Starters, Soups, Salads & Snacks

Fried Zucchine Flowers

Ingredients: Flour, water/ beer, zucchine flowers, sage leaves, lemon

Preparation: 10 mins

  1. There is no way to precisely measure the quantities of flour and water/beer for this batter. I find it best to judge by the consistency so you can start with a couple of tbsps of flour and add in water/beer until you reach a smooth but slightly heavy / sticky batter as you need the batter to adhere to the flowers and sage leaves. Use a sage leaf to test the batter. If it doesn’t run off the leave then it’s fine. If it is too runny then simply add in a tiny bit more flour. Once made you can also chill the batter before use.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, heat a large fry pan with a generous helping of olive oil.
  3. Coat each flower in the batter mix and once the oil is hot start frying. The flowers will need c. 1-2 mins on each side but again go by sight. Once nicely golden they are ready to serve.
  4. Drain on a piece of kitchen roll to soak up any excess oil and then sprinkle with salt to serve.
  5. I also like a squeeze of lemon with mine!
  6. Repeat this process with fresh sage leaves for another yummy little starter.


Carrot and Cranberry Salad

 Ingredients: 6 carrots, 50g cranberries, 5-6 large basil leaves, cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper

Preparation: 10 minutes

1. Wash, peel and grate the carrots and throw into a large mixing bowl.

2. Toss in the cranberries and sliced basil leaves.

3. Mix 1/3 cider vinegar to 2/3 olive oil (1tbsp vinegar to 2 tbsp oil) and add salt and pepper to taste.

4. And that’s it!

Tip: If you like a bit of added crunch then throw in some pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or whatever takes your fancy.


New Potato Salad with red onion, chives and mint

Ingredients (for 10 people): 2kg new potatoes, 1/2 sweet red onion, bunch of chives (c. 15 blades), 3 large stalks of mint, mayonnaise, olive oil, salt, pepper, wholegrain mustard, salt and pepper

Preparation: 15 mins prep + 30 mins cooking + 15 mins cooling time.

1. Half the new potatoes and place in a pan of salted tepid water and bring to the boil.

Tip: I favour tepid water so that the potatoes gradually come to the boil with the water. When I’ve placed potatoes directly in boiling water I find they fall apart more easily later on in the cooking process. And likewise using cold water I tend to over cook them and the potatoes become waterlogged.

2. Once boiling, reduce the temperature down and simmer (partially covered) for c. 20-30 mins controlling at regular intervals with a knife to check the potatoes don’t over cook. You want them soft but firm ready to mix with your dressing.

3. Whilst the potatoes are simmering, prepare the herbs and dressing directly in a large mixing bowl.

4. Place one large tablespoon of mayonniase in the mixing bowl. Add in 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of wholegrain mustard and some salt and pepper. Stir together until you have combined all the ingredients well for a light mayonnaise dressing.

5. Finely slice the 1/2 red onion into wafer thin slices. Chop the chives in 1cm long lengths (I use scissors to chop the whole bunch simultaneously) and with a large knife finely chop the mint leaves (strip the leaves from the stalks and discard the stalks).

6.  Add the onions and herbs into the dressing and combine.

7. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and quickly run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Leave to cool for a further 10-15 minutes before adding in to the dressing.

8. Once slightly cooled add in about a third of the potatoes and stir into the dressing, then add in the second third and final third in stages to ensure you get good coverage on all the potatoes.

Tip: If you pour in all the potatoes you risk mashing them as you mix with the dressing.

9. Once nicely combined transfer into a serving dish and top with a few last bits of chopped chive and some mint leaves.

10. The end result is a delicious potato salad, easy on the mayo to ensure the flavours of the ingredients shine through, that can be eaten whilst still slightly warm or chilled, as per your preference.


Asian Bean Salad

Ingredients: 400g tin borlotti beans, 400g tin chick peas, 200g tin kidney beans, 200g tin (or better yet fresh) bean sprouts, 1 red spring onions, bunch fresh coriander, soy sauce, honey, toasted sesame seeds, sesame oil, salt and pepper

Tip: You can use any combination of beans you have available and/or boiled dried beans as opposed to tins if you’re happy to boil them up first.

