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Tony Tobin on cooling summer recipes

PUBLISHED: 21:14 14 May 2012 | UPDATED: 15:25 20 February 2013

Tony enjoying a chilled glass of Fresita

Tony enjoying a chilled glass of Fresita

In the latest installment of his Kitchen Diaries, celebrity chef Tony Tobin looks at how to stay cool in the kitchen

In the latest installment of his Kitchen Diaries, celebrity chef Tony Tobin looks at how to stay cool in the kitchen

Irony isn't an ingredient that's often found in kitchens, but I tasted it rich and thick recently when I overheard one of my staff tease another with the phrase: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

August is the month when chefs really can't stand the heat, but equally they can't get out of the kitchen! The combination of 90 degrees outside and 220 degrees radiating from nearby ovens is not for the faint hearted, but we just have to learn to live with it!

Now, technically, June 21 is Britain's 'midsummer' but August has always been the hottest month of the year. I know last year was different - April and August somehow got reversed - but usually it's the month when you guarantee at least one scorching day when the anchormen on the lunchtime news squeeze in a few minutes footage of melting tarmac pavements and chefs cooking fried eggs on the bonnets of cars. This latter phenomenon always makes me want to put on my best John Cleese Monty Python accent and shout: "Outdoors? cooking on the bonnet of a car? Luxury!"

The chef who is busy during August experiences a vocational challenge not dissimilar to those explorers we occasionally see in documentaries being lowered into active volcanoes.

Chilling out

I suspect this is why our culinary imaginations turn longingly to cold salads, chilled fruit, icy puddings and other incarnations of edible and quaffable coolness. We become overwhelmed with the desire to send dishes out of the kitchen that embody the temperature that we long for inside the kitchen.

Okay, enough whingeing Tony, it's hot in August... live with it! I picked up my pen to share a few summer thoughts with you and have ended up trying to extract sympathy for the toasty slog of the career chef. So, before I get too carried away, here are my summer tips.

First, cava. You can use champagne if you like but I'm going to advise against it because of what we're going to do next. Namely, blitz some wonderful English strawberries in a food processor, put the puree into a very cold fridge and later pour a few spoonfuls into champagne flutes before topping them up slowly with the contents of a good cold bottle of cava or even a Chilean sparkling wine.

If you can't be bothered or are too hot to make it, there's a fabulous ready-made version called Fresita that is very reasonably priced and incredibly refreshing. I serve it at The Dining Room in Reigate and it's decadent, tasty and massively more-ish! My advice when choosing your cava is to check the Sunday papers' wine sections because they're usually full of sub-10 bubbly recommendations at this time of year. Also, make sure you have a glass just as the hot August sun is setting over the horizon!

Second, try my Cheat's Coronation Chicken. I am almost embarrassed to reveal this particular summer sleight-of-hand but it's one of the easiest ways I know to create a great tasting summer Sunday lunch dish. Check out the box above for the recipe.

Getting fruity

Third, fruit... and I'm not just talking apples and bananas here but mangoes, peaches, kiwis, nectarines, Galia melons and - my personal favourite - papayas with lime juice. Just like bacon and eggs, Pimm's and lemonade, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, a ripe papaya and freshly squeezed lime go together just perfectly. When I treat my children to a summer tea outside, I give them half a large papaya each. Just cut it in half and scoop out the slightly alien-looking seeds and then, using a sharp knife, criss-cross the flesh with cuts that go right down to the skin. Then squeeze the juice of a whole fat lime into each half. The moist combination of sweet and sharp is as close to perfection as it gets!

Finally, homemade strawberry squash. I know I've already used strawberries above but England really does produce the tastiest strawberries in the world. You can always make them extra scrumptious by picking your own, too!

You make your squash with 300g of fresh strawberries, four tablespoons of fructose (Fruisana is the brand in supermarkets), pint of water and the juice of one lemon.


Mix together the strawberries, sugar and a third of the water. Puree the mixture in a liquidiser and strain through a sieve. Then place a muslin cloth over a bowl and pour all of the pulp on to it. When it has stopped dripping through, pour the other two thirds of the water on to the pulp to wash more of the pulp through. Finally, take the resulting bowl add the lemon juice and half a pint of iced water. Serve immediately or bottle it and keep it in the fridge.
The kids can have a glass when they get home from school, and it should instantly cheer and cool them. For the adults, put a bottle of vodka into a very cold fridge and mix a little into yours later in the evening with a sprig of fresh mint.

So, enjoy the heat and enjoy the chilled food and drink that you serve up. Remember, the nights will be drawing in soon and I'll be back to writing about hot comfort food and stews, so join me as I stop my moaning and start enjoying it all no matter how hot it gets.

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