Bury St Edmunds CASA owner Maria Broadbent has some great ideas and recipes to keep us cool as the heat ramps up
Summer has dished up some rather challenging weather these last few weeks, and we felt on a number of occasions that we were in some far-flung holiday destination. It’s not the same though when you have to work.
There is no swimming pool and Pina Coladas are not de rigueur at 11am! On the upside, there are no flight cancellations, no queues at Dover, no jabs required and no stressing over expired passports or holiday insurance.
Listening to the Met Office it seems likely we may have many more hot days to come.
This means addressing how we cope with this change in our weather patterns.
Following a Mediterranean style of living is advisable where you can.
I resorted to getting up earlier to do the hotter jobs, taking a longer break in the afternoon (siesta time) and eating later when it had cooled down.
Getting the apartment cool overnight (and even leaving the restaurant air con on to draw the build-up of heat out of the building on the hottest of days) helped maintain lower indoor temperatures for ourselves, staff and guests.
It is worth remembering that wherever you are if air con is in operation, then all doors and windows need to be closed.
In fact, in Paris they have introduced fines for businesses who have air con or heating on and do not keep their doors closed.
This is both an environmental policy and fuel conservation/money-saving initiative.
Spare a thought for those of us in the kitchens as the heat is unavoidable. We invested in a garden sprinkler and used it in combo with fans to cool ourselves down. Even the delivery drivers availed themselves of it!
How else to keep cool and enjoy much of the sunshine? Hats of course and sunscreen, but also plenty of cold drinks and cotton, silk and linen clothes are always cooler – especially if you chose light colours to reflect the sun.
Once you are kitted out in chic summer clothes, sporting sunglasses and a stylish sun hat – what to do now, you ask?
Well, no one feels too much like cooking in the heat. Of course, I would suggest finding an attractive garden at a local restaurant or an air-conditioned indoor table and ordering yourself some chilled wine, a draught beer and some tapas. However, this is not an everyday option (even I get fed up with it sometimes). What is easy and appealing to do at home is perhaps a more helpful response from me.
Before the recipes themselves, think about the planning and organisation when the weather is hotter. Some points to note:
1. Food will go off much quicker in the warm temperatures,so get shopping put away immediately.
2. Fridges are more effective when there is air flow, conversely freezers are more efficient when well packed.
4. 3. Make bigger ice cubes or blocks to keep glasses and jugs of drinks cold and ice buckets for wine.
5. Vac-u-vin frozen wine sleeves help keep bottles of any type chilled for half an hour or so, that way you don’t have to keep getting up and opening the fridge.
6. Make food in larger quantities if using the hob or the oven – batch freeze and then you can simply heat up in the microwave.
7. Cook double or even triple pasta if it is popular in your household. Saves time, heat and money. Just rinse the spare in a colander under running water to stop further cooking. You can then simply heat up a sauce in the microwave (or on the hob) stir in the pasta and heat through. Or add tuna, mayonnaise and sweetcorn/chopped salad vegetables. Pesto works hot or cold with pasta (see recipe).
Toasters are a good way of adding something warm to your meal such as pitta, flatbread or toasted focaccia or just a chunk of tiger loaf. You can serve the pitta with dips and vegetables such as carrot sticks. This, followed by a yoghurt, is a great teatime treat and was my children’s favourite when they were small (in fact taramasalata, pitta and carrots still gets a good reception even though they are in their 30s – I just don’t need to make a vegetable face on the plate anymore!),
Other ideas for the ‘toast’ include a bruschetta-style topping such as tinned sardines mashed with pepper and a dash of vinegar, chopped tomatoes and olives, tapenade, panzanella salad and panna con tomate (see recipe).
Other ingredients worth doubling up when cooking are noodles, rice, couscous and potatoes – these all form a great base for a carb orientated salad. (See recipe for Vietnamese Prawn Noodle Salad).
No cook options tend to be pricier, but if you are entertaining then try platters of cold meats and cheese, antipasto style ingredients (or picky bits as many people like to call them).
Turning the oven on – use every shelf! So if you are roasting meat, add a tray of vegetables and even a traybake of sweet or savoury that can be portioned and go in the freezer.
Fresh fruit is always refreshing when the temperatures soar, experiment with fruit combinations such as halloumi and watermelon, smoked salmon and mango, pear and blue cheese.
Sandwiches are underrated in my opinion. From a humble, yet well-made egg and cress granary sandwich through to some of the more designer-style creations – the concept of eat anywhere and when you fancy food is ideal for the hot weather. Add crisps or veg sticks and a drink. . . lunch is served.