Preparation: 10 mins

1. Open all the tins and rinse the beans in a sieve under a cold water and leave to drain. If using fresh bean sprouts you can add them in later.

2. Preheat the grill for your sesame seeds.

3. Finely chop the red spring onion and coriander leaves (save some coriander to sprinkle on top).

4. In a mixing bowl combine 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil, 1 level tablespoon runny honey, salt (small amount as soy sauce already very salty) and pepper and mix well.

5. Take c. 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and place on a baking tray and grill for literally 1 minute until toasted golden.

6. Combine all the ingredients in the mixing bowl with the dressing and mix well before transferring into a serving dish.

7. Sprinkle with the last of the coriander to serve.

8. Enjoy!


Nicoise Salad

Ingredients: Mixed Lettuce (I’ve used 3 kinds from my garden including a red leafed variety and some rocket), boiled eggs, tuna, black olives, tomatoes, avocado (optional), anchovies, For the dressing olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, sugar, shallots

Preparation: 15-20 mins

  1. Portions as per number of people you are catering for. Allow 1 egg, 1 tomato, 1/4 advocado, 1/2 tin tuna per person and a generous helping of lettuce. the olives and anchovies are for garnish so you can use as few or as many as you like.
  2. Hard boil the eggs for 10 mins and then leave to cool in cold water until you are able to peel.
  3. Wash and drain the salad leaves and then shred by hand into a large salad bowl.
  4. Chop the advocado into bite sized chunks and sprinkle across the salad.
  5. Crumble the tinned  tuna across the salad. (You can also make using fresh tuna steaks for a more sophisticated evening salad in which case place your griddled / bbq’d steak alongside the salad).
  6. Quarter the tomatoes or cut into eigths if using larger salad tomatoes and sprinkle around the bowl.
  7. Half or quarter the eggs and place around the salad.
  8. lastly sprinkle on the olives and lay a few anchovies across the top of the salad.
  9. For a finishing touch I also added some chopped basil to top my salad off although this isn’t strictly part of an authentic nicoise salad.
  10. For the dressing mix 1tsp mustard, 1 tbsp vinegar and 3 tbsp of olive oil and add in a pinch of salt, sugar and ground black pepper. For larger volumes just replicate 1-3 mix ratio of vinegar and oil and add in the mustard to create your desired thickness.
  11. Bon appetit!


Zucchine, Tomato, Feta and Thyme tart

Ingredients: 1 pack ready to use puff pastry, 100g cubed Feta, 8-10 Cherry tomatoes (halved), 1/2 round zucchine or 1 small long zucchine, 3-4 sprigs thyme, salt and pepper, olive oil for drizzling

Preparation: 10 mins + 25 Cooking

1. Preheat oven to 200C and prepare a round baking tray with baking paper (you should find your pastry comes with some)

2. Place your pastry in the tray

3. Finely slice the zucchine and cover the base of the pastry. If using a round zucchine you can lay the slices around as you would for a fruit flan. If using a long zucchine then slice in rounds.

4. Half the tomatoes and scatter on top of the zucchine.

5. Cube your feta and sprinkle over the tomatoes.

6. Sprinkle over the thyme leaves and some salt and pepper to taste and finally drizzle a little olive oil.

7. Bake for c. 25 mins in centre of hot oven.

8. Leave to cool slightly before eating.


Vegetable Soup topped with crunchy prosciutto and oregano

Ingredients: 1 Onion, 2 leeks, 1 large potato, generous portion of spinach, 1 litre veggie stock, salt and pepper, 3-4 slices of prosciutto crudo, 1 tsp sesame seeds, 2 cloves garlic, Olive oil

Preparation: 20 mins + 50 mins cooking + liquidising

1. Peel and dice the onion and one of the garlic cloves and in a large saucepan lightly fry in a tbsp of olive oil.

2. Wash the spinach, peel the potatoes and leeks and chop (the soup will eventually be liquidised so it doesn’t matter too much how you chop the vegetables).

