I always think cooking gets easier as summer progresses. I say cooking, though, in fact, warm-weather food is often the result of creative assembly rather than slaving over a hot stove. I find myself seeking out compilations of perkily bright flavours and things that need only a brief moment on the heat.
This is, perhaps more than any other, the time of year to follow your senses where ingredients are concerned – things always look, smell and taste better in their natural season. This salad is a case in point: crab, cucumber, mango, watercress, herbs. The result is sweet and salty and upliftingly fresh.
What could be more summery?
My sister happened to visit the other day, bringing me a box of mangoes from a specialty store in south London. They were headily fragrant and dribbling juicy. Any ripe mango will work here, even papaya, and — I suspect — some slices of nectarine or peach.
Ingredients (serves 4 as a light supper)
1 tbsp brown sugar (light or dark)
Juice of 1 large lime and about ¼ of the grated zest
4 tbsp fish sauce
1.5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped (or grated)
1 red chilli, half deseeded and chopped, half cut into rings
Salt and pepper
2 ripe mangoes, stones removed, peeled and sliced
1 large cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut into 1cm-thick half moons
2 spring onions, sliced
A generous bunch of watercress
A handful of mint leaves, torn
2 handfuls of coriander leaves
400g white crab meat (or 2 parts white and 1 part brown), chilled
2 tbsp light olive oil
In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, lime juice and zest, fish sauce, ginger and the chopped (not the sliced) chilli. Season with a grind of pepper and add salt and extra lime juice if you think it will help the balance.
Put the mango and cucumber in a bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes to chill.
Remove from the fridge and add the spring onions, watercress and half the mint and coriander. Splash with half the dressing (and add any brown crab meat, if using) then toss very lightly. Divide between four plates or bowls, and divide the white crab meat evenly on top. Pour over some of the remaining dressing and sprinkle with the rest of the mint and coriander, plus a few rounds of chilli. Add a trickle of oil to each one and serve.
Lucas Hollweg is an award-winning food writer, cookbook author and cook. A former Sunday Times journalist and cookery columnist, he writes for a wide range of food publications. His most recent book isGood Things to Eat.