What to eat when it’s boiling outside is a riddle. The heat has a way of stunting your appetite, but not eating can make dealing with the heat physically that much more taxing. While consuming your bodyweight in ice-cream – the only edible equivalent of a dive into the cold, cold sea – might feel sensible, science and India will tell you that a hot drink is what you need most. And when rail lines are threatening to buckle, using heat of any kind to cook a meal – or just boil the kettle – feels daft. We asked chefs from around the country for their tips on what to eat during a heatwave.
Chilled beetroot soup
Stephen Harris, The Sportsman, Seasalter
A chilled beetroot soup is light, vibrant and quick: sweat red onions and red cabbage until soft then add in raw beetroot, diced very small – to ensure quick cooking – then cook until soft (about five minutes). Cover with boiling water, then cool before blitzing in a blender, with a good dollop of soured cream. Chill until cold, season to taste with salt and lime juice and top with chopped chives and more soured cream to serve.
Pasta with raw tomato sauce
Stevie Parle, Palatino, Rotorino, Craft London and Pastaio, London
Quick-fry sliced garlic in olive oil, then turn off the heat and add finely chopped tomatoes and leave for 30 seconds. Stir in a handful of basil, roughly chopped, and season to taste. Toss through the pasta of your choice, finish with a drizzle of olive oil and – if you can face making them – a scattering of breadcrumbs.
Green salad with buttermilk dressing
Nicola Hordern, Darsham Nurseries Cafe, Darsham
My go-to is a salad of fridge-cold green leaves – little gem is a good choice – torn into biggish pieces, fresh peas, broad beans and radishes, with a dressing of fridge-cold buttermilk (or, in a pinch, yoghurt), which naturally has such a cooling flavour, seasoned with salt, pepper and lime or lemon juice. Served with sourdough bread and a glass of rosé. Light, fresh, cooling.
David Everitt Matthias, Le Champignon Sauvage, Cheltenham
Take a ripe pineapple – it must be ripe – and peel it, then place it in the freezer overnight. The next day, grate it, and you get an instant granita. Delicious with some chopped fresh mint or basil folded through it. Serve in a tall sundae glass with creme fraiche, some finely sliced fresh pineapple, a few sprigs of fresh mint and a sprinkling of palm sugar.
Spicy mango salad
Miles Kirby, Caravan, London
Spicy food cools you down by raising your core temperature and making you sweat: it causes your body to self-regulate. So, I’d opt for a Thai-style som tam salad: mix green mango and papaya, shredded, with lots of fresh coriander and peanuts. Dress with palm sugar, lots of red chilli, garlic, tomato and lots of lime juice, pounded together in a pestle and mortar to balance out the hot, sour, sweet and salty flavours.
Kate Hawkings, Bellita, Bristol
When it’s hot, we need more liquid and less alcohol, so a good, easy cocktail is something fortified – sherry, port, vermouth, Campari, martini – on the rocks, topped up with tonic water, soda, lemonade or a mix of all three, garnished with whatever you have to hand – a slice of orange or lemon, a sprig of mint or rosemary. For something very low-alcohol, tonic water with angostura bitters is great – the alcoholic content is minimal because you only need a few drops.
Vegan almond soup
Alex Jackson, Sardine, London
Whizz up some almonds in blender – either blanched or ground – to obtain a paste, then very slowly add water to get a smooth soup. Season with sherry vinegar, a little crushed garlic, a little olive oil and some salt. Ladle into bowls and top with fresh fruit – cherries, grapes or, my favourite, really cold sweet melon. Drizzle with olive oil to serve. It is vegan and beautifully cooling.
Artichokes, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes
Ollie Templeton, Carousel, London
Fresh, raw, good-quality veg, which is bountiful in farmers’ markets right now, keeps well at room temperature: try tomatoes, spring onions, shaved artichokes, green beans and lightly blanched broad beans with loads of fresh herbs, dressed half an hour before you eat with olive oil, salt, lemon juice and zest or, if tomatoes, some chardonnay vinegar. Very little prep, which means more time outdoors.
Pan-fried Dover sole with peas
Ryan Simpson, Orwell’s, Henley-on-Thames
Pan-fried dover sole – or blonde ray, an excellent alternative to skate – is delicious at this time of year. And the beauty of cooking fish in the heat is that it is so quick: 4 minutes on either side and you’re sorted. Fry it on the bone so it retains its moisture then flake and stir through a fresh garden-pea salad, with some finely sliced raw shallots, fresh goats cheese, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add in some finely sliced red chilli to spice it up a bit if you like, and a little crispy bacon, or cured ham.
Kohlrabi carpaccio and lemon verbena water
Gill Meller, River Cottage
You don’t need as much sustenance in the heat as you do in the cold, so fresh, green things are best – they’re satisfying, but also keep you feeling awake and light. And the most cooling veg is kohlrabi. Find a small one (red or white), peel it and slice very thinly. Lay out on a plate and dress with olive oil and lemon juice, then dot with fresh ricotta or – my favourite – sprouted puy lentils. And to drink, place sprigs of lemon verbena in a jug of ice-water. Beats lemon slices and cucumber hands down.
Nisha Katona, Mowgli’s Street Food, nationwide
The crucible of Indian eating is the constant heatwave – even in the winter, it’s hot. So, much of the food we make is geared towards cooling. One of the things my mother and grandmother always made me is lassi. Make the base mixing one part low-fat yoghurt with one part soy milk. Flavour with rose water, crushed green cardamom pods and pomegranate juice and season with a pinch of salt and some sugar, which realigns your electrolytes.
Courgettes with prosciutto
Anna Del Conte, food writer
Salad is an obvious choice, as is cured meat – both stand up well in the heat. In Italy, prosciutto is given to hospital patients: it’s very nutritious and highly digestible, which is also key when it’s very hot. If you are going to cook, it needs to be something very quick. I like to cook whole courgettes – the small, thin ones – very quickly in boiling water, with a little salt, for two minutes, then drain them and leave them to cool, before slicing them lengthways. I dress them with salsa verde – anchovy, parsley and min