Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Tart

This is one of my favourite Spring/Summer dishes. Its quick, easy and tastes good. What's not to love?

I used to really hate tomatoes but over the years I've become very fond of them, mozzarella is my favourite cheese by far and fresh basil just smells incredible, so the combination is a match made in heaven and works well in loads of different dishes, from just a classic Italian salad to pasta. I particularly like it in a puff pastry tart topped with parma ham.

To make a tart to serve 1 for dinner or 2 for lunch you will need:

100g of puff pastry (shop bought is so much easier than making it from scratch)
About 80g of chopped tomatoes from a tin or carton*
5/6 sunblushed or sun dried tomatoes
About 50g of mozzarella
A handful of fresh basil
1 teaspoon of mixed herbs (I used Italian herb seasoning - I'm sure Herbs de Provence would be great too)
Two slices of parma ham

If you bought a block of pastry rather than ready rolled, use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board into a rough square until its about 1/2 cm thick.

Distribute the chopped tomatoes evenly over the tart, leaving a gap around the edges.

My mum often makes jars of sunblushed tomatoes and she made me a couple to take back to uni with me. They go really well in salads and I've already had about half of the first jar even though I've only been back in uni for a few days.

They're cooked in the oven at a low temperate for a long time and storing them in jars preserves them, but if you don't have a supply of homemade sunblushed tomatoes then they sell them in supermarkets.

Chuck on the sunblushed tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

I bought a basil plant because it was only slightly more expensive than buying a packet and you get so much more and the plant grows more leaves - which is excellent for basil lovers like me.

Look at all of that lovely basil...

Sprinkle on the mixed herbs and transfer the tart to a baking tray lined with baking paper and pop in the oven at 180°c for about 10 minutes, depending on your oven (mine is very temperamental so I have to constantly check my food isn't burning), until the pastry has risen and is crisp and golden .

Et voila!

Top with the parma ham and a couple more basil leaves, serve with some lettuce and preferably enjoy in the sunshine! (if there is any sunshine that is)

* You could also used tomato purée or sundried tomato paste - just spread some around until you have a nice even layer that's not too thin or thick

Tuesday, 22 April 2014


About 4 years ago, on a family holiday we caught the ferry down to Santander in northern Spain and drove through the Pyrenees to the Costa Brava. We stopped off in the mountains for a couple of nights on the journey to the coast and one night I had Migas as a starter in the hotel restaurant.

I wasn't entirely sure what I ordered as the restaurant staff couldn't speak English and my mum's translation was something like breadcrumbs with bacon and eggs. I thought I'd give it ago anyway and I'm glad I did.

I was served a bowl filled with crispy breadcrumbs and bacon, and I asked for it without eggs but instead there were some grapes all mixed in. It was delicious anyway and as soon as I got home I found a recipe online and made it myself.

I have absolutely no idea where I got that recipe, and when I made it earlier I just made it from memory (if I remembered correctly that is) so I'm not sure how traditional this is but it tastes good!

To make enough to serve 2 you will need:

125g of breadcrumbs (made from a two day old or slightly stale loaf of white bread)
35g of diced chorizo
75g of lardons (or diced bacon)
1 1/2 teaspoons of sweet Pimentón (or smoked paprika)
Plenty of olive oil
2 eggs

Add the Pimentón to the breadcrumbs and stir so it is evenly distributed.

In a frying pan, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and fry the meat until it is cooked and crispy.

Once cooked, chuck the breadcrumbs into the pan and stir until they are lightly coated in oil, the meat is evenly distributed throughout and they have turned orange.

Keep cooking until the breadcrumbs are all crispy and set aside. In the pan, add a little oil and fry the eggs. Serve in a bowl with an egg on top of each pile of crispy breadcrumbs.

