Now that the summer is in full swing, we can start to think about some lighter meals. Salads are an obvious choice. The breadth, diversity and lightness that they bring is perfect for this time of year. The salads I grew up with had a very strict format: a few slices of ham and cheese. A boiled egg cut with one of those mechanical slicers that my sister and I used to ping with our nails like little guitar strings. A couple of dark, bland lettuce leaves placed on the side, and let's not forget the sliced, pickled beetroot. It's thin, runny liquid staining everything on the plate, giving the egg and cheese a strange purple hue, the lettuce almost black in parts. It's no surprise that I grew up with more than a mild distaste for the summer salad.
Things didn’t change for me until I started making my own, where I became gradually aware of the huge breadth of food available. My interesting in a once hated childhood food grew rapidly. I began throwing anything and everything I could get my hands on into a bowl and mixing it together. Sometimes with disastrous results, other times I was able to create meals so intensely flavoured I couldn't help but go back for more. From apples and grapes to summer squash and quinoa. Hot food juxtaposed with cold on the same plate. There was no shortage of ingredients I could throw together. It was like cooking without rules and I loved it.
Years later, though my hand is a little more seasoned, I still take a similar approach to making salads. I play and I experiment. I use ingredients (for the most part) that are seasonal and readily available. It’s often a case of banging things together and seeing what comes out.
I went to the local food market the other day, intending to get my hands on some fresh strawberries. As it turned out they didn’t have any in stock, but they did, among many other varieties of fruit and vegetables, have big wedges of watermelon. I grabbed one and took it home, eager to do something creative with it. This Watermelon, Avocado and Vegan ‘Greek Style’ Cheese salad is the end result. Bursting both with flavour and colour, this recipe will get you excited about summer lunches in the garden.
Prep time: 15 minutes.
For the Salad:
- ½ bag ready-prepped mixed leaf salad
- ½ bag ready-prepped rocket, watercress and baby spinach mix
- 1 avocado, diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
- ½ red onion, sliced
- 100g vegan Greek style cheese, cubed
- 300-300g watermelon, cut into large chunks.
For the Dressing:
- 50ml olive oil
- 3 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp coconut nectar (maple syrup is also fine)
- A sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts to garnish.
Put all the salad ingredients into a large bowl and mix around to evenly distribute them.
Put the dressing ingredients, apart from the hazelnuts, into a small bowl and whisk together until you have an emulsified dressing.
Pour the dressing over the salad and mix together again, then divide the salad onto plates and sprinkle over the chopped hazelnuts.