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At this stage of the year, three days from its longest day, “cooking” is often more about shopping and assembly than time standing at the stove. I like to spend a moment making interesting and punchy dressings and infused oils, then using them in near-instant meals. Fruit- and veg-wise, the bounty of colour, flavour, shapes and sizes around in summer means that much of the work has, joyfully, been done for us already.
Silken tofu, crunchy salad and marmalade dressing (pictured top)
This is a great midweek meal, because it’s quick to assemble and can be prepped in advance. If you want to get ahead, make the dressing and marinate the tofu the day before (an overnight marinade does wonders for it). The nuts and seeds can be swapped for any you have to hand, too.
Prep 20 min
Serves 2 as a starter or side
350g firm silken tofu
For the marmalade dressing
30ml soy sauce
20ml lime juice
60g bitter orange marmalade
35ml sunflower oil
For the salad
50g mangetout, sliced very thinly at an angle
50g sugar snaps, sliced very thinly at an angle
80g breakfast radishes, sliced very thinly (use a mandoline, ideally)
2 spring onions, sliced very thinly on the diagonal
Salt and black pepper
For the crunchy topping
20g salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp white sesame seeds
½ tsp aleppo chilli flakes
Fine sea salt
Start with the dressing. Blitz the soy, lime juice, marmalade and half a teaspoon of salt in a small food processor until fully combined. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil until the mix emulsifies, then pour 50ml into a large bowl. Add the mangetout, sugar snaps, radishes and spring onions, mix well and set aside.
Now make the topping. Put the nuts, seeds and aleppo chilli in a small bowl, stir to combine and set aside.
Lift the tofu from its carton, taking care to keep its shape, and put it on a plate lined with a kitchen towel to drain off any excess liquid. Cut the tofu into 1cm-thick slabs and arrange in a slightly overlapping line on a large plate with a lipped edge. Spoon the remaining dressing over the tofu, arrange the salad on top, sprinkle over the crunchy topping and serve at room temperature.
California-style caprese salad
This is unashamedly fusion, with the tomato-mozzarella-basil classic meeting some Californian citrus. Go all out on the tomatoes: the more colours and sizes and varieties, the better.
Prep 20 min
1 pink grapefruit
125g mozzarella, torn into ½cm-thick pieces
250g tomatoes – as wide an assortment of varieties, colours, shapes and sizes as possible
1 large ripe avocado
1 tbsp small basil leaves
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish
For the dressing
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp maple syrup
½ tsp paprika
½ aleppo chilli flakes
½ tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sherry (or balsamic) vinegar
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
Top and tail the grapefruit, then use a small, sharp knife to cut off the skin and pith. Holding the grapefruit above a small colander set over a medium bowl, cut between the membranes to release the individual segments into the colander and squeeze any juice out of the pith.
Whisk all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper.
Cut the larger tomatoes into uneven, 1cm-thick pieces and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Put all the tomatoes in a medium bowl with a quarter-teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of the grapefruit juice. Cut the avocado in half, remove and discard the pit, then peel. Cut the avocado flesh on the diagonal into ½cm-wide strips, add to the tomato bowl with a good grind of pepper and toss gently.
Arrange the tomato mix on a large platter with a lip or a shallow bowl. Dot the mozzarella around and about, nestling it slightly into the salad, then evenly spoon over the dressing. Top with the grapefruit segments and basil leaves, sprinkle on an eighth of teaspoon of salt and a good crack of pepper, drizzle over a final tablespoon of oil and serve at room temperature.
Marinated sardines with radish and watercress salad
Keep a jar of these marinated sardines in your fridge: they’re such a treat to have around for summer evenings, to be eaten just as they are with crusty bread and butter.
Prep 15 min
Marinate 30 min
90ml olive oil
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
½ tsp chilli flakes
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp capers (I like lilliput capers), roughly chopped
5g (1¾ tbsp) chives, finely chopped
Flaked sea salt
2 x 120g tins sardines, drained
10g (1 tbsp) dried currants, soaked in 1 tbsp hot water for about 10 minutes, to plump up
1 lemon, zest finely grated, to get 1 tsp, and juiced, to get 2 tsp
100g radishes, quartered
70g watercress, tender leaves and stems picked
For the pickled onions
2-3 small red onions, peeled and cut into very thin rounds (use a mandoline, ideally; 75g net weight)
1½ tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp maple syrup
Put 75ml oil, the cracked black pepper, chilli flakes, garlic, capers, chives and a quarter-teaspoon of salt in a medium saute pan for which you have a lid and set over a medium heat. Heat gently for two to three minutes, then leave to cool.
Once the caper mix is cool, add the sardines, cover and leave to marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning the fish over halfway (alternatively, refrigerate for up to three days).
Meanwhile, make the pickled onions. Put the onions, lemon juice, maple syrup and half a teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl, mix gently to combine, then set aside to pickle for five to 10 minutes, until the onions turn pink.
Arrange the sardines on a large platter with a lip and spoon over all their oil. Sprinkle the drained currants, lemon zest and an eighth of a teaspoon of flaked salt on top, then scatter over a third of the pickled onions.
Just before serving, mix the radishes into the remaining pickled onions, add an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and the remaining tablespoon of oil, add the watercress and toss gently to coat. Serve the fish at room temperature with the salad on the side.
This article was edited on 21 June 2022, to clarify that the soaked, plumped currants should be added to the sardine dish at the same time as the lemon zest.