I so love the summer for all sorts of reasons; I love the experience we have in the UK of four distinct seasons, although in recent years they have slightly changed shape.Winter, spring, summer and autumn each bring with them their own personality, and we adapt our rituals to accommodate them. Summer is Pitta season in Ayurveda; Pitta has the qualities of hot, sharp, mobile, slightly oily, spreading, and penetrating. We bask in glorious sunshine during the balmy days of summer; we eat lighter, cooler foods to instinctively reduce the heating qualities in the climate and in us, and we spend more time outdoors to feel the breeze on our skin.
Summer is the season when we wish to enjoy time meeting up with friends and family, eating in the garden and reveling in longer, lighter days. Food is cleaner tasting, often healthier, lighter and cooling. Salads are often not always the best foods for us if our digestive fire isn’t strong. They can be too drying and rough for many of us. However, summer is a great time to eat them, especially when there are the most abundant salad ingredients on offer. Oil dressings help to soften them and allow easier digestion too. Seasonal produce is at its peak in the UK in summer- gorgeous tomatoes, endless varieties of salad leaves, cucumber, radishes, and many other beautifully fresh ingredients that I like to add to my salads, abound.
I recently began a new obsession with broad beans, which hitherto have not been featured in my cooking. I saw some in my local grocers shop and decided to buy a few. I then created this salad, which I have now made numerous times, and each time I have varied the ingredients, but included the broad beans every time.
Broad beans are a gorgeous, healthy legume, rich in both protein and carbohydrates as well as vitamins. In season from June to mid-September, they are easy to grow, and unfussy. I didn’t really grow up eating them, so I never knew how they were prepared. I was delighted to experience the therapeutic ritual that is involved in preparing them. Removing them from the pod, blanching them for two minutes before immersing them in cold water to stop further cooking, is virtually all the effort that is needed. However, the most therapeutic part is slitting the outer casing of the beans with your thumb nail and pushing out the inner bean.There emerges as if by magic, a bright, vivid, spring green-coloured jewel, creamy in texture and taste, and this is the bashful bean I have fallen for. It tastes of summer, and sits happily and quietly with other ingredients in a dish.
Try this salad when broad beans are in season. Eat it as a lunch dish with some Italian crispy flatbreads or other savoury crackers. It works so well as a side dish too. Serve for supper alongside some roasted chicken or fish, or a vegetable tart, and some baby new potatoes.
Ingredients to serve 4:
Two handfuls of prepared broad beans (see above)
One handful of sun dried tomatoes in oil, halved
Three handfuls of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
A small red onion, sliced thinly
A gem lettuce, roughly chopped (optional)
A handful of fat, pitted green olives, halved
A small courgette, sliced
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
1 packet of feta cheese
Zest and juice of half a lemon
A tablespoon of chopped dill leaves
A tablespoon of chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
Olive oil for sauteing, and more for the dressing
Salt and pepper
Start by putting your prepared broad beans in a pretty, shallow serving dish along with the sundried tomatoes and olives. Saute the onions, courgettes and mushrooms in olive oil until they are slightly browned. Cool the mixture and add to the plate. Now add the gem lettuce and cherry tomatoes (I don’t always add these two ingredients, but it’s a great way to use up these typical salad ingredients if you have them hanging around in the fridge) and crumble the feta cheese evenly over everything,
Mix the olive oil, the lemon juice and zest, the dill and parsley together. Season well and pour over the ingredients, mixing everything together well, to allow the dressing to coat the salad evenly. I like to do this with my hands.
Enjoy the healthy taste of summer!