What Do You Cook When It’s Too Damn Hot, And Other Resourceful Questions We Asked Chefs

By Maggie Wicks
Photo / Babiche Martens

If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. We asked top New Zealand chefs and food lovers to share their advice on summer dining.

What are the best things to cook on the barbecue this summer?

I know it’s as clichéd as they come, but I do Don’t be stingy and get the small ones — they’ll overcook if they don’t fall through the grill. My advice is to cook nothing smaller than 21/25, and preferably a 16/20 or 13/15. All prawns come with a size guide. The larger the number, the smaller the prawn. The number refers to the average number of prawns per pound — so in a box of 21/25 you will have 21 to 25 prawns per pound or 454g. Prepare a simple marinade (ginger, garlic, sweet chilli, soy and fish sauce) and a herby garnish to finish. Remember, the prawn already has great flavour, you just want to enhance and lift that without smothering it. Geoff Ngan, Shed 5

We’re big fans of a slow marinade and a quick cook. A beef, lamb, or venison fillet marinated with olive oil, smoked paprika and crushed garlic, a glug of Pedro Ximenez and Pedro Ximenez vinegar, then fired on the barbecue and served with a quick salsa, barbecued corn and broccoli. Rebecca Smidt and Darius Lolaiy, Cazador

Try barbecuing your veges or cooking your bread in a skillet or on coals. Also, barbecue your tomatoes, zucchini or asparagus. Enjoy freshness rather than meat sweats. Andrea Marseglia, Bar Teresa

Everyone in our house looks forward to December for corn to come into season. We must go through 8-10 a week, grilled then rubbed with a cheek of lemon and some chilli salt. Sid Sahrawat, Cassia, Sid at The French Café and KOL.

Lemons, olive oil, garlic, chilli and parsley will feature in almost every meal. On top of chicken, fish and shellfish in varying combinations. Sam Clark, Central Fire Station

Butterflied legs of lamb, rubbed 24 hours in advance with a Thai-style curry paste. Mix it with olive oil and lemon juice and plenty of chopped fresh coriander. Cook over the low-heat part of the barbecue until rare in the middle, then blast it on a hot part to caramelise the meat and add that extra flavour. Peter Gordon, Homeland

What are your best barbecue tips for home grillers?

Never have flames under your food if you can avoid them — they taint the food. Keep a plant mister spray bottle handy to dampen any flames. Have one part of the barbecue hot and one medium. Peter Gordon, Homeland

Allow meat to finish on the resting rack — a lot of cooks underestimate the quality of heat in that space of the barbecue. Once the initial searing of the meat is done and you’ve got that perfect crispy/grilled texture, pop that meat up onto that rack and allow the heat to finish the cooking — you’ll be surprised how much heat is up on that suspended rack. Geoff Ngan, Shed 5

You’re hosting, but it’s way too hot to cook. What do you serve?

Crayfish rolls, charcuterie platters and cocktails. In summer we will often forgo a meal for charcuterie platters and cheese, and just graze all afternoon sitting outdoors. Sid Sahrawat, Cassia, Sid at The French Café and KOL

Crudo or raw fish with a refreshing dressing is a winner every time. Especially if you know someone with a boat, so you can get your hands on freshly caught fish. Glen File, Onslow

Throw together a quick steak tartare. Add capers, gherkins, mustard, tomato sauce, an egg yolk, Tabasco and a few minced anchovies — all scooped up with potato chips. Casey McDonald, Craggy Range

Barbecue lamb is ideal summer cooking. Photo / Babiche Martens
Barbecue lamb is ideal summer cooking. Photo / Babiche Martens

What are your go-to dishes for a bach or camping kitchen?

Greek salad of peeled sliced cucumber, feta, black olives, tomato chunks and tonnes of olive oil and red wine vinegar. Serve with New Zealand sparkling wine with Hakanoa ginger syrup or chilled light red wine. Peter Gordon, Homeland

If you can raid the garden of herbs, salads are easy. A favourite of ours is butter beans (tinned are fine), fresh chopped mint, celery, parsley, a big glug of olive oil, salt and lemon. It’s a lovely light lunch or easy barbecue side. Rebecca Smidt and Darius Lolaiy, Cazador

If you have fresh fish, then it’s time to make ceviche. Fresh lemon, lime, chilli, onion, coriander and some coconut milk… you are there. Nic Watt, MASU, Akarana Eatery, INCA

I make a leftover breakfast hash. Layer hash browns on a baking tray, then some canned spaghetti, lots of chopped ham, turkey, or even corned beef. Place some thinly sliced raw onion on top. Whisk some eggs and pour them over, then cover with cheese and bake for about 40 minutes. It’s cheesy and very good the next day if there are a few sore heads. Casey McDonald, Craggy Range

Crayfish with miso and spring onion butter. Photo / Josh Griggs
Crayfish with miso and spring onion butter. Photo / Josh Griggs

Our Hawke’s Bay bach neighbours have been known to toss us the odd crayfish over the fence. In return, we fire back a nice bit of wild venison from the back of the farm. There’s a wee garden under the washing line that has an abundance of mint and parsley, so with the addition of some quality Ortiz anchovies and capers, a salsa verde is drizzled over the venison, and a lime, chilli and garlic butter is prepared for the crayfish. Pretty damn chic if you ask me. Geoff Ngan, Shed 5

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