Summer Cooking: Simple Steps For Spectacular Results - The Gloss Magazine

Summer Cooking: Simple Steps For Spectacular Results

Kitty Coles cooks with minimum effort and maximum magic…

Summer has sort of arrived (it took a while!), and with it ripe tomatoes, juicy fruits and fresh, zingy flavours. Fruit and veg shops suddenly feel a little fuller, with ingredients that are best with very little done to them, the kind of cooking where a few steps go a long way, my favourite kind of cooking. This is the moment where a sliced tomato, seasoned with salt, left to sit for 15 minutes, then drizzled with olive oil, could be the best thing you eat this week. Since summer is the season for naturally good produce, and doing as little as possible to it, I have a few tricks up my sleeve – lemons, homemade stock, breadcrumbs and onions – and a good grater.


If I were about to be cast away on a desert island and had to choose one thing to take, it would be a lemon tree. I imagine myself filleting a fish and making ceviche by thinly slicing the flesh and drenching it in lemon juice and the sea salt I’ve harvested, or grilling it over a fire with lemon leaves, then finishing it with lemon juice. I could even use my lemon to clean my “station” afterwards!

A lemon is the key to the best simple summer cooking. My parents have lemon trees in their garden in Mallorca so I can just walk out of the kitchen to pick one from a tree. In Mallorca there are huge grill houses that just serve grilled meats, salads and chips –that’s it. Whether chicken, lamb, steak, or pork chop, you will always be given a slice of lemon. A little bit of acidity with the rich and salty meat makes it taste so flavourful. Next time you’re having a barbecue, serve the meat with a squeeze of lemon and see what you think. Other ways to lemon-ise your food in June? Dress a platter of grilled courgettes with lemon juice and olive oil or serve prawns with a lemony mayonnaise for dipping.


 I am consumed by making my own chicken and vegetable stocks, which of course make a huge difference to everyday cooking. I grew up in a house my friends described as “always smelling like soup” and my dad is never not making a pot. If he sees any scraps of bone/prawn shell/ vegetable peel, he will scoop it up and there will be a stock bubbling by the afternoon. No wonder his freezer space is under pressure.


Texture plays a huge part in how we enjoy food. I have a few texture go-tos in my kitchen, breadcrumbs chief among them. Other than the obvious uses for breading fish or chicken, I toast homemade breadcrumbs or shop-bought panko with garlic and olive oil for a pangrattato-style topping for pasta, vegetables or salad. Then there’s crunch. Shocking sliced veg like spring onions, herbs, radishes, cabbage or cucumber in an ice bath before eating them can enhance their crunch dramatically. I’m the biggest crispy chicken skin fan ever: always buy chicken with the skin on. Searing the skin until golden brown is a simple and effective way of achieving texture and flavour in one. The same goes for fish. Finish with lemon, of course!


When I see a recipe that instructs me to “cook onions for 2-3 minutes until soft” it annoys me. I’ve never known an onion to be cooked in 2-3 minutes (unless you’re looking for a pale, translucent one for a risotto). The more love, time and effort you put into cooking onions before adding the other ingredients, the better the final dish will be. Try gently frying sliced onions for 20 minutes with butter until soft and jammy, finishing with a dash of soy sauce or Lea and Perrins, then pile onto toast with optional cheddar or parmesan on top.


My friend Milli Taylor, head of food at Ottolenghi, champions confit garlic (garlic roasted slowly in oil, which minimises browning to yield a sweet, mellow garlic flavour), and pickled Japanese radishes: “There aren’t many dinners in my repertoire that don’t benefit from a couple of confit garlic cloves. However laborious and long it feels to peel individual garlic cloves, they tastes a million times better than the readymade ones. I would also feel lost without a jar of Japanese pickled radishes in my fridge door. Use 2:1 sugar to rice vinegar, and add a little salt to taste, simmer it all in a pan, let cool, slice the radishes and seal it all in a jar. They are ready the next day but will keep for weeks. I pop them on rice, noodles, salads, and always serve with a fatty meat like pork.”


A note on grating and zesting. A Microplane grater is the handiest kitchen tool: zest lemons and limes, grate light dustings of Parmesan or finely grate garlic, ginger or nutmeg. Owning a Microplane can seriously impact the flavour of your food. Trust me! @kittycoles


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