Getting ready for summer

It's that time of year again, when thoughts turn once more to sunny days, fresh fruit and vegetables and delicious picnics and barbecues enjoyed in the garden. It's time also to get your kitchen ready for the coming months, so that you can sit back and enjoy the summer as it happens.

Spring clean
The kitchen, more than any other room, is subject to dirt, grease, spills and breakages, so take care now to give it a good spruce up with de-greasing, anti-bacterial cleaning products and some old-fashioned elbow grease. Wash all the tea towels, curtains and blinds and don't forget to wipe the tops of cupboards and appliances to remove the layers of dust and grease that will have accumulated up there. Wash all your pots and pans and make sure they are clean and fit for use.

Ready your recipes
Spend an evening sitting down with your recipe books and work out what dishes you would like to cook when the summer arrives. Or browse online for recipes for fresh salads, barbecue dishes, light desserts and cool drinks. Now is a good time to make sure you have got the right equipment for your summer plans, and even buy in some of the less perishable ingredients you may need. Take a look in your garden, for home-grown fruit, vegetable or herbal inspiration and plan a visit to your local farmers' market to see what's in season.

Storage shuffle
You may like to rearrange your kitchen to bring forward all the things you will need for summer, such as salad bowls and ice-cream makers and to put away the winter-related paraphernalia, such as casserole dishes and slow-cookers. Make room for a fruit bowl on one of the countertops so that you can snack healthily while you cook and place a vase of fresh flowers somewhere you can see it while doing the washing up to lift your spirits and draw your mind to sunny times out in the garden.

Be cool
Cooking in the summer can make you hot and tired, so think now about how you might make the kitchen cooler. Invest in some electric fans and get some ice cubes going in the freezer now so you can enjoy cool drinks when preparing meals later on in the season. Plan dishes that will not need any cooking at all, or batch cook and freeze some perennial favourites that can be reheated with minimum fuss on hotter days.

The great outdoors
Move your kitchen outside this summer, with a barbecue and a relaxed eating area with tables, chairs, unbreakable plates, bowls and cups and a shade to keep the sun out of everyone's eyes while they dine. Take time now to wash the patio, weed the borders and generally prepare your 'garden kitchen' for a great summer outside.