Fig, mozzarella and prosciutto salad

Fig, mozzarella and prosciutto salad

This week was like bumping into an ex but knowing that it was going to happen as I travelled back to a city where I had a whole other life. If Cardiff was an ex we didn't finish on good terms, in fact, the split was messy and caused some heartache, which was a shame as we had some great times together!

This is all about my trip to see Coldplay this week, and it seemed I had something in common with the band, as they hadn't played a gig in Wales for 17 years, which is when I last visited properly too.

In the build up to the gig, I was acutely aware that there were some strong memories, almost mental photographs of places in the city that needed healing, as they still held some charge within me when I contemplated them. In fact, I recognised that I had closed off from those parts of myself as if I felt I couldn't relate to the person I was then and how she ran her life.

We were young and carefree and my lifestyle then, on the surface, couldn't have been any more different to now. I'm not even sure I enjoyed it all the time but I seemed to be a rebel with a dancing cause! With superficial enjoyment, I often felt disconnected from the crew that I hung out with and the majority didn't feel like true friends.

On reflection part of my sadness was that I didn't fully appreciate what Cardiff had to offer and that it was a missed opportunity; Despite this, the path I took was the one I was supposed to take. These photographic memories of heartache and joy had actual locations, and unknowingly I actually passed through these exact places, which felt like a changing of the guard from feeling empty to healed. I mean the chances of being sent to the wrong gate which lead me to see one place....the universe is funny like that!

So I was there to see a band who had become the soundtrack to my life in those subsequent years of living in Cardiff. Sipping Pu'erh tea (very grounding you know, after all those years with my head in the clouds) opposite a nicknack shop called Rebel! And you know, it's funny that I didn't associate so much with the rebel me from back then, as she was dared to be different but now I feel that I'm not that different... I'm just harnessing that inner rebel to be different in my mainstream foodie world!

This lovely salad is one I made to take in the car to Cardiff and was heartily enjoyed on the way to Wales, so I thought I would share it with you. Please remember if you enjoy the Fuss Free Foodie to share any posts that resonate with you with your friends, as I hope to build our following and community, and this happens with your help! So loves and likes will help us grow and help people know what the FFF is all about! (In fact today at City Hall someone knew me because he'd seen his friends like the FFF!)

Have a great weekend Lisa

Fig, mozzarella and prosciutto salad

3 figs
1 ball mozzarella
3 slices prosciutto
3-4 handfuls rocket or mixed leaves
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp blackberry vinegar (red wine vinegar or lemon juice)
Salt and pepper

  1. Place the leaves over a large serving plate.
    2. Pull the tough stalk off the top of the fig. Then tear the fig into pieces and place over the leaves.
    3. Drain the mozzarella and tear into small pieces and place around the plate, and do the same with the prosciutto, tucking it in amongst the other ingredients.
    4. In a jam jar mix the olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper and shake.
    Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.
    This is a surprisingly good dish to eat in a car on the way to a Coldplay concert

Join the FFF community where we inspire each other to cook here or follow my week on the FFF page here. The new website should be here in the late Autumn!!

Stuffed chicken breast in Parma ham

Stuffed chicken breast with Parma ham

 I never once bunked off school....maybe I took an extra day to 'recover' but I played it pretty straight! So enter stage left 7 year old son, slightly flushed and hiding under the fleece on the sofa this week. Mummy, I can't go to school today...

You know that feeling when you feel the whole truth isn't being exposed especially when you catch a glimpse of those mouth corners turning up at the thought of a day at home without his brother! As it transpired, (and pleased my senses served me well) an admittance of, I'm not actually that ill mum was revealed an hour later, said 7 year was promptly chauffeured to school by 10am!

But it got me thinking... If I didn't bunk school, I must have stretched the truth at some point!?! And my memory served me well! So in the early 80s I was a keen gymnast, and I was in a local 'friendly' competition. I was doing really well, in the top spot, in fact after bars and beam, and it was time for the vault. As I did my run up, I somehow didn't get it right, and just ran up the springboard. You get 2 chances. No pressure on the next one!

