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! 😉
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…
(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.
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…)
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…
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.
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.
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…
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).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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 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!
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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…
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.
Here are a couple more for you to try…
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.
We’re going a little bit retro today – but (as all the cool kids say), with a modern twist…
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..)
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…)
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!
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?
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)
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
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.
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.
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)