Tag Archives: italian

Piccolo Tesoro Goat’s Cheese, Fig and Rocket Spelt Pizza

29 Apr

This is my adaptation of a really excellent pizza we had at Piccolo Tesoro in Montagu. Montagu is a picturesque village  about 200 km outside Cape Town on Route 62. We stayed in a pretty little hotel called Four Oaks Guest House.

We had an excellent evening meal there and the breakfasts were lovely too. Piccolo was also the name of  the really cute chihuahua who stole the show at the hotel.

 After breakfast we had a walk around the village. We saw ibises nesting, weaver birds’ nests hanging over the river and some beautiful flowers.

Traditional architecture, churches and quaint cottages surrounded by white roses.

 We wandered around the Saturday morning market with people selling  homemade jams, chutneys, breads, cakes, pestos and freshly made take-away foods, but we couldn’t stay long.

We were booked on a river boat cruise at Viljoensdrift before lunch. We had a lovely bottle of the Viljoensdrift rose while drifting down the river enjoying the views. You can also order a picnic but we had lunch already booked at the beautiful Reuben’s in Robertson. You can see my full review of lunch here.

We were very full after our fabulous lunch so we had a lie down and went out quite late for a light dinner. Pizza seemed like the best option as we had gone gourmet for lunch. Arriving at Piccolo Tesoro it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. It was packed, they had actually run out of chairs. My dad had to sit on a stool for the first half hour until somebody left!!

 To be honest we were only expecting a quick pizza and a beer. Isn’t it sometimes the way, that when you are least expecting it a little gem (or piccolo tesoro) turns up out of the blue.

We did have to wait a while because they were so busy and we were the last table but we didn’t mind at all. We had enjoyed an enormous lunch remember and The Washer Up discovered his new favourite beer while we were waiting thanks to our friend Paul. Jack Black is the best South African beer now according to him.

The pizzas were excellent, some of the best I have ever had actually. The “Sophia” was my favourite, it was topped with Gorgonzola, green fig preserve and rocket. The bases were thin and crispy and not overloaded with toppings, which is exactly how I like them. Green fig preserve is used a lot in South Africa, we also had it at our picinic at Bramon Wine Estate with the baked camembert. It is made with unripe figs.

My version of this fantastic pizza is made with a spelt flour dough. I have just found a new supplier of spelt flour actually in Alhaurin (where we live). El Amasadero supplies all different types of flour including spelt, quinoa, oat, wholemeal and strong bread flour. He also supplies baking accessories and utensils, including pizza stones which I could definitely do with. He ships all over Spain and Europe or you can buy from him directly in his office/warehouse in Alhaurin just in front of the Policia Local.

He can also get Teff flour, which I am really excited about because I have been trying to get hold of  it for ages. It is used to make the Ethiopian flatbread Injera.  Injera is a flatbread made with yeast and the runny batter is poured into a hot pan and cooked a bit like a thick crepe. I have made it before with spelt flour and have been quite happy with the results. Now I can try it with the proper flour I will be posting an Ethiopian recipe soon.

Unfortunately figs aren’t in season here yet and we don’t have the green fig preserve so I used dried figs soaked in boiling water to soften them up a bit. Gorgonzola is also quite difficult to get hold of here so I used goat’s cheese instead, you could also use a blue cheese if you like.

Goat’s Cheese, Fig & Rocket Spelt Flour Pizza

Makes 2-3 pizzas, vegetarian, Dough recipe adapted from vegrecipesofindia

Prep time 25 mins (plus 1-2 hours resting) Cooking time 5 -10 mins

For the dough:   

  • 375g – 450 gr (2.5 to 3 cups)  spelt flour (or plain)
  • 220 ml (1 cup) warm water
  • 25gr fresh yeast, finely chopped or 1 sachet quick action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil for brushing
  • polenta/cornmeal for rolling

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tin (400 gr) chopped tomatoes     
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • a squeeze of honey
  • 1/2 tsp basil pesto
  •  1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:       

  • 100-150 gr goat’s cheese/gorgonzola/blue cheese
  • 10-12 dried figs halved (or 4-5 fresh figs, sliced) or some green fig preserve       
  • 3 handfuls of grated mozzarella or other cheese 
  •  fresh rocket leaves to garnish

Dough…

Whisk the honey into the warm water until it dissolves then add the yeast, whisk again and leave for 10-15 minutes to become frothy.

