Summer Salads

Lighter evenings mean more training time and lighter appetites. Lawrence Brackstone rustles up some seasonal salads

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During the summer months, our appetite naturally swings towards a desire for lighter, more Mediterranean-influenced food – a world away from the hot pots and casseroles of the colder months. Fortunately, with the abundance of fresh produce that’s bursting out of the ground right now, we’re blessed with a wide choice of full-flavoured, fresh, healthy and locally grown food.

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Here, I’ve designed three main meal salads for you – but with a difference. Salads often have a ‘lightweight’ reputation, so you should find these three robust and full of variety and taste – a million miles away from boring, wet lettuce!

Warm salads are quick and easy to prepare, light to eat and digest, and also suit al-fresco eating – if our summer is kind, which is by no means a given in this country! By using a larger amount of raw and lightly cooked ingredients, they also deliver a higher vitamin count.

Check out the abundance of lettuce and vegetable varieties that are available now, and experiment; it’s also worth getting into growing your own. I’m certainly no Alan Titchmarsh – I’d personally rather spend my time training – but I seriously recommend growing a few select herbs. Parsley, mint and chives are great when ‘just picked’. Rocket is also particularly easy to grow in pots, if you haven’t got much garden space.

Either way, enjoy the lighter evenings, train hard… and eat well!

Chargrilled vegetables with goats cheese and chilli yoghurt dressing (serves 2)

A ‘gutsy’ full-on dish that both vegetarians and meat eaters will enjoy. Chargrilling brings the natural sweetness out of the vegetables
and allows them to be cooked fast and eaten crunchy.

Preparation and cooking time 15mins
Equipment Griddle pan, grill or BBQ

Ingredients

1 red or yellow pepper
1 courgette
Half a small aubergine
10 cherry tomatoes
2 spring onions
30g goats cheese
6 chives
30g rocket or watercress, washed
A little rapeseed oil for grilling
130g dried bulgar wheat
200ml boiled water
1tsp olive oil/rapeseed oil
100g drained butter beans

Dressing
125g natural or probiotic yoghurt
Half a mild red chilli, finely chopped
3-6 dashes Tabasco
15ml water
½tsp smoked or plain paprika
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method

1 Make the dressing. Whisk all the ingredients together, using the Tabasco to your own taste. Place to one side.
2 Halve the pepper, remove its seeds and cut into six wedge shapes. Slice the courgette and aubergine into thin lengths, approx 5mm thick. Trim and wash the spring onions.
3 To hydrate the bulgar wheat place in a bowl, pour over the boiled water and the oil, cover it with a lid or cling film and allow to swell for 10mins. Then stir in the butter beans and
keep mixture warm.
4 Heat the griddle pan/grill and brush a small amount of oil onto the vegetables. Grill until softened – a characteristic grill mark will appear on the surface.
5 Now fold the rocket and chives through the still warm bulgar wheat and half of the dressing. Plate this with the grilled vegetables on top, and spoon over more of the dressing. Finally, crumble the goats cheese on top before serving.

Poached salmon, garden beans and new potatoes with basil dressing (serves 2)

This is summer on a plate! A classic Mediterranean dish, this variant on Salad Niçoise includes the traditional potatoes, anchovies and olives, but delivers a fresher, more balanced
and lighter recipe.

Preparation and cooking time 15mins
Equipment 2 saucepans, a jug or stick blender

Ingredients

200g fresh salmon fillet
350g new potatoes, halved (Charlottes would be ideal)
90g sliced runner or green beans
8 vine cherry tomatoes, halved
6 cos/romaine lettuce leaves
A little white wine vinegar for poaching
A small handful of pea shoots, optional
6 green or black olives, optional

Dressing
2 garlic cloves
50g water
30g olive oil
2 anchovy fillets
3 large basil leaves
Pepper to taste

Method

1 Make the dressing. Add all ingredients except the basil to a blender, and blitz until smooth. Add the basil and blitz until it’s chopped.
2 Boil the potatoes, set to one side and keep warm.
3 Bring a pan of water to a simmer, add six drops of vinegar to it and submerge the salmon. Simmer for four to five minutes, not allowing it to boil.
4 Blanch the beans (to retain colour, texture and vitamins, simply immerse briefly in boiling water) and wash and cut the lettuce.
5 Plate up the potatoes, arranging
the lettuce, beans, tomatoes and
olives on top.
6 Spoon over a generous amount of the dressing, and flake the salmon on top. Add some pea shoots and finish with a little more of the dressing.

Grilled lemon chicken with asparagus and peas (serves 2)

Light, fresh and zingy, this salad takes less than 15mins to prepare =and is a perfect balance of nutrition and pleasure. The combination of lemon and mint really gives it a hint of warmer climes.

Preparation and cooking time 15mins
Equipment Griddle pan, grill or BBQ

Ingredients

2 organic or free-range chicken breasts
A bunch of fresh asparagus
160g fresh or dried tagliatelle
90g peas, fresh if available
90g fresh baby leaf salad, washed
A small handful of fresh mint, chopped
A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
A little olive oil for grilling

Dressing
Half a lemon, juiced
Half a lemon, zested
20g olive or rapeseed oil
15g cold water
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Method

1 Put all the dressing ingredients into a bowl, whisk together with a fork or hand whisk and place to one side.
2 Preheat the griddle pan/grill and bring water to boil for the pasta.
3 Using a little oil, griddle/grill the chicken for eight to 10mins until fully cooked and place to one side.
4 Blanch the asparagus and peas separately for a few minutes each, to retain colour, nutrients and texture.
5 Now cook the pasta. This always takes less time than they state on the packet so check for yourself – cooked with a slight bite is best.
6 Toss the warm pasta with half of the dressing, herbs and baby leaves so that they wilt slightly.
7 Plate this with the peas and asparagus spears on top, then the sliced chicken and finally the remainder of the dressing.

CHEF’S TIPS

Buy organic where possible, and try using local markets for finding more interesting varieties of leafy salad and vegetables (bunched watercress, for example).

Search to see if there are any local companies that can deliver fresh organic veg boxes to your door (www.abelandcole.co.uk delivers nationally). Beats shopping for it and gives you more training time!

Barbecuing is a healthier way to cook meat and veg – just go easy on the sweet sauces.

The meals here are all designed to be eaten warm. This way the lettuce will wilt into the meal and become a part of the dish, rather than a side accompaniment.

When grilling veg, consider cooking more than you’ll need for the meal. They make a great addition to your lunchbox the following day.