Tag Archives: salad

Ricotta, Aubergine, Prosciutto and Tomato Salad

This recipe was heavily inspired by a trip we took to Tuscany in June last year. We’re planning some special posts to celebrate 100 posts on the blog (only 4 more to go!) which will expand more on this and some of our other top foodie moments so keep an eye out for that! We had the most brilliant moment eating ricotta, a creamy gorgonzola, the most heavenly vine tomatoes, and two types of focaccia under the arches of the Uffizi gallery in Florence during a spectacular storm. Cuddled up together, in our anoraks (nerdy love), attracting all manner of jealous stares from everyone else who was trapped by the rain but hadn’t thought to bring lunch… the memory never fails to make us smile. We took a couple of elements of this perfect picnic, a bit of inspiration from a classic Tuscan dessert and added in our current obsession of chargrilled aubergine and a beautiful salad sprang into creation.

Salad Detail

Ingredients

  • Vine tomatoes, halved
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 aubergine, sliced into 0.5cm thick slices
  • 1 sweet, pointed red pepper
  • Ricotta
  • (Prosciutto – optional)
  • Mixed salad leaves – we chose lettuce and peppery leaves like watercress to add some bite
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

Coat the tomatoes in 1tbsp of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and then place in a dish and put into a preheated oven at 140°C – the idea is to cook these slowly, dry them out to concentrate the flavours. The tomatoes we had in Italy were the best either of us have ever tasted and we knew that we wouldn’t get anything that delicious here so by semi-drying them we’ve managed to get a little closer. These should take around 1 hour altogether.

Slow Roast Tomatoes

Once they’re in the oven it’s time to prepare the pepper. You know those whole roasted red peppers that you get in a jar? Well this is one of them, but done fresh so it doesn’t have any of that vinegar-y taste. You can start off just holding it over a flame but we ended up rigging up a little system with two skewers going through the length of the pepper so that we could get every bit charred. The whole thing needs to be pretty blackened, it looks scary but will taste like heaven! Simply hold over an open flame, rotating every now and then to char the whole pepper – this should take about 10-15 minutes. Once it’s done pop in a freezer/sandwich bag, seal and just leave it to cool, once it has the skin will just rub off leaving you with sweet, soft flesh.

Charring a Pepper

Pepper Charred

For the aubergine salt the slices – sprinkle table salt on and stand upright for around twenty minutes then dab with kitchen paper. Mix 1 tbsp of olive oil with salt and pepper in the bowl/ramekin and then brush the slices with this before laying them on a hot griddle pan. They should only take 1 minute on each side as they are quite thin, you’ll have to do this in batches but the salad is supposed to be warm, not hot so just pop the ones you’ve done on a plate.

Aubergine Chargrilling

Now it’s assembly time – scatter some leaves on a plate, add the tomatoes, slice up the red pepper and add this. Blob some ricotta on and then drizzle each blob with a little honey and crack some black pepper on – this is a classic Tuscan dessert which we tried while dangling over the Arno, using it in a savoury dish is a little unconventional but it really works.

Tasty Ricotta

Place on the aubergine and the prosciutto if using, we used about 3 slices between us. For the dressing just mix equal quantities of good quality balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper and drizzle this on.

2 Salads

Salad on the Table

We’re submitting this recipe for Fromage Homage’s Cheese, Please! Challenge, this salad will forever remind us of one of the most amazing, joyful moments we’ve had and it’s been great playing around with the flavours and putting our own spin on it.

Fromage Homage

Smoked Mackerel Salad

This is another slightly summery, very healthy yet comforting dish – a perfect antidote to winter over-indulgence! We were originally planning on doing a rich white sauce with this mackerel, but after spending the day making (and subsequently eating) pastry at Bristol’s Bordeaux Quay we really fancied something lighter.

