Tomato Bruschetta

A quick post today, for a very simple recipe. Tomatoes on toast. Yes, really. But believe me, this is much more delicious than I am making it sound. I have even fed it to people who don’t like tomatoes, and they’ve asked me for more. Tomato bruschetta might not be an original idea but, when they’re done right, sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.


The choice of bread is crucial here. You may be tempted to go for a sourdough or a baguette, but I’d advise against anything too crusty. You don’t want to have to be pulling and tearing to get a mouthful, and end up with a heap of tomato bruschetta in your lap. Instead you want a pillowy, yielding bread, ideally fried gloriously golden to give it a perfect crispy exterior and a soft, warm interior. Something simple. If I’ve got the time, I do make my own bread for this, but a decent sandwich bread will do you fine. Buy it whole and slice it generously.


This recipe is all about using simple ingredients that work well together, and letting them do the heavy lifting for you. My kind of cooking.


This is my version of something we used to make at the cookery school, and since it’s Italian, I am assuming it came from the lovely Amelia Earl. She’s setting up a beautiful cookery school and bed and breakfast in Yorkshire, which you should definitely check out if you’re at all into food, gorgeous scenery, or nice people.


Don’t worry too much about weights and measures here. This tomato bruschetta will work perfectly well even if you’re not too precious about quantities. Just taste as you go along to make sure you’re happy.

If you have leftover tomato mixture after making this recipe, then you can pop it in the fridge and keep it for a couple of weeks, using as needed. It’s great on pizza or pasta too.



Around 1.5kg of fresh tomatoes, of any shape or size
A bunch of fresh basil leaves
Plenty of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Balsamic vinegar (the good stuff, not balsamic glaze or dressing)
3 fat cloves of garlic, 2 crushed and 1 whole
A knob of butter
A loaf of the bread of your choice (see above for details)
A ball of mozzarella


  1. Chop your tomatoes any old how (large chunks are fine) and put them in your largest saucepan. Add a handful of picked fresh basil leaves, reserving some for later, a generous glug of olive oil, plenty of salt and pepper, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and two of the garlic cloves (crushed). Mix everything together and leave it to sit for half an hour (or longer, if you prefer).
  2. Put your tomato mixture on a medium heat on the hob, and boil until reduced. Stir it occasionally to stop it catching on the bottom of the pan. How long this takes depends on how rich you’d like your tomato topping, how big your pan is, how high your heat is, and how many tomatoes you have. Personally, I cook mine for about an hour until I have a thick, rich, fragrant tomato base that is like the consistency of a tomato jam.
  3. Slice your bread into handy bitesize pieces. Heat a good glug of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large frying pan until foaming, then fry your bread, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden. Try not to let the butter burn. When the bread is fried, drain it on kitchen paper, then cut your remaining clove of garlic in half and rub both sides of the bread with the cut side of your garlic.
  4. Top each piece of bread with a generous dollop of the tomato mix, then finish with a torn piece of mozzarella and a basil leaf.



Goats’ Cheese Stuffed Chicken with Bacon and Thyme

Full disclosure: it took me ages to come up with a proper name for this recipe, because at home we call it ‘chicken-y bacon-y goats’ cheese-y thing’. At least once a month, when I’m stuck for any original ideas regarding what to make for dinner, I will turn to James and say ‘Chicken-y bacon-y goats’ cheese-y thing?’ and he’ll say ‘Works for me’, and that will be that. I have stated before that I think chicken and goats’ cheese make excellent bedfellows. Also: goat cheese; goat’s cheese; goats’ cheese. I go with the latter because I think it denotes milk from multiple goats, which seems to make the most sense, but who knows? Also, well done if you got to the end of this paragraph without falling asleep.


I have been making this recipe, or some variation of it, for years. There are lots of versions of ‘chicken breast stuffed with some sort of cheese and wrapped in some sort of meat’ recipes on the internet, so this certainly isn’t an original concept, but this is how I make it.

James and I are by no means vegetarians, but we’ve been eating less meat recently, having it as a treat rather than a staple of every meal. This means a recipe like this is now something of a luxury, rather than a standard weeknight dinner, and it’s made me rather fond of it – hence it suddenly popping up on this blog.


You may think that stuffing chicken with something and wrapping it in something else seems like kind of a tricky faff, but it’s far easier than it perhaps sounds and it only takes ten minutes to put together. I am kind of lazy about this sort of thing and I don’t find it too onerous. The chicken also goes well with most grains, potatoes, salads, and greens, so it’s pretty versatile in that you can serve it with whatever you have knocking about.


Notes:  This recipe will feed four, assuming you make a side dish, or you can do what James and I often do and eat two pieces of chicken for dinner and have the other two the next day. Also, all quantities are easily halved.

The side dish in the pictures is a lentil salad type deal that I often make. It is very, very simple so I haven’t included the recipe, but let me know if you have a desperate yearning to know what is in it.


4 garlic cloves
handful fresh thyme
handful of tomatoes (optional)
4 chicken breasts
200g soft goats’ cheese
1 pack streaky bacon
olive oil


  1. Preheat oven to 210C/190C fan/gas 5. Grab some sort of roasting dish or tray. Roughly chop your thyme, crush your garlic, and set both aside. If you’re using tomatoes, cut them in half or into quarters (depending on size) and chuck them in your roasting tray.
  2. Lay your chicken breasts flat, and cut a slit into the side of each, trying not to cut them in half completely. Cram about a quarter of your goats’ cheese into each chicken breast, then wrap each up tightly in streaky bacon – you need about three rashers for each. Lay them in your tray, directly on top of the tomatoes if using.
  3. Rub each piece of chicken with crushed garlic, and sprinkle with thyme. Season with plenty of pepper – you can use a little salt too if you like but I usually don’t, because bacon is inherently salty. Drizzle the whole thing with a little olive oil, then bake for 25-30 minutes until the meat is cooked through, the bacon is crispy, and the garlic is golden. Serve with a drizzle of the juices from the pan.

