Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Sandwich

Well that recipe title is a mouthful, but not as delicious as the mouthfuls of hot cheese sandwiched between some incredible toppings.


To the person who decided to marinate cheese- THANK YOU. I first came across the concept on The Kitchn and stopped in my tracks to try it. The only cheese I had in the fridge at the time was halloumi, and you can see for yourself how much I’ve enjoyed using halloumi. I marinated it in a tandoor paste to make these killer skewers a couple of months ago- seriously so good!


Whilst in Europe, I fell in love with sandwiches. I know, so terribly common of me. There was one particular sandwich that sealed the deal and it was this caprese sandwich. Made by an Australian man in Interlaken, Switzerland, I had this sandwich alongside a blood orange cocktail; incredibly incongruous but in that moment, I didn’t feel lonely. At that point, I had been without family for 3 weeks and I was feeling that ache in my chest commonly known as homesickness.


There’s a reason why a large portion of Zimbabweans choose to migrate to Australia. Their culture is very similar to ours, our weather patterns are almost identical and our accents are indistinguishable to the average European/American. Seriously, I have been asked way too many times if I’m from Australia or New Zealand. For this one plucky restaurant owner, his friendliness and sage in helping me choose a meal I’ll never forget uplifted my spirits after a long day of hiking.


Upon my return to Zimbabwe, I spent my time in the kitchen trying to recreate the magical sandwich. To some extent, my circumstances created some of the magic around the sandwich; I had been travelling alone for a week and I hadn’t had anything to eat that day since descending the mountain. The prospect of a new friend and a killer cocktail made me enjoy the meal so much more. Cheers to familiar faces in strange places!

Marinated Tomato and Mozzarella Caprese Ciabbata Grilled Sandwich

Ingredients

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • 250 g mozzarella cheese, sliced into ¼ inch thick slices
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup spinach pesto, homemade or storebought
  • 1 loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced in half horizontally then cut into sections.
  • Optional for serving: balsamic reduction, just boil 1 cup of balsamic vinegar until thick and reduced by half.

Method

  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic cloves, honey, lemon zest, black pepper and chilli flakes in a large airtight glass jar. Seal tightly and shake the jar to combine everything. Normally I would microwave the jar for 30 seconds to infuse the olive oil with the spices but this isn’t necessary.
  2. Throw the mozzarella and tomatoes into the olive oil mixture, seal the jar and shake to soak the tomatoes and cheese in the oil. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least an hour but for best results, leave overnight. Meanwhile, make the balsamic reduction if using.
  3. Heat your grill/broiler. Spread both halves of the ciabatta bread with the spinach pesto. Layer one half of the sandwiches with the tomatoes followed by the marinated cheese. Add both halves of the sandwiches to a baking tray, with the empty half pesto-side up.
  4. Grill the sandwich until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes. If desired, you can leave it until the cheese is starting to turn golden brown, about another 5 minutes. Serve hot whilst the cheese is still gooey with the balsamic reduction!
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Herby Halloumi Heirloom Tomato Bake

That alliteration in the recipe title actually gave me goosebumps.


My mum’s been at it again folks, we have ripe tomatoes in our garden! If you don’t follow me on Instagram, firstly hop to it my username is @lifeisohsodandy! Secondly, you wouldn’t know about our chickens. Yes, we have chickens. You may have seen the first hen who was a gift to my mother from a friend in this post, her name is Butters. We thought that Butters was lonely, so we arranged for a rooster to keep her company and his name is Rodney. Don’t they make a sporting pair?


Whilst they are fascinating creatures to observe, they are wreaking havoc in the vegetable garden. Our gardener has recently locked the gate to the vegetable garden to stop them from getting in. In their hunt for earthworms and various insects, our beloved chickens have been digging up dirt en masse and uprooting the vegetables- not good.


Aside from the mischievous chickens, my mother has been successful in her tomato growing venture. We have beautiful heirloom tomatoes! I did what I do best- turned them into a delicious dish, of course. This makes a wholesome appetiser, best served with garlic bread or just plain toast as I’ve done. Throw in some olives and hummus and you could turn this into a winning platter!

