Category Archives for Food with Friends

Drink: Grapefruit Gin & Tonic Slushie

A sip or two of this citrus slushie will start your spring BBQ with a swing. A great twist on the classic gin & tonic, this drink is sharp and refreshing with more buzz than a bumblebee in a sunflower….

gin and tonic slushie

A friend of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook of their first BBQ of the year (yes, I’m looking at you Matt!) and I have to say, much as I love a good BBQ, I have found the weather a little too much on the chilly side to be tempted to the dust off the grill and fire-lighters just yet (and by that, of COURSE I mean, get hubby to dust off the grill and fire-lighters).  That being said, I definitely feel like the season of outside eating is just around the corner, and it’s definitely not too early to start planning that first spring or summer BBQ with friends…or to start taste testing this fabulous Grapefruit Gin and Tonic Slushie to make sure it’s up to scratch.  You’re such a good friend to care so much about getting it just right! 😉

gin and tonic slushie

Apart from the fact that it’s just more pleasant to eat a meal in the garden, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the sound of birds singing in the trees; it also makes entertaining so much easier and somehow less formal.  People can be ushered quickly through the house (before they notice you haven’t hoovered) and out into the garden, where you welcome them with a little drinky…

gin and tonic slushie

Slushie the Campfire Slayer

(I’m sorry.  I had to.  It was just too good).

…Which brings me to the purpose of this post.  Assuming you’re not as brave as my friend Matt and you haven’t yet had your first BBQ of the year then I urge you to include these as an aperitif when you do.. They’re a (ahem) ‘citrus’ twist on an old classic and they’re both refreshing and just alcoholic enough to kick your afternoon or evening off with a pleasant buzz.

Grapefruit Gin and Tonic Slushie

[yumprint-recipe id=’23’] In a party mood?  Then try one of these great drinks too!

Chai Baileys

Sangria

sangria

Chinese Salmon and Crispy Kale

Sweet and salty, crispy seaweed stylee kale and succulent, pink, salmon with just a hint of the orient. A Chinese whisper if you will..

Chinese Salmon & Crispy Kale

I’ve always loved the Crispy Seaweed that you get at the Chinese.  I think it’s the combination of sweet and salty along with that satisfying crunch – plus hey, it’s one of your five a day right? So when  I recently discovered that, for the most part, it isn’t actually seaweed at all, but rather, cabbage or kale, I’ve got to say I felt a bit let down.

Once I got over my initial indignation, I realised that this could actually be a good thing! It meant I could recreate one of my favourite takeaway treats in my very own kitchen (without having to take a trip to the beach first…)

Chinese Salmon Crispy Kale

Now the good thing about this dish (other than the whole ‘no need for waders’ thing above and aside from the fact that it’s bloomin’ tasty) is that it’s unbelievably easy to make. You are no more than 10 minutes away from tucking into a mound of sweet and salty, crispy seaweed stylee kale and succulent, pink, salmon with just a hint of the orient. A Chinese whisper if you will…

Crispy Kale, Chinese Salmon

[yumprint-recipe id=’21’] The recipe for Crispy Kale is based on one I found in my trusty Abel & Cole book (nope – this isn’t a sponsored post – but credit where credit’s due right!?)

For the fish, I use my George Foreman grill, thanks to my lovely Mother-in-Law who recently served us some perfectly cooked salmon using her’s and so inspired me to dig mine out of a cupboard and dust it off after months (ok, years…) of neglect.  If you don’t have one, then a frying or griddle pan will do just fine.

Crispy Baked Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries

That satisfying crunch, through the crispy, golden breadcrumb coating, into succulent bites of chicken…

This recipe is a slightly more grown-up, much tastier and healthier version of the kids classic, chicken nuggets and chips.  It’s for those days when you yearn for childish food. You want something simple and comforting. Something that can be eaten with your fingers, dipped into your condiment of choice and happily scoffed with guilt-free abandon.

crispy baked chicken nuggets

Pretty perfect as it is, but add the tiniest hint of rosemary and the occasional hit of chilli and suddenly this crispy baked chicken gets even more exciting. Oh, an one more thing.  This is baked chicken so you get all of the crunch but none of the grease!

Fan of Crispy Chicken?  Try this too…

Pesto Breadcrumb Chicken

Crispy baked chicken

Now as you know, I’m certainly not one to be bossy, but if you’re going to go to the trouble of making this rather fabulous crispy chicken, then it seems a shame not to enjoy it with its natural bedfellow, the gorgeously gooey sweet potato fry (or rather, a whole bowl for them if possible).

Crispy baked chicken

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Autumn Cottage Pie

This Cottage Pie has all the colours and tastes of autumn. A filling of minced beef, squash, herbs and just a heady touch of cinnamon. All with a bronzed crown of cheesey sweet potato…

You know that saying about how dogs start to look like their owners? Well, have you ever noticed that foods often tend to look like the seasons they belong to?

Cottage Pie

Not sure what I’m on about? Stay with me for a second… Think about the foods that you eat in summer. Vibrant, bright colours that match the world around them. Watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes… 

See what I mean? Well in autumn, the season of golds, coppers and orange, the food very kindly obliges again. Butternut squash, sweet potato and pumpkin all reflecting this cold season of warm, burnished colours.

Cottage Pie

This recipe is a celebration of some of my favourite autumn foods.  It’s actually inspired by Delia’s Special Cottage Pie from her Complete Cookery Course but with a few seasonal twists which add a subtle, but oh-so comforting sweetness.

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Recipe: Smoked Haddock Quiche

Smoked Haddock Quiche. A flaky, buttery crust packed with creamy smoked haddock, cubes of potato, caramelised onion and a fresh, clean hit of parsley.  

This isn’t a recipe to attempt after work when the evening is rushed and full of chores to complete.  Make this instead on those luxuriously relaxed weekends where you can afford to spend some equally luxuriously relaxed time in the kitchen.

smoked haddock quiche

I recommend some music (Michael Bublé is my personal favourite for this sort of activity), a mug of tea or coffee (to be substituted with a glass of wine if it’s past midday) and a couple of hours of blissfully free time to spend happily slicing, rolling and whisking…

smoked haddock quiche

The result? This golden, autumnal beauty! A flaky, buttery crust packed with creamy smoked haddock, cubes of potato, caramelised onion and a fresh, clean hit of parsley.  The recipe is for 6-8 people because if you’re going to put all that effort in, then you may as well make something which will serve a crowd or last for a couple of sittings!

If you love smoked haddock, then why not try my Smoked Haddock & Prawn Chowder too?

smoked haddock quiche

[yumprint-recipe id=’16’] Serve as a light lunch for friends, still warm and accompanied by a pile of sweetcorn, slicked in butter. If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, then scoff cold the next day (or later the same day…) with a simple dressed salad.

Recipe: Apple & Blackberry Cheesecake

A crumbly biscuit base, cushions of soft cinnamon cream topped with a gleaming crown of autumn fruits…

I am SO happy about this recipe.  It’s perfect if you love the autumnal combo of apple and blackberry but you’re looking for a change from the usual crumbles and pies.

Cheesecake Nostalgia 

Cheesecake is one of those desserts that’s an ultimate treat for me. Growing up, we rarely had pudding but occasionally, Mum would thrill us by disappearing into the kitchen as we cleared our plates and returning with a gleam in her eye and a cheesecake in her arms.  Heaven! 

apple & blackberry cheesecake

One day, she and I came up with a cheats version which delighted us with its simplicity.  Weekend lunches often consisted of cheese and biscuits and one magical day, it occurred to one of us (I forget who) that by spreading some cream cheese on to a digestive biscuit and then topping with strawberry jam, we could create an almost perfect (in our eyes) cheesecake. We weren’t put off by a lack of cream cheese either and just replaced it with a slice of Cheddar. It was just as good – honestly!

