Courgette Pesto...!

This is a great recipe to get as much veggie nutrution into little tums as you can! Kids love it! Get loads of sauce into them with a pasta like conchiligie or fusili...!

You'll need

handful pine nuts
1 lge courgette
Half an onion or 3 scallions
2 cherry tomatoes
clove garlic
2 tbsp groud parmesan.


Dry 'fry' the pine nuts in a saucepan, without oil of course, until golden. Set aside. Add oil to the warm pan, and fry the chopped courgette, onion, tomatoes and garlic until soft. Blitz in a food processor along with the pine nuts and then stir in the parmesan cheese.

Stir through cooked pasta!

Poor Show at La Paloma

We went for dinner last night - it was a last minute thing as due to one thing and another (lost shoe and bad hair day) we missed our dinner reservations on saturday. So instead we took the kids to our fav family restaurant La Paloma which is in Temple bar.

We had one of our first dates there and it has become an old favorite, a comforter, a home from home. So in we went, in the lashing rain, and grabbed one of the little booths set into the wall at the back of the restaurant.

We were surprised to see how empty it was and mentioned it to the manager, it has been almost 9 months since we were last there and we noticed they'd changed some things - the chatty spanish waitresses were absent, the booths along the window had been replaced with rather plain tables and the usual spanish shouts from the kitchen were no longer, peering in I spotted two rather lost looking asian guys...

We ordered the usual table of tapas that we recommend to everyone and it arrived - covering the table with colour. I realised swiftly it was not just the decor that had changed.

First noted absent was the smells and aromas, then slowly I noted one difference and another. The bread had changed - I would say it was bought in par baked, rustic loaves were now pale french baguette. The chorizo salad (listed and usually with chorizo and butter beans) was limp iceberg lettuce, (yack) chorizo, chalky tinned chickpeas and not a butter bean in sight. The calamari (which I have recommended to many) were rubbery and tasteless... I felt like I had lost an old friend.

We spoke with the manager as we paid our bill and he told us he didn't think they'd last much longer... I have to agree, the interior is gorgeous, the restaurant very welcoming and the location handy for all but the standard of food has slipped big time. It seemed like they were just going through the paces, their location becoming more and more a drinking and dancing arena more than a place to hunt out a good restaurant. Temple bar used to be where you'd find gems no matter what you were looking for, food, clothes, music - it was where you'd go for the 'alternative'... now its rife with stag and hen parties and tourists looking for a pint of the black stuff in some sham Irish pub.

La Paloma has suffered because of it, and seems to have already left the building...I used to dream of the food and talk highly of the restaurant to my friends - now I am hoping none of them take the recommendation...

Don't get me wrong, we enjoyed the outing and we were fed but it left us with a bad taste in our mouths and a sadness in our hearts...


no cook book day!

Ah saturday...

I rarely cook on a saturday unless I am gripped by an overwhelming desire to create, but thats usually staved off until another day... although in fairness I am never in a position where there is no other option and I think thats why I still really enjoy cooking meals for my family, even after 11 years of it!

Saturday, however, is an unofficial day off... usually a brown bag of fish and chips arrives at the door, or a mouthwatering freshly made pizza, or another of the amazing range of delivery food we have in our area.

This saturday was an extra special one, as it was a "no cook not even a cup of tea shall I make" day - out for brunch, out for dinner day! Yeay!

As Mary was off in her cousins for the morning, the three of us left went off down to Dun Laoire to mooch around the book shop. I bought a camping cookbook to use this summer when we get our new van... which has a lovely range of recipes that can be cooked on open fires, barbeques or small stoves, perfect!

Some others found the visit productive as well!

Hughes and hughes is a really nice book shop, its huge and complete and has chairs placed about for you to sit and browse, there is a nice cafe with huge windows overlooking the town centre and an amazing travel section which I love love browsing through... weird since I don't do flying so most of the destinations are not in my league.

