Our lovely neighbours are complete barbecue fanatics. As soon as there’s even a hint of nice weather, the most delicious smells start wafting through from their garden, making me really want a barbecue. I think the thing that’s holding us back is the thought of buying a big, expensive barbecue and then never using it, so last week we went out and bought one of those really cute, cheap little bucket barbecues to have a try without spending too much money. The lovely chaps at Very Lazy had, coincidentally, sent me a couple of their handy jars so I thought I’d start simply with a few sausages and a tasty maple and ginger barbecue chicken, using the Very Lazy jars of chopped ginger and chopped red chillies .
So did you know that Sunday was International Picnic Day? Luckily the weather was absolutely gorgeous so it was easy to get outside and do some alfresco snacking. Of course planning the perfect picnic really shouldn’t include limp sandwiches and sweaty salads – I think the key to an impressive picnic is to mix a few things you’ve made yourself with a selection of ready made bits and bobs, blurring the edges so nobody quite knows which is which. I’ve been trying out a few items from Tesco’s brand new Mediterranean-inspired Deli range, and they fit the bill perfectly: you can eat many of the items hot or cold, and there are loads of tasty little bits and pieces perfect for eating with your fingers.
Last week, I mentioned my need for a few little calming rituals, like my coconut chai tea. My brain is particularly whizzy at the moment (hence, I went to my first yoga class this week – and loved it), and if I’m up really early, I quite like to go downstairs, say hi to the dog and have a little potter in the kitchen. At the moment I’m a bit obsessed with baking bread – I tend to bake two loaves at a time, using my standard, lazy recipe (which doesn’t involve any kneading at all). I’ve mentioned before that rye is really good for you – I don’t make 100% rye bread, which we find too strong, but when mixed with white flour, this is our absolute favourite. Another bonus of home made bread is that it lasts ages when compared to shop bought, which seems to go mouldy very quickly. This particular recipe has rosemary added, which is surprisingly delicious. Here’s how to do it:
I love pottering about in the kitchen; I find stirring, chopping, rolling and mixing completely therapeutic – that kind of mindless manual labour that’s both soothing and uncomplicated (although I mostly do the kneading in the KitchenAid, if I’m honest – I’m far too lazy for that). There’s only one thing that makes pottering nicer, and that’s the chatter of people. One of my favourite evenings is a weekend night when the boys are both home, maybe with friends/girlfriends in tow and we have an impromptu pizza night. I can only fit two at a time in the oven, so there’s a whole pizza production line going on, with people chatting and munching – I love it. My one photograph – snapped before someone grabbed a slice – is completely rubbish (I’ll rephotograph it, I promise) but I wanted you to experience this lovely, fun family evening as soon as possible. Here’s my foolproof, easy home made pizza recipe, that you can jazz up/double up as much as you wish:
Where’s your head at? I feel like mine’s usually like the scene in the Wizard of Oz (it’s a twister!’) where Dorothy bangs her head and then everything starts lifting off the ground and whooshing past the window. If, like me, you feel your thoughts and tasks and mental to do lists all start to become too much, I’d like to recommend a little ritual. Something that I find comforting and grounding, especially when I’m really busy. I’ve started to replace my morning cuppa with a coconut chai tea. I take my time, stirring the ingredients together and really trying to clear my head, then take it back to bed and sip it slowly.
So it’s just dawned on me, after all the excitement of Florida, that I’ve totally missed out one of the birthday cakes: the birthday chocolate orange cheesecake! You all know about the birthday challenge, right? The birthday person gets to choose whatever birthday cake/dessert they want (within reason – I don’t do novelty cakes, I’m too cack handed), and I make it for them. I told you about Sam’s birthday lemon meringue pie, but then completely missed out Charlie’s chocolate orange cheesecake. This didn’t start well as I tried everywhere to find Terry’s Chocolate Oranges in all our local shops and supermarkets and just couldn’t find any, so I had to settle for Lindor Truffles. Still, it all turned out okay. Here’s how I made it:
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll see that over the weekend I was chatting about the ‘birthday challenge’. I’m not sure how this started but it’s been going on since the boys were really small. In our family, whenever it’s anyone’s birthday, they get to choose the birthday cake/dessert of their dreams – anything at all – and I promise to cook it for them. When the boys were small, they were always begging for novelty cakes way beyond my level of expertise: Buzz Lightyear and Power Rangers, then when they turned into little pre-teen smart-arses, it was always something really, really complicated – they would research for hours and come back with requests for things they thought were really exotic (my favourite was Sam’s request for a black forest gateau – I’m not even sure he knew what it was). Now, though, it’s all about requesting a big, yummy dessert and that suits me just fine. Sam’s birthday is on Tuesday, and I promised I’d do the birthday challenge last weekend as I’m away again next week (exploring Kissimmee, St Pete and Clearwater – I can’t wait). I was pretty chuffed when his request was for lemon meringue pie too – one of my favourites.
I’m so looking forward to this weekend! After a busy few weeks, it’s time to kick back and enjoy a lovely few days with the family. It’s Charlie’s birthday so we’re planning to head out on Sunday for brunch and I’m fully intending on spending Saturday baking hot cross buns and scoffing chocolate – let’s hope it stays nice and sunny! If you’re entertaining this weekend, I’ve got loads of recipes for you, including big roast dinners, delicious desserts, baking and – of course – hot cross buns! For this big Easter roundup, I’ve also picked a few of my favourite sweet treats, just in case you haven’t chosen your chocolate stash yet. Enjoy!
