The summer’s great – barbeques, picnics, trips to the beach. But when it’s scorching out, the last thing most people want to do is stand in front of a hot oven for hours to create a meal which will make you sweat even more! Curries and stews are much more suitable for those winter months where their warming bulk can keep you going, but something entirely different is needed for the summer. And while the first instinct might be ice cream and frozen drinks, they won’t keep you going for long.
It’s simple if you have a barbeque, of course. If it’s not too hot, burgers and hot dogs are great summer food but occasionally you’ll need something a little lighter, like kebabs. As long as you make sure you space out your meat with lots of vegetables, or even include some prawns or other shellfish, it’ll be relatively healthy – and it’s super easy to make a vegetarian version. While you’ve got the barbeque out, make sure to grill some watermelon which can either make a fresh appetiser, or a delicious caramelised desert.
Or you could take inspiration from many European countries like Greece and Portugal, where they know how to make a meal to cool down. Vine leaves are great finger foods and perfect for picnics – just soak the vine leaves well, cook a portion of basmati rice and mix it with onions, tomatoes, garlic, mint, parsley and black pepper before wrapping them up neatly. They take a while to cook after but it’s the kind of food you can leave to cook. A favourite food in Portugal over summer is skewered sardines with salad, but if you can’t make any flights to Faro you can recreate the dinner yourself at home. Run the sardines under cold water, pat them dry and sprinkle liberally with coarse salt (or to your taste) and grill them on high for about seven minutes each side. Served traditionally with a chargrilled salad of peppers and tomato, or on a slice of bread, wash it down with some cold sangria with plenty of fresh fruit.
Don’t be afraid to modify the classics. A “posh pizza” works great in the summer, replacing the heavy pizza dough with a light and flaky puff pastry. Spinach, goats cheese, fresh tomatoes and basil work great on this meal which takes ten minutes to cook and only a brief interaction with the oven. Fruit is your friend in the hotter months, and eating a steady supply of strawberries, cherries, pineapple – or whatever you like – will give you a sugar boost and keep you hydrated. Just don’t drink too many cocktails in the meantime!