There is something lovely about a cafe within a book shop, it is such a relaxed atmosphere. So we popped our bums on some lovely cosy couches long enough to enjoy a latte and an iced raspberry bun! As I was rooting to pay I was overjoyed to discover a long forgotten gift of a voucher for my favorite homeware shop Meadows and Byrne and so we made a quick stop and I got a new pan, long needed, and I've always wanted a really really good one, but I would never have gone for it without the voucher! A couple of other bits needed to come home with me too, like a new egg poacher, a proper metal sieve and some cute molds for sweet making (for mary!)

We're going out to dinner now so... bye for now!

Egg Sandwiches with Scallions

(Bills absolute favorite)

Egg mayonnaise is one of the nicest sandwich fillers isn't it?

My tip is if you leave the eggs just cooked so the yokes run a little bit through the mayonnaise... I add chopped cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced scallions and lots of Hellmans mayonnaise. Salt and pepper of course thrown in at the end.

I spoon this onto fresh baked buttered bread and sometimes sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top. Just a perfect tummy filler served with cups of milky tea in between rain showers!


Leftovers, Leftovers, Leftovers

So, due to my eyes being bigger than our collective stomachs, there was over half the leg of lamb left even after the huge dinner on sunday and a lunch of it yesterday!

I have to say two words now... don't forget them... Mint mayonnaise...

If you never try anything I suggest here on this blog please try it. Those of you who have will understand me completely. It really is the most luxurious taste combination and a must, an absolute must, when faced with leftover lamb.

Just mix a spoon of mint sauce (mint, sugar, malt vinegar)and add to a large dollop of hellmans mayonnaise....

Eat with a side dish of lamb or potatoes with tomatoes and bread.

If you still have lamb left, which we did - I really did buy enough for a small army - there is the must do inevitable cliche... at christmas, easter... it is inevitable....

Leftover Curry

You'll need

Leftover meat

Leftover vegetables if any

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 onion

1 chili

1 clove garlic

handful of coriander

1 tsp curry powder

100mls cream


Fry the onion until soft. In a mini chopper (or on a mezzaluna) chop the herbs, chili and garlic together until in tiny pieces. Add to the onions. Pour on the tin of tomatoes. Stir in the curry powder.

Add the cooked meat and vegetables to the sauce. Simmer on low heat for about five minutes.

Stir boiled rice with boiled couscous and serve with the curry.

So that was our lamb used up! Nothing left but some gristle and some bone! And I can tell you there was someone else who was very very glad of it!


Eggs part one

I want to write something about eggs. A particular friend of mine (you know who you are!) is constantly teasing me about how picky I am when it comes to eggs. Not in "how do you like them?" at all - serve em up to me anyway but burned and I'm a happy bunny, no my fuss starts and ends with the buying of them. In one sentence - THERE IS A DIFFERENCE!

The first I realised this was when my aunt began to keep hens and one day presented me with a neat little parcel containing three eggs. One tiny blue one, one white golfball like one and one dull brown but with an amazing sheen. Not knowing what to do I basically boiled them and served them with toast. First bite and my life with eggs on the menu changed forever! The taste! The colour! It was an epiphany! No run of the mill regular eggs for me! I refuse to live my life with run of the mill bland eggs - with or without free range on the lid! Now I look for organic free range at least! The happier the hen, the nicer the egg! It makes such a difference - and for baking? well once you try good eggs in a sponge cake nothing less will ever do again!!

At the moment I am favouring an egg called a Sillan ór - Superquinn do them, 6 for €2.99c - they are from corn fed chickens and in my opinion the nearest you'll get to a backyard fed on love hens egg that if you're ever lucky enough to get your mouth around grab them and run!

Eggs part two

This is what greeted us in our kitchen when we came down this morning. It is the result of my daughter Marys huge family - two nanas, a greatnana, a granddad, eight uncles and two aunts!!

Even poor Mary groaned under the weight of all that chocolate and so we set about making a list of things we could do with it, other than eat it as it is! We decided first that the bars and sweets contained within the eggs should be kept in a jar and thought about at another time. The eggs would, over the next week, become a confection of home made sweets to give to loved ones, and a myriad of chocolate cakes. She squealed with delight when I told her that yesterdays Raspberry Mmmms could be done with milk chocolate as well!

