Iwrite this on the hottest day of the year so far. With the sun glaring through my window and the outside calling my name, a hot kitchen is the last thing on my mind. That’s not to be confused with food, of course, which is always on my mind. Luckily, today’s recipes are all about fresh, bright dishes that are cooling and soothing and involve very little actual cooking. Zesty lime and tomatoes, creamy cheese and summer fruit, sweet noodles and icy granita: cooling food to offset the scorching sun and temper the spirits with a proper summertime meal.
Not-your-average tomato salad (pictured above)
The punchy dressing, with its garlic, ginger and fish sauce, is what makes this salad so special. Use whatever mixture of tomatoes you can get your hands on, and serve alongside a range of other veg dishes to create a summer spread. If you want to make the salad vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, swap the fish sauce for a tablespoon and a half of soy sauce and adjust the seasoning to your liking.
Prep 20 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4 as a side
5 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
35g ginger, peeled and julienned
135ml olive oil
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
3-4 limes – zest finely grated, to get 1 tbsp, and juiced, to get 3 tbsp
2 tbsp fish sauce – check for gluten content, if need be (or, for vegetarians and vegans, 1½ tbsp light soy sauce)
2½ tbsp (10g) coriander leaves, roughly chopped
500g vine or heirloom tomatoes, cored and cut into 1.5cm thick slices
300g mixed cherry tomatoes (red, yellow, orange, black), cut in half lengthways
½ red onion, peeled and cut into thin rounds (60g net weight)
Put the garlic, ginger, oil and a half-teaspoon of flaked salt in a small saute pan, set it over a medium-low heat and cook gently, swirling the pan every now and then, for 20-25 minutes, until the solids are lightly golden. Strain through a sieve set over a bowl to catch the oil, then leave the oil to cool for about 10 minutes. Transfer the solids to a plate lined with absorbent paper, where they will crisp up further.
Once the oil has cooled a little, use a fork to whisk in the lime zest and juice, fish sauce and coriander.
Gently toss all the tomatoes with a teaspoon of flaked salt and a generous grind of pepper, then arrange on a platter with the sliced red onion, so everything sits in a single layer and overlaps slightly. Spoon over the dressing, scatter on the crisp ginger and garlic, and serve right away.
Melon and mozzarella salad with pumpkin seeds, basil and mint
Watermelon and feta is a classic combination, but honeydew also goes wonderfully well with feta (or mozzarella, so use whichever you prefer). The caramelised pumpkin seeds are a great recipe in their own right. Triple the amounts and keep the excess in a glass jar, ready to sprinkle on salads, toast or just to snack on.
Prep 20 min
Cook 30 min
1 large banana shallot, peeled and cut into thin rounds
2 lemons – zest finely grated, to get ½ tsp, and juiced, to get 60ml
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
50g pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp maple syrup
60ml olive oil
10 basil leaves, washed and patted dry
2½-3 tbsp (10g) mint leaves, washed and patted dry
1 ripe honeydew melon, peeled, halved, deseeded and cut into 4cm chunks
200g buffalo mozzarella (or feta), roughly torn into chunks
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. In a small bowl, mix the shallots with the lemon juice and a good pinch of flaked salt.
In a second bowl, mix the pumpkin seeds with the maple syrup, a good grind of pepper and a pinch of salt. Spread out on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper, then roast for 15 minutes, until crisp. Remove, sprinkle with more flaked salt and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, put the oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high heat and, once hot, add the basil and mint leaves and fry, swirling the pan constantly, for a minute, until crisp and fragrant. Strain through a sieve set over a small bowl, and reserve the oil and crisp leaves separately. Sprinkle the herbs with flaked salt.
Arrange the melon and mozzarella (or feta) on a platter. Drizzle over the aromatic oil, then cover with the shallots and lemon juice mixture. Finish with the lemon zest, fried herbs and pumpkin seeds, and serve.
Lime, mint and pomegranate faloodeh
Faloodeh is a popular Persian dessert made with vermicelli and a frozen syrup. Sweet noodles might seem strange to some, but trust me, these cold, sweet and refreshing all at once, and just the thing for a hot day. Get ahead by cooking the noodles and making the granita and syrup the day before, then put them together quickly just before serving.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
Freeze 6 hr+
220g caster sugar
5-6 tbsp (20g) mint, leaves and sprigs
150 lime juice
100g dried vermicelli rice noodles – I use Thai Taste’s
For the syrup
200ml pomegranate juice (unsweetened)
1 tbsp caster sugar
1½ tsp good-quality rosewater
3 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 large lime – zest finely grated, to get 1½ tsp, then cut into 6 wedges
Put the sugar, mint and water in a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then add the lime juice and leave to cool completely. Strain into a container, discarding the solids, then cover and freeze for about two hours. Use a fork to scrape at the half-frozen mixture, bringing the more frozen edges into the centre, then return to the freezer and repeat, scraping at the mixture every half-hour or so, for four more hours. You should end up with a snowflake-like granita.
Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil, then cook the noodles for six minutes, or until very soft (you want to overcook them a little). Drain, use a pair of scissors to cut the noodles roughly in half, then store in the fridge.
For the pomegranate syrup, put the juice and sugar in a medium saucepan on a medium heat, and cook for 20-25 minutes, until reduced to the consistency of maple syrup. Stir in the rosewater and leave to cool.
When you are almost ready to serve up, fill a large bowl with cold water and plenty of ice, drop in the cooked vermicelli, and return to the fridge for about 10 minutes, so the noodles get very cold.
Remove the lime granita from the fridge about five to 10 minutes before you want to serve, scraping at it again with a fork, to increase that snowflake effect.
Working quickly now, drain the noodles, wipe out the bowl to dry, then return the noodles to it with half the granita, and toss well to combine – some of the noodles will start to solidify a little in the cold of the granita, which is what you want. Divide between six small glass bowls or martini glasses, and top with the remaining granita. Drizzle a spoonful of the syrup over each serving, sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and lime zest, and serve with the lime wedges for squeezing on top.