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Sassy Summer Spread

Recipes to keep you cool as the temperatures soar

Natasha Celmi Published 04.04.21, 01:35 AM
Italian Tomato and Olive Bruschetta

Italian Tomato and Olive Bruschetta Sourced by the correspondent

Summer seems to have come early this year. The mercury is rising each day and that calls for cold fresh food which is light, hydrating and nourishing. You also want to avoid toiling in a hot kitchen for long. I have been making batches of cold dips which double as sandwich fillers with some fresh salads — an ideal lunch menu for the season. Include some fruits in your savoury dishes for a refreshing tang and added vitamins.

My cookbook, Fast Fresh Flavourful, which was released last summer (available on Amazon), has a wide array of salad bowls, cold appetisers and dips which are quite effortless to put together and use local seasonal produce perfect for this warm weather. Here are a few favourites from the book which are on repeat in my own kitchen these days. Do try these out and stay tuned for more sassy summer food in my next few articles.


Italian Tomato and Olive Bruschetta

Bruschetta is a classic antipasti dish in the Italian kitchen, especially during the hot Mediterranean summer months. This is my ‘go-to’ appetiser when I need to rustle something up at the last minute. The simplicity of fresh tomatoes enhanced with fragrant basil leaves and good olive oil is rather satisfying with a chilled glass of white wine.


Serves eight

• Basil leaves: 10

• Tomatoes: 4, finely chopped

• Black olives: ¼ cup, sliced

• Extra virgin olive oil: 2tbsp

• Salt:½ tsp

• Freshly ground pepper:

To taste

• Chilli flakes: to taste

• Baguette: 1 small

• Garlic: 2 cloves


• Leave 2 basil leaves aside, and roll the rest together.

• With a pair of scissors, snip the leaves into thin, long strips.

• Combine the tomatoes, olives, extra virgin olive oil, chopped basil leaves, salt, pepper and chilli flakes (if using) in a bowl.

• Taste and adjust the seasoning. Refrigerate the mix for 30 minutes to 1 hour to allow the flavours to blend together.

• Preheat the oven to 200°C. Slice the baguette into thin, diagonal slices. Toast in the oven (or a toaster) till crispy.

• To assemble, cut the garlic cloves in half.

• Rub the toasted baguette with the cut garlic. Then take a whole basil leaf and rub each slice with it to infuse flavour.

• Top each slice with the tomato-olive mix.

Make ahead/leftovers: You can make the tomato mix up to six hours in advance and refrigerate it. Scoop the tomatoes and leave the water in the bowl.

Mango Salsa, Prawns and Black Rice Salad

Eat seasonal and enjoy the mango season by adding them to savoury dishes. Add some diced ripe mangoes to any salad and take the flavours up to another level! This mango salsa is a great accompaniment to a simple Indian meal. Prawns and mangoes are a classic combination and feature together in many cuisines. For a veggie version, omit the prawns!


Serves four to six

For mango salsa

• Mangoes: 2 ripe, medium-sized cubes

• Spring onion: 2 stalks, finely chopped

• Jalapeno: 6-7 slices, finely chopped

• Red chilli: 1, finely chopped

• Coriander: ¼ cup, roughly chopped

• Salt: ½tsp

• Freshly ground black pepper:

To taste

• Lime juice: 1tsp

• Zest of a lime

For the salad

• Black rice: 1 cup, cooked

• Small prawns: 1 cup , cooked

• Avocado: 1 ripe, diced

• Cherry tomatoes: ¼ cup, halved

• Salad leaves: 1 cup, roughly chopped

• Extra virgin olive oil: 1tbsp

• Salt: To taste

• Freshly ground black pepper:

To taste

• Squeeze of fresh lime


• Make the mango salsa by combining all the ingredients in a bowl.

• Chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.

• Combine the prawns, black rice, avocado, cherry tomatoes and salad leaves in a large bowl.

• Add the mango salsa and toss gently, being careful not to squash the mango cubes.

• Drizzle the olive oil with a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. Taste the salad and adjust the seasoning and chilli. Serve straight away.

