delight at the dinner table during lockdown. The crunch and peppery flavours of watercress and the floral sweetness of pea shoots, mixed with the acidic lime and fiery chillies, bring joyful satisfaction to the palate. True to Vietnamese-style salad, adding rice noodles makes this a complete meal balanced with lots of exciting and exhilarating flavours of summer.

Serves 2
free-range bavette steak 300g, at room temperature for 2 hours (you can also use ribeye, rump or sirloin)
olive oil 1 tbsp
lemongrass 1 stalk
garlic 2 cloves, crushed
soy sauce 1 tbsp
butter 1 tbsp, at room temperature
salt and pepper

For the salad
watercress 100g
pea shoots 50g
rice vermicelli noodles 2 nests
spring onions 2, white and green parts, sliced
olive oil 1 tbsp
eggs 2, fried sunny side up (optional)

For the dressing
birds-eye chilli ½, finely chopped
honey 1 tbsp
premium fish sauce 1 tbsp
lime ½, juiced, or ¼ lemon juiced, plus zest finely chopped
mint 10g (a sprig), leaves picked and finely sliced
peanuts 1 heaped tbsp (or pistachios or cashews), finely chopped.

Brush both sides of the bavette with olive oil. Finely chop the lemongrass, add to a small bowl with the crushed garlic cloves, soy sauce and butter. Mix well together and set aside.

To prepare the salad, divide the watercress and pea shoots between two large bowls or plates.

Rehydrate the rice vermicelli noodles by placing them in a vessel, pouring boiling water over and soaking for 5 minutes. Drain, briefly wash with hot water in a sieve or colander and cover. Slice the spring onions and cook them gently in a small pan with 1 tbsp of oil for 5 minutes, then set aside.

To make the salad dressing, place all the ingredients into a bowl and mix well together or shake in a jar.

To sear the steak (medium rare), place on a good frying or griddle pan on high heat until hot. Season the steak with salt and pepper and place in the pan. After 3 minutes, turn over and pour the garlic and lemongrass butter over it and cook for a further 3 minutes. Toss the steak with the sauce until it is all covered. Turn off the heat and place a lid over the steak for 5 minutes then rest on a chopping board for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the noodles to the salad bowl and smoother with the spring onion oil. Slice the steak into thin pieces, cutting half against the grain and half with the grain to get different bites and textures. Fry 2 eggs sunny side up, then add one to each of the bowls. Dress the salad at the table with the hot, lime and peanut fish sauce; pour it all over the greens and noodles. This salad can be enjoyed hot or cold; however, reserve the dressing until it is ready to be served.