June 10, 2023


Food loaded for bear

Easy no-cook dishes for a dinner without the oven

There have been many times this summer when my youngest has come into the kitchen and asked, ‘What’s for dinner, Mum?’, and I’ve said, ‘I don’t know. I’m not making any.’ Times when it’s been so hot I don’t want to apply heat to a single food. Even though many turn to griddling in such weather, I can’t bear the idea of standing there, turning fillets of chicken thigh as they spit tiny droplets of fat and my brow gets damper.

When the temperature goes above 32C, I’m like a toddler who needs a nap: grumpy, out of sorts. I don’t even want to look for ingredients. When I can’t find exactly what I need in the deep recesses of the spice drawer (it’s badly designed – like a sarcophagus for ancient powders and flaking cinnamon sticks), I angrily push it shut and decide to have fruit, cold from the fridge.

I consider friends who come from warmer climes, those who grew up in Delhi or Sicily or lived for years in Jerusalem. They keep cooking. It’s not surprising, being from Northern Ireland, that I’ve never got used to extreme heat. Even in hot summers – 1976, the year of endless ice lollies and calamine lotion – our days were spent in the bracing Atlantic. In the evening our faces stung, but by then a cool breeze was working its magic.

If you make yourself think about it, though, there are a lot of dishes that can be prepared by stirring, chopping or assembling. Food processors and blenders come into their own, and not just for whizzing cold soups. I can make one of my favourite openers, anchoiade with radishes (plus hard-boiled eggs, if I can bear to put a pan of water on) by just pulsing together anchovies, olives, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, thyme and a drop of brandy. Then there’s crab to buy, paper parcels of hot smoked salmon to unwrap, tins of rich fatty tuna belly to open. I rarely do it but I’m not averse to buying the odd roast chicken (though it must be whole – slices are always dry).