Herby Halloumi Heirloom Tomato Bake

Ingredients

For the tomato bake:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • a sprinkle of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 100g halloumi, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp mixed Italian herbs
  • 4-6 heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 medium potato, unpeeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tsp castor sugar (optional- most of the time I find this unnecessary but if you think that the sauce is too bitter then throw in the sugar)

For the crusty bread: 

  • 3 slices white bread (sourdough also works really well)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • some salt and pepper

Method

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, oregano, basil and thyme. Add the halloumi and toss to coat in the herb mixture. Set aside and allow to marinate for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Reserve 2 of your tomatoes for the top of the dish. Dice the remaining tomatoes into small pieces. Heat some olive oil in the bottom of a large saucepan and fry the onion on high heat until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic, carrot and mixed herbs to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are soft and the garlic is fragrant, about another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste (if using) and water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil  before adding the sweet potatoes and reducing the heat to low. Simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down and the sweet potatoes are soft, between 15 and 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes you had reserved earlier into thin slices. Heat up your grill/broiler and adjust your oven rack to the top shelf. Once the sweet potatoes are fully cooked, remove the saucepan from heat. Taste and season with salt ad pepper if needed; if the sauce is too bitter then add the castor sugar. Layer the top with the sliced tomatoes and top with the marinated halloumi. Grill for 8-10 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is golden brown, serve hot with crusty bread!

For the crusty bread: 

Slice the bread in half diagonally and lay on a rimless baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 5-7 minutes or until golden and crusty.

Crispy Curry Vegan Potato Pancakes

Because savoury pancakes beat sweet pancakes any day.


As much as I will always be a sweet tooth at heart, coriander beats chocolate in my book. Whilst we’re on the topic, what do you think about chilli infused chocolate? Is it the best of both worlds or an utter hit and miss?


This is a ridiculously easy snack recipe. It’s a variation of potato croquettes but with an Indian twist with the addition of the curry spices. If you’re shy of spicy food then feel free to either reduce the cayenne pepper added or serve with a dollop of yogurt on top! As much as I detest tomato sauce in every other context, I have to confess that it does compliment this particular dish.

Spicy Vegan Potato Pancakes

Ingredients

  • 2 large Russet potatoes, peeled
  • ¼ cup soy milk or any other plant based milk
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup plain flour

Method

  1. Fill a large saucepan with boiling salted water. Boil the potatoes until fork tender, about 30 minutes. Allow to cool. Pour the soy milk into the saucepan with the cool potatoes and mash until smooth.
  2. Add the mashed potatoes to a medium bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Mix until combined. Shape into 8 patties and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  3. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large frying pan and allow to heat until almost smoking. Fry the patties until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm with tomato sauce, fresh parsley and fresh mint. Enjoy!

Simple Couscous Tabbouleh

First new recipe of the new website! Woohoo!


A.k.a. what I’ve been eating everyday for lunch since I got back from Europe last week. It’s THAT good. This recipe has been swimming in the depths of my mind since we visited Rome about 3 weeks ago. There was an authentic Italian all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant about 500m down the road from the hostel we were staying at. So on a sunny Tuesday evening (it was 30°C, full sunshine at 7 pm, can you imagine?!) we paid a visit to this beautiful establishment. For €11 I got to enjoy a refreshing Mimosa, the scenic views of downtown Rome and all the delicious risotto, biscuits, pasta and bean salads as I could eat. How’s that for a bargain?



Believe me, there was a ridiculous number of items on offer. Pasta in tomato sauces, pasta in various pestos, pasta of all different shapes and sizes- I’m surprised I didn’t gain 2 jean sizes from just looking at it. There was one particular salad that had my tastebuds raving. A grain similar to orzo pasta, oodles of fresh herbs, juicy red tomatoes and a dressing to die for. Fast forward to a couple of weeks later, I was browsing recipes from different cultures and BAM, it was there.




Tabbouleh. The same life changing salad I had had in Rome. So of course I made it to relive a great memory. Then I made it again with a couple of tweaks to suit my taste. Then I made it again because I really enjoyed it- and you know what happens after that.


This salad makes the perfect weekday lunch, it will help you stay on track with your fitness goals and it’s also a fabulous addition to your Sunday lunch! Hold on, I think I’ve still got some leftovers in my fridge…..

