Gill Meller’s recipes for vibrant summer salads

Lifestyle

Summer is the perfect season to let ingredients sing. Here are four beautiful dressed dishes to whet your appetite

Gill Meller

Sat 30 May 2020 11.30 BST

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Gill Meller’s tomato, egg, bread and herb salad.
Gill Meller’s tomato, egg, bread and herb salad. Photograph: Issy Croker/The Guardian
Tomato, egg, bread and herb salad (main picture above)
Prep 10 min
Cook 10 min
Rest 20 min
Serves 6

6 eggs, at room temperature
1kg ripe tomatoes, of different sizes and colours, all thickly sliced
2 tbsp capers
1 red chilli, deseeded and very thinly sliced (optional)
1 red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 handful tarragon, leaves picked and chopped
1 small handful basil, cut into thin ribbons
200g day-old sourdough bread, torn into bite-sized pieces

For the dressing
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp caster sugar
1 garlic clove, very finely grated or crushed to a paste
Salt and black pepper, to taste

Start by whisking or shaking together all the ingredients for the dressing, until thoroughly combined. Set aside.

Bring a pan of water to a boil and add the eggs. Bring back to a simmer, leave to cook for six and a half minutes, then drain and cool under cold running water to stop them cooking further, then peel and set aside.

Put the sliced tomato in a large bowl with the capers, chilli, red onion, tarragon, basil and bread. Pour over half the dressing and carefully tumble everything together, to coat. Leave to stand for 20 minutes, then tumble it all again, being careful not to break up the tomatoes too much.

Transfer the salad to a large platter. Halve the eggs and arrange these in and around the tomatoes. Trickle over the remaining dressing and season everything with a little more salt and pepper before serving.

Pickled fennel, mushroom and rocket salad

Prep 15 min
Rest 30 min
Serves 2

75ml cider vinegar
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
2–3 tarragon sprigs, leaves picked
1 small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced into rings
2 tsp caster sugar
Salt and black pepper
1 large fennel bulb
8 chestnut mushrooms, stalks removed and cut into 2-3mm slices
2 handfuls rocket leaves
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

In a small pan set over a medium heat, warm the vinegar with the coriander seeds, tarragon, shallot and sugar, then season with salt and pepper. When the mixture starts to simmer, remove the pan from the heat and leave the pickling liquid to infuse and cool.

Split the fennel from top to bottom, remove the core, then slice each half very thinly across the bulb (use a mandoline, if you have one, to make the job easier). Transfer the slices to a bowl and add the mushrooms. Pour the pickling liquid, including the aromatics, over the vegetables and use your hands to tumble everything about. Leave to stand for 30 minutes or so.

Add the rocket leaves to the bowl and trickle over the olive oil. Tumble everything together again, then transfer to a salad bowl, or divide between two large plates, to serve.

Aubergine, courgette and lettuce salad with toasted seeds and tahini dressing

Prep 15 min
Cook 35 min
Serves 4

2–3 aubergines, cut into 1cm-thick rounds
2–3 courgettes, cut into 1cm-thick rounds
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, bashed
2 small cos or little gem lettuces

For the toasted seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp caster sugar
A good pinch of salt

For the dressing
2 tbsp tahini
½ garlic clove, crushed or grated
Juice and finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
2 tsp runny honey
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Put the aubergines and courgettes in a bowl and trickle over the olive oil. Season well and add the bashed garlic. Toss to coat, then lay out the vegetable slices over a large baking tray (or two trays, if necessary) in a single layer.

Roast for 35 minutes, turning once halfway, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to crisp around the edges. Remove from the oven and leave to cool a little.

Meanwhile, make the toasted seeds. Put a small frying pan on a medium heat, add the seeds, oil, sugar and salt and cook for two to three minutes, tossing everything together as the seeds toast, until they are fragrant and beginning to pop. Set aside to cool.

Now make the dressing. Put the tahini in a small bowl with the garlic, lemon juice and zest, yoghurt, honey and oil. Whisk with a fork until thick and creamy. If the dressing is too thick, add a dash of cold water to loosen it.

Finish the salad. Cut the base from each lettuce and set aside any damaged outer leaves for the compost. Separate the remaining leaves, wash them and spin dry. Arrange the leaves over a large platter, top with the roasted aubergines and courgettes, then spoon over the dressing and finish with a scattering of the toasted seeds.

Roasted little gems with peas, peppercorns, parsley and cream

Prep 15 min
Cook 20 min
Serves 2–4

2 large little gems, cut in half lengthways, any tired leaves removed
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 large knob unsalted butter
3-4 spring onions, cut into 1cm pieces
1 small garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
1-2 tsp green peppercorns in brine, roughly chopped
100g podded or frozen peas
150ml vegetable stock
75ml double cream
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 large handful flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Lay the lettuce halves cut side up in a roasting tin, trickle over the olive oil and season well with plenty of salt and pepper. Roast for 15–20 minutes, until the lettuce is beginning to collapse and to char around the edges.

Meanwhile, pop a medium pan on a gentle heat. Add the butter. When it has melted and is bubbling away, add the spring onions, garlic and peppercorns. Season with a little salt and pepper and cook gently for six to eight minutes, stirring regularly, until the spring onions are softened but not coloured. Add the peas and vegetable stock and cook for a further three to four minutes, then pour in the cream, stir in the mustard and bring to a gentle simmer. After a few minutes, the sauce will begin to thicken. Add the parsley and season again to taste.

Transfer the roasted gem halves to a warm serving platter or two individual plates. Spoon over the pea and parsley sauce and serve at once.