Slow Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

What a crazy time it is that we are all living in….Coronavirus, halting our lives, forcing us to stay home and slow down. An inconvenience or a blessing in disguise?img_5773-e1496487456421

We have been self-isolating for two weeks now, leaving the house to go to the shops, to exercise or go to work. The kids haven’t ventured out of our suburb in two weeks and were actually shocked when I bought home some Easter eggs from the supermarket the other day as they haven’t come shopping with me since before all the easter stock was front and centre!IMG_7766

With a little more time on our hands, I’ve been trying to think up recipes that I can share that are delicious and suitable for working from home lunches or dinners, which don’t take too long to prepare, yet are not suitable for taking to work. This slow roasted tomato bruschetta is exactly that. It requires about 5-10 minutes hands on time, yet requires time in the oven to roast – perfect to be put on mid morning and roast away while you get back to work.

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Our garden has been producing tomatoes in abundance over the past 6 or so weeks. Elise loves to eat the cherry tomatoes as they are and I have been making Passata with the larger ones, but we are still over flowing with cherry tomatoes, so this is a great dish to use up a chunk of tomatoes if you have an excess. We’ve had it a couple of times now and it is really makes a traditional bruschetta look quite inferior. The kids have enjoyed it too.

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Hope you’re all surviving this weird and wonderful time. Remember to sit back and embrace the extra time you have as it won’t last forever.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Makes 4 slices

  • 400g cherry tomatoes, some halved
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon, coarsely grated
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 large handful of basil leaves
  • Feta, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the tomatoes into a bowl and add the thyme, lemon zest, oil, balsamic vinegar and a good grind of salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
  3. Place onto baking tray and slow roast for 45-50 minutes.
  4. Once roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Toast the bread and drizzle with olive oil. Top each slice with 1/4 of the tomato mixture. Top with some torn basil leaves and crumbled feta.
  6. Serve as is or with a poached egg.

Roast Carrot and Lentil Salad

I made this salad on New Year’s Eve as a bit of a ‘throw together’ type salad and the feedback was exceptional. Everyone raved about it, so I thought it best that I write it up, which is always challenging when the original recipe was made up and not documented. So, last week, I made the salad again from what I could remember and here it is…

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Lentils make a great base for a more substantial salad. They are great source of both protein and carbohydrate, as well as providing a good amount of fibre and B vitamins. Lentils and other legumes should be included more regularly in most people’s diets, and are particularly important for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet due to their iron, zinc and protein content, nutrients that are often lacking in a vegetarian or vegan diet.IMG_7974

Lentils are often overlooked as people aren’t always sure how to incorporate them into meals, however, regular consumption of pulses (at least 3 times per week) has actually been shown to decrease the risk of developing certain cancers, particularly, colorectal cancer, due to their high soluble fibre content, which helps to keep the bowels healthy and moving well. Salads, such as this one is a great use for lentils. Other ideas include adding some lentils into a bolognese sauce, making lentil burgers, or adding them to a curry or a stew. There are so many ways to include them regularly into the diet.

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The roasted chickpeas add a great crunch to this salad and really break up the texture of the lentils and roast vegetables well. The honey and cumin roasted carrot and pumpkin provide a sweetness and spice, which are complemented by the sweetness of the grapes. If you can’t get red grapes, pomegranate would make a good substitute.

