When it's hot outside, the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time in the kitchen. These recipes are for fast and easy-to-make dishes that require very little (if any) cooking.
Anya von Bremzen's gazpacho (pictured)
When I cook at home, I improvise a lot - recipes usually serve as a rough guideline. For this gazpacho, though, I very closely followed the recipe in The New Spanish Table, by Anya von Bremzen; although I did change some of the measurements (from unit and volume to weights) and adapt the ingredients to what's easily available in Hong Kong. It's a delicious, refreshing soup with balanced flavours. Be sure to serve it very cold.
For the bread (in the soup and for the croutons), use good-quality baguette or country-style loaf, with the crusts removed. Don't use soft "sandwich bread". For the tomatoes, use the small local grape or pear-shaped types that are sold from fruit vendors.
80 grams bread, with crusts removed, sliced and left out overnight to dry slightly
2 medium-sized garlic cloves
1/8 tsp cumin seeds
1.5kg small red tomatoes
180-200 grams Japanese cucumbers
50 grams green banana pepper
150 grams red bell pepper
50 grams chopped red onion
120ml extra-virgin olive oil
About 45ml aged sherry vinegar
Fine sea salt
For the garnish:
20 grams sliced bread
About 50ml extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed, divided
1 small Japanese cucumber, about 100 grams
About 100 grams small red tomatoes
½ Granny Smith apple, peeled
Put the sliced bread into a bowl and add enough cold water to cover. Leave for 10 minutes, or until the bread is completely saturated, then squeeze out the excess moisture. In a mortar, crush the garlic with the cumin seeds and half a teaspoon of salt, then mix this paste with the tomatoes, cucumbers, banana pepper, bell pepper, red onion and the soaked bread. Purée this in a food processor (in batches, if necessary). With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, then put the mixture into a bowl. Whisk in the sherry vinegar and some salt to taste, then about 125ml of cold filtered water, to thin the mixture to soup consistency. Refrigerate the mixture until it's very cold.
While the soup is chilling, prepare the garnishes. Finely dice the cucumber, tomatoes and apple. Cut the bread into tiny cubes, then put them in a small skillet with about 30ml of olive oil. Stir the ingredients together and add more olive oil if needed to lightly coat the bread. Toast the croutons over a low flame until crisp and pale golden, stirring often, and adding more olive oil as needed.
When ready to serve, taste the gazpacho and add more salt and vinegar if needed (cold mutes the seasonings). Ladle the gazpacho into shallow bowls. Top each portion with cucumber, tomatoes, apple and croutons, then drizzle with a little more extra-virgin olive oil.
Gai see fun pei
I make this cold Shanghainese dish with salt-baked or soy sauce chicken purchased from the siu mei shop. Buy half a chicken, and don't let the butcher chop it up, so you can hand-shred the meat.
Fun pei is mung bean "skin". You can buy it fresh (in thin, lightly oiled rolled-up sheets) or dried, which comes flat in packets. You can use either type for this recipe.
½ a salt-baked or soy sauce chicken
1 Japanese cucumber, about 100 grams
60 grams Chinese sesame paste
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
About 10ml soy sauce
About 5ml light soy sauce
1 tsp honey, or to taste
About 10ml rice wine vinegar
10ml Chinese sesame oil
300 grams fun pei
Fresh coriander sprigs
Sesame seeds (preferably a mixture of black and white ones), for sprinkling
Tear the chicken meat and skin from the carcass. Shred the meat into long, fine strands, and cut the skin into thin strips. Julienne the cucumber.
Mix the sesame paste with the garlic, soy sauces, honey, vinegar and sesame oil. Dip a piece of chicken into the sauce to check the seasonings, and adjust, if necessary. Add warm water to the sauce to thin it out slightly.
If using fresh fun pei, cut the rolls into 1cm-wide pieces then put them into a bowl and add warm water to cover. Drain them, then unroll the coils. Put the noodle strips back into the bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for a few minutes, or until they're soft and translucent. Drain the noodles then rinse with cold water and drain again. If using dried fun pei, pour boiling water into a large bowl or pan. Submerge the noodle sheets slowly (they're brittle when dry) - push them into the water as they start to soften. When the sheets are soft and translucent, take them out of the water and stack them on top of each other. Roll the stack loosely then cut it into 1cm-wide pieces. Unroll the coils and separate the noodles so they don't stick together.
Spread the fun pei on a serving plate and top with the cucumber and chicken. Spoon the sauce on top, then add the coriander sprigs and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Mix all the ingredients together and serve immediately.
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