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An English Summer: A Short Break in Dorset – in the Rain!


We Brits do get teased about our obsession with the weather. But, having just driven for nearly three hours through flooded roads and in driving rain that meant even on the motorway I had to slow down to 30 mph, I think we can be excused for wanting to talk about rainy summers! Actually, until a week or so ago there had been hardly any rain for weeks. My little patch of grass in the garden – hardly a lawn, even at its best – had turned desert brown; well-established shrubs needed to be watered. Then the heavens opened and rain has been falling relentlessly for days.

When I arranged a trip to Dorset for a couple of days to visit my good friends Lesley and Colin, I’d imagined sunny walks along the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site Jurassic Coast with its stunning scenery; trips to the beach. It turned out I had to take rain gear and waterproof boots, not to mention my very English large umbrella! Being kind friends though, Lesley and Colin did still take me out and about, showing me some sights of Dorset that I hadn’t visited on my last trip to them. And in the end, despite the rain, my full day with them yesterday turned out to be very good indeed and there was even the odd glimpse of sun.


I arrived early evening on Monday and because they’d been away for the weekend, my friends suggested a pub supper at their local: The Kings Arms. We had a great meal but unfortunately I wasn’t in blogging mode and took no photos, which was a shame, but another time I’m there I definitely will! It was the next afternoon that I went back – when some sun arrived – to take the photo above. It’s only a few hundred metres through the village of Portesham from my friends’ cottage – a lovely thatched cottage which is 230 years old. I had a gorgeous smoked salmon pâté to begin, followed by a very tasty Brazilian fish stew made with a mix of local Dorset fish, and we drank some excellent Sauvignon Blanc with it. When we’d finished eating, Colin moved over to the other side of the pub to join his ukulele group that meets there on Monday evenings, and then we were entertained with some great music and a bit of a singalong. Ukulele groups have become very popular here in UK in the last year or so and the instrument is even being taught in schools.


The view from my bedroom (above) wasn’t quite what I’d been hoping for in terms of weather when I woke yesterday morning, and rain was forecast for most of the day, but we put our holiday thinking hats on and Lesley came up with some suggestions. Lunch, it was decided, would be at The Cove Inn on the Isle of Portland, right by Chesil Beach. Fortunately the weather wasn’t as bad as January 2014 when this particular 18th century inn and Chesil Beach made news headlines when horrendous storms battered the area and a huge wave washed right over the pub.


The Cove Inn and Chesil Beach, January 2014 ©

The Isle of Portland is bigger than I was anticipating and we crossed a wide causeway in the car to reach it. Apparently during the great storm last year, the causeway was closed and thus Portland really did become an island again for a few days. To the right as we crossed over, we followed the line of Chesil Beach, a 29km long bank of shingle which protects the low-lying land from flooding. ‘Chesil’ comes from the Old English word ‘cisel’ meaning ‘shingle’. I know of the beach from Ian McEwan’s wonderful 2007 novel, On Chesil Beach, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize that year. Thomas Hardy named the beach ‘Dead Man’s Bay’ in his Dorset-based novels. Colin told me that smugglers who landed on the beach centuries ago in the dark of night could tell exactly where they were by the size of the shingle for at the island end the pieces of shingle are large, but as the beach curves into the mainland the shingle becomes more sand-like.


Inside, the inn is quintessentially English – just how people imagine an English pub. We had a wonderful view from a table by the window – or it would have been wonderful if the weather had been better!


I had some scallops for lunch while Lesley and Colin chose a tapas-style selection of fish.


The service was friendly and the food was nice, but not outstanding in the way the previous evening’s meal had been. Afterwards, we headed along the beach for a walk. It was grey and dull but now there was only a slight amount of rain. Walking back after a while, I said that there was a rather brooding and slightly sinister air to the view, reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s novels – although they of course were set in Cornwall and not Dorset.


Back in the car again, we headed for Portland Bill, which lies at the southern end of the island and is the southernmost point of Dorset. Its main attraction nowadays is the lighthouse. It’s the third of three in history and this one was built in 1906.


This is a notoriously dangerous bit of coastline for shipping and the existence of some kind of beacon there goes back to Roman days when fires were lit to warn ships of the dangerous rocks. In the late 16th century, during Elizabeth 1’s reign, warning lights there were an important part of strategy during the threat from the Spanish Armada.

As we drove back down towards the causeway to cross to the mainland again, the weather was brightening a little. We drove on to nearby Weymouth and through the town to the Oasis Café which is situated right on the beach.


