Tomato and Mozzarella Tarts

Tomato and mozzarella tart

While we enjoy the summer heat thoughts often turn to outdoor eating, if barbecue food is not your thing then try these Tomato and Mozzarella Tarts that scream summer. Using the classic flavour combo of tomato and mozzarella, these delicious individual puff pastry tarts should appeal to most people. I think they are brilliant for a tasty weekend lunch or a light dinner. Being quick and simple to prepare makes them a superb recipe to add to your cooking repertoire. As you’ve probably guessed I’ve used shop bought ready rolled puff pastry. I love how easy it is to use and for me time is often short, I think it’s a great shortcut product.

Tomato and mozzarella tart

Here’s the recipe for Tomato and Mozzarella Tarts.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

320g puff pastry (ready rolled)
220g mozzarella pearls
12 pomodorino tomatoes
8 teaspoons sun dried tomato paste
salt and pepper

Method

1. Unroll the pastry 10 minutes before you want to use it and pre heat the oven to Fan 200c.

2. Cut the pastry into 4 rectangles, measuring approximately 17.5cm x 12cm in size and place on a greased baking sheet.

3. Using a sharp knife score a border 1.5cm inside each pastry rectangle to create the tart edge. Using a fork prick holes on the pastry base. This will stop the inside of the tart rising.

4. Spread 2 teaspoons of tomato paste on each tart base.

5. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthways, then top each tart with 6 tomato halves and 4 mozzarella pearls.

6. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and crisp.

Tomato and mozzarella tart

I served the tomato and mozzarella tarts with a rocket and spinach salad dressed with a splash of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, finished off with grated parmesan cheese. The salad is a must, do try it too.

I hope you enjoy.

Until next time.

Julie
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Pepper Flatbread Pizzas

Pepper Flatbread Pizza

These delicious Pepper Flatbread Pizzas are hugely popular with all my family. For me that makes them a winning dinner solution. I think the secret to these is the richly flavoured tomato sauce with herbs and balsamic vinegar. Pizzas can be a bit time-consuming but these are pretty quick to rustle up because I have a couple of cheats I use and even more so if you make the sauce in advance. My first cheat is that I use oval flatbreads from Marks and Spencer as the pizza bases which taste really good and second is I use frozen pre sliced peppers.

My children sometimes help me make these pizzas and they love feeling involved in preparing their own food. It’s a brilliant way to encourage any reluctant eater to try new pizza toppings.

Pepper Flatbread Pizza

Here’s the recipe for Pepper Flatbread Pizzas.

Ingredients (Serves 2 with extra sauce for 2 more pizzas)

400g chopped tinned tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Black pepper
M&S Oval Flatbreads (twin pack)
50g grated hard mozzarella cheese
Small handful of frozen sliced peppers

Method

1. Firstly, make the tomato sauce by putting the tinned tomatoes into a saucepan with the herbs, balsamic vinegar and a good grinding of black pepper. Stir the ingredients well.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes stirring every now and again. As you only need half the sauce freeze the remaining half for another day.

3. Meanwhile, pre heat the oven to Fan 200c.

4. Lay the flatbreads on a non stick baking sheet. Spread the tomato sauce over the flatbreads leaving a gap around the edge.

5. Sprinkle on the cheese.

6. Top with the frozen peppers.

7. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until starting to crisp.

I only literally had a minute to take the photo of this pizza as my daughter was waiting very patiently for her dinner. If I’m serving the pizzas for me and my husband I usually top each pizza with sliced pepperoni and serve with a rocket salad instead.

I hope you and your family enjoy these Pepper Flatbread Pizzas as much as mine do.

Until next time.

Julie
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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

Mary Berry's Baking Bible

I really had no hesitation choosing Mary Berry’s Baking Bible as my next book to feature in ‘My kitchen cookbooks’, the section of my blog dedicated to reviewing my ever growing collection of cookbooks. The list of recipes I’ve baked from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible is so long that it’s most definitely one of my most used cookbooks.

