Grilled harders with smoked paprika butter

15 Jan

Scored whole harders, brushed with smoked paprika butter and braaied over hot coals. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

My father is a fisherman. He retired from a corporate job 12 years ago, relocating to Keurboomstrand and fishing as often as he likes. Not only is he a good fisherman, he is a cunning hunter who knows the sea and its currents, the shifting beaches and the favourable winds, the lesser traveled trails and the unforgiving rocky coastal territory. He is a fisherman in heart and soul.

When I was young, I went fishing with my father and brothers often. I caught small fish like “strepies”, galjoen and harders. One of my favourite early food memories is of my dad helping me to pan-fry a whole small galjoen at our camping site one December – one that I had caught myself. Bliss.

This year, I want to eat more fresh fish. Sustainably caught fish are at the top of my list. Although harders are on SASSI’s orange list because of damaging huge drag nets, smaller batches are being hand-caught by many fishermen and you can buy them fresh from various fish shops and harbours.

For this shoot, I had my very first opportunity to scale, gill and gut fresh harders from scratch – quite an adventure. It is not difficult at all, so give it a google and try it yourself! But if you’re not in the mood for a mess, ask your friendly fishmonger to take care of it.

I love the idea of plating whole fish instead of neatly filleted little steaks. Just score the skins and brush them with a delicious smoked paprika butter. Braai over medium hot coals until done. Serve with fresh bread or boiled potatoes and a fresh green salad.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • 6 fresh harders, gilled & gutted & scaled
  • 125 ml butter, melted
  • 10 ml smoked paprika
  • 5 ml chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
  • juice of a lemon (plus extra lemon wedges, to serve)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Rinse the harders under running tap water and pat dry.
  2. Use a sharp knife to score the skin on the fillet sides.
  3. Mix the melted butter, paprika, chilli flakes, garlic and lemon juice. Season generously with salt & pepper.
  4. Brush the butter mixture all over the harders, then braai them on a grid over medium-hot coals (turning often) for 8-10 minutes or until just cooked. Baste with the butter often. Don’t overcook.
  5. Serve warm.
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Mini lemon meringue pies

11 Jan

Mini lemon meringue pies made with sweet shortcrust pastry and toasted Italian meringue. It’s easier than you think! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

What is better than lemon meringue pie? The mini version. Why? Because popping one perfect miniature lemon meringue pie into your mouth in one bite is just immensely satisfying.

I usually make my lemon meringue pie crust using crushed cookies and butter, but these miniature casings work better with sweet shortcrust pastry (whip it up in the food processor). The simple filling of condensed milk and lemon juice contains no egg and thus need no baking (bonus). But the pièce de résistance is the thick and luxurious toasted Italian meringue topping. Do you need a sugar thermometer? Nope.

So if you’ve never had Italian meringue before, here’s what you’re missing out on: it’s like the inside of a “Sweetie Pie” – that white marshmallow fluff that gets coated with chocolate and set on a round wafer. It is simply egg whites whisked with piping hot sugar syrup, cooking the mixture to a point that it is very stable, glossy and thick and needs no further baking. Using a kitchen blowtorch, you can optionally toast the edges to look really cool. No weeping golden droplets that are associated with classic lemon meringues. Just perfectly creamy, toasty, dreaminess.

I bet if you try these, you won’t go back to regular lemon meringue pie for a long, long time.

Note: You’ll need a mini muffin tin to make these. I use this recipe often when I cater for a crowd and the pies store very well. Keep covered in a refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Baked mini shortcrust pastry cases, ready to be filled with a condensed milk & lemon juice filling. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Ingredients: (makes at least 24)

For the filling:

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place the ingredients in a medium size mixing bowl and use electric beaters to beat until thick and smooth. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use – it will thicken more on standing.

