Monday, 18 September 2017


It has been quite a shaky weekend after the terror attack on Friday. I have always been quite blasé in the past and never expected anything like this to happen in the little bubble of London where we live. I was at my daughter's school attending a PTA meeting when we heard the news of an explosion just down the road. The school and police were amazing and we were in lockdown within minutes. I felt completely safe and looked after however as time has passed, reality has sunk in, and our family have realised what a scary world we live in. 

Anyway I have been trying to explain to my 9 year old Arabella that we can't let the baddies win and instead we need to make the most of each moment and practise an "attitude of gratitude". Therefore it was a weekend of indulgence......Diner Style Chilli on Friday night, afternoon tea at the Langham on Saturday and then these meatballs on the Sunday (plus lots of donuts, ice cream and sweets in between)! This recipe is from Fay Ripley's first book, it took about an hour and ten minutes to make and is baby friendly.

Ingredients for 4 people:

For the meatballs:
60g fresh breadcrumbs
500g lean minced beef
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, finely grated
50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated (plus more for serving)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 medium eggs, beaten
Plain or spelt flour for coating
Olive oil

For the sauce:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
Olive oil
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
250ml low salt vegetable stock
2 tbsp red split lentils

To serve:
400g pasta or mashed potato or fresh baguette

Put the breadcrumbs, mince, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, Parmesan and nutmeg in a big bowl. Beat the eggs and then mix them in. Using a spoon and your hands, form into balls (about two bites in size) - mine were far too big but I don't think it mattered. Roll in flour and put in the fridge until needed.

Meanwhile make the sauce. In a large pan, fry the onion, celery and carrot over a high heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Next add the chopped tomatoes, puree, stock and lentils and gently simmer for about 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, preheat the oven to 180 C (fan) / 200 C / gas mark 6.

Whilst the sauce is cooking, fry the meatballs in a splash of olive oil, turning until brown on all sides. Keep them moving by shaking the pan so they don't stick. In an ovenproof dish / pan, mix the tomato sauce with the meatballs and then pop into the oven for 25 minutes. Ideally you want to put a lid on the dish / pan but I didn't have one - I don't think it mattered but keep your eye on the food as you don't want it to burn. Don't forget to cook your side if you are having one - we did pasta and it took 10 minutes in salted boiling water.

Once the pasta and meatballs are ready, serve them with a sprinkling of cheese or even a topping of sour cream. Not surprisingly I went for the cheese!

These were really good - not your usual Italian meatballs as you can clearly taste the lemon and thyme which goes wonderfully together. We all really enjoyed them especially Olympia - she actually preferred the meatballs to the pasta which I was most pleased about as I often worry she does not eat enough red meat. I loved the fact the sauce is packed with vegetables too. Another successful recipe from Fay. We froze the leftovers for Olympia although I was thinking I might have them myself with some garlic bread - a perfect autumnal supper.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017


I am sure I have mentioned before that I am a HUGE Reese's peanut butter cup fan. In fact my greatest food find of this year is the Reese's chocolate peanut butter has revolutionised our weekend breakfasts as the whole family loves it. In fact I rarely had breakfast I can't get enough....which is really not good for my figure especially as I have it with both baguette and butter! 

Anyway my daughter Bella and I made a board on Pinterest last week dedicated just to Reese's and this is one of the recipes we came across. It was very easy to make, it took about 15-20 minutes and then needed to be chilled in the fridge overnight. 

Ingredients for 25 squares:

397g tin condensed milk
300g white chocolate
200g peanut butter
25g butter (can be salted or unsalted)
100g icing sugar, sifted
Around 200g mini Reese's peanut butter cups
Around 150g Reese's Pieces (You can add more or less if you want)

Line a tin/dish with baking paper. The recipe recommends one that is 9 x 9" however mine was 10 x 7". I don't think size really matters (this time!), just use what you have. 

