Tag Archives: mozzarella

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

Slow-Roast Tomato and Quinoa Caprese

25 Jul

These Roma tomatoes, also known as Plum tomatoes or, here in Spain, tomates Pera (pear tomatoes) are all beginning to ripen here now.

When I am out with Rufus in the morning I see the farmers and their wives with their straw hats and gloves on, picking them from row upon row of tomato plants and storing them in crates.

They are really cheap at the moment so you can buy a lot for very little money. One of my favourite things to do with these tomatoes is to slow-roast them. It intensifies the flavour, you can make a load and keep them covered in oil in the fridge.

All you have to do is cut them in half, put them on a lined baking tray, drizzle them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt & pepper and put them in a low oven for 2 hours, or more if you like them more dried.

You can use them in salads, pasta dishes, serve them on burgers, in sandwiches, tortillas, quiches, pizzas or a quick bruschetta. They transform anything ordinary into something a bit special. And it’s so easy.

If you try making these once you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them. They’re such a handy thing to have around. And so cheap at the moment, it would be rude not to really.

They’re great for picnics too.

Tomatoes and basil were made for each other. They are what summer is all about. The Caprese salad is one of my “go to” summer dishes because all the ingredients are at their best and it is really quick and easy to make.

Now feel free to just use these tomatoes in a “normal” Caprese with some soft, milky buffalo mozzarella and lots of  torn basil leaves if that is all you can manage in this heat. I wouldn’t blame you at all.

But I couldn’t really call that a recipe could I? I’d feel like I was cheating you somehow.

I used quinoa in this recipe but you could just as easily use cooked rice, couscous, orzo or even pasta as the base.

Quinoa is so good for you, an amazing source of protein if you are vegetarian or vegan and it’s gluten-free. If you’ve never tried cooking with it before you should give it a go. Don’t be scared, it’s easy to work with, really versatile and is nice to eat. It absorbs flavours really well too. I cook mine in veg stock rather than water which makes it even tastier.

Slow Roast Tomato & Quinoa Caprese Recipe

serves 4, vegetarian, gluten-free

For the tomatoes:

  • 8 large , ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & black pepper

Preheat the oven to 150C and line a baking tray with baking paper.  Cut the tomatoes in half, lengthways and place them, cut side up on the tray. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar then sprinkle with the sugar and season with salt & pepper. Put in the oven for 2 hours, or longer until they have started to dry out.

Leave to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge with any juices until half an hour before you need them. Bring them back to room temperature before serving to get the most out of the flavour. If you want to store them for  longer than a few days, cover them with some olive oil. But I doubt they’ll last that long.

For the Quinoa Caprese:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • 400 gr quinoa
  •  about 1 litre veg stock
  • 40gr pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • a big handful of basil leaves
  • 3 sundried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 or 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 200 gr mozzarella
  • 6-8 slow-roast tomato halves (see above)
  • salt & black pepper
  • chilli oil (optional)

Cook the quinoa by putting it into boiling veg stock, lower the heat slightly and simmer for 12 -14 minutes until you can see the curlicues in every grain and it has absorbed all, or most, of the stock. Add some boiling water if dries out. Drain, if necessary, and leave to cool.

Meanwhile  fry the onions in the olive oil over a medium high heat for about 5-8 minutes until softened and caramelised.

Fluff up the quinoa with a fork to separate the grains and stir through the onions and any oil from the pan. Tip in any tomato juices, the sundried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Tear or finely julienne the basil and add half to the quinoa and season with salt & black pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. You can refrigerate it at this point, just bring it back to room temperature before serving.

To serve, pile the quinoa onto a large serving dish or into individual bowls and arrange the slow-roast tomatoes on top. Tear off  bite size pieces of mozzarella, scatter it around the tomatoes and top it off with the rest of the basil. Drizzle over some chilli oil or olive oil at the table.

Enjoy the taste of summer in a bowl!

Things That made Me Smile Today…..

Rufus cooling off in the spring…

Giving our plants on the terrace a quick shower…

Stay cool!!

Halloumi Cheese and Garlic Stuffed Dough Ball Ring

6 Feb

This is the gorgeous stuffed/pull apart bread I served with my Persian Lentil & Herb Soup. I was very pleased (understatement) with how it turned out because I do not have the best of luck with yeast. Every time I have used it in the past I have a disaster. It never does the double in size thing (in a warm place) and won’t rise in the oven either. My attempts at Panettone were tasty but looked more like a tea cake than a light and airy Panettone. This may have been because the electric went off half way through cooking it both times!