For the pastry:

  • 250 g cake flour
  • 125 g cold butter, cubed
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) caster sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 XL egg yolk
  • 2-3 tablespoons ice-cold water

Place the flour, butter, caster sugar, salt and egg yolk in a food processor. Process well, then add the cold water little by little until the pastry comes together in a ball. Immediately stop processing, turn out onto a clean surface and press together into a disc shape. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 180 C. Spray a mini muffin tray with non-stick baking spray.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a thickness of 2-3 cm, then cut rounds of about 8 cm to line the insides of the mini muffin tray. Carefully nudge them into the holes, then use a fork to gently prick each pastry circle on the bottom. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden, then remove and set aside to cool. Repeat with remaining pastry.

For the Italian meringue:

  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 100 ml water
  • 4 XL egg whites

Place the caster sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, swirling it around in the beginning to melt the sugar evenly. As soon as it comes to a rapid boil, set a timer for 5 minutes.

In the meantime, start whisking your egg whites until stiff peaks form. As soon as the syrup is ready (after boiling for 5 minutes) remove it from the heat and, with the whisk running on medium-high speed, pour the syrup in a small but steady stream into the egg whites until everything is incorporated. The mixture will be very hot. Continue whisking for about 10 minutes until the mixture has cooled to room temperature and has a thick, glossy texture. Cover and refrigerate until needed, or transfer to a piping bag fitted with the desired nozzle and use at once. I prefer using a twisted wide star-shaped nozzle.

To assemble:

Place the cooled pastry cases on a serving plate. Use a teaspoon to fill each case with a dollop of filling. Pipe the meringue filling neatly on top, then use a kitchen blowtorch to add a toasty finish. Serve at room temperature.

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MCC cocktail with blackberry & rosemary

31 Dec

MCC with bruised blackberries and sprigs of rosemary. Cheers! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

It’s the last day of 2017 and I’m spending it with family and friends at our favourite place in the world, Keurboomstrand. It’s been a good year, probably the best in the last 7 years since I’ve started this blog. I’ve made a few important decisions to minimize stress, to focus on my health and fitness, to spend more time with my family, to sleep more and to get rid of stuff that I didn’t really need. I’ve also narrowed down my food service portfolio to mostly content creation (recipes, photos and videos), which means a more focused approach with room for constant self-improving, less working hours, a less chaotic life in general and also finding myself in love with what I do all over again. What a joy! Although there’s a lot more changes to be made and implemented in my life and many fabulous new projects to be revealed in 2018, I think a toast is in order to celebrate 2017.

May your last day of 2017 end on an exceptionally high note, and may your 2018 reveal bright new opportunities! Let’s toast to love, health, freedom and more great choices in 2018. Cheers!

Note: This cocktail is so simple, yet it looks absolutely stunning. Bruised blackberries are added to your MCC flute along with a sprig of rosemary that aids as a fragrant stirring stick. It’s  a dramatic touch that will bring your party to life in an instant.

Ingredients:

  • MCC (or sparkling wine or prosecco)
  • some blackberries
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary

Method:

Pour the MCC into the champagne flutes, but don’t fill it up right to the top yet (leave some space). Add a few blackberries to each glass and use a teaspoon to lightly crush them, releasing their purple juices. Add a sprig of rosemary to easy glass and serve immediately.

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Mango lassi popsicles with white chocolate and pistachios

21 Dec

Natural fruit, yoghurt and honey is all that’s inside these popsicles. Add white chocolate and pistachios and it’s a festive dessert fit for kings! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

Mangoes are the kings of fruit, in my opinion. Velvety, rich and dense – they are just incredible to eat and so luxurious to use in smoothies and desserts.

If you don’t know the term “lassi”, it’s a popular Indian yoghurt-based smoothie, sometimes incorporating spices. You can make it using canned mango pulp out of season (contains less fibres), but it’s such a treat to use fresh ripe mangoes in season. A drizzle of honey adds extra sweetness, because when the lassi is frozen the sweetness is much less pronounced. When frozen solid, dip the popsicles in melted white chocolate and immediately into crushed pistachios for a truly elegant yet fun dessert. Loved by adults and kids alike!

