I'd be the first to admit that I'm not really a Summer person. In the past I've been one of those people who take off Christmas and New Year then go straight back to work (read: the airconditioning!). This year I decided to take three weeks off to enjoy time with the kids at home and at various beach-residing family members' homes. Bliss.
It was so nice to see everyone exhale and relax after a busy year. For a few brief weeks life ceased to revolve around 'three square meals a day'. Instead, days were punctuated with any number of grazing sessions and snacks became an important part of our daily rhythm. The combination of time to spare and no airconditioning made using the oven an unattractive prospect (although a little baking was done on cooler days) and so we went out in search of delicious, fresh, seasonal ingredients.
On hot evenings and for lazy lunches we opted for simple salads made from whatever we could find in the fridge and pantry. My sister and I were particularly proud of our Spinach and Mango Salad with Feta and Almonds (above) which is great on its own but can also stand the addition of a little barbequed chicken or even sliced lamb sausages. We also discovered the joys of giant couscous and experimented with quinoa as a salad base although the kids are yet to be convinced on the latter.
Having time to make food for pleasure rather than just sustenance was also a joy especially for the kids. We had great success with our homemade icypoles. No need for a recipe just blended fruit combinations the most successful of which were Watermelon dotted with whole Strawberries; Mango and Strawberry Half and Halfs; Banana and Vanilla Yoghurt and, Pure Mango. The wait until they were frozen was a little agonising but so worth it. Edging closer towards instant gratification were the Strawberry Tulips (above) which I usually only make for parties but which the kids made and devoured before I even had a chance to taste one.
Alas, the lazy days of Summer are on the wane. The kids are back at school and we are back at work. 'What are we doing today?' has been replaced by the dreaded 'What's for dinner?' but I'm pleased to say the lessons learnt over our Summer break (eating healthy, fresh light meals; using what's already in the house; making new meals from leftovers) seems to have stuck so if the answer is 'a great little salad I've just whipped up', I'm much less likely to be confronted with sad faces.