But for starters I handed her the bain marie and we set about making a nice cup of chocolate milk!

In a bain marie melt a half an easter egg, when melted mix in a cup of cold milk, stir like mad until its melted - Enjoy!


Happy Easter!

Easter Sunday! I love an excuse to prepare a feast! So for today I ordered a leg of lamb and stocked up on luxury ingredients - the channel island double cream, the madagascan vanilla, the french butter, the best wine... Christmas and Easter, thats when we go all out and it really makes the special days special!

So with my nearest and dearest sitting happily around a decorated table, I served up our first course...

Velvet Squash Soup
(this is beyond easy and a great starter when you've guests as you can make it in advance and reheat)

You'll need

1 Butternut Squash
4 cloves garlic
500mls chicken stock


Split the squash in two, and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and place in a roasting dish. Split the garlic cloves and place them in the hollow of each piece of squash. Pop into a hot oven (200c) and roast the bejesus out of them, until they are so soft the flesh will come away from the skin without much pressure.

Scoop the roasted flesh out and into your food processor or into a jug if you're using a hand blender. Pour on the stock. Blend until smooth and velvety.

Add salt and pepper to taste, cream if you like and a pinch of parmesan if you have it.

So everyone tucked in, this soup really appeals to all!

Main course time, so we opened a bottle of our favorite special occasion wine...

Easy Peasy Leg of Lamb

Order from a butcher, he will give you the right size for the amount of bellies!

You'll need

Leg of Lamb

Olive oil

Sea salt

Rosemary sprigs

Clove of garlic


Rub your lamb with the olive oil. Halve the clove of garlic and rub the oiled meat with it. Spear the leg all over with a sharp knife and stick the rosemary sprigs into the holes.

Roast at 190c/210c until the juices run clear-ish! (My oven took 2 and a half hours)

Serve with roasted potatoes (add them to the roasting tin about a half an hour after the lamb, but par boil them first and shake them around a bit to be sure of crispy edges!) and cabbage! I always add cream and a bit of onion puree to cabbage on special occasions, ! Don't forget the mint sauce and of course the gravy - I made todays with the juices from the lamb, a cup of boiling water, two tsps redcurrant jelly and a tbsp of bisto which may not appeal to the food snobs out there but I really think bisto makes the best gravy!

So the tums were almost full, the lamb had turned out perfectly, just pink in the middle and crispy on the outside.

All we needed now was dessert!

Lets call these,

Raspberry Mmmms....

You'll need

200gms white chocolate (use green and blacks organic if you can)

200mls double cream

200mls creme fraiche

handful fresh raspberries

chocolate flake.

Sit the white chocolate in a bain marie until melted. Take it off the heat then and stir in the creme fraiche, the chocolate may seize but keep stirring - it'll be fine. Add the cream.

Plop into serving glasses (looks gorgeous in any wine glass) and refridgerate.

Just before serving pop in a few raspberries and sprinkle with crumbled flake.



Simnel Cake

I love making Simnel cake, there are so many stages to it but yet its so easy! Its such a quirky little cake as well, with the apostles atop! Mine is always lop-sided (wonky cooker) and looking a bit sorry, but the smell through the house and the eating of it is anything but sorry or wonky! I often make this during the year but leave the apostles out altogether.

Easter Simnel Cake (adapted from Nigella Lawsons fruit cake)

You'll need

100gms fat sultanas
100gms glace cherries
100gms dried pears (they have these in tesco)
Cup of white rum

150gms marzipan plus another 100gms for topping

50gms ground almonds
175gms plain flour
100gms caster sugar
100gms soft butter
2 lge egg
zest 1 lemon
tsp orange flower water (m+s do this)

17cm cake tin


The night before put all the fruit into a bowl with the rum and cover. Dice the marzipan and
put it in a freezer bag in the freezer!

The next day preheat your oven to 150c degrees-ish then blitz the rest of the ingredients in a food processor. Stir in the fruit, and the marzipan. Plop into a greased, lined cake tin and bake for about an hour and a half.

