Category Archives: tomato

Gazpacho (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 15 mins)

I told my Spanish friend Alejandro that I was going to make Gazpacho this week and he quizzed me about what I intended to put in it to ensure that I was making what he deemed to be an authentic Spanish Gazpacho.  When I dropped ‘lemons’ into the list of ingredients that I intended to use, he promptly stopped me and told me in no uncertain terms that lemon is not a Gazpacho ingredient and that the vinegar is all that you need – and I have to say that now having made it without lemons that I agree with him.

For those of you that are less familiar with Gazpacho it is a cold tomato soup made using raw ingredients and there is absolutely no cooking involved.  All you need to make it is a sharp knife and a hand blender – simple.  Whilst summer is drawing to a close this is a great option if you are looking for a refreshing starter or light lunch.  The underlying flavours are both tangy and slightly creamy making you want to go back for more.  Enjoy!

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Bruschetta snacks

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Jones (my housemate) and I have had a tough week and were feeling somewhat jaded this morning.  There was only one way to make us feel better –food.  Unfortunately for us that meant a joyous trip to the supermarket on a Saturday morning before we could tuck in.

Fancying something a little bit healthy, we settled on the idea of bruschetta, mostly because it can be put together in a matter of minutes and it looks and tastes good!  In the end we made four different types: a classic tomato, a pea and broad bean, goat’s cheese and beetroot and avocado, red pepper and mozzarella.

These bruschetta are perfect for a light lunch, starter or even a canapé.  Don’t be afraid to change the ingredients depending on what you have available and what is in season.  The only thing I would strongly advise is make sure that you season the toppings well and make sure you always taste as you go along.

 

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Avocado, Red Pepper and Mozzarella Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1/3 of a red pepper
  • ½ a mozzarella ball
  • 4-5 green olives
  • 1 tbsp of fresh chopped chives
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the avocado, red pepper, mozzarella and olives.
  2. Place in a bowl with the chives and stir.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Classic Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • Handful of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 4 black olives
  • 1tbsp of finely diced chopped red onion
  • 5/6 basil leaves (chopped finely)
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1.  Finely chop the cherry tomatoes, olives. (If the tomatoes give off a lot of juice then pour away some of the excess)
  2. Place in a bowl along with the red, basil.
  3. Season well , add the lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your tomato mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Pea and Broad Bean Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 handful of broad beans (frozen are fine)
  • 1 handful of peas (frozen are fine)
  • 5/6 mint leaves
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Place your broad beans in a pan and cook according to the instructions.  Once they are cooked peel the broad beans (it is worth the effort.)
  2. In a separate pan cook your peas, once cooked place in a bowl together with the broad beans and mash using the back of a fork.
  3. Season well, add the mint, lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cooked and peeled beetroot
  • 2” goat’s cheese log
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the beetroot and goat’s cheese.
  2. Place in a bowl and mix together.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.


 

Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

I have been thinking about wanting to make this recipe for a while.  However, the thing that has been holding me from making it is the fact that the Old Man does not like spinach.  This is a slight problem when it is the main ingredient.  So I had to come up with an idea that made the meal appealing to him.  Then it dawned on me that perhaps adding Chorizo might distract him sufficiently enough to get him to try it.  The idea worked better than I could have ever hoped, the Old Man actually gave the pasta the thumbs up!  Success!

I am not going to try and disguise the fact that this recipe involves a lot of ingredients but my advice is to be methodical when you approach it and it will all come together.  I got a little bit of help when I was piping the filling into the cannelloni shells as it made it a lot easier and less messy!

This recipe involves using a tomato puree for the base layer.  I had made tomato puree from scratch a couple of weeks ago when we were inundated with tomatoes, so I used it in this recipe.  Making the puree from scratch was time consuming and I am not altogether sure it was that cost effective; despite the fact it tasted good.  (For those of you who are interested I have included my recipe for tomato puree at the end.)

