Anna Jones’s recipes for cooking with lettuce | Life and style

Home / Anna Jones’s recipes for cooking with lettuce | Life and style

I’m not sure who came up with the idea of cooking lettuce, but they should be applauded because, however ridiculous it may seem, a cooked lettuce will almost always triumph. There is without question a place for a cool, crisp and raw salad leaf, but on these half-summer, half-winter days of spring, I need some persuasion to eat a lettuce: these two recipes have my arm twisted.

Charred little gems with tahini caesar dressing (pictured above)

Caesar salad: the clean crunch of cos lettuce, the serious hit of flavour from the garlic-kissed dressing, the burnished golden-brown of a crouton. This version is a bit different: a quick char brings sweetness to the little lettuces, and tahini and garlic give a little punch to a dressing I make on repeat.

Prep 10 min
Cook 15 min
Serves 4

6 little gems or 3 cos lettuces
2 slices sourdough
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and black pepper
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
40g parmesan (I use a vegetarian one)

For the dressing
½ garlic clove
4 tbsp light tahini
2 tbsp Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1½ lemons
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 dash of soy sauce or tamari

Heat a griddle pan over a high heat and heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas 6. Cut the lettuces in half lengthways, and then again into quarters.

Tear the bread into bite-size pieces, put on to a baking tray, drizzle generously with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper, then put into the oven to toast until lightly golden – about five to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, griddle the little gems for a couple of minutes on each side, until deep char marks form and they collapse a little. Lay the charred lettuces on a platter, season with a little salt and set aside.

Next, make the dressing: finely grate the garlic into a food processor, add all the other ingredients with six tablespoons of water, and blitz smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon, salt, pepper and soy to taste.

When the croutons are ready, take them out of the oven and sprinkle with the lemon zest and some parmesan, then put them back in the oven for another minute or two.

To serve, toss the charred lettuce in a few tablespoons of the dressing, then put it on to a platter, scatter with the croutons and grate over the rest of the parmesan. Serve with some more dressing and a good grind of black pepper.

Romaine, pea and soft herb soup

Anna Jones’s romaine, pea and soft herb soup.



Anna Jones’s romaine, pea and soft herb soup. Photograph: Matt Russell for the Guardian

A stellar early summer soup, as good hot as it is cold. You can, of course, use frozen peas, too: just cook them for a few minutes less.

Prep 15 min
Cook 25 min
Serves 6

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely sliced
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 litre vegetable stock
500g fresh peas, shelled
2 heads of romaine lettuce, washed and roughly sliced
1 small bunch parsley
1 small bunch tarragon
Lemon juice, to taste (optional)

To serve
Greek yoghurt (optional)
Olive oil
Fresh peas
2-3 radishes, finely sliced
Pea shoots, to garnish

Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and a good pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and sweet: this should take about five to seven minutes.

Next, add the stock; taste and add salt if needed, then bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes.

Add the peas and cook until soft and sweet – about five minutes – before adding the lettuce. Push the lettuce under the liquid as much as you can, cover and simmer for another two minutes, giving the lettuce time to wilt, then turn off the heat and add the herbs.

Use a hand blender or a jug blender to whizz the soup until it’s as smooth as you like it, thinning with a little more hot stock, if you like. Taste and add more salt and pepper – or even a squeeze of lemon if you think it needs some sharpness.

Either return the soup to the pan to keep warm, or let it cool, then chill for a few hours until it’s cold. If serving chilled, check the seasoning again before serving, because it may need more salt.

I like to serve mine topped with a swirl of yoghurt, a few drops of olive oil, a few more fresh peas, sliced radishes and a tangle of pea shoots.

  • Food styling: Anna Jones. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food assistant: Nena Foster

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