Ingredients: (makes about 9 small popsicles, depending on the size of your popsicle moulds)

  • 1 large ripe mango, peeled and cut into cubes (pip discarded)
  • 250 ml plain yoghurt (I use double cream)
  • 15-30 ml honey
  • 80 g white chocolate
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. Place the mango & yoghurt in a food processor and blend to a silky smooth pulp. Add honey to taste and blend again. Remember, the lassi will taste less sweet once it is frozen, so make it a touch sweeter than you think.
  2. Pour into popsicle moulds and add an ice cream stick. Freeze for at least 3 hours or until solid.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave (30 seconds at a time, stirring until smooth). Carefully remove the popsicle from their moulds, one at a time, dipping them into the chocolate and then quickly sprinkle with chopped nuts. The chocolate will solidify quickly, so work as fast as you can. Arrange/balance the covered popsicles on a rack and immediately back into the freezer until ready to serve.
  4. Serve straight from the freezer.

Note: For a slightly more exotic flavour, add some crushed cardamom seeds to the mango lassi mixture before freezing.

Photography and styling: Tasha Seccombe

Recipe, text, food preparation and co-styling: Ilse van der Merwe

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Summer fruit caprese salad (with watermelon and nectarines)

20 Dec

This is the second recipe in a two-part series that I have created in collaboration with Galbani cheese using their soft mozzarella. I am such a fan of the classic caprese salad – an Italian crowd favourite of mozzarella, fresh tomato and basil leaves. I’ve done many caprese variations on my blog, but this is a fresh take using summer fruit instead of tomato and it works beautifully!

I’ve used a fruit baller to create beautiful watermelon balls (that almost resembles skinned tomatoes), or you can also use an ice-cream scoop. Then I added sliced nectarines, sliced mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and lastly some salt flakes and freshly ground pepper. The sweet fruit pair incredibly well with all the savoury notes of the classic caprese – such a great, fresh, summery combo!

Buen appetito!

A spin on the classic caprese salad, using watermelon and nectarines instead of tomatoes. So fresh and summery!

 

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a side salad)

  • about 4 cups fresh watermelon, scooped into balls (or sliced into blocks)
  • about 4 ripe nectarines, sliced into wedges
  • 2 x 125 g balls of Galbani mozzarella, sliced
  • a handful fresh basil leaves
  • salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • balsamic vinegar, for drizzling

Method:

  1. Arrange the scooped/sliced watermelon, nectarines and mozzarella on a large salad platter.
  2. Scatter with basil, then season with salt & pepper and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  3. Serve at once, along with crusty bread to mop up the dressing.

Note: This salad needs to be served directly after plating, as it can wilt on standing.

Galbani mozzarella.

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Roasted tomato caprese bruschetta

18 Dec

It’s no secret that I adore the way that the Italians entertain, so when the team of Galbani approached me to develop two new recipes for their soft mozzarella featuring a caprese theme, I was over the moon!

This is the first recipe of our collaboration: roasted tomato caprese bruschetta. These roasted tomatoes are so very versatile and they keep in the fridge for at least a week. Serve them at room temperature with Galbani mozzarella and fresh basil on bruschetta, over freshly cooked pasta, on a large flatbread, or any way you want. The flavour of the roasted tomatoes are so sweet and intense, and it works wonderfully with the milky mozzarella and zippy basil.

Buon appetito!

Serve these bright caprese bruschettas to kick off your next summer dinner party in style.

