Tag Archives: basil

Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne & tiramisu jars with Galbani Cheese

3 May

Caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne and individual tiramisu jars – my ultimate Italian-style feast! Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

When it comes to laid-back, festive, scrumptious food that’s packed with flavour, the Italians just know how. I’ve taken a few tips from their most popular traditional cheese-themed recipes to come up with my favourite three-course Italian-inspired feast: an over-the-top caprese salad, triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mozzarella, cheddar and mascarpone) and individual tiramisu cups with chocolate flakes and fresh raspberries. You can assemble the lasagne and tiramisu ahead so that you have more time to spend with your guests – the most important thing when hosting friends and family!

All my recipes serve 8, because they deserve a crowd. If you’re keen on a smaller gathering, just halve the ingredients to serve 4.

And don’t miss my video below – it shows how to make this killer lasagne.

Buon appetito!

My ultimate caprese salad with soft mozzarella, an array of tomatoes, fresh basil, pesto, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, salt flakes and ground black pepper. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Ultimate caprese salad (serves 8)

  • 3 very big ripe tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • about 400 g smaller tomatoes on the vine
  • a handful baby tomatoes, halved
  • 3 x 125 g Galbani soft white mozzarella, sliced into rounds
  • a handful fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan
  • 3-4 tablespoons basil pesto
  • extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • balsamic vinegar, for serving (optional)
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Arrange the tomatoes on a large platter, interleaved with slices of mozzarella. Scatter with basil leaves and pine nuts, then drizzle with pesto (add a little olive oil to the pesto if it is very thick). Serve with olive oil and balsamic on the side, seasoned with salt & pepper. Serve immediately.

Note: The tomatoes will wilt on standing, so this salad is best served straight after assembling.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (made with mascarpone, cheddar and mozzarella). Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Triple cheese beef lasagne (serves 8)

For the beef Bolognese sauce:

  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, skinned & finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled & finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 kg lean beef mince
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, stalks removed & finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried origanum)
  • 375 ml (half a bottle) dry red wine
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 250 ml boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cans whole Italian tomatoes, blended to a pulp
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

For the white sauce (béchamel):

  • 80 g (80 ml / 1/3 cup) President Butter
  • 80 ml (1/3/ cup) plain/cake flour
  • 1 liter full cream milk
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • a generous tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

For assembling:

  • 1 batch Bolognese sauce
  • 1 batch white sauce
  • 500 g fresh/dried pasta sheets
  • 200 g President Cheddar Cheese, grated
  • 300 g Galbani Creamy Mozzarella (semi-hard), grated

For the Bolognese sauce: Heat the olive oil in a wide, large pot with a heavy base. Fry the onion, carrot and celery over medium-high heat until soft and lightly brown. Add the garlic and stir. Add the mince and stir, breaking up any lumps and scraping the bottom to loosen any sticky bits. Add the rosemary and thyme. Continue to fry on high heat to brown the meat slightly, then add the red wine, stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, sugar and stir well. Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours, stirring every now and then.

For the white sauce: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat, then add the flour and cook for a minute, stirring. Add the milk and stir with a whisk until the mixture becomes smooth and thickens slightly. Add the nutmeg, mustard and mascarpone and season well with salt & pepper. Set aside.

To assemble: Preheat oven to 180 C. In a large rectangular roasting tray or oven dish, start with a thin layer of white sauce, then a layer of pasta sheets (they will swell so don’t fit them too snugly), a layer of meat sauce, more white sauce, a layer of cheddar, etc. Continue and repeat, ending with a layer of white sauce and the grated mozzarella on top. Bake for 45 minutes until golden on top, then let it rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Note: I sometimes chop my onion, carrot and celery together in a food processor to save time. The cooked lasagne will continue to stabilize on standing, becoming firmer and easier to serve. The assembled lasagne (cooked or uncooked) freezes well – thaw completely before returning to the oven.

