Sunday, August 23, 2009

Suddenly Sunday

And just like that, it’s Sunday! Thankfully it is early on Sunday so I still have a full day of enjoying the sun and relaxation today has to offer. Having said that, this whole weekend has been one of complete relaxation. Friday night kicked the weekend off perfectly with a long and leisurely supper in the garden. On the menu:

Lemon drops for Mr. Vanilla & Homemade Lemonade for me

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken stuffed with Pesto & Mozzarella served with a Fresh Tomato Sauce; Green Salad & Crusty French Bread

The chicken was perfect – moist and full of flavour and the ideal way to use up the last of the pesto from Thursday. I made a quick tomato sauce with some lovely, sweet tomatoes I picked up in town and topped everything with a drizzle of olive oil and some finely shredded basil from the garden. A simple salad of mixed, organic green leaves was the perfect accompaniment, tossed with a little balsamic vinegar and fruity extra virgin olive oil, and the crusty French bread mopped everything up so ensure a perfectly clean plate. Delicious.

Saturday started with a trip to the farmers market. I meant to take the camera so I could take some pictures of the wonderful stalls overflowing with all the vibrant fruit and vegetables August has to offer, but of course in my excitement of getting there, I forgot it! As usual it was bustling with hungry shoppers, eager to see what was on offer this week. Our first stop was straight to buy a large, sticky cinnamon bun – so big we decided 1 would be enough for the 2 of us (even with my enormous pregnancy induced sweet tooth!). As we greedily pulled apart the sticky, sweet melt-in-your-mouth bun studded with raisins, we casually strolled around having a look at everything there was on offer. Bun devoured, fingers licked clean and our second lap was time to shop! By the time we had run out of money our bag was over-flowing with organic white and yellow carrots, too beautiful to resist; a punnet of yellow tomatoes as bright as sunflowers; some purple heirloom tomatoes (again far too good to resist – I am after all addicted to tomatoes); some wonderful looking plump and succulent Italian style local sausages which would be perfect for tonight’s barbecue; a handful of bright red chillies that were rated 9/10 on the heat scale and were therefore aptly named “ring of fire”; some cooler banana peppers; a block of creamy naturally smoked Boerenkaas cheese from the local cheese company (which would have been impossible to resist after sampling it) and as a snack for Mr. Vanilla, a couple of Bison pepperonis (I got my tomatoes, he got his pepperoni!). Feeling very content with our purchases we left the market for another week, with ideas swirling in my head as to what I could make with everything. The rest of the afternoon was spent leisurely drinking tea and visiting with Mr. Vanilla's family in town, before heading home briefly for a late lunch (the remaining French bread from Friday night slathered with delicious mayonnaise and then greedily crammed with the smoked cheese and tomatoes from the market, and some wild rocket), before heading to friends for a barbecue where the sausages would be devoured. A wonderful Saturday relaxing with friends and family and eating lots of delicious local food – what more could a girl want?!

And just like that it is now Sunday. Today has proved to be the laziest so far, however with my cappuccino now finished (as well as the Da Vinci Code which has been playing in the background), it’s time for me to go and hang out the washing and enjoy some sun. Tonight we are feasting on roast pork at Mr. Vanilla's parents followed by my vanilla clouds that we’ll take over. A light and elegant end to the meal which I’ll top with rose water whipped cream and a scattering of fresh raspberries. I love weekends.

Homemade Lemonade

Perfect for the pregnant, and of course children and anyone else that prefers a non-alcoholic drink.

Freshly squeezed juice of 6 juicy lemons (roughly 250ml)
150ml sugar syrup*
1 litre sparkling or still water
4 or 5 slices of lemon
Ice to serve

*Sugar syrup:
125ml/ ½ cup sugar
125ml/ ½ cup water

To make the sugar syrup mix the sugar and water in a small pan and bring to a gentle simmer until the sugar has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool.

When ready to serve mix the freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar syrup in a large jug. Add plenty of ice and the slices of lemon then top with the water and serve in a tall glass.

Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken stuffed with Pesto & Mozzarella with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Serves 4 (I halved the recipe for Mr. Vanilla & I and used 2 balls of bocconcini (baby mozzarella) instead of the large ball of mozzarella – use whatever you happen to have in your fridge.)

4 chicken breasts
8 slices of proscuitto
1 ball of mozzarella
8 heaped tsp of pesto (I used the leftovers from Thursday but you could easily use good quality bought pesto if you prefer)
Salt & pepper

For the tomato sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
10 fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp sugar (optional)
150ml white wine
Salt & pepper
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Start by making the tomato sauce so that it can gently simmer away and reduce while the chicken is cooking.

Heat the oil in a medium sized pan and gently sauté the onion for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute before adding the tomatoes, sugar (if needed), wine, salt and pepper. Simmer gently, stirring from time to time. (If it starts to get too thick towards the end of cooking, pop a lid on top to stop if from reducing any further and if need be add a splash more wine!)

Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C/ GM 6.

Slice the mozzarella into thin slices and season with salt and pepper. Cut a deep slit down the side of each chicken breast and open it up like a book. Spread two heaped teaspoons of pesto on one side of each chicken breast and top with a couple of slices of mozzarella. Cut 4 squares of tin foil, large enough to wrap a chicken breast in. Lay 2 pieces of proscuitto on a piece of tin foil, overlapping slightly. Place a piece of chicken on top of the proscuitto and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the proscuitto around the chicken, then using the foil roll everything up like a sausage. Twist the ends tightly to secure in place. Repeat for the rest of the chicken then place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for 25 minutes.

When the chicken is ready, remove from the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes. Taste the tomato sauce to check the seasoning then add the fresh basil leaves, reserving a few for a garnish. Carefully unwrap each chicken breast as there will be delicious pesto-infused chicken juices in the bottom of the foil, which you can add to the tomato sauce or simply pour over the chicken once you have plated it. Put a couple of large spoonfuls of the tomato sauce on the centre of each plate. Slice each chicken breast into 5 or 6 pieces and lay on top of the tomato sauce. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and the remaining basil leaves and enjoy at once with a green salad and lots of crusty French bread.

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