Inside we found good coffee, tea and homemade cakes. It’s a brilliant location and would of course be even better on a sunny and warm day when you could sit outside. But when we left, it was indeed quite sunny and so we walked a little more.


Back ‘home’ the local ducks welcomed us back at the gate to the cottage.


Well looked after by the locals, the ducks and geese are a feature of village life. A goose has been acting as surrogate mother to some ducklings and could be seen leading them down the main road – sensibly on the pavement!

It’s amazing how a dull and disappointing day weatherise can turn into a lovely and very enjoyable day if you’re prepared to just go out and explore anyway – especially with good friends to act as your guide! But our exploring was done for the day. Lesley made a lovely Thai chicken curry for supper – perfect for the weather – and more wine was opened. By the time I set off home this morning, although it had been a trip of barely 48 hours away, it had felt like a great little holiday.

A Sunday Morning Walk in Kew Gardens: August


It was a bit hit and miss whether I’d make it to Kew Gardens this morning for my August post in the A Year in Kew series on the blog. After yesterday’s glorious day of summer, rain was forecast for today from late morning. But, with a busy week ahead, it was rather a case of now or never for the August post … so there I was at Kew in time to go through Victoria Gate with the crowds as it opened at 10.00 a.m. Once inside, as you can see from the photo above, it looked doubtful I would get round far before the rain came. And I hadn’t brought my umbrella! (Being a city person, I don’t own ‘rain gear’ – when it rains, I stay inside!) However, I was lucky. It even brightened a bit as I walked on and the rain didn’t come until I was back home, sitting at my desk, ready to write this post!


What I noticed immediately was how the Gardens were already stepping into autumn, even though we’re still in August. But the weather has definitely been autumnal of late! I saw these little crab apples on a Malus tree soon after coming through the entrance. And this was a theme that continued on my walk: flowers turning to berries and fruit. I had to search quite hard for colour, although, as always, Kew had beautifully planted out beds near the Palm House.


Near this bed likes the Broad Walk. I’ve been watching the renovation going on all year and imagined that the walk would be full of bright herbaceous flowers come summer. But that didn’t happen and today as I looked down its rather bleak view, I saw a sign that told me the renovation wouldn’t be complete until Summer 2016.


I’m sure it will be wonderful when done and no doubt I shall want to add another post to this series, even though we’ll be into another year! Meanwhile, there were herbaceous borders to be found offering a pleasing sight of colour. The hostas were flowering well:


I’ve given up trying to grown hostas. They always get quickly eaten by slugs. I don’t like to use any chemicals in my garden and would be worried anyway that Bella the Cat might eat slug pellets. I’m therefore always immensely impressed when other people succeed with their hostas! There were a lot of these magnificent canna lilies around in both beds and large pots.


And there were roses too:


There was fantastic edible colour to be found the in Kew on a Plate garden. Look at this beautiful chard:


I love to eat chard, so now it’s in season I’ll have to look out for some in the farmers’ market. I saw some bright yellow flowers too and thought they were courgettes until I look through the large leaves and found a small pumpkin nestling on the ground.


Stepping out of the kitchen garden though an arch into the Rock Garden, I saw pretty little cyclamen growing:


Moving on round the top end of the Princess of Wales Conservatory, I passed the Grass Garden. I’m sure these grasses must have grown up a lot since I was last there about 3 weeks ago as they were much more noticeable. They were also being whipped around by the wind.


I always like to go across to the lake and today I cut across the grass to pass the Henry Moore sculpture of Reclining Mother and Child.


There was a brilliant Henry Moore exhibition at the Gardens in 2007 and it remains one of the most exciting and enjoyable art exhibitions I’ve ever been to, being able to wander round the gardens and see 28 large Moore sculptures in a perfect setting. I branched slightly to the right from here to approach the Sackler Crossing from the far side. Near the bridge some almost fully grown cygnets, still with their grey feathers that one could see starting to turn white, were sitting with a swan I assumed to be their mother, and some geese.


I crossed the bridge and started making my way back to Victoria Gate. I passed a few ilex aquifolium – holly trees. By Christmas, these berries will be a deep red ready to brighten the festivities.


I also passed the Temperate House, closed for renovation until 2018.


It was definitely time to go home and not risk getting caught in the rain any longer. I made my way out via the small nursery and shop and remarkably managed to avoid spending any money – it’s always so tempting as their plants are so good.