I’m so ready for Easter! The clocks have gone back and there are new shoots and beautiful trees full of blossom everywhere you look (and obviously there’s the whole chocolate egg thing to consider). There’s something about this time of year that just brings the kid out in all of us, isn’t there? Daffodils, the smell of the mown grass, Easter egg hunts and hot cross buns – it’s one of my favourite times of year and reminds me so much of my childhood. This Easter, Sainsbury’s is celebrating never growing up, so it’s a happy coincidence that one of my favourite sharing dishes is a twist on another childhood favourite: fish fingers, chips and peas. These delicious salmon fish fingers are a great recipe for feeding a crowd, as you can just double, or even triple the recipe, and it’s also a really great way to encourage the kids to eat a bit more fish too. I’ve swapped the usual potatoes for sweet potatoes, and created a delicious, fresh mint, pea and yoghurt dip for dunking too.
You know me, I LOVE to bake. I go through spells of obsessing about things: recently it’s been fresh bread (including these yummy iced buns), all sorts of different flavoured brownies, and muffins, especially breakfasty ones. It’s funny how things change but at one stage the boys would happily scoff a big breakfast in the morning: eggs on toast, bacon sandwiches… that type of thing. Recently, they’re not as keen (probably because they’re always late) and I hate the thought of them going out into the world with empty stomachs. Bring on the breakfast muffin: easy grab and go food, and not too hideously bad for them (better than a McDonald’s breakfast, no doubt). I absolutely love the flavour combo of these fresh orange and dark chocolate muffins, although obviously you could add things like blueberries or chopped banana instead (I only add a scant 75g anyway).
I’ve had a think about it, and I’ve decided that having Mother’s Day and my birthday on the same day is the way to go. I appreciate it’s not something I can dictate, but it made for such a wonderful weekend – full of my favourite people, some delicious food, and many laughs – that I think I’m going to try and swing it from now on. We started the Mother’s Day/birthday weekend (or should that be the Motherbirthday weekend?) with a trip to the cinema to see Beauty and the Beast. Oh, I loved it – I adore Emma Watson anyway and Beauty and the Beast has long been my favourite Disney movie, so the combination of the two of them, along with my three favourite men plus being able to sip a glass of wine (the Odeon MK has a gallery area where you can order a drink before your film) while I was watching was possibly the best thing ever.
I’ve been fiddling around a lot lately with this recipe. The boys have (mostly) been willing testers, although one of the batches tasted ‘kinda like chocolate pizza’, which wasn’t really the result I was aiming for. What I have been aiming for is a really soft white finger roll – you know, like the ones you buy in a bakery, smothered in gooey icing. I think the best ingredient in getting these soft iced buns as light as possible is actually time – they need to rise slowly, then be shaped, then rise slowly again. The perfect rainy-day occupation, then. And there have been quite a few of those recently (although yesterday I made them while the sun was shining and the kitchen door was open – and that’s good too.) Read more
I’m just not really a breakfast person. I’ve tried hard to change this, but the most I generally eat before about 11am are copious cups of tea and maybe a biscuit or a banana. So when Breville came along with their Blend Active Diary Challenge, bandying about phrases like ‘a smoothie a day’, and phrases like ‘lesser used vegetables’ and ‘superfoods’, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t enjoy my challenge week. Still, I’m always up for a bit of experimentation, and let’s face it, an entire healthy meal in a glass sounds like a lazy person’s dream come true. Here’s how I got on:
I’ve had this recipe for ages. It’s my go-to for any time when I want to make a quick Sunday lunch dessert (or if I need to take something relatively impressive to someone else’s house). Every so often I think that I should properly write the recipe out for you (piecing together the scribbles from my recipe notes), and guess what – I’ve finally got round to it! This easy biscuit pie crust is literally just pressed into the baking tin, and the filling can be as simple as a tin of cherry pie filling, or just some grated dessert apples (I’ve given some more suggestions below). Here’s how to make a really easy cherry pie with an easy biscuit pie crust.
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but Korean food is having a bit of a moment. It’s not a cuisine I’ve really explored but I keep reading about it, and it turns out that Korean food is really healthy and colourful, with lots of vegetables and simply cooked, good quality meat forming the basis of many dishes. I tried a Korean crispy lamb recipe from Simply Beef and Lamb, and it’s so easy, it can be on the table in about twenty minutes. This dish uses Gochujang (Korean chilli paste), which I was initially a bit worried about tracking down, but it turns out you can buy it in Waitrose and loads of places online. If you can’t find any, just use any other punchy chilli paste. As usual when choosing lamb, I always look out for a quality mark like the Red Tractor logo – I need to know that it’s responsibly produced, and the logo tells you that you’re buying farm assured, quality meat).
Here at number one, we say everything with cake. Passed an exam? Congratulations, here’s a cake. Miserable because it’s cold and rainy? Have some cake. Birthday? Christmas? Just because? It’s always cake. So when the lovely people at Denby asked me to create something special to celebrate their latest collection, Natural Canvas, and, as Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, well, it had to be a cake, right? A romantic one. And you can’t honestly get more romantic than this strawberry and Cointreau layer cake with coconut cream: it’s light, fluffy, fruity and sweet, whilst managing to be just a teeny bit intoxicating, a bit squishy, and more than a tad eat-with-your-fingers messy . The perfect match.
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