Mozarella & Tomatoes & Basil

It’s all in the title, that simple it is and not much can get simpler than this, in my opinion.

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Add some good quality olive oil, a sprinkle of salt & pepper to season and you’re right there.

Caprese Salad aka Insalata Caprese. Wide smile.

As I’m writing this, it is sunny, light breeze is playing with our garden curtain, tree leaf shadows are dancing in a fancy flickering manner all around, I can hear the neighbour mowing the lawn two houses away from here – the smell of freshly cut grass, so immense! – all of this making me feel very summery indeed – I almost don’t want to let go as the end of August dangerously approaches.

Just like I probably can never give up on this refreshing, beautiful salad, which you can make anytime you like, not just on hot days. We often make it on Sunday evenings, it has become a sort of a little habit, especially as a desperate attempt to balance heavier Sunday roast lunches.

If you need a little help further on with it, let me tell you that truly all you need for this classic echoing colours of the Italian flag is 250 – 300 g Mozarella cheese (amount depending on the number of servings and your appetite – I use cca 250g for 2 salad portions) and 2 large ripe tomatoes.

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To dress and season you will also need a good handful of fresh basil leaves, 2 – 4 tbsp good quality extra – virgin olive oil, salt and freshly – ground black pepper.

To make the salad, simply drain the Mozarella cheese and slice it evenly. Slice the tomatoes similarly, in about 5 mm thick rounds. Then arrange these red and white rounds one over another on a large serving platter – I usually follow a circular pattern from the edge towards the inside of the plate.

When adding the basil leaves, you can either pull them apart by hand and only scatter them all over the cheese and tomatoes, or you can insert single leaves in between the cheese and veg slices – again, in a pattern you personally prefer.

Do not make this salad by assembling all ingredients and tossing them as you often do with other leaf salads – the chances are you will end up with a good mash of tomato and cheese juices – remember, Mozarella is very moist, semi – soft kind of cheese.

For the final touch drizzle the salad with olive oil and sprinkle salt and black pepper to your taste.

We love it served with freshly toasted Ciabatta bread (Italian white bread; but you can also use baguettes or any nice artisan bread), sliced or just torn.

There’s always a little formal battle going on at the end of the meal when we wipe the veg, cheese & oil juices on the bottom of the plate with it. Absolute bliss!

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For a slight variation you can use cherry tomatoes combined with mini Mozarella balls, or indeed tomberries (very cute, only about 1 cm small tomatoes) and Mozarella pearls.

You can also dress the salad with Pesto alla Genovese which is a wonderful mixture of basil leaves, pine nuts, hard cheese, garlic and olive oil.

Hope you like it just as much as we do! Wink

 

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Salmon & Fennel Tray Bake

Simple one tray dish – requires very little preparation, not demanding with a lovely result – to sum up what you can do with these main two ingredients – Salmon & Fennel.

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Preheat oven to 200 °C fan, leave the baking tray in the oven.

Wash and lightly scrub 500g new potatoes, halve them and add into a pot of boiling water, add 2 smaller (or 1 large) fennel bulbs, that you sliced into smaller wedges. Let gently simmer for about 5 min. Drain the veggies, and place them onto the hot tray. Mix them with a handful chopped parsley leaves, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle well with olive oil, stir or toss again to make sure all is nicely covered in oil, then return into the oven and let roast till all is just about done, pretty golden.

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While your veggies are baking, prepare the salmon fillets – you will need fillets with their skin on, which you will score about 1 cm into the meat. Season the fillets and then stuff in more freshly chopped parsley and mint leaves into the scores.

Prepare a smaller handful of grated Parmesan cheese, which you sprinkle onto the nearly baked vegetables, and give them another stir, so they get covered in the cheese as well. Sprinkle with zest of 1 lemon. Place the fish fillets on top of the veg, drizzle with a little olive oil again, then return to the oven and let roast for another 15 min till the fish is well done.

Serve sprinkled with chopped fennel fronds, or more chopped parsley and mint, with lemon wedges at the side.

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We loved this meal very much, the recipe was passed on me by our good friend, who used the original recipe by Jamie Oliver – it was really lovely, done fast, and enjoyed by the whole family! Wink.

