Apparently there is such a thing as a summer, or holiday, or even, my least favourite, capsule wardrobe. Not surprisingly, it consists of things you might wear in the sun, or on holiday. Women’s magazines (and newspapers; shame on them) are full of pictures of how to combine a kaftan and a bikini 15 ways so that you don’t need to pack anything else for a two-week holiday, and everyone will think you effortlessly chic and well dressed and not notice at all that you are only wearing three things.
Me, I don’t have such a wardrobe. Apart from anything, I rarely go on beach holidays, wouldn’t be seen dead in a kaftan (or, as I rapidly approach the end of my fifth decade far above my ‘target’ weight, a bikini…) and would rather pack a few extra things than learn how to tie yet another knot in a piece of fringed batik to make it into a skirt. What’s more, as a freelancer, I spend most of my summer at my desk, because it’s the busiest time in publishing and, this year, I have spent precisely £21 on one dress, no kaftans or bikinis in sight, and even then I only bought that so that I don’t go into the office wearing yet another item with holes in it.
However, though I roll my eyes every time I see an artfully laid-out spread in the middle of a magazine, showing me how a necklace is going to cover all ills on said overworn kaftan, I do appreciate the desire for a kit that works in all circumstances. In my case, though, it is kitchen kit.
In the summer, especially when we are lucky enough to have good weather like this year, and especially when I want to entertain without getting too hot and bothered, I don’t want to have to think too much about what I’m cooking. Food is very important to me, but not so important that I want to come home from work and spend the evening in the kitchen, rather than outside.
I want solutions. I want to know that a quick salad or chilled soup can be at hand in thirty minutes; I want fast fish recipes that make me feel healthy and fed at the same time; I want to make salsas for whatever comes off the barbecue and I want cocktails, snacks and desserts that dress everything else up when I’m making ‘dinner’ for others, not just ‘tea’ for myself.
Last weekend, a picnic for nine turned into one for 14 and, somehow, the loaves and fishes, from the starter to the pudding, stretched to feed everyone. It suddenly struck me how helpful it was to have six or seven things that work, for myself or for lots of people, that can be put on repeat. Like a kaftan. Or not. So I decided to steal the concept of the capsule wardrobe, and make it into a foodie thing instead. For the next few posts, I shall be sharing the swallows that are making my summer, from a cocktail to a new, favourite dessert.
First, rebujito, a Spanish cocktail with a mere three ingredients, four if you include ice. I first read about this in the Morito cookbook, and then, a couple of weeks ago, in Smoking Goat in London, had a version that used Thai basil. It is refreshing, light and much much easier than most cocktails: no shaking, chopping and barely any measuring. If you’ve never tried fino, then this is a perfect, gentle introduction. And, after a few of these, you won’t care what you’re wearing.
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
fresh mint or basil leaves
Fill a jug with equal parts fino and lemonade, mix well, then stir in lots of ice and mint. Best served in tumblers, so that you get plenty of ice and leaves in each glass.