Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup (4)

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I am excited about this soup as it really has a deep tomato flavor. It is made with canned fire roasted tomatoes (so often it is difficult to find really ripe, juicy and tasty tomatoes otherwise I would have used them) and sun-dried tomatoes. I substituted roast garlic instead of the usual chopped garlic. Roasted garlic is much less intense and sweeter. Each clove turns to a paste in the roasting process.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F

TO ROAST THE GARLIC

1 head of garlic

1 tsp. of olive oil

Cut the top of the garlic head off so that you can see the individual cloves. If there are some cloves that are smaller and clustered towards the bottom of the head you can cut their tops off individually.

Remove the outer layer(s) of skin.

Place garlic on a piece of aluminum foil and slowly pour 1 tsp.  of oil over the cloves making sure each one is covered or brush them with a basting  brush.

Wrap up the foil and place in oven for 1 hour.

Remove from the oven, let cook slightly then remove the garlic from the clove with the end of a teaspoon and set aside until needed.

FOR THE SOUP (MINUS ROASTED GARLIC)

1 tbsp. olive oil seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 onion – finely chopped

2 x 14.5 oz. cans diced and fire roasted tomatoes

2 pieces of sun-dried tomatoes – cut into little pieces

2 tbsp. tomato paste

2 tbsp. fresh basil plus a little extra for garnish – cut into fine strips

4 cups chicken/veg. broth

Heat the seasoned oil in a cast iron casserole dish and when sizzling add the onion and let soften and slightly brown.

Then add the roasted garlic, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, canned tomatoes, basil and broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Puree soup in a food processor or use a hand held blender.

Serve in individual soup bowls garnished with fresh basil.

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Chickpea, Spinach and Harissa Stew (4)

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Harissa paste is a staple of Tunisian cooking and is their equivalent of tomato ketchup. It is made from a combination of chilis, roasted red peppers, spices, herbs and garlic. It adds a zing to soups and stews. My recipe can either be served as a vegetarian or vegan main course or as a side dish.

1 tbsp. olive oil seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium sized onion – finely chopped

1 large garlic clove – grated

1 tbsp. harissa paste

1 and 1/2 cups passata

1 cup chicken/vegetable broth (add more broth at the end of cooking if you want a thinner sauce)

4 oz. baby tomatoes

1 x 15 oz can of chickpeas

5 oz baby spinach

Heat seasoned olive oil in a cast iron casserole dish with a lid and when sizzling add onion and let soften and brown, then add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.

Add harissa paste, passata, broth, tomatoes, chickpeas and spinach. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer with the lid on for some 20 minutes until tomatoes are bursting their skins.

Oven-Cooked Vegetables and New Potatoes Dotted with Herbed Goat’s Cheese (4)

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The simpler the better but no compromise on flavor. For that a tray bake is the answer. Place everything on a metal tray, toss in olive oil and season – in this case baby asparagus, artichoke hearts and new potatoes. Peas and herby goat’s cheese are added afterwards as they wouldn’t do so well in the oven.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

12 oz. new potatoes – quartered

8 oz. baby asparagus – use the top two thirds of the stem and cut that in half

1 x 14 oz. can of artichoke hearts – drained and quartered

3 tbs. olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4. oz. frozen peas

1 – 2 oz. herbed goat’s cheese – cut into little pieces

Place potatoes, asparagus and artichoke hearts on a metal baking tray. Pour over the olive oil, season and toss well.

Cook in oven for 30 minutes.

5 minutes before the veg. are cooked, boil the peas.

Remove tray from oven, sprinkle over the peas and dot with goat’s cheese.

 

Summer Potatoes (4)

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Simply take new potatoes, onion, garlic and cayenne pepper and cook wrapped in aluminum foil. The great thing with this recipe is that the foil wrapped potatoes can be cooked in the oven or on top of the barbecue grill (timing will vary on the grill depending on the temperature so best to keep and eye on them).

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

12 oz new potatoes – cut into quarters

1/2 a medium onion – cut into thin slices and then halve those slices

2 cloves of garlic – finely sliced

Good pinch of cayenne pepper (or more depending how hot you like your food)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp. olive oil

Place potatoes, onion slices and garlic on a large piece of aluminum foil.

Sprinkle with cayenne pepper, salt and a little black pepper.

Pour over the olive oil, mix well together and make the aluminum foil into a little parcel.

Cook in oven for 30 minutes.

 

Spicy Chickpea and Avocado Dip (at least 4)

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Healthy, healthy – mashed chickpeas and avocado with some cayenne pepper and a little lemon juice (to stop the avocado from discoloring).

1 avocado

1/2 can chickpeas

1/4 lemon

Salt, freshly, ground black pepper and cayenne pepper

Mash avocado and chickpeas together in a large bowl, then add the juice of a 1/4 of a lemon along with salt, pepper and two pinches of cayenne pepper (adding less or more depending on how spicy you like things.

Balsamic Strawberries (4)

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Two flavors you may never have thought to find in the same recipe – balsamic vinegar and ripe red strawberries. I may never have tried this combination if I hadn’t been offered it at a friend’s house as the sound of it rather put me off. How wrong I was! The taste is hard to describe but suffice it to say that you get a hint of balsamic vinegar before the sweetness takes over. Best eaten the day it is made and is delicious served with meringues.

16 oz ripe strawberries – quartered and then cut into small pieces

2 tbsp. good quality balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. sugar

Place strawberries in a serving bowl, pour over the vinegar, then add the sugar and stir.

Cover the bowl and leave on counter top for half an hour or so, then refrigerate for an hour before serving.

French Green Beans and Baby Tomatoes with Tapenade (4)

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French green beans or haricots verts as they are known in France are a thinner version of the traditional green beans found in the US and UK and I much prefer them. In France haricots verts and tomatoes are often combined, whether it be in a salad or a hot dish such as this. I have added tapenade – a traditional Mediterranean appetizer often served on toasted bread in a similar way to bruschetta or used as a dip for crudites – and stirred it in with the vegetables. Tapenade at its most basic combines black olives, capers and olive oil. My version also includes anchovies, garlic and lemon juice. If you don’t want to make it yourself you may be able to find it in your local supermarket. Goes well with lamb or firm white fish.

8 oz thin green beans – topped, tailed and cut in half

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 oz cherry tomatoes – cut in half

1 tbsp. tapenade (or more if you want)

Boil the green beans for just a few minutes until ‘al dente’, then drain.

At the same time put 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. When sizzling add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes become soft and browned on both sides.

Add the beans and 1 tbsp. of tapenade to the pan with the tomatoes and the juices and toss well together.

TAPENADE (makes approx. 1 cup – which is more than you need for this recipe)

1 x cup pitted black olives

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 heaped tbsp. curly parsley

1 tbsp. capers – drained

1 large clove garlic – cut into small pieces

4 anchovies

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Place all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend to your desired consistency.

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