I love this dish. Its so quick and easy and tastes amazing. I just love sweet Pimentón, its probably my favourtie spice and combined with the chorizo it turns the breadcrumbs a wonderful deep and rich orange. I think this would be a great brunch. Let me know in the comments if you've ever had/made this, I'd love to know how traditional this dish is and at what meal it's usually eaten!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Easter Nests

My long term memory is absolutely terrible. I have very few memories from primary school left but one thing that has stuck in my brain is that every Easter we would make Easter Nests and ever since I left primary school nearly a decade ago I've wanted to make these but never got round to it - until this afternoon.

Unlike similar cakes made using Rice Krispies or Cornflakes, I used Shredded Wheat to actually make them look like nests.

To make your very own easy Easter treats you will need:

200g of your favourite milk chocolate
4 - 5 biscuits of Shredded Wheat
About 24 Mini Eggs to decorate

Makes 8 nests

Break up the chocolate and melt in a bowl over gently simmering water on the hob, its much harder to burn chocolate melting it this way than in the microwave. And always remember the wise words of Mary Berry who says not to use too much heat as "chocolate melts in a child's pocket".

In a large mixing bowl break up 4 biscuits of Shredded Wheat with your hands and once the chocolate has melted pour it into the cereal and mix it all together. If there is too much chocolate compared to the Shredded Wheat break up another biscuit and add it slowly until the ratio is perfect.

On a piece of greaseproof paper on a baking tray spoon the mixture into 8 nests, pushing it down a little in the middle to make a little well.

Pop into the fridge for 5 minutes and then add 3 Mini Eggs to the middle of each nest and return to the fridge until they've set. And you're done! Super easy and anyone can make them look good!

Monday, 14 April 2014

The North Star - North Road, Cardiff

A few days ago I went for dinner with some friends in The North Star in Cardiff. I've been a couple of times before and could not stop thinking about their pizzas for the few weeks before we went. The menu is quite varied, from said pizzas to classic pub dishes - there is something for everyone. Although it is, essentially, a pub, there is a restaurant feel to it as tables are served by waiting staff and the food is much better than a bog-standard pub. Its a relaxed place with great decor and a really good atmosphere.

Both times I've been before I have had a pizza, so I felt like I should have something different, and there was plenty on the menu that caught my eye, but seeing as a had been suffering from a pizza craving for about a month, I gave in and ordered a Margherita with mixed peppers and grilled chicken as extra toppings.

I was not disappointed when it arrived.

It was massive! It was larger than the wooden board it was served on!

I much prefer thin and crispy pizzas to deep bases, and this one was deliciously thin and crispy. The sauce was great, a perfect amount of cheese, and there was plenty of toppings too. A very yummy pizza. So good that I ate it all even though it was huge and I was pretty full towards the end.

Two of my friends had pizzas too. They both had the Four Seasons, but one substituted olives for red onions and the other substituted the mixed peppers for red onions too.

They both enjoyed their pizzas as much as I enjoyed mine and were really pleased they could swap toppings at no extra cost.

Another friend had the fish and chips.

She said the batter was really good and the chips were delicious - a great standard fish and chips.

My other friend had a cheeseburger which she said was really yummy.

You can't really see the burger that well - soz, I didn't take the photo, blame my cheeseburger eating friend
Another friend came to join us after we had finished our main meals, and as she wanted to order pudding, it would have been rude not to join her!

I've given up chocolate for lent and I've found it surprisingly easy not to give in this year. However sitting across the table from this brownie was quite challenging.

It looked so good and my friend really enjoyed it as it was not dry but not too moist. I think warm brownies and ice cream is one of my favourite desserts, and after lent is over I'm sure I'll find an excuse to make some (the stress of exams will be enough of an excuse).

Four of my friends had sticky toffee pudding.

I've never really tried sticky toffee pudding and I've never really been that bothered to give it a go but I wish I asked for a little taste of one of my friend's puddings as the more I look at this picture, the more I want to try it. They all enjoyed it though, apparently it wasn't too sickly and it was very spongy (whatever that means?!).

I thought I'd try something I hadn't had before - key lime pie - but seeing as I love limes I was pretty sure I was going to like it.

