SALAD is a restless fashion victim.

In the 1990s, The River Café in London sparked an obsession with peppery wild rocket. Restaurants everywhere piled it on everything. In time, rocket gave way to even more exotic Mizuna, which in turn, was usurped not by one leaf but with a fixation of showing off at least eight or 10 different types of leaves, all hand-picked into miniature confetti confections. Perhaps this attention to tininess spawned the current love of micro herbs. If they taste good, I am not against them. And yet ...

I sense a new fashion. Whisper it. Increasingly, what I want is, simply, a head of really fresh, just-picked lettuce. I do not want a plastic supermarket pouch, atmospherically packed, with crudely chopped, bruised leaves. I just want a sweet, velvety Butter lettuce, or a soft leafy Webb or a pale, crisp escarole. I want to cut out the root, tear the leaves with my fingers, keeping them large, jagged, natural.

I definitely want traditional dressings, not the predictable sticky balsamic which seems compulsory. If there's going to be vinegar, let it be light but characterful, a Chardonnay- or cider-vinegar perhaps. Minty yoghurt dressing or the gentle creaminess of proper salad cream would make a perfect summer celebration, kissing the leaves, not heavily enrobing them. Finally my perfect retro salad requires the onion tang of chives, possibly some crumbled goat cheese and the discreet whisper of shaved shallot. Is simplicity fashionable? Who knows, but it is stylish. And tasty.

Butter lettuce with crumbled goat's cheese, chives and real salad cream

Recipes serve 4

2 heads butter lettuce

120g goat's cheese

Small bunch fine chives

2 small shalllots

For the salad cream:

4 eggs

2-3 dstsp Dijon or English mustard, to taste (remember that English is much hotter)

A lemon wedge

Caster sugar, about 1 dstsp

2-3 dstsp white wine vinegar

150ml double cream

150ml olive oil

Salt and (optional) fresh ground white pepper


1. Bring a small pan of water to the boil then lower in the eggs carefully and simmer for 7 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Peel then halve the eggs, scooping the yolk into a mixing bowl.

2. Add the mustard, sugar, vinegar and a little salt and pepper. Whisking with a balloon whisk to thicken and combine.

3. Once well mixed, add the cream and whisk briefly, until the liquid begins to thicken, but to not stiffen). Over -whipping will cause the cream to split and curdle.

4. Add the oil in a slow, steady drizzle as if making mayonnaise, incorporating gradually while whisking gently. The dressing will thicken as the oil is added and the cream becomes more whipped. Overall, it should retain the consistency of a thick pouring liquid. Continue until all the oil is added then squeeze in the lemon juice. Taste and adjust as needed, with more salt and pepper if required or more lemon juice or more vinegar. If too thick, gently stir in tepid water. Set aside until needed

5. Salad: cut out the lettuce root and discard. Fill a clean sink with cold water. Do not add running water with the leaves already in, or the pressure may damage the leaves. Pick the lettuce leaves into the water and wash gently, removing any large looking stems. Pick or tear the leaves down in size if desired, until they are approximately the size of your palm. Lift out the leaves gently into a colander to drain then spin in small batches in a salad spinner to dry, transferring the cleaned leaves to a mixing bowl as you go.

6. Cut the chives finely and set aside in a small bowl. Peel the shallots and slice into rings or very fine dice and set aside.

7. To finish and serve: place the leaves in a large mixing bowl. Add several spoonfuls of the dressing then sprinkle in most of the chives and all the shallot. Crumble in three-quarters of the goat's cheese. Toss very gently with two large spoons so the leaves are coated with the ingredients. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter then scatter the rest of the chives and cheese. Serve at once as a starter, part of a light lunch or as a side dish to grilled fish or barbecued chicken.

Salad of Webb lettuce, olives, feta, mint and pink grapefruit

2 heads Webb (or other) lettuce

3 tablespoons black and green olives, pitted

100g feta cheese

1 pink grapefruit

6-8 mint leaves

3 or 4 basil leaves

2 dstsp of natural yoghurt



1. Prepare the lettuce by following step 5 above.

2. Peel the grapefruit: remove the top and bottom then with a small knife, cut downwards, following the curved outline of the fruit to remove the skin, working your way around the fruit until it is peeled. Working over a bowl, to reserve the juice, cut between the membranes of pith to segment the fruit then cut these segments of grapefruit into pieces about 1 or 2cm each, adding them to the juice. Set aside for now

3. Place the leaves in a mixing bowl then add most of the olives and crumble in most of the feta. Shred the mint and basil, add these then toss well then transfer to a serving dish. Pour the grapefruit juice and segments into the yoghurt and mix well. Season lightly with salt then drizzle over the leaves, toss gently then serve. You could add diced water melon too if you wish. Great with grilled lamb or duck.

Geoffrey Smeddle is the chef patron of The Peat Inn by St Andrews, Fife, KY15 5LH 01334 840206