Add 150 gr (1 cup) flour, salt and olive oil to a large bowl, stir together then add the frothy yeast mixture. Stir again and add another 150 gr (cup) of flour until combined.  Add another 75 gr (1/2 cup) flour and combine. It should be quite a sticky dough.

Use some of the remaining flour to dust the board and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic adding more of the flour as necessary if it sticks. Put the dough in a bowl and rub some olive oil over it. Cover and leave in a warm place for up to 2 hours or until doubled in size. 

Meanwhile make the tomato sauce….

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over a medium high heat and cook the onion, herbs and chilli flakes with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Tip in the tinned tomatoes, add the tomato paste, honey and pesto. Season with salt & black pepper, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes until reduced.  Taste and adjust seasoning. Leave to cool. You could puree it if you like but I left mine chunky.

To cook:

Preheat the oven to its highest setting, with the baking tray (or pizza stone) in there too. Make sure the oven is clean or you will have a smoking kitchen (just saying).

Punch the dough down and divide it into 2 or 3 equal balls. You can refrigerate it at this point if you like. Sprinkle some polenta (or flour) on your worksurface and start to roll or push out your dough to a kind of circle about 3-5 mm thick.

This stage is optional but this is what Piccolo Tesoro do to keep the dough crispy. They put it in the oven for one minute before they put the toppings on. That’s what I did and it worked, no soggy base.

Take it out after 1 minute and smear some of the tomato sauce on the pizza (not too much) then add your goat’s cheese slices (or chunks), your chopped/sliced figs and cover with a layer of grated cheese. Put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes (depending on heat of oven) but keep an eye on it and take it out when you are happy.

Scatter over some fresh rocket leaves and serve immediately, with a Jack Black if you can get one…

 Enjoy!!

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Spelt Flour Braid Loaf

20 Apr

So here it is, as promised, the recipe for the Garlic & Rosemary Braid that I made to go with the Baked Camembert with Honey Glazed Pear & Almonds in my last post.

The delicious flavour of this bread comes from roasting a whole bulb of garlic with fresh rosemary in the oven for about 35 minutes until it is soft and sweet. You then squeeze the roasted cloves out of their papery cases and mash them with a beaten egg. All of this goes into the bread mixture before kneading.

I don’t need to tell you that it smells amazing while it is cooking and that you will not be able to resist pulling a piece off to stuff in your mouth as soon as it comes out of the oven. You may want to have some olive oil ready to dunk it into.

I brushed the top with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary after 15 minutes of cooking and then put it back in the oven for another 10-15 to get golden. I also painted another layer of olive oil over the top when I took it out of the oven to give it a lovely shiny finish.

Roasted Garlic & Rosemary Braided Spelt Loaf

Makes 1 loaf, vegetarian, wheat-free. Adapted from Taste of Home

  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp veg stock
  • 450 gr (3 cups) spelt flour (or plain flour)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 sachet of quick action yeast (or I used 25 gr fresh yeast, finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) milk (I used oat milk)
  • 75 ml (1/3 cup) water
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or butter plus extra for brushing top
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 210 C. Remove the outer paper from the head of garlic but do not peel or separate the cloves. Cut off the top of head of garlic but leave the root end intact. Place cut side up on a baking sheet (or oven proof pan), brush/drizzle with a teaspoon of oil and sprinkle with the rosemary. Cover and roast for 30-35 minutes until soft. Leave to cool for 10 minutes then squeeze the cloves out of their cases into a small bowl with the veg stock and mash with a fork.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast and salt in a large bowl. In a small saucepan gently heat the milk, water, 3 tbsp butter or olive oil until just warmed through. Add this to the dry ingredients and combine well with a wooden spoon.

