SUMMER evenings for me are all about rustling up something simple and tasty, sitting in the garden with a glass of wine, and enjoying the warmer weather – and it’s difficult to beat a good salad if you want something fast, fresh, light and packed with flavour.

Decades ago in the UK, many people thought a summer salad was that ubiquitous assembly of iceberg lettuce, cucumber and flavourless tomatoes – drizzled or drowned, but only if you were lucky, with some Salad Cream to add flavour. You might say that, compared to continental Europe, it’s taken us longer to develop an appreciation of just how diverse and delicious salads can be.

Salad has come a long way since the 1970s and is now widely appreciated as a fantastic way to enjoy almost any seasonal ingredient you can think of, from vegetables, fruits and seeds, to meats, fish and grains.

Originally created as a means to use up a glut of seasonal ingredients and yesterday’s stale bread, panzanella salad originated in Italy, using the sun-drenched locally-sourced ingredients of Tuscany. The components come together in an incredible harmony of flavour and texture – with the sweet tomatoes and roasted peppers, refreshing and peppery rocket, fragrant basil and rustic bread, punctuated by the sharpness of the capers, the saltiness of the olives and the sweet acidity of the vinegar in the dressing.

Like many dishes that are now considered classics, it used to be regarded as a simple ‘peasant dish’, but that label doesn’t do it justice!

The bread acts like a sponge, soaking up the incredible flavours, but still retains a bit of bite and crunch. I would steer well clear of using a cheap, white, processed sandwich loaf for this salad, which would lose its shape and dissolve into the salad. Instead, opt for a hearty bread – I use ciabatta but you could also use sourdough or focaccia.

I use Heritage tomatoes, which are a classic British variety, full of flavour, and in season right now, but you could also use regular plum tomatoes or a mixture of different varieties.

We use our Gleneagles & Co rapeseed oil in the dressing rather than the traditional olive oil, which gives this classic Italian recipe a Scottish twist. Just like someone in Italy might get their oil from the local olive grove, our rapeseed oil comes from a farm in the Strathearn Valley just a few miles from Gleneagles, so it’s wonderful to include a taste of the local landscape in the salad.

The salad features on our new Birnam Brasserie menu which launches in early July and which takes its inspiration from many of the classic flavours of the Mediterranean – including bistro and brasserie classics, Italian and French charcuterie and a good selection of pastas and salads. We also have a wonderful new grill selection, with lots of lovely cuts of meat, as well as a fantastic range of seafood.

Panzanella salad makes the ideal side, starter, or main course and, even if you’re not eating it in a café on some cobblestone piazza in a charming hill-side Tuscan village, you can close your eyes, wash it down with a nice chilled glass of Italian wine, and it’s the next best thing!

For more information about Gleneagles, visit

Serves 6

For the salad:

1kg ripe heritage tomatoes

2 red peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped

2 yellow peppers, roasted, peeled and chopped

75g large green pitted olives, chopped

50g capers, drained

100g rocket, washed and drained off

1 large bunch of basil, stalks removed and teared

100g ciabatta loaf, torn, drizzled with olive oil, toasted in the oven until crisp

For the dressing:

120ml rapeseed oil

10ml balsamic vinegar

5ml red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper


1. Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a mixing bowl until fully combined.

2. Mix all of the salad ingredients together, only using half the basil, and then add the dressing. It’s best to mix the salad together at least 30 minutes before serving so the bread can absorb some of the dressing.

3. Top the salad with the remaining basil and serve in a large bowl for everyone to share.