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The components of this salad can all be prepared in advance and then assembled just before serving.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 8 Dutch carrots, cut into 3cm pieces
  • 2 cups pumpkin, diced into 1-2cm cubes
  • 2 x 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 cup du Puy lentils
  • 400g chickpeas, roasted
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup of each coriander, mint and parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Place chopped carrots and pumpkin into a bowl and add olive oil, honey and ground cumin. Toss to coat the vegetables then place onto one baking tray and cook for ~40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and dry well with paper towel or a tea towel. Place in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbs of olive oil and season with salt a pepper. Place onto the second baking tray and bake for ~45-50 minutes or until dry and crunchy. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the lentils. Rinse the lentils and drain then add 1 1/2 cups of water. Heat on the stove top and bring to the boil, once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Drain and rinse the lentils and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Place the lentils into a large bowl, along with the red onion and the herbs, reserving ~ 1 tbs of herbs for serving, then prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mix/shake well to combine. Pour the dressing over the lentils and mix well to combine.
  6. Add the roast vegetables and grapes and gently toss to combine.
  7. Toast the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in a small frypan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, ~1-2 minutes.
  8. Add half the nut/seed mix and half the roasted chickpeas to the lentils and toss gently to combine.
  9. Top with remaining nut/seed mix and chickpeas, as well as reserved herbs.
  10. Enjoy as a meal on its own or with some grilled chicken, barbecued meat or a piece of fish.

Fennel, Zucchini and Walnut Salad

Over the past few months, we have been enjoying a lot of salads, which I have just thrown together with whatever we have in the fridge and they have been turning out brilliantly. This is one of the ones that I actually documented what I did and thought I would share it.

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As with most salads, this one is a great one to pair with any sort of barbecued meat, chicken or fish and a good one to take to friends place if you’re asked to bring a salad as it’s a little bit different.

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I have found that with the regular appearance of new and different salads on the dinner table over the Summer, the kids have taken more of a liking to salad, especially Claire. Previously she would have a sparrows helping of salad, now she will help herself to seconds and thirds. Whether this is an age thing or a product of repetitive exposure, I’m not sure, but we’ll go with it and keep having salads.

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I have written posts before on ways to spice up a salad, but the main things that make this salad are:

  1. It contains fruit for a bit of sweetness
  2. It contains nuts for some crunch and protein
  3. It includes some veggies, which are more regularly seen as cooked veggies and not in a salad – the broccoli
  4. It is topped with cheese for some protein and, let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese.

While these points are crucial for every salad, they do help to make it a ‘next level’ salad rather than a lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad, which does get a little bit boring.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium zucchini, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 baby fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 10 snow peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 sugar snap peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs goats cheese
  • 1-2 tbs fennel fronds

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a small tray with baking paper.
  2. Using a mandolin (if you have one), finely slice the zucchini into rounds and place into a small bowl. Add the white wine vinegar and toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Finely slice the fennel, using the mandolin and place into a large bowl. Change the mandolin setting to cut the apple into matchsticks and add to the fennel. If you don’t have a mandolin, using a knife will also work well for the zucchini, fennel and apple.
  4. Place broccoli florets, snow peas, sugar snap peas and beans into a medium sized bowl and blanch by covering with boiling water. Allow this to sit for 2-3 minutes and then drain the water and refresh under cold water. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
  5. Place the walnuts into the preheated oven and toast until golden brown. This will take 5-10 minutes but check after 5 minutes.
  6. While the walnuts are toasting, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mixing/shaking well to combine.
  7. Add the zucchini to the remainder of the salad ingredients, discarding the white wine vinegar. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Place into serving bowl and top with toasted walnuts, goats cheese and fennel fronds. Edible flowers are a lovely finishing touch also.
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Mango, Asparagus and Avocado Salad

Now that Summer and Christmas are just around the corner, I thought that I would share the salad I made today when our friends came for a late dinner.

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This salad was very much made up on the spot with what I had in the fridge, but turned out to be the quintessential Spring/Summer Salad and makes use of two of my favourite ingredients, which pair together very well, mango and asparagus. Both mango and asparagus have very short seasons, which makes me very sad, but it has meant that we have been eating a lot of them lately to make the most of them while they are in season.

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I’ve posted about how to throw together a delicious salad before, but my key tips are:

  1. Start with a leaf – it could be lettuce, rocket, spinach or other.
  2. Add some veggies – this could be a roast vegetable or a blanched vegetable. In this case I have roasted some pumpkin and blanched some asparagus.
  3. Add some typical salad veggies – I have used cherry tomatoes.
  4. Add some fruit or something for a pop of sweetness – this is where the mango shines.
  5. Add some crunch – nuts or seeds work really well.
  6. Add some cheese and or dressing to bring it all together.

