Summer holiday time has definitely arrived: my husband and I not speaking (leaving the motorway to avoid a tailback and ‘discussion’ about directions), our 14year old son plugged into the portable DVD player, casting it aside only to annoy his sister and, having ignoring all advice not to feed the (borrowed) dog before travelling, it (obviously) threw up over our daughter….

But glorious blue skies and warm Spanish sunshine (not to mention cheap local rum, coke and wine) have eased away work-day memories with little to bother about other than what to cook for meals. Admittedly, not the choice of all, but self-catering holidays are my idea of heaven; fresh local produce with time to ponder and create.

We have visited Spain several times and I’m never failed to be impressed by the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, let alone their price. Blush red, tender tomatoes (never refrigerate, serve at a warm room temperature to enjoy their flavor at best), juicy melons, peaches, apricots plus crisp, fresh salad varieties.

A pattern establishes and cooking doesn’t become a chore. Who needs fruit juice when breakfast is an enormous platter of fruit? Quickly prepared slabs of watermelon or pineapple (so tender that there is no requirement to fiddle and remove the core) stoned and sliced soft fruits such as peaches, apricots and greengages followed by hunks of fresh bread, jam and freshly brewed, milky espresso. Served somewhere between 10 and midday, it doesn’t take long to sink into the relaxed pattern of the Spanish day…

Lunch is equally informal but nutritiously included an array of ‘put-together’ salads. By this I mean taking whatever fruit and vegetables are in the fridge and let the imagination roam to put-together in a different way to last time they were served. Think colour and taste balancing the sweet, salt, bitter tones of each player; just try out a combination of fresh pineapple, tomato and a sprinkle of sea salt to understand what I mean.

Dinner will be around 9 or 10pm depending on how lazily-relaxed I feel but having munched various tapas, no one is restless.

Here I must admit to buying some ready-made tapas from the local supermarket, but this is also an opportunity to serve morsels of leftover sausage, cheese, roughly torn ribbons of hams and chopped vegetables – tapas are easy nibbles but to make them truly appetizing, presentation in pretty dishes and containers is the key.

Last night I offered a choice of slow roast lamb and/or pork. This isn’t as extravagant as it sounds – I found boneless lamb at just under Euro5 per kilo which, marbled with fat, self-bastes and is the perfect choice for long, slow cooking.

Place the meat in baking trays, rub with olive oil, lemon juice, herbs, seasoning (thin strips of anchovy work well with lamb, melting into the tender meat) and a cup of water before popping into a very low oven of about 130C (one can never be exact with holiday rental equipment) and leave to their own devices for around 6 or 7 hours whilst we all enjoy the sunshine and pool. Check a couple of times towards the end of cooking and if needs be, turn up the oven a fraction (mine doesn’t seem to brown terribly well) then remove and leave to rest for a good 20 or 30 minutes. Whilst the meat rested I turned up the oven temperature to roast a selection of vegetables that I found in the fridge – I can’t think of anything simpler….

Courgette and Almond Salad

Cut the courgette lengthways into thin ribbons using a potato peeler for ease. Sprinkle with sea salt and leave to drain for about half an hour, eliminating any bitter juice.

Rinse and pat dry the courgette and place in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice, fruity olive oil and seasoning before scattering with chopped, roasted almonds and a flavoursome grated cheese.

Tomato, Cucumber and Bread Salad

This is an excellent way of using up leftover tomatoes and less-than-fresh baguette but do be sure to use good quality ingredients and tomatoes at room temperature; chilling kills all their flavour.

Half then cut tomatoes into wedges, place into a serving dish, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and a low acidity, fruity olive oil. The longer you leave the tomatoes, the more juices shall escape, adding extra flavor to the salad. Roughly slice a cucumber and tear bread into small chunks. Toss through the tomatoes adding extra olive oil as it soaks into the bread. A Last minute handful of torn fresh herbs such as basil or flat leaf parsley, before serving would be a tasty bonus.

Watermelon and Pesto Salad

Watermelon is such a versatile fruit – delicious as a breakfast treat, a dessert or as a base to savoury salads.

Chunk watermelon flesh and add to a serving dish and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Meanwhile, take a good tablespoon or two of ready -made pesto and mix with the same quantity of fruity olive oil, drizzling over the watermelon. Top with grated parmesan and serve.