So off I run again, gaining speed and, damn. Did the same again. But fully knowing this was my last chance...I feign a twisted ankle. Oh dear. The judges decided to give me another go, to which I did said vault successfully. So there we go. I went on to perform a successful floor routine and took the gold. But unlike him, I didn't get found out. Although I did fess up to my gym pal Tracy at our friend Hayley's wedding a couple of years ago and I haven't unduly accepted any Gold medals since!

As an adult, I find it hard to see our offspring skew the truth, but I guess we have all done it, and the important thing is we learn from it. There are many layers to us all and I guess each one shapes the person we are today and there is no shame in that!

This weeks recipe is a chicken breast masquerading as something else, as it is has hidden treasures inside of mozzarella and cleverly concealed in Parma ham! It's an awesome meal that is fuss free because it can be prepped ahead of time, and cooked within 20 mins. Prepare the chicken and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. The mash can be cooked, mashed, and then reheat and add the Parmesan when you are ready.

I hope you are enjoying reading the Fuss Free Foodie blog and tutorials?! If you are I am looking to add to my crack team of sharers to reach out to a larger audience, so you can either hit the share buttons below or share directly from Facebook if this resonates with you and have friends who will enjoy the Fuss Free Foodie too! Either way, thank you for reading and your support ...Lisa x

Stuffed chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham (Serves 2)

2 chicken breasts (approx 170g each)
1 ball of mozzarella (125g)
(Optional) 6 sheets of Parma ham or bacon

Chicken prep:

  1. Take the chicken breast and flatten it out by covering the chicken with cling film and whacking it with a rolling pin!
  2. Lay out the chicken and put about 35g of mozzarella in the middle. Try not to over fill it. Lay out 3 sheets of Parma ham so they overlap.
  3. Lay the chicken onto the ham, making sure that the gap that holds in the mozzarella is folded over, and faces down onto the ham so that it has a complete seal.
  4. Pull up the sides of the ham around the chicken breast, almost tucking it in as you go around.
  5. Place on a plate, cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook. Pull out the chicken breast 1/2 an hour before you are ready to cook.
  6. Chicken cooking: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Use a heavy based frying pan suitable for the oven on a medium-high heat, rub the bottom of the pan with oil.
  7. If you do not have a pan that goes into the oven, fry in the pan and then transfer to a tray that has warmed in the oven.
  8. The idea is to gain a little colour on 3 sides of the chicken. So over 7-8 minutes, colour up a side and then turn it around onto the next side. With the side that has no colour leave this facing down in the pan, and place the pan in the oven. (Or place the chicken onto the tray).
  9. once the chicken has had 7 minutes, turn it over to cook through the other side for another 7 minutes. It should take around 20 minutes total cooking, but bear in mind it will take less/more time if your chicken breast is different in size. If the mozzarella starts to come out, its another sign it is done.
  10. Rest the chicken on a clean plate before serving.

Sweet Potato Mash (Serves 2)

650g sweet potato, chopped into 1cm dice
50g butter
40g Parmesan
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper

  1. Add 25g of the butter to a large pan and melt. Add the chopped sweet potato, coat it in the butter and cook for 20-25 minutes on a medium heat with a lid on. Stir every 5 minutes to avoid it sticking or browning. The steam created by having the lid on will help it soften.
  2. Mash the sweet potato with a fork, roughly. Add the rest of the butter, and stir briskly with a wooden spoon. Add the chilli and pepper, and a little salt. If you are preparing the mash ahead of time set the mash aside until you are ready. Reheat the mash, and then continue with step 3.
  3. Add the Parmesan, check if the mash needs any more salt or pepper. Parmesan has a salty note so be careful not to add too much salt at stage 2!

We served this dish with kale, but spinach or any other greens will work too! Serve the chicken sliced to expose the stuffed inside and enjoy! Like it? Feel free to share or pin for later with the buttons below!

Fuss Free ideas...
1. Add a teaspoon of pesto to the inside of the chicken, along with the mozzarella
2. Add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a sprinkle of dried oregano with the mozzarella
3. Leave off the ham, season the chicken with salt and pepper or just use bacon instead

Aubergine Parmigiana

Aubergine parmigana

I'm giving up meat for Lent. That's what my 13 year old self-said a few decades ago to my mum!! She flawlessly countered this by offering me the keys to the kitchen.