Believe it or not I didn’t actually buy this book when first published. I was put off by the lack of photos and opted to buy 100 Cakes and Bakes by Mary Berry instead. After borrowing it from my local library I was completely persuaded to get my own copy. The Baking Bible is one of my most comprehensive baking books I have featuring over 250 classic recipes, including all the traditional favourites such as Madeira cake, Swiss Roll, Carrot Cake, English Muffins and Millionaires’ Shortbread.

The ‘Introduction and Techniques’ chapter is a must read for any new baker, as it guides you through baking terminology and tips for success. The book is then divided into chapters for different types of bakes e.g classic cakes, chocolate cakes, fancy biscuits and breads. At the end of the book there is a really helpful ‘Cake Decorations’ chapter which includes recipes and instructions on making almond paste, fondant icing, coulis and chocolate decorations.

After years of making a Victoria Sandwich the traditional way by creaming the butter and sugar first, I now only use Mary’s All-in-one method quite simply because it’s foolproof. I made a Pretty Pink Birthday Cake using this recipe earlier in the year and it really did taste amazing.

Pretty Pink Birthday Cake

Another favourite recipe of mine from the Baking Bible is Mary’s Chocolate Chip Brownies. There’s no faff with melting chocolate and I usually have all the ingredients stocked in my baking cupboard (yes, I really do have a baking cupboard!). The brownies are fudgey and very chocolatey, just how a good brownie should be.

If you’re after a quick and easy tasty bake then I recommend you try the Date and Cherry Butter Bars. They’re best described as a cross between a cake and a biscuit, they are quite moreish with a cup of tea.

Date and cherry butter bars

I can’t stress enough how delicious the Viennese Fingers are, they are seriously good. They are beautifully delicate in texture and have a luxurious buttery taste. Don’t be put off by the need to use a piping bag, as the recipe is pretty easy and worth a little bit of effort.

Mary’s Crown Loaf is a fantastic looking loaf of bread to bake. The crown loaf is constructed by baking 12 rolls together in a round cake tin. The individual rolls are light and soft inside with a good outside crust. My eldest daughter baked this crown loaf recently and she did a brilliant job, I think Paul Hollywood would be impressed too.

Crown loaf

Mary Berry’s Baking Bible has a wide range of recipes from simple and traditional to more complex and technical. It’s an essential book for any baking beginner and definitely worth a read too if you are a seasoned pro, there really is something for everyone. There are so many more recipes I want to try but deciding what to bake is difficult as there are so many. What’s your favourite recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible? Let me know, maybe it will be my next bake.

Until next time.

Julie
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Toffee Fudge Shortbread

Toffee Fudge Shortbread

I’m always browsing the baking aisle in the supermarket, looking for something new or different to incorporate into my baking. When I saw a packet of mini fudge chunks I thought they’d be great in a biscuit or cookie. So yesterday, I experimented with my shortbread recipe and came up with these Toffee Fudge Shortbread biscuits.

For quality control purposes I tried a couple with a cup of tea and can vouch that they really are quite yummy. Of course, my little testers don’t like to miss any baked goodies and they too gave the shortbread a big thumbs up. What I really liked is that the shortbread is light and buttery whilst the baked fudge chunks taste like little chewy toffee fudge morsels, delicious!

Toffee Fudge Shortbread

Here’s my recipe for Toffee Fudge Shortbread.

Ingredients (makes 20)

200g unsalted butter (softened)
100g caster sugar plus 1/2 tablespoon for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g plain flour
50g cornflour
Pinch of salt
100g mini fudge chunks

Method

1. Line 2 baking sheets with non stick baking parchment.

2. Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy.

3. Sift in half of the flour, cornflour and salt. Then mix together.

4. Once combined sift in the remaining flour and cornflour. Add the mini fudge chunks. Mix until the mixture becomes like a biscuit dough.

5. Dust your work surface with cornflour and bring the dough together with your hands.

6. Roll out the dough to a thickness of 7mm to 8mm using a 6.5cm flower shape cutter cut out as many flower shaped shortbread as possible.

7. Then reform the dough. Roll out and cut out the remaining shortbread.

8. Place the shortbread on the baking sheets and put in the fridge to chill for 1 hour.

9. Pre heat your oven to Fan 160c, then bake the shortbread for 22 minutes. Halfway through baking turn the baking sheets round and swap oven shelves. This will help the shortbread bake evenly.

10. When baked remove the shortbread from the oven, they should be pale gold. Sprinkle with the additional caster sugar. Allow to cool for 5 minutes on the baking trays and then transfer to wire racks to cool.

I think these Toffee Fudge Shortbread biscuits make an excellent gift, so I’m going to put some in a pretty tin and give them to my mum. Hope she likes them.

Until next time, happy baking.

Julie
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Sweetie Vanilla Cupcakes

Sweetie Vanilla Cupcakes

Ok, look away now if you are on a healthy eating regime. My Sweetie Vanilla Cupcakes are only for people with a sweet tooth and those not watching their waistline. I’ve not baked these on a whim, I’m donating them to the school summer fair which is being held tomorrow. I’m hoping that the combination of moist vanilla sponge, topped with a generous swirl of vanilla buttercream and childhood sweets will appeal to young and old alike. Every penny raised will help fund new equipment and books for the school, so it’s a worthy cause and baking cupcakes is a small way I can help.

Sweetie Vanilla Cupcakes

Sweetie Vanilla Cupcakes

Here’s my recipe for Sweetie Vanilla Cupcakes.

Ingredients (makes 24)

320g unsalted butter (softened)
320g caster sugar
6 medium eggs beaten
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
320g self raising flour (sifted)
4 tablespoons semi skimmed milk

400g unsalted butter (softened)
800g icing sugar (sifted)
2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons of milk
Haribo or other jelly sweets

Method

1. Pre heat the oven to Fan 165c or a conventional oven about 180c. Line two 12 hole muffin tins with cupcake cases.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Gradually add the beaten eggs a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. If you think the mixture looks curdled add some flour.

4. Beat in the vanilla extract.

5. Carefully fold in the flour, I usually do this half at a time.

6. Gently stir through the milk to achieve a dropping consistency in your mixture.

7. Using two dessert spoons, spoon the mixture into the cases.

8. Place into the pre heated oven for about 20 minutes.

9. The cakes are ready when they are lightly golden and springy to touch. You can test by inserting a cocktail stick or a piece of dry spaghetti into the centre of a cake; if it comes out clean then they are done.

10. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for about 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

11. To make the buttercream, beat together the butter and icing sugar until the mixture is light and airy.

12. Then, beat in the vanilla extract and milk, the desired consistency is not too stiff but firm enough to hold its shape.

13. Using an icing bag and a large star shape stainless steel nozzle, pipe a swirl of buttercream onto each cupcake and immediately decorate each cupcake with 3 sweets.

Sweetie Vanilla Cupcakes

This is my tried and tested vanilla cupcake recipe that never let’s me down. I hope you enjoy them.

Happy baking.

Julie
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I’ve entered this recipe into the #CookBlogShare linky at Supergolden Bakes.

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Chorizo and Spinach Tagliatelle

Chorizo and spinach tagliatelle

This chorizo and spinach tagliatelle pasta dish has become one of my go to recipes when I need to cook something quick and tasty. Paprika infused chorizo, green goodness from the spinach and a little heat from the chilli flakes make this sauce a winner for me. Plus, it gets a big thumbs up from my husband too.

I always have packs of pre diced chorizo in the fridge and a bag of frozen spinach in the freezer, making this a great option if I’ve not had time to go shopping. I use the whole leaf frozen spinach which is usually frozen in cubes, typically one cube weighs about 25g so I use 4 cubes.

Chorizo and spinach tagliatelle

Here’s the recipe for Chorizo and Spinach Tagliatelle.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

200g tagliatelle
1 small onion (diced)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
75g diced cooking chorizo
400g chopped tinned tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
100g frozen spinach whole leaf (usually 4 cubes)
black pepper

Method

1. Heat the oil olive in a large lidded casserole pan. Then sauté the onion until soft.

2. Add the diced chorizo. Cook the chorizo on a medium heat until it starts to crisp and release the paprika oils.

3. Add the tinned tomatoes, chilli flakes, frozen spinach cubes and a good grinding of black pepper.

4. Bring to the boil, then simmer with the lid on partially for 20 minutes. Stir every so often and break up the frozen spinach as it defrosts in the sauce.

5. Meanwhile, cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Reserve a small cup of the pasta cooking water.

6. Drain the tagliatelle and add to the sauce along with a splash of the pasta cooking water. Stir and heat through for 30 seconds. Serve immediately.

Chorizo and spinach tagliatelle

This recipe evolved from my Gnocchi with Chorizo, Spinach and Tomato Sauce, so if you like this tagliatelle recipe I recommend you try the gnocchi too.

My blogging friend Mel at Le Coin De Mel has an equally delicious recipe for Chorizo Pasta also, do check out her beautiful blog and recipe.

Until next time.

Julie
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Berrylicious Smoothie

Berrylicious Smoothie

My fridge is usually packed full of fresh fruit, as my two oldest children always have fruit after a meal. In a house where there is often a homemade cake, cookie or biscuit to be had, I think that it’s quite important. Unfortunately my youngest is not so good at eating fruit and at the moment the only fruit he’ll eat is a banana or a pot of fruit purée. Therefore, after being fed a daily banana, I’m often told ‘No baa, no baa’ which translates as ‘I have absolutely had enough bananas mum, please no more’. You get the message!

I’ve been getting lots of colds recently and generally feeling a bit run down. I think maybe I need to eat more fruit too. So whilst the children were at school I made this delicious smoothie full of vitamin rich strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana. I really loved it and it’s so quick to make too.

Here’s the recipe for my Berrylicious Smoothie.

Ingredients (serves 1)

1 small banana
10 raspberries
5 strawberries
30 blueberries
2 tablespoons natural 0% fat yoghurt
1 tablespoon runny honey
4 tablespoons cold water

Method

1. Cut the banana into chunks, hull the strawberries and place in a blender along with the other fruits, honey, yoghurt and water.

2. Blitz until smooth, if too thick add a splash of water. Serve immediately.

Berrylicious Smoothie

By enjoying my Berrylicious Smoothie I’ve boosted my fruit consumption for the day. I’m hoping if I continue to keep up my fruit intake maybe I’ll start to feel the health benefits and banish those germs away.

Until next time.

Julie
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My Kitchen Cookbooks: Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson

Today is the start of a brand new feature on my blog called ‘My kitchen cookbooks’, that’s all about sharing with you my passion for cookbooks. I’ll select one cookbook from my continually growing collection and tell you why I love it. I regularly visit my local library, so the odd library book may appear every now and again.

The first book I’ve picked is Nigellissima by Nigella Lawson.

The strapline for this book is ‘Instant Italian inspiration’ and that really does sum up the book well. Packed full of Italian influences and flavours this is the book that really got me into cooking and helped me progress from just baking. Nigella herself states within the book that the recipes are not authentically Italian but that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The recipes feature lots of my favourite Italian ingredients such as pasta, pancetta and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The first recipe I ever cooked from Nigellissima was the Pasta Risotto with Peas and Pancetta. I halved the quantities and cooked it just for me and I now make this often if I’m eating alone. The uniqueness of this dish is that orzo pasta is substituted for risotto rice, making this far less labour intensive than a traditional risotto. The combination of the salty pancetta and sweet peas work beautifully together, this is a recipe I highly recommend.

Pasta risotto from Nigellissima

Another recipe I cook frequently from the book is Curly Edged Pasta with Lamb Ragu. I’ve cooked this dish so much that the book pages are stained from splashes of tinned tomatoes and the recipe is now committed to memory. This is a straight forward no nonsense recipe combining a meaty lamb sauce with long pasta. For me, the use of chilli flakes and red currant jelly absolutely make this dish complete. Don’t bother to make it unless you have them because it isn’t quite the same without them. The malfadine pasta used can be a bit tricky to find in the supermarkets, I do one of two things either track it down in an Italian deli or substitute it for tagliatelle or bucatini pasta instead, both work equally well.

I have quite a sweet tooth so I’m always keen to try any new cake or dessert recipes. I really enjoyed the Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, which is a bit like a light and luxurious chocolate brownie. The recipe states using regular olive oil but I recall in the TV programme that accompanies the book Nigella suggests using mild and light olive oil. Guess what, you can’t taste the olive oil at all just pure yummy chocolate cake.

If you’re on the look out for a super easy but divine dessert then the Meringue Gelato Cake with Chocolate Sauce is amazing. Incredibly simple and quick to prepare ahead, makes this dessert a perfect after dinner treat.

Nigellissima has less recipes than Nigella’s other book but it is undoubtedly my favourite. There are still many more recipes I hope to try, so watch out for those recipe reviews on the blog.

If you have a copy of Nigellissima, I’d love to know what’s your favourite recipe and why?

Until next time.

Julie
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Salmon Orzo Salad

Salmon Orzo Salad

Since I discovered that lemon and chilli go brilliantly together I’ve been experimenting with the pairing in a few different recipes. When I posted a recipe recently for Spelt Spaghetti with Petit Pois and Prawns, I received a comment from Sarah suggesting substituting the prawns for salmon. What a fantastic idea I thought! Therefore this salmon recipe is somewhat evolved from that original recipe of mine.

I’ve oven roasted the salmon in a lemon and chilli marinade, which is so incredibly easy. It really gives the salmon a lovely lemon taste with a little heat from the chilli flakes. The roasted salmon is then flaked into cooked orzo pasta with a good handful of peppery rocket stirred in too. It couldn’t be simpler.

Salmon Orzo Salad

Ingredients (Serves 1 easily doubled)

175g salmon fillet (boneless)
1/2 lemon juice and zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon chilli flakes
A pinch of sea salt
75g orzo pasta
A good handful of rocket leaves
Black pepper

Method

1. Pre heat the oven to Fan 180c.

2. Place the salmon fillet on a large piece of foil.

3. Make the marinade by putting the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, chilli flakes and salt in a clean jam jar or lidded container. Seal with the lid on and shake well.

4. Pour the marinade over the salmon. Bring the foil edges together and seal well to form a parcel. Roast the salmon for 15 minutes until cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, cook the orzo in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain when cooked and return the orzo back to the saucepan.

6. Flake in the salmon and add the rocket. Add a tiny amount of the marinade (not too much otherwise it will be too oily) and a good grinding of black pepper then stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Salmon Orzo Salad

Salmon Orzo Salad

I recommend you try this salmon orzo salad with a glass of chilled white wine making it perfect for sultry summer evenings.

Until next time.

Julie
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Triple Chocolate Cookies

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Intensely chocolatey and super soft these cookies are a chocolate dream. If they don’t satisfy a chocolate craving then I don’t know what will. Packed full of dark and white chocolate chips in a rich cocoa cookie dough these triple chocolate cookies are not for the faint hearted.

I thought my little tasters might find them too rich but to my surprise they didn’t. If fact, they gave my triple chocolate cookies a massive thumbs up.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients (Makes 14)

175g unsalted butter (softened)
100g golden caster sugar
185g plain flour
40g cocoa powder
75g dark chocolate chips
75g white chocolate chips

Method

1. Cream together the butter and sugar together until thoroughly combined.

2. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder together, then stir using a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes a dough. It may seem too dry at first but keep mixing and it will then come together.

3. Add 120g of chocolate chips, reserving the remaining 30g for later. Stir the mixture until chocolate chips are fully distributed throughout the dough.

4. Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

5. Divide the cookie dough into 14 pieces, roll each piece into a ball. Then, place the balls of cookie dough on the lined baking sheet and flatten until about 1cm thick. Place the remaining chocolate chips on top of the cookies.

6. Place both the baking sheets in the fridge to allow the uncooked cookies to firm up, chill for at least 1 hour.

7. Pre heat the oven to Fan 160c.

8. Oven bake the cookies for about 20 minutes for soft cookies, if you want slightly firmer cookies then bake for a little longer.

9. Once cooked remove from the oven and leave on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Triple Chocolate Cookies

I’m not going to pretend these are healthy because they’re definitely not but a once in a while treat is ok. So if you’re in dire need of an extreme chocolate fix these cookies are for you. I hope you enjoy them.

Happy baking.

Julie
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