I had a nice walk but it wasn’t the most exciting walk so far this year, and not just because of the inclement weather. Even though I’m definitely a ‘summer’ person, it made me long a little for autumn and I can’t wait to go back next month and see whether the glorious colours of autumn are arriving.

Gelateria Danieli


Sandwiched in-between the dull autumnal days of last week and heavy rains and thunderstorms forecast for next week, we’ve had a delightful day of summer in London with clear blue skies, brilliant sunshine and the temperature reaching up into the 30s. Thus there was only one thing for the Single Gourmet Traveller to do after lunch in the garden – head into Richmond for some gelato!


There’s been an ice cream revolution going on in London for the last decade or so. Where once one had to jump on a plane to Italy to experience the Real Thing – wonderful Italian gelato – now you can find a gelateria round almost every corner of central London. But here in Richmond upon Thames, that beautiful leafy borough on the south west edge of Greater London, you can find a leading light of the revolution: Gelateria Danieli. The first of four shops opened in April 2005. I have to confess I was beside myself with excitement at the time: It’s like being in Rome, I was telling everyone. It even felt like it as you entered the small shop in Brewer’s Lane, one of the pretty narrow alleyways that connect the high street in Richmond to the Green.


When I first went to Rome in 2001, I stayed for 5 weeks. And I had an ice cream at least once on every day of those 5 weeks! So to say it felt like being in Rome – more exactly, a gelateria in Rome! – I really did know how authentic the experience was. Although, I should probably say here that Carlo Vagliasindi – ‘Signor Danieli’ – actually comes from Sicily and in truth his gelateria isn’t so much Roman in particular as just an excellent and genuine Italian one.

Ten years on, Gelateria Danieli is still producing some of the best ice cream in London. They’ve expanded a little, opening a branch in Kingston and another in central London in Shaftesbury Avenue – the heart of Theatreland. There’s also another shop at the end of Brewer’s Lane. Once a chocolate shop overlooking Richmond Green, Danieli have extended their ice cream outlet to serve more people here but also continue to sell some great chocolates too. I still have a fondness for the original shop though and it has a larger choice of gelati. The nicest thing is to choose your ice cream and then walk down the Lane and sit on Richmond Green to eat it.


Gelateria Danieli are constantly working to come up with new flavours and while some favourites are always there, you’ll find specials and new flavours too. Vagliasindi’s business partner Bridget Hunt is a nutritionist who helps develop gluten free, dairy free and nut free flavours: ‘No one should be left out when it comes to gelato!’ they say. But for those of us thankfully free of allergies, we tend not to worry or think of what’s healthy when it comes to ice cream but are more concerned with the quality of the ingredients and the way the ice cream is made.


The gelateria uses the finest ingredients – organic milk and cream from the Cowdray Estate in Sussex; the best pistachios from Bronte in Sicily; Alphonso mangoes from India. There are no colourings here, just the basic and best ingredients with no unnecessary additions. Thus the wonderful pistachio – which I chose today – is not the bright green you can sometimes find in shops selling poor ice cream. Danieli’s pistachio is a pale brownish-green, the kind that only comes from the best pistachios.


The gelateria usually closes at 6.00pm weekdays and 7.00pm at weekends but when it’s sunny they stay open later and you can adopt an even more Italian experience by eating a meal elsewhere and coming to the gelateria for dessert – and coffee too, if you want. In Italy it’s very common to not have dessert or coffee in a restaurant but to go for a gentle post-prandial passeggiata and into a gelateria for ice cream and/or a bar for coffee. In Rome – and elsewhere in Italy – gelaterias are often open until midnight or later so you don’t have to worry about closing time.


Today I had a small cup (£2.25) and could choose two (half scoop) flavours. I adore their dark chocolate, a Sicilian cream with oranges and lemons, and a great favourite is the yogurt ice cream with fruits of the forest. However, today I had their wonderful pistachio plus one I hadn’t had before – biscotti, which had some chocolate and pieces of biscotti running through the cream. Delicious! Buonissimo! There is nothing like some sun and a good gelato!! And if you’re ever in lovely Richmond, just don’t miss out on some of the best ice cream you’ll find anywhere.