Check it after an hour just in case, depending on your oven!

When its just ready, roll a rough circle of marzipan and make eleven or twelve little balls as well (some people leave judas out, I don't). Brush the top of the cake with jam or marmalade and stick the circle on. Stick the little balls around it. Pop it back into the oven for about five minutes or until the marzipan is crispy and golden.

Leave this cake for up to a week wrapped in parchment in an airtight tin, like all fruit cakes it'll slice better if left a while. Or if you're like me and don't care about crumbs, slice what you can and spoon the fallen bits while still warm into a bowl to be picked at by all!


Good Friday Fish Pie

for four (or two large, one medium and one small)

2 Salmon darnes
1 fillet of cod
Small fillet of smoked haddock
1 onion
handful frozen peas
handful cooked carrot
clove garlic
150/200mls double cream
English mustard

Mashed potato


Place all the fish into a large bowl and cover with just boiled water. Cover and leave. When the fish is opaque, its cooked. If you're not happy and the waters cooled, just pour more boiled water on until you are happy!

Flake the fish into a deep dish and add pepper and a bit of salt.

Finely chop the onion, celery and garlic and fry till soft. Add the peas and the cooked carrots. Add the cream and tsp of english mustard. Taste and season.

Cook for five minutes and then pour over the fish. Top with the mashed potato and cook for twenty minutes in a hot oven (190c) until golden.


Thanks mom!

After my blog on the delights of Afternoon Tea, my dear mother has presented me with this amazing tea set!

Aren't I lucky!

Very 'Gosford Park'!



The air that we breathe...

Sometimes it is the soul that needs feeding, and company of like minds is good fodder indeed. So today, even though my plan was to mope around the house, eating chocolate (St Patricks Day being an unofficial day off lent!) and watching the twee Oirish films on tv, an impromptu invite to see the parade in Wicklow, with the lovely Roches, was a welcome one.

I love Greystones. Both of us do... It suits the life we would like to be living and can't where we are, stuck on the side of a hill with construction everywhere we look and the type of neighbours that belong on american chat shows. Greystones is the place for us. We've been to see a house there, and the plan would be to move into something similar next year. It is such a lovely authentic place and there is nothing nicer than a walk around its perimeter followed by a cup of coffee outside the Happy Pear with dear C.

The parade was on today though so no walk, nor happy pear, but instead we sent the 'tweeners off by themselves while we plopped down on a grass verge to watch the smorgasbord of floats pass us by.
The 'tweeners

Watching the parade!

It was lovely to breathe in the strong sea air, watching the floats and chatting about anything and everything.

Then we walked up through the seaside town, to net our young folk, red cheeks from their first taste of independance and as C put it "an inch taller" from it.

There was a smell of chips in the air so we were all hungry by the time we got back to C's for tea and a spot of lunch.

Talk about hitting the spot! Tea, lots of bread and butter, and sausages! A few tempters for idle hands, olives, tortillas, nuts... and a gorgeous caesar salad! Just perfect! C always finds the nicest olives, the best bread - even tea tastes nicer in her house! The sausages were Quorn, something I haven't tried before, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised - very tasty considering they never spent any time on four legs, they were like mild hotdogs. Nice to know it is possible to be a veggie without having to forgoe the sausage sandwich which has to be one of the nicest things known to man, and the only sure hangover cure.

The older kids grabbed sausages in hunks of bread and headed out into the garden which is endless due to being parked on the edge of a nature reserve, while I enjoyed the delicious spread and good genuine conversation, intermittant with seeking out my adventurous toddler from his travels.

A lovely lovely day! Thanks to Ciara, Ru, Finn, Ed, and Billy!


Goodbye to Winter...

There are mornings when the light thrown through my bedroom window plays cruel tricks on me, and I leap out of (or up and off) my bed thinking its finally a sunny spring day, and it isn't. This morning was one of those.

Don't misunderstand me, I actually like blustery cold rainy days, nothing that a nice fire, good book and copius amounts of tea won't fix. I even enjoy those mad dashes to the car in stormy weather, I love the feeling of hard rain in my face, my long hair caught in the swirling wind and ending up wrapped around my head in a turban. Its something to look forward to as winter storms in!

