FOOD / How to cook up a perfect salad: With summer on the horizon, our cookery writer serves up some rich, chilled dishes made with cooked vegetables

One slant of early summer sunshine and the potato salad suddenly becomes essential eating. Within a month or so, I bet that every rain-free weekend lunchtime will see thousands of shivering Brits tucking into something with a potato salad, as they try to convince themselves that the great British barbecue is a pleasant thing.

So are the potato salads, and those countless other cold dishes made with cooked vegetables that the prospect of warmer weather inspires. And with the whole summer stretching ahead there is no shortage of time to experiment, and no shortage of recipes to play with if you are curious enough to search them out.

The enduring vogue for Mediterranean cooking has brought a fair number of cold, cooked vegetable dishes in its wake. Grilled vegetable salads are among the best - singletons or mixed, perhaps aubergine and courgette (slice and salt, then brush with oil before placing over the coals), fennel (wedges, parboiled and oiled) or onion (thick rings, held together with a wooden cocktail stick, a little oil) and, king of them all, grilled peppers.

If you have never yet grilled a pepper, get cracking now and make up for lost time. Cut peppers of whatever colour into quarters, grill skin-side to the flame or heating element at a high temperature until the skin is charred black and blistering. Drop into a plastic bag, knot the ends and leave until cool enough to handle, then strip off the skins, which will have been loosened by the steam. Dress with olive oil, a little crushed garlic, chopped parsley and salt and pepper. Embellishments such as a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, or black olives, are welcome but by no means essential.

Not that grilling is the only Mediterranean-led way of making a cooked salad. Fried vegetables (and the frying must be in olive oil), particularly but not exclusively courgettes, can be dressed with a little garlic, vinegar and mint, basil or parsley and then left to cool.

The East is another source of magnificent vegetable salads, enlivened with the most appealing and, to our palates, unusual dressings. These are often oil-free, but lifted with the fragrance of herbs such as lemon grass, mint and basil, and the spicy acidity of lime juice. Look to Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia for inspiration. Korea and Japan, too, have their own special forms of vegetable salad.

Even if you cannot lay your hands on every single ingredient stipulated in the cook books, it is worth reading oriental recipes and swiping the basic ideas for dressings. They usually taste just as good on our local vegetables.

When it comes to preparation, timing is what makes a cooked vegetable salad noticeably different from a few leaves of lettuce with a splatter of dressing. While lettuce leaves droop and wilt under the weight of a vinaigrette, cooked vegetables positively relish a decent bathe in their dressing - an hour at the least. It gives them time to mellow and harmonise, absorb flavours and generally settle down into it. There are always exceptions (see the broccoli salad below for one) but, by and large, it is best to have the dressing ready and waiting while the vegetables are still in the pan or on the grill.

The other golden rule is that the vegetables should be only just cooked through. Al dente is the general aim, particularly with greens. Obviously, potatoes must be thoroughly cooked, and peppers, aubergines and courgettes need to be soft enough to be pleasurable, though they must never be mushy and collapsing.

Green bean and bacon salad

We came up with this a few years ago, at the end of the children's cookery holiday I was tutoring. The green beans and bacon were my contribution, the garlic and the Worcestershire sauce came from the children.

Serves 4

Ingredients: 1lb (450g) fine green beans

4 rashers streaky bacon

2tbs chopped parsley

For the dressing:

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1/2 tbs white wine vinegar

1tsp Worcestershire sauce

3tbs olive oil

salt and pepper

Preparation: To make the dressing, whisk the crushed garlic with the vinegar and the Worcestershire sauce. Gradually beat in the olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste.

Top and tail the green beans and cut into 1-1 1/2 in (2.5-4cm) lengths.

Drop into a pan of boiling salted water and simmer for about 3 minutes or until just tender but retaining a slight crunch. Drain thoroughly and mix with enough of the dressing to coat well. Grill the rashers of bacon until brown, then cut into small strips. Toss with the green beans and the parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a little extra Worcestershire sauce if necessary.

Broccoli salad with cream and orange dressing

There is something about the pairing of broccoli and orange: they are always a good match. Do not dress the salad until just before serving or the acidity of the citrus juices will discolour the lively green of the broccoli. If you have time, blanch a few fine strands of the orange zest to decorate.

Serves 4

1lb (450g) broccoli

For the dressing:

juice of half an orange

1tbs lemon juice

6tbs single cream

salt and pepper

Preparation: Trim off and separate the florets. Slice the stalks on a steep bias, into 1/4 in (0.5cm) thick ovals. Blanch the stalks and florets in lightly salted, boiling water until al dente - this should only take a few minutes. Drain and run under the cold tap. Drain again thoroughly and leave until tepid. Pile into a shallow serving dish.

Mix all dressing ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning. Spoon dressing over broccoli and serve.

Asparagus, broad bean and pea salad with roast peanut and

lemon grass dressing

The dressing is based on various South-east Asian salads, but it goes extremely well with this trio of spring vegetables. Sweet and sour, salty and hot notes all balance each other. Lemon grass is gradually becoming easier to find - look out for packs of 'Thai herbs', which contain fiery hot red chillis as well.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients: 8oz (225g) asparagus, trimmed

10oz (280g) shelled broad beans

6oz (170g) shelled peas

4 lettuce leaves

salt

For the dressing:

6 mint leaves, shredded

2 stems lemon grass

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

juice of 1 lime

1tbs fish sauce (available from oriental food stores)

2tsp light muscovado sugar

2oz (55g) unsalted, toasted peanuts, finely chopped

Preparation: Cut the tips off the asparagus and cut the stalks into 1- 1 1/2 in (2.5-4cm) lengths. Drop the stalks into a pan of boiling salted water and simmer for 4 minutes, then add the tips and continue simmering until barely tender. Drain and run under the cold tap.

If the broad beans are fresh, blanch for 1 minute, then slit open the grey-green exterior skin and squeeze out the bright green beans. Finish cooking for a couple of minutes in boiling salted water. If they are frozen, blanch and slit open as above, but there is no need to give them any more cooking than that. Fresh peas should be simmered for a few minutes until barely cooked. Frozen ones just need to be thawed.

Use only the lower 3in (7.5cm) of the lemon grass, discarding the upper part. Take off a couple of the outer layers, then bruise the stem with the back of a wooden spoon. Chop finely. Mix with all the other dressing ingredients.

Make a bed of the lettuce in a shallow bowl. Mix the asparagus, peas and beans, toss with the dressing and pile on to the lettuce leaves. Serve lightly chilled or at room temperature.

Kajinamul (steamed aubergine sesame salad)

A Korean 'namul' is a salad, usually of cooked vegetables, dressed with sesame oil and seeds. This aubergine namul is now a favourite of mine. The recipe comes from Flavours of Korea by Marc and Kim Millon (Andre Deutsch).

Serves 3-4

Ingredients: 1 medium to large aubergine

2tbs soy sauce

1tbs sesame oil

1 spring onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1tsp toasted sesame seeds

1tsp rice or cider vinegar

Preparation: Cut the aubergine in half and steam until tender (if you do not have a steamer, boil the aubergine whole).

Drain and leave it to cool, then slice lengthwise and tear the flesh into thin strips. Squeeze out any excess moisture. Mix all the remaining ingredients and pour over the aubergine. Stir to coat it evenly, then chill lightly before serving.

Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice