Panzanella with burrata

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From time to time most households have leftover bread that it heading past its best but there’s no need to waste it- that’s where panzanella comes in! Panzanella is a traditional Italian tomato and bread salad that’s full of fresh, seasonal flavours. There is no one panzanella recipe so this is my take on it. I included fried capers to give an added dimension and texture. Anchovies are also added to ramp up the savouriness but you can omit these if you prefer. Fried artichoke is also a welcome addition but not at all traditional however it adds a wonderful earthiness.

For the perfect panzanella the tomatoes you choose are important as you want the freshest available. I have used a combination of smaller heirloom varieties which have become easier to find and add a range of colour. Panzanella makes a great light lunch or it can also be served with simple grilled meats for a more substantial meal. if you have any leftovers, you can simply baked the remaining pieces of bread on a tray in the oven until crisped and then serve with the salad- delicious!

Ingredients- serves 4
200g open textured bread such as sourdough or ciabatta
30g parmesan
500g assorted tomatoes- chopped
1 red onion- sliced
1 small fresh red and 1 yellow pepper- finely sliced
Sliced artichoke hearts
6-8 anchovy fillets- finely chopped
2 tbsp capers- drained
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt
2 balls of burrata
Fresh basil

1. Take your bread of choice and roughly tear it into pieces. Place on a tray and leave for around 20-30 minutes to help dry it out a little if it still relatively fresh; if not place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and finely grate over from parmesan cheese; cook in a low oven until golden. Meanwhile pop the chopped tomatoes, peppers and onion in a colander with a bowl underneath and add salt and pepper. Leave to sit for half an hour so it draws some moisture out of the tomatoes and softens the peppers.

2. Take a small frying pan and add a small amount of oil over a medium heat. Fry the artichoke slices until golden and crisp; remove from the pan and pop in the capers and anchovy and fry until crispy. Tip the bread, tomatoes and onion into a bowl along with the peppers, anchovies and capers. Drizzle over the vinegar and oil; taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Finish with some freshly torn basil. Tear open each ball of burrata and serve.

 

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Gnocchi with red pepper, tomato and asiago cheese

Asiago is an Italian cheese that I have recently been using in everything from pasta to salads. It is a sheep’s milk cheese which reminds me of feta in texture and taste. When trying to rustle up a quick dinner the other night I stumbled across some tomatoes and peppers that were nearly seeing better days and, with a few added extras, this gnocchi dish took shape.

I have added another couple of my favourite ingredients here to really lift the flavours- anchovy and capers. The capers add a zip and zing whilst the anchovy dials up the savouriness of the sauce to eleven so do try them! I have kept the tomato sauce purposefully light for this time of year however a similar sauce could be made using tinned tomatoes if you prefer. You could also try baking the gnocchi in the sauce in the oven with a liberal extra sprinkling of the asiago to finish.

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Ingredients- serves 2
400g gnocchi
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
Chilli flakes- as many as you dare
2 anchovy fillets- finely chopped
1 red pepper- finely sliced
6-8 tomatoes- roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers
60g asiago cheese
Handful of freshly torn basil to finish

1. Take a pan and heat a glug of olive oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic, chilli and anchovy and cook for a couple of minutes. Pop in the red pepper and continue to cook until softening.

2. Next up, the tomatoes followed by the capers. At this stage lower the heat to low and allow the tomatoes to break down and simmer. You want the sauce to be able to lightly coat the gnocchi. If the tomatoes look dry at any point, simply add a splash of water. When the sauce is nearly ready, bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the gnocchi for 2 minutes or as directed on the packet. Drain and add the gnocchi to the sauce to finish. Crumble in the asiago and finish with the basil before serving.

Gnocchi with red pepper, tomatoes and asiago cheese- the perfect introduction to this Italian beauty!

 

 

Mediterranean sea bass tray bake

Sea bass is a wonderful, readily available fish that deserves a place on all good dinner tables across the land. Cooking fish can be a daunting prospect if it is not something that you are used to and a tray bake is a brilliant introduction to it so read on and give it a try. I have taken inspiration from the Med and used sweet cherry tomatoes, olives, capers and peppers to ramp up the flavours. The ingredients are so fabulous that very little needs doing to them. I used Jersey Royal potatoes which are currently in season in the UK but new potatoes work well if you cannot find these.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 boneless sea bass fillets
1 tbsp vegetable oil
200g Jersey Royal potatoes or new potatoes
1 red onion- cut into small wedges
150g cherry tomatoes- halved
50g pitted black olives- halved
1 tbsp capers
2 jarred roasted red peppers- sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
Torn basil leaves to finish

1. Start by making sure that the sea bass fillets are boneless as nobody likes to find one of those. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan and think about what you are going to bake this in; a normal baking tray or roasting tray is perfect but I used a cast iron roasting pan. As the oven is heating, pop your tray of choice in there to heat too with a glug of vegetable oil.

2. Meanwhile slice the potatoes so they are 5mm thick. Remove the heated tray from the oven and place the potato slices in. Leave to bake for 20 minutes or until starting to turn golden and soften.