Get stuffed! Pitta, tortilla wraps, taco shells and folded flatbreads all make great ‘carriers’. I love pitta stuffed with leftovers. Cold meat, salad and the scrapings of a dip or a squirt of mayo. You can, of course, make your own version of a dirty kebab (that’s the greasy combo that you queue for at 2am after one too many drinks on a night out). The clean kebab is delicious even when you are sober, I am pleased to say.
VIETNAMESE PRAWN NOODLE SALAD
Gluten free, pescatarian, dairy free
Mix all the following ingredients into a large bowl:
50g peeled cooked prawns, defrosted and patted dry
5 crabsticks, cut in half lengthways and shredded
75g fine dried rice noodles, cooked as per packet instructions and rinsed in cold water
½ red pepper cut into as thin strips as your knife skills allow
2 spring onions cut into diagonal slices
½ carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
¼ cucumber, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander, leave out if you have anyone with the ‘coriander tastes like soap’ gene in your household
Put all of the following ingredients into a jar and give them a good shake – pour over the salad and mix again:
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime (about ½ a lime)
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1 teaspoon light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 teaspoon minced ginger (out of a jar or tube)
¼ fresh red chilli, finely chopped or a pinch of chilli flakes or ¼ teaspoon from a tube or jar of minced chilli
Sprinkle the top with 15g salted peanuts, roughly chopped
50g pine nuts
50g parmesan or vegetarian alternative
150ml olive oil – I would use pomace as it’s not so strong or we may need to order some mild Italian one for this?
2 garlic cloves
Heat a small frying pan over a low heat. Cook the pine nuts until golden, shaking occasionally. Put into a food processor with the basil, parmesan, olive oil and garlic cloves. Whizz until smooth, then season to taste.
PAN CON TOMATE
2 large ripe tomatoes
4 slices of rustic bread (this can be stale)
1 large garlic clove, peeled
Good quality olive oil (preferably Spanish)
Classic method: Cut the bread into chunky slices and brush with olive oil, toast in the oven.
Cheats method: Cut bread into chunky slices that will fit into your toaster (do NOT brush with oil) and toast.
Grate the tomatoes and put in a sieve to remove excess liquid.
Rub the warm bread with the garlic clove.
If you have used the toaster, brush with olive oil.
Spread the tomato on the top, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.
You are aiming for the bread to soften but not be soggy!
Summer Drink Suggestions
Pimms and Aperol Spritz make for really refreshing aperitifs. Don’t fancy the hassle of mixing, then how about a pink Cava or a glass of French Cremant?
My favourite wines for hot days are a Provencal Rosé, a Spanish Albarino or a Picpoul. Sangria is one of the better ways to enjoy red wine on a hot day. Be careful though, lemonade and ice make it taste like pop and very easy to drink!
Beers – there are some cracking ones out there including some excellent non-alcoholic versions. These low or no-alcohol options are great to make into a shandy, too.
Gin and tonic – What a selection there now is. Again, lower and no alcohol options are available. Boe peach and hibiscus is only 20 per cent and has so much flavour a single shot will take a whole bottle of tonic. Try it with hibiscus tonic and if you are feeling flash, you can buy hibiscus flowers that have been preserved in syrup as the garnish. For other fruit garnishes, to save waste, I would recommend frozen fruit. Blueberries in Brockmans, raspberries in raspberry gin and strawberries in Puerto de Indias or Bullards strawberry and black pepper gin.
Refreshing alcohol free suggestions include:
Jugs of elderflower cordial made with sparkling water and garnished with fresh mint.
Mocktails, such as sex on the beach made with orange juice, cranberry juice and peach juice, plus a squeeze of lime to give the sharpness that is missing from the vodka.
Low or no alcohol beers such as Heineken 00, Erdinger Wheat Beer and Adnams Ghost Ship are all popular.
Alcohol consumption in the heat
The obvious point is to make sure you drink plenty of water.
However, I also learned this week, watching an episode of QI that the reason it is recommended to eat before drinking has absolutely nothing to do with lining your stomach!
It is all to do with the rapidity at which the alcohol reaches your small intestine where the alcohol absorption peaks. If you have eaten a substantial meal before consuming alcohol, the small intestine will be busy with the food digestion.
As a result, the alcohol will sit in your stomach for longer and slow down the absorption.
This applies to sugary tonic versus slimline tonic. The need for the body to digest the sugar reduces the speed the alcohol gets into your bloodstream. You can play that rule depending on the results you wish to achieve.
Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds (01284 701313)