Make ahead/leftovers: The salsa can be made up to two hours ahead and refrigerated. Prepare the salad elements and assemble just before serving. Storing leftover salsa is not recommended.

Quick Hummus with Caramelised Onions

There is no doubt about the popularity of this humble but versatile dip. It is loaded with plant-based proteins from chickpeas. A constant staple in my fridge, it pairs wonderfully with vegetables in a sandwich for an office lunch or as an early evening snack with crackers for the kids. The addition of caramelised onions complements the earthy flavour of the dip and takes it to another level.


Makes one cup of hummus

• Chickpeas: 1 cup, cooked or canned

• Tahini: 3tbsp

• Garlic: 2 cloves, roughly chopped

• Extra virgin olive oil: 1tbsp

• Water: 1/3 cup, ice-cold

• Cumin powder: ¼tsp

• Lemon juice: 1tsp

• Salt: ½tsp

• Freshly ground pepper: To taste

• Chilli flakes or powder: To taste

For caramelised onions

• Oil: 1tsp

• Onions: 2 large, thinly sliced

• Brown sugar: 1tsp

• Balsamic vinegar: 1tbsp

To serve

• Pumpkin seeds: 2-3 tbsp toasted


• For the hummus, blend together all the ingredients.

• If the consistency is too thick, add another tablespoon or two of cold water till you have a smooth, creamy texture.

• Taste and adjust salt, pepper, chilli and lemon juice.

• To caramelise the onions, heat a small pan and add the oil.

• Throw in the onions with the sugar and balsamic vinegar.

• Cook on a medium heat, stirring every now and then to avoid burning.

• After about 10 minutes, the onions should be soft and brown with a slight crunch.

• Taste and adjust the flavours.

• Cook for 2 more minutes if it is too crunchy.

• To serve, transfer the hummus to a shallow serving bowl.

• Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil.

• Top with a thin layer of caramelised onions and toasted seeds.

• Serve with some crackers and raw veggie sticks.

Make ahead/leftovers: Cook the chickpeas a day earlier. The hummus can be refrigerated for 3 days. The caramelised onions stay well for 5-6 days in the fridge.

Mom’s Best Potato Salad

Mom’s Best Potato Salad

My mother makes a fabulous potato salad with wholegrain mustard and yogurt. The best part of this dish is that you can make it up to a day in advance and it tastes even better. A childhood summer favourite, I have added my own little twist to it by adding curry leaves and mustard seeds, bringing together the mustards of the east and west!


Serves 4-6

• Baby potatoes 3 cups (500 g)

• Thick yogurt ¾ cup

• Mustard sauce 2 tbsp

• Salt 1 tsp

• Freshly ground black pepper:

To taste

• Parsley leaves: 2 tbsp, chopped

For the mustard tempering

• Olive or vegetable oil: 1tsp

• Mustard seeds: ½tsp

• Green chilli: 1, slit halfway

• Curry leaves: 8-10


• Boil the baby potatoes in salted water with the skin on. Cool and peel.

• Combine the yogurt, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl and adjust the seasoning.

• In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the yogurt dressing and chopped parsley.

• Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours to allow the flavours to develop.

• Taste and adjust the seasoning.

• When ready to serve, heat the oil in a small pan and temper the mustard seeds and green chilli.

• Once the mustard seeds sputter, add the curry leaves and cook for 30 seconds. Drizzle this tempering over the potato salad.

• Serve chilled.

Make ahead/leftovers: Make this salad up to a day in advance and serve straight from the fridge.

Meaty addition: Saute some crispy bacon bits in a pan and add to the potatoes. The addition of a chopped boiled egg goes really well. Replace the potatoes with shredded cooked chicken for a cold chicken salad or sandwich filling.

Quick tip

• Replace basil with fresh mint, parsley or coriander leaves

• For a creamy, smooth consistency, add cold water while blending.

Natasha Celmi is a chef and the author of the cookbook Fast Fresh Flavourful. Find her on Instagram with #sassysummerwithnatasha


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