 

Mango Mousse

To kick the summer off I decided to share this refreshing dessert with you. It’s in that colour appeal, the lush texture and energizing taste, all of it speaks summer to me –  a sensational combination of mango, lemon and lime in one glass! Pure summer indulgence!

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The idea comes from a wonderful book “Foolproof Cooking” by the inspirational cook, Mary Berry,  published by BBC Books, 2016 © Mary Berry to accompany her tv series.

It is very simple, and what is absolutely great about it is the fact you can easily prepare it the day before serving – the mousse holds well and stays fresh just as the moment it was made.

 

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For 4 – 6 servings, use 2 ripe mangos (about 400 g mango flesh), 300 ml double cream, juice and grated zest of 1/2 lime, 100 g good – quality lemon curd.

I used mango, but as an adapted version for those possibly allergic to fresh mangos, as myself, I also tried tinned peaches – they work just as well, they’re nearly the same colour and feel just as indulgent and summery as their more exotic counterparts.

Skin the fruit and slice the mango flesh, take good care around its stones, leave some of the chunks aside – keep them reserved for the final decoration of the dessert.

Puree the flesh in a food processor till smooth and velvety.

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Whip the cream in a bowl and check constantly throughout the process – avoid whipping it too thick, only until there are soft peaks – the lemon curd and lime juice will do the thickening once added. Fold them gently into the cream, twirl evenly until the cream is all nicely coherent.

Then simply start filling 4 – 6 small glasses with the pureed mango on the bottom, then layer the cream, mango puree and cream again.

I went for larger glasses and used only some of the cream to decorate the top mango layer. Also, this way you can see more of the puree texture in the images. You can layer them as you wish, or as Mary suggests – having four layers in total (two of the mango and mousse).

You can always adapt the amount of cream, I wouldn’t use more than 350 – 400 ml though, so it wouldn’t overpower the fruit puree.

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Finally, use the reserved mango chunks & lime zest to decorate each glass. Chill in the fridge for about an hour or more before serving. Enjoy the summer!

 

 

 

 

 

Udon Noodles With Shiro Shimeji Mushrooms

From time to time it is good to look back and review one’s work, or just simply look behind and enjoy the view, both of which I did with my Shiro Shimeji Mushroom images that I took some two and a half years ago. I still keep the simple recipe and thought this could be good for a simple Friday idea.

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You need Udon noodles that you prepare as instructed on their packaging, or if you’re using the ready made ones as I did, just keep them unpacked aside and add them to your stir fry once the mushroom mixture is nearly ready. I usually use the packet with two portions of 150 g each (300 g packaging with 2 separate 150 g pouches).

 

Prepare your ingredients ahead, so you have them by hand and only toss them into the pan as the mushrooms start cooking.

You’ll need 2 – 3 spring onions, sliced, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 3 tbsp dark soy sauce, 2 tbsp Worcester sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil, a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped, and 2 tsp sesame seeds.

As an option, you can also make about 50 ml mixture of cornflour and water. This would make the noodles a little stickier and moist.

 

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On a hot pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil + 2 tbsp sesame oil, add 150 g  mushrooms  – rinsed and only root part chopped off, no need to cut or slice them further, they’re not big in size and they separate nicely while being cooked. Plus, they look interesting in your plate just as they are. This amount is enough for two good sized portions.

When the mushrooms are warmed up through, add the cornflour mixture, stir well, then add the sauces, onions and garlic. The mushrooms don’t take very long to cook, stir fry them up to 5 mins and when they start looking golden, add the noodles, stir well again till the noodles separate well and are all covered with the sauces completely.

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Take off the heat, serve hot – sprinkle sesame seeds and coriander leaves all over.

Enjoy your Friday! Wink.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Berry Sundae

What child wouldn’t love this simple sweet juicy mellow sundae? I don’t even have to say.

I’ll be quite short today – celebrating our small ones all around the world, I think this is just a thing to make their day all brighter, juicier, sweeter..

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To make two portions (or more depends how big the little people are )  you need 1-2 large meringues, double cream 250 ml (lightly whipped), a large handful of each fresh raspberries and chopped dry roast macadamia nuts.

Break and crumble the meringues, then whip the cream, don’t make it too thick, and gently fold them together. Add the berries, try not to squash them, be very light handed.

