Pan-fried eggplant with balsamic, basil and capers

Sweet, mild eggplant pairs with briny capers, floral basil, and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Beautiful combination.

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Serves 4
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup olive oil
2 small eggplant (about 8 oz. each), trimmed and sliced 1/3″thick crosswise.
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste>
2 tbsp. capers
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Simmer the vinegar over medium heat in a 1-qt saucepan until reduced to a thick syrup, about 15 minutes.
Heat half the oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches and adding more oil as needed, fry eggplant, flipping once, until golden-brown, 5–7 minutes.
Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt and pepper. Arrange on a platter; drizzle with balsamic.
Garnish with capers and basil.

Easy chorizo pasta bake

I love chorizo and often order it online through “La Tienda” a great Spanish website. I like the mild chorizo best but do remember to peel it before using. This is a warming, spicy pasta that you will adore!
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Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 good sized red onion, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 red peppers (capsicums) roughly chopped
2 tsp smoked paprika
6 oz (or even 8 oz) good quality Spanish chorizo, chopped
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pinch dried red chillies
28 oz tin plum tomatoes
a good handful of fresh basil, ripped up
1 tsp sugar
12 oz penne pasta
8 oz mozzarella

Heat the olive oil in a large pan then gently cook the onion for 5 minutes until soft, adding the garlic and cooking for a further minute.
Add the peppers and chorizo and cook until the meat starts to crisp up.
Stir in the balsamic vinegar, paprika, chilli, if you want an extra kick, and the tomatoes.
Mix it well, breaking up the tomatoes, add the basil, then season with a tsp of sugar and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, drain and then add to the pan of simmering sauce.
Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and stir half into the pasta mixture.
Turn out into a large ovenproof dish, dot with the remaining chunks of mozzarella and then bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the cheese is all melted.

Serve with a large green salad and some great garlic bread

Pod Thai. (The worlds best cocktail!)

Cardamom-lemongrass syrup lends a bit of Thai spice to a fresh cocktail made with rum and coconut.

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½ cup sugar
4 cardamom pods, crushed
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 sprigs Thai basil
1 oz. fresh lime juice
1½ oz. light rum
1 oz. cardamom-lemongrass syrup
½ oz. crème de coconut
Club soda, for topping

Make the cardamom-lemongrass syrup: Boil sugar and ½ cup water in a 1-qt. saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add cardamom and lemongrass; let cool and then strain. Makes 1 cup. Syrup will keep, refrigerated, for up to two weeks.

Muddle 2 basil sprigs with lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Add rum, crème de coconut, syrup, and ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass mug; top with soda and garnish with remaining basil sprig.

Fresh basil ice cream

There is nothing nicer than ice cream made from fresh herbs and it’s delicious served with fruit, raw or cooked.
This one is divine, especially served with strawberries and such a great color too. This recipe couldn’t be much easier and makes 1 quart.

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2 cups basil leaves
2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp. lemon zest
¼ tsp. salt
6 egg yolks

* Green food coloring (if you would like a vibrant color like this. I don;t always use it though)
Combine the fresh basil leaves, milk, cream, sugar, lemon zest, 4 – 6 drops food coloring (or more depending on how bright green you want it) salt, and egg yolks in a blender and puree until smooth.
Pour into a 2-qt. saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves.
Remove from the heat and pour through a fine strainer; chill in the refrigerator.
Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Serve garnished with fresh basil leaves.


Tomato, basil and toasted pine nut icecream

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Another really interesting and delicious starter or dessert in a meal, especially in the hot summer months

Serves 4
1 &1/2 cups heavy cream
1 &1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup basil leaves
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated fine
3 egg yolks, blended
3/4 cup tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced small
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

In a large saucepan combine the cream, milk, basil, sugar and bring to a simmer on medium high heat. Retrieve the basil and stir in the cheese. Temper the yolks by adding a ladleful of the hot cream mixture to them, stirring it together until well combined and returning it to the pan.
Whisk until the cream mixture becomes thicker and coats a metal spoon then strain into large loaf pan. To expedite chilling, place a freezer pack in the loaf pan then refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2-3 hours.
Process the cream mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is almost finished and still soft add the tomatoes and pine nuts. Serve immediately, as I love to, or transfer to a container and freeze until hard.

Note: To skin and seed tomatoes, bring a small pan of water to a boil, cut an ”x” on the stem end then drop into the pan. Wait thirty seconds until the skin starts to peel away at the “x” then drop into an ice bath for another 30 seconds. Seed the tomatoes by squeezing out the seeds and giving a quick rinse. Blot the tomato flesh dry before dicing.

Salami chips with sour cream and basil


Last night we had close friends for dinner and I made these as an hors d’oeuvres with drinks. They were super.
The recipe comes from Giada de Laurentiis.

Our starter was “Papaya,avocado and prawn salad with a Raratongan curry mayonnaise” followed by “Garlic studded beef pot roast”, both of these recipes being on my blog. I highly recommend them as they are always highly successful and foolproof for a casual dinner party.

Salami chips with sour cream and basil

The crispy salami slices turn into a bacony bite and the cool sour cream and fragrant basil is a lovely contrast.
Makes 24, but beware they go fast.

24 thin slices Italian dry Genoa salami (about 4 ounces)  Pre-sliced is okay.
1/3 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line 2 heavy large baking sheets with aluminum foil. Arrange the salami in a single layer over the baking sheets.
Bake until the salami slices are amber brown, watching closely to ensure they brown evenly, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the salami crisps to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to absorb the excess oil. Set aside to cool.
Spoon a dollop of sour cream on top of each salami crisp. Sprinkle the basil over and serve.

Do-Ahead Tip: The salami crisps can be made 8 hours ahead. Store in airtight containers and keep at room temperature. How easy its that!

Roasted peppers with basil, olives, scallions, feta & toasted almonds

Roasted peppers with basil, olives, scallions, feta and toasted almonds

This is one of the most popular appetizers I serve at home. The recipe started out as one from Nigella Lawson and each time I made it I added ingredients and this is the culmination. It is absolutely divine and is a real taste – tickler!

Serves 4 but is easily augmented.
4 good sized red peppers
a good handful fresh basil leaves
4 – 5 scallions or 1 bunch if you like a lot of scallions, sliced across in 1/4″ pieces
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthways
One 7oz block Greek feta cheese
1/3 cup slivered almonds (the ones with the skins showing at the edges)
Good balsamic vinegar
Good extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

There are two short stages at the beginning which are easy, but important.
1/ About 4 – 5 hours before you want to serve this dish, (or the day before) put your four red peppers over each gas burner turned on full and leave on there until they get nice and black.
Turn them, using kitchen tongs and let the entire skin get good and charred, then either put them in a large glass bowl and immediately cover with cling film and set aside, or get three paper supermarket bags inside each other and put them in there, fold over the top and clip the top shut so it’s well sealed. Leave the peppers for a couple of hours to steam, then the skins will come off really easily, revealing sweet red flesh underneath.
With a tap running, (for your hands, NOT the peppers) remove the charred skin, which should just fall off. Remove the stem and the seeds inside and put the peppers into a colander to drain.
Slice the peppers into long strips, about 1/3 to 1/2″ wide and put them into a shallow serving dish.

2/ Preheat the oven to 400F
Put the almonds on a shallow baking tray and toast until starting to brown, this could take about 10 minutes or more, but keep watching them in case they burn. Set aside until cool. (You can always do as many almonds as you like, and freeze what you don’t need, ready for the next time you make the dish)

Okay, so now the assembly part, and this is a doddle!

To the pepper strips in the shallow serving dish, add the chopped scallions, the olives and the finely sliced basil leaves. Season liberally with salt and pepper and sprinkle a good amount of balsamic vinegar over it. Add about 3 tbsp olive oil and toss the mixture until well coated. taste for seasoning, adding more balsamic or salt if needed.
Crumble up the feta cheese and sprinkle over the dish, then sprinkle a little more balsamic over the feta in decorative streams. Sprinkle a good amount of toasted almonds over the feta.
And you have a really lovely , complex flavored appetizer that people can eat with a small fork.
It is better to bring it to room temperature before serving if you are making the dish in advance, which , by the way, can be done up to 2 days before and will last a good 3 days in the fridge if there are any leftovers.


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Cheesy, crispy baked cauliflower tots

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These are an absolute winner as a starter or a snack and even children love them, not realizing they aren’t tater tots!
This recipe makes about 24 small tots and is modified from a recipe on “Kaylin’s Kitchen” a terrific food blog.

