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Michael Rantissi believes in finding the most beautiful ingredient – a tomato or beetroot, for example – and then making that the hero by preparing it simply and dressing it with a few other things that bring out its beautiful flavours. His salads feature simple ingredients and can be eaten as side dishes with your main course, or as a meal on their own. They also make excellent lunches, if you take yours to work.

Beetroot and salmon salad

serves 4–6 as a side dish

The beetroot and salmon really complement each other and, once the roasting is done, this is so quick to assemble. Serve this salmon salad on croutons with good-quality mayonnaise for fantastic finger food, or as part of a summer mezze plate.

400g beetroot
300g salmon fillets, skin off and pin boned
65g (1 cup) chopped spring onions (scallions)
1 small horseradish, grated (see note below)
1½ tbsp good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp coriander seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely crushed
baby beetroot leaves (beet greens), to garnish

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Wash the beetroot, wrap them individually in foil and place on a baking tray. Bake for 40 minutes, until a knife easily goes through the unwrapped beetroot. Unwrap the beetroot and allow to cool.

Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the beetroot and cut them into 1cm cubes. Put the beetroot in a large bowl.

Cut the salmon into cubes roughly the same size as the beetroot.

Add the salmon, spring onion, horseradish, olive oil, lemon juice and coriander seeds to the beetroot and gently mix to combine. Season with freshly ground black pepper and garnish with baby beetroot leaves.

Note: The horseradish will be hot, so grate a quantity according to your liking.

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A really useful recipe is one which doesn’t tie you to specific ingredients, allowing you to substitute at will. This idea of cooking slices of squash in butter with a little vermouth and herbs can be tweaked according to whatever variety you have to hand, be it courgette, pumpkin, butternut or, as here, cute little patty pans. I suggest cobnuts here, but the new season’s hazelnuts would be good, too.

Serves 2 as a side dish
patty pan 400g, or other small squash
butter 35g
white vermouth 80ml
sage leaves 4
shell-on cobnuts a handful, or hazelnuts

If any of the patty pan squash are larger than a golf ball, cut them in half horizontally. Melt the butter in a shallow pan, add the vermouth then the patty pans. Drop in the sage leaves and sprinkle on a little salt. Cover with a lid, letting the squashes simmer in the wine and butter for about 20 minutes until tender to the point of a knife. Keep the heat fairly low, basting the vegetables regularly with the pan juices.

While the squashes cook, crack the cobnuts or hazelnuts and remove them from their shells. Add the nuts to the pan, grind over a little black pepper then serve, spooning over the buttery juices as you go.

The feta and beetroot marriage is a classic, but I have also used goat’s cheeses, marinating them in thick slices with olive oil, lemon juice and thyme and crumbled dried chilli. You need a cheese that has plenty of fresh, quite acidic notes to balance the sweetness of the creamed beetroot.

 

Makes 4 toasts
beetroot 400g
feta 200g
oregano leaves 1 tbsp
red wine vinegar 1 tbsp
olive oil 4 tbsp
bread for toasting 4 thick slices
a clove of garlic

Put a deep pan of water on to boil. Trim the beetroots but do not peel them. Try not to break the skin (it will leak juice into the cooking water otherwise). Boil the beetroots, depending on their size, for about 40 minutes. They are done when a skewer can be inserted into them with very little pressure.

Crumble the feta into small pieces, roughly 1cm in size, then put them in a small bowl. Put the oregano leaves in with the feta, pour over the vinegar and the olive oil.

Remove the beetroots from the water, cool them just enough to allow you to handle them, then slide off the skins. They will come away easily with a little pressure from your thumbs.

Cut the beetroots into large pieces, drop them into the bowl of a food processor then process them to a thick purée. Season with salt and black pepper, remembering that the feta is quite salty.

Toast the bread, either on a hot griddle or in the toaster. Cut the clove of garlic in half and then rub the cut side of one of the pieces over the toasted bread. Spoon on some of the beetroot purée, then some of the marinated feta.

Of all of the pickles in my fridge, the only one I didn’t make myself is the jar of sauerkraut. I prefer bottled to canned. The texture is crisper, the flavour brighter.

Each summer I look forward to cooking courgettes, spring onions or halves of Little Gem lettuce on the grill, then turning them briefly in butter or olive oil which I have warmed and seasoned with lemon, crushed basil leaves or dill.

Introducing a tangle of sauerkraut to vegetables cooked this way is refreshing, giving the summer vegetables a welcome kick.

The key is not to add too much, just a tbsp or two of sharp, lively pickles to each batch of fresh vegetables. Serves 2.

pork steaks 2 x 200g

olive oil 2 tbsp 

lemons 2

courgettes 2, small

butter 30g

sauerkraut 4 tbsp

chopped dill 4 tbsp

Rub the pork all over with a little olive oil, black pepper and salt. Cover and set aside. Finely grate the zest from one of the lemons into a mixing bowl. Halve and squeeze the juice, then add to the zest. Using a vegetable peeler, take long, flat strips from the courgettes, and place in a bowl. Get the griddle pan or grill hot.

Unwrap the meat, place on the griddle and cook till golden, brushing the surface with a little oil from the dish as necessary. Season with salt and more pepper. Slice the remaining lemon in half and place it cut side down on the griddle.

Remove the pork from the griddle and let it rest. Place the courgette ribbons on the griddle and cook for 3 or 4 minutes, turning from time to time. Warm the butter in a pan, stir in the lemon zest and juice, and black pepper. Roughly chop the dill. When the courgettes are tender, lift them into the warmed, seasoned butter. Add the sauerkraut, 2 tbsp of its juice, the chopped dill and mix gently.

Serve the pork with the grilled lemons, courgettes and sauerkraut.