Nine chefs and food writers share their summer favourites

Sate your wanderlust and be transported from your kitchen to a place in the sun. Here, culinary experts including José Pizarro, Romy Gill and Asma Khan share the beloved summer flavours they’ll never forget.

By Ella Walker
Published 4 Jul 2020, 08:03 BST, Updated 15 Mar 2021, 16:39 GMT
Restaurante La Lonja in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Andalucia serves wonderful tomatoes with anchovies, with views stretching ...

Restaurante La Lonja in Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Andalucia serves wonderful tomatoes with anchovies, with views stretching out across the ocean.

Photograph by Stock Food

It might be the melting slush of a Calippo, the puckered tentacles of just-grilled octopus served on a plastic harbourside table, or the stain of pick-your-own strawberries down a white T-shirt, but some foods simply embody summer. Many of us will have postponed trips to warmer climes, but we can still incorporate inspiration from around the world into our cooking, and plan for when we can next enjoy a meal in a far-flung, sunny spot.

With that in mind, we asked chefs and food writers about their most beloved seasonal ingredients and the summer meals they’ll never forget. Olia Hercules recalls the colossal tomatoes her mother grows in the black soil of Ukraine, sliced into thick slabs and sprinkled with salt. Jack Stein admits he’s not a fan of barbecues, but give him a lobster and some mayonnaise and he’s happy — even better, a kebab and some Hawaiian surf. Restaurateur Asma Khan, meanwhile, hankers for the hot and humid clamour of street food in Kolkata, and Spanish chef José Pizarro yearns for the joy of a cold beer as the sun sets. 

So, forget the unpredictable weather and burnt sausages of a back-garden barbie — let yourself be transported to a table in the sun.

Love food and travel? Taste the world at the National Geographic Traveller Food Festival, our immersive culinary event taking place on 17-18 July 2021 at London’s Business Design Centre. Find out more and book your tickets.

Olia Hercules' new book, Summer Kitchens, delves into people, landscapes and recipes from her home, Ukraine.

Photograph by Joe Woodhouse

Olia Hercules

Author of Summer Kitchens

What summer dishes do you enjoy?
One of my favourites recently is like stuffed cabbage leaves, but using beetroot leaves. It’s the bit that usually gets thrown away, but actually it’s really delicious and quite similar to chard. I make it with mushrooms, chestnuts and loads of herbs, and cook it in a really light tomato sauce, then serve with sour cream. I also make sorrel and nettle soup, like a broth. Lots of summer vegetables — whatever you’ve got — and then sorrel for a sour note and nettles for an iron note. It’s really delicious and light.

Where’s the best place to dine in the sun?
Everybody thinks Ukraine is a really cold country, but it’s actually super-hot from April to October, and we normally do a big family picnic. There are pine forests not far from where my mum and dad live; we go by the riverbank, and dad would usually fish. Then, with the fish he catches, we’d have a big cauldron of stock over the fire, and we’d cook a fish broth. With the small fish, you make a stock; the bigger fish, you chop up and add at the end, with dill and garlic. It’s delicious with really good bread.

What’s summer like in Ukraine?
We’ve got this expression: ‘the pavement is melting’ — that’s how hot it gets. Extremely hot, but it also leads to gorgeous produce because we’ve got chernozem — black soil, where everything grows. My mum grows tomatoes that weigh about 700g each, plus aubergines and all of the stone fruits — amazing peaches and apricots. The tomatoes are full of flavour and we slice them into huge steaks, with just a little bit of salt and maybe some unrefined sunflower oil.

Why are outdoor kitchens popular in Ukraine?
Because of this heat. In the summer, in the past, people didn’t have air conditioning. So they’d build small structures, ventilated by opening all the doors and windows. The women would cook there all summer because it’s cooler, and you can keep your main house cleaner. Also, because so much preserving and fermentation happens in September — especially back in the day — that’s a semi-industrial operation. The summer kitchens become almost workshops, where you can have hundreds of jars.

In her cookbook, Romy Gill celebrates the zaika or 'flavours' of vegan Indian cooking.

Photograph by Kristy Young

Romy Gill

Broadcaster & author of Zaika: Vegan Recipes From India

Courgette flowers are one of my favourite summer ingredients. When I had the restaurant, Romy’s Kitchen [in Thornbury, Gloucestershire], we used to grow courgettes — lots of them — and we’d fill them up with different things, like paneer or leftover rice, and then shallow-fry them. Also French beans — l ferment them and cook them in a sabzi, an Indian vegetable dish. 

When it’s hot weather, people eat a lot of chillies in different parts of India, depending on which state you’re from — they say it cools you down. There’s a red chilli chutney made with garlic and lemon juice — beautiful.