Here’s the ingredients for 2 people:

  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
  • Small handful of sunflower seeds
  • A lemon
  • 2 smoked mackerel fillets, skins removed
  • 100 g salad leaves (we used little gem lettuce, watercress, rocket and spinach)
  • 2 salad tomatoes, deseeded and cut into strips
  • Olive oil & extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180ºC. Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for about 3 minutes, drain and leave to steam for a minute before transferring to a roasting dish. Add the sunflower seeds, about half the zest of the lemon and a good glug of olive oil, mix together and put in the oven. This should take about 25-30 minutes – make sure you stir it about occasionally.

Mix up a dressing by combining about 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, about half the juice of the lemon and a good pinch of sea salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Broccoli for Salad

When the broccoli is done, serve it up on top of the leaves, and top with a few strips of tomato and the mackerel, torn into bite-sized chunks. Add any remaining sesame seeds and drizzle everything with a bit of dressing.

Smoked Mackerel Salad

On top of being a delicious and healthy meal, this has to be one of the most delicious ways to prepare broccoli that we’ve ever experienced! We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Rachel Khoo’s Winter Salad with Goats Cheese Mousse

This is the first recipe we’ve cooked from our new cookbook by Rachel Khoo, we watched her make this on her tv show and then drooled over it as soon as the book was opened on Christmas day so we knew this had to be the one! It falls somewhere in between indulgent eating and healthy, light food – a warm salad is a perfect choice for winter. If you want to watch Rachel make it (and drool over her small but perfectly formed Paris kitchen) then check out this video.

We’re suckers for anything containing goats cheese but this mousse is probably light enough that even a goats cheese sceptic could enjoy it. This could work with any soft cheese, it might be particularly nice with a French Roule cheese, the garlic and herbs would be lovely! The apple falls apart when roasted and add extra sweetness to the roasted carrots and parnsips while the sharp cider vinegar dressing cuts through all of the rich, sweet flavours. We found  that this made a rather ridiculous amount of mousse (even after we spilled it on the floor, in the fridge, all over ourselves…), we had seconds of this salad and there was still plenty for Bird to take to work for lunch the following day! The recipe suggests this amount for 2 people as a main or 6 as a starter but we think there would be enough here for 4 as a main. If you want the full recipe with weights then buy the book – it’s fab!

Parnsips, carrots and apples

Roughly chop a couple of parsnips, carrots and dessert apples, coat in sunflower oil and place in a roasting dish in a preheated oven. These will take around 45 minutes to be perfectly caramelised and gorgeous. Then it’s time to make the mousse – we recommend making it as soon as the vegetables are in the oven so it has time to chill down as we think that part of the cause of ours going absolutely everywhere was that it wasn’t quite chilled enough! Whisk about 150g of soft goats cheese with 6 tbsp of milk until it’s completely smooth. Then whip up 200ml of whipping cream into stiff peaks. Mix a quarter of this into the loosened goats cheese until completely combined and then fold the rest in. Transfer it to a piping bag and pop in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Bacon and veg

If you want you can use some smoked bacon/lardons in this salad – we chose to! Cut into small pieces and fry slowly until really crisp and then set to one side. To make the dressing simply whisk together double the amount of oil to cider vinegar and add sea salt to taste. Once the roasted vegetables are soft and slightly caramelised take them out of the oven and let them sit for a few minutes while you finely slice 1-2 cooked beetroots. Now it’s time to plate up! We’re not brilliant at delicate presentation so there was a fair amount of flapping and stressing for a few minutes in our kitchen. Dot some blobs of goats cheese on the plates, you’re supposed to use a 1cm nozzle but we didn’t have one so we just didn’t use a nozzle on the piping bag. Then place the warm roasted vegetables, the beetroot and some raw spinach leaves around the plate, scatter over the bacon and drizzle on some dressing. Sit down and feel extremely fancy!

Winter salad

Despite the fact that we, and our kitchen, ended up covered in goats cheese mousse (which some may argue is no bad thing!) we absolutely loved this recipe and will definitely make it again. There are so many lovely looking recipes in the book, we’re excited to share some more with you this year! We served ours with some of the delicious Rosemary and Walnut bread that featured in our last post to give it a bit more substance – just what you need after a hard day at work.