However, its supposed to be mild now. Has mother earth forgotten? I'll send her my tourist guide to Ireland where it says - Dublin in the springtime is mild and warm with intermittent showers of light rain.

So its hard to be enthusiastic about these unseasonal storms we're having. Especially when my house is on the side of a hill and sometimes feels like its about to lift off!

Reading some of my favorite bloggers muse about the wonders of springtime where they are has made my impatience grow lately. I find myself tut tutting at the rivets of water on the window, leaving my jacket at home in utter defiance of the non season!

I am physically craving the fresh breath of spring... but it hasn't started for me... no daffodils in my garden, no buds on the tree and the local squirrel seems to be still asleep, i haven't seen him anyway. The night is a hissing screaming banshee and the crisp icy bite in the air doesn't bode well for family walks... so Bill is like a coiled spring, his sitting quietly reserves are running seriously low. And all the food in the pantry is for stews, soups and casseroles... I'm itching to make light fresh food for my family, to hear the satisfying squeaky crunch of spring vegetables between their teeth but I can't bring myself to when it looks and feels like it may snow any minute!!!

Then just as I thought I had somehow found my way through the wardrobe where it would remain winter eternally, on my way out to the car in scarf and hat, I spied it... A lovely daffodil. Sitting tucked into the bush in the corner.

Suddenly the rain faded to a bare patter, my little finch family hopped across to fight over their peanuts and a blast of sunshine threw itself across onto my face for a second or two.


Asparagus and Lemon Risotto

200gms risotto rice
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
Glass white wine
1 litre chicken stock
Extra water if needed

Soften the onion in olive oil,and add the asparagus and the rice, stirring until translucent. Add the spring onions and the white wine, reduce.
Add the lemon juice and some of the stock, stir until the liquid is absorbed, add more liquid.
Keep adding stock, or additional water until you are happy with the texture of the rice.
Stir through the lemon zest, a knob of butter and some parmesan...

Springtime in a bowl!


I heart...

I heart...

I love-love-love Olive magazine, it is the most inspiring read for any food lover - although the recipes themselves can sometimes be a bit flat!

You learn to distinguish the faff from the finds recipe wise with food magazines I find! However it is an amazing magazine if you enjoy finding inspiration in food articles or pictures, if you, like I, look through cookbooks for hours but rarely follow the recipe to the letter, Olive mag is for you!

I got the April issue yesterday and it was dreamy... a whole section on Afternoon Tea which is one of my favorite things in the world!! I love the idea of tea cups and dainty eating of dainty things, its a very feminine experience!
I love the politeness and smallness of the food served at Afternoon Tea, and I love the "Englishness" of it! Having always secretely admired the English culture of church fetes and tearooms, it allows the child in me to once again play at being "proper".
Having Afternoon Tea makes me feel like I should be wearing a hat, and I love it! I want to play Cole Porter music and clip my words when I speak. It evokes images of steam covered station platforms, waving hankies and soldiers uniforms, of seamed stockings, pencil skirts and
netted eyes... There is something about images of England in the war torn 40s that are so romantic, so heartbreaking and moving.
Afternoon Tea encapsulates that feeling for me! In its essence its such a female thing, such a girly idea, and I love having tea with my girlfriends but I find it incredibly romantic too - I love the idea of sitting by a huge open window, while rain falls outside on long green lawns, my man reading a newspaper, me reading him... with a dainty white clothed table, pots of tea and an array of fondant coloured cakes and tiny crustless sandwiches to pick from! Nothing sounds nicer...
I absolutely must persuade Bill to bring me to Hunters Hotel, which Ciara tells me does the best Afternoon tea in Ireland! Tiny sandwiches, petit fours, tea... seriously what sounds better than that? If you've never had it, you MUST! Watch 'Brief Encounter' first though so you're in the right mood!
Funny how something so twee and girly can be so romantic to me, but you know what they say - in the most simple flowers lie the strongest perfume! ;-)


Its me bread and butter!