Beat an egg into the mashed garlic until smooth and add that to the mix as well. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too wet but you want quite a sticky dough.

Tip it out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover and leave for 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out and divide into three equal balls. With your hands, roll these into approx 18 inch sausages/ropes. place the sausages on a baking sheet lined with baking paper that has been brushed with oil. (they will probably hang over one end at this point) and braid/plait them as evenly as possible. Pinch the ends to seal and tuck them under. Cover again and leave in a warm place to double in size, about 30-45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C and bake for 15 minutes. Mix some chopped rosemary and sea salt into a tablespoon of olive oil and brush this over the top of the bread. Put it back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

You can also brush it with more olive oil when it has finished cooking to give it a nice shine. Leave to cool on a wire rack. If you can bear to wait, that is…

Enjoy your weekend…

Mushroom Goats Cheese Ravioli, Butternut Sauce, Confit Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, Basil

9 Apr

This recipe is inspired by a couple of dishes we tried at Reuben’s restaurants in Franschhoek and Robertson. For those of you that don’t know, Reuben Riffel is the Chef Patron of the, now very successful chain of Reuben’s restaurants in South Africa. The first restaurant opened in Franschhoek seven or eight years ago and put the town well and truly on the map as a culinary destination. Reuben’s food is all about flavour and freshness of ingredients and has a definite world influence. His consistency has kept this popular award-winning restaurant at the top of the ever-increasing number of fine-dining establishments in the town. Which is why, I presume they decided to open another one.

Reuben’s at The Robertson Small Hotel is an oasis of calm, serenity and cool styling. I had to physically restrain myself from diving (dream on) into the pool that lies adjacent to the suites as we arrived at the restaurant. Our table overlooked the pool area but luckily the menu was enough to take my mind off of that view.

The menu is typically Reuben. For starters we chose the water, summer & sweet melon salad with poppy-seed dressing, light & refreshing. The marinated mixed tomato, artichoke salad, olive caramel, deep-fried boconccini, pesto, tomato chutney. The deep-fried boconccini mozzarella balls were beautiful (must try at home soon) and came with the best tomatoes I’ve had for a long time. The Washer Up had the double baked gruyere souffle, waldorf salad, raisin puree, vanilla citrus vinaigrette. The souffle was light and flavourful, excellent with the sweet raisin puree which I recreated to go with this tart.

The main courses that lead me to this recipe came from both restaurants. Goat’s cheese ravioli, yellow pepper essence, pine nuts, confit tomato, spinach and olives from The Robertson and Butternut Ravioli, melting goat’s cheese mousse, pine nuts, tomato, yellow pepper essence from Reuben’s in Franschhoek. Mine is a mash-up of both.

Oh, and the desserts are to die for. Bon Courage white muskadel creme brulee, poached plum, plum ice cream.  Heaven.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, lemon thyme poached peaches, apricot sorbet, enough said.

Affogato: vanilla ice cream, Klipdrift gold brandy, hazelnuts, hot espresso shot. I’m going to try this at home but with frangelico (hazelnut liqueur) next time

The thing about Reuben’s food is the flavour. Every dish has a small amount of chilli in it. You don’t really notice the heat it just enhances all the other flavours. I love it. Oh, I forgot about the side dishes they do a Parmesan Truffle Oil Mash which is the most comfortingly addictive thing I have ever tasted. I didn’t get a picture because we ate it too fast.

This is my version of a Reuben dish. I made a wholemeal pasta dough with spelt flour rather than 00 flour. It actually worked really well. I’ve had disasters with wholemeal pasta before but the spelt flour seemed to be better. I did leave the dough in the fridge to rest overnight as well though. This may have helped it firm up more.