I make lots of salads and I don’t waste anything — I use the tops of beetroots and radishes because they’re so beautiful with those crunchy leaves. I also like foraging, especially for elderflower — I make elderflower cordial fermented with spices: nigella seeds, or saffron and cardamom, and sometimes rose petals, which I grow in my garden. 

I always have beetroot, carrots and apples in my home and, after a run, if my husband is around, he makes me a carrot and beetroot juice. But I also like my gin and tonic, with 6 O’clock Gin, made in Thornbury.

This summer, I was due to do a couple of pop-ups in Greece, which I was excited about because the food is so different from the food in India, but also quite similar in that we’re very aware of seasoning and the influence of people from different parts of the country, and the world. I love Greek dishes, like moussaka; feta, olive and watermelon salad; grilled fish; and meat skewers.

For Vanessa Bolosier, nothing beats a friends-and-family barbecue, with cane sugar-smoked meat known as buccaneer.

Photograph by Danny North

Fuchsia Dunlop recently went back to the region where her culinary journey began, and added more than 50 new recipes to her original book. 

Photograph by Colin Bell

Fuchsia Dunlop

Author of The Food of Sichuan

Where will you be eating this summer?

I’ve spent most of the past year travelling around China, but I’m now back. I really like the English summer — swimming outside, eating in gardens. 

What are your favourite summer ingredients?
The highlight for me is summer fruit like strawberries and raspberries, peaches and apricots — and just eating them like that. And then tomatoes, to make tomato salad with basil. Chinese-wise, I really love broad beans, and they’re really quite seasonal still. I might make a Sichuanese salad with broad beans, or stir-fry them with spring onions, or there’s a lovely dish from Hangzhou, where you peel the beans and put them with a little bit of ham. That’s a real treat.

Where’s the best place to dine in the sun?
I went on a summer holiday to Barcelona a couple of years ago with my extended family, and we rented a big house there. One night, a small group of us went to a marina nearby. The restaurant — I can’t remember the name — had been recommended by a friend who lives there. It was really local and we had the most gorgeous seafood: lobsters and prawns, clams and paella. It was heavenly. Really good ingredients, during the late evening by the sea.

What would you serve for a summer Sichuanese feast?
If it’s hot weather, you don’t want to be slaving over a hot stove or stir-frying all evening. So, I’d do more cold, prepared dishes — cold chicken dishes, smacked cucumber salad, broad bean salads. Also cold noodles are really nice in the summer — a little bit spicy and a little bit sweet. There are some delicious ice-cold snacks too. One of them is called ‘ice jelly’ in English, and it’s a transparent jelly made from the seeds of the shoo-fly plant. It’s usually served with ground sugar syrup and a few crunchy nuts or sesame seeds on top. But the more hot and humid it is, the more chillies and Sichuan pepper you have to eat. If I’m in Sichuan in hot weather, I’ll be eating hotpot, which makes you pour with sweat and delirious with heat.

Martin Morales is the pioneer of Peruvian food in Britain.

Photograph by Wonderhatch

Martin Morales

Chef & author of Andina: The Heart of Peruvian Food

What are your favourite summer ingredients?
Blueberries are just phenomenal. So full of antioxidants, so nutritious. And there are various cocktails one could do. You could extract a really lovely juice and blend that with a little bit of lime juice, or maybe, if the fruit is quite acidic, just leave it as it is before adding a bit of honey. Then mix it with some really good aromatic vodka, tequila or pisco. You could go down the pisco sour route and add some egg white, or add some chickpea juice instead and shake it to give it a little froth.

What summer dishes do you enjoy?
Summer pudding, made with scraps of old bread and lots of different summer berries. It’s a cold dish prepared using a coulis of summer berries: raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. You can soak it and layer it up in a nice way. It’s delicious. I’m also a seafood nut — delicious prawns or sustainably sourced local catch. Summer is a time for outdoor cooking, and if you can use the outdoor grill for steaming, I like to do a whole fish, ideally steamed in some kind of container that you can wash and reuse. Put in some oyster sauce, ginger, garlic, pak choi, onion, a little bit of sesame oil and a little bit of chopped red chilli. When it comes out, make sure you’ve got your lime ready to squeeze all over it. 

Where’s the best place to dine in the sun?
I always remember having the most perfect day with my girlfriend — now wife — 15 years ago. Going to Barcelona, playing volleyball on the beach, then going to a
local cafe for garlic prawns on a hot summer’s day. There’s nothing like it, washed down
with a nice cold lager. A restaurant that’s very special to me, and perfect for a summer’s day, is La Rosa Náutica, in Lima. It’s on stilts on the beach; you’re on the Pacific, seagulls flying, the crashing of the waves. And you can see the surfers just three or four metres away as you’re eating the most delicious seafood and fish.

Olia Hercules's mother used to grow enormous tomatoes weighing about 700g each when she was growing up.

