When the temperature’s soaring, hunger can present a problem. Here are some of the dishes I pull together during the summer months.
Move the heat out
One of the worst things about cooking in summer is how it heats up the already hot house. Move out! If you’ve got a covered gas bbq you’ve got excellent cooking options. If you’re looking at a public bbq in a park or even a portable bbq (I’ve been to the UK, I know these strange things exist) you can cook up a good meal.
This is the easiest thing to cook on a bbq. Zucchini/courgette, eggplant/aubergine and capsicum/pepper are all good options. Cut the vegetables thin so they cook quickly, and brush with olive oil. Our favourite is pumpkin slices sprinked with ras al hanout. Add some sesame or pumpkin seeds, toss in some salad leaves. Grill some halloumi alongside, or sprinkle feta on top and you’ve got yourself a meal.
One step fancier than grilled vegies. Kebabs use similar ingredients cut into dice and threaded onto skewers. Brush with olive oil and grill for a couple of minutes on each side. They go really well with a tahini or tamari-based sauce.
If you’re lucky enough to have a covered bbq, you might be able to bake pizza. Even if you can’t get enough heat to cook dough, pita bread is so tasty and grills quickly. I’ve gotten pretty good at making up toppings based on random ingredients in our fridge. One of my all-time favourites is thin slices of pre-grilled potato on a pesto or mustard base. Add some rosemary, olives or capers and sprinkle parmesan if you have it. Or, banana and chocolate make an excellent dessert option!
In Melbourne the days often start cool and then heat up. It can be a useful strategy to get your cooking done earlier to avoid heating the house up later. I eat a vegetarian diet and a lot of the protein sources need cooking. This is how I keep myself eating well when it’s hot.
Once your sushi rice is cooked, most of the dish is done! Keep in mind you might also want to cook any fillings as well, like an egg omelette, tofu, steamed veggies. I’m a massive fan of the simple cucumber and sesame seed filling. So simple, so tasty. Rolling sushi is challenging at first, but there’s lots of tutorials to be read and viewed online. Eventually you’ll realise that no matter what your sushi look like, they’re delicious!
Salads are your friend
A beetroot and puy lentil salad is a classic combination.
- Boil the beetroot for about 20 minutes
- add puy lentils and a crushed garlic clove or two to the same pot for another 20 minutes (the beetroot takes longer to cook).
- Drain, and let cool until you’re ready to eat.
- Chop the beetroot, toss in leafy greens like rocket, spinach or herbs like rosemary, tarragon or dill.
- Make a vinaigrette – I like balsamic vinegar and olive oil for this salad.
- Add some feta and serve.
Potato salad is one of the best things about summer.
- Start with a pot of cold water, add potatoes and eggs (I’m not sure why, but this results in better boiled potatoes and easier to peel eggs).
- Bring to the boil.
- Lift the eggs out after about 10 minutes. Leave the potatoes in until the tines of a fork slip smoothly through the potato. Try not to leave the potatoes in so long that their consistency gets mushy or floury.
- Drain, and let cool until you’re ready to eat.
- Chop the potato, peel and chop the eggs. Add preserved lemons, or cucumber pickle. Throw in some chopped walnuts and/or apple. Add some spring onion to the mix.
- Make a dressing. My favourite recipe uses a combination of mayonnaise, yoghurt, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, pickle brine and dill.
- Tuck in!
There’s also bean salads, Indonesian gado gado, quinoa salads and so many varieties of coleslaw this post could go on forever! I promise I’ll share more recipes in the future 🙂
Keep it raw
Of course, sometimes it’s just too hot to bother with cooking at all! I don’t make a lot of completely raw dinner meals so I’d love to hear what you make when you’re keeping things cool.
Green salad with cheese
Super hot? You probably don’t feel very hungry anyway then. Keep yourself hydrated with a hearty salad of salad leaves, herbs, edible flowers and mixed seeds. Sprinkle some cheese through and dress with a vinaigrette.
Rice paper rolls
Ok, so this one technically isn’t raw, but it’s pretty close.
- Boil water in an electric kettle. Pour boiling water over rice vermicelli noodles until they’re covered in water.
- Wait 5-10 min for the noodles to rehydrate, then drain.
- Pour the rest of the boiling water into a wide flat dish until it is an inch deep.
- Place a rice paper wrapper into the water (careful – it’s hot!).
- In a minute or two the wrapper will be pliable. Pull it out of the water and lay it flat on a bench.
- Place cooked noodles in the middle of the wrapper. Add grated or thinly sliced vegetables like zucchini/courgette, carrot, cabbage or avocado. Add any coriander/cilantro, vietnamese mint or common mint you have. Raw, marinated or cooked tofu goes well also.
- Wrap the rice paper like a burrito.
- Make up a dipping sauce with tamari and rice or white vinegar. A little sweet chilli sauce doesn’t go astray either.
This cold soup is something I look forward to every summer. It’s cool, tasty and reminds me of a funny moment in a British comedy I used to watch.
So tell me – what do you cook when the weather’s hot outside?