I had sworn off making anything with yeast until I came across this recipe for Halloumi Pull Apart Bread. The idea of pulling apart soft bread rolls to reveal an oozing cheesy garlic centre was too much for me. I was powerless to resist. Think Pizza Express dough balls, Pizza Hut stuffed crust and the best cheesey garlic bread then mix them all together and this is what you get. A Halloumi & Garlic Stuffed Dough Ball Ring…………. !

Halloumi & Garlic Stuffed Dough Ball Ring

Makes 11/12 rolls. Vegetarian. Adapted from a Choosy Beggars recipe

  • 1 tbsp active dry yeast (1 sachet)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 165 ml warm water (not hot)
  • 265 gr strong bread flour (or plain flour)
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp fine salt  
  • olive oil to dip the tops in
  • 15o gr Halloumi, grated (you can use another cheese if you can’t find Halloumi)
  • 150 gr mozzarella, grated (good for stringy melting)!
  • 1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 6 -8 ice cubes

In a small bowl combine the yeast, sugar and olive oil. Pour the warm water over, stir to combine then leave it for 10 minutes. Sieve the flour and salt together into a large bowl. When the yeast mixture has gone foamy pour it into the flour and stir together using a wooden spoon until it comes together into a dough. Sprinkle over some more flour if it is very sticky. Flour your hands and ease  the dough out onto a work surface. Pat it into a ball and knead for 10 minutes, flouring if necessary,  until it becomes smooth & elastic (You can test if it’s ready by sticking your finger in flour then sticking it in the ball of dough. The hole should spring back up and disappear).

Lightly oil a large bowl and turn your dough around in the bowl to cover it in a sheen of oil. Cover the bowl with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place (like next to a radiator) for about an hour. By this time it should have doubled in size (fingers crossed).  Mix the cheeses, parsley and minced garlic in a small bowl with a fork to make sure the garlic is evenly distributed. Roll the dough out of the bowl onto your work surface and gently knead a few times to get rid of any air pockets. 

Pinch off a piece of dough about the size of a golf ball. Press it out with your hands to an uneven circle of about 3.5 inches in diameter. Place a generous heaped tablespoon of the filling into the centre of the circle then gather up the sides of your circle and pinch them together at the top like a little drawstring purse.

Put the gathered purse seamside down in the palm of your hand and, with your other hand, gently turn, press and smooth the ball until it becomes smooth and the seam has closed/disappeared.

Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl and dip the top of the dough ball in the olive oil, then put it (seam side down) in a lightly oiled 24 cm (9 inch) cake tin. Repeat with the rest of the dough until the ring is finished. Keep some of the filling back to sprinkle over the bread later.

 The dough balls should be close together or lightly touching, not squashed together. You should get 11 or 12 out of the dough. Cover with clean tea towel and leave to rise again (in a warm place) for an hour.

While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 210 C (425 F). Put one rack/baking sheet in the bottom third of your oven and put the other rack /sheet right at the top. Put a rimmed baking sheet on the top rack. When the dough has risen (see above, hooray!!) slide the bread ring onto the lower rack and throw the ice cubes onto the top baking sheet and close the door. This creates steam, helps the bread to rise and makes a nice crust apparently. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until it is lightly golden but not fully cooked and sprinkle over some of the cheesey garlic & herb mix.

 Put it back in the oven for another 5 – 10 minutes until it is puffy and golden brown.

 Leave to cool slightly (if you can wait) and pull apart chunks of the cheesey bread to serve with your favourite soup. Or just eat it on its own as an indulgent weekend treat with friends in front of the TV…… Is it the Superbowl this weekend?!!!

Andalucian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and a tricolor salad)

8 Dec

We have picked up our bottles of the olive oil we helped to harvest here a few weeks ago and it is amazing. The flavour is so far superior to that of anything I have ever bought, I want to put it on everything. Its viscous, cloudy, golden greenness is a joy to behold. I think  that this olive oil and the bouganvilla flower should become the emblems of Andalucia, they represent the beauty and flavour of the region perfectly..

And I’m going to put it on an Italian salad! Oh well, these are the ingredients I have in my possesion: avocadoes (loads of them -windfalls!), juicy Spanish tomatoes (full of flavour right now), mozzarella cheese & our homegrown basil. What would you do?!