Photograph by Stock Food

Claude Bosi was practically born in the kitchen as his parents had a restaurant in Lyon where he grew up.

Photograph by Colin Bell

Claude Bosi

Chef-patron at Claude Bosi at Bibendum, London

Where’s the best place to dine in the sun? 
I have fond memories of the Amalfi Coast in 2010. We ate beautiful seasonal produce: tomato and mozzarella salad. It was magical; a terrace under vine leaves, and everything was perfect — the tomato was ripe, juicy and the right temperature, the mozzarella had beautiful acidity and sweetness with the buffalo milk, plus there were green olives and lots of basil. 

What other summer dishes do you enjoy?
Pissaladière [a Genoan take on pizza] and Greek salad — simple ingredients, always served with grilled or barbecued fish. 

What do you like to drink on a hot day?
Perrier and fresh lime, or a glass of rosé. 

What are your favourite summer ingredients?
Tomatoes, in a simple starter salad or gazpacho, or roasted tomatoes Provençal — a great garnish to a roast chicken served in the sun, with a glass of rosé. To finish, I’d make a tomato and strawberry sorbet, finished with olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar. 

José believes that tapas is for all, and that home cooks shouldn't be put off at the prospect of cooking lots of dishes.

Photograph by Justin Lambert

José Pizarro

Chef-owner of José Tapas Bar & Pizarro, London

Tomato is always on my menu — summer, for me, is tomatoes. I like a very cold gazpacho, just to have in the fridge. And a white gazpacho — ajo blanco — which is a cold soup made of almonds, bread and garlic. I also make a lot of seafood salads, like salpicón de marisco, and sliced tomato with extra virgin olive oil and salt.

Last summer, I was in Andalucia, at a lovely place called Restaurante La Lonja in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. The chef, Togo Perez, made an amazing black rice, which I ate sitting outside, watching the sea — it was beautiful. You have tuna, you have langoustines, you have tomatoes with anchovy. 

One of my other favourite restaurants is Casa Bigote [in Sanlúcar de Barrameda], where we saw the most incredible sunset. It’s where the river comes to end in the sea, looking over Doñana National Park. 

I try to go to Aracena, a town in Huelva, southwest Spain, almost every year. I love Restaurante José Vicente, where the specialities are made with seasonal vegetables and mushrooms and the best ibérico pork ribs; and Restaurante Jacarandá, in the same area, Higuera de la Sierra. 

UK summers aren’t so bad now, though. I like sitting outside with the barbecue, eating at amazing tapas bars, and I can feel the Spanish vibes. I love my sangria on a summer’s night. People often think it sounds tacky, but a good sangria made with good wine is incredible. That said, there’s nothing better than a cold beer.

Asma Khan loves every kind of lassi: the salty one, the sweet one and the mango one, when mangoes are in season. 

Photograph by Getty Images

Asma Khan's restaurant, Darjeeling Express, pays homage to her Mughlai ancestry as well as the busy streets of Calcutta, where she grew up. 

Photograph by Justin Lambert

Asma Khan

Chef-owner of Darjeeling Express, London

Where’s the best place to dine in the sun?
We eat a lot in the courtyard at my father’s house in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. And even though it’s quite hot, there’s something quite wonderful about sitting under the warm sun and eating yoghurt- and milk-based cooling dishes. So, when it’s hot you’re eating salads and raitas, with hot bread — paratha — with the whole family there. I grew up in Kolkata; in summer, you can’t really sit outside because of the humidity. Summer in the north of India is dry. It’s a dry heat, which allows you to sit outside because you’re not perspiring.

What do you like to drink in hot weather?
Lassi is still one of my absolute favourites — we have three kinds in my restaurant. I love every kind: the salty one, the sweet one and the mango one, when mangoes are in season. And traditional nimbu pani — Indian lemonade, made with fresh lime, with a touch of Himalayan rock salt and a bit of pepper and sugar. One of the things you lose when you perspire is salt. 

What are the mangoes like in India?
I think you get as good, if not better, mangoes in London now than you do in India, because the best quality is exported. You don’t get the variety, so what you get in the West is mangoes that travel well, that don’t bruise. So there are beautiful, beautiful mangoes that will never come to the West; you don’t even get them outside the region in which they’re grown.

What’s street food like in Kolkata?
Street food in Kolkata is dynamic, layered and dramatic. A lot of the people who eat it aren’t wealthy — it’s not trendy people turning up to have street food. They want bang for their buck. The textures, the flavour, the theatre is just incredible. The guy who’s serving will hit the spoon on the cover in a rhythmic beat to catch your attention because he wants you to look back, so he’ll beat out rhythms we all grew up listening to. It’s busy, so for someone to stop, you’ve got to either have an amazing aroma or a great display. I miss that magic.

