Limitless scope to experiment with colour, texture and flavour, salads are a pleasure to preparing and a constant source of new and interesting dishes. Playing like this is the opposite of the strict rules and scientific precision that is required for successful baking; a little of this, a smidgen of that and voila, a new creation that’s miles away from a memory of lettuce, cucumber and a stick of limp celery, served from a beaker. There really are no boundaries – vegetables, either cooker or not, fresh or dried fruit and nuts, grains, pasta, cheese …

Taking inspiration from my recent lunch at The Merci Canteen I have been experimenting with different salad combinations, using whatever happened to the fridge and store cupboard; simplicity and freshness being the key to success:

A cup of Puy lentils cooked to tender and cooled before combining with thinly sliced red chilli, rocket and coriander leaves. A simple vinaigrette would work as a dressing but equally, this worked well with fresh basil infused oil.

Prepare a handful of haricot vert by trimming the stalk end before steaming for a few minutes until they are ‘just’ tender but retain their squeaky bite; plunge into ice cold water to stop further cooking. Remove the zest from a lemon and reserve. Finely slice a red onion then soak the rings in the juice of ½ the lemon for about 10 minutes, removing astringency. Combine the haricot and red onion with a handful of baby spinach and the lemon zest. Sprinkle with lemon juice from the remaining ½ plus, a little olive oil.