 

Ingredients: (serves 6 as a snack)

  • 600 g small tomatoes, halved
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 ml red wine vinegar
  • a few sprigs thyme, stalks removed
  • 1 baguette loaf, sliced
  • olive oil for brushing
  • 1 clove garlic, for rubbing
  • 2 x 125 g Galbani mozzarella balls, sliced thinly
  • fresh basil leaves, for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Place halved tomatoes on a baking tray and spread out in a single layer. Season with salt & pepper, sprinkle with sugar, olive oil, vinegar and thyme. Give it a gentle shake, then roast at 180 C for 50 minutes or until it starts to go sticky and brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and transfer to a jar.
  3. Turn the oven’s temperature up to 200 C. Arrange the sliced baguette on another baking tray. Brush the slices with oil and season with salt & pepper, then bake for 8-10 minute or lightly golden. Remove from the oven and quickly rub each slice with the garlic.
  4. Arrange slices on a serving board, top with sliced mozzarella, some roasted tomatoes and a few basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Note: These are best served at room temperature, using freshly toasted baguette. Make the tomatoes ahead and keep them in the fridge. Bring the tomatoes and mozzarella to room temperature before serving.

The classic caprese combo of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil is a firm favourite at any table.

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Review: The LG Neochef

4 Dec

A few weeks ago, I received a brand new LG Neochef microwave to review and keep. Our previous microwave was on its very last legs (we bought it 15 years ago from a friend, second hand, and although it has warmed many a leftover it was time to step down) so the timing was impeccable.

The thing is: you get microwaves, and then you get the LG Neochef. I’ve heard a few rumors about this machine, but it turned out I was even more impressed than I anticipated. I don’t like reviews that are too technical, so here is the bottom line: this is not only a spacious and beautiful microwave, it is also a smart oven. As in, a real oven that can bake, roast and grill. And you know what, it can even be a microwave and an oven at the same time, so your cooking times can pretty much be cut in half, if that’s what you want (that’s the “smart inverter technology” that LG is talking about).

The top reason I love this microwave so much is because of it’s superb, even heating. Food actually gets heated throughout (unlike other microwaves scorching the sides or completely overheating the middle). And butter actually gets properly softened (not half hard and half melted, like my previous microwave did, even on low heat).

I also love it because it is really spacious at 39 liter capacity, it truly looks sleek in a minimalist way, and it is very user friendly – it does everything I want it to do, without me searching for the booklet to look up a setting. I probably won’t end up doing a lot of baking in this microwave, only because I usually bake large quantities of stuff at once and that’s what my oven it for. But I do use and need a microwave daily and cannot do without it: for melting chocolate, for softening butter, for heating milk when baking sponge cakes, for defrosting meat, and so forth and so forth. It works like a dream – even the “time is up” tune sounds great.

The LG Neochef retails for R5499-R6499, depending on the retailer.

I’ll be doing a cooking video using the LG Neochef soon, so keep an eye out. Happy cooking!

 

 

If you want to read what LG says about their machine, here’s the full press release:

Combining a convenient design, subtle minimalism and the latest Smart Inverter technology from LG Electronics (LG), the new NeoChef™ takes culinary and microwave ovens to a new level. With the latest design trends, the microwave is both minimalistic and accessible, instantly bringing a touch of class to any kitchen. The ergonomic NeoChef features a simple intuitive control interface as well as a range of hygiene-enhancing features including Anti-Bacterial EasyClean™ that help users keep their ovens clean and fresh.

This elegant LG NeoChef has a unified tempered glass front, a refined matte exterior and is ergonomically designed with a rounded pocket-style handle and diamond cut dial weds form function to not only deliver the ultimate in precision and user-convenience, but to seamlessly blend in with the decor of any kitchen. To simplify operation, the NeoChef extends its usability features into input with its simple intuitive sliding touch control. The advanced microwave has received multiple world-renowned design awards including the 2015 PIN UP Design Award and the 2015 Good Design Award.

Equipped with LG’s unique Smart Inverter, there’s no cooking job the NeoChef can’t handle. The oven uses linear power control between 300 to 1,200 watts to evenly cook or defrost food, while at the same time preserving nutrients and locking in flavour. The Smart Inverter also boosts efficiency, as its motor has a 1200-watt maximum power output.

