Another of my Italian favourites – tomato bruschette. Nothing tastes more of summer than this antipasto – hints of garlic, ripe sweet tomatoes, fresh basil and lashings of olive oil. I could eat these every day in summer. For some reason, they taste better in Italy than they do at home. I think it’s something to do with the tomatoes – they just seem to have more flavour. I think bruschette are best when made in summer with fresh, ripe tomatoes rather than ones that have been in cold storage and taste a bit bland.

All you need to make tomato bruschette is a French baguette or ciabatta, which you slice, rub with a cut garlic clove, and toast under the grill (I love those charred grill lines). Cut up loads of tomato, and mix with lashings of good quality olive oil and a handful of roughly chopped basil. Pile the toasted bread up with the tomato mixture and that’s it. Simple and delicious.

Involtini di melanzane

Ok, here’s another aubergine recipe. I can’t get enough of these Italian aubergines! I had this starter the other night on the Amalfi Coast, and it was absolutely delicious. I know Italians are big on their involtini (rolls of beef with cheese inside) but I had never tried a vegetarian version. These aubergine rolls have provolone (the local Amalfian cheese) inside, which imparts a lovely smokey flavour. They really couldn’t be easier to make – there’s a bit of frying involved, and then not much else.

I got this recipe from the chef who made the beautiful involtini in the photo. He didn’t speak any English and my Italian’s not great, but I think I got the gist of it!

Melanzane di involtini

Serves 4

  • 2 aubergines, sliced thinly
  • 200 g provolone cheese
  • A few fresh basil leaves,shredded
  • A small handful of cherry tomatoes

Fry the aubergine in batches until golden. (If you want to be good, you can grill it instead).

Cut small pieces of cheese and fill each slice of aubergine with a roll of cheese and a few shreds of basil. Roll them up like cigars. Place a slice of cherry tomato on top of each roll and then bake in the oven for about 5 minutes until the cheese is oozing out.

Moorish crunch salad

This is a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s for a delicious salad with Moorish flavours. My boyfriend’s mum, Wendy, made it recently and I couldn’t get enough of it. It’s really zingy and crunchy and fresh, and if you add some fried halloumi to it or eat it with pitta bread, it makes a full meal.

moorish crunch

Serves 4

300 g carrots, peeled and cut into matchstick-sized batons

150 g radishes

2 crunchy apples

1 small handful raisins/sultanas

1 handful fresh Italian parsley

1 handful fresh mint, roughly chopped

4 T red wine vinegar

8 T olive oil

1 T tahini

2 T sesame seeds, toasted in the oven for about three minutes

Finely slice radishes. Quarter and core the apples and slice finely. Add all these to a bowl with the rest of the ingredients, except for the sesame seeds. Toss together, and season to taste. Serve with sesame seeds sprinkled on top and eat straight away before the salad loses its crunch.

Mediterranean puy lentil salad

Here’s another of Wendy’s fantastic salad recipes, sent to her by a friend.

lentil salad

Serves 4

  • 250 g puy lentils
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 240 g sun dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 200 g feta cheese, crumbled
  • A small handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Balsamic vinegar and olive oil to serve

Cook the lentils until al dente (15 – 20 mins). Meanwhile, gently cook the chopped peppers in olive oil for 2 minutes, add the tomatoes and cook for a further minute. Remove from the heat.

Strain the lentils and add them to the yellow pepper and tomatoes, stir in well, add the feta cheese, season to taste and top with chopped parsley.

Before serving, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Bill Granger’s asparagus and grapefruit salad

Here’s another punchy, summery, fresh salad that Wendy makes. The mint and grapefruit make this salad so refreshing and clean-tasting.

Asparagus and grapefruit salad

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch asparagus, woody ends trimmed and cut into 4 cm lengths
  • 2 pink grapefruit, skin and pith removed
  • 35 g toasted unsalted cashew nuts
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 60 ml olive oil
  • 30 ml lime juice

Blanch the asparagus in salted boiling water for 1 minute, then refresh under cold water and drain. Cut the segments away from the membranes of the grapefruit. Place the segments in a bowl with the asparagus, cashews and mint leaves, then drizzle with olive oil and lime juice. Season and toss to combine.