A cool change: heatwave cookingFebruary 17, 2011
Well, the first real heatwave of the summer hit us with full force on the first weekend in February. I have never felt so hot in my life as I was that Saturday, when the temperature where we were, at beautiful Killcare just north of Sydney, reached 42 degrees Celsius (that’s over 107 F) for most of the day. According to the weather boffins, it was the sixth successive day that the Sydney area had reached sweltering 30-plus temperatures, representing the hottest week in 150 years. Pheeeew….
Sharing a beach house with some friends would appear to be the best thing to do on such a weekend, but that Saturday even the sea breezes worked like an oven’s fan. We swam, once or twice, but the sand was so hot the only way to deal with it was to run, full-pelt, with shoes on, to the water’s edge or risk significant burns to the feet. Then it was a matter of staying in the water for as long as possible, then doing the bolt back across the sand to the car. Our strategy for the rest of the day was to lie around in our bathers, periodically standing under a cold shower and not drying off until the heat forced us back into the shower.
At one stage we were forced to dress and visit the very sweet Hardys Bay RSL club for their air-conditioning, and though the aircon was struggling mightily, it helped for a couple of hours – despite even the club’s fridges breaking down because of the heat, they made do with buckets of ice for drinks. When we eventually made for home at around 6.30pm the car’s thermometer reported the air temp as a deliciously cool 37 degrees C!
Needless to say, not a lot of cooking took place that day. Luckily, very early that morning before things went crazyhot I had made a pea, cucumber, leek and mint soup, and left it chilling all day. We ate it late that night with cold cooked prawns plonked on top. I think it was possibly the only thing we could have eaten that day with any pleasure.
Not long afterwards, all four of us dragged mattresses and cushions outside to the wooden deck of our little house, doused ourselves from head to toe in mosquito repellent, set up two electric fans and pointed them at ourselves, and tried to sleep. Quite an adventure, and we provided much amusement for passing neighbours the next morning with our little war hospital on the front deck.
Then later that day, a cool change came gusting gloriously in, and we were saved.
What did you eat, if you were in similarly overheated dire straits that weekend? Or if you’re elsewhere in freezing climes, what have you cooked to fight the cold? Love to hear your extreme temp cooking stories.
Meanwhile, here’s the soup – try it next time it’s stinking hot.
Chilled leek, pea & cucumber soup with prawns
A cooling summer lunch or light supper. Unlike many cucumber soups, this one contains no cream but is quite filling. Serves 4
2 leeks, finely chopped
8 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, seeded & chopped
½ bunch dill, chopped
1 litre chicken stock
½ can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup frozen green peas
1 tablespoon chopped mint
12 cooked prawns, peeled (tails left on if desired)
Pepper & salt
- Fry leeks gently in olive oil till softened.
- Add cucumber & dill and cook for a few minutes.
- Add chicken stock, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.
- Remove from heat, add frozen peas – they will quickly soften & help cool the soup.
- Add cannellini beans.
- Puree soup with a stick blender or in food processor until smooth or desired consistency – can be rustically thick.
- Check seasoning – depending on the saltiness of the stock, salt may not be required.
- Cool and then chill in refrigerator for several hours. Can be served at room temperature, but is best served quite cold.
- To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with three prawns per bowl and scatter chopped mint over the dish.
To make this for Vegos, obviously, just skip the prawns and use veg instead of chicken stock. Very refreshing.