In addition, LG’s advanced microwave can be used to make healthy, lactobacilli-infused yogurt, and with its Healthy Fry feature is even capable of preserving the distinct taste of each dish while making them healthier, with less oil and 72 percent less fat.

The NeoChef also packs a number of features designed to increase cleanliness and streamline the cooking experience. The Anti-Bacterial EasyClean Coating makes it harder for dangerous contaminants to take root, eliminating 99.99 percent of harmful bacteria.

Equipped with a number of convenience-enhancing features such as its innovative, hexagonal turntable, as well as an energy efficient interior LED lamp that is three times brighter than conventional models, users can easily monitor the entire cooking process.With its compact exterior size, the microwave is at home in any kitchen while it is still able to accommodate large and tall dishes with its increased internal capacity.

“At LG, we’re dedicated to creating appliances with our consumers in mind, and as such we’ve developed this striking new microwave with functionality and beautiful design that will add a touch of class to any kitchen,” said Sofia Kim, MEA Marketing Cooking Team. “Powered by our unique Smart Inverter technology, the NeoChef efficiently and effectively reheats and defrosts food, decreases cooking times and makes it easier than ever for users to prepare delicious, highly-nutritious meals.”

 

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Afritalian braaibroodjies

4 Dec

Freshly braaied ciabatta sandwiches with fior di latte, tomato, basil, onion and chutney. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

It is officially summer in the southern hemisphere – the season to go alfresco! I have not made braaibroodjies in a while, although I’m such a fan. For those who don’t live in SA, a “braaibroodjie” is a tomato and cheese sandwich that is grilled over hot coals as part of a festive barbecue.

So, the classic South African braaibroodjie that I grew up with in Stellenbosch looks like this: two slices of store-bought soft white/brown bread, butter, chutney, cheddar cheese (grated for an even melt), thinly sliced onion, sliced tomato, salt & pepper – some might not do chutney, some might not do onion, some might add mayo, some might butter their broodjies on the outside, there are so many variations. My folks even used to do some sweet braaibroodjies on the side when we were kids, which consisted of buttered bread with cheddar and apricot jam. Those were freaking delicious too.

This time I want to bring some Italian flair into the equation, but keep a few South African essentials. So this is what my Afritalian braaibroodjie looks like: two slices of good quality wood fired ciabatta, butter, chutney, sliced fior di latte, thinly sliced onion, sliced tomato, salt & pepper and fresh basil leaves. It’s almost like a pizza Margherita and a braaibroodjie in one – the best of both worlds, in my opinion.

Here’s to some fresh fireside ideas for summer! I’d love to hear how you’ll be doing your braaibroodjies this festive season. Give me a shout in the comments below.

Note: Some people prefer buttering their bread on the outside, some only on the inside, some on both sides. I only butter on the inside. Do whatever you like.

Ingredients: (makes 1 sandwich, adjust quantities accordingly for more)

  • two slices good quality ciabatta (Italian-style slipper loaf)
  • butter, for spreading
  • about 5-10 ml fruit chutney
  • two slices of fior di latte (fresh milky mozzarella)
  • two slices of ripe tomato
  • a few thin slices of onion
  • salt & pepper
  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves

Method:

Assemble the braaibroodjies by buttering your sliced bread (see note above), then spread evenly with chutney on the inside of one of the slices. Arrange sliced fior di latte, tomato & onion in layers, then season with salt & pepper and add basil. Top with the other slice, then braai on a grid (preferably closed hinge) over medium-cool coals, turning often, until golden brown on both sides and gooey on the inside. It is important that the tomato must have enough time to warm up and the cheese must be melted completely. Remove from the heat and serve at once.

