Recipe: Crunchy green salad with a creamy Greek dressing

And still the summer goes on. This is definitely my #besteversummer since I’ve lived in London – boy is it a hot one! I’m loving the blue skies and constant sunshine – an excuse to wear flip flops and shorts (or summer frocks) every day. And an excuse to come up with some delicious summery recipes to help cool down. Like this amazingly crunchy salad of greenness which I served with my homemade Greek-style salad dressing.

This recipe makes two generous portions. We added some tasty slices of ham on the side to make for a perfect, complete summer meal. Enjoy!

Recipe: Salad

Vibrant green mint tops the crunchy mix

The ingredients

2 cups iceberg lettuce

200g frozen peas, defrosted, cooked and cooled

Half a medium cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes

1 celery stick, sliced into small pieces

Handful of mint

50g creamy soft goats cheese

Layer the lettuce on the bottom of your bowl.

Top with the peas, cucumber, celery, mint and goats cheese.

Pour over the dressing, mix together well and serve.

Recipe: salad

The lovely pale greens topped with creamy goats cheese

For the dressing

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp sugar

2 tsps Dijon mustard

100ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

150ml Greek yogurt

Put all the ingredients in a jar and shake well together.

You can make this far ahead, the dressing will last in the fridge for two to three weeks.

Recipe: dressing

Creamy zesty dressing with a mustardy kick

Do you have a favourite summer salad recipe? Do let me know, I’d love to try it. 

The perfect summer lunch at fabulous De Grendel

So today we’re heading out of Cape Town to the Durbanville wine region. It’s a short drive from the centre of town, ultimately up a winding road to De Grendel and their amazing restaurant. Set up on a hill you look back at majestic Table Mountain and across the sapphire blue sea.

The light-filled restaurant is decorated in shades of blue and pale wood with plenty of glass to ensure you can drink in that view. And their cellar offers great wine to imbibe, too. De Grendel Rose is one of our very favourite wines in the world, so the first thing to be done is order a bottle while settling down to peruse the menu. The good news is all wine is sold at cellar door prices in the restaurant, so your summery Rose costs R55 (about £2.40 at today’s exchange rate).

Head Chef Ian Bergh opened the restaurant in 2012, which is when I discovered it, and we make sure to return at least once a year while we’re on our Cape Town sojourn. Ordering is quite difficult because it’s tricky to  picture exactly what you’re going to get from the menu descriptions. And even if you do manage, the likelihood is that it won’t be what you are expecting. It’ll be better. Seriously, Ian is a genius with his flavour and texture combinations and every plate of food is a work of art, too. It’s the sort of restaurant where whatever you order it’s going to be wonderful. Trust me.

Two of the starters were a mix of some of my very favourite ingredients so I simply had to have both of them. I often have two starters rather than a starter and a main and find it a very satisfying way to eat. Particularly today.

The squid, prawn and chorizo dish made everyone on the table moan with delight when it arrived. A stunning plate of food, it actually tasted better than it looked, and that is really saying something. Perfectly cooked prawns, crispy baby squid and tender fried squid, salty, juicy chorizo all served up with a mix of baby leaves and tomato panna cotta, and even some grapefruit slices to add an extra zest.


A prawn starter doesn’t get better than this…simply beautiful

The rest of the table shared this amazing fish dish. Cured salmon, creme fraiche, sumac, beetroot, radish, baby leaf, liquorice and fennel. The liquorice cured salmon had a great texture and delicate aniseed flavour running through it – the balance was just right which is tricky – that aniseed can become quite overpowering. Combined with the beetroot and creamiest of creme fraiche it was soon devoured. Yes, I even had some.


An amazing cured salmon starter to delight in

And here’s my second sensational starter. Soft shell crab in a crispy tempura batter with a scallop in a creamy yom tum sauce. I love soft shell crab with a passion and was so excited to see it on the menu. I was even more excited when I bit into its delicate crunchiness and dipped it into the velvety sauce. Wow! And the scallop (another of my faves) was pretty special too, soft and flavoursome, the perfect counterpart to the crunchy crab. These are two of the best starters I’ve ever had.


