Salad days: Domini Kemp’s summer recipes

Our resident chef shares dishes that are perfect for al fresco dining. Photography by Dean Carroll.

Inspired by a recipe from Ixta Belfrage, this dip is sunny and fresh. Picture: Dean Carroll

Killer salads and sides can make or break an outdoor feast when weather dictates whether or not that barbecue gets hauled out of the garden shed and fired up. Speaking as a ferocious, control freak professional party planner, I like to have not just a Plan B, but all the way down to Plan F.

The ricotta and cucumber dip with spiced pine nuts that I’ve included here is very much inspired by one the of the most exciting cookbooks of last year, Mezcla by Ixta Belfrage - AKA Ottolenghi’s right hand cook. Naturally, I have to gild the lily and make it into something I hope is a bit more useful on the party table. If you haven’t heard of Ixta or her book, grab one immediately. It includes lots of wonderfully strong flavours and combos.

This key lime pie is frozen and worked a treat, especially with the addition of Lotus Biscoff base with coconut - the teens will approve. Having it frozen means you can have this done a week in advance if you wrap it well enough to avoid freezer burn. And if all else fails, eat indoors with the fire turned on and a margarita in hand.

Homage to Ixta: Ricotta and cucumber dip with spiced nuts and flatbread

Ingredients, serves 6-8

For the buttery spiced nuts

50g butter

100g pine nuts

1 tbsp Tabasco

1 tsp smoked sweet paprika


For the ricotta dip

2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced

150g ricotta

150g Greek yoghurt

Juice and zest of one lemon

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Bunch spring onions, sliced

Handful mint, finely chopped

To serve


Radicchio or bitter leaves

Olive oil


1. To make the nuts, melt the butter in a pan over a gentle heat. Add the other ingredients and sauté gently. Shake the saucepan and let the pine nuts gently brown, then set aside.

2. Place the cucumbers in a colander, add a good few pinches of salt and leave to drain a little, stirring occasionally. I don’t rinse them, so they‘ll be super salty, but after a little while, just mix them with the ricotta, yoghurt and other ingredients, and check the seasoning.

3. Char the flatbreads on a pan over a medium to high heat then place alongside the dip with the radicchio or leaves. Drizzle some olive oil over the dip, sprinkle the warm pine nuts on top and serve.

You can serve the dip on the side or on top of this dish. Picture: Dean Carroll

Aubergine, harissa and halloumi salad

Ingredients, serves 8 as a side dish

150ml olive oil

2 tbsp harissa

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Salt and pepper

2 aubergines, cut into 1 cm slices

250g halloumi, sliced

30g butter

1 red onion, peeled and diced

200g couscous

2 preserved lemons, diced

50g coriander, torn

1 bunch spring onions, chopped

2 pomegranates, seeds only

Bunch radishes, sliced

For the dressing

200g Greek yoghurt

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Pinch za’atar or chili flakes

Zest and juice of 1 lemon


1. Preheat your oven to 220C degrees.

2. Whisk 100ml of the olive oil with the harissa, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Toss with the aubergines and then place in the oven to roast until slightly charred and golden brown on both sides, then set aside.

3. Heat the butter in a pan, then fry the halloumi until golden brown on both sides then set aside.

4. Add another 30ml olive oil to a pot to heat, then sweat the onion.

5. Boil a kettle and measure out 250ml boiling water. When the onion is soft, add the couscous to the pan and turn up the heat to help give a little colour and nuttiness to the couscous. Add the boiling water and preserved lemon and stir.

6. Turn off the heat and cover the pot with a lid on. Leave the couscous to cook for another six minutes or so.

7. When ready to assemble, scatter the couscous onto a platter and layer up with spring onions, coriander, pomegranate seeds, radishes, the aubergines and halloumi. Mix the dressing together and add some blobs on top, then drizzle with the remaining 20 ml olive oil.

This cheat’s romesco sauce is much quicker than the original and involves no peeling of peppers. Picture: Dean Carroll

Charred asparagus and spring onions with almonds and romesco

Our wonderful chef Ted in Lottie’s makes a lovely version of this romesco but because I am so lazy, I find this method does me rightly. No peeling red peppers which is torturous when you are time poor.

Ingredients, serves 4-6

250g asparagus

1 bunch spring onions

50ml olive oil

160g bocconcini, drained and torn

Handful posh salted almonds

For the romesco sauce

4 red peppers, roughly chopped

250-300g cherry tomatoes

1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 head garlic, cut in half horizontally

50-80ml olive oil

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

Salt and pepper

50-100 g ground almonds


1. Preheat your oven to 220C. To make the romesco, stick all the ingredients, except for half the olive oil, the sherry vinegar and the almonds, in a roasting tray. Loosely cover with tin foil and cook in the oven until the red peppers are charring and cherry tomatoes are bursting. Dump all of the soft vegetables into a food processor and blitz with the sherry vinegar and remaining olive oil. Add enough ground almonds until you have the right consistency, which should be thick and saucy. Season and set aside. This will keep for a few days in the fridge.

2. Rub the asparagus and spring onions with lots of olive oil and salt. Char on a chargrill pan or the BBQ, getting some colour and heat onto them. When you’re happy that they’ve charred sufficiently, set the asparagus and spring onions aside and add the rest of the olive oil to continue cooking them gently in their own juices. Let them stay a bit warm while you spread the romesco out on a serving plate. Top with the charred greens, then scatter over the mozzarella and salted almonds, then serve. The extra sauce is great with any protein or bread.

Freeze this pie for at least a few hours or overnight if possible. Picture: Dean Carroll

Frozen key lime pie

Ingredients, serves 6-8

For the crust

250g Lotus Biscoff biscuits

4 tbsp desiccated coconut, lightly toasted

80g unsalted butter, melted

For the filling

6 egg yolks

60g white sugar

400ml tin sweetened condensed milk

2 tbsp grated lime zest

180ml freshly squeezed lime juice (4 to 5 limes)

To serve

Thinly sliced limes wedges

Coconut flakes, toasted

Whipped cream


1. Blitz together the crust ingredients to form a fine crumb, then push into a 27cm loose bottomed tin to line.

2. To make the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar for about five minutes with an electric mixer until good and thick. Gently add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice, then pour into the pie shell. Freeze for a few hours or preferably overnight.

3. To serve, remove the pie from the freezer and garnish with lime slices and toasted coconut. Serve the whipped cream on the side.