I had baked bread yesterday, more out of a need to use up some flour coming up to its sell by than anything, and when I woke up today I was still had the baking buzz. This hits me maybe once every few weeks and the house will be filled to brim with all manner of baked goods - much to my own downfall, but this time it has been breads I've been turning my hand to. I made chili garlic hearthbread, a foccacia and Mary dearest made some lovely soda bread. All eaten in one sitting.

Then this morning, when I knew dear C was on her way, I whipped up a batch of our favorite Nigella scones, forgetting that C has really had to stop eating wheat, so I was left with 16 huge white scones to dispose of myself. That still didn't satisfy my baking buzz and so later on I threw the last of the flour into a bowl and made the cutest little white loaf.

By the time dinner came to being made I couldn't face another stir of a spoon... So I threw a few burgers on the grill, fried a few eggs and boiled up potatoes with puy lentils. It was a mish mosh of "must use this week" foods and I was not too sure about the flavours! All served up with fresh baked bread and my own homemade butter!

It was lovely and tasty thank God, not one word was said as the four of us licked away the salty yellow yoke from our lips and wiped our plates clean with soft white buttered bread...

Bread and Butter

For the butter, you'll need 1 cup of double cream poured into a clean jar or flask with a wide rim. If you happen to have a flavour shaker use this, with the ball removed.

Making butter is so easy, just shake the cream in the jar and you'll hear it go from slooshing to plopping, then to nothing as the cream is as whipped as it can be... keep shaking and suddenly you'll hear a slooshing again. When you look into the jar there it will be, a little ball of butter! Squeeze the butter rid of any milk and there you have it! Add salt to taste!

Plain white loaf

You'll need 500gms plain flour, sachet of instant yeast, 300mls of warm water with 2 tbsp of olive oil added, 2 tsps sugar and 1 of salt.

Sift flour, yeast, salt and sugar into bowl. Add the water and stir with a wooden spoon until its raggy but clumping together. Tip onto a floured surface and knead until stretchy and smooth (about 10 mins or so) - pop back into the bowl, cover with a tea towel and put in a warm corner for about 2 hours. WHen you return it'll be doubled its size and you can now enjoy punching it to deflate! Then turn it out again, knead for a couple of minutes and then back in the bowl and cover again for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 230degreesC. After this time, pop it onto a floured oven tray and shape it into a sausage shape. Push the sides upwards to make a small ridge under the loaf ( like a cartoon loaf). Pop in the oven for 15 minutes, turn it bottom up and leave for another 10 minutes. Then turn once more to really brown the top before turning onto a wire tray to cool.

The smell through the house alone makes this worth the wait!


Sweet Sweetest Sweet...

My daughter is an amateur confectioner. When she was 4 she asked santa for a chocolate factory and set about making chocolate bars wrapped in gold paper for everyone she knew. Then it was onto the most irresistable rocky road, which I could eat a plateful of without a blink... she has a knack for "just the right amount of sweetness"...

She has been dreaming about making Turkish delight (her absolute favorite sweet) and has been begging me to look online for a proper sugar thermometor which she can buy with her paypal vouchers she got for her birthday!! She is the funniest thing!

Her latest thing is fondants. Give her a chance and she'll whip up a bagful of peppermint creams or chocolate covered orange creams... What I enjoy most is the splogey child-made sweets, no ceremony, just bish bash bosh and on to the next batch.

Recently, for mothers day, she spied some leftover lemon juice I had from the cakes I'd made, and asked me for it. Within a few minutes she handed me one of her creations, a dark chocolate lemon cream. It was divine. Really divine.

Later on she expressed an interest in heading into this field full time, I suppose my chocolate covered face spurned her ambition... Is there a course to become a chocalatier? I must look into it.

Marys Lemon Creams

You'll need:

100gms dark chocolate

Juice of 1 lemon

1 egg white

Icing sugar (about 250gms-ish)

Marys instructions:

Stir the egg whites very fast until 'fuzzy' (frothy) and then sift in as much icing sugar to make a thick paste. Add lemon juice, teaspoon by teaspoon, until you can smell it. Then add more of the sugar until the mix is able to make a ball between your fingers. Make a little ball just the size of a marble. Then make lots of them.

