The smell of wood smoke, the tang of fresh shellfish, the aroma of frying onions – smells and tastes can transport us to another place in an instant.
The best way to bring back amazing holiday memories (apart from a second holiday) is to tuck in to gorgeous holiday food. So, whether you’re stay-cationing this summer or you’re counting down the days to a holiday, imagine the sun on your back and cook up a laid back Mediterranean feast.
Sun hat optional.
France – Ratatouille
A quintessential dish from Provence that is simply bursting with sunshine. In France it is so loved it is often eaten as a main dish, but it’s a fantastic vegetable side, or add some passata to create a wonderful pasta sauce.
- 1 large aubergine
- 2 small courgette
- 2 red or yellow pepper
- 3 large ripe tomato
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp chopped mixed herbs (rosemary, basil, oregano and/or thyme)
- 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
Cut the aubergines, peppers and corgettes into 1.5cm chunks and scatter with the herb mixture.
Score a small cross on the base of each tomato, and submerge them in boiling water for a few minutes. Pour the hot water away and cover with cold water. Leave to cool, then peel, cut into quarters and discard the seeds.
Heat up half of the olive oil in a large pan and lightly cook the aubergine, corgette and pepper until they start to colour (5 minutes). Set aside on kitchen towel to drain any excess oil.
Cook the onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil until almost transparent, then add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Stir in the vinegar and sugar, then add the tomatoes. Return the remaining vegetables to the pan, season and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Spain – Paella
For a holiday vibe even on a busy Tuesday evening, look no further than SimplyCook’s Paella. You’ll get all that saffron flavour without having to have a pan the size of a small moon. For a truly authentic experience you could add rabbit and snails – Valencia here we come!
SimplyCook Spanish Paella kit, which includes Paella Paste, Saffron Seasoning and Paella Garnish
150g king prawns, peeled and cooked
50g chorizo, roughly chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
150g paella rice
1 red pepper, finely chopped
230g tin chopped tomatoes
2 boneless chicken thighs
100g frozen peas
Heat a little oil in a wide frying pan or shallow casserole over a medium-high heat. Fry the chicken (if using) until golden. Add the onion, pepper, chorizo and Paella Garnish and fry for 2-3 mins. Pour the chopped tomatoes in, mix well and fry for 2 more minutes.
Bring 600ml of water to the boil in a saucepan and mix in the Paella Paste to make a stock. To the frying pan add the rice, a splash of white wine and the Saffron Seasoning and stir well so the rice picks up lots of flavour.
Pour the stock into the paella pan and mix well. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and leave to cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
Add the prawns and peas, if using, to the pan, mixing them into the rice. Let it simmer for another 5 mins. Add 30ml of water if it’s looking dry, but a little crispiness at the bottom of the rice is a great thing.
Turkey – Gözleme
These cheesy flatbreads are the perfect lunchtime snack. They’re scarily moreish. Unless you have superhuman willpower, make more than you think you’ll need.
500g white bread flour
150g natural yoghurt
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tsp salt
10 spring onions, finely chopped
250g halloumi, grated
Large bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
3 red chillies, finely chopped, or a few teaspoonsful of biber salcasi paste if you can get it
Mix the flour, salt, yeast and yoghurt together with enough water to make a pretty wet dough. If you have a food mixer with a dough hook, consider using it for this wet dough. Knead the dough for five minutes then set aside to rest for an hour.
Divide the dough into about 10 equal portions, then roll out each one as thin as you can. Sprinkle one half with the spring onions, halloumi, mint and chilli (or smear with chilli paste if using). Fold over the unadorned side and squish the edges together to seal. Cook in a dry frying pan, turning over when the underside is browned. Eat greedily.
Italy – Seafood Risotto
There’s something very soothing about stirring a risotto. Yes, you need to give it a few minutes of your time, but it is very undemanding work. You can enjoy a glass of wine and set the world to rights while you slowly stir the rice to perfection.
SimplyCook Seafood Risotto kit, which includes White Wine Reduction, Citrus & Fennel Mix and Seafood Stock
1 onion, finely chopped
150g celery, finely chopped
150g Arborio risotto rice
200g mixed cooked seafood (prawns, squid rings, mussels)
Heat a tablespoonful oil in a non-stick, lidded pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and fry to let them soften but not colour (3-4 minutes). Meanwhile, bring 600ml water to boil in a pan and add the Seafood Stock. Mix well and keep on a low heat.
Melt 10g butter into the veg and stir in the Citrus & Fennel Mix. Add the rice and stir fry for 2 minutes. Add the White Wine Reduction along with a small splash of stock to stop anything sticking, and stir well.
Add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring occasionally and letting the stock absorb into the rice before adding another ladle-full. This process should take around 15 minutes over a medium low heat. (If you run out of stock but the rice isn’t quite ready, add 30-50ml more hot water.)
After 15 minutes, the stock should be absorbed and the rice should be almost ready, but should still have some bite. (For softer rice, cook for 5 minutes more before the next step.) Add the seafood, gently mix it in, then cover with a lid and let it cook over a low heat for 3-4 more minutes so the flavours can infuse.
Remove the lid, mix in a few knobs of butter and serve in large bowls. Grate over some lemon zest if you like, then quarter the lemon and squeeze the juice over the risotto. The last-minute hit of citrus freshness really brings the dish to life!
Now all that’s left to do is pour a few glasses of wine, switch on the patio heater and say “bon appétit, buen provecho, hadi yiyelim and buon appetito!”
Why not share a picture of your favourite holiday meal with us on social media? Just use the hashtag #SimplyCookAbroad!