Put down that tired old cucumber and step away from the iceberg lettuce. Summer is on its way, and it deserves better than lacklustre greenery

Promote your picnic to ‘fine al fresco dining’ with a really special salad instead. From a rainbow of exciting veg to meaty additions, pulses, spices and herbs, the recipes in this list will turn the humblest of side dishes into a bonafide main event. Don’t forget the napkins. 


1. Tomato and mint salad

Never underestimate the power of fresh herbs. Without mint, this would just be the ingredients for a basic pasta sauce; with mint, it’s a burst of summer flavour in a bowl. Pile it high on toasted bread for improvised bruschetta, pop it in a pitta or serve it on the side of chicken kebabs as a swish alternative to ketchup.


2. Peach, pancetta and mozzarella salad

Say ‘peach, pancetta and mozzarella’ – almost like poetry, isn’t it? And that’s how beautiful this salad tastes, too. With fruit, meat, veg, cheese, croutons and a punchy lemon and mustard dressing, it’s almost a three-course meal in a dish. Enjoy!


3. Bean, wild rice and avocado salad

Hark! Could that be… another delicious thing to do with avocado? This veggie South American-inspired bean feast is spiked with chilli and coriander, for flavour that says ‘summer’ even when the weather says, ‘Ooh, more grey drizzle again’.


4. Mild spiced lamb salad

It’s a lot more substantial than your average limp lettuce affair – but we’ve called it a ‘salad’, and a salad it is. Warm and fragrant harissa lends a Moroccan vibe to the lamb, and all the time needed for the meat you’ll win back with couscous, the quickest-to-cook of all the grains. 


5. Potato, pea and coconut salad

Potatoes, yes. Peas, of course. And coconut? NOW we’re talking. This very different twist on a picnic staple uses creamy coconut and spices rather than the usual mayo to tart up your spud salad. Try it with jerk chicken – and sunshine, if you have any.


6. Malaysian-style salad

This is about as far removed from your bog-standard chicken salad as you can get. We love the spicy, zingy lime, peanut and chilli dressing.