Just the word ‘nibble’ fills me with a kind of girlish glee. I love the guilt free abandon of it all. Nothing that can be described as a ‘nibble’ can possibly be bad for you for goodness sake! Plus, nibbles tend to come in groups and I’m all for variety in my food. I love nuts for sure, but I also enjoy a good olive, perhaps some blini or even a crostini. Perhaps a Cheesy Prosciutto Puff?
So read on my little vol-au-vents and I shall share with you the secret (or now, not so secret) recipe for Cheesy Prosciutto Puffs (squeee!) They’re bite-sized pieces of puffy heaven that really pack a Mediterranean punch. Flaky pastry; as light as air, a slight tang of pesto with beautiful Prosciutto adding depth and Grana Padano cheese, an extra richness that makes them really elegant and completely indulgent.
I’m confident that you’ll want to make some of these little babies for your next summer gathering…and that your guests will thank you for it!
1 x 320 g packet of ready-rolled puff pastry
4 tbs pesto
1 pack of prosciutto
75 g grated Grana Padano Cheese
1 egg, beaten
I was recently sent some beautiful samples of Grana Padano cheese and Prosciutto di San Daniele. To be honest, they were both so good that very little would beat just eating them au naturel (no, I’m not being paid to say that – promise!) but that would have made for rather a dull post so I tried to come up with a recipe that would show off the beautiful flavours and allow them to compliment each other. I hope that’s what I’ve done… 🙂
I also had help from Mary Berry and her fantastic book Mary Berry Absolute Favourites, where her Cheesy Cheese Spirals gave me the idea for the recipe above.
What are your favourite summer party nibbles? Let me know in the comments below!
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 been meaning to post this recipe since before Christmas but I kept making it and then eating it all before I remembered to take a photo!
It’s one of those magical dishes which requires minimum preparation (if you can even call chucking all the ingredients into your slow cooker and giving them a quick stir, ‘preparation’) but which, when left for a few hours of gentle heating, transforms into something so special, so truly treatsome (yes, that’s a word!) that it both comforts and revives at the end of a wearisome day.
Imagine yourself outside your front door. It’s dark. It’s freezing. I mean freezing. You’ve been rushed off your feet all day and you think you can feel the first signs of a cold. What’s worse, you can’t find your keys. You’re scrabbling about in your bag but it’s too dark to see anything properly and your hands are so numb you can’t make your fingers work.
After what feels like about an hour of bag scrabbling, you finally find the elusive keys and put them triumphantly into the lock. One quick turn and you’re in.
Suddenly, the cold of the day is behind you. The warmth of your home greets you like the welcoming smile of an old friend and the smell? Well, the smell of tender beef, red wine and rosemary fills your nostrils and drives out the tiredness, the cold and the problems of the day.
All that’s left to do is to grab yourself a bowl and greedily ladle it in. Then settle into your favourite chair and with a big sigh, enjoy….
Try these for size…
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.
Those of you who have read my monthly posts on seasonal foods will know that I’m a big fan of eating food when it is at its freshest and best – that is to say, when it’s in season.
This year, more for my own interest than anything else, I’ve started to keep a food diary, recording our evening meal each day so that I can refer back, both for inspiration and for sheer curiosity.
I’m pretty sure getting into a food rut isn’t a problem that’s unique to me so I’ve decided that each month I’ll share a few of our family favourites from the previous one in the hope that it may spark a few ideas or even inspire you to try something new. Some may be seasonal, others just something from a much loved cook book or even a family favourite passed down from my Mum.
We’re not Scottish but I can’t let Burn’s Night pass by without making the most of an excellent excuse (as if I need one) to eat haggis. Now, if you’re one of those people who crinkles their nose in disgust at the thought of haggis – then take my advice and don’t think! It tastes like beautifully spiced mince. It’s warming, comforting and I love the stuff.
We eat it with: Mashed potato, Marrowfat peas and gravy.
This was the perfect recipe book for me in January. It’s full of simple, nutritious meals. The kind that are comforting enough for even the coldest of January days, but also full of great ingredients that you can feel doing you good and restoring you after the festive season of excess.
My favourite 3 recipes this month were;
…a simple, spicy pasta dish with tomatoes and crispy bacon. Quick to make and with a kick that warms you through to your cockles (to use the medical term).
This is a lovely, simple way to cook fish. The flavours are subtle, but fragrant and delicious. Beautiful fillets of cod are coated in a spiced yoghurt that is speckled with mustard seeds which add a satisfying crunch. The dahl is the perfect accompaniment and if possible, it’s even easier. Just lentils, coconut water, a cinnamon stick and cardamom pods make up this lovely little side dish.
When I first presented this to hubby, it was with a certain amount of trepidation. No meat, just a plate of cauliflower and chickpeas. Somehow though, this combination of a few simple ingredients just works. I mean, really works! Even hubby is converted and has since asked to have it again. As the book’s title suggests, this recipe is simple. It’s also delicious, filling – and super healthy. Hurrah!
The great thing about flapjacks is that despite the fact that they’re clearly a yummy little treat; sweet and gooey like a slice of cake, they’re made from oats and so they somehow seem really rather healthy. To be clear, I’m not saying that they are (in fact, to do so would be to completely ignore the artery clogging amounts of butter and the tooth rotting levels of sugar and syrup..) – but it’s certainly easier to maintain the illusion with flapjack than with a big slab of chocolate cake.
Apple flapjacks are frankly even more virtuous. They’ve got one of your five a day in them for goodness sakes! They’re practically a health food. So what I’m saying is, in this month of over-indulgence, these flapjacks are a little something which you can enjoy without too much guilt. It’s nearly Christmas after all!
Gotta taste for apples? I’m here for you…
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.
November has arrived, bringing with it a blanket of fog (in Nottingham at least). I’ve often found that fog, rather like snow, seems to induce a childlike frenzy of emotion in otherwise mature and well-rounded adults.
Some find it exciting and mysterious, others, creepy and eerie. A few think it’s just plain gloomy. For me, fog awakens my need to feel cosy. Walking to work, there’s almost a ghostly quality to the city. Everyone drifting by as if in a dream until eventually, growing more distant, they’re swallowed by the mist.
Autumn firmly here – in fact, winter edging ever closer, it’s not surprising that this month’s seasonal foods are rather few and far between…
You would be forgiven for thinking that the humble cauliflower is the least exciting of this little bunch. Perhaps it is, if it’s just boiled to within an inch of it’s life, and then served plan. Curried however, it’s a wondrous thing. Cooked with onion, cubes of potato, and a few well chosen spices it makes a simple to make but really rather wonderful treat!
As for cauliflower cheese, I can’t think of many dishes (especially vegetable dishes) which offer such creamy comfort. As a child, we often used to have this as a main meal, with more vegetables on the side for good measure. I never once felt there was anything lacking in such a meal!
I cooked venison for the first time last year, making my ‘Harty’ Venison Stew (I was very pleased with that little pun at the time – and I must say, I still am!)
It makes a lovely, more gamey alternative to beef, and in this rather cold and blustery month, it provides robust flavour to bolster you against the chill!
You know that feeling when you’ve been out in the sunshine all day and you feel all glowing and full of life? It can be hard to recreate that at this time of year. The combination of grey skies, dark mornings and rainy days can leave you feeling pretty lack lustre and, if things get really bad, downright depressed.
That’s when I turn to food for a spot of comfort. I’m not talking cakes and chocolate here (although I certainly wouldn’t discount them!) No, instead, why not try to replace what’s missing in sunshine and vitamin D with food that fills you with goodness and warmth on the inside?
This Chicken and Vegetable Broth is full to the brim with wholesome comfort and goodness. A steaming bowlful slurped with a hunk of crusty bread, a good book and if possible, some sort of roaring fire, cannot fail to give you that glow of satisfaction that’s so often missing around this time of year.
For more words of wisdom regarding comfort food try this…
PS – I’m currently lucky enough to be on hols in the very lovely village of Ringstead in Norfolk and can confirm that a brisk walk along the beach is another great way to get a healthy, happy glow. Said walk, followed by this Broth is pretty close to perfect.