Andalucian Tricolor Salad

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1 large spanish tomato, sliced
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • a handful of basil leaves
  • extra virgin olive oil (Andalucian preferably!)
  • Jerez- sherry vinegar (or balsamic)
  • salt & black pepper

Alternate the slices of tomato & mozzarella around the plate and top with the avocado slices in the centre. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt & sherry vinegar and tear over some fresh basil leaves. Drizzle the olive oil generously over the salad and crack over some black pepper..

Serve with some rustic toasted bread drizzled with more healthy, fabulous olive oil… Enjoy!!

The Art of the Tart-ine!

24 Nov

It’s a posh word for an open sandwich but it makes all the difference in the world to your lunch break if you can take that sandwich to another level by making it look and taste really beautiful.

The thing is, it is really easy, all you have to do is look in your fridge, come up with a theme and fire up your grill. At the moment, here in Spain, we have a mountain of  ripe tomatoes and avocados both in the height of season, flavourful and well priced.

That’s where my inspiration came from for this Tartine Tricolore. My favourite Italian salad as a toasted sandwich…

 It all starts with the bread, buy some nice bread. Italian would be good to follow the theme. A nice Ciabatta or even Focaccia.

Tartine Tricolore

Serves 2 Vegetarian

  • 1 small ciabatta about 18 – 20 cm
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut in half, scooped out and sliced
  • 1 ball mozzarella, sliced
  • 1 large tomato(or 2 small plum tomatoes) sliced
  • mayonnaise
  • basil pesto
  • fresh basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • rocket
  • salt & black pepper

Slice the ciabatta in half lengthways so you have flat sides to pile your filling on. Preheat the grill to high and line a baking sheet with foil. Spread each side with some mayonnaise then spread a small amount of pesto on top of the mayo. Place your avocado slices on each half, then the tomato slices, season with a little salt then top with the mozzarella slices. Drizzle with olive oil then add some freshly cracked black pepper and put the open sandwiches on the baking sheet under the grill for about 2 or 3 minutes until the cheese is melting nicely. To serve scatter some fresh basil leaves & rocket over the top and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. This is the kind of sandwich you need a knife and fork for either that or a very large napkin!!

This next idea started when our friends Terry & Joan kindly brought us some Lancashire Crumbly cheese over from England. The Washer Up is a Lancashire lad and he has cravings for it occasionally. It is a creamy, mild but sharp, crumbly cheese that is really delicious served with something sweet & fruity. This got me thinking about a proper old English lunch called The Ploughman’s. A 60’s/70’s thing served in pubs which consisted of a big wedge of cheese (normally Cheddar), pickled onions, Branston pickle and some sort of scary salad.

I decided to take the Cheese & Pickle thing and bring it up to date by serving the Lancashire Crumbly topped with two types of chutney and watercress…

 Start with the bread again, it should really be something English and crusty, like a Bloomer or something similar. We can’t get that sort of thing here so I used a baguette (sacrilege, I know)! You can use whichever chutney you have around but this combination of Mango & Fig was heaven…

Posh Cheese & 2 Pickle Tartines

Serves 2 Vegetarian

Preheat the grill to high and line a baking tray with foil. Get your four slices of bread or baguette sliced lengthways drizzle with a little olive oil, layer over some generous slices of the cheese and top with a couple of spoonfuls of chutney. I like the contrast of using 2 different types, it stops you getting bored half way through. Stick it under the grill for few minutes until the cheese melts then scatter over some watercress…

The Washer Up says this should be enjoyed with a nice hand pulled pint of warm bitter….mmm. I’d go for a nice chilled glass of Albarino myself.

The next version uses Halloumi, a Cypriot Sheep’s milk cheese that is totally addictive. If you have never tried Halloumi give this a try, I promise you, you will be hooked…

Marinaded Halloumi Tartine 

serves 2 or 3 vegetarian

  • some nice bread, maybe pita or a flatbread (I used a baguette because that’s what I had)
  • 1 pack halloumi, thinly sliced about 1/2 cm
  • 2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 80ml olive oil
  • fresh mint, parsley & coriander, chopped
  • the juice of 1 lime or lemon
  • 1 red chilli deseeded & finely chopped or 1/2 tsp of chilli flakes
  • black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sumac* (optional)

*Sumac is a crushed dried berry sold in flakes which is used a lot in Middle Eastern dishes it has a smoky, lemony flavour which is fantastic with the Halloumi.

