Salad days: Hix sits back with his favourite summer salads

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Make the most of the last weeks of summer with these light and simple dishes. By Mark Hix

I've loved creating interesting, main-course summery salads for many years now. Sometimes they're just made with ingredients felicitously thrown together from the fridge; and sometimes you need to put a bit more thought into it. When I worked in hotels years ago, a popular room-service menu item was the chef's salad – which, as you can imagine, was interpreted in many different ways.

The classic chef's salad would have consisted of a bed of iceberg lettuce topped with shredded roast chicken, ham, hard-boiled eggs etc. I always thought it was a way to use up common ingredients that were permanently on restaurant menus. To be honest, it was difficult to get excited about it.

These days, the chef's salad has moved on somewhat. It doesn't get much better than sitting in the garden enjoying a substantial summery salad and a cold bottle of rosé.



Pan-fried squid, tomato and coriander salad

Serves 4

We are at the height of the British tomato season, and more and more growers are thankfully reintroducing Heritage varieties. You can use large or small squid for this, or even cuttlefish, but buy fresh if at all possible.

500-600g, cleaned weight of squid, cut into inch-wide strips if using a larger squid
400g of mixed, ripe Heritage tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4tbsp olive oil
The juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime
A handful of picked coriander leaves, washed

Heat half of the olive oil in a heavy frying pan, season the squid and cook in the oil on a high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring from time to time, then transfer to a bowl. Add the rest of the olive oil and the lime zest and juice. Cut the tomatoes into a mixture of chunks and wedges and toss into the squid with the coriander leaves, saving a few leaves to scatter on top. Arrange on plates and serve.

Bavette, green beans and girolles

Serves 4

Flank steak, or bavette as it's known in France, is a tasty, undervalued cut, but remember that it benefits from being cooked quite rare – the longer you cook it, the tougher it will get. Although it's not the most tender of cuts, it's really full of flavour. You will probably need to ask your butcher in advance to order in some flank; to be on the safe side, give it a good bash with a steak hammer and leave it in olive oil overnight to tenderise it a little.

About 600g good quality beef flank/bavette
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4tbsp olive oil
250-300g French beans, trimmed and cooked in boiling salted water
200-250g girolles mushrooms, cleaned

For the dressing

2tbsp good quality red wine vinegar
6tbsp olive oil

Heat about 2-3 tbsp of the olive oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the girolles on a medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, turning them every so often, then keep warm. Heat a ribbed griddle, season the bavette and cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side, keeping it rare, then transfer to a plate to rest for a few minutes. Whisk the red wine vinegar and olive oil together and any juice from the bavette and season. Slice the bavette as thinly as possible and toss together with the beans, girolles and dressing; season to taste. Serve individually on plates or in a serving bowl for people to help themselves.



Summer vegetable salad with a poached duck egg

Serves 4

If you're off your meat or fish, then this salad should be right up your street. You can vary the vegetables you use and even substitute the peas and broad beans with fresh cannellini or borlotti beans. I've used a free-range duck egg here, but feel free to use hen or bantam eggs.

A couple of generous handfuls of small salad and herb leaves
5-6 runner beans, thinly sliced on the angle
150-200g podded weight of broad beans
100g podded weight of peas
4 free-range duck eggs
A little wine or cider vinegar for poaching

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp Dijon mustard
3-4tbsp rapeseed oil

Cook the peas and beans separately in boiling salted water and refresh briefly under the cold tap. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing and season. Poach the duck eggs in an egg poacher or by cracking the eggs into cups and then dropping them into a pan of simmering water with a tablespoon of wine vinegar for 2-3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.

To serve, toss the leaves and vegetables in the dressing and season, then arrange on serving plates or bowls and place the hot egg in the centre.



Red mullet, samphire and bucatini salad

Serves 4

Pasta salads – not the sad examples you get in sandwich bars or buy in supermarkets – make an interesting starter or main course for a summery dinner or one-course lunch. The temperature is important and they shouldn't be fridge cold, just room temperature, so the flavours are at their best. Pasta salads are great fun for children, too.



4 servings of bucatini (a thick type of spaghetti)
100ml olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
250-300g red mullet fillets, boned and cut into rough 2cm pieces
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
120-150g samphire, trimmed of woody stalks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Place the cherry tomatoes on a tray and place in the oven for 1 hour to dry them a little.

Gently cook the garlic, shallots and chilli in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the red mullet, season and cook on a low heat with a lid until the mullet begins to break up a little; then add half a cup of water, simmer for another minute, add the tomatoes and remove from the heat. Blanch the samphire in boiling water for a minute then refresh under the cold tap. Cook the pasta as per cooking instructions, drain and refresh briefly under the cold tap. Mix all of the ingredients together and re-season to taste, then leave to sit for about 20 minutes, tossing the pasta every so often. You may need to add a little more olive oil before serving.

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