1/2 large head cauliflower, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup sharp cheddar cheese (preferably not the packaged pre grated stuff)
1/3 cup coarsely grated parmesan cheese (again, not pre grated, preferably)
2 tbsp almond or plain flour
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp your favorite seasoning blend, like Spike or Montreal etc
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat the oven to 400 F
Spray a mini muffin tin with non stick spray
Cut away the leaves of the cauliflower, but use most of the inner core part for the recipe.
Coarsely chop the cauliflower, place in a microwave proof bowl, cover with cling film and microwave for 2 minutes on high so that the cauliflower is slightly soft.

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Quickly take off the cling film and let the steam escape, and if you see any water in the bottom of the bowl, put the cauliflower into a colander to let the water drain off.
Put the steel blade in the food processor, add the cauliflower and pulse until the cauliflower is finely chopped but still slightly chunky. (Be careful you don’t end up with a puree!) Drain out any water from the bowl of the food processor.


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Put the finely chopped cauliflower into a bowl and add the grated cheese, parmesan cheese, flour, salt, seasoning blend and ground pepper.
Stir until the ingredients are really well combined. Add the egg and stir until the ingredients are mostly coated with egg. Don’t be tempted to add any more egg!
Using a “one tablespoon scoop” or a steel one-tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop out rounded spoonfuls of the mixture and place in the min muffin tin.
Bake for 15 minutes then carefully turn each tot over in the muffin tin and bake for another 15 minutes or until the tots are nicely browned on both sides.
Serve these hot and straight from the oven while they’re still crispy



Eggs poached in kale and tomato sauce

Such a tasty, healthy dish for brunch or Sunday supper.
Serves 4 to 6
 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
1 small carrot, scrubbed and minced
1 celery stalk, minced
3 tbsp Italian parsley, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small sprig fresh rosemary
1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bunch kale, washed and finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 x 28 oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
Salt and pepper
4 to 6 large eggs (depending on how many each person wants to eat)
3 oz crumbled goat cheese, for serving (optional)
In a large, deep frying pan, heat your olive oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add the onion, carrot, celery and parsley.
Cook, stirring frequently, until deeply browned, about 10 mins.
Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and cook for 1 minutes, then add the kale.
Cook, stirring, until the kale has softened somewhat, about 5 mins.
Add the tomato paste and canned tomatoes, plus their juice.
Smash up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and add a few pinches of salt and pepper, cover the sauce and simmer for 8 to 10 mins . taste and add more salt and pepper to taste.
 Use your wooden spoon to make wells in the sauce for your eggs.
Crack each of the eggs into it’s well and sprinkle them with a little more salt and pepper.
Cover the pan and cook over low heat until the egg whites have set but the yolks  are still runny, about 5 mins.
Crumble the goat cheese over the eggs, if using, and serve warm.
Crusty bread for mopping up the sauce is a great idea too.

Baked mozzarella balls wrapped in prosciutto with a herb tomato sauce

Crispy prosciutto balls encompassing melting mozzarella with a herb flavored tomato sauce.

Serves 4

4 balls (4oz each) buffalo mozzarella
ground pepper
8 thin slices Italian prosciutto
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil

Tomato Sauce
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1/2 cup Passata (tomato puree)
6 plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled and seeded
5 basil leaves
5 tarragon leaves
sea salt and ground pepper

To serve

a little chopped basil and tarragon
olive oil to drizzle

For the sauce heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a pan and sweat the shallot and garlic over low heat until soft.

Add the vinegar and cook for a further 3 – 4 minutes until reduced, then add the passata and tomatoes, and simmer for 3 minutes.

Add the herbs and remaining olive oil and cook over a very low heat for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick and a deep red.
Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then push through a coarse sieve and set aside.

Preheat an oven to 300 F. Season the mozzarella with pepper and roll up in the prosciutto allowing 2 slices per ball of cheese.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat until just smoking.
Place the parcels in the pan, and sear, turning constantly, until the outsides are well colored, about 1 minute.
Transfer the parcels to a baking dish and cook in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes.

Spoon the tomato sauce in the center of individual plates and sprinkle with the chopped basil and tarragon.
Set a mozzarella parcel on top, drizzle with olive oil and serve!