1 courgette/zucchini, halved lengthways then cut into 1cm/½ inch slices
2 × 400g/28 fl oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
20g fresh basil leaves, torn
1 tsp light brown soft sugar
salt and pepper
a large sauté pan
Preheat the grill/broiler for 10 minutes.
Place the peppers on a baking tray, skin side up, then grill/broil until the skin has blackened and blistered. Remove from the heat and place in a plastic food storage bag using tongs. Seal the bag and leave to become cool. (The steam that is released helps to lift the skin away from the flesh.)
Meanwhile, season the chicken. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the pan. Add the chicken and, over a medium heat, brown on both sides. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
Add the other tablespoon of oil to the pan, reduce the heat to low, add the onions and cook until softened and coloured around the edges, 10 minutes.
Next, add the garlic and courgette slices, cover the pan and cook for a further 4–5 minutes, until the courgettes have started to soften.
While the vegetables are cooking, peel off the skins of the peppers and cut the flesh into thin strips.
Finally, add the tomatoes, half the basil, sugar and peppers to the pan and season. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then return the chicken breasts to the pan, pushing them down into the pan. Cook, uncovered, over a gentle heat, for 20 minutes, turning the chicken halfway through.
Serve with fettuccine and the remaining basil scattered on top.
By adding a little balsamic vinegar, I call this a sophisticated version of strawberries and cream. Just four ingredients of sugared strawberries, whipped cream and aged balsamic vinegar added to pretty glass dishes, then chilled. Simple but oh so inviting.
The strawberries need to be of a similar size, so quarter any large ones, halve any medium sized ones and leave any small ones whole. Place in a bowl and add the sugar. Stir to coat and leave for 30 minutes.
Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Strain the strawberry juices into a jug and set to one side. Separate a quarter of the strawberries from the bowl and set to one side. Now loosely fold the remaining strawberries into the cream and then divide between the glass dishes. Top with the reserved strawberries and chill for 30 minutes.
Just before serving, drizzle over the reserved strawberry juice.
I’m indebted to Paul Hollywood, the English baker and celebrity chef, for this recipe. These bacon and cheddar loaves make a great lunch or snack and are enjoyed by all the family.
I have played about with his quantities of ingredients, though. The recipe in his book “How to Bake” recommends that 500g, or just over a pound, of flour will provide 4 servings. Perhaps he has a bigger appetite than I do, but that’s equivalent to a quarter of a large loaf in each serving. And I feel that the bacon and cheddar gets a bit lost in all the bread.
My adapted recipe below halves the quantity of bread and increases the proportion of bacon and cheese. Perhaps you’d like to try different amounts and let me know how you get on?
Baking bread is not difficult if you follow this 3-step process. Each step involves a ‘wait period’ during which you can get on with something else. For more information about the technique I use, here’s a link to my page on Breadmaking.
Pour the flours into a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Add most of the water and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or a plastic dough scraper. If some flour is left in the bottom, add the remainder of the water. It may not need it all. Just make sure that all the flour has been taken up.
Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave it to stand for 20–30 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare for the next step by weighing out the salt, yeast, and butter.
At the end of the 20–30 minutes, melt the butter and add it with the salt and yeast to the mixture, making sure that the yeast doesn’t come into contact with a wodge of salt, and mix well.
Cover the bowl with the tea towel and leave for 10 minutes.
Lightly oil your hands and the work surface, and tip the dough out. Take the edge of the dough that’s furthest away from you and fold it towards you to meet the near edge. Push it into the dough with your fingers or the heel of your hand, stretching it gently away from you. Give the dough a quarter turn and repeat. Do this 8 to 10 times, then rotate the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl.
Cover with the tea towel again, leave for 10 minutes, and repeat the fold and stretch.
Cover again and leave for 10 minutes. While waiting, lightly oil another large bowl for the dough to rise in. Then fold and stretch the dough for a third time.
The dough should now be smooth and silky. Tip it out and shape it into a ball. Put it into the lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel or cling film.
Leave it to rise until it's at least doubled in size.* At room temperature, this should take a minimum of an hour but it's fine to leave it for 2–3 hours. The longer the better – it improves the flavour.
While waiting, heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and add the bacon, cooking gently on both sides until just cooked. Set aside to cool and then chop into small squares.
Then prepare a couple of baking trays. Line them with baking parchment.
Tip out the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and knock the air out by folding it in on itself a few times. It should feel smooth. Add the bacon pieces and grated cheese to it, and knead until well mixed. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions and roll each portion into a smooth oval, tapering the ends into points. Place 2 loaves on each tray, dust with flour and slash the tops along their lengths.
Cover with tea towels, or place each tray inside a clean plastic bag, and leave to prove for about an hour. You can tell when they're ready when they've doubled in size again and the dough springs back readily if you poke it gently with your finger.
Before the end of the hour, heat your oven to 220°C/425°F (gas mark 7).
Sprinkle with a little olive oil and bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned. Eat warm.
Many recipes recommend using warm water to make the yeast work more quickly. However, the flavour is improved if the process takes place more slowly. I use water at room temperature or even a little cooler.
* Doubled in size means doubled in volume. This means that if the dough is in the shape of a ball, the diameter increases by about 25%.