I know, I know – summer heatwaves have gone for good here in London. But summer isn’t officially over until next month, and I still hold a little hope that sunshine returns. The past few months have blessed me with many afternoons in the park, refreshing ice creams, and even a slight tan on my arms: not exactly a heavenly holiday at the seaside, but enough to remind me that summer in London is not all drizzle and grey skies.
It’s not like I’m missing home: where I come from, summer feels exactly like this. We rarely get sunshine for more than two weeks in a row; the rest of the time, it just keeps pouring down, an infernal string of rainy days that won’t stop at least until the following June. When it gets hot, though, it gets seriously hot. The kind of heat that makes you want to pack up all your belongings and move to the closest lido for the rest of your life; the stifling, atrocious heat that turns eating from pleasure to nightmare. I used to hate it when my mum fed me dreary bowls of salad instead than warm comfort food, but now that I know what it’s like to turn on the hob when there’s 30 degrees outside, I completely embrace her philosophy. Let’s face it: when the muggy weather strikes hard, the mere thought of dealing with long lists of ingredients and neverending cooking times is enough to put you off eating altogether.
Given last month’s temperatures, I’m sure you know exactly what I mean – so here are four of my favourite heatwave-defeating dishes, result of many experiments in the past couple of months. Savour the pleasure of preparing them in the blink of an eye, and eat them on your balcony, garden or nearest park, while soaking up the last rays of sunshine. They all make killer lunches to bring into work, so you don’t have to surrender to the tyranny of supermarket sandwiches either. Here’s to hoping September treats us to warmer weather, and more opportunities to enjoy these little delights.
You’ll like this if: You want a meal that’s effortless, visually stunning and full of flavour at the same time. If you’re having it at the office, prepare to face the incredulous stares of your colleagues, wondering how on earth you could carry a fine dining dish in a Tupperware box.
You’ll turn up your nose if: You’re really not keen to turn on your hob on a hot summer day. Hang on, though – I promise this is the only recipe that involves a burning stove!
My experience: I’ve refused to eat boiled potatoes for years, mindful of the flavourless, undercooked potato salads I tried my best to dodge at the school canteen. Thanks to this recipe‘s spot-on cooking times, I’m now a convert: potatoes are nothing but tender to the bite, making for a dish you can either serve cold on a scorching day, or warm when you’re in need of comfort food.
2. What’s Gaby Cooking’s Avocado Toast with Smoked Salmon
You’ll like this if: Avocado is a staple in your diet, and you’re looking for to add a new recipe to your collection. I know people who never made anything like this before, despite eating at least one avocado every day. Crazy, right?
You’ll turn up your nose if: You don’t get the hype about avocado; nothing more than a posh fad, and something you’d never think of putting in your food. I bet this will change your mind, but if you’re too afraid to lose the wager, I won’t judge you for chickening out!
My experience: I can only describe this recipe as a wonder of simplicity and taste; if you’re in a rush, or have to assemble a quick meal in your office kitchen, you can hardly find a better option. It is, of course, an ideal brunch dish, but if you’re like me, and don’t really do brunches, it will also make a fantastic lunch. Bonus points if you use a toasted bagel: so much more fulfilling.
3. Kalyn’s Kitchen’s White Bean Salad with Tuna and Parsley
You’ll like this if: You tend to forget about your packed lunch…until the very second before heading to work in the morning. Just pop to the supermarket and buy the ingredients on your way: I’d be surprised if making it took more than five minutes during your break.
You’ll turn up your nose if: You don’t like the idea of making an entire meal out of canned food.
My experience: Kalyn’s salad is light, filling and refreshing at the same time; absolutely great for a summer day. The key to its success lies in the combination of tuna and parsley with the delicate taste of the beans. I also like to add chopped spring onion, to make its flavour even bolder.
4. David Lebovitz’s Chickpea, Lemon and Mint Salad
You’ll like this if: You’re vegetarian, and beginning to wonder whether there’s anything in this post that you can eat. Here’s the reward for your patience, at last!
You’ll turn up your nose if: You can’t bear the thought of going meatless – not on Mondays, or Tuesdays, or ever. You’re better off not having this as your only course: try it as a side to a meat or fish main instead.
My experience: At first sight, you might mistake this chickpea salad for another bland desk lunch, made for no one but miserable, time-poor workers. Once you take the first forkful, though, you’ll find that it’s surprisingly filling, and that the lemon and mint dressing is as pleasantly refreshing as it’s simple and fuss-free. I happened to take this to the office on my birthday, and went from wishing I had thought of a fancier alternative, to feeling so sated I didn’t want any more food. You’ve heard that right – not even cake!