Being a parent now, and knowing all about phases, I'm sure my mum thought I'd be back to normal carnivore duties in 6 days let alone last 6 weeks meat free! But through growing pains, exams, crushes, Uni and a semester in France, this 'phase' lasted 7 years! A summer working in the USA and discovering Big Macs, was the only thing to pull me out of that one!

These days, I can appreciate both. I do enjoy free-range or local meat from my butcher where I can be assured that animal welfare is taken seriously; Equally, I do love vegetarian from all over the world. The choice for vegetarians is far more exciting than the nut roast and veggie burgers of yore. And to quote my husband you don't even miss the meat in this dish. Nuff said!

This recipe became a favourite last year when aubergines were on sale at our local veg shop 2 for £1, and it seemed too good to not make something awesome with them. After doing the recipe on and off for 6 months (or more!) I certainly refined it to be fuss-free.

The great thing about this recipe is not only it vegetarian, but also gluten-free. It's basically like an aubergine lasagna. Funnily enough in the last week talk of aubergine parmigiana cropped up in 3 separate conversations, so I kinda felt the universe was asking me to share!

As with some of my fuss-free recipes, the fuss can be taken away by preparation. Having this dish in mind and the ingredients ready in the fridge will mean you can crack on with the easy tomato sauce, or frying the aubergines, whilst you are hanging out in the kitchen doing something else. Then the whole business of making the parmigiana becomes more of an assembly job just like last weeks Lasagne.

I loved seeing how many of you were cooking lasagne last week in the Fuss Free Foodie Facebook group, so let me know what you think of this one too! If you want to see what I get up to for the rest of the week pop over to the Fuss Free Foodie page and give a little like there. See my fuss-free life in pictures on Instagram or what I'm tweeting on Twitter. Don't forget to keep seeing FFF in your feed, keep giving a little like, comment or share! Thanks for being here! Lisa x

Aubergine Parmigiana

Oven 180℃/350℉/Gas mark 4
Serves 4-6

For the sauce:
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
800ml passata
Few sprigs of thyme or 1-2 tsp of dried herbs
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the Parmigiana:
4 aubergines, sliced length way, 1/2cm thick
2 balls of mozzarella (125g each)
100g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Olive oil

  1. Place the oil in the pan on a low heat and gently fry the garlic for a few minutes, without colouring.
  2. Add the passata to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add the herbs. Simmer on medium heat for about 45mins to 1 hour, until reduced to a thick sauce. Set aside.
  3. Frying the aubergines. I use two frying pans at the same time to get the job done quickly. If you feel like you are adding loads of oil, don't worry, as aubergines are like little sponges, and it's important to have the aubergines more soggy and unctuous, than spongy and dry! I fry them, get a bit of colour on each side, and then pop them under the grill to brown a little more and crack on with the next batch. See my sunny whether alternative below!
  4. Assembly. Get all your ingredients in place and as a guide, I did 4 layers with mozzarella on. Place 2 spoonfuls*1 of sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread it out. Layer 4-5 slices of aubergine on top to create your first layer.
  5. Put 2 more spoonfuls of sauce onto the aubergines and spread out. Break up around 60g (half of 1 ball) into chunks and place on the sauce, and then sprinkle around 10g of Parmesan on top.
  6. Repeat the process until you are left with a final layer of aubergines. It is better to have a complete covering of aubergines for the top layer, so if you feel like you are running for this, use fewer in one of the middle layers (like I did!).
  7. When you have your aubergines on top, pour on the rest of the tomato sauce to make a thick final layer and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese to complete.
  8. Cook in the oven for 1 hr. If you feel the top is browning too quickly, pop a piece of tin foil on top and take it off 10 minutes from the end. The parmigiana will benefit from resting for 15 minutes after it comes out of the will the roof of your mouth! Is great reheated the next day (or cold) in fact sometimes even nicer!
  9. Serve with a sourdough loaf.

Forget the Fuss...

If you have the weather, the quickest way to do them all in one go is to BBQ them! Don't be shy and rub them with oil first.

If your bread isn't fresh, I make breadcrumbs and make a final layer out of the crumbs instead (without sauce on top) and sprinkle with Parmesan
*1 I use a serving spoon which is probably the equivalent of 2 tbsp.