 

Spinach, Chorizo and Ricotta Cannelloni

Ingredients: (Serves 4-5 people)

Base:

  • 2 tbsp tomato puree or tomato pesto
  • 20-25 cherry tomatoes (halved)

Pasta and Filling:

  • 18-20 cannelloni shells
  • 2 medium onions (diced)
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 100g chorizo (diced)
  • 400g fresh spinach leaves (washed)
  • 250g ricotta
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • seasoning
  • oil (for cooking with)

Sauce:

  • 1 ½ oz butter
  • handful plain flour
  • 1pt milk
  • ½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • Seasoning

Topping:

  • handful of grated cheese (emmental or cheddar)
  • black pepper
  • freshly ground nutmeg

Steps:

1.  Preheat oven to 180C fan.

2.  Spread the ingredients for the “base” on the bottom of a large ovenproof dish (I used a dish that was 20cmx30cm). 

3.  Now prepare the filling for your pasta.  Place the onions, garlic, chorizo, thyme and oil in a large saucepan and allow to soften.

4.  Add the spinach to the pan and allow to wilt down.

5.  Place the ingredients from the pan, the ricotta and seasoning into a food processor and blitz until the spinach is broken down and the filling is fairly smooth.

    

6.  Place the filling into a piping bag (I used a freezer bag that I had cut one corner off).

7.  Dunk each cannelloni shell into a bowl of water before piping in some of the filling. (It was at this stage I found it helpful to have an extra pair of hands).

8.  Place the filled shells on top of the base.

9.  Now you need to make your sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir until you have a paste.

10.  Slowly add your milk stirring continuously so that you have a smooth lump free sauce.

11.  Add the nutmeg and season well.

12.  Once your sauce has thickened slightly pour over your pasta (if you are worried about it being too thick add a little more milk to your sauce).

   

13.  Finally, scatter over the toppings before placing in the oven and cooking for 30-35 minutes.

14.  I would recommend eating this with a freshly made green or tomato salad. Enjoy!

 

 

Tomato Puree

Ingredients:

  • 15-20 large tomatoes
  • a glug of olive oil (for cooking with and preserving with)
  • salt

Steps:

1.  Wash the tomatoes well, then remove the core and as many of the seeds as possible.

2.  Roughly chop the tomatoes, place in a large saucepan with some olive oil, cook on a low heat for 30-45 minutes.

3.  Pass the tomatoes through a sieve into a deep roasting tray.

4.  Season with salt, add another glug of oil and place in an oven that you have preheated to 160C Fan for 2-3hrs until it is reduced, stirring occasionally.

5. Place in a sterilized pot and cover with some more olive oil.

 

Roasted sausages with red onion and cherry tomatoes

You can’t beat a good banger (this is a sausage for those of you who aren’t British).  They are a staple in most homes because they are tasty and make for an easy meal.  Bangers and mash has always been one of my favourite meals.   I remember as a child going to the local butchers to get Mr Crump’s herby chipolatas which were always packed with flavour.  A couple of months ago my brother was passing our old butcher and dropped in especially to buy a healthy amount of herby chipolatas.  I personally don’t think you can beat proper sausages made in your local butcher, but there are times where the convenience of your local supermarket takes over and it is just easier to buy their sausages instead – who can blame you!

Over the course of the years I have tried a lot of recipes with sausages in them ranging from sausage hot pot to toad in the hole which are always tasty, but I sometimes think by keeping things simple is often the best way to enjoy them.  So when I bought a packet of sausages a couple of weeks ago I had two words in mind – simple and fresh.  I got out a roasting pan and set to work.  The end result, sweet cherry tomatoes, slightly caramelised onion and yummy sausages.

