Our summer cooking has become so much easier since we’ve been able to pop outside a snip a few lettuce leaves for a salad. Whether it’s a main course salad padded out with little new potatoes, flaked smoked mackerel, prawns, crunchy lardons (bacon), diced cheese or just to serve as a side vegetable, it’s such an easy, refreshing option.
Since doing this I’ve got into the habit of quickly shaking up a dressing using a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive or rapeseed oil, a squirt of runny honey, a small spoonful of Dijon mustard and some salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the ingredients to a jam jar and shake vigorously. It makes just enough for four or for two over a couple of meals (or a main course salad for two to share). You can use other types of vinegar such as cider vinegar, but white balsamic is a little sweeter and softer tasting and I find it more versatile. Alternatively lemon juice makes wonderful dressings, particularly for simply grilled fish or seafood. Taste first before adding any honey and mustard – you probably won’t need to.
Our lettuce plugs came from Dobies of Devon, as part of a larger order, but you can obviously pick them up at garden centres or they’re easily grown from seed (and much cheaper). I paid about £5 for a selection of plants that should see us through the summer. It’s important to keep cutting off leaves – snip them off near the soil – if you leave the plants for too long they’ll bolt and you’ll lose you’re ongoing supply. Finally, don’t forget to water them!