Melt the chocolate in your fondue or pot. Drop the little ball in and take it out with a teaspoon when its covered. Let it dry on a baking paper covered tray.


Tried and Tested...

The temptation with dinner parties is to try something new but I've learned the hard way that this can end in tears, okay so a good mix of people, good wine and at least palatable food is all you need for a good night but it can be a huge success with a really tasty and easy dish. No-one enjoys a night where the host is running around in a flap trying to reign in a wildly complicated meal! The best things to serve at dinner parties are meditteranean style suppers - the pastas, the risottos... served with plenty of bread, wine and a killer dessert! you can jazz it up with new and interesting flavours, and expensive ingredients, but the basic is the same, something you could make blindfolded...that way your stress levels are nil, and you know it'll work out!

So with Bills friend Derek coming for dinner last night I brought out my tried and tested fool proof paella... I watched this being made by my landlady when living in Seville years ago and although I never had a recipe I just basically remembered what she had done, I've tweaked it over the years and it really is lovely, good tasty food.

It never ever fails me...

PAELLA for 4

You'll need:

A heavy based pan, I have a paella pan which is a good investment and doubles up as a frying pan, it also makes killer crepes!


300gms paella rice (or short grain)

1 Red pepper, chopped

1 Onion, chopped

Handful frozen peas

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 breasts chicken

1 small chorizo sausage

8 prawns

Some squid rings (I cook these before hand so they don't get too rubbery!)

1 litre chicken/fish/vegetable stock

Glass of sherry/madeira

Half teaspoon saffron.


Soften the onion and peppers in the hot oiled pan and add the crushed garlic and the chicken. When the chicken is almost cooked stir in the rice, when has become translucent-ish add the madeira and the peas.

Add some of the stock now and the saffron and watch as it turns a lovely yellow!

Keep adding the stock until the rice is cooked, I like it with a slight bite but its all personal preference. When it is just cooked add your prawns, when they are pink take the paella off the heat and stir in the squid and the chorizo!

Serve in the pan and allow your guests to help themselves!


Love from Peru...

Paddington Bear's Chocolate Squares


250gms Unsalted Butter

200gms Darkest chocolate (I love M&S darkest chocolate, which by the way is made from peruvian coco beans so is perfect for Paddington Bear!!)

300gms Caster sugar

4 eggs

450 gms Marmalade

300gms Self raising flour (add a pinch of salt!)

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan, and remove it from the heat when its melted. Stir the chocolate through until melted. Add the sugar. Add the eggs. Stir through half the marmalade until completely melted, then add the flour. Then take the other half of the marmalade and stir it through but not completely, try and leave clots of it through the batter.

Pour into a lined brownie tray and cook for approx 40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, then turn out and cut into squares.

Eat with a hot cup of milky coffee when toddlers are sleeping for maximum enjoyment.

I also use this recipe to make individual little cakes for dinner parties, but I add a teaspoon of rose water which makes them taste like turkish delight! They always go down very well served hot with a peach coulis and a scoop of vanilla ice cream!!



I made yesterdays Kedgeree today. Its Bills number one comfort food, it reminds him of being little and of his mother. Like many foods, I'd never eaten it before I met Bill, and the first bowl of it I ever had I cooked myself, and it was curiously satisfying. Curious being the operative word. I'm not sure if I actually like it, or whether it is just so weird that it cannot be left alone.

I had no recipe the first time I made it, and I think our computer was out of order, because I completely winged it... and it worked so I still make it the same way.

Here is my recipe for Kedgeree.

Serves 4

250 grams basmati rice

2 good sized smoked haddock fillets

1 onion, chopped

1 fresh chilli, thinly sliced or 1 tsb of pickled jalepeno

2 Tsp mild curry powder

250mls milk

2 boiled eggs

Cook the rice according to the packet.