Roasted sausages with red onion and cherry tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • A packet of sausages
  • 3 red onions (peeled and cut into sixths)
  • 2 good handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • seasoning

Steps:

1.  Pre-heat oven to 190C fan.

2.  Place the sausages and onions in a large roasting tin, season well, add the thyme and drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

   

3.  Place in the oven for 20 minutes, before removing and adding the cherry tomatoes in the roasting tin.  Put back in the oven and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

4.  Serve with some new potatoes and peas.

Side dishes (part 2)

When I got back to France last week lying in a box on the kitchen table were four relatively large marrows.  My first reaction was, “oh God, not marrow”, as the childhood memories of stuffed marrow came flooding back.    I have always thought of marrow as being a fairly tasteless vegetable which always seemed to turn into a soggy mess when cooked.  However, this time I was determined to find something good to do with them.  So my first step was to Google marrow recipes.  Sure enough stuffed marrow appeared time and time again.  I stumbled on one forum that had me chuckling away as I read some peoples’ views on marrows.  Here are a couple of the comments for your amusement:

“Slice marrow in half lengthways.  Leave on kitchen worktop.  Wait for Other Half or child to come in and moan “oh not bl**dy marrow AGAIN” *theatrical sighing*.  Take marrow outside and give to the hens”

“1. Peel outer skin
2. Chop off ends
3. Cut length ways in half
4. Remove all seeds and discard
5. Dice marrow into 1 inch cube
6. Salt to taste
7. Place in bowl and refrigerate for 18/24 hours
8. Remove from fridge
9. Kettle on and brew tea
10. Add milk & sugar to personal requirement
11. Make a cheese toastie
12. Throw marrow in bin
13. Enjoy said toastie with your cup of tea”

After A LOT of searching on the internet some of the more interesting recipes I started to come across involved frying the marrow with fresh herbs – however I was concerned that the marrow might become a little greasy.  However, it made me start thinking about what it was about marrow that I didn’t enjoy and it boiled down to the texture.  Subsequently it got me thinking what if I tried to make the outside crispy.  In the end I settled on marrow and potato chips with fresh herbs – and even if I do say so myself, they tasted pretty good.


Marrow and Potato Chips

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium marrow
  • 4/6 medium potatoes
  • Handful of plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Combination of fresh or dried herbs (e.g. parsley, coriander, chive and thyme)
  • Olive oil (for cooking with)

Steps:

  1. Peel and de-seed the marrow.  Then cut into small bite sized cubes.  Place the marrow in a colander sprinkle with some salt and then place over the sink and leave for 30-40 minutes to draw out the water before drying the marrow with paper towel.
          
  2. Place the flour and herbs in a bowl and season well.  Toss the marrow in the bowl until they are completely covered with flour, then set to one side.
  3. Meanwhile, peel and cube the potatoes.  Dry them slightly with paper towel, before placing on a large baking tray.  Season with salt and pepper, drizzle some olive oil over and then toss the potatoes with your hands to make sure they are evenly coated with oil.
  4. Place the tray in an oven preheated to 190C fan for 10 mins to start the potatoes cooking.
  5. After 10 minutes remove from the oven and add the marrow to the baking tray.  Stir the potatoes and marrow together, drizzle over a little more oil before placing back in the oven for a further 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Note: Yesterday I made the potato and marrow chips again, this time however I added cubed carrots for a splash of colour.  I made the mistake putting them in the oven at the same time as the potatoes, as a result they cooked too quickly.  So a word of advice add the carrots at the same time as the marrow otherwise they are likely to be a little on the carbonised side of things…

Side dishes

As ever it has been a busy couple of days picking the apples, pears, plums off the trees ‘squirreling them away’ as my father says, ready for the winter months.  During this time I have been thinking about what to write about and have fallen on the subject of side dishes.  There is absolutely no way I can cover this huge food area in just one blog, so I have decided I will give ideas for various side dishes over a series of blogs over the course of the next couple of months.

For me side dishes are just as important as the centre piece that makes up any meal – because they can be the thing that makes or breaks a meal.  At the moment we are eating a whole host of different types of salads and couscous dishes because they are fresh and tasty.  However, I am looking forward to the start of autumn and the weather cooling slightly so that I can justify making potato dauphinoise (obviously with a healthy quantity in it), macaroni and cheese and roasted root vegetables…

For this blog I thought I would start with a couple of dishes that we often serve with a BBQ: Roasted Vegetable Couscous, Tomato and Red Pepper Salad and A Mixed Salad.

