I am a summer person. Despite my academic lifestyle and a never-ending list of hobbies, I am most content blissfully passed out on a sun-lounger by the local pool, letting the sun tan my skin as it crosses the sky, a book and an Aperol Spritz by my side. I spend most of the year complaining about the weather, but come summer I’m in my element, and it certainly helps that the season brings a glut of fresh produce. From Greek salads salty with feta and the complex flavour of cherries to the sweetness of a ripe courgette and an English scone brimming with jam and cream, summer food is undisputedly the best. Here are three recipes easy to make in the heat, but packing incredible flavour.
Lunch — Green salad with boiled eggs
I based this salad off a restaurant dish, but it’s evolved into something far superior. You can swap out most of the ingredients — asparagus for peas, rocket for spinach, or soft white cheese for the eggs. The only thing you absolutely need is the moreish dressing (I am known as the salad dressing expert in my family for good reason).
Ingredients (Serves 1 as a main)
- Dark green salad leaves (Go for those which have a distinctive flavour and soft texture such as spinach, rocket, or cress)
- Half an avocado, cubed
- A handful of green peas (fresh is best, but microwaved from frozen work fine too)
- Two eggs
- Salt, pepper, and smoked/plain paprika to season
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar
- Garlic powder
- Salt and pepper
Boil the eggs until medium-boiled, about 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together. The quantities are pretty irrelevant, just adjust for taste. I like to do this in a jam-jar so you can shake it, and keep any spare!
Toss the greens with the dressing in a bowl.
Once the eggs are cooked, peel and halve them. Top the salad with the eggs, and season them with salt, pepper, and smoked paprika.
Dinner — Italian tomato sauce
Italian cuisine is synonymous with summer — I consume inordinate amounts of aglio e olio, Caprese salad, and courgette fritti in these months, not to mention wine. This simple tomato sauce recipe grew out of experimenting with several recipes, and is eat-from-the-pan good, transporting you to the Tuscan vineyards or the canals of Venice.
Ingredients (Serves 4, with pasta)
- 800g peeled ripe tomatoes, or two 400g tins of Italian plum tomatoes (It’s best to buy whole tinned tomatoes rather than the chopped ones — invest in an authentic Italian brand rather than a basic range if you can!)
- Four-ish tablespoons of good quality olive oil (I usually just put a glug in)
- Four garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat of a knife, but not chopped (Four is a conservative estimate of how much actually goes in this sauce…)
- One large onion, peeled and halved
- Salt to taste
- Pasta, fresh basil, and parmesan to top
Gently heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Once hot, but not spitting, add the garlic and simmer until it begins to release its scent.
Add the tomatoes, a splash of water, and the halved onion. Stir, then add the sugar — I tend to add about two teaspoons to start, then add more for taste. This is to counteract the natural acidity of the tomatoes and bring out their flavour.
Once the sauce starts to bubble, turn it down to the lowest setting and leave to simmer, stirring and tasting occasionally. Don’t put a lid on or it will go bland. As it cooks, you might want to squash the tomatoes and garlic with the back of a wooden spoon.
Cook for approximately 50-90 minutes. The longer the cook time the stronger the flavour!
Once the sauce has simmered down and thickened, add salt. You could also add a splash of balsamic vinegar or red wine here to deepen the flavour. Remove the onion (the flavours will have infused — you can eat it if you want) and crush any garlic that hasn’t dissolved.
Cook pasta until al dente, adding a splash of pasta water to the sauce at the last minute. Plate immediately and top with fresh basil and parmesan.
Desert — White peach and raspberry crumble
No summer meal is complete without dessert, whether that’s honey-drizzled Greek yogurt, cobbler, or fresh strawberries and cream. This crumble uses two divine summer fruits, raspberries and the white peaches I wait expectantly for each year. It’s also so easy you can’t mess it up — and this comes from the person who has curdled a clafoutis and dropped a cake in the past week alone. The shortbread style topping works well with any other fruit — try apples and mincemeat in winter!
- 55g white or golden sugar —- I use caster or granulated, and adjust quantity depending on fruit sweetness
- 110g chilled butter, cubed
- 170g flour, or 155g flour and 15g ground almonds
- 4-5 white peaches, skins removed
- A punnet of raspberries, about 230g
- Additional sugar for fruit
- Optional fresh cream or yogurt to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Chop the peaches into bite-sized pieces, then toss with the raspberries, some sugar, and a splash of water in a oven-proof dish.
Rub the butter into the flour and ground almonds with your fingertips until it resembles a crumble mixture.
Stir in the sugar.
Top the fruit with a generous amount of crumble mix.
Bake for approximately 25 minutes until top is golden.
Serve hot, warm, or cold, with cream or yogurt if you fancy.
Image Credit: Timothy Vollmer