Mark Hix prepares his favourite fresh, light and tasty, summer salads

You may have noticed over the past couple of months that the salad leaves I've been using are not those commonly found in supermarkets. Well forgive me if I've said this before, but home-grown salad leaves really are the way forward. I'm so fed up with every household having exactly the same trendy salad-leaf mix in its fridge; and restaurants aren't much better, either. Having said that, there are still some great herb and salad growers out there, such as Richard Vine, who started the craze for miniature salad leaves (in fact he did a bit more than that: he has grown shoots, leaves and flowers of many common and uncommon plants for a few years now).

I enjoy eating a light main-course salad for dinner in the summer. It can be as simple as you like, with just two or three high-quality ingredients tossed in a good dressing. I reckon the main-course salad has moved on from the chef's salad that hotels used to serve. No one really knew what went into it, except that everything was shredded – and apologies if anyone ate my chef's salad 25 years ago, but we really didn't understand the concept of it in those days. Here are some better offerings.

Ham hock and pea salad

Serves 4

As I've said before, a ham hock goes a long way and has a really great flavour. Once cooked, you then have a great stock-base for a soup (at this time of year you can cook some peas and/or broad beans in it and just blend it in, flaking back in some of the off-cuts from the hock).

Pea shoots or tendrils are the perfect summery salad leaf; you can even plant them just for their young shoots and continue cutting them through the summer. Use this salad as a starter or light main course, or even an intermediate course at a dinner party. If you haven't got pea shoots in your garden, then you can find them easily in Chinese supermarkets.

1 ham hock (smoked or un-smoked) weighing about a kilo or so, soaked overnight
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 leek, halved lengthways and washed
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
A few sprigs of thyme
3 juniper berries
A couple of handfuls of pea shoots
120-150g shelled weight of fresh peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2tsp granulated sugar
A couple of good knobs of butter

For the dressing

1tbsp tarragon vinegar
2tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic, peeled
2tbsp olive oil
3tbsp vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash off the ham hock and place in a large pot with the onion, leek, peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and juniper. Cover well with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 2-2 hours or until the ham is tender. Leave to cool in the liquid or remove from the liquid to cool quicker. Bring enough water to the boil to cook the peas, add salt, sugar and butter then the peas. Simmer for 3-5 minutes or until tender, then drain.

Whisk all of the ingredients together and season. Remove enough of the ham from the hock for the salad and break into flakes. You can even dice the rind and crisp it up in some oil.

Toss the pea shoots with the ham and dressing and arrange on plates or bowls.

Cold ox tongue with baby beets

Serves 4

Try to buy fresh baby beetroot for this dish (you may need to pre-order them from your greengrocer). Otherwise, use normal beetroot and cut them into quarters. You can cook and prepare the beetroot the day before in order that they are cold and ready to serve.

1 piece salted ox tongue weighing about 800g-1kg
1 onion, peeled and halved
2 carrots, peeled and trimmed
10 black peppercorns
1 bayleaf
Vegetable oil for roasting
1kg baby beetroot
250ml balsamic vinegar
30g caster sugar
5g thyme, chopped
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Red chard, red orache, mustard leaves or small beetroot leaves

Put the ox tongue into a large saucepan with the onion, carrots, peppercorns and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 2-2 hours. Leave to cool in the liquid. While still warm, peel the skin away using your fingers and return the tongues to the cooking liquid.

Cook the beetroot in their skins in salted water for 50 minutes to an hour, depending on their size, testing them with the point of a sharp knife. Once cooked, cool them down a little and peel them by rubbing the skins off with a pair of rubber gloves. If using large beetroot, cut them into four. Bring the balsamic vinegar to the boil with the thyme and sugar, cool down, then pour over the beetroot and leave to cool.

To serve, cut the tongue thinly with a sharp knife, arrange on a plate and serve the beetroot in the centre of the plate with the leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and grind some black pepper over the meats.