Jack Stein, the middle son of world famous chef Rick Stein, says a passion for food was instilled in him from a young age.

Photograph by Paul Winch-Furness

Jack Stein

Chef Director of Rick Stein restaurants, southern England

What are your favourite summer ingredients and dishes?
Shellfish, because summer is when crab and lobster are quite plentiful down here in Cornwall. That’s the indication summer’s here. I’d eat them pretty much as they are: boiled lobster with mayonnaise, or grilled or boiled crab with mayonnaise. Something simple — you really don’t want to mess around with it too much. I always enjoy getting stuck in with my hands, sharing big platters of shellfish, with a glass of white wine. Also, light, Mediterranean-style food. Italian food is so good because it respects the ingredients, and summer is when we get as close as it’s possible to get to a Mediterranean climate for a couple of days, so we have great tomatoes and, obviously, shellfish. So I’d like a crab linguine with lemon juice and olive oil, and then some strawberries and Cornish clotted cream, please.

Where’s the best place to dine in the sun?
I went to Hawaii with Dad [Rick Stein] for his 70th birthday. We went to his friend’s house at Waimea Bay, which, for me as a surfer, is the best-looking piece of ocean you’ll ever see. There’s a tiny food truck there called Pupukea Grill, and they serve amazing things like poke, and raw tuna dishes. We sat on the corner of Waimea Bay; we had spicy tuna and then a doner kebab. I think that’s the best meal I’ve ever eaten while looking at the ocean.

What do you like to eat after a surf?
I’ve been going to Indonesia since I was about 18 and the go-to dish after a surf is nasi goreng. You can have vegetarian or chicken or whatever, but it’s a big bowl of spicy fried rice.

How do you feel about barbecues?
I hate barbecues. OK, it’s not that I hate them — as a chef, the barbecue comes out, and suddenly everyone’s a chef. So I step back and let them burn their sausages. I make side salads and ceviches. I put them on the table and everyone’s eating those as they watch the melee around the barbecue. I like to bring cold cooked lobsters, crabs, langoustines and mayonnaise and make that my contribution.

Watermelon goes particularly well with feta in a salad, or you can barbeque it to add a deliciously smoky flavour. 

Photograph by Stock Food

Half-Guadeloupian and half-Martiniquan, Vanessa Bolosier was born and brought up in Guadeloupe and was deeply immersed in the food culture of both islands. 

Photograph by Paloma Bartsch

Vanessa Bolosier

Author of Creole Kitchen

What are your favourite summer ingredients?
Summer, for me, is all about cantaloupe melons, watermelons, some berries — but I also have a soft spot for peaches. And, of course, I can’t live without my Caribbean summertime staples: acerola cherries, maracujás (which aren’t quite passion fruits), Malay apples and one of my faves, the mammea apricot. 

What summer dishes do you enjoy?
I’m all about dipping and preserving during summer. I love salads and salsas; I do a mean watermelon and feta salad, and a mango, bacon and turmeric syrup-glazed mixed-nut salad. I love a barbecue, so I also have a special guava glaze for anything that goes on a charcoal grill. Especially meat. 

Where’s the best place to dine in the sun? 
I’m obviously biased, but nothing beats a friends-and-family Caribbean sunset barbecue, with cane sugar-smoked meat (known as buccaneer) on the beach, at La Perle in Guadeloupe. Although, I went on holiday to Sri Lanka and the sunset there, with a few cocktails, came pretty close. One of my favourite places to eat is on Marie-Galante [a Guadeloupian island], where I ate freshly caught fish in a tiny restaurant with my feet in the sea. Fish doesn’t get fresher than that, and the island hasn’t yet been spoiled by tourism. I like simple food and beautiful scenery, so anywhere with a beautiful beach, breeze and fresh coconut water does it for me.

What’s dining like in the Caribbean?
In the Caribbean, we have two seasons: hot; and rainy. During the summer holidays, it’s loads of pool and beach parties and chilling at each other’s places. Trinidadians have a verb for it — it’s called ‘liming’. So lots of partying, always plenty of seafood, mainly grilled or in chowders, and street food when on the go between the beach, waterfalls or meeting friends and visiting family. Restaurant culture in the French Caribbean was inherited from French colonisation, so we do have a decent scene, but somehow it’s more attached to work and lunchtime than dinner. Summer is also for going on small boat rides and landing near beach festivals, with plenty of rum. 

What’s your ideal drink on a summer night?
Summer nights for me are all about lychee-, lime- and rum-based cocktails. They’re refreshing, light — and you can have a few. 

Love food and travel? Taste the world at the National Geographic Traveller Food Festival, our immersive culinary event taking place on 17-18 July 2021 at London’s Business Design Centre. Find out more and book your tickets.

Published in Issue 9 (summer 2020) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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