I contacted Reuben’s for the recipes and they, very kindly, sent me  a few different ones. The mushroom filling is from one dish (I added the goat’s cheese) and the Cape Malay butternut sauce is from a completely different dish. It may sound odd but it all balances out well and tastes great. The only thing I may do differently next time is trim some of the “skirt” of the raviolis (above) so that there isn’t so much double layer dough, or even use more filling to reach nearer the edges.

The confit tomatoes are intense little balls of flavour that burst in your mouth. I will definitely make these again, for pasta or salads or anything really. You may think life is too short to peel cherry tomatoes and I do kind of agree with you but, it means they soak up all of the garlicky herb oil they are soaked in. You could just saute them in a pan to save time.

Mushroom Goat Cheese Ravioli

Serves 2, vegetarian. Adapted from the Reuben’s recipe

  • 200 gr ’00’ flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 2 large eggs

Mix together in a processor until it forms a dough. Bring together, knead for a minute, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 2 hours. I left mine overnight.

  • 12 chestnut (or mixed) mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 small sprig rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp soy sauce + 1 tsp sugar (or 2 tsp kecap manis)
  • 2 tsp Worcester sauce
  • about 30 gr goat cheese, cubed
  • 1 egg, beaten for sealing raviolis

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in  a pan over a medium high heat and cook the mushrooms and rosemary for a minute. Add the soy, sugar and Worcester sauce and saute until the mushrooms are dark, soft and the liquid has all been absorbed. Leave to cool completely before filling the raviolis.

Roll out the pasta dough, on a well floured surface with a rolling-pin or pasta machine until 1mm thin. Cut out circles about 7cm in diameter. Take a tablespoon of the (cooled) mushroom filling and place on one side of the circle. Top with a piece of goat cheese. Brush the edges with the beaten egg and fold it over to cover the filling. Press down around the filling to get rid of any air bubbles and make sure the edges are sealed and there are no holes in the dough. You can cut off some of the excess skirt of the ravioli if you think there is too much. Place on a tray on a piece of baking paper until ready to cook. Store in the fridge if necessary.

To cook: carefully lower them into a large pan of salted, boiling water and cook for about 3 minutes. They should float and look softer. Drain and serve immediately with your choice of sauce.

Garlic & Herb Confit Tomatoes

Serves 2, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 175 gr cherry tomatoes
  • 25 ml white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced finely
  • 1 shallot, sliced finely
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
  • sea salt & black pepper

Put a cross in the bottom of each tomato, put in a bowl and pour over boiling water till covered. Leave for 20-30 seconds, drain and then shock in iced water for 30 seconds. Peel immediately.

Warm the oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic and shallot over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Pour this over the peeled tomatoes and leave for at least two hours at room temperature before serving. Reheat in a pan with some of the oil. Season with sea salt & black pepper just before serving.

Cape Malay Butternut Squash Sauce/Soup

This makes a lot of sauce so I used it as a soup for lunch the next day as well.

  • 600 ml veg stock
  • 1 tbsp Cape Malay spice mix (see my recipe here)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 celery leaves & tops, chopped
  • 750 ml grated butternut squash
  • 400 ml milk/cream (I used oat milk)
  • 1 tsp palm sugar/brown sugar
  •  a squeeze of fresh lemon
  • 1 tin (400 ml) coconut milk (optional)
  • salt to taste

Put the stock, squash, Malay spices, onion, garlic and celery leaves in a large pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook for about 10 minutes until the squash is soft. Add the milk, season with the salt, sugar and bring to the boil again. Cook for a few minutes to reduce slightly.

Remove from the heat and carefully blend with a stick blender until smooth. You can serve as it is or add a tin of coconut milk to make it more soupy. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and taste for seasoning.

I used a potato peeler to make some courgette ribbons which I heated through with the tomatoes and toasted off some pine nuts. Some baby basil leaves and fresh rocket look pretty for a garnish too.

For more information about Reuben’s restaurants and The Small Hotel visit their website here

Beetroot and Red Wine Risotto with Oregano and Seared Halloumi

10 Mar

This recipe is inspired by our trip to the Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek. Holden Manz is owned by Gerard Holden and Migo Manz, an artist whose paintings and sculpture decorate the public areas. They took over the existing wine estate about a year and a half ago and have been reinventing it ever since.

