A Trio of Salads for a Barbecue

In the weekend just gone I was asked to attend a barbecue at the wife’s parents.  It has been a lovely few days, weeks and months, however with the warm weather it has meant that the water supply has dwindled slightly. This may be known as the drought of 2018 in years to come! The barbecue was in celebration (I can’t think of a better word, and yet this sounds slightly morbid) of the United Utilities Hose Pipe ban coming in. However, this was called off last minute.
I, as you may have gathered, enjoy cooking and the family know this well.  I was put in charge of creating the salad for the meal, and so I made three… using mainly items that I had grown myself. This kept the cost down and the flavour up so all was well with the world (and there were not many leftovers, which is even better!).
I enjoy making a salad. The key for me is not just about taste though, it is also about texture. You want the salt and the acidity, the sweetness and some form of heat (pepper or mustard or chilli), however you want crisp and soft, chewy and smooth. You want the fresh bite of a piece of lettuce and the bust of a tomato. You want to be able to feel the slightly chewy part of the bread or the grain. This is what makes the salad excellent rather than good. The best way to do this is to use the best, and freshest, ingredients you can: a soggy piece of lettuce can ruin a salad.

Stephen’s Caprese Inspired Salad

There are many recipes for a Caprese salad, but all include tomato, mozzarella and basil.  This one also includes these ingredients. I have used my home grown heritage tomatoes and lemon basil which worked really well.

I also added some crusty ciabatta bread which helped soak up the oil and tomato juice.  When I say add just before serving, I mean just before serving: the bread goes soggy quite quickly. Now, this is important, above I have said use the freshest ingredients possible. Discount this when it comes to bread. Fresh bread works fine, but let’s be honest, it’s not the best as a component in a salad! Where possible use a stale bread. it absorbs the sauces slower and holds its structure better.

On top of this I always use an oil-heavy bread like ciabatta as is maintains a good flavour when stale and again absorbs slightly more slowly. It is fine having sauces in the crevices of the bread, but when the liquid breaks down the bread between the bubbles, that is when you have an issue. Finally my salad differs from the traditional as I use both fresh and semi-dried tomatoes (you can use sun-dried or sun soaked instead, but homegrown dehydrated works for me).

  • 1 extra large tomato
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • Dehydrated tomatoes soaked in oil (or sun soaked/sun-dried)
  • 1 handful of lemon basil leaves,
  • 1 ball of mozzarella
  • 150g of stale ciabatta bread, cut or torn into rough squares
  • a good glug of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Chop the fresh tomatoes into a range of random shapes and place in the serving bowl.
  2. Chop the dehydrated tomatoes into small pieces. Add to the bowl of fresh tomato.
  3. Tear the basil leaves into pieces and add to the bowl.
  4. Tear the mozzarella into large pieces (make about 10 pieces out of the ball) and add to the bowl.
  5. Add the pieces of bread to the bowl with a glug of olive oil.
  6. Mix the ingredients together well and add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve as soon as possible so that the bread is still firm.

Hot Herby Salad with Olive and Courgette

This is a lovely dish to compliment some grilled meat, a turkey steak or lamb cutlet would work well, or if you want to stay vegetarian, some griddled winter squash (a hard one like butternut or cusquena). Basically it is quite a universal dish that works well with most toppings.

Now, quinoa is not something that I have ever tried to grow, but the real seed company sell seed here that you could try to grow yourself.  I will need a bigger allotment before I try to grow anything like this, or any other grains, however I imagine it could be quite a fun and prolific crop to grow.
  • 3 baby courgettes
  • 3 courgette flowers
  • 12 olives
  • 300g mixed quinoa and other grains (wheatberries, freekah or spelt)
  • 35g dill
  • 35g parsley
  • 35g corriander
  • 35g mint
  • 35g chives
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 large glug of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh chilli (I used a lemon drop chilli from my allotment)
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chilli flakes
  1. Start by finely chopping the chilli and place in a small dish with the oil and let it seep until ready to dress. Add the chipotle to the oil.
  2. Chop all of the herbs finely.  Place into the bowl you want to serve in.
  3. Place the juice and zest of the lemon into the herbs.
  4. Use kitchen paper to dry the olives of their brine.  You want the flavour of the olive to come through.
  5. Mix the grain mix through the herbs and olives (merchant gourmet sell packs of the grains ready cooked, or you can cook your own).
  6. Chop the baby courgette into thin slices and scatter over the top of the salad.
  7. Chop the courgette flower petals into thin slices and sprinkle over the salad.
  8. Finally drizzle the oil and chilli over the herb salad.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week and talk to you soon.