In a heavy based saucepan, mix in the white chocolate, peanut butter, butter and condensed milk. Melt on a very low heat so the chocolate doesn't get stuck on the bottom and burn, and that all the ingredients combine together. It might take a while but it is important to do it over a low heat. Mine took around 10 minutes. Pour into a large mixing bowl.

Sift the icing sugar and beat well. I just used a spoon rather than an electric mixer. Once completely combined, add in most of the peanut butter cups and Reese's pieces and fold. Keep some left over to sprinkle on top.

Pour into the baking tin and smooth over the mixture. Sprinkle with the rest of the Reese's and press in. Put in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours but ideally overnight.

We did try the fudge after a few hours in the fridge and it was good but it was much better after it had set overnight. Once set, cut into squares and enjoy. Our squares were obviously very large!!

I love Reese's and I love fudge so this combination was the dream!! My only alteration I would make next time is I would probably add some big Reese's peanut butter cups my opinion you can never have enough. I also added some of this fudge to my bowl of ice cream last night which I highly recommend if you are a little piggy like me!!

Monday, 4 September 2017


Risotto has always been one of my favourite recipes, although I rarely have it in a restaurant unless it is a very smart one, as it is easy to get wrong. Before I learnt to cook, my sister would very kindly make me risottos of all different combinations depending on what was in the fridge. My favourite would always be mushroom, bacon and lots of cheese however as my daughter Arabella is mushroom-phobic, we rarely have them. 

Last week I found this recipe in the Sunday Times magazine however it used pumpkin rather than butternut squash. I couldn't find pumpkin in the shops so I substituted it for squash and it worked very well. Risottos are simple but time confusing and this took about 40 minutes.

Ingredients for 4 people:

450g pumpkin or squash, skinned, deseeded and cut into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
300ml dry white wine
300g risotto rice
200g chorizo, finely chopped
2 tbsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 litre hot stock
100g Parmesan, grated

Chop all the ingredients in preparation and make up the stock.

Bring a large pan of boiling water to the boil, add the pumpkin / squash and cook for around 6 minutes until it begins to soften. I did about 7 minutes. I forgot to cut my pieces so just did it after they were cooked.

In a large non stick frying pan over a medium heat, fry the celery and the onion in the olive oil and half the butter until it begins to soften. This took about 5 minutes. Next add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Turn up the heat, add the rice and stir until it becomes opaque (a couple of minutes). Add the wine and cook for a few minutes until the alcohol evaporates.

Add the chorizo and cook for a couple of minutes, then add the pumpkin / squash and stir in half of the rosemary leaves.

Now for the time consuming part! Add the stock one ladle at a time, stirring constantly to give a creamy texture for about 15 minutes. This is good exercise for your arm! 

Season with salt and pepper, add the remaining rosemary and butter and about half the Parmesan. Cover and rest until creamy - we were all starving so only waited a few minutes! Serve with the remaining Parmesan and tuck in.

The combination of the rosemary, squash and chorizo is powerful but it works very well. It is a perfect meal for this autumnal weather that is starting to appear. My husband, daughter and I all loved this and will be fighting over the leftovers. I am definitely keen to try this again with pumpkin - I reckon around Halloween will be the perfect time when we are trying to decide what to do with all the leftover pumpkin!!

Saturday, 2 September 2017


These school holidays I have found all the cooking so tiresome and I am constantly trying to decide what to serve for both lunch and dinner, stay healthy (ish) and have some variety in our diet. It is not easy. 

When I was growing up, my father did most of the cooking for the family. My mother loved food (she used to drive us mad with her menu reading - a trait I have now inherited) but she had no confidence in cooking. Despite this, she LOVED to do cooking classes. I have kept some of her recipes and I know she will be so happy that I am cooking she never did!! I decided to try this simple chicken dish of her's that took around 35 minutes.

Ingredients for 2 people:

6 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (I only had 5)
3 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Around 90g of Gruyere or Cheddar cheese
6 slices of smoked streaky bacon
Wooden cocktail sticks

To serve:
Garlic Mayonnaise
(You can just buy this but I made it myself with):
100ml mayonnaise
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil
10g spring onions, finely chