I think finding something delicious to cook for dinner midweek is one of my biggest challenges. I love these coconut chilli prawn noodles because the basic recipe can be adapted to suit so many different tastes. If you’re a meat eater, you can swap the prawns for chicken, and if you’re a veggie you can leave them out and add things like mushrooms, sliced peppers and sliced green beans (of course, you can still do that anyway). That’s the beauty of this dish. It’s also fab for using up leftovers as you can basically bung any old thing in and it will still taste delicious. It’s also one of those recipes where most of the ingredients can be kept in the cupboard and/or freezer for when you’ve got nothing in. When I buy red chillis, I’ll often freeze any that I think I won’t use and you can basically grate them straight into the dish. The same goes for ginger too. Here’s the basic recipe:
One of the things I’ve really enjoyed since becoming pescatarian is that it’s made me a lot more creative when it comes to choosing what’s for dinner. No more shoving chicken breasts in the oven (which I was guilty of – albeit with different coatings – at least twice a week). I’ve been enjoying reading cookery books and blogs and getting loads of inspiration, and as I’m a pie lover, I thought I would have a go at a more summery version using some smoked haddock I had in the freezer. I’m not usually a cheese with fish fan (I have a long standing debate with a friend about a particularly noxious prawn and feta dish that he loves but I think smells like vomit – sorry), but this haddock and cheddar tart is an exception: the sharp cheese works well with the smoky fish.
It’s no secret that this time of year is my favourite. Wandering through the Chiltern Hills with Lyra, the bees are buzzing, the grass is emerald green and the air has finally warmed up enough for me to discard my parka. We always look out for the first elderflowers: for me, they’re a firm favourite – the scent reminds me of early summer weekends at the cricket club, making elderflower crowns with the clusters of tiny, star-shaped creamy yellow flowers. We’ve spotted some over the last couple of weekends, and Mr E and I are dying to make elderflower tempura with the new blooms. To celebrate elderflower season, I’ve teamed up with Belvoir Fruit Farms to create some delicious elderflower recipes using their lovely range of delicious cordials: some pillowy soft elderflower marshmallows, fragrant elderflower scones and an indulgent elderflower and ginger cheesecake. Read on for the recipes!
So, this week I told you about all the thoughts swirling around in my head about eating meat and why I’m pondering becoming a pescatarian (I haven’t eaten any meat since then, but I still feel that I could forget and go into a restaurant and say ‘I’ll have the steak please’ without even thinking twice). The upside of all this angst is that I’ve been searching around for delicious meat-free recipes to share with the family and I have to say, this one is delicious. In fact, Charlie made my day by saying ‘wow, this is the first time in my whole life I’ve wanted to ask for more cauliflower’! All I did was dip cauliflower in egg and roll in flavoured breadcrumbs, exactly as I would chicken, and then served it with our favourite barbecue sauce (if you can’t be bothered to make the sauce, you could just serve it with bottled sweet chilli) but honestly, whichever way you serve it, it’s a life changer.
Last week, I was on board Celestyal Olympia cruising the Greek islands on assignment for Cruise International. You’ll be able to read my article shortly in the magazine (when I’ve actually finished and submitted it), but one of the things I was really impressed with was the food. We all know that the Mediterranean diet is super healthy, with the emphasis on good fats, fresh vegetables, beans and pulses and of course, all that fabulous fish, and I was bowled over by Greek food. I spend the week eating huge Greek salads, fat olives, fresh fish and vegetables and actually came home 2lb lighter without even trying. I was also fascinated by an article by Sali Hughes that recently appeared in The Pool about her decision to turn vegetarian in her forties. Many of Sali’s reasons echo my own feelings, so as a little experiment, I decided to give up meat while I was on the cruise. And honestly, now I’m really pondering becoming a pescatarian full time.
This is my favourite chocolate cake by far. The sponge is chocolatey and squidgy, and the ganache is really light and fluffy, the combination of which makes for a light, non-sickly but still indulgent dessert, perfect for a celebration. When I made this cake for Sam’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, I was struck by how many people that said ‘wow, there’s no way I could make that’, and ‘you’re so clever’ (I’m really not – if things go wrong, I just smother them in chocolate and nobody complains – I dropped a block of cheese on this one getting it out of the fridge, but I covered it up with more ganache), so I thought I’d write this easy chocolate cake recipe up in a step by step way so you can see just how simple it is to make. And then you’ll all be making it for everyone’s birthday from now on, and everyone will think you’re really clever too. Here goes!
We tend to go through different little food fads in our house. A while ago it was home made pizzas, then it was a gazillion iterations of coconut based curries, and now we’re addicted to empanadas. Think of empanadas as delicious little spiced Cornish pasties. You’ll find them all over Latin America and Spain, stuffed with all sorts of delicious fillings. I tend to fill mine with a dry-ish version of my normal chilli mixture. If you want to go all technical and make proper Chilean empanadas de pino, you’ll need to add raisins, chopped boiled eggs and olives, which, as you can imagine is a stretch too far for the fussier ones in my family, so I stick to a spicy minced beef filling. The dough for these deliciously simple empanadas is fab: really easy to work with and really forgiving – no resting necessary.
I had some pastry left over after wildly overestimating the amount I was going to need for an apple tart, and decided to try my hand making some mini Bakewell tarts. I kid you not, these babies are delicious and were completely demolished in less than five minutes. If you want to go all Mr Kipling, feel free to slather them in really thick icing. I prefer just a drizzle and – of course – a cherry!
Breakfast on a weekday can be a bit of a rushed affair. I don’t generally even bother with breakfast, but if we do anything it will be a quick piece of toast or bowl of cereal. On the weekends, though, we really like to take our time and do a proper family late breakfast/brunch. Often this will be bacon and eggs or pancakes and syrup, but my absolute favourite is our vanilla French toast. The lovely chaps at Prestige sent me one of their fab Dura Forge square grill pans, so I thought it was about time I shared my recipe (it’s not a difficult one, but I have a certain way of doing it) and tried out my swanky new pan at the same time.
I love it when my birthday comes round and I get to make exactly the cake I want. I’ve been planning this chocolate fudge cake with salted caramel icing for a while as I’m a bit obsessed with everything salted caramel at the moment and knew I wanted to make this frosting (icing? I never know what to call it). You can buy the tins of caramel ready made now, which saves you boiling a tin of condensed milk for three hours the old fashioned way and risking first degree burns into the bargain. Take it easy when you’re salting the caramel icing. Start off with a little bit of salt and keep tasting until you get the required balance of sweet/savoury. Too little and it’s just caramel icing, but then too much and the whole cake will taste salty and yucky. This chocolate fudge cake recipe is SO easy – I’m not claiming it as my own, sadly, as I’m pretty sure I copied it down from a magazine years ago, but it’s one I make a lot and it always comes out soft, moist and delicious. I recommend using muscovado sugar as it has the proper, fudgy taste, but use whatever you have.
As the parents of two young lads, one of the charities very close to our hearts is Centre Point, the UK’s leading youth homelessness charity. Centre Point has recently launched a new fundraising initiative, The Big Broth. It’s a competition to find a new and exciting soup recipe. The winning recipe will be put into production by Yorkshire Provender this autumn with 20p from every pot sold going straight back into funding Centre Point’s work with the young homeless in London and other major UK cities. The competition closes very soon (end of this month) and they’re keen to get as many entries in as possible, so if you have a favourite soup recipe, please please take five minutes to enter the competition. It’s such a worthy cause. I’ve entered our new favourite, a slow cooked chicken leg soup which is deliciously warm and tasty, perfect for chilly days or to perk up anyone feeling under the weather.
