A selection of Starters

Tomato and Rye Bruschetta

When I got home from school my mamma would make me bruschetta to keep me going until dinner. Now I make them as a snack when friends come round.

Serves 4
2 medium onions, diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
7 heritage tomatoes, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 rye bread loaf

1. Mix together the onions, garlic, basil and tomatoes. Whisk the oil and vinegar, toss into the onion mixture and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour.
2. Preheat the grill to high. Slice the rye bread and brush lightly with olive oil. Grill the bread on each side and serve topped with the tomato mixture.


Squid & prawn skewers with aubergines and roast pepper salsa

Serves 4
Preparation time: 1 hour 15 minutes (plus marinating)
Cooking time: 35 minutes

16 raw tiger prawns, peeled and heads removed
2 cleaned fresh squid tubes, opened out and cut into large chunks
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
juice of 2 lemons


Grilled aubergines

2 aubergines
Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh
flat-leaf parsley
2 rosemary sprigs
100 ml extra virgin olive oil


Roast pepper salsa

4 red peppers
2 canned anchovies
1 small bunch fresh basil
½ tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Slice the aubergines into 1 cm rounds, place in a colander over a bowl and add some sea salt. Leave to stand for at least an hour – the salt will remove the bitterness and excess water – then drain and pat dry.

Brush a griddle pan with a little olive oil and chargrill the aubergines over high heat on both sides. Place in a flat dish and sprinkle with the garlic, chilli, parsley and leaves from the rosemary sprigs. Pour over the olive oil and marinate for at least 2 hours.

For the salsa, sprinkle some sea salt over the peppers and roast in an oven preheated to 180˚C/fan oven 160˚C/Gas Mark 4, or on a barbecue, for 30 minutes, continually turning them. Remove and immediately place in a plastic bag. Tie the ends and leave to cool.

When cool, peel the skin and remove the core and seeds. Place in a blender with the anchovies, basil leaves and olive oil. Blitz and set to one side.

If using bamboo skewers, soak in water to prevent burning and splintering when cooking. Place the prawns and squid in a bowl and season. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and toss. Place two prawns and some squid on a skewer, using eight in all, and cook on the barbecue or chargrill in a griddle pan for 5 minutes, or until the prawns are pink in colour.

Serve on the marinated aubergines with the pepper salsa drizzled over the top.

Artichoke, Samphire and Courgette Tempura

I prefer to use artichokes in this recipe but sweet potato, broccoli and cauliflower all work well too.

Serves 4
    •    300 g (10 oz) rice flour
    •    1 level teaspoon salt
    •    1 egg
    •    700 ml (11/4 pints) light beer or sparkling water
    •    4 violet artichokes
    •    100 g (31/2 oz) samphire
    •    100 g (31/2 oz) courgettes
    •    Vegetable oil, for frying
    •    100 ml (31/2 fl oz) milk
    •    100 ml (31/2 fl oz) soy sauce
    •    1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
    •    2 limes, quartered

1. In a large bowl, mix together 225 g (71/2 oz) of the rice flour, the salt and egg, and then add the beer or water, a little at a time, until the batter is smooth and lump-free. Leave the batter in the fridge for 20-25 minutes. 

2. Trim and quarter the artichokes and remove the tough middle parts. Thoroughly rinse, drain and dry the samphire. Trim and cut the courgettes into chunky strips. 

3. Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-based pan to 170 C (340 F). Dip the vegetables into the mix, coat them in the remaining rice flour and then dip the vegetables into the batter, making sure they are completely  covered. Fry the vegetables in batches for 2-3 minutes until golden.

4. Mix together the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons still water and coriander, and spoon into a ramekin as a dipping sauce. Serve the tempura with the sauce and a squeeze of lime.

Zilli Know-How
You can use normal flour for this recipe but rice flour makes the tempura crisper.

Once described as the poor man's asparagus, samphire is a wild coastal plant which is fast becoming a 'trendy' garnish in many top restaurants. That said, it is a fantastic vegetable in its own right and can be made into a wonderful pickled vegetable.

Violet artichokes, also called French artichokes, are easy to cook with as they have no spines and no hairy choke

Gazpacho Soup with Heritage Tomatoes

This classic Spanish soup is popular the world over. It's perfect for a hot day as the coldness of the dish, along with the acidic bite, refreshes you in the heat of summer.

Serves 4
1 garlic clove
1/2 small red onion, deseeded and chopped
1/2 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 slices white bread
300 ml (1/2 pint) tomato juice
300 g (10 oz) heritage tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
To serve
Ice cubes
Basil sprigs
Chopped red and green peppers

1. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth. Chill the soup in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

2. Serve the soup in bowls, garnished with ice cubes and basil sprigs, with chopped peppers and croutons.

Zilli Know-How
Heritage or heirloom vegetables are traditional varieties which are now being grown again - look out for them at farmers' markets. Heritage tomatoes come in all shapes and sizes, they may not look as perfect as their supermarket friends but the flavour is often far superior.

Watercress Soup, with Potato, Onion and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds.

The pepperiness of the watercress really lifts this soup from the ordinary, and with the added bonus that it is a natural super food, you cannot go wrong!

Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 kg (2 lb) potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre (1¾ pints) hot vegetable stock
150 g (5 oz) watercress
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, toasted
extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

1. Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic and potatoes, and fry for 5 minutes. Pour in the stock and cook for a further 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the watercress and remove from the heat.

2. Pour the soup mixture into a blender or food processor and blitz until smooth, then season. Reheat the soup and serve in warmed bowls, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds for a crunchy texture, and a drizzle of oil.

Linguine with Four Tomato Sauce

If you don’t have all the tomatoes for this simple dish just use what you do have, but make sure you have tomato purée as this holds the sauce together.

Serves 4
    •    4 tablespoons olive oil
    •    1 garlic clove, crushed
    •    175 g (6 oz) plum tomatoes, skinned
    •    175 g (6 oz) cherry tomatoes, skinned
    •    100 g (3½ oz) sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
    •    15 g (½ oz) bunch basil, torn into small pieces, plus extra to garnish
    •    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    •    400 g (13 oz) linguine
    •    ½ vegetable stock cube
    •    500 ml (18 fl oz) hot water
    •    1½ tablespoons tomato purée
    •    60 g (2½ oz) Parmesan cheese, grated


1. Heat the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Add the garlic, plum, cherry, and sun-dried tomatoes and basil. Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes – the tomatoes will soften so mash them gently with the back of a wooden spoon. Season the sauce to taste.
2.Meanwhile, cook the linguine in a large pan of boiling water according to packet instructions.
3. In a bowl, mix the stock cube with the hot water and add half of this to the tomato mixture. Cook for 15 minutes. Add the remaining stock and the tomato purée and cook for a further 15 minutes.
4. Add the drained pasta to the tomato sauce and cook for 1 minute. Divide between warmed serving plates and sprinkle with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Salmon carpaccio with fennel

Serves 4

Preparation time: 40 minutes (plus chilling)

500 g sashimi/sushi-grade salmon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
½ medium cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions
Grated zest of 1 lime


Wrap the salmon in clingfilm and freeze it for 20–30 minutes until the fish is partly frozen; this will make it easier to slice. Remove the salmon from the freezer and unwrap. Using a sharp knife or a slicer, cut across the grain into thin slices. Arrange the salmon slices around a large platter.

Whisk together the oil, lime juice, soy sauce, dill and coriander.

Season to taste. Toss the fennel slices in some of the dressing and place in the middle of the salmon. Arrange the cucumber slices over the salmon, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds, spring onions and lime zest and drizzle with more dressing. Leave in the fridge for 1 hour before serving.