Summer is well and truly here, and this warm weather shows no signs of abating just yet. And with the blazing sunshine usually comes the desire to eat lighter, fresher dishes – when it’s heading towards 25C+ outside, a cool, fresh and vibrant salad just seems so much more appealing than a hearty slow-cooked casserole or roast dinner (I’m breaking out into a sweat just typing those words!); and let’s face it, how many of us want to spend hours in a furnace-like kitchen with pans bubbling away on the stove and the oven blasting out even more heat, when the weather is so glorious?!
It’s almost impossible to think of summer without thinking barbecue – which of course means that you still get to be outside enjoying the weather whilst cooking something delicious! Meats such as lamb chops or cutlets, chicken thighs or drumsticks are ideal for marinating then cooking on the barbie, or cube up some meat, thread it onto skewers along with some veggies and pop those on there - there is something so very satisfying about the flavour food gets when it’s imbued with the smoky aromas of the barbecue. There may well still be some other cooking required, but it can be kept to a minimum - dishes such as potato salad or pasta salad just require a bit of boiling to prepare the main ingredient, onions for your hot dogs or burgers a bit of gentle frying and couscous needs nothing more than a boiled kettle.
The oven doesn’t have to be completely redundant for the warmer months – you could roast a whole chicken but serve it up with various salads instead of roast potatoes and gravy (but if you do still fancy a proper roast dinner, far be it from us to stop you!); use some shop bought ready-made pastry (unless you are lucky enough to have a lovely, cool kitchen, as pastry can be a nightmare to make in hot weather) to bake a flan, quiche or tart; chop some vegetables such as aubergine, courgette, peppers and tomatoes into chunks and roast them together with a little garlic, seasoning and olive oil and serve just warm to accompany some grilled sausages or lamb, with a crisp salad on the side and some crusty bread to mop up any juices. If there’s room in the oven, you could cook a couple of these different dishes at the same time, so you then have meals ready for a few days - a quiche would be great for a picnic. Once it’s all in the oven, just pour yourself a long, cool drink, then relax and let the oven get on with it.
This is definitely the time to dine al fresco, so whether it’s a barbecue in your garden, a picnic on the beach or a packed lunch under the shade of a tree in the park, enjoy it while you can!