There is a beautiful Manor House with luxurious suites that has an exclusive yet unpretentious atmosphere. This could be said of the whole estate. They have a refreshingly modern approach to the business which translates into every area. The spa, guest house, winery and restaurant all have a positivity that comes from the staff being well-trained and excited about what they do and where they work.

You can order a picnic with food fresh from the garden orchard and a lovely bottle of the Holden Manz rose. Wander down to the banks of the river, chose your spot under the oak trees and while away the afternoon. Try some of their award-winning wines, a food and wine pairing or the extremely popular tapas menu.

The Franschhoek Kitchen restaurant has very quickly become a name up there with the heavyweights in the culinary town of Franschhoek. And those are some big names.

The stand out dish, for me, was the Holden Manz shiraz and beetroot risotto with duck prosciutto. I didn’t eat the duck obviously but the sweet beetroot risotto with a hint of peppery spice from the shiraz really was delicious. The Washer Up said it was perfect with the salty, smoky duck. My challenge was to recreate this dish at home and find a suitable replacement for the duck. 

I immediately thought of feta because its salty, sour creaminess would be the perfect contrast to the sweet, dark and earthy beetroot. And this would still be great but halloumi has that slightly chewy, meaty texture that as well as the saltiness that gave it the edge over the feta. The oregano is because we have just bought an oregano plant so it is “new favourite thing” and it goes well with hallloumi for that extra bit of Greek flavour.

You make a beetroot puree to add to the risotto, we made a bit extra to use as a dressing on the plate. It really increases the volume on the beetroot flavour. It’s up to you.

Beetroot & Red Wine Risotto with Oregano & Seared Halloumi

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from The Franschhoek Kitchen recipe

Prep time: about 30 mins if roasting beetroot Cooking Time: 25-35 mins

  • about 160 gr baby beetroots, roasted until soft with olive oil salt & pepper (or you can buy precooked vacuum packed beetroot) but don’t used the pickled stuff in jars.
  • 250 gr arborio rice (we used brown short-grain rice it takes longer to cook and more stock)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or thyme (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk young celery, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 250 ml (or more if using brown rice) red wine (Shiraz/Syrah if possible) something peppery and spicy
  • 250-500 ml veg stock
  • a handful of finely grated manchego (or parmesan) cheese
  • 250 gr pack halloumi cheese, in 1/2 cm slices
  • rocket or watercress to serve
  • some finely diced cooked beetroot for garnish (optional)

Blend the cooked beets with a stick blender to a smooth puree. Reserving some to finely chop for garnish if you like. Taste and season with salt and pepper (if you haven’t already).

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low-medium heat and keep hot, not boiling.

Fry the onions and celery in the hot oil until starting to soften (4-5 minutes) then add the garlic and oregano, cook for another minute then add the rice. Stir to coat the rice then add three-quarters of the beetroot puree, stirring again.

Add the wine, in three parts stirring all the time until each lot is absorbed into the rice. Then add the hot stock a ladle full at a time, stirring untill each ladle full is absorbed before adding the next.

Keep adding the stock until the rice is cooked (you may need to add more stock/wine to the small saucepan depending on the rice). Season with salt and black pepper.

Remove from the heat stir through the grated cheese, cover and leave to stand while you cook the halloumi.

Heat a frying/saute pan over a medium-high heat but DON’T add any oil. Dry the slices of halloumi on kitchen paper then put into the hot pan. Cook for a minute or so on each side until browned and slightly crispy.

To serve: spoon the risotto into bowls (or into a chefs ring on a plate) and top with the halloumi slices. Garnish with a smudge of the reserved beetroot puree, the rocket or watercress leaves, chopped beetroot and some baby oregano leaves.

Serve with a nice glass of the red wine you used to cook the risotto. The Holden Manz Shiraz if you’re lucky…..