Individual jars of tiramisu, made with mascarpone, brandy and some chocolate flakes. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Individual tiramisu cups: (serves 8)

  • 5 XL eggs, separated
  • 1 1/4 cups caster sugar
  • 2 x 250 g Galbani Mascarpone
  • 1 Italian-style sponge finger biscuits (Boudoir/ladyfinger)
  • 375 ml strong coffee, warm
  • 75 ml brandy
  • cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 2-3 chocolate flake bars, for serving
  • fresh raspberries, for serving

Place the egg yolks and caster sugar in a large bowl. Use and electric whisk to mix until it is very thick and creamy. Add the mascarpone and whisk until smooth.
Clean and dry this whisk, then whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Add half the egg whites to the mascarpone mixture and fold in with a large spoon, continuing with the second half and folding until you have a smooth, creamy, mousse-like mixture. Set aside.
Working quickly, cut the finger biscuits into thirds, and divide the pieces into 8 groups of 9 pieces each (for 8 cups of 250 ml capacity each). Place the coffee and brandy in a shallow flat bowl, then dip 4 cookie pieces at a time into the coffee mixture, and place them into the bottom of each dessert glass/jar. Top with a dollop of the mascarpone mix, then a sifting of cocoa powder. Top with a second round of 5 dipped biscuit pieces, then place the remaining half of the mascarpone mix into a piping bag and pipe dollops of the mixture at the top of each glass to cover the biscuits. Dust some cocoa powder over the top, then cover with plastic or lids (not touching the mixture) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
To serve, add some chocolate flakes and berries on top and serve straight from the fridge.

Note: The biscuits need time to soften in the fridge. If you serve them too soon, the cookies will still be tough. The tiramisu cups keep very well in the fridge for up to 3 days and the flavour improves with time.

(This post was created in collaboration with Galbani Cheese.)

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Turkish apricots with goats cheese, basil, almonds & honey

30 Mar

Soft dried apricots topped with basil goats cheese & almonds, drizzled with honey (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Soft dried apricots topped with basil goats cheese & almonds, drizzled with honey (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

In July last year with the launch of the demo KITCHEN, my wingwoman Elsebé Cronjé suggested that we make these beauties. She got the recipe via her chef friend Ruan, who saw it on the internet somewhere. When I started searching for the origin, it seemed like there were many similar recipes around with no specific credit as to who originally came up with the idea.

Needless to say, these soft apricots with goats cheese, basil, almonds & honey were such a hit that they are now one of our favourite canapés for guests. So very simple to make, but with an intriguing combination of sweet & savoury flavour tones and beautiful textures of soft, crunchy and creamy.

Be sure to buy soft Turkish dried apricots (they are imported by the team of Cecilia’s Farm and also available from Woolworths) and not the hard ones. This is a total must for festive entertaining, anytime of the year.

Ingredients:

  • 100 g plain goats cheese (log of chevin)
  • 250 g plain cream cheese
  • a large handful of fresh basil leaves (about 20g)
  • 250 g soft dried Turkish apricots
  • 100 g raw almonds, lightly toasted in a dry pan
  • 1/4 honey

Method:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the goats cheese and cream cheese with a wooden spoon or electric beaters until well combined.
  2. Wash and dry the basil leaves, then chop finely and add to the cheese. Mix through.
  3. With a small spatula or knife, smear each dried apricot with a good dollop of the cheese.
  4. Roughly chop the almonds and scatter over the apricot canapes.
  5. Liberally drizzle with honey and serve.

Credits:

Text: Ilse van der Merwe

Food preparation & assistant: Elsebé Cronjé

Photography : Tasha Seccombe

Venue for shoot: the demo KITCHEN

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Panzanella with smoked chicken, capers & basil

6 Feb

Panzanella: a traditional Tuscan bread salad (photography by Tasha Seccombe, styling by Nicola Pretorius)

These days, most of us have access to great bread. Here in my hometown of Stellenbosch I can buy a large loaf of freshly baked sour dough bread any day of the week at Schoon de Compagne, and I use it in so many ways.

On the first day, I just eat it on its own, drenched with great quality olive oil or topped with a thick slab of cold Ayrshire butter. On day 2, I eat it toasted as bruschetta with various toppings: slow roasted tomatoes with garlic, marinated peppers, baked aubergines with feta, the list is endless. On day 3, I use it to make croutons or process it to make breadcrumbs for toppings and stuffings. The uses are infinite and the bread just keeps on giving. (For more ideas, check out Saveur’s 40 favourite recipes with stale bread.)

