When the sun’s out, keep lunch simple with dishes you can prepare in advance, from chicken and couscous to panna cotta.
A summer lunch should feel carefree and effortless. An assortment of dishes served cold or at room temperature, probably made earlier in the day. Perhaps the day before, brought to the table with very little fuss. (There is little worse than a cook arriving at the table hot and hassled.) I vote for one, and only one, dish that needs last-minute work. A plate of battered courgettes brought rustling from the kitchen or a dish of prawns tossed with butter, peas and dill. Even the dessert can be made first thing in the morning, or the previous night.
Prawns, peas and pasta
A plate of hot, plump prawns with melted butter and dill is a good, if rather expensive, summer lunch. I bring it down to earth with a little pasta to add body, and peas simply for their affinity with the shellfish. I suggest you ignore the large tiger prawns which are often tough and rarely sustainable, and head instead for chubby, shelled raw prawns, although I have a fancy to try this made with tiny brown shrimps, too.
cavatelli 250g, or other small pasta
peas 150g (podded weight)
raw prawns 400g large, shelled
olive oil 2 tbsp
dill a good handful, chopped
Bring a deep pan of water to the boil and salt it generously. Add the pasta, cook for about nine minutes until al dente, then drain.
While the pasta is cooking, roughly chop the peas. Cut the prawns in half down their backs. Melt the butter in a shallow pan, add the oil and then the prawns, letting them cook for two minutes till they curl and turn opaque.
Finely chop the dill fronds. Add the chopped peas, a seasoning of salt and black pepper then continue cooking for a minute or two before adding the drained pasta and dill.