For more information about the Holden Manz wine estate, visit their website here.

Have a great weekend!!

Lemon Polenta Olive Oil Cake

31 Jan

Lemons are everywhere here at the moment. I use lemons a lot in my cooking to brighten up soups, curries, salads and dips. Most of my dishes are finished of with a squeeze of lemon before serving. It just highlights all the other flavours and brings the dish to life.

I saw Nigella make a lemon polenta cake that looked delicious. Hers had quite a bit of butter in it so I thought I’d try to make it with olive oil instead. I have some amazing first press newly harvested local stuff to play with and I’m always looking for excuses to use it in anything.

You should always keep olive oil (or anything really) in glass bottles if you can. Plastic affects the chemical make up of things especially when heated.  Like you should never use cling film when microwaving things. Or drink water out of a plastic bottle that has been in the sun. Microwaves are nasty anyway. Ours broke a few years ago and we have never replaced it. I honestly don’t miss it at all.

Most recipes also use a mixture of polenta, plain flour and ground almonds. I wanted to make a gluten-free, dairy-free version so I tried it without the flour. It works…

Lemon Polenta Olive Oil Cake

Makes a 24cm/9 inch cake, serves 12. Dairy-free, gluten-free.

Adapted from A Meandering Mango

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 45 mins

  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 160 gr (3/4 cup) brown sugar (or raw sugar)
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
  • 2 large lemons, zested & juiced
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 190 gr polenta (cornmeal)
  • 75 gr (1/2 cup) ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 150 C and oil a 24 cm loose bottomed cake tin.

Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and creamy (about 4 mins). Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, continuing to whisk until all the oil is combined. Whisk in the lemon zest and vanilla.

In another bowl, stir together the polenta, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Sieve this mixture over the eggs and sugar in 3 batches, alternating with the lemon juice, folding until just combined.

Pour into the oiled cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes then turn out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with a light dusting of icing sugar. You can also make a lemon syrup to drizzle over if you think it needs it. Heat up some lemon juice and icing sugar in a pan until the sugar dissolves. Use a cocktail stick or piece of dried spaghetti (authentic Italian version) to make holes all over the top of the cake. Pour the syrup slowly over the top of the cake letting the syrup sink in.

Buen Provecho!!

In my next post I will be making an exciting announcement about what I will be getting up to over the next month…

Stay Tuned!!

Rustic Leek and White Bean Soup with Rosemary

25 Jan

They are busy harvesting leeks at the moment where we walk the dog in the morning. I like leeks, they have a milder flavour than onions and they don’t make you cry when you chop them.

Leeks are one of those vegetables that have a strong supporting role in many dishes but hardly ever get to play the lead. Seeing fields full of row after row of them made me think about making them shine.

Leeks and white beans have an affinity. They have a history of working together in such classics as Cassoulet and Tuscan White Bean Soup. Rosemary is often found hanging around in the background with these two, completing the love triangle and it is flowering beautifully at the moment. Shall I stop with the film metaphors now and get on with the recipe?

Rustic Leek & White Bean Soup with Rosemary

Serves 4, Vegan, gluten free

  • Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time 20 mins
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 sticks celery, finely sliced
    • 3 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthways, rinsed and sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
    • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 tin/jar (400 gr) cooked white beans, drained & rinsed
    • about 500 ml veg stock
    • salt & black pepper
    • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped

    Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Cook the leeks, celery, rosemary and thyme with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.

    Blend half of the drained beans with splash of stock or water to a smooth puree. Add the pureed beans to the pan and stir to combine.  Pour in the veg stock and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the beans.

    Add in the whole beans, lower the heat to a simmer, season with salt & black pepper and cook  for about 10 minutes. Stir in the fresh parsley and taste. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

    Buen Provecho!!

    As promised here are some more pictures of our visit to the beautiful Alcazaba in Malaga. This is the view from the outside with the amphitheatre in the foreground.

    Inside is a study in  exquisite Moorish archways…..