You know I absolutely love baking, and one of the recipes I’ve been trying to perfect for ages is for proper American style double chocolate muffins. American style muffins tend to be denser and less sweet than cupcakes, and I wanted to make ones that really erupt out of the case like the muffins you buy in bakeries in America. After a fair bit of twiddling, I’m pretty sure I’m there with this one. Oil definitely seems to work better than butter (no, me neither), and as usual with muffins, you need to remember the golden muffin rule: wet into dry and mix as little as you can possibly get away with to avoid developing the gluten (nobody wants a tough muffin). Don’t use huge muffin cases either – you want to fill the cases about 2/3 full so you get the proper volcano-erupting shape.
This week, we had a very special delivery. I’m one of those really sad people who always gets excited when the postie knocks, and this week it was completely justified as we got cake in the post! I know! Meg Rivers is an artisan bakery from the Cotswolds who send all sorts of delicious goodies by post, and they very kindly sent me one of their fabulously retro cherry cakes. It’s deliciously moist, studded with glistening red glacé cherries and a lovely texture too. It’s one of the cakes that they send out as part of the Meg Rivers Cake Club (I mean, forget beauty boxes, I’d much rather get a monthly cake, wouldn’t you?), the perfect pressie and just in time for Mother’s Day too.
One of my biggest challenges is finding things to cook on those days where I’m just rushed off my feet. Often, especially if I’m working on something I’m really enjoying, the boys or Mr E will walk through the door and I’ll realise that I haven’t even had any lunch, let alone worked out what’s for tea. I think it’s really important to have a stock of a few store cupboard essentials that will enable you to quickly whip up a couple of simple, nutritious meals without thinking too hard about it. When Princes sent me the video (see below) for the Moroccan mackerel rice, I couldn’t wait to give it a go – it literally is ready in minutes, and it’s delicious too. I’ve found myself making it quite often for a quick and easy lunch, and we’ve experimented with several of the varieties (my favourite is still the mackerel fillets in a Moroccan style sauce with apricot purée though). The mackerel is skinless and boneless and available in some delicious sauces, so all you have to do is find some quick carbs and veggies to go with it, et voila. Princes also challenged me to come up with my own quick and easy dish using Princes Mackerel. This spiced vegetable, coconut and mackerel stew is warm and comforting and as it’s all made in one saucepan there’s minimal washing up too. I often make this when I’ve got leftover veggies to use up: it’s great with potato, broccoli and carrots too.
I never know how I feel about recipe boxes. I’ve had some good, and I’ve had some very, very bad (think teeny portions and an absolute ton of unnecessary packaging to get rid of). Recently Waitrose have joined the (dinner) party by launching their own recipe box delivery service. Cook Well from Waitrose delivers fresh, portioned ingredients straight to the door. All the meals are approved by a Waitrose nutritionist and most have at least two of your five fruit and veg a day. There’s quite a decent range of dishes, including a range of vegetarian and pescatarian recipes as well as meat options. Waitrose very kindly asked me if I’d like to give Cook Well a go, so I chose three dishes to try out. Here’s how I got on.
You may remember a little while ago, I told you about my favourite little gadget, the Breville Blend Active Pro. It’s perfect for smoothies, purées and sauces because it’s small and neat, but I’ve often thought how nice it would be to have a bit of a bigger receptacle (is that the right word?) so I could use it for soups and stuff like that without having to haul out my enormous blender/liquidiser. Well, happy days are here, because there’s now a fab new Blend Active accessory pack which includes a whole bunch of attachments that allow it to do loads more stuff: whip cream, process larger amounts of food, grind herbs, and even juice fruit! Breville set me a little challenge to come up with a delicious hummus recipe using the Blend Active Pro and new accessory pack, and I had great fun playing with flavours. I think you’ll like this Moroccan spiced hummus with spiced roasted chickpeas – and I’m still thinking about ways to make it even more delicious (see notes at the end).
- Become a #plasticsaction hero with Sir David Attenborough June 23, 2018
- The hush summer sale is here! June 21, 2018
- Visiting Walt Disney World with toddlers June 19, 2018
- Come shopping with me: swim and beachwear from M&S June 16, 2018
- Coconut chilli prawn noodles June 14, 2018