3. Add the leek into the onion and continue frying for a few minutes before tossing in the spinach. Stir for a minute then add in the potato and stock and bring to the boil before simmering for c. 40 mins.

4. Turn the soup off and leave to cool down for a while (min. 20 mins) before liquidising until smooth.

5. In the same pan, add in another splash of oil and heat. Once hot throw in the second garlic clove (halved) and the tsp of sesame seeds and allow both to brown before pouring the soup back in to warm through.

6. In the meantime, heat the grill and cook the prosciutto until your slices become nice and crunchy (Bacon or Pancetta are both great alternatives). Drain off any excess fat by placing the prosciutto on a piece of kitchen towel.

7. Finely chop the oregano to sprinkle on top of the soup as decoration.

8. Serve the soup with a slice of crunchy prosciutto and a sprinkle of oregano on top and a side of bread.


Greek Salad

Ingredients for 4: 1 large cucumber, 4 large salad tomatoes, 1 pack 150g Feta, 1/4 red onion or 2 red spring onions, Greek olives, oregano (fresh or dried), salt & pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar

Preparation: 10-15 mins

1. Wash and partially peel the cucumber (stripes) so you have some flashes of green but not the full skin. Chop into large uneven chunks to create texture in the salad.

2. Wash the tomatoes, half and cut out the point where the stem enters the tomato (Call me superstitious but I was always told to do this as if tomatoes are treated using pesticides then this is where the chemicals enter). Chop into chunky slices and then half again till you have bite sized chunks.

3. In a large salad bowl add the tomatoes and cucumber and toss in as many greek olives as you desire. If you don’t have greek olives then the recipe can work just as well with other varieties. I favour a mix between black olives and stuffed green olives with pimento.

4. Thinly slice the 1/4 red onion or the red spring onions and toss into the salad along with some freshly chopped oregano or finely ground dried oregano.

5. Dress with olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar and salt and pepper. Mix well before finally adding in your chopped Feta. I always add it last so that it doesn’t get too beaten up when you toss the salad.

6. I ate mine with a chunk of wholemeal foccacia to mop my plate but a good piece of crusty bread will do nicely.


Pizza Spazzacamino

Ingredients: For the dough – 500g Manitoba flour, 250g water, 50g olive oil, 15g salt, 25g fresh yeast or standard sachet of dried yeast. For the topping: 400g tin plum tomatoes, 125g mozzarella, fresh basil, salt and pepper + any topping of your choice; peppers, ham, bacon, onions, olives, capers…….

Preparation: 15 mins + 1 hour for dough to rise + 15 mins cooking

1. Make your dough in the morning and leave to rise for as long as possible, preferably in a warm environment. That way when you’re hungry and ready to eat all you have to do is dress the pizza and cook for 15 mins in a hot oven 240C.

2. Mix the flour and salt in a loarge bowl and in a seperate jug mix the tepid water, oil and yeast together.

3. Pour into the flour and combine well until your dough starts to form. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a couple of minutes until smooth. Flour your hands rather than adding to much flour to the board to ensure your dough doesn’t become too dry.

4. Once you’re dough is ready, roll out and place on a lightly oiled tray to rise for a minimum of 1 hour. the longer you can leave it the better. Cover with a tea-towel so keep the moisture in.

5. Once risen you can start to dress your pizza with your chosen toppings. Make sure to preheat the oven to 240C whilst you’re decorating the pizza.

6. Start with the plum tomatoes and break them by hand and place evenly across the dough, lastly pouring on the tomato juice from the tin. Sprinkle a little salt over the tomato base.

7. Take the mozzarella and cut into smaller chunks and spread across the pizza. I add the mozzarella at this stage so that it doesn’t cook to quickly and melt off the pizza.

8. Lastly sprinkle your toppings. In this case I added finely slice onion (the finer the better unless you want to be tasting it still the next day!), pancetta slices, black olives.

9. To prevent the pizza become soggy you need to get it in the oven fairly quickly once dressed as by using tinned plum tomatoes there is more moisture than a simple tomato puree. This makes it much more scrummy once cooked. It’s also key that the oven is nice and hot and already preheated to 240C to give a good crustiness to the base.