    Leading through to hidden doorways and secluded patios………….

    Elaborately tiled ceilings…

    And floors….

    There are more pictures to follow on my next post…..

     

Pumpkin, Feta and Spinach Wholemeal Calzones

6 Dec

Calzones are folded pizzas with the filling inside, like Italian pasties really. You can fill them with whatever you like but I love the autumn wintery feeling that you get from pumpkin or squash. Tomato and mozzarella feels a bit too summery for me at the moment.

The idea for this filling came from Rufus (not my dog, silly). This Rufus is actually called Greg (Rufus is his middle name) and the recipe was made by his wife, Katherine. Confused?

Continue reading

Tricolor Baked Avocado with Pesto Garlic Bread

29 Nov

The smooth skinned, green avocados are in season here at the moment. Where we walk the dog there are thousands of avocado trees and sometimes, if it has been windy, there will be a windfall or two. Gifts from heaven if you like.

For a change I wanted to make a dish where the avocado was the star rather than just being an ingredient in a salad or made into a guacamole. You can cook avocado, it intensifies the flavour and makes it even more creamy in my opinion. 

 This is a dish that The Washer Up and I came up with when we first moved to Spain and lived with my dad. It’s a hot Tricolor salad really. The avocado is surrounded by a pool of your favourite tomato pasta sauce, topped with sliced or ripped mozzarella and strewn with fresh basil leaves.  Continue reading

Roasted Tomato, Saffron and Mozzarella Risotto Layer Cake

20 Aug

I roasted off another batch of my favourite slow roasted tomatoes yesterday and wanted to use them in something lovely for dinner. I found a recipe for a grilled vegetable saffron risotto cake that fit the bill perfectly.

In the original version they layer it with grilled aubergine, courgette and roasted peppers which I will definitely try next time. But I had all these sweet roasted tomatoes hanging about and I was hungry, so I just used them. I also added some of my sundried tomatoes for extra tomato intensity.

Roasted Tomato, Saffron & Mozzarella Risotto Layer Cake

Serves 4-6, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from  Jane Baxter, The Guardian

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 big pinch saffron
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 big pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 20 slow roasted tomato halves, see recipe here
  • 2 or 3 tbsp finely chopped sundried tomatoes plus 8 strips for layers
  • 300 gr risotto rice (I used brown rice, it takes longer to cook and more stock)
  • salt & black pepper
  • a splash of white wine/vermouth
  • 1 – 1 1/2 litres veg stock
  • a bunch fresh basil leaves, 1/2 finely shredded 1/2 left whole
  • 125 gr ball mozzarella, sliced in 5mm thick ovals
  • a handful of finely grated Manchego/Parmesan
  • rocket, olive oil & balsamic vinegar to serve

Put the veg stock in small pan, over a medium-low heat to heat up while you are cooking.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and cook the onion and saffron with a pinch of salt for 5 -6 minutes until softened. Then add the fennel seeds, garlic and chilli flakes and cook for a further 2 minutes. Now add 12 of the roasted tomato halves and any roasting juices, the chopped sun-dried tomatoes and the rice. Cook at a fast simmer, stirring for about 2 minutes, season generously with salt & pepper & splash in the wine.

Add the hot stock to the rice a ladleful at a time over a medium heat, adding the next ladleful when the previous one has all been absorbed. Continue like this until most of the stock is used up (1 litre for risotto rice – 1 1/2 for brown rice), taste the rice and see if it is cooked. It should still have a bit of bite to it. Season again, add in the finely shredded basil, stir and taste. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. I didn’t leave it to cool very long, I was hungry.

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Line the base of a terrine or loaf tin with baking parchment and oil/butter the sides. Take 1/3 of the cooled rice and press it into the bottom of the mould evenly. Top with 4 of the remaining roasted tomatoes in a line along the centre of the rice then top those with a half of the mozzarella slices, the a line of sun-dried tomato strips, then with a line of basil leaves. Sprinkle over half the grated cheese.

