Perfect summer meals

Speck, watercress and melon

I am very fond of the deep flavour of speck, but any cured meat would be good here, cut into paper-thin slices. Speck's intense flavour is particularly good with the coolness of the ripe melon.

Serves 2
half a large, very ripe Ogen melon, chilled

a bunch of watercress

sherry vinegar - a tbs

walnut oil - a tbs

olive oil - a tbs

flat-leaf parsley - a small bunch

speck - 8 thin slices

Scoop the seeds from the melon, slice away the skin and cut the flesh into fat chunks. Wash the watercress, remove the tough stalks, then put it in a bowl with the melon. Mix the sherry vinegar with the walnut and olive oils and a little salt and pepper, then chop the parsley leaves and stir them into the dressing. Dress the melon and watercress. Lay the slices of speck over the melon and serve immediately.

Seared beef with mint and mustard dressing

Beef carpaccio is a classic summer dish, but I also like the idea of very rare beef that has just had its edges singed in the oven; that way you get a good portion of rare flesh with the bonus of a crusty roasted edge. There are a couple of possibilities here; either serve it with a salsa verde of basil, garlic and parsley or make the mint dressing below, which is rather like a caesar salad dressing but with the freshness of mint.

Serves 4

beef fillet (thick end) - 500g

Maldon sea salt - ½ tbs

black peppercorns - 1 tbs

a little olive oil

For the dressing:

grain mustard - 1 lightly heaped tbs

half a lemon - juice of

mint - small handful (about 20 leaves)

egg yolks - 2

olive oil - about 4-5 tbs

lemon - to serve

Set the oven at 220C/Gas 8. Crush the peppercorns roughly with a pestle and mortar and mix them with the salt. Rub the beef with a little olive oil then roll it in the seasoning, pressing down so that most of the salt and pepper sticks to the meat. Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a roasting tin then put over the heat until the oil starts to sizzle. Brown the meat quickly on all sides then roast for 10 minutes only. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

To make the dressing, put the mustard, lemon juice, mint leaves and egg yolks in a blender and whizz for a few seconds. Pour in the oil, slowly, stopping when you have a dressing the consistency of double cream.

Slice the beef very thinly, then spoon the dressing over at the table. Serve with lemon wedges.

Cold noodles with cucumber and lime

A salad that is both silky soft and crunchy, with the nutty bite of toasted pumpkin seeds and cucumber. It will keep tightly covered overnight in the fridge, but no longer. Dress it at the last minute to get the full-on freshness of the limes.

Serves 4 as a side salad

fresh peas - 2 large handfuls

rice noodles- 125g

a pinch of salt

pumpkin seeds -a handful

sprouted seed - 2 handfuls

medium hot red chilli - 1

red or orange pepper - 1

cucumber - 1/2

large carrot, scrubbed

mint - a few sprigs

coriander - a small bunch of

for the dressing:

lime juice - 3 tbs

nam pla (Thai fish sauce) - 3 tbs

caster sugar - 1 level tsp

Put the noodles into a heatproof bowl then pour boiling water from the kettle over them. Leave them for 2 minutes (or whatever it says on the packet) then drain them and let them cool in a colander under cold running water. Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry non-stick frying pan till they smell warm and nutty.

Put the sprouted seed into a mixing bowl with the drained peas and the pumpkin seeds. Thinly slice the chilli and pepper and cut the cucumber and carrot into long, thin matchsticks. Add them to the other ingredients. Roughly chop the herbs and add those as well.

Mix together the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Drain the noodles and add to the other ingredients. Toss everything with the dressing. Chill for a good half hour before serving.

Grilled pork salad

I find a bright-tasting, aromatic salad does wonders for my sense of wellbeing, lifting the spirits on a grey and rainy day. I add beanshoots to the green leaves and herbs for extra crunch.

Serves 4

For the pork:

small pork fillet - 1

lemongrass - 2 medium-sized stalks

garlic - 3 cloves

Thai fish sauce - 2 tbs

sesame oil - 1 tbs

For the salad:

little gem lettuce - 2 or 3, depending on their size

mint leaves - small handful

coriander leaves - small bunch

beansprouts - 4 small handfuls

large red chilli - 1

1 lime - juice of

Cut the pork fillet into slices. They should be no thicker than your little finger. Remove any tough outer leaves from the lemongrass then slice the tender insides into wafer-thin rings. Put them into a bowl with the peeled and finely crushed garlic, the fish sauce and the sesame oil. Toss with the pork and leave for a good hour.

Make four individual bowls of salad with crisp lettuce, whole mint and coriander leaves and, if you wish, beansprouts. Halve the chilli and remove the seeds, then chop the chilli flesh finely. Toss the chillies and the juice of the lime into the salad.

Drain the pork from the marinade, then fry in a non-stick pan till golden and glossy on both sides, spooning over a little of the sauce as you go. It will take little more than a minute or two. Mix the pork into the salad and serve immediately with any juices from the pan poured over.

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