Hot kiln smoked salmon and cucumber salad

Serves 4

I wasn't quite sure what I should put with the hot smoked salmon, or braden rost, as it's known in Scotland. I was rummaging through our photographer Jason Lowe's fridge for inspiration and came across Arnold and Henderson's pickled cucumbers. You may be thinking you haven't seen those on the shelves in Sainsbury's – and you're right. They're made by Margot Henderson, Fergus's missus, who runs the Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch, east London, and you can buy them in the restaurant. By coincidence, I was at Fergus's new product launch the day before: "Trotter gear" – which is pieces of pig's trotter chopped up and cooked, available from Selfridges food hall. Brave you may say; yes, but just delicious.

300-400g Braden rost (hot smoked salmon), from a good deli or fishmonger's such as Loch Fyne
A couple of handfuls of small salad leaves such as baby spinach, pea shoots, ruby chard, rocket, red mustard leaf, etc, washed and dried
Half a cucumber, halved lengthways and the seeds scooped out
100-120g pickled cucumbers
8 spring onions, trimmed
1-2tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the honey, mustard and cider vinegar dressing

1 tbsp cider vinegar
1tsp clear honey
1tsp grain mustard
1tsp Dijon mustard
2tbsp olive oil
2 tablespoons vegetable or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season. Cut the cucumbers on the bias into cm-thick slices. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the cucumbers for 3-4 minutes, seasoning and turning them every so often, until lightly coloured.

Cut the spring onions into 3-4cm lengths and sauté in the same oil for 2-3 minutes, lightly colouring them a little. Remove the skin from the salmon and break into pieces. Toss the salad leaves in the dressing, season and arrange on plates. Arrange the salmon, spring onions, pickled and sautéd cucumbers in among the leaves and dress a little more if necessary.

Roast chicken salad with liver stuffing

Serves 4

Chickens tend to get roasted for a substantial lunch or dinner meal, and the thought of turning some of the normal ingredients that go into a roast chicken dinner into a main course salad may not seem obvious. But I've even made this salad in the past with bread sauce that has set in the fridge, fried into little nuggets.

I've also added some ceps to the salad as Tony Booth in Borough Market had an unusually early arrival of British ones. They don't generally appear until late August or September but with this mad weather we've been having, it was a pleasant surprise when they arrived this year in early June.

1 good quality chicken weighing about 1-1.2kg
4 rashers of streaky bacon
120g chicken livers
60g softened butter

For the stuffing

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
1tbsp sage, chopped
60g butter
100g fresh white breadcrumbs
2-3tbsp chopped parsley
The livers from the goose, or the equivalent of chicken livers

To make the stuffing, gently cook the onions and sage in the butter for 2-3 minutes without colouring, then remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs. Meanwhile, season and fry the goose livers in a hot frying pan for a couple of minutes on each side, remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Chop the livers into rough smallish pieces and mix into the breadcrumbs with the parsley and season to taste. Spoon the stuffing into an ovenproof dish, spreading it about 1-1cm deep. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, season the chicken inside and out then rub the breasts with half of the softened butter and place in a roasting tray. Roast the chicken for 50 minutes to an hour with the stuffing, basting occasionally.

In the meantime, cut the bacon rashers in half and cook in a dry frying pan for 2-3 minutes on each side until crisp. Remove and keep warm. Add a little butter to the pan, season the livers and cook on a high heat for a couple of minutes on each side, keeping them pink. Whisk the ingredients together for the dressing. Remove the chicken from the tray, add half a cup of water to the tray and simmer on the stove top on a medium heat, scraping any residue from the bottom of the tray with a wooden spoon as it's simmering. Let the liquid reduce by about two thirds then whisk into the dressing.

Remove the breast and leg meat from the bird with a sharp knife and carve into slices and chunks. You can scrape any crisp skin and meat from the bone and shred it into the salad.

Arrange the leaves on plates with the chicken, livers and bacon in among them. Spoon nuggets of stuffing on to the salad and spoon the dressing over. If you're using mushrooms as I did, then sauté them at the same time as the livers and scatter over the salad.

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