Top with another 1/3 rice, press down evenly and add toppings as before. Then finish off with the final layer of rice and press down evenly. Cook in the preheated oven for 30 minutes until golden brown on top.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the cake and turn it out onto a serving plate. Use a serrated bread knife to cut into generous slices and serve with a rocket salad dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and black pepper.

This is equally good served hot or cold and would be perfect for a summer picnic or buffet table.

 I’m having this cold for my lunch now, have a great weekend!

 Happy Birthday Dad,

Love You xxx

Wholemeal Focaccia with Homemade Sun-dried Tomatoes and Basil

30 Jul

I made my own sun-dried tomatoes this week, very proud. Well you might as well put the sun to good use. It’s out there all day blazing down and generally making a nuisance of itself.

If you’ve never tried it, now is the time (in the northern hemisphere anyway). It’s really easy and it makes you feel like a proper domestic goddess, for about five minutes.

I got the instructions on how to do it from Chica Andaluza, my fellow British food blogger in Andalucia. She grows her own tomatoes as well as many other things and I’m very jealous of her little huerto.

I don’t eat bread very often so when I do it has to be good bread. I’m not wasting my time with that supermarket bouncy fake stuff.

This is my favourite bread recipe and it uses sun-dried tomatoes and the oil they are soaked in.  I couldn’t wait to try it with my own sun-drieds.

If you are scared of making bread, like I am, don’t be sacred of this.  Me and yeast have issues, as in it won’t do its thing for me, ever.

I’ve lost count of how many heavy, dense and thoroughly unrisen loaves I’ve made. And the panettone? Don’t even go there, it was more of a flat tea cake than a light and airy, beautifully risen dome of loveliness.

This however, has never let me down, and I use wholemeal flour which is usually the kiss of death in any bread I’ve ever made. It’s a kind of flatbread so it’s not supposed to rise very much, but it does enough, every time.

You can use whatever herbs you like, rosemary is traditional, but I like basil with my sun-dried tomatoes. Just make sure you use the oil the tomatoes are soaked in. It adds so much more flavour.

Wholemeal Sun-dried Tomato & Basil Focaccia Recipe

makes one 8-10 inch round loaf, vegan

If you want to try making your own sun-dried tomatoes see Chica Andaluza’s recipe here

  • 450 gr wholemeal flour (or plain)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 7 g sachet dried fast action yeast
  • about 50 gr sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp sun-dried tomato oil (the oil the tomatoes are kept in)
  • 300 ml tepid (warm, not hot) water
  • about 10 basil leaves, rolled up & finely sliced
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)

Put the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Make a well in the middle and pour in 3 tbsp of the oil, the water and the sun-dried tomatoes.

Using a wooden spoon, mix it all together, then use your hands to make it into a soft sticky dough. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth & elastic, dusting with a little more flour if necessary but not too much.

Line a baking sheet with baking paper and then rub some olive oil over the paper. Shape the dough into a ball and slap it onto the baking sheet. Push it out with your fingers  to an 8-10 inch round about 2cm thick. Cover with a clean tea towel, tuck the ends under the baking sheet and leave in a warm area for 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 230 C. Uncover the bread and pour a little hand-hot water into a cup. Dip your index finger into the water and poke deep holes all over the dough, wet your finger each time.

Brush the remaining 1 tbsp oil over the top of the  dough (some will collect in the holes) and sprinkle with the sea salt and basil. Poke some of the basil into the holes.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden. Then remove from the tray and leave to cool for 15 minutes wrapped in the clean tea towel. Keep wrapped in the tea towel or in a plastic bag in the fridge if you want to keep it longer.

I like to cut it into quarters and then cut off  little slices or wedges to dip into some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Or you can cut it in half widthways, through the middle and fill it like you would a sandwich. Mozzarella, avocado and tomato is nice, especially toasted.

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

Dragonfly Porn… it was a bit windy, they were hanging on for dear life!

Is it me or does she look like she’s saying “What are you looking at?”…..

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