Serve two scoops of good quality vanilla ice – cream in each glass, top with the cream & meringue mixture, sprinkle with the nuts, and as we did, drizzle a little with golden syrup.

Delicious and serves as a wonderful pudding ending any special children’s lunch or dinner!

 

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My favourite Nigel Slater is the author of the original recipe from his series “Nigel Slater’s Simple Suppers” which I loved watching as well as following in the kitchen. This one works! Wink.

Find the link to the original recipe here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/acreamycrunchyfruits_92490

Radish Side Salad

I don’t think this one can be added as a truly prepared recipe post, neither photo shoot done, because it was all about me taking the very first snaps using my brand new lenses. Shots taken just like that, very random takes indeed. Later on I thought I still could use them and why not?

So, if anyone ever wondered whether radishes can be eaten warm as well, here you are, give it a go!

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So I used what I had on my kitchen table top at that exact moment. Two bunches of fresh radishes. There was also a bunch of fresh asparagus somewhere in the fridge, ready to be used as sides for our dinner later on. See the picture of the side salad lower.

I think I didn’t even use a diffuser. I liked the fresh vegetables and couldn’t wait to try the new glass. I used darker and brighter backgrounds to compare. Shot the ready made salad afterwards. End of the story.

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I never really had the habit of eating radishes warm. The most usual way to enjoy them in my old home country was, and I guess still is, served sliced – thinly or in quarters, or pretty zig-zagged halves, simply salted  and served with another meal, and with simple buttered sour dough slice most often.

Nowadays I got used to eating them warm, too, and it is also lovely. I think it makes them much milder, and it softens them. I am always careful not to cook them for too long though.

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Bring a pan of water to boil, then add washed radishes, tops and bottoms trimmed, and cook for 2 – 3 mins max. Turn the heat off and quickly drain and place the radishes under cold water – this will prevent them from ongoing cooking while still hot inside.

When they cool down a bit, halve them or slice them into shapes that will suit your salad.

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Mix extra virgin olive oil with few splashes of balsamic vinegar, drizzle the radishes and give them a nice toss.

Serve straight away!

 

Apricot Tart

I do love apricots, they remind me of my first pregnancy, too, when this was the kind of fruit I would want to have very often for no particular reason – well, of course, expecting a baby obviously was a reason good enough – for my apricot cravings. Smile.

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This tart doesn’t require fresh fruit, you can use tinned apricots in juice, so you can make it any time of the year you like. And of course, being pregnant or not. Wink. If you are though, watch for the sugar levels (14.9 g per serving).

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I tried this recipe from Sainsbury’s Cookbook Volume Two, published by © Dorling Kindersley Limited, 2015. I think it’s simple and doable, as most of their recipes, and brings you a lovely pleasant treat in about an hour’s time. It is perfect for an afternoon tea / coffee break.

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For the pastry rub with your fingers 175 g plain flour (keep some extra flour for dusting) with 25 g caster sugar, 100 g baking block (previously cut into pieces) until it crumbly. Add 1 egg yolk and enough water to form a soft dough, which you need to wrap and chill for half an hour (I placed it in the freezer).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180 ºC / 160 ºC fan / gas 4.

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Roll out the pastry to about 3 mm thick and line a 22 cm  tart tin, leaving an overhang of at least 1 cm. Prick with a fork, brush with the egg white, line with greaseproof & non-stick baking paper and fill in with baking beans. Bake for 20 mins, remove beans and paper, and bake for further 5 mins, then trim off ragged edges while warm with a sharp knife. (As you can see in my images, I couldn’t do that, I used a larger stone tart baking tray, so was happy to have had enough dough for the edges – not so pretty, but nothing short of the good taste though.)

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For the filling, whisk 200 ml single cream, 50 g caster sugar, 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk and 1/2 tsp Madagascan vanilla extract in a bowl.

Lay 400g apricots (halves of fruit from a tin, in juice, drained) cut-side down, over the tart case. Place on a baking tray and pour the cream mixture over the fruit. use a rubber spatula to distribute the mixture more evenly if necessary. Bake for 30 – 35 mins until just set and golden.

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Allow to cool to room temperature before serving. Enjoy as a part of your afternoon tea but it is also a good idea for a picnic as the filling holds very well.