Beef Shin and Black Garlic Stew

January is an absolutely ridiculous time to introduce dramatic dietary restrictions, no? Your house is still full of leftover Christmas chocolate and cheese, it’s grey and rainy outside, the excitement of the holiday is behind you, and you’ve got going back to work hanging over your head. Why deprive yourself of the pleasures of food and drink? Sure, if you feel a little weak from Christmas indulgence – so overwhelmed by your consumption of cold meat buffets and Prosecco that you are no longer able to physically lift yourself off the sofa, say – then you might want to hesitantly reintroduce green vegetables to your limping system and gently nourish yourself with restorative avocado-based meals. But that’s no reason to eschew all the hearty meat-and-carb based fare and warming puddings that are our birthright in the bleak mid-winter. Have it all, that’s what I say. Then have some more. Then have an apple, for balance.


In the spirit of this, here is a very hearty beef stew. By all means, serve it with vegetables if you wish. But relish in its warming, protein-laden deliciousness, have it with a glass of wine under a duvet in front of the TV, cuddle up with a loved one or pet, and be kind to yourself.


This stew takes inspiration from recipes in both Nigella Lawson’s Simply Nigella and Sabrina Ghayour’s Persiana, but is very much my own meandering take on things. Both of them use lamb, for a start.


Black garlic. It sounds like quite an annoying, esoteric ingredient to include here, doesn’t it? Normally I would not put such a thing in a recipe, because I hate recipes which require you to find odd ingredients (not that I don’t like the odd ingredients, you understand – I just resent having to go out and buy them) but I was given a tub of it for my birthday by my brother-in-law to be and it smelled so delicious that I knew I wanted it to find its way onto the blog. Then I found that you can buy it in my local Sainsburys (in the speciality section, admittedly, BUT STILL), so I feel much more comfortable about it being here now.

This serves about 4-6 people generously, dependent on sides. I tend to make the full amount for the two of us and we’ll have it pretty much all week. Luckily James has a very high tolerance for eating the same thing over and over again.

You can get beef shin from a butcher, but you can also get it from Sainsburys these days, usually from the butcher counter but sometimes just in the beef section of the meat aisle. I would really recommend using it over any other cut of beef for a stew. It’s my favourite by far for texture and flavour. Unless you have a really decent knife, cutting beef shin is a bit of a pain, because it’s tough. I tend to just use scissors, because I am a ridiculous excuse for a cook. Try to cut against the grain, as it makes it more tender to eat.

You will see the technical term ‘ish’ lots in the ingredients. This is the nature of stew. A bit more or a bit less of anything won’t really hurt.



glug of olive oil
1 large white onion
2 heads black garlic, peeled and separated into cloves (see note)
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp tumeric
2 tbsp dukkah
750g (ish) beef shin, cut into 4cm (ish) chunks
handful (say about 10) baby onions, peeled and left whole
2 tbsp plain flour
2 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
leaves from 2 thyme sprigs
2 cans chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  1. Pop a big pan on medium heat and cover the base with the oil. I am sure proper cookery people have cast iron pots that can go in the oven and fancy tagine dishes and stuff, but all I have is a big saucepan with a lid, so I use that. Blitz the large onion and one head’s worth of black garlic cloves in a food processor until roughly chopped, and pop them in the oil. Cook them off for about 3 minutes until they start to soften and release delicious garlicky smells. Pop all of the dry spices into the pan and stir everything up. Cook it all off on a gentle heat for about five minutes. Scrape the mixture out into a bowl and turn the heat up high.
  2. Add a splash more oil to the pan, season the beef with salt, and pop it in to brown. Move it around occasionally. When the beef is well browned and golden on all sides (about 10 minutes, depending on your pan and heat), pop the baby onions in for around 3 minutes to brown. When everything is caramelised and yummy, turn the heat down to medium and add the flour, bay, and thyme. Mix everything around until the flour is absorbed. Add the chopped tomatoes and balsamic vinegar, then fill the chopped tomato cans with water and add to the pan until the contents are well covered with liquid. Bring the stew to a simmer, then turn down the heat as low as you can and leave to cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it gets dry.
  3. After three hours, grab a bit of the beef on a fork and have a poke at it. It should be completely falling apart – collapsing into melting flakes with almost no resistance when you press it against the side of the pan. If it’s not, give it half an hour’s more cooking time and check again, and keep going if you need to. It’s very difficult to overcook shin if you’re going on a gentle heat, so don’t worry about it going tough – it will fall apart before that happens. When you’re happy with the meat, make sure you’re happy with the sauce too. If you want it a bit thicker, whack up the heat and bubble it down for ten minutes or so. Take the second half of the black garlic cloves, stir them in, and let them warm through. When that’s done, check and adjust the seasoning of the sauce.
  4. Serve with brown rice, cous cous, or whatever carb you fancy. Probably could add some green in there too but you are not obligated. This keeps very well and will be delicious reheated even after a few days have slipped by.