TV Review: Rick Stein – From Venice to Istanbul


OK. I am officially envious. Bright green with envy! Rick Stein has just embarked in his new TV series on BBC2 on a road trip from Venice to Istanbul. If someone were to say, What’s your dream road trip? Then I’d be pretty likely to come up with this one. However, if I can’t actually be there, then there are few TV chefs more entertaining and pleasing to watch than Mr Stein. I’ve watched him travel round Spain, the Mediterranean, India and the Far East. He even had a go at trying to convince us that German cooking was good, tracing back his German heritage. I wasn’t so convinced by that one. The others I’ve loved and this latest takes in two of my favourite places: Venice – the journey’s beginning – and Istanbul, its final destination, which I visited for the first time a couple of years ago and was as entranced by as everyone said I would be. Rick’s journey follows a route through the old Byzantine Empire tracing where West meets East and later programmes will take in Croatia, Albania and Greece.

What I like about Stein’s cookery programmes is not just that nowadays they include travel too and we get to see him eat different cuisines in many exotic locations and learn how to recreate some ourselves, but he brings a deep intelligence to his observations. After an unhappy end to his schooling and failing his A Levels, he went to catering college. But then came the distress of his father’s suicide when he was aged 19, and he took off across the world to New Zealand and Australia and on to Mexico. He used his ‘gap’ year as a real year of self reflection as well as experience, came back to UK, went back to studying and ending up getting into Oxford Univeristy to read English. It’s not surprising then that he may branch out into poetry; read from a famous novel or want to tell us something of the history of the place he’s visiting. This takes his ‘cookery series’ on to a different plane. But he never loses sight of the main purpose: to cook. And not just to cook but to find out how the locals do it and then recreate the dish for us in a way we can follow.


I caught up on Friday’s first episode last night. To see Rick in my favourite city (other than London!) and enthusing as much as I do was quite special. Yes, it will be lovely to see the new places too as his journey advances, but it was quite exciting to see him visiting places I know and love as well. As he stood on the Ponte dell’Academia and enjoyed that most famous of views down the Grand Canal towards the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute, it reminded me of my last trip there is April – the photo above as I went under the bridge in a vaporetto.

He went to Harry’s Bar for their famous Bellini, which I haven’t done, but I did enjoy one at Locanda Cipriani – of the same family – one lunchtime after interviewing its owner, Bonifacio Brass.


He met up with that wonderful Venetian, Francesco da Mosto, whose own TV series about his home city and Italy have delighted millions. (I once passed him near my hotel but didn’t dare say hello!) Francesco introduced Rick to cicchetti and they went to one of the bars I visited near Rialto in April – All’Arco.


Cicchetti are a fabulous Venetian thing: little snacks – a little like Spanish tapas – that are generally enjoyed with a glass of prosecco (also from the Veneto) early evening. We saw how baccalà mantecato – a gorgeous creamy mashed cod – was made and watched the two men enjoy some of the best cicchetti Venice has to offer, standing at the bar, Italian fashion.


Rick stood at a barge selling vegetables that I also found on my last trip.


He sampled the best food Venice has to offer, especially the seafood, with gorgeous crab pasta dishes and the almost mandatory seafood risotto, which is the most glorious thing when made well. Rick recreated this back in his kitchen for the series (which is actually based on a Greek island!). He also visited the Lido and ate a meal so enormous that even this food blogger with her large appetite would have been challenged. They – Rick and the writer he was lunching with – finished with Tiramisu and again, Rick recreated this in his kitchen. Doing it properly, of course! Keeping things simple and classic.

I loved the programme. I loved seeing some of my favourite places, some of my favourite food, but I learned things too – about Venice itself and its food. I like Rick Stein’s easy, laid-back style. I thought some of the recipes he recreated weren’t quite a simple as he made out – but then he is a chef! And they were certainly ‘do-able’ at home. I can’t wait for next week’s stop in Croatia.

Chicken Salad with Red Grapefruit, Pomegranate & Cashews


Summer is always a bit like a weather roller coaster ride in UK. Three or four weeks ago we were slathering on the suncream and shops were selling out of electric fans, then a few days later I was digging out my winter boots and a warm jacket. Today has gone back to summer. The temperature has been in the high twenties; I did actually put a bit of suncream on and I decided a nice summery salad would be great for supper.

The idea isn’t entirely mine. I saw a salad in a photo the other day but there was no description so I tried to work out what it was. I think they’d used duck but I had chicken portions in my freezer so it was easier to take out a chicken leg. Then I decided on a red grapefruit instead of orange … but hey … I’m only trying to say the seed of the idea came from a photo I came across and then here’s how I cultivated it.