The key to a good salad is a balance of flavours, sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

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Using this above framework allowed me to throw this salad together at the last minute and from the recipe below you can see how it all came together.

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I hope this provides a delicious salad for your next gathering or family meal, or at least some inspiration for throwing together your own salad with what you have in the fridge.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1-2cm chunks
  • 10 spears of asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 a lettuce (I used oakleaf lettuce), torn
  • 2 handfuls of rocket
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced
  • 1/2 a large mango, diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Dressing:

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Place diced pumpkin into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Place onto prepared tray and bake for ~30 minutes or until pumpkin is golden brown. Once cooked, set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Place chopped asparagus into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes then refresh under cold water. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small jar or bowl and shake/stir well to combine. Set aside.
  5. Arrange the lettuce and rocket into the dish you are going to serve the salad in. Top with roast pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, avocado, mango and asparagus.
  6. Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle the almonds. Lightly toss to allow the dressing to coat the salad and serve.

Pesto

Pesto is a super easy way to add some serious flavour to a whole variety of dishes.

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In my first trip overseas as an adult, I went to Italy and stayed in a little town on the Cinque Terre coast…take me back! While I was there, I did a cooking course, which involved making pesto, Italian style. All the participants made their own version of pesto, using the same 6 ingredients, basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt, just adding our own quantity of each ingredient. We then tried everyones pesto, and they were all so different, it was incredible. I have no idea what the quantities of my pesto back then were, but this recipe outlines the quantities I use now.

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I like to use pesto as a dip, to mix through pasta, vegetables or risotto or even to make scrambled eggs more delicious (see recipe below). One of my favourite dishes to use pesto in is my Roast Tomato and Pesto Risotto, a lighter risotto that is great for warmer nights.

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Nutritionally, the pine nuts in pesto provide a good source of protein and healthy fats. The olive oil is also and excellent source of healthy fats. Garlic is from the allium family and has a great deal of health benefits and can help boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure and it is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium. The basil itself, which makes up the majority of the pesto, and actually belongs to the same family as mint. It is a potent antibacterial that contains antioxidants, including polyphenols flavonoids and anthocyanin. It may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

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Pesto, is something you can make and store in the fridge. It will keep well, provided it isn’t exposed to the air. Covering the exposed pesto with a layer of olive oil will keep it fresh.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large handfuls of basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (toasting optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Begin by toasting the pine nuts in a small frypan over medium heat, until they are golden brown. This step isn’t necessary, but it gives the pesto a deeper flavour if you do toast them. Allow them to cool completely.
  2. Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan into the food processor, process for~1 minute. With the motor running, add the olive oil and process until smooth.
  3. Set aside until needed.

 

Pesto Scrambled Eggs:

  1. To make the pesto scrambled eggs, combine 1-2 eggs per person into a small bowl, along with 1 tsp of cream per person, 2 tsp of pesto, salt and pepper. Beat well to combine.
  2. Heat a small non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbs of olive oil and gently pour the egg mix into the frypan. Gently move the eggs around the pan with a spatula, until just cooked and glossy.
  3. Once the mixture is glossy, turn off the heat and serve the eggs.

 

Easy Summer Salad

A salad with some BBQ’d meat is one of the quickest and easiest meals you can have.

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Yesterday, we had some great friends over for an easy BBQ dinner and I threw this salad together. A salad doesn’t need to follow a recipe, and can use literally whatever ingredients you have in the fridge. There are just a few key things that take a salad from good to amazing:

  1. A combination of cooked and raw vegetables. This gives the salad an extra dimension. Common veggies that I will include in a salad are roast pumpkin, blanched broccoli or beans and grilled zucchini.
  2. Some crunch, and I’m talking more than just the crunch of carrot or lettuce – some form of nut or seed, preferably toasted works really well.
  3. Fruit. Some people will disagree with putting fruit in a salad, but I love the sweet pops that you get in a salad that has fruit. Apple, pear, pomegranate, stone fruit and mango all work really well.
  4. A well balanced dressing. Think sweet, salt, acid. The dressing is what brings the whole salad together and while many people believe that salad dressings are unhealthy, that is often not the case, and when made from scratch they can be a great way to add some essential fats to the salad in the form of quality oils.
  5. Protein. This can be some form of cheese, legume, nut or seed, or if you’re looking for a more substantial salad, a meat, chicken or fish.