The Italians have great ways of using stale bread. They make fantastic soups, salads, meat dishes and even puddings with it – economical and oh so tasty. One of my favourite Italian inspired ways of using a stale loaf is to make panzanella, a traditional summery Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes. There are many versions of panzanella, but mine contains tomatoes, yellow peppers, capers, basil, red onion and smoked chicken.

And here’s a handy tip: if you want to give your panzanella an authentic Italian look, don’t cut the bread, rather break it into chunks. This way the salad has so much more character. It’s a meal on its own, but don’t be afraid to serve it as one of many dishes on a lazy, extended, weekend lunch with lots of great wine in a shady spot under the trees.

Ingredients: (serves 4 as a main meal, or 6 as a side dish)

For the “croutons”:

  •  about 3 cups of stale torn bread chunks (preferably sour dough or ciabatta)
  • 60 ml olive oil

For the dressing:

  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced/crushed
  • salt and black pepper for seasoning

For the salad:

  • 3 cups toasted croutons (see above)
  • 2 small smoked chicken breasts, sliced or torn into smaller chunks
  • 250 g mixed small tomatoes, sliced in half or in smaller slices
  • 1 yellow pepper, seeds and pith removed, sliced
  • 50 g capers (drained)
  • 1/4 cup of finely sliced red onion (optional)
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves

Method:

  1. For the croutons: In a large pan over medium-high heat, add the oil and then toast the bread chunks until they are golden brown on all sides. Toss often until ready, then remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  2. For the dressing: mix all ingredients together in a cup, using a fork to whisk. Set aside.
  3. For the salad: in a large mixing bowl, add the croutons, chicken breast chunks, sliced tomatoes, sliced pepper, capers, red onion and basil. Pour half the dressing over the salad, then mix well. Add more dressing according to taste – I like it when the bread absorbs a lot of the dressing, resulting in a softer tangy chew. Transfer the mixed salad to a beautiful salad bowl, and serve immediately.

Note: If your loaf of stale bread has a very hard crust on the outside, cut it off before tearing the bread into chunks.

Credits:

This post was originally written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Recipe, food preparation and text: Ilse van der Merwe

Photography: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius

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Bruschetta with grilled marinated peppers

19 Jun

Toasted bruschetta with goats cheese, marinated roasted peppers and fresh basil.

Even though most of us are snuggled up inside our cosy homes this winter, there’s no reason to stop eating like you’re on a Mediterranean holiday. To me, alfresco foods like grilled vegetables on bruschetta is the perfect snack all year round. And with the intensely bright red, orange and yellow hues that comes with grilling really fresh peppers, it’s like a piece of sunshine on a plate.

You can certainly serve these peppers warm on a very cold day, grilling the goat’s cheese to toasty perfection, but I mostly prefer to eat my marinated peppers at room temperature. Freshly toasted warm bruschetta is obligatory though, as it really soaks up the lovely sharp marinade.

Buon appetito!

Baguette from De Oude Bank Bakkerij, perfect for making bruschetta.

Ingredients for grilled marinated peppers:

  • 4 large red/orange/yellow peppers (or 6 medium)
  • olive oil for greasing
  • about 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • about 30-45 ml cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper

To serve:

  • slices of baguette (or sour dough or ciabatta)
  • soft goats cheese
  • fresh basil leaves

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 230 C.
  2. Remove the seeds and pith of the peppers, then slice into large flat “panels”.
  3. Grease a baking tray with olive oil, then arrange the peppers skin side up.
  4. Roast the peppers for about 25 minutes, or until the skin starts to blister and turn black.
  5. Remove the peppers from the oven, then place them immediately (with all the juices from the pan) in a plastic container that can seal tightly. Close the lid and leave to steam and cool for at least 15 minutes.
  6. Now remove the skins from the peppers – they should peel off easily. Discard the skins.
  7. Cut the soft fleshy peppers into smaller strips, then place them back into the plastic container. Add the olive oil and vinegar, then season well with salt and pepper. Mix well with a spoon, taking care not to break up the peppers.
  8. Leave to marinate for a few hours – flavours will improve with time. Refrigerate until ready to use, then return to room temperature before serving.
  9. Serve on slices of toasted bruschetta, topped with goats cheese, peppers and some fresh basil leaves.

Credits:

This post was written especially for The Pretty Blog.

