I had the two eldest grandsons, aged 4 and 7, for 20 hours – from yesterday afternoon until late this morning. It was fun as always and such a joy to have their company. Supper was ragù bolognese from my freezer. When they have a sleepover, I like to eat with them, so their usual burgers are swapped to bolognese as that’s my preference – but they do tell me they love it. We have to begin with a ‘party’ – what you and I might call aperitif or aperitivo. They never forget but they always help. Bowls of crisps, olives, and other nibbles go out. Drink is poured into glasses; ‘cheers’ we say, gently tapping each other’s glass.
In the morning, it’s become another tradition to go to Gail’s for coffee, babyccinos and pastries. Today, we then went down to the nearby River Thames in search of the two Egyptian geese and five goslings I saw last week. ‘So cute!’ they exclaimed when I showed them the photo I took of the little goslings swimming alongside Mother and Father Goose. We walked along the riverside to Marble Hill Park but no luck – not a gosling in sight. Fortunately the playground proved a good diversion from the disappointment. As we headed back to my house, I said we had to go into M&S Simply Food for Nonna’s paper and some shopping. At this point they thought they were staying for lunch and wanted to add various things to my basket. But no, I said, not today. When we get back to my house, I have to take you home.
Supper, I decided would be easy. I took a chicken breast from the freezer and I eyed the courgettes – the only green vegetable in my fridge. Mmmm. What could I do to make that just a little more interesting? And that’s when I thought I would fry it with a shallot and chopped fresh tomato and make some basil oil to dress it. Basil goes beautifully with courgettes and tomatoes and I had a nice new basil plant sitting on my kitchen windowsill.
Courgette, Tomato & Shallot with Basil Oil
- extra virgin olive oil (about 1-2 tablespoons)
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 medium-sized courgette, diced into roughly 1-1.5cm pieces
- 1 large tomato, cored and chopped
- salt and a little pepper
- a handful of fresh basil leaves
- a little grated garlic
- a pinch of sea salt
- extra virgin olive oil
Make the basil oil first: I made just enough for my meal – although any leftovers would keep in the fridge for a few days. I put the basil leaves in a mortar and pestle. I grated over just a little of a clove of garlic (I like to use a fine grater to get a creamy mound of garlic). A pinch of sea salt followed – go easy, you don’t want it too salty. I pounded it all together until I had a green paste. Then I slowly added the olive oil. Add enough to make the consistency you want – I wanted mine fairly thick.
Put the oil aside while you cook the vegetables.
Pour a little oil in a frying pan over a low-medium heat. Add the sliced shallot and cook gently, stirring frequently.
When the shallot is softening but not brown, add the courgette. Fry until softening and you see the beginning of some pieces browning. Now add the chopped tomato. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Cook gently, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are cooked through. Transfer to a warm dish and spoon over the basil oil.
In between the preparation and cooking, I decided to have a Sunday aperitif. The sun, which had been undecided all day about whether to shine properly or not, was brightening in the evening light. The wind of earlier had dropped and it was warm outside on my patio. I decided to open a half bottle of French rosé that my daughter bought me for Christmas (I’ve been waiting for summer to open it!). When she came down last weekend, she brought a jar of green olive tapenade. So I toasted some thinly sliced sourdough, cut it into smallish pieces and topped it with the tapenade. Then a glass of chilled rosé was poured and I took it all out into the garden and sat in the evening sun. It was almost like being on holiday!
When I decided it was time to eat, I heated a griddle to cook the chicken breast. Earlier, I’d pounded that between some cling film – not quite as thin as an escalope, but thin enough to griddle well. The thickness was more even and the pounding does tenderise it too. I’d marinated it for an hour or so in a mix of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, seasoning and dried oregano. In the oven, I had some diced potato, coated lightly in olive oil and sprinkled with za’atar, roasting.
As the chicken cooked, I finished off the courgette dish. When it was all ready and plated up, it looked very appetising and smelled great too.
It was really a simple supper, but taking a little time to cook the courgette with the shallot and tomato and making the basil oil dressing, really did make it special. The oil was delicious and perfectly complemented the vegetables.
I’d had a quick trip into Richmond and couldn’t resist going into Paul Bakery when I passed it and buying one of their Tartlette aux Pommes for my dessert. Served with a scoop of Grom’s vanilla gelato, it made a gorgeous ending to a simple but lovely Sunday supper.