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Before making this salad, I knew I was going to use lettuce, some of the tomatoes from our garden, roast pumpkin and feta. As a started putting it together, all the other ingredients were just what was in the fridge, and in the end it came together to be quite the delicious salad.

When making your next salad, don’t over complicate it, use what you have on hand and follow my five tips above (or this recipe) and you’ll take your salads to the next level.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6 as a side

  • 250g pumpkin, cut into 2cm cubes, roasted
  • 1 tbs EVOO
  • 4 large handfuls of mixed lettuce leaves
  • 1 large handful of rocket leaves
  • 2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 12 green beans, blanched and cut in half
  • 1/2 an avocado, cut into cubes
  • 50g feta cheese
  • Seeds of 1/2 a pomegranate
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped

Dressing:

  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbs white wine vinegar
  • Leaves of 2 thyme sprigs
  • Handful of basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the chopped pumpkin into a small bowl, add olive oil and mix to coat. Place onto the tray and cook for ~35 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool.
  2. Top and tail the beans and place into a small bowl. Cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Run under cold water to refresh, cut beans in half.
  3. Make the dressing by placing all ingredients into a jar and shake well to combine. Set aside.
  4. Place lettuce leaves and rocket into a large bowl. Top with chopped tomato, pumpkin, beans, avocado. Just before serving, dress salad and gently toss to combine. Top with pomegranate seeds, crumbled feta and toasted almonds.
  5. Enjoy.

Honey Mustard & Rosemary Roasted Carrots

We have a lot of carrots growing in our garden this Summer, so they have made a very regular appearance on our plates, and as a result we have excellent night vision!! 😉

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Do carrots actually help us see in the dark? Not directly, but Vitamin A deficiency can lead to a progressive eye disease called xerophthalmia, that can damage normal vision, leading to night blindness. So, by eating your carrots, you’re less likely to become vitamin A deficient, and less likely to have reduced ability to see in low light.

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Tonight, I thought I’d mix things up a bit and make a modern take on the good old honeyed carrots. When I was thinking up this dish, I knew I wanted honey, but was tossing up between honey-rosemary or honey-mustard, so rather than choosing, I thought I’d give the honey-mustard-rosemary combination a go, and it worked really well. If you don’t have baby carrots, you can use normal carrots, just cut them into thick sticks.

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Carrots are a very versatile vegetable that can be readily eaten as they are raw, with a dip, roasted, in a casserole or muffin, in a salad or as part of a juice. They are a great source of fibre and contain beta carotene, which is absorbed and converted to vitamin A. They also contain the antioxidants, carotenoids, which reduce free radicals in the body, providing a protective effect against cancer.

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The kids really enjoyed these carrots, most likely because they are sweeter than the normal carrot, but I’m ok with that. I’m lucky that our kids happily eat raw and cooked veggies without too many sauces or dressings, however, if I had a fussy eater, I would be tossing carrots in honey regularly if it meant they would eat them!

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These are a great accompaniment to a meat or fish dish or even to go with a BBQ.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4 as a side

  • 12 baby carrots, leaves trimmed and washed
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sprig rosemary, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbs honey, slightly heated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pepper

Dressing:

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbs rosemary, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Wash and scrub the carrots and place into a large bowl. Add in the oil, rosemary, honey, garlic, salt and pepper.
  3. Spread out onto prepared baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes or until carrots start to caramelise.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small bowl and mix well until combined.
  5. Once the carrots are cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly for ~5 minutes. Place into a bowl and pour over the dressing. Gently toss to combine.
  6. Place onto serving plate and drizzle remaining dressing over the top if desired.