The Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Greek salad: the ultimate heatwave dish

Greek salad: the ultimate heatwave dish
Text settings

Good lord, it’s hot. I mean, really, really hot. Right now, the heat is so overwhelming as to feel like it is tangible, as if you could reach out and touch it. All we’re capable of talking about is the heat; any other polite conversation is too much for our fried brains. Normally, when our annual heatwave hits, I proffer some halfway house of a recipe: a dish that only needs the hob, not the oven, or is sufficiently refreshing or brightening that it justifies the added kitchen heat. But, this year, even that compromise seems unmanageable.

At this stage, it would feel disingenuous, nay cruel, to offer up a recipe even for something like for ice cream, as that’s going to require making a custard base and honestly, who can bear the thought of standing over a stove waiting for eggs to coagulate? Not me.

We are not a country with the infrastructure to survive even the slightest increase in temperature, let alone what we’re facing now. Anything beyond basic functioning and occasionally fanning myself with whatever I can reach without moving is asking too much. All I’m good for at the moment is reclining in a darkened room, spritzing myself occasionally with water from a spray bottle, and maybe deigning to eat fridge-cold watermelon. But unfortunately, sometimes a real dish is required, even in challenging circumstances such as these.

Greek salad is the answer: cool, crisp, crunchy, and packed with flavour. No roasting chicken, no boiling noodles or poaching eggs, no frying lardons or croutons, this salad requires no more than a little gentle chopping. And better still, everything apart from the tomatoes can come straight from the fridge. Tomatoes kept in the fridge lose their flavour, go wooly in texture, so are best kept at room temperature – but the salty feta, bitter kalamata olives, and cooling cucumber are all fridge-ready. Letting the red onion sit in ice water for a few minutes after slicing but before serving takes away its onion astringency, while ensuring it doesn’t flop into sliminess (even in this heat!) and instead retains its bite. This really is a fantastically easy salad: one that was designed to be made and enjoyed in the summer heat.

Greek Salad

Makes: Salad for four

Takes: 10 minutes

Bakes: No time at all

200g feta

200g kalamata olives

2 small heads butter lettuce

200g tomatoes, halved or quartered

½ cucumber

1 red onion

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  1. Top and tail the onion and slice finely, and pop in a bowl of iced water while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. Chop the feta, tomatoes and cucumber into similar-sized pieces, about the same size as the olives. Tear the lettuce into pieces about three times the size of the olives.
  3. Drain the sliced onions. Build the salad with the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, olives and onion, layering them through the dish.
  4. Whisk together the oil and vinegar: don’t add any salt here, as the feta and olives will both be salty. Spoon the dressing over the salad, tossing if you wish. Remind your guests that the olives contain stones!

Written byThe Vintage Chef Olivia Potts

Olivia Potts is a former criminal barrister who retrained as a pastry chef. She co-hosts The Spectator’s Table Talk podcast and writes Spectator Life's The Vintage Chef column. A chef and food writer, she was winner of the Fortnum and Mason's debut food book award in 2020 for her memoir A Half Baked Idea.

Topics in this articleWine and Foodrecipefood