In theory, summer eating should be relaxing and refreshing – witness aspirational shots in magazines depicting folk enjoying fresh salads, grilled meats and cold drinks and you often find your mouth starting to water. But in reality, summer meals can get very boring very quickly. We can’t manage to fire up the barbeque every night (unless you’re really committed) and the thought of sausages and salad for the third time in a week soon becomes rather unappealing.
So what can you do to liven up those summer meals when you’re feeling a bit uninspired? I’ve complied some of my favourite stand-by summer ingredients that I return to again and again to add some flare to mid-week meals and bring a bit of joy to my summer eating…
Lemon and Garlic
I’ve put these two together for reasons that I shall explain in a little while. Lemon is an obvious ingredient in summer desserts, but I always have a couple of lemons on standby when I need a quick and easy way to add flavour to meat. And it follows that when I flavour meat with lemon, I always pair it with garlic because, for me, one without the other is unthinkable in this context. To make a marinade, I use the zest and juice of one lemon, combined with olive oil (enough to make a thick sauce you can baste with), two crushed garlic cloves, some salt and pepper, and perhaps some fresh thyme leaves if I have some to hand. You don’t need to marinate for too long – a minimum of twenty minutes, ideally – but if I’m short on time, I’ve often just brushed this on some pork chops before sticking them on the griddle pan.
Like I mentioned earlier, salads can be a bit boring, especially if you use the same lettuce, tomato, onion and cucumber concoction, day in, day out. Adding a few slices of beetroot can liven up proceedings without you having to buy a complete set of new ingredients, or use too much brain power if you’re exhausted. And let’s face it, we’re exhausted most of the time in the summer.
White Fish Fillets
In the hot weather, I crave fish, but I don’t find myself cooking it that often, mainly because of the price. Yes, good quality fish fillets can be expensive, but on those days when you want a change from the chicken or mince dishes, why not buy a packet or two of frozen fillets that you can dip into when you want without too much hassle (it’s just a case of having to remember to defrost them beforehand)? The easiest way to cook them is baking them in a foil parcel with your favourite seasoning (hello lemon and garlic!) and serve them with some new potatoes and perhaps my next favourite ingredient on the list…
In the summer, they’re not just for salad purposes – roast them with olive oil and seasoning for an excellent side dish or slow cook them on a very low temperature so you get something approximating a sun-dried variety. Excellent mixed with feta cheese and olives as yet another salad that won’t make your stomach groan in boredom.
What are your favourite summer stand-by ingredients that don’t require too much effort to prepare? Let’s see if we can get those fridges and cupboards stocked and add a little flare to our summer eating!