In a shallow dish large enough to fit in all the Halloumi slices, mix together the olive oil, lime juice, chopped herbs, spices, black pepper and chilli and set aside.

Dry fry the Halloumi slices in a hot pan for about 2 minutes on each side until browned and crispy(you will probably need to do it in 2 batches). When each batch is done place in the oil & lime juice marinade and toss to coat on both sides.

Meanwhile preheat the grill to hot, drizzle your bread with olive oil, place the sliced tomatoes on the bread, season with salt, pepper & olive oil and put under the grill for a minute or so to toast the bread and warm the tomatoes.

When the bread & tomatoes are toasted, layer over the cooked, marinaded Halloumi and pour over some of the herby marinade.

This really is an amazing sandwich, the combination of the salty Halloumi with the fresh herbs, chilli & lime juice is fingerlicking good! If a little messy…. Prepare to feed your Halloumi addiction!

My Macaroni Cheese

20 Oct

This has to be my favourite comfort food dish of all time. Not the most exciting I know but with the addition of garlic spinach, nutmeg & your favourite three cheeses this really is heaven. We had our friends Tim & Tony for dinner on Monday night which is their only night off from the restaurant so the last thing they want is a posh dinner, and also Tim is the fussiest person in the world when it comes to food. The Menu had to be easy, delicious, comforting, and prepared ahead. There is no way I am going to stand around cooking while everyone else is chatting & enjoying themselves and besides our dining table is in the kitchen and I can’t handle people seeing the mess… So the menu was: 

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup with Garlic & Parmesan Bread

Macaroni Cheese with Three Cheeses & Garlic Spinach

Hot Chocolate Melting Centre Pudding with Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

All three of theses dishes are easy to make and real crowd pleasers, the perfect combination of comfort and joy !! I’ll start with the macaroni cheese…

Macaroni Cheese with Garlic Spinach Recipe

Serves 4 Vegetarian

  • 500gr dried macaroni (I used penne rigate because I prefer it)
  • 1 bag fresh spinach (about 300 gr) any tough stems removed
  • 1 tbsp butter & a little olive oil(to cook spinach)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 50 gr butter (Plus extra for buttering dish & for the top)
  • 50 gr flour
  • 250 ml milk (I use goats milk) you may need more
  • freshly grated nutmeg about 1/2 tsp
  • a pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • salt & pepper
  • 150gr grated cheese (I used a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar & parmesan) you can use whatever your favourite cheeses are.
  • 1 tomato thinly sliced
  • about 25 gr breadcrumbs & extra grated parmeasan for the top

Put the butter, olive oil & garlic in a large pan with a lid and cook on a med heat for 1 – 2 mins until the garlic is soft (not browned). Then add the spinach stir a little & put on the lid for a minute. Stir again and replace the lid. Repeat until the spinach has wilted, add salt & pepper, turn off the heat & put the lid back on.

Meanwhile cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 3 minutes less than the packet says beacause it will continue to cook in the oven. Drain and set aside.

Melt the 50gr butter in a saucepan over a med heat then dump in the flour, stir & cook for 1 minute. Add the milk bit by bit stirring to incorporate each time until you have added it all and you have a smooth white sauce the consistency of thick cream. You may need to add more milk. Add the nutmeg, chilli flakes if using & salt & pepper, stir to combine. Take the pan off the heat and add the cheeses one by one stirring to melt.

In a large bowl combine the pasta with the cheese sauce, stirring to coat evenly then add the wilted spinach and garlic with slotted spoon (you don’t want the green water that has come out of the spinach), then stir to incorporate the spinach. Taste for seasoning you may need more salt, pepper & nutmeg.

Butter a large baking dish then sprinkle it with breadcrumbs. (It stops it sticking and creates a base). Pour the pasta into the dish making sure it’s even. Top with the sliced tomato,sprinkle with breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and dot with a little butter.

Ready for the Oven

If you are making this ahead, cover it and put it in the fridge until you need it. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and cook for 35 mins until browned. If you are cooking it straight away (as it is still warm )you will only need to cook it for about 20 mins until browned or even put it under the grill for 10 – 15 mins.

I think they enjoyed it !!

The recipe for Hot Chocolate Melting Centre Puddings follows….

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