Substantial summer meals that won’t leave you red in the face

These nutritious meals have one thing in common – no slaving over a hot oven

Domni Kemp’s cucumber soup, and mackerel, mustard, spinach and lemon salad. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Domni Kemp’s cucumber soup, and mackerel, mustard, spinach and lemon salad. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Like the mysterious Irish heatwave, simple, tasty summer food can prove elusive. On those occasions when the weather is warm, however, the last thing we feel like doing is getting red-faced and overheated in the kitchen, which is why salads and cold foods are so attractive.

But how do we manage one of the the home cook’s greatest balancing acts: to produce the best of this kind of grub while ensuring it feels substantial enough to be regarded, especially by your critics, the family, as a proper meal?

While I hate to admit it, the average Irish male, and quite a few females, too, regard salad as, well, a bit lightweight, more of a side dish, a starter, a culinary consolation prize. In short, underwhelming in terms of satisfaction.

In reality, a truly great salad is a wonderful thing, a clever mix of flavours and textures. Salade Niçoise or, my all-time favourite, the Caesar salad, are familiar examples, and there are plenty more I can think of but this column isn’t long enough.

If you hadn’t noticed, I am a huge fan of salads, warm or cold. I love that they often simplify preparations, while delivering the goods when it comes to tastiness and nutrition.

My challenge this week, was to produce some summer food that is satisfying, simple to prepare and nutritious. My first effort is a cool, and cooling, cucumber soup. This is not one for the kids, I know, but it is lovely as a light lunch or supper, and is also elegant enough to serve at a smart lunch with your pals. The fresh herbs give it real zing, and the healthy fats in the almonds, yoghurt and walnuts make it properly filling.

The other dish is, yup, a salad. My recipes lately have focused on reducing processed carbs, but I cannot resist the seasonal joys of Irish new potatoes (in moderate portions,of course), which is why they feature here, alongside shards of smoked mackerel and a mustard-laden dressing. Spuds, mackerel and mustard are a match made in heaven. Add a flurry of baby spinach leaves, bursting with iron and nutrients, and you have the ideal recipe.

As a finishing touch, the whole thing is then lightly dusted with lemon zest. I recently bought a Microplane so have been scraping this and that onto every dish. I’ll be over it soon, so bear with me and the flurry of lemon zest.

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