Chicken goes with citrus fruit so well but I liked the idea of the sweet tartness of the grapefruit; a bit like Goldilocks – neither too sweet nor too sour but somewhere in-between. I used to be lazy and buy salad bags a lot but recently have taken to buying two or three salad leaves I like and then putting them together at the last moment. It’s always much fresher that way and the salad leaves last longer. For this salad I chose sweet pea shoots and a fiery, peppery rocket. Keeping with the opposing forces of sweet and sour – or sweet and peppery – I decided to put some pomegranate molasses in the dressing. Pomegranate molasses – which isn’t molasses at all but more a syrup – has a sweetness nicely matched by a sour edge. Finally, I’d pan roast some cashew nuts to add too.

First of all I got the chicken piece in the oven. (You could of course use leftover roast chicken, if you have some.) I roasted it quite simply with just a coating of olive oil, some seasoning of sea salt and black pepper, and a fine dusting of sumac. Sumac is such a wonderful citrusy spice and brings a real Middle Eastern touch to the dish along with the pomegranate molasses.


I roasted it for about 40 minutes (but it will depend on size of your piece of chicken), basting a couple of times, in a moderate (220C/180 Fan) oven. Then I took it out and allowed to cool a little while I made the salad. I wanted to serve the chicken slightly warm but of course cold is OK too.


I cut a pomegranate in half.


I only needed a half for one salad portion so covered the other half in cling film to store in my fridge. I tapped out some of the pomegranate seeds and reserved. Then I squeezed the juice from the rest into a bowl. To this I added about an equal amount of extra virgin olive oil, about 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses and some seasoning.


I whisked it all together and then checked the taste. I adjusted it to what I was looking for but these measurements are only a guide. Taste and get it right for you. Then it was time to attack the grapefruit! I cut the ends off, stood the grapefruit on one end, and then with a sharp knife cut away the skin and pith.


Then I carefully cut the segments free of the membrane.


I pan roasted a handful of cashew nuts till browning slightly. Then I was almost ready to go.


I decided to dress the salad leaves before adding the other ingredients so they were nicely coated. I didn’t need all I’d made, but make sure you save a little for the end.


Then I put them in a shallow dish. I cut the cooled chicken into small pieces and lay on top of the salad leaves; a nice clump in the middle. I lay the grapefruit pieces round the edge of the chicken, sprinkled over the cashews and pomegranate seeds, and then finally finished it off by spooning a little more of the dressing over the top.


I’d put a little bit of effort into making a special salad and it was definitely worthwhile. I loved the freshness of it all, especially being able to sit in my garden in the warm evening air to enjoy it. I also loved the contrasting sweet and sour flavours that came from the different ingredients. And didn’t it look pretty too!

Scoop Gelato


I stayed with the Italian theme yesterday, having enjoyed the Insalata Caprese for lunch, and went in search of a good gelato when I went into central London late afternoon. I was going to see Three Days in the Country at the National Theatre in the evening. Patrick Marber’s version of Turgenev’s play has been receiving some outstanding reviews. I saw the original Month in the Country many years ago. Marber has cut the play almost in half – hence the change of title and it running for just over 2 hours instead of the original 4. I enjoyed it; it was good and entertaining but rather agree with Michael Billington in the Guardian who wrote that ‘it sacrifices Turgenev’s crucial contrast between the genteel languor of country life and the desperate passions beneath the surface.’ For me, it slipped too often into almost farce overshadowing the tragedy at the heart of the story.

Back to gelato! London has become a mecca for great ice cream over recent years. There’s the wonderful Gelupo which I’ve written about before, but gelaterie are popping up everywhere. It was while I was enjoying a cup of some of the best gelato around in my local Gelateria Danieli in Richmond last weekend with Lucia and other friends that Lucia said it was as good as Scoop’s. She added that the ice cream in London is so good now that sometimes she’s disappointed when she goes back to Italy. I decided I must take a trip to Scoop if Lucia liked it so much so checked out their website yesterday (click here) and found there was a branch in Covent Garden. Perfect!

It’s very quiet locally with many people away on holiday; the roads and shops are almost empty. But it’s quite a shock to arrive in central London and find it heaving with tourists and families out for a day during the school holidays. I almost wanted to go home! It was too much. But I had a play to see and I’d come in time to make my way across the river from Waterloo station into Covent Garden in search of that great delight in life – a good gelato! Would there be a queue?


Scoop’s branch in Short’s Gardens, just off Neal Street in Covent Garden, was the first of three (the others are in Soho and South Kensington). Luckily when I arrived there was barely a queue at all. Inside I considered the flavours and what I’d have. Did I want Baci with hazelnuts from Piemonte? Pistachio made with what are said to be the best pistachios anywhere, from Bronte in Sicily?