Recipe, text and food preparation: Ilse van der Merwe from thefoodfox.com

Photographer: Tasha Seccombe

Styling: Nicola Pretorius.

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Summer linguine with basil & cashew pesto

15 Jan

Fresh linguine with basil & cashew pesto, mixed tomatoes and fior di latte (picture by Tasha Seccombe)

Every time I eat linguine or spaghetti with a basic basil pesto, I feel very Italian – in a “pretend” kind of way. It is the opposite of what we grew up on in South Africa, believing that pasta always needs a chunky, heavy meat sauce.

This simple way of enjoying pasta is synonymous with my motto for the new year, keeping things uncomplicated, yet robust. The most basic meal can turn into something fabulous if you use fresh, great quality ingredients, and do as little to it as possible.

For this recipe, I varied from the well-known classic basil pesto with the use of cashew nuts instead of pine kernels – a slightly more economical choice which means that you don’t have to use the nuts too sparingly and can add some as a final topping for extra texture. Cashews still provide a strong nutty flavour, and is in no way a compromise. I also added some fresh halved cherry tomatoes, which I tossed through the pasta while it was still piping hot. The tomatoes warm up slightly, but retain their fresh crunch and flavour.

As a last addition, I also added shreds of fior di latte – wonderfully mild and milky pieces that work so well in the traditional caprese salad of tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.

This dish makes me feel rejuvenated, inspired and longing for travels abroad. Buon appetito!

Ingredients for pesto:

  • 2 punnets basil (about 40 g in total)
  • a pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup of finely grated parmesan cheese (preferably parmigiano reggiano)
  • ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil (best quality)
  • 50 g cashew nuts

Ingredients for pasta:

  • 500 g linguine (plus water and salt for boiling)
  • about 30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved (or use a punnet of mixed small tomatoes)
  • 120 g fior di latte, torn into  shreds
  • 50 g cashew nuts, roughly chopped

Method:

  1. In a food processor or electric chopper (or manual pestle & mortar), process/pound all ingredients for pesto together to a chunky paste. Set aside and start making pasta immediately, otherwise discolouration might occur.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil, then cook pasta for 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain in a colander and immediately add olive oil, then toss to coat. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add pesto, then toss to coat well.
  4. Now add tomatoes, mozzarella and cashews. Toss again, then serve immediately with some extra olive oil on the table.

Note: If you want to keep the pesto from discolouring, blanch the basil leaves in a large pot of boiling water for no longer than 3 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon and immerse in ice water immediately. Continue making pesto as above, then transfer to an airtight container and top with a thin layer of olive oil before storing in the fridge, covered. Will keep for about 3-4 days, perfectly green.

WIN with SPAR Freshline! One lucky reader can win SPAR vouchers to the value of R200 when you answer this easy question: Name one  ingredient/product from the SPAR Freshline range which featured in this recipe. Leave your answer as a comment at the bottom of this post. Winner will be notified on Friday the 18th of January 2012.

Credits:

This post was especially written for The Pretty Blog by Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Food: Ilse van der Merwe from The Food Fox.

Photography: Tasha Seccombe.

Styling: Tasha Seccombe & NicolaPretorius.

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Pizza my way

15 Mar

Pizza my way with spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, salami, feta cheese and basil

I started making pizzas at home about 3 years ago. I got the recipe for the pizza base out of “Huisgenoot Top 500 Wenresepte”, and I haven’t looked back since. I now prefer my own homemade pizza to restaurant pizza, unless it is made by a proper Italian establishment who can provide me with the real thing!

I like my pizza to have a very thin crust, with really tasty tomato base spread generously, then mozzarella cheese and the toppings of your choice. […]

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Watermelon “carpacchio” with gorgonzola, almonds, cucumber and crushed basil oil

10 Mar

I bought a massive watermelon 2 days ago, so big and heavy I could almost not pick it up. It was on special, so I just crossed my fingers hoping that the texture and taste would be as impressive as the size. To my delight, it was perfect.

I’ve been a huge fan of watermelon in summertime since I was a kid. My father would cut us huge wheels and we would sit at our campsite in Keurboomstrand’s Arch Rock Caravan Park each with our own sharp knife to cut tailored bites and remove the pips. I am totally happy to eat my watermelon on it’s own, but sometimes a watermelon this big in a household as small as mine calls for some creative culinary adventures. […]

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