Sat in bed, planning next month's crochet retreat, ignoring washing up and the steadily-mounting clothing piles strewn across the flat. I’ve been feeling the switch between filling, piping hot comfort food and fresh plates of fruit and salad even more keenly this year as I put together the menus for each retreat and find myself crossing out ideas for mash, pies and batter. Something lighter- more herbs, less oven. It’s no surprise plant-based foods really come to life in the summer. In winter I feel like I often get stuck cooking the same few curries, broths and roasts each weeknight. It’s about the theatre of the whole thing- plates brimming over with gravy and stuffing and one hundred different flavours. In summer, the right potato with the right amount of black pepper and dill is all you need. Or the cauliflower, parsley and almond salad Amelie used to make us.
London in summer is wonderful. As someone who was raised in the countryside, I really rarely bang on about this city- I get how exasperating it is. But there is something in that baking heat of the Tube. When you go for weeks without feeling wind in your hair, hearing bird song, seeing stars or slumps of waves against river banks, there’s something in that intensity it’s hard not to relish. My Aunt’s sun trap of a walled garden in Streatham, the puck-puck-puck from Wimbledon coverage providing the backing tracks. The local 24-hour shop owners heaving huge watermelon crates outside each morning. Twelve types of fizzy water sat in 10ft long fridges that stretch the entire length of the store. Bottled beer with the caps ripped off with lighters, because no-one, but no-one, will remember a bottle opener. Turkish pide bread. Winding our way to festivals in parks and sunburn on night buses and rooftop barbeques. These recipes are for those.
1. Tahini chopped salad with quinoa and beluga lentils
This is something I’d think of as a staple summer salad recipe. I’m always planning on keeping tahini dressing in the fridge so it’s ready for meals like these- so maybe this recipe is a good gateway to that. Chopped mint, lemon and lentils are a wonderful combination but definitely play about with the quinoa and tomatoes - courgettes, chickpeas and garlic work well too.
2. Lemon and sesame seed falafel
Most vegans in the UK probably have a go-to falafel recipe, and this is mine! If I’m headed to a BBQ I’ll make a batch of these ready to shove into bread rolls and wraps. Reading my notes from when this recipe was written- back in 2012- I’m reminded of how daunting things like BBQs and summer cook-outs can be when you’re a new vegan. These falafel are great if you don’t want to make a song and dance out of needing a separate grill, but I’d also say, if it’s appropriate, don’t be scared of asking for your own bit of the BBQ, or if you can heat all your vegan food first while the BBQ warms up. And remember to bring extra for the inevitable moment all the meat eaters decide they also want the vegan option!
3. Mini taco bowls with quinoa salad
If you’re looking for some quick party food for children or something involving a bit more effort than crisps and dip, these taco bowls are ideal. I made these up for Wayfair - you can read the full recipe on the Inspiration part of their website. All you need is a muffin tray and some wraps to turn into mini tacos- and children will love the transformation into wavy salad receptacles.
4. Courgette, pea, sweetcorn and potato tortillas
This is a very forgiving summer nights recipe. Perfect if you’re coming home a few beers deep and still planning on making lunch to take to work tomorrow. I love making these for midweek meals with friends because all you really need is one big pot to stick the filling into, and then you can heat your tortillas on a griddle and turn them into quesadillas. There’s nothing too fiddly, and yeah, a dollop of vegan cheese wouldn’t go amiss either if you’ve got it handy.
Like, who doesn’t need a stellar gazpacho in their fridge? This is the kind of recipe it’s great to have up your sleeve. You know, the kind of pragmatic, friends-of-the-world that have a knack with salad dressings and always bring flowers to dinner. I imagine a Millennial Charles Ryder learning gazpacho off by heart for all the times he turns up to find Sebastian Flyte complaining that there’s nothing in for lunch.
6. Amelie’s potato salad
The recipe for this potato salad is tucked away at the bottom of two summer tart ideas, which are good- but this salad is the BOMB. The first time I tried it, Amelie used purple potatoes so it was even more delicious. I went vegan thinking I’d never have proper potato salad again, and this recipe dicks all over that.
7. Dark chocolate mousse
Mousse pots are a good bet if you’re looking to skip any actual ‘baking’ in your baking. These use a helluva lot of chocolate but they’re so rich, and you can really tell. If you’re feeding a crowd after a big meal, you could easily halve the portions on this recipe- you only really need a tea cup’s worth per person.
8. Chipotle mushroom tacos
I’m always loathe to recommend a load of meat-replacement meal ideas for picnics and BBQs when the reality is that you’re on a self-catering holiday in Cornwall with your significant other’s entire family and only the local Spar for supplies. But what I would recommend is upping your spice and condiment game if you’re going away in the UK this summer. Bringing along a little tin of chipotle chillies, some vegan mayo or a seasoning jar (as Tsouni suggests in her guide to vegan camping post, here) can turn a pan of mushrooms and tomato sauce into a load of chipotle goodness with minimal effort. These tacos are great served alongside a huge leaf salad, flour tortillas and beers, and it also doubles up as a good vegan side dish to bring to a BBQ - you can stuff bread rolls with these and make a kinda vegan sloppy joe.
9. Summer rolls
Summer rolls taught me how to delegate and for that I will always be grateful. These are my favourite for pre-cinema snacking because you’ll be full enough on salad, tofu and sauces, but still have room for popcorn or corner shop pit stops on the way home. Especially if your way home involves Palm II’s samosas. I plan for this shit okay.
Anyway, where was I. These are gorgeous, Instagram-tastic creations that pals can actually chip in and help with. Eat as you go and you’ll have devoured a plate full of shredded fruits and salad before you know it.
So basically nice cream is your way of eating soft serve ice cream for breakfast, every day of summer. Apart from it's actually banana and yoghurt, no added sugar, and no guilt for *actually* eating ice cream every day of summer.
It may sound like a bit of a faff, but once you get into the habit of getting your nanas in the freezer, it pays off. It’s how I imagine stock broking to feel. Deferred rewards in your freezer.
You will need a food processor to make this, and I’d recommend blending it fresh each morning, like a smoothie, instead of in a batch.
The recipe for this is right at the end of a deep freeze post I made last summer, which I have to say works really well- I was living off those recipes until January! But if you only try one, try nice cream.
11. Marinated aubergine and capers
If aubergines are usually a no-go area for you, give this recipe a try this summer as a meat-replacement kinda dude. I’m constantly looking for one main show piece when I’m thinking about how to fit meals together- three salads don’t really have a focus, but add these aubergines and suddenly your plate will look complete. I say give them a try even if you’re not into aubergines, because I’m not a big fan, but with these flavours, they’re delicious. Light, fresh and rich all at once and they’ll also last until the next day’s lunch.
12. Potato croquettes
They might not be the first thing you think of to sit alongside tennis, Pimms and cool boxes, but potato croquettes are my FAVE way to soak up a summertime hangover when a smoothie or avocado toast just won’t cut it. Do yourself a favour and focus on potato croquettes, beans, and maybe some crusty bread so you can stick the whole lot in a sandwich. Instead of attempting a huge fry up that’ll just leave you hating the sight of your kitchen, these will soak up all the leftover alcohol and mean you can actually start behaving like a human being in a few hours. I’ll be making these for my Drunken Breakfast party pre-Field Day. I’m hoping they’re also great stomach lining fodder too.