Scoop pride themselves on their natural flavours: ‘The colour of our gelato is natural and the cold is our only preservative.’ I went for two of my favourite gelato choices: chocolate (cioccolato extra fondente) and raspberry. I chose a small cup for £4 which allowed you two choices of flavours. It was a very generous serving so I was glad I’d been restrained!


Gosh it was fabulous! Rich chocolate matching the slightly tart edge of raspberry. The raspberry had whole raspberries within the gorgeous creamy ice cream – well, actually it was a sorbet, but it was certainly a creamy texture. This is ice cream at its best. I sat down on a bench outside to eat it. Some Italians were talking in a group outside; I could almost be in Italy. I was thinking of Lucia and how nice it was she’d recommended the place to me. I looked up. There was Lucia! We were both a bit startled. Happily so. She was meeting her husband David there. She’d already told me about a lovely surprise she’d booked for him that evening at the Royal Opera House but they were going to have gelato first. David arrived. We all chatted for a while then they went in to choose their ice cream and I made my way back across the river to the National Theatre. As for Scoop and gelato … I’m in the Covent Garden area so often I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m back trying some more flavours. Apparently Lucia’s favourite is coconut so maybe I should give that a go …
Click to add a blog post for Scoop on Zomato

Insalata Caprese


This one is for Antonio who apparently had ‘one of the worst Caprese ever’ in New York a couple of nights ago. How can you mess it up? he asked. In their book Two Greedy Italians, Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo speak of it being ‘one of the most famous of Italian dishes’ but warn that it ‘can be done very badly’. The answer to its quality, of course, lies in the ingredients. One of the things I most love about Italian cooking is the use of the freshest and best ingredients possible and then allowing them to shine. Little or no embellishment is needed. And Insalata Caprese is a perfect example of this.

The salad comes from the island of Capri, which lies just off the coast of Naples in Campania. It literally means ‘salad of Capri’. In this sunny part of Italy beefsteak tomatoes ripen sweet and rich in flavour and the local basil is deeply fragrant. Mozzarella cheese originates in Campania and is traditionally made from buffalo’s milk. The real stuff, produced in a designated area, has been awarded the status Demoninazione di origine controllata (DOC – controlled designation of origin). When you stand before the cheese counter at your local supermarket, this type of mozzarella is going to cost more than the cheap, rubbery kind. But really there is no comparison.

So, the secret to the Insalata Caprese is using the very best tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. It then needs just a drizzle of the finest extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt over the tomatoes. That’s it. Finito! And one might even add, basta! Stop! That’s it. Don’t add anything else. Don’t add balsamic vinegar. Since the rise in popularity of balsamic vinegar cooks are always drizzling it over anything but sometimes it’s just not the right kind of vinegar. And Insalata Caprese doesn’t want or need vinegar at all.

The making may be easy but sourcing the best ingredients were going to take a little more time. I bought a fresh basil plant in Waitrose and some large, ripe vine tomatoes.



The tomatoes need to be room at temperature; don’t use them straight from the fridge. My mainstay extra virgin olive oil is an excellent Sicilian one from Tesco.


The buffalo mozzarella could only come from one place – my favourite local Italian deli, Corto. The quality of their goods is excellent. Here was the place to buy genuine – DOC – buffalo mozzarella.


And to go with the salad, I bought some of their focaccia; my favourite and the simplest kind with just sea salt and rosemary on top.


Now I had all the ingredients for a perfect lunch. Insalata Caprese is typically an antipasto – starter – dish in Italy. It would never be served as a side dish. My favourite time to eat it is at lunchtime – or maybe for a light supper if I’ve had a large lunch. You need to put it together at the last minute. I like to cut out the base of the stem from the top of large tomatoes before slicing them.


Cut into medium-sized slices and lay on a serving plate. Now slice the mozzarella into similar thickness slices.



I like to keep things simple and just lay the slices pretty much side by side. It’s not a time to get artistic and try to do something fancy. It’s not meant to be like that. Now drizzle over a little olive oil (don’t drown the ingredients); sprinkle the sea salt over the tomatoes. Add a little freshly grated black pepper if you like, but don’t overdo it. Now lay some fresh basil leaves on top. All done!


What could be simpler? What could be more delicious? Ripe sweet tomatoes; fragrant basil. Mozzarella with a touch of creaminess and a good flavour. Just a little fruity olive oil to add flavour it all. And some delicious bread. A perfect lunch. And a taste of Italy.


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