More notes: Choose a ciabatta that is not too “holey” in texture, otherwise you might lose your filling in the process. The tomato will continue to soften the bread on standing as it releases liquid. This slight sogginess is part of the beauty of the braaibroodjie. Also, if you prefer to enjoy your basil leaves uncooked, add them right at the end just before serving. Enjoy!

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Kentucky-style fried chicken (double dredged)

24 Nov

Deep fried Kentucky-style chicken – done right! Served with beer and some flaky paprika salt. No cutlery required. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

This recipe is unapologetically delicious, influenced straight from the bold South of America. And no, you won’t get the same results in the oven. This is a good ol’ deep-fryin’ job. Double dredged in my not-so-secret spice & herb flour mixture, crispy fried and finger-licking awesome.

You sure won’t eat this every day (or even every week), but when it’s time for Kentucky-style fried chicken, you need to do it properly. Keep an eye on your oil temperature and you’re in for a treat: these golden beauties need to cook from scratch in the oil – they need 12-15 minutes at 180 C to work their magic.

Give them a quick drain on kitchen paper and you’re ready to rumble. No sauce, no condiments, no side dishes. Just fried chicken done right.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • 1 liter canola oil
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 5 ml salt
  • 2,5 ml freshly ground pepper
  • 10 ml paprika
  • 5 ml mixed herbs
  • 2,5 ml chilli powder (adjust according to your needs)
  • 2,5 ml celery seeds (optional)
  • 5 ml garlic powder (or use garlic salt and reduce salt quantity accordingly)
  • 4 XL egg whites
  • 8-12 medium size chicken pieces (legs, wings, thighs)

Method:

  1. Place the oil in a large heave-based pot over high heat. While it is heating, prepare the chicken.
  2. In a wide mixing bowl, mix the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, herbs, chilli powder, celery seeds and garlic powder.
  3. Place the egg whites in a wide bowl and whisk lightly.
  4. Take each chicken piece, dip it in the egg white, then in the spiced flour mixture, back in the egg white and again in the flour mixture. Place on a tray and repeat process until all the chicken is double-dredged.
  5. In the meantime, keep an eye on the oil. You’re looking for a temperature of 180 C. If you don’t have a thermometer, test a small piece of chicken skin to see if it bubbles when it hits the oil. When the oil starts to smoke, you’ve heated it too high – this can be dangerous, so remove it carefully from the heat (using heat protective mitts) and let it cool before adding the chicken.
  6. Add the dredged chicken pieces to the hot oil, but don’t crowd the pot. Fry for 12-15 minutes, turning them over half way through. Adjust the temperature if the chicken browns too quickly – it should spend at least 12 minutes in the oil for the meat to be cooked properly, so give the bigger pieces more time if needed.
  7. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately (with or without extra salt and lemon wedges).

Note: Always be extra careful when cooking with large amounts of oil. Don’t leave it unattended and don’t let children near it. These days I prefer deep-frying on my induction cooker where there are no flames near.

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Melon, blue cheese, prosciutto & basil canapés

20 Nov

Stacks of skewered melon, blue cheese, folded prosciutto and fresh basil. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

 

We’re all starting to gear up for a few weeks of entertaining and celebrating this festive season. I love spoiling my guests with some small bites before the start of a meal. If you keep it simple, it won’t take up too much time and will add so much to your gathering.

The combination of melon and ham is a true classic. I’ve added blue cheese and basil leaves for a savoury, creamy and fresh extra touch and it works like a charm. No cooking required, just cut, skewer and serve.

Treat yourself and your guests to some fabulous-looking canapés this December – it’s totally worth it!

Ingredients:

  • 1 melon, peeled, seeds removed and cut into 2 x 2 cm cubes
  • 2 x 125 g blue cheese, cut into cubes
  • about 160-200 g finely sliced prosciutto, each piece folded into a neat little stack
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves

Method:

Use small skewers to arrange the melon, blue cheese, prosciutto and basil into a neat upright stack. Serve immediately.

Tip: Cut larger slices of prosciutto in half, if necessary.

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