3. Remove the tray and add in the onion wedges, halved tomatoes, olives, capers and peppers and cook for a further 10 minutes. When the potatoes look like they are nearly ready and the onion is nicely softened pop on the sea bass fillets to finish off for 5-7 minutes depending on the size of the fillet. Use your judgement with your oven, if you think the fish skin won’t quite crisp up to how you like it then you can always cheat a bit and pan fry the fillet skin side down for a couple of minutes before finishing in the oven for another 2-3 minutes. When the sea bass is ready the fish will be translucent- do not overcook. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice to bring all the flavours together and a few torn basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Mediterranean inspired sea bass tray bake- a colourful addition to your culinary repertoire and a summertime winner!

 

Greek style shoulder of lamb with foolproof lemon and caper roasted potatoes

Spring has sprung which means that British lamb is in season so get it while you can. I chose to use half a  lamb shoulder but this would work with leg as well. If you are serving a large crowd then simply double the marinade ingredients and use a whole shoulder. If the idea of roast potatoes gives you cold sweats then look no further- these work every time! I served the meat with a red wine, balsamic and shallot sauce which you must try- find the recipe here: https://whatchloecooked.co.uk/2015/04/04/golden-artichoke-and-spinach-gratin/.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the lamb
Half a lamb shoulder- approx. 800g
3 garlic cloves
2 tsps dried oregano
Small handful rosemary- finely chopped
Zest of one small lemon
3 anchovy fillets
Good glug of olive oil

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For the roasted potatoes

Maris Piper potatoes (or similar)- enough for 4
Good glug of vegetable oil
Small handful of non- pareille capers
Juice from half a lemon
Salt to season

1. Start off by marinating the lamb well in advance- the morning does the trick but you may want to do it the night before. Simply add all the marinade ingredients into a pestle and mortar and give it a good old bash until you have a thick paste. Rub the paste into the lamb, cover well with foil and pop in the fridge until you are ready to cook it.

2. To cook the lamb, preheat the oven to 150c/ 130 fan. I set the lamb on a trestle of cut onion segments and a little water (100ml will do) to give the lamb a nice steamy environment. Pop the lamb joint on the top and roast for around 2 and a half hours until juicy and tender. Some ovens will vary so do check from time to time and baste the lamb.

3. For the potatoes, parboil halved potatoes in a large pan of lightly salted boiling water and drain well. Some recipes suggest you give the potatoes a shake to mess up the edges however I find that the act of tipping the potatoes in the colander during the draining process is enough. Heat a decent glug of oil in roasting tray and pop in the oven until hot. Add in the potato halves and turn in the oil. Roast with the lamb for around an hour until golden on the outside and fluffy in the centre.

When they are ready, blot them quickly onto kitchen roll to remove any excess oil before squeezing over the lemon juice and sprinkling over the capers. I also like adding a few flakes of sea salt for a bit of extra seasoning. If you are like me, most capers end up being eaten before they make it anywhere near the potatoes so a few extra ones never go amiss!

4. When the lamb is nearly ready, remove the foil for around 10 minutes and finish off to give it a lovely colour before resting for 10 minutes.

Irresistible Greek style spring lamb with crunchy lemon and caper potatoes- a winner this season!

Roasted whole trout with confit tomatoes, capers and olive

Trout is such a delicate fish that is often overlooked in favour of salmon but this is set to change with this simple Mediterranean inspired dish. Confit tomatoes are well worth the time and effort and any leftovers can also be stored in the fridge for a few days. Don’t rush the tomatoes as long, slow cooking gives the juiciest and sweetest resuts.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the trout

2 whole trout- gutted, scales removed and rinsed
1 lemon
1 small bunch of fresh thyme

For the tomato mixture
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes- halved
1 tbsp non- pareille capers- drained
1 tbsp black olives- sliced roughly
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

For the garlic sauteed spinach
Glug of olive oil
1 small garlic clove
1/2 banana shallot- finely chopped or sliced
1/2 a bag of baby spinach- washed and harder stalks removed

1. You need to start this in advance so prepare the tomatoes in plenty of time. Heat the oven to 90c/ 70fan and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Simply cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side up on the tray. Drizzle a little oil and season with salt. Roast in the oven for around 3 hours until the outside of the tomatoes have shrunk down but the centres are still juicy. Remove from the oven and cool until you need them. If you have any leftovers you can place them in a small Kilner jar, cover with oil and store.

2. When you are ready for dinner, preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Make sure the trout are well cleaned and place on a foil lined baking tray. Give the foil a quick brush with oil to ensure the trout don’t stick as they cook. For the trout stuffing, all you need to do is stuff them with lemon slices and a good sprig or two of thyme. A lot of recipes ask you to then use cocktail sticks or skewers to hold the trout together but I have never found this to be needed so long as you don’t overstuff the fish. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes until the trout is juicy and just cooked through. Top tip: when a whole fish is cooked, the eyes will turn white as well as the flesh looking a brilliant blush colour.

3. Meanwhile, heat a few glugs of oil in a small pan with thyme sprigs, a whole clove of garlic and a couple of strands of lemon zest. Bring the oil to a bubble and heat for around 30 seconds. Take off the heat and leave the flavours to infuse.

4. When the trout is nearly ready to serve, take one medium pan and gently heat from of the infused oil. Of course, you can make the oil well in advance if you like. Add in the olives and capers and toss lightly before adding the tomatoes just before serving to warm through. At the same time, I also heated a small amount of oil in a large pan along with shallot and garlic until softened but not golden before adding the spinach and cooking covered for one minute and then seasoning and cooking for a further two minutes.

Serve the tender trout with the confit tomatoes, olives and capers with the sauteed spinach and a finishing drizzle of the tyme infused oil and away you go!