In a pan, fry the onion along with the chili until soft. Take the pan off the heat and add the milk, leave to infuse. Place the haddock into a deep bowl and pour just boiled water over it. Leave until the flesh has turned white and flakes easily from the bone.

Fluff the rice in its pan and add the cooked onion, pepper and milk and stir through. Put back onto the heat and sprinkle the curry powder and salt and pepper to taste. Stir the fish through.

This is nicest if let go cold and then stirred over a heat when needed! Chop the boiled eggs up finely, its best if you can get the yolk to crumble. Place on the table in a bowl as you would parmesan to sprinkle on the top. We put creme fraiche on ours sometimes instead, which is really good!!


Sweet Potaytah...

I usually have a fair idea what I'm making for the dinner by around 12 noon, usually due to Bill ringing me wanting to know so he can "think about it all day"!!

However today, when I realised I hadn't taken the haddock out of the freezer, nor had I any rice, my plans for kedgeree were scuppered. I looked into the vegetable rack and this is what I saw... A sweet pepper, four shallots and three large sweet potatoes. There was no meat in my fridge, no tins of tomatoes, no onions even... I really had dropped the ball.

In the fridge there was a small remnant of parmesan, the end of a bottle of white, half a pound of butter.

What on earth could I make with that?

I roasted the sweet potatoes to start off, still not sure what to do...

Then I got a vague memory of seeing a recipe for pasta with sweet potatoes and a beurre blanc sauce. Beurre blanc, thats wine and butter right? So here is what I did... It was surprisingly nice!
Sweet Potato Pasta

Serves 3 1/2 people

3 or 4 Sweet potatoes

3 cloves garlic, halved

350g wholewheat spaghetti

4 shallots, finely chopped

125g butter

glass white wine

handful parsley, chopped

olive oil

First peel and chop the sweet potatoes. Place them in a cold roasting tin, along with the halve cloves of garlic and add enough oil to come halfway up the pieces. Roast in a hot (200degree) oven until the edges are beginning to become black. Put to one side covered with foil.

Cook the wholewheat pasta according to the packet instructions.

In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon of the butter and add the shallots, stirring until they are soft. Add the parsley and the wine. Reduce by half on a high flame. Take off the heat and stir in cubes of the remaining butter.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Its a strong flavour but don't worry, it just coats the spaghetti and is very subtle when eating.

Stir the sauce through the pasta, top with the roasted sweet potato and some parmesan cheese.



Lemon and Basil Mothers Day Cake!

I love having a reason to bake, and so this year for Mothers day I set about baking cakes for Bills mother and my grandmother (my own mother hasn't much of a sweet tooth - so she got a nice bottle of wine!).

I saw a nice recipe on This Morning and so tried it out on saturday - it was divine! The lemon zest along with mild aniseed of the basil was an amazing combination, and the crunchy poppy seeds gave it great texture. The key to this cake though is the syrup, don't leave it out - it adds the most dreamy smell to the sponge, along with making it lovely and moist. Its essential!

I made two lovely cakes, with fresh flowers for decoration and I am pleased to say they both turned out very well...! They both went down very well too, with a nice hot cup of tea and good company!

Sticky lemon drizzle and poppy seed cake (by Chef Phil Vickery)
Serves 6

175g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
3 whole eggs, beaten
175g self raising flour
1 tbsp shredded fresh basil
Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
4 tbsp water
25g poppy seeds

For the sticky lemon topping
4 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp water
6 tbsp fondant icing sugar
4 tbsp lemon juice, approx

- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease and line a round loose bottomed baking tin.
- Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale, light and fluffy, then gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Fold the flour into the mixture, then stir in the basil, lemon zest, water and poppy seeds. Pour mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes
- Meanwhile, make the sticky topping - heat caster sugar and 3 tbsp water in a pan until the sugar dissolves. Boil for two minutes
- Prick the hot, cooked cake using a skewer (it will have sunk, but don't worry), then pour over the sticky sugar topping
- Leave the cake in the tin until cool, then carefully lift out using the lining paper
- Mix together the fondant icing sugar and lemon juice and spoon over the cake