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Pizza from scratch

The last couple of days have been frantic at home and have involved a lot of cooking.  As promised I said I would fess up to any disasters that I have had and yesterday I had a spectacular one!!  I have had an idea about making a courgette and chocolate cake but rather than making a standard sponge I decided that I would make a flourless sponge.  All I can say is BIG MISTAKE!  The end result was a flat custardy in texture brown cake that was well interesting to try.  After encouraging everyone to try it I am ashamed to say it ended up in the bin…  That being said, I intend to learn from my mistakes and try again this time with flour and make a batter not dissimilar to that of a carrot cake and if it works and more importantly tastes nice I will share the recipe in a future blog.

Yesterday, evening with nine of us to feed I thought I would go for something fun but a little different, a sharing food that required everyone’s involvement – Make your own pizzas…  When people have been asked to sum my family up in one word, the word that comes up time and time again is “competitive”, last night was no exception!!!  True to form, the banter was flowing, the jokes were coming quick and fast – but beneath all the ‘tomfoolery’ tensions were running high as to who would be deemed to have made the best pizza!

The preparations started around 2 hours before we actually sat down to eat as the dough needed to be made, kneaded and left to rise and a basic tomato sauce needed to be concocted.  It was quite a sociable affair as everyone was in the kitchen chatting in a desperate attempt to keep cool as yet again the temperature outside was above 40C.

Before everyone piled into the kitchen, where the games would really begin, a couple of us kitchen monkeys headed in to prepare the toppings, of which we had many: cured meats, goats cheese, red pepper to name a few.  After knocking back the dough and dividing it into 8 equal sized balls ready for rolling, we called the competitors family in to make up their pizzas two at a time ready for scrutinising.

Before sharing the recipes I have another confession to make – I didn’t make enough dough.  My family can eat a lot and were still hungry after 8 pizzas, so I ended up making a really quick flat bread dough recipe to use a pizza dough substitute which worked far better than I could have ever imagined so I will share that with you too!

 

Pizza Dough (makes 8 pizzas)

Ingredients:

  • 750g plain flour
  • 1oz fresh yeast (or a packet of dried yeast)
  • 375-400ml water
  • 1 ½  tsp salt
  • 2 ½ tsp ground pepper (optional)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Steps:

  1. Mix together the flour, pepper and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl mix together the yeast and sugar.  Add in the olive oil and water then stir together to start the yeast activating.
  3. Combine the wet mix with the dry mix.  Using your hands bring the mix together  until it forms a ball of dough. (Add a little more water if the dough is flaky).
  4. On a lightly floured surface start kneading your dough.  It is going to take roughly 10-15 minutes until the texture changes and becomes the perfect pizza dough.  (What you are looking for is the dough to spring back to its original form when it is pressed lightly with your finger).
  5. Once you have finished kneading the dough place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside for around 2 hours to rise.
  6. After two hours, knock the air out of the dough and cut into eight pieces.
  7. On a lightly floured surface roll out your dough until it is roughly 2/3mm thick.
  8. Place the rolled dough on a piece of baking paper and add a little tomato sauce and then toppings of your choice (for ideas see below).
  9. Cook pizzas in a hot oven roughly 225C fan for 10-12 minutes or until crispy.

 

Simple Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 heaped tbsp of tomato puree
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp thyme
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • Olive oil for cooking

Steps:

  1. Finely dice the onion and finely chop the garlic and place in a pan with some oil and the sugar then place on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, thyme, season with salt and pepper, then stir all the ingredients together and leave to simmer on a very low heat for 5-10 minutes.

Flat bread dough substitute for pizza if time is short

Ingredients:

  • 300g plain flour
  • 175ml water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Steps:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in bowl.
  2. Divide dough into 3 equal sized balls and roll out on a floured surface, cover with a little tomato sauce and the toppings of your choice.
  3. Cook pizzas in a hot oven roughly 225C fan for 10-12 minutes or until crispy.

Pizza Topping Ideas

  • Goats cheese
  • Mozzarella
  • Grated emmental
  • Red pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • Pesto
  • Chilli
  • Salami
  • Bacon
  • Basil leaves
  • Roasted aubergine
  • Parma ham
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Red onion