Last of the summer tomatoes

Making your own soup is so easy and produces such tasty results that it seems a shame to go out and buy it. It may take a little more time than heating up a supermarket bought tub but if you can spare a bit of time, treat yourself to the fresh flavours of the home made version.

I used fresh plum tomatoes from the garden to make this soup but if you can’t get your hands on any, standard tomatoes are fine to use.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Basil (serves 4)

1kg tomatoes

1 ½ red peppers

2 onions sliced

800ml vegetable or chicken stock

25g butter

2 handfuls of roughly chopped basil

Salt

Pepper

Olive oil

1tbsp thyme

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200ᵒ/Gas mark 6. Halve the tomatoes and cut the pepper into large strips. Put them face up in a roasting tray and sprinkle generously with salt, olive oil, and a little thyme.
  2. Roast the tomatoes and pepper in the oven for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat the butter in a large pan and fry the onions until soft but not coloured.
  4. When the tomatoes and peppers are done, add them to the pan of onions along with the stock and plenty of pepper. Bring the mixture to the boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Add the roughly chopped basil and leave the soup to simmer again for a further 10 minutes.
  6. Leave the soup to cool slightly and then put in a blender for a minute or so until you like the consistency.

A Tuscan Treat

In Italy no meal is complete without bread and there is so much choice that it is easy to see why. Each region has its specialities and schiacciata is a Tuscan flat bread. It is a variation on the well loved Italian focaccia but it uses more oil and salt and is dense with a slightly chewy texture. A few years ago I spent a year living in the little town of San Giovanni Valdarno near Florence in Tuscany and ate hoards of the stuff. It was addictive and before returning to England I was desperate to learn how to make it myself. So one Saturday morning I went along for a lesson at the town’s bakery to learn from the experts.

The recipe below is based on the one I learnt at the bakery with a few tweaks to accommodate using dried yeast and the absence of a huge stone baker’s oven! As I baked this bread this morning the smell enveloped me and biting into the finished product brought back memories of walking down Corso Italia in San Giovanni and stopping off to buy schiacciata for my lunch after work. What a great feeling. It may take a while but this recipe is definitely worth it.

Tuscan Schiacciata

11.5g dried yeast

300ml warm water

½ tsp sugar

500g strong white bread flour

Semolina flour or polenta to cover your baking sheet.

Olive oil

Salt

  1. Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water and stir until the yeast has dissolved. Leave the mixture in a warm place for about 15 minutes until there is a layer of foam on the surface then give it a good stir. This process is important as it enables you to check that your yeast is active.
  2. Put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture little by little, mixing it with the flour as you go. Flour your hands and use them to bring the flour together into a dough. The mixture should be moist so add a little extra water if needed.
  3. Flour your work surface and begin to knead the dough, pushing and folding again and again until the dough becomes elastic. If you put in a good effort this should take about 10 minutes and leave your forearms a little sore!
  4. Put the ball of dough back into the mixing bowl and cover it with a sheet of cling film that has been brushed with oil. This will help the dough to retain its moisture whilst it proves.
  5. Leave the dough in a warm place to triple in size. It will probably take about 1 ¼ hours so be patient.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 250ᵒ/Gas mark 9 with a large baking sheet or roasting tray inside.
  7. Once the dough has proven, put it onto a flat surface and roughly push it out so it is about ½ inch thick. Don’t worry about the shape as it is meant to be rustic! Take the baking sheet or roasting tray out of the oven and sprinkle it generously with semolina flour or polenta as this will stop your bread from sticking. Lay your bread onto the tray but take care, as the baking sheet will still be hot.
  8.  Push your fingers into the dough to make holes all over it. Drizzle over olive oil and sprinkle over plenty of salt. Don’t be scared of the oil and salt! Be really generous with them as they give this bread its wonderful texture and flavour.
  9. Put your creation into the oven for about 15 minutes until it is firm, golden, and the oil is glistening. If you want to, drizzle a bit more oil over for good measure.