Simple Couscous Tabbouleh

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry couscous
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ½ cup finely diced cucumber
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley and fresh mint, finely chopped
  • a handful of dried apricots, chopped finely
  • a handful of chopped pecans
  • a handful of chopped sliced almonds

Method

  1. Add the dry couscous to a small Pyrex baking pan. Cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Add ½ tsp of salt and a drop of olive oil to the couscous. Stir well with a fork to combine. Cover the baking pan with aluminium foil and seal tightly. Let sit at room temperature or in a warm oven for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Make sure you’re happy with the texture- if too wet, leave it in uncovered a warm oven for another 5 minutes, if too dry then add a tablespoon of water and fluff again.
  2. Whilst the couscous is soaking, prepare the dressing. Add the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic to a small jug and allow to sit at room temperature. Taste the dressing to make sure you’re happy with it, if it’s too bitter then you can add a teaspoon of warm honey to improve the flavour, though I usually don’t find this necessary.
  3. Once the couscous is done and you’re happy with the texture, transfer it to a salad bowl or the dish you’re going to serve it in. Top with the tomato, cucumber, onion, fresh herbs, dried apricots, pecans and almonds. Use a salad spinner or 2 forks to toss the tabbouleh and evenly distribute the veggies.
  4. Drizzle in the dressing when you’re ready to serve and briefly toss the tabbouleh again. Serve with hummus or add to your meze platter! Enjoy!

Spicy Carrot Spinach Cakes with Avocado Dressing

Lets get down to business. 

You’ve heard me talk about the produce in my mother’s vegetable garden? Of course you have, I’ve only been talking about it for the ages. We’ve got spinach, carrots, tomatoes, leeks and onions! For previous posts about these groegiurs veggies, check out these Carrot Cake Pancakes and these Spinach Falafel. For today, we’re going to talk about how I used the spinach and carrots to prepare your next greatest lunch project.


I’m on a roll right now as far as meatballs and patties are concerned. Falafels, burgers, meatballs, I’m really taking advantage of all the vegan foods. Now it’s no fun to just throw a couple of vegetables in a food processor, pulse and throw it in the oven. No my friends, we have to make it interesting! That’s where the various spices I’ve thrown in here come in. Added bonus: they really bolster the nutritional value of this dish. Trust me when I tell you that you need to get into adding spices to your food. Take for example this Golden Spiced Pineapple Cooler I made a couple of weeks ago. It’s delicious, insanely healthy for you and has a gorgeous colour! So before you start to think twice about the number of spices involved in this dish, remember how every little ingredient contributes to the goodness of these cakes. 


These carrot cakes are delicious tucked into a pita or between 2 pieces of naan with a side of roasted vegetables. The avocado sauce is a must and helps take some of the heat off if you find that they’re too spicy for you. Make these in bulk and freeze just before baking so that you can defrost and cook as you need them! Enjoy! 


Spicy Carrot Spinach Cakes with Avocado Dressing

Ingredients

For the carrot spinach cakes:

  • 1 cup dried red or brown lentils
  • 4 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 cup rolled oats, divided in half
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice 
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda 
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup roughly chopped spinach 

For the avocado dressing:

  • 1 whole avocado, roughly mashed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes 
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice 
  • A handful of fresh parsley
  • A handful of sliced almonds 

Method 

Start with the carrot spinach cakes: 

  1. Add the lentils to a medium saucepan and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Cook on medium heat for 12-15 minutes or until they have soaked up all the water and are soft. Remove and allow the cool. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the carrots, cooked lentils, 1/2 cup of the rolled oats, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. Pulse a couple of times until the ingredients are well combined and you have a thick batter. 
  2. Remove the batter to a large bowl. Add the other half cup of oats, bicarbonate of soda, cumin, coriander, cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and spinach. Use a large wooden spoon to blend all the ingredients together, making sure that there are no pockets of dry spice. 
  3. Line a 9×13 inch pan with parchment paper/aluminium foil and preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Grab a heaping tablespoon of the carrot spinach mixture and shape into a patty with your hands. It’s much easier if your hands are damp. Add each patty to the baking sheet as you form them, making sure to leave some space in between them. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Serve hot with the avocado dressing, some naan and extra roasted veggies. Enjoy!

To make the avocado dressing:

Add all the ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Keep leftovers tightly sealed in the fridge for up to 10 days.