Winter salad on the table

Couronne

We like a challenge, so, upon flicking through recipe books to find inspiration for last weeks menu our eyes were drawn to a beautiful work of buttery art in Paul Hollywood’s “Bread”. Before the latest season of The Great British Bake Off we (and probably most of the nation) would have never heard of a couronne. Now however we know that a couronne is a round treat made of soft, rich, buttery dough, which is usually sweet and stuffed with dried fruit or similar. The recipe we came across was for a savoury one, still rich, still buttery but filled with prosciutto, basil and oozy mozzarella – you can find the recipe here. It was lust at first sight and we put it straight on the menu for Saturday. We’ve made two enriched doughs before – challah and cinnamon buns so this is still fairly new ground for us. The dough is made entirely in a mixer with a dough hook because it’s so sticky and hard to work by hand, mainly due to the huge amounts of butter! This has a whole pack of butter in it. Hello cholesterol problems! But as an occasional treat it’s fine, and it’s so tasty that you have to think “sod it!”.

We’re not saying this is the easiest bread in the world, probably not the best choice for your first foray into yeasted bakes, but we’re by no means experts and it turned out beautifully! Bread, and especially enriched doughs, are seen as really scary by some people (i.e. us, just over a year ago!) but it’s one of the most therapeutic ways to spend an hour or two and you get something really delicious at the end of it. Anyway, enough wanging on, on with the main event!

First up: the dough. Your butter must be soft for this so we used an old Mary Berry tip (cheers Bezza!) – cube your butter and place in a jug/bowl of lukewarm water to soften it. The water shouldn’t feel particularly warm to the touch otherwise you’ll end up with a bowl of melted butter and water, just slightly warm. The strong white flour is placed in the bowl of a mixer with yeast and salt, and then milk and eggs are added. Use the dough hook to combine these and then, while it’s still running, slowly add the butter. This should take at least 5 minutes but ours took about 15 because our mixer isn’t the sturdiest! Once all of the butter has been added and there are no large streaks of it take it out and leave to rise in a large, oiled bowl for at least 1-2 hours until doubled in size.

Getting nice and stretchy.
Getting nice and stretchy.

When it has risen tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Don’t knock back, just roll out to a large rectangle (about 50cm by 30cm and about 1.5cm thick). Now’s the time to put the toppings on – we followed the recipe but because this one was a success we now can’t stop dreaming up new fillings! Anyway, for this one lay the strips of prosciutto over the dough trying to cover as much of it as possible. Then tear the mozzarella over and lastly tear the basil leaves over. Roll it up starting from a long edge so you have a large sausage of dough with the filling swirled in the middle. Now comes the slightly tricky part; slice the dough lengthways down the sausage and then grabbing the ends tightly twist it quite tightly so that you end up with a rope-like structure with most of the filling on the inside. Coil this into a circle and place on piece of lightly oiled greaseproof paper on a baking tray.

Couronne With Fillings

Couronne Before Baking

This beast then needs to prove for an hour or two until roughly doubled in size again. Preheat the oven to 200°C after about an hour of rising. When you’re ready to bake brush the couronne with a beaten egg and sprinkle on some grated parmesan, and pop in the oven for around 25 minutes. After this time you should be greeted by a golden monster, complete with oozy cheese! Leave it to cool for at least 20-30 minutes, it will still be warm after this time but not boiling hot.

Phwoar!
Phwoar!

We had ours served with the salad that was suggested in the book with spinach, roasted butternut squash, goats cheese, olives and spring onions and we added our own little crunch with toasted pinenuts. This was a brilliant dinner, it would be ideal for when friends are over too and what an amazing impression it would make when it landed on the table! We also had the couronne with tomato-based soups later in the week which was lovely too.

Bread filled with cheese, covering in cheese, served with cheese... what could be better?
Bread filled with cheese, covered in cheese, served with cheese… what could be better?

So give yourself a day when you’ve got time to give this recipe a bit of love and attention and give it a go, it’s so worth it, we would say for the sense of pride alone but the cheesy delight that you end up with isn’t bad either!