10. Bake for 12-15 minutes and then eat piping hot! I use a gas oven which heats very quickly. If you have an electric oven you may need to cook it for a couple of minutes longer.


Anchovy Bruschetta

Ingredients: baguette (sliced), butter, salted anchovies

Preparation: 10 – 15 mins

1. Preheat oven to 200C

2. Slice the baguette into 1cm thick rounds and place on baking tray.

3. Bake for c. 10 mins until nice and crisp and then leave to cool.

4. Once cool spread each bread slice with a generous coating of butter.

5. Place one anchovy on top of each mini bruschetta and enjoy!


Platter of meats

Ingredients: 100g of each of the following meats thinly sliced – Parma ham, Speck, Cooked ham, Salami, Mottadella or whatever is locally available. Pickled onions, gherkins, horseradish, cherry tomatoes.

Preparation: 5 mins prep

1. This couldn’t be easier. Simply lay all the meats on a platter or wooden board and decorate with the onions, gherkins,tomatoes for an easy sharing platter.


Pint of Prawns

Ingredients: 1 pack of unpeeled cooked prawn, 2 lemons. For the salsa rose: 2 tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tsp horseradish, 1 tsp worcestershire sauce, 1 tsp ketchup or tomato puree, salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: 5 mins prep

1. Wash the prawns and serve in a large mug, bowl or pint glass.

2. Mix all the ingredients for the salsa togother and serve in small dipping bowl.

3. Quarter the lemons and serve on the side.


Aubergine & Chickpea Houmus

Ingredients: 1 aubergine, 1 crushed garlic clove, 400g can of chick peas (drained), 1 tsp cayenne pepper or parika, shake of ground black pepper, juice of 1-2 lemons (depending on size), chopped mint, 1 tsp roasted sesame seeds, extra virgin olive oil

Preparation: 5-10 mins prep + 30-40 mins cooking for aubergine

  1. Heat the oven to 200C and place the whole aubergine on a baking tray and cook for 30-40 mins until the skin is blackened. Add the sesame seeds for the last few minutes so that they bake and release their flavours. Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Take out the aubergine flesh and add to blender along with the drained chick peas, sesame seeds, garlic, cayenne or paprika, black pepper and start blending.
  3. With the blender running add in the lemon juice, mint and a generous splash of olive oil and keep blending until nice and smooth.
  4. Serve in a bowl and add an additional splash of oil (this stops the houmus from creating a skin).
  5. If not using immediately, store in a cool place (preferably not the fridge as the cold kills the flavour).
  6. Serve with chopped fresh for a perfect summer snack in the garden.


Antipasto Mixed Grilled Vegetables

Ingredients: 3 mixed pepper, 4 courgettes, 1/2 aubergine, 1 red onion, 1 garlic clove (sliced), fresh basil, Olive oil, lemon juice

Preparation: 10 mins + 30 mins in oven or 20 mins in griddle pan

  • Prepare all the vegetables by halving the peppers and slicing, halving the courgettes and cutting into thick chunks, dicing the aubergine into small to medium sized pieces, slicing the onion into chunks.
  • If oven cooking place in large roasting tin and cover with a good serving of olive oil.
  • If cooking in a griddle pan, start by cooking the onions, garlic and peppers, then add aubergine and finally the courgette.
  • Cook for circa 30-40 minutes until nicely browned.
  • Leave to cool for 5 mins then sprinkle with some lemon juice, the fresh basil and add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve as an antipasto alongside cold meats and cheeses or as a side dish for a main course.


Pesto – Nonna’s special pesto

Ingredients (as with many grandmothers the emphasis is on using the eye!):

1 big bunch of basil

1 pack Pine nuts

Grated fresh parmesan (generous helping)

1-2 anchovies (optional)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preparation: 10 mins

  • Strip the leaves from the basil and put in blender with pine nuts, grated parmesan and anchovies.
  • Blend whilst adding in the oil until it reaches a pesto-like consistency.
  • Decant into a jam jar and cover with olive oil.
  • You can keep in fridge or freezer but it is important that each time you use a spoonful that you cover with olive oil to preserve the pesto.


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