It was so creamy and had a wonderful lime flavour. The base of the pie was made from ginger biscuits (I assume anyway, it tasted gingery) and went really well with the filling.

We all really enjoyed our food and the whole menu is really reasonably priced. I spent under £14 and got a drink, main and pud that were really, really tasty. The service was a little slow at times but it really didn't bother us as we were in no rush to leave, I think we chatted away for well over three hours. I love The North Star and I will definitely return sometime in the near future, and maybe next time I'll choose something other than a pizza. But then again they do some of the best pizzas I've had in the UK so maybe I won't!

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Strawberry, Blueberry and Raspberry Smoothie

I love a good smoothie every now and again. Its a great way to use up any fruit and it definitely helps make revision more bearable. 

Yesterday I had some low fat natural yoghurt that needed using up, and seeing as I had a couple of bags of frozen berries in the freezer* I thought I'd whip up a couple of glasses of smoothie to brighten up my morning.

To serve 2:
  • 100g of low fat natural yoghurt
  • About 80g of raspberries
  • About 40g of strawberries
  • About 40g of blueberries
  • 150ml of apple juice
Chuck all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth.

I love this combination of berries - blueberries are fast becoming one of my favourite fruits and I love how they give this smoothie such a deep pink and rich colour.

By using either the fruit or yoghurt from frozen it will make the smoothie cold and refreshing.

* I had two 400g bags of frozen fruit from Sainsbury's; one raspberries and one strawberries and blueberries

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Fiery Chicken Burgers

It has been such a long time since my last post, I've been super busy and unfortunately haven't eaten out anywhere interesting or cooked anything besides boring pasta dishes - until last night.

A few months ago I was faced with a plain old chicken breast for dinner and decided to throw some spices together to cook with the chicken. I was impressed with the result and I think this combination of spices works perfectly in chicken burgers.

To serve 4 you will need:
  • 4 chicken breast fillets
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of hot pimentón
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet pimentón
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of lime juice (either from fresh limes or a bottle)
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 4 burger rolls
  • 4 thick slices of mature cheddar
  • Sweet gem lettuce leaves
  • 4 thick slices of beef tomato
Pimentón is a type of smoked paprika that is used in Spanish cooking (e.g. chorizo) and has a wonderful flavour and colour. It comes in different varieties and is available in supermarkets in the seasoning section.

Its best to leave the chicken to marinade for several hours, between 5-8 hours if you have the time.

Centre: Chicken        Left to right: Hot pimentón; ground cumin; lime juice; olive oil; chilli flakes; sweet pimentón
 Measure out the spices into a bowl and add the lime juice and oil. Mix to form a thick paste.

Place the chicken breast fillets in a mixing bowl and rub the paste over each fillet, making sure there is a thick, even coating on each piece. If there is any of the marinade left over, pour it over the chicken. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in the fridge until you're ready to cook.

When its time to get cooking, take the chicken out of the fridge and heat a sturdy frying pan until its nice and hot. You don't need any oil in the pan. Turn the heat down to low-medium and throw the chicken into the pan. It takes about 15-20 minutes for the chicken to cook, depending on how thick the pieces are. Keep turning them over to make sure each side gets cooked equally. Don't worry if it looks like its burning, the spices will blacken and the chicken will look a bit chargrilled.

While its cooking, prepare your burger rolls, slice up the tomato and cheese and rip off the lettuce leaves.

Once the chicken is cooked, heat up your grill (if you have one), place a thick slice of cheese on top of each chicken fillet and stick the frying pan under the grill until the cheese has melted.

Assemble your burgers and serve! I served mine with homemade chips and homemade coleslaw.

This is so easy and the chicken is really juicy and flavoursome, its the perfect dinner for a Spring evening. It has a bit of a kick to it so if your not keen on spicy food then maybe leave out the hot pimentón and chilli flakes.

If you decide to give my Fiery Chicken Burgers a go I'd love to hear how it turned out!