An irresistible dish of crunchy crab and succulent scallop

For mains, the steak dish was incredible. Beef fillet served with oyster mushrooms, truffle, baby corn, aubergine and a steamed bun (that’s the white thing that looks like a potato). I can’t remember eating a tastier fillet ever and it was perfectly cooked and matched with the deeply earthy flavours of the mushrooms and a surprise of tempura aubergine.


Another beautifully presented, delicious dish

And finally, some fish. The linefish today was yellowtail which is one of the denser, stronger flavoured fish and was paired with a butternut and gorgonzola risotto and served with fennel, pine nuts, yogurt and beetroot. We were intrigued with the idea of serving gorgonzola, which is obviously very strong-tasting, with fish but should have known it was going to be the perfect combination. Which it was.


A bowl of fishy heaven on a bed of risotto

De Grendel won several awards in 2015, for both its wine and the restaurant – including the Klink Award for the Best Gourmet Restaurant on a Wine Farm. There’s no doubt there’s a constant stream of award-winning dishes coming out of that kitchen. A kitchen you can check into frequently as its glassed wall looks out over the restaurant. I couldn’t resist having a regular look. Here are some of the beautiful dishes being prepared.


You can keep your eye on what’s up in the kitchen


Don’t forget to take in the stunning view, too

As well as the views, the setting and the food, the service is fantastic too. By coincidence we had the same waitress as on our last visit and I’d definitely try to sit on one of her tables again. Nikki was friendly, knowledgable, patient and efficient, charmingly dealing with the demands of our table.

If you don’t have time or the inclination for lunch there’s also the wine tasting area where you can enjoy a platter while you sample the wines on offer. Red wine lovers simply have to taste the Rubaiyat 2013 which won a platinum award and is sublime. You’ll soon be loading a case into your car.

I love De Grendel. Can you tell?

De Grendel is at Plattekloof Road, Panorama, about half an hour from the centre of Cape Town.


Summer salad with prawns, peas, broad beans and Dijon dressing

The heat is on! When it turns up (which hasn’t been often in the 28 years I’ve lived here), summertime in London is truly spectacular. It’s really like living in a different country full of happy people desperately soaking up the sun. Our local park is always packed with picnickers, sunbathers and dog walkers all loving every moment of it.

This year it has been the hottest for seven years. Sounds very hot, but really it just hasn’t been very hot for seven years! Temperatures of 29/30C are pretty high for London though, especially if you are on the tube which can be highly unpleasant. And sleeping at night can be tricky…our houses aren’t really built for tropical weather and the thought of investing in air conditioning for those few weeks every decade you’d need it is simply ludicrous. Not that I’m moaning, I’m always happier in hot weather.

I also find I feel less like eating when it’s hot, especially heavier food. Easy solution there, time to come up with some great new salads to enjoy. This one is a mix of a lot of green ingredients topped with plump, fresh prawns. It’s wonderfully light and zesty and looks beautiful, too. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

The perfect summer fare that's beautifully green and pink

The perfect summer fare that’s beautifully green and pink

Serves 2

2 little gem lettuces, quartered

150g peas, steamed and cooled

150g broad beans, peeled, podded, steamed and cooled

Small bag of pea shoots

4 spring onions

2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves, pulled off the stem

1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, pulled off the stem

150g peeled, cooked prawns

For the dressing

3 tbsps olive oil

2 tbsps white wine vinegar

1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard

Once you’ve cooked and cooled the peas and broad beans, simply combine all the salad ingredients. Top with the prawns, pour over the dressing, toss and serve. Summer on a plate!


A tasty plate of food for the hottest of days

My top tips

I bought ready peeled, ready cooked prawns from the supermarket. Saves time and effort!

You could substitute different ingredients – just think green. Different types of lettuce, rocket, watercress, asparagus, green peppers would all go wonderfully. Plus you could think of adding fruit -– pineapple and prawns go together beautifully, for example.