If you prefer salads with no fish or meat, I suggest melon, diced cucumber, goat's cheese and toasted walnuts, together with a shower of shredded basil, plenty of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of balsamic or sherry vinegar.

The melon also makes a wonderfully refreshing drink. Or try chunks of watermelon and feta with some black olives. Speared on a cocktail stick, this combination makes a rather nice amuse bouche.

For more substantial salads I like to include bread in some form. A freshly made salad of sourdough cubes fried in olive oil, beefsteak tomatoes cut in wedges, shavings of Parmesan, plenty of rocket, all bathed in a garlicky dressing makes for a satisfying dish, as does a salad of peaches or nectarines, dolcelatte and toasted almonds served on a thick piece of lightly toasted garlic bread.

In fact, a base of toasted sourdough, ciabatta or focaccia, rubbed with garlic and brushed with extra virgin olive oil, makes a perfect base for a substantial main course salad, on which you can stack up your chosen ingredients. I like it with baby spinach leaves, crushed avocado, cold roast chicken, lemon mayonnaise and a scattering of pistachios.

Ham & High: Crayfish tail and mango saladCrayfish tail and mango salad (Image: Courtesy of Frances Bissell)

Mixing fruit and seafood might sound an unlikely combination, but mango and crayfish tails work very well together, as does home-cured gravadlax with a slice of honeydew melon, crisp and sweet partnering the salt and herbs beautifully.

If you are in the mood to griddle a loin of lamb or barbecue some chicken thighs, Salad Elona is the perfect accompaniment; strawberries and cucumber, assembled at the last minute so that you have the chilled cucumber and room-temperature strawberries, served with fresh mint and a light dressing of lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

Ham & High: Ingredients for a salade nicoiseIngredients for a salade nicoise (Image: Courtesy of Frances Bissell)

A platter of grilled and raw vegetables with suitable dips and dressings, together with your favourite bread can be a meal in itself, as can a salade niçoise. Like most salads, including the ones above, no recipe is needed, as they are, more often than not, a happy assembly of ingredients you happen to have in your fridge, fruit bowl, or garden.

So, instead of a salad recipe, here is a refreshing summer drink, with a melon and lemon base.

Melonade (Serves 4 to 6)

1 Galia or honeydew melon, rind and seeds discarded

175 g sugar

750 ml chilled water

450 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice


Roughly chop the melon into chunks and blend them with the sugar and water, and then add the lemon juice. Strain into a jug, and serve with ice. Lemon verbena, lemon thyme, or lemon balm makes a perfect garnish. The drink is quite tart. If you wish, serve a small jug of sugar syrup with the melonade. Other fruit can be used to flavour the lemonade, such as peaches or apricots. In each case, follow the same procedure by first blending fruit until smooth with sugar and water, and then adding the lemon juice and straining.

You will want to experiment with the sugar levels. For a plain citron pressé simply use freshly squeezed lemon juice, diluted with water, and sweetened with sugar or syrup.

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