The formula for exciting summer salads

By Corrie Heale

Salads - the go to lunch choice for many of us, but there’s a point when you no longer look forward to the same old tuna salad with balsamic dressing.

So, jazz up your salads this summer by adding variety, texture and a bit of creativity to your salad bowl.

Building your salad:

Two handfuls of leaves:

If buying a bag of salad leave, I would stick to either rocket, watercress or spinach – they last longer than the mixed bag varieties. I tend to buy baby gem or just regular lettuce and chop it up as I need it. It’s cheaper lasts a lot longer – sometimes up to a week!

One handful of vegetables or salad:

Here are a few ideas I like that are quick and easy to make yourself. Cold baked sweet potato/butternut squash chunks, minted new potatoes, roasted carrots with dill and lemon (see recipe below) mixed roasted vegetables, tomato and onion salad (see recipe below), roasted peppers.

Feeling lazy? Shop bought deli artichokes or even jarred roasted pepper are delicious and a great substitute.

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Pick your protein:

Personally, I like cheese. 50g of either feta, mozzarella, goats cheese or halloumi. For a more substantial lunch, I also like to include either a boiled egg (hard boiled eggs can last up to a week in the fridge), half an avocado or half a can of drained chickpeas, canned lentils or edamame beans. If you eat meat, then this is your chance to add a bit of cooked chicken or fish.

Make it heartier:

Cook up 100g of couscous, bulgur wheat, quinoa or even whole-wheat pasta (see recipe below) and add this to your salad to make more of a meal of it. This will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. You can also buy packets of precooked mixed grains – Merchant Gourmet have some great varieties.

Add a bit of crunch:

Adding a sprinkling of seeds, nuts, croutons or even breadcrumbs add a lovely bit of texture and bite to your salad. Sunflower, pumpkin seeds and toasted pine nuts are my personal favourites.

Dress is up:

1 tablespoon of either homemade dressing (see recipe below) shop bought dressing, hummus, zatziki, a good drizzle of chilli sauce or even just extra virgin olive oil – no one likes a dry salad.

Extra acidity:

I always think a salad is greatly improved by a bit of acidity, tang and heat. I always include a few olives, a sprinkle of chilli flakes and some sort of pickle such as pickled onions, gherkins, pickled chillies or jalapeños. So, there you have it. The building blocks to make your summer salads sing. With a little bit of preparation this formula gives you the tools to change up your lunchtime salads into creative works of art! Below are a few additional simple recipes ideas I like to get those creative juices flowing…

Roasted carrots with dill and lemon:

1. Preheat an oven to 220°C (200°C fan).

2. Peel and chop two large carrots and pop them on a baking tray.

3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spray with spray oil.

4. Pop them in the oven for 10 mins before giving them a quick turn with a spatula.

5. Continue to cook for a further 10 mins.

6. Meanwhile chop a small handful of dill and make the dressing by combining 1 tsp lemon juice, 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

7. Once the carrots are roasted, leave to cool fully.

8. Tip the cooled carrots into a bowl and stir in the dressing and the chopped dill. Put in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to three days.

Five bean salad:

I literally buy a can Napolina Five Beans, strain them and give them a quick rinse (not too much or you’ll lose the flavour as they are slightly spiced).

I then add a finely chopped stick of celery and that’s it! Pop in an air tight container and use within 3 days.

Cucumber, feta and olive salad:

Peel and chop half a cucumber and put in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt. Roughly chop a large handful of black pitted olives and add this to the cucumber.

Crumble over 100g feta cheese and give it a good mix. Finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Tomato and onion salad:

Slice 2 tomatoes along with a few very thin slices of red onion.

Season well with salt and black pepper and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the fridge.

Whole baked sweet potato:

Preheat an oven to 220°C/180°C fan. Carefully score the sweet potato with a sharp knife along the skin and insert into the centre.

Withdraw the knife and place in the oven onto of a piece of foil on the middle shelf for 40-50 mins, depending on the size of the potato.

Leave to cool fully before wrapping in foil and keep in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Pesto pasta salad:

Cook 50g whol-wheat pasta according to instructions. Once cooked, drain and cool with a stream of cold water before returning it back into the saucepan.

Cover with cold water and leave to cool fully. Drain again. Stir through a tablespoon of your favourite pesto (I like Sacla’s Chargrilled Aubergine).

Transfer to an air tight container and refrigerate for 3 days.


I like to keep it simple when it comes to salad dressing, so I tend to stick to honey and mustard – I find it goes with almost anything.

For a single salad I would use 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp of cider vinegar and mix together in a small ramekin.

Add a quarter teaspoon of Dijon mustard and a drizzle of honey. Season with salt and pepper and stir again until combined. Sometimes I even add a tsp of hummus to make a creamier more indulgent dressing.

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Corrie Heale

Freelance food writer / vegetarian food blogger and recipe writer. @corrieheale

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