Tag Archives: smoked mozzarella

Tomato, Asparagus, Cheese Tart

This is a brilliant, tasty and simple dish to make. I did it as a starter for six people. I just threw it in the middle and carved it up with a pizza wheel. Went down a storm. The recipe comes from the ever reliable Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (River Cottage) and his equally reliable Veg book.   The basic ingredients are the puff pastry, some veg, some herbs and some cheese! You could apply some variations quite happily with equally good results. Ive done a few versions. They all work. The basic principle is the same: crisp pastry, soft caramelised tomato, tangy cheese.

ingredients, a bit of prep
ingredients, a bit of prep
  • A little sunflower oil
  • ½ teaspoon fine cornmeal or polenta (optional)
  • 375g all-butter, ready-made puff pastry
  • Beaten egg, for brushing
  • About 350g tomatoes (I used cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • A little extra virgin olive or rapeseed oil
  • 100g rinded goat’s cheese (I used mozzarella)
  • 125g Asparagus (trimmed and sliced lengthways)
  • A handful of thyme sprigs, leaves only
  • Sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper


  • Preheat the oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5. Lightly oil a baking sheet and scatter over a little fine cornmeal or polenta, if you have some – this helps to keep the pastry really crisp.
  • Roll out the pastry fairly thinly and trim to a rectangle about 30 x 25cm. Put it on the baking sheet. Cut a 1cm strip from each edge. Brush these strips with a little beaten egg, then stick on to the edges of the rectangle, to form a slightly raised border. Brush the edges with a little more egg.
  • Thinly slice the tomatoes across into 2–3mm slices; discard the stalky top and skinny bottom slices. Scatter the garlic over the pastry, then arrange the sliced tomatoes on top, overlapping them only slightly. I used cherry tomatoes on this occasion and simply scattered them over. Season with salt and pepper and trickle with a little oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and lightly browned.
  • Take the tart out of the oven, scatter over the cheese and thyme, add another twist of pepper and a trickle of oil, and return to the oven. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melty and bubbly and the pastry golden brown. You can serve this hot, but I think it’s better half an hour or so after it comes out of the oven, with a green salad.image

VARIATIONS Basil and mozzarella tart

  • Replace the goat’s cheese with 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella (about 125g), torn into small pieces. Replace the thyme with a couple of tablespoons of shredded basil – but add this after the tart is cooked, not before.

Rosemary and pecorino tart

  • Replace the goat’s cheese with a generous grating of pecorino or Parmesan, and the thyme leaves with 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary.

Blue cheese and chives tart

  • Replace the goat’s cheese with crumbled blue cheese. Omit the thyme. Scatter a chopped handful of chives over the tart once it is cooked.


Salvi’s Cucina – Manchester

Possibly the best Italian meal I’ve ever had?

Salvis Cucina (kitchen in Italian) is a new, rather understated eatery that has sprung up in the nondescript concrete avenue of John Dalton Street in Manchester. I sportingly took The Flame there as recompense for a forthcoming road trip with a couple of gentlemen friends to watch a bunch of rock debutants in North London outpost Enfield.

The outside
The outside

Salvis sprang forth in the mind as one or two local work pals have raved over their pre existing ‘Mozzarella Bar’ down the other end of town in the ill fated Corn Exchange Triangle. Salvis are an Italian dynasty that has purveyed quality Italian ingredients in Manchester for a few years now. And after our meal I wholeheartedly suggest they continue.
Decor is rather modest, the odd flash of colour from a strategically placed painted chair. The open kitchen dominates, the hardworking chefs plunder their skills amongst a plethora of shaving, slicing and turning machinery. It’s a pleasing sight.

Menu, colourful chairs, the kitchen, the specials roll
Menu, colourful chairs, the kitchen, the specials roll

Our table was preordained after I had ventured in earlier in the day. Our table was set right up against the semi height glass frontage. As this was a sunny eve our table was streaked with fresh sunlight and fresh(ish) Manchester air. It was wonderful. Our delightful Italian waitress plied us with water and wine and took our order after explaining the specials in the most delicate Italianate English. To further help the specials are scrawled on a large brown paper roll. Nice touch.
Our antipasti soon homed into view. Mine first, ‘Cappachio Di Nanzo Rucola E Grana’ (beef, rocket, Parmesan, drizzled with olive oil, balsamic and lemon £8.50). It was wonderful, ‘waffer’ thin slices of raw beef with a cheesy, oily, herby coat. As a treat I did ask if I could try some smoked mozzarella as I was intrigued. Rather than the slither I anticipated I was graced with a fully dressed ball in a separate bowl. It was a bit too much to eat in one lump but I loved the smokey rind, definitely one to bear in mind.

The antipasti
The antipasti

The flames starter was a bit of a strange one. Entitled ‘Timbalo Di Venture Con formaggio Di Capra E Pesto’ it was subtitled as mixed grilled vegetables stacked with goats cheese and topped with pesto (£8). It turned out to be three deep fried orbs set on a base of dressed leaves and a super homemade pesto. It wasn’t what was expected but it was still delicious and was gleefully mopped up. The grilled veg were merely slithers mixed in with the cheese and deep fried.
We both went for simple pasta dishes for mains but even these were a step above the norm. Mind you I could argue they should have been at £11.50 and £13 a plate. It isn’t cheap, but ye gods they were both sensational. The flames ‘Pasta Con Pesche Spada, Melenzane, Scamorza E Pinoli’ (swordfish, aubergine, pine nuts and smoked mozzarella) probably shaded it. The pasta itself beautifully cooked and seasoned. The tastes and textures sublime.

The mains and the tiramisu
The mains and the tiramisu

I had a pasta off the specials board. ‘Pasta alla Salvis Whit Salsiccia et asparigi’ (sausage and asparagus). Finished in a tomato sauce (or ‘sowse’ as our waitress called it) it was still a simple pasta dish but somehow it just tasted so much better than most I’ve ever had before. I can’t really explain why but it was. You’ll just have to try yourself!
I as usual I rounded off with a desert for research purposes. I run a personal competition to find a tiramisu to match my childhood version as provided by Culcheth heroes ‘Don Luighi’. I think I have found a joint top version. It seemed a bit too thick at first but deep down the ‘V’ shaped flask the moist, boozy, creamy loveliness came bounding through. A triumph at any price but at £4.50 it had no equal.

Smoked mozzarella
Smoked mozzarella

Whilst us chaps all know brownie points have ceased to be legal tender in most relationships there is no doubt Salvis worked its magic on The flame. The Gentlemans weekend continued without a hitch and there is no question we will be back. Going forward I can see this being one of our favourite staple restaurants. Highly recommended.

19 John Dalton St