apple & blackberry cheesecake

Memories of Crumble

Crumbles were another family favourite, whether it be apple, blackberry, rhubarb or whatever else could be gleaned from the garden.  Now, crumbles remind me of those autumnal weekend afternoons.  Returning from a woodland walk  to look for Mum’s favourite mushrooms (Shaggy Caps), she would fry them up and serve them all gleaming with butter, on toast. Then we would settle down cosily to our own pursuits, each with a bowl of steaming hot crumble, drizzled with chilled single cream. Fire on, Dad would be watching the rugby, Mum and I playing cards and my younger brother rushing around with a towel strapped to his back and a plastic ice cream carton on his head, pretending to be Superted.

apple & blackberry cheesecake

This recipe for Apple & Blackberry Cheesecake is a combination of both of those childhood favourites and each mouthful tastes of simple comfort, happiness and home.

[yumprint-recipe id=’11’] Know any cheesecake lovers? Then be a chum and share this with them!

Sun Dried Tomato & Black Olive Crusted Lamb Chops

A golden breadcrumb coating, flecked with black olive and sun dried tomato, crunching through to lamb, cooked to just pink perfection…

Black Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Crusted Lamb Chops

Lamb; at its most flavourful after feasting on the lush grass of summer. Just pink, like rosy cheeks, coming back from the park on cool Saturday mornings as August fades to Autumn.

Sun Dried Tomato; Summer’s ripeness now gone, but its sweetness still preserved and with it, a last echo of sunshine

Black Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Crusted Lamb Chops

Black Olives; bringing a taste of Mediterranean warmth, the last hints of a summer now past, but whose dark earthiness also bring to mind those clear crisp September walks in the woods. Not cold enough for a big coat yet, but you wish you’d worn a thicker jumper.

Breadcrumbs; fried till golden and crisp. Each bite, a crunch of freshly fallen autumn leaves.

Black Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Crusted Lamb Chops

See? The coming of Autumn doesn’t have to be so bad. Still don’t believe me? Gobble up a plateful of these and you’ll feel better – I promise.

[yumprint-recipe id=’10’] Love lamb? Try these Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks or Spicy Mint Lamb Kebabs

Simple Summer Gazpacho

Tomatoes, full of flavour, form the base of this fresh, light, chilled Gazpacho. Each sip will cool, calm and nourish you…

You know those days when it’s oppressively hot and you just don’t feel like eating much?  To be honest, living in the UK, I’m not that familiar with them, but if there’s a nation who totally gets it, it’s the Spanish. Their solution is both simple and delicious…

Simple Summer Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a chilled soup which is both light and fresh and can be whizzed up in flash – because let’s face it, the last thing you want to be doing is slaving in the kitchen when you could be relaxing and sipping something cool under the shade of a tree.

Like soups?

Here are a couple more for you to try…

Carrot & Mint Soup

Winter Vegetable Soup

Jamie’s Tomato Soup

Simple Summer Gazpacho

If you’re a fan of shows like Masterchef, then you’ll know that one of the latest foodie trends is to ‘de-construct’ classic dishes.  You know the kind of thing I mean – Apple crumble becomes a pile of biscuit crumbs, a smear of apple purée and a vanilla ice cream foam.  To de-construct Gazpacho, would be to serve a simple, dressed salad, so you see what a truly virtuous little soup it is!

So get out your blender and your fresh, seasonal veg and enjoy this beautiful, soup.  It’s so full of goodness that you just can’t help feel better for it.

Simple Summer Gazpacho

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Recipe: Crayfish Cocktail in a Jar

Sweet, succulent crayfish & creamy avocado, served on a bed of crisp, fresh lettuce with a light, zingy herb dressing…

We’re going a little bit retro today – but (as all the cool kids say), with a modern twist…

crayfish cocktail

Do you have a go-to meal that you ALWAYS chose when you went out for a meal as a kid? For me, it was prawn cocktail starter, followed by scampi and chips and then some form of ice cream.

