Get summer-ready with cook-ahead and speedy recipes

The great British BBQ

We British love a barbecue. Who doesn't enjoy burgers, bangers and kebabs served with lots of sides and salads (and a healthy dollop of ketchup)? But if you're ready to step up your barbecue repertoire (and avoid a last-minute dash to the shops in the sunshine), it's time to prep ahead. Make and freeze burgers, then defrost them in the fridge 24 hours before the big cook out. For a last-minute treat, try these easy chicken burgers.

Nearer the time, preload skewers like these easy chicken kebabs or healthy tandoori kebabs and stash them covered in your fridge before you plan to cook them. Have some delicious veggie barbecue ideas ready too.

Picnics and days out

Warm, sunny days see us flocking outside for some well-earned vitamin D. Avoid peckish walks and hangry cycle rides, or buying supermarket snacks at the seaside, by packing a picnic.

Pastries are perfect picnic-ready packages and fun to make. Cornish pasties, or cheese and onion pasties are portable picnic favourites. And few people are sad to see a sausage roll in a hamper.

Bread is a great portable food too, and Rick Stein's incredible picnic loaf or tear-and-share loaf is perfect for tucking into your basket. Focaccia is easy to make and fine for tearing into without a bread knife.

If you're driving/ feeling more like a Downton-style spread/ have access to a picnic table, you can always impress with a Quiche Lorraine or a vegetarian picnic pie.

Fruity last-minute and prep-ahead treats

British summer fruit brightens up even the sunniest of days. If you're entertaining, a pavlova base will keep for a few days in an airtight container, then top it with piles of strawberries, raspberries or cherries and plenty of whipped cream. Fruit tarts work somewhat in the same way, with make-ahead pastry cases to fill and serve.

Summer pudding is a great make-ahead dessert, packed a day in advance and stashed in the fridge. No one should be without a tub of homemade berry ice-cream in the freezer – or for a quick and easy treat, whip up a fruit fool or classic Eton mess.

Exotic fruits conjure up far-flung sunny destinations, even when it's pouring with rain. So what if you're not jetting off to the Bahamas? Fruit that has travelled a long way to get here, such as mangoes and pineapples, is often picked before its prime, so it can be best to buy it a few days before you need it. Transform your passion fruit, bananas, mangoes, pineapples and limes into prep-ahead puds, such as mango sorbet, tropical Eton Mess or grilled pineapple.

If your haul of fruit is soon to be past its best, chop it up and freeze it in bags so that you can make smoothies when the sun's shining.

Minimal cooking, maximum taste

Local seasonal veg tastes best when it's crisp, fresh and eaten al fresco, so there's good reason to get excited for the season's haul. There's a salad for every combination of vegetables, and plenty of flexible, make-ahead options like rice salads, summery slaws, even green salads.

Like buses, courgettes seem to take ages to arrive and then suddenly they're everywhere. It won't be a hardship with Romy Gill's fantastic courgette pakoras, in an Italian-style courgette soup or gently fried with garlic as a courgette pasta sauce. For a sweet treat, grate them into an almost-healthy courgette cake.

For nights when it's too hot to cook for longer than ten minutes, pasta is the obvious answer. Add seasonal aubergines in this pasta alla Norma, fresh tomatoes and herbs in a Greek pasta salad, or creamy smoked salmon pasta with rocket and courgette (again).

If you're up for batch-cooking, a double quantity of these beetroot burgers are ideal for stashing in the freezer ready to cook, as is a batch of beef taco filling or spicy bean stew.

Grill peppers for romesco sauce or make a stock of roasted tomato sauce while veg is at its peak.

Ice cream

If you're worried that making homemade ice cream requires a fancy, expensive machine, think again. The no-churn revolution is here, led by Nigella Lawson. Her no-churn coffee ice cream and no-churn cheesecake ice cream with cherries jubilee are both as easy as whipping a bowl of cream.

Take the ease of Eton mess and freeze it in a loaf tin for a swish dessert: Nigella's passionfruit ice cream cake and Mary's lemon meringue ice cream fit right in at a barbecue or dinner party.

Summer cocktails and mocktails

From summer cocktail classics like mojitos and margaritas to easy jugs of sangria and Pimm's summer drinks can make or break a BBQ, garden party or picnic.

Keep the kids happy with watermelon coolers, strawberry lemonade and classic elderflower cordial.

Keep everything feeling fresh and fragrant with fruit and herbs! The best way to get prepped for summer cocktails is by slicing up limes, lemons and oranges to freeze and add to drinks when needed. Blueberries, raspberries, grapes and pineapples also make fantastic edible alternatives to ice cubes.