Too hot to handle

Blimey, it’s warm. It’s not quite heatwave hot but I’m not built for this weather. Pale-skinned English rose that I am, I’ve long learned to shun the sun. It’s not that I dislike it but I prefer it in small doses, as does my colouring. Extreme temperatures do me no good (I’m useless in the winter, too) so it’s no wonder that I prefer the milder months of the spring and autumn. I’ve just finished reading Maggie O’Farrell’s unputdownable Instructions for a Heatwave (timely, eh?), which is set in the summer of 1976, the hottest on record for more than 350 years. It’s hard to imagine that, for two weeks, temperatures reached 32 degrees Celsius and the government had to appoint a Minister for Drought. Take note, climate change deniers.

In the novel, people do odd things, things that they normally wouldn’t. Heat gets to us in ways that we can’t explain and can make us act completely out of character. That’s what some people must be thinking about Nigella Lawson, who was criticised last week for posting a recipe of sliced tomatoes topped with homemade salad cream. Leave the poor woman alone. Sometimes the simplest things are the most delicious. And it’s far too hot to think properly at the moment. No one wants to be cooking, do they?

In that vein, I’m sharing my ‘recipe’ for a very simple salad which is light enough for a warm summer evening but also full of flavour. I made it one lunchtime last month when I was gripped by what I call freelancer fear – yeah, that’s a thing. It didn’t completely quell my anxiety but I think it did me some good. This salad’s colourful, crunchy and quick to make, and the dressing’s pretty dreamy, too. You can always add rice, quinoa or boiled new potatoes if you want a heartier meal.

Too hot to handle

Cheerful chickpea salad with nectarine and avocado

Serves 2

Ingredients

For the salad

1 can of chickpeas (400g), rinsed and drained

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin strips

2 small nectarines, sliced

1 large avocado, sliced

Half a cucumber, halved and cut into thin slices

For the dressing

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 lemon (juice)

1 tsp maple syrup

½ tsp cumin powder

A few leaves of fresh mint, finely slice

A pinch of salt

 

Method

This is so simple you could almost make it with your eyes shut – please don’t. Once you’ve sliced all the fruit and vegetables, assemble them on a plate. Make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl, mug or glass. Put the chickpeas in a bowl and mix through half of the dressing, then add to the rest of the salad. Pour over the remainder of the dressing and serve.

Mango tango

Hello there, British summer; it’s nice to have you back. After we moaned and groaned about the hottest heatwave since 1976, the skies are once again a shade of grey, making this Monday even more meh than usual. Thankfully I’m no longer working nine to five, but it’s still hard to get my act together after the weekend.

Now that I’m freelance, regular mealtimes have gone out of the window. It’s not that I’d ever forget to eat (as if) but sometimes after a late breakfast, I’ll get so engrossed in a piece of work that it gets to three o’clock and I’ll wonder why I’m so grouchy. A handful of nuts and dark chocolate and several strong coffees do not maketh a sustainable lunch.

This is where a tin of pulses and some veggies some in handy as you can use them to make a meal in mere minutes. You can knock up this stir fry faster than Theresa May running through a field of wheat.

I like to mix things up in the kitchen (I’m mad, me) so added a mango that was languishing in the fruit bowl. Use whatever needs using up but a bit of fruit adds a nice bit of sweetness to it. You can add rice (use the microwave type if you’re really starved of time) or noodles if you’re extra hungry.

speedy stir fry
Speedy stir fry with mango and avocado and a lime, chili and mint dressing

Speedy stir fry with mango and avocado and a lime, chili and mint dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

For the stir fry

1 head of cauliflower or broccoli, broken into florets

1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced

1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

1 tin of green or brown lentils, rinsed and drained

Large handful spinach

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

For the dressing

1 lime, juiced

1 red chili, finely chopped

A few fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

 

Method

Heat a large wok then add the sesame oil. After a minute, add the cauliflower or broccoli, spring onion and soy sauce and cook for 2 minutes. Add the lentils and the spinach and cook for another 2 minutes. To make the dressing, quickly mix together the lime juice, chilli and mint. Serve the stir fry in bowls and drizzle over the dressing.