(PS. If anyone can name the 1980’s frozen ice cream loaf thing that people bought for special occasions then I will love you for ever – I’ve been trying to think of it for ages and am having a mental block..)

crayfish salad

Anyhoo, this recipe is a little bit inspired by ye olde prawn cocktail, but using crayfish because, well, it’s in season now y’all! Plus I’ve switched out the Marie Rose (much as I love a good Marie Rose), for something a little lighter and fresher.

(PS. When I was little, I wrote a poem about the Mary Rose which began:

‘The Mary Rose was a fine, fine ship,

the heart of Henry’s navy,

if you had told him she was going to sink,

he would have said you were crazy!’

As you can see, I was destined to write…)

crayfish cocktail

This little beaut works as a starter or a light lunch and if you don’t have any crayfish to hand, then it will work just as well with prawns, crab or even chicken.

It is super summery and light. The crayfish are all sweet and perfect at this time of year. The lettuce adds crunch and bite, the avocado adds mellow creaminess and the dressing is fresh, zingy and finishes it off perfectly. Go on – give it a go – you’re gonna want that dressing on everything!

herb dressing

Oh – and I’ve put the crayfish cocktails in jars – that way you can pack them up and take them for lunch to work. Ingenious, no?

crayfish cocktail

Crayfish Cocktail in a Jar

Serves 2 as a light lunch (or 4 as a starter – using smaller jars!)

You will need:

2 x 500 ml jars (optional!)

Approx. 1/4 Cos lettuce (or any other crisp lettuce – eg. iceberg or little gem)

1 avocado

140 g prepared crayfish

For the dressing:

200 ml Greek yoghurt

1 handful of basil leaves

1 handful of mint leaves

1 anchovy fillet (from a jar)

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tbs cider vinegar

Seasoning

  • Blitz all the dressing ingredients in a blender (you will probably end up with more than you need, but it makes a great dip or dressing for a green salad)
  • Fill your jars about halfway with chopped lettuce and then add the sliced avocado
  • Add a spoonful of dressing and some crayfish in layers until you’re out of crayfish – NB – if you’re putting these in jars to take to work, add the dressing and crayfish FIRST with the salad on top (you will also want to put some lemon juice on the avocado to stop it browning if you’re not going to eat it straight away)
  • Just in case you were wondering – this recipe DOES work as well on plates or in bowls 😉

crayfish salad

Fig & Goat’s Cheese Crostini with a Honey, Orange & Basil Dressing

Crisp toasts, topped with creamy goats cheese, sweet, soft figs and a delicate honey, orange and basil dressing…

You know those meals that are are really special? The ones you spend hours preparing but it’s totally worth it because they’re such a treat?

Well this isn’t one of those.

fig and goats cheese crostini

Instead, do you know those dishes which can be whipped up in a flash but when presented to your eager diners, will be met with ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaaaahs’ and ‘how lovelys!’ The reason being that sometimes the food just speaks for itself.  Sometimes, beautiful, fresh and perhaps unusual ingredients can make a dish just as special (if not more so), without the need for endless toiling.

Happy days dear readers! This recipe, is one of those.

fig and goats cheese crostini

Fig & Goat’s Cheese Crostini with a Honey, Orange & Basil Dressing

Makes 18

You will need:

50 ml extra virgin olive oil

Juice of 1/2 orange

1 tbs runny honey

1 tbs chopped fresh basil

1 stale small baguette, thinly sliced along the diagonal (approx 1/2 cm thick)

1 x 120 g soft, round goats cheese

3 small figs, finely sliced lengthways (you should get about 6 slices per fig)

fig and goats cheese crostini

  •  Mix together the oil, orange juice, honey and chopped basil and then season.
  • Now heat up a griddle pan and then paint both sides of each of your bread slices with the dressing
  • Toast them on the griddle pan until golden on each side (a couple of mins per side)
  • Now remove to a plate and put a small bit of goats cheese on each, finally topping with a slice of fig
  • Lastly, drizzle over more of the dressing and season to taste
  • Easy-peasy! Think you’ve got time for a sneaky G&T before your guests arrive…

 

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