Schiacciata is best served warm or stuffed to make a tantalising sandwich. I’d recommend filling the bread with prosciutto, cheese and rocket. Mmmmm….

Now bring us a figgy salad…

Summer may be drawing to a close but as we all know English weather is oh so unpredictable! For me it is important to make the most of every possible sunny evening and that includes eating accordingly. This week I managed to cheat the beginning of autumn and sneak a summery salad into my menu…

This is a dish that is full of flavour and can be served as a light bite or as a yummy starter. It is ridiculously simple but tastes so good!

Fig and Prosciutto Salad  (Serves 2)

2 large handfuls of rocket

1 handful of spinach leaves

2 figs

4 slices of prosciutto

10 cherry tomatoes

Parmesan cheese

Salt, pepper and olive oil

  1. Wash the rocket and spinach and mix together. Spread evenly between two plates.
  2. Cut the figs into 5 segments and arrange around the outside of the salad.
  3. Tear the prosciutto into strips and spread over the salad. Then divide the tomatoes between the two plates.
  4. Drizzle a little olive oil over the salad and sprinkle over a little salt and pepper.
  5. To finish, grate or peel strips of parmesan cheese and scatter over the salad.

A Cornish Cream Tea on the Camel Trail

The Camel Trail is a route that runs along the Camel Estuary from Padstow to Wentfordbridge. It follows a disused railway line and is the perfect place to spend a day cycling and admiring some beautiful Cornish scenery. But with all that fresh air it is important to keep your energy levels up and the Camel Trail Tea Garden is the perfect, picturesque place to refresh and take a break from cycling. The garden is terraced and has a few rows of apple trees that makes the scene reminiscent of a small orchard, it is quite simply lovely.

On an August morning, after picking a seat at one of the picnic benches under the tree branches, my family and I sat down to browse the menu: sandwiches, baked potatoes and cold drinks were all there for a basic lunch, but we were more interested in the traditional Cornish cream teas on offer. At £4.55 each, we ordered 3 cream teas and an extra pot of tea between four and this was plenty for a morning break.

The scones arrived within no time along with jolly service and they really looked great (and to my delight, rather large!). Each portion came with two, fresh, homemade scones, clotted cream and jam. They were light and delicious and a perfect morning snack for a group of hungry cyclists. Homemade jam would have been an extra treat but nevertheless the scones were great and the surroundings beautiful.

A quick and easy way with leeks…

Just coming into season, the leek is one of my favourite vegetables as it is not only delicious but very versatile. Leeks can be quite expensive but if you buy them at the right time and from local veg shops they may not seem so pricey.

This recipe for stuffed pittas was the result of a desperate attempt to make something palatable from the last collection of ingredients I had in my fridge one evening. It turned out to be a quick and tasty supper that I now make regularly. Why not try it yourself?

Chicken, leek and pesto pittas (ingredients per person)

1 chicken breast, diced

½ a leek

½ an onion

A handful of mushrooms

2 tbsp crème fresh (Natural yogurt will do fine for a slightly cheaper option)

1 generous tea spoon of green pesto

2 pitta breads, toasted

  1. Dice the chicken and chop the vegetables into chunks.
  2. Fry the chicken and after a few minutes, add the onion, leeks and finally, once the chicken begins to brown, the mushrooms.
  3. Meanwhile, mix the pesto and crème fresh together in a bowl and lightly toast the pitta breads.
  4. When everything is cooked, add the pesto mix to the chicken and vegetables and stuff into the toasted pitta breads.

Enjoy!

Welcome!

Hello and welcome to my food blog! My name is Kimberley and I am passionate about food and cooking. I love trying out new recipes and ingredients and it gets me so excited that I want to share my enthusiasm with you!  In this blog I will post my own recipes as well reviewing those of others. I will also report back on places I have eaten and all other food experiences I have. I hope you enjoy my posts and please let me know how you get on with any recipes you try!