Henry Harris’ French summer salads – recipes

Henry Harris

Summer trips to France for me have always involved daily trips to the local market and sunny garden lunches. The key to both is to buy an assembly of things that are good to eat and require little by way of preparation. And if the cheese stall should happen to have a small hard goat’s cheese, so much the better – it’s always worth picking one up to crumble over any summer salad.

Fennel, egg and anchovy salad

The finest anchovies in France are found in Collioure, and rival the best Spanish anchovies, which can be used as a substitute, if need be.

Prep 10 min
Rest 1 hr
Cook 12 min
Serves 4

2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
of ½ lemon
1 small red chilli
, stalk, pith and seeds discarded, flesh finely chopped
½ tsp picked thyme leaves
Sea salt and black pepper
Olive oil

4 eggs
1 slice sourdough

1 garlic clove
, peeled
8 Collioure anchovy fillets
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1-2 tbsp red-wine vinegar

Slice the fennel as finely as possible (use a mandoline, if you have one), put in a bowl with the lemon juice, chilli, thyme and a generous seasoning of sea salt, then set aside for an hour, so the fennel cures a little in the salt and leaches out its juices.

Stir about three tablespoons of olive oil into the steeped fennel mix, then cover and set aside while you get on with preparing the rest of the salad.

Bring a large pan of water to a boil, gently drop in the eggs and cook for eight minutes. Drain the eggs, refresh under cold water and, once cold, peel.

Cut the bread into small dice, then fry it in a tablespoon or two of olive oil with the whole garlic clove, until browned and crisp. Drain on kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil, discard the garlic, then season lightly with salt and pepper.

Spread out the fennel on a platter. Cut the eggs in half, arrange them cut side down on the fennel and drape an anchovy fillet over each egg half. In a bowl, combine the fried bread and parsley, scatter this all over the salad and finish with a drizzle of red-wine vinegar to taste.

Cucumber, mint and harissa salad

This is lovely as a companion for a whole grilled fish or, even better, a pile of barbecued lamb chops or a butterflied leg of lamb.

Prep 5 min
Steep 1 hr
Assembly 10 min
Serves 4

2 cucumbers
1 red onion
Sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp harissa
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
Lemon juice
, to taste
1 small bunch fresh mint
, picked

Peel and dice the cucumbers, then put them in a bowl. Peel and finely dice the red onion, add to the bowl and toss in a scant teaspoonful of salt. Mix well, then tip into a colander set over a bowl and leave for an hour so the cucumbers disgorge their juices.

Rinse well to wash off the salt – this can take a good few minutes – then taste to check you’ve done it correctly. Drain, pat dry in a clean tea towel, then return to the bowl. Add the harissa and yoghurt, stir to combine, then check the seasoning and add a squeeze of lemon juice.

Transfer the salad to a serving bowl, tear the mint leaves roughly, scatter all over the top, and serve.

Broad bean, pea, green bean and Bayonne ham salad

At the start of the season, when broad beans are small, sweet and tender, I usually leave them in their pale-green outer skins. Later in the summer, however, those skins turn quite leathery, so I peel them.

Prep 10 min
Cook 10 min
Serves 4

200g fine green beans
150g podded broad beans
150g podded peas

1 heaped tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp grain mustard
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
250g cr
eme fraiche
Salt and black pepper
2 small shallots, peeled and sliced into very fine rings
3 slices Bayonne ham (or similar)
50g salted roast almonds, roughly chopped

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil, then cook the green beans for four minutes, the broad beans for two and a half minutes and the peas for two minutes. Drain and refresh them all in plenty of cold water, to cool them down and set the colour.

In a large salad bowl, mix the two mustards and vinegar, then stir in the creme fraiche and season. Add the shallots and cooled vegetables, mix well, then tear up the ham and scatter over the top along with the almonds.

Melon and strawberry salad

In Cognac, melon is often served with pineau des Charentes, the bright sweet aperitif of the region, at the start of a meal. Add a few strawberries, however, and a simple pudding salad is ready in moments. Some may be tempted to add a few mint leaves, but they really aren’t necessary.

Prep 10 min
Rest 30 min
Serves 4

1 ripe cavaillon melon (or charentais or cantaloupe), or similar
500g strawberries
250ml chilled pineau des Charentes
(serve the rest of the bottle alongside)

Halve, peel and deseed the melon, then cut it into chunks and put in a bowl. Hull and halve the strawberries, then mix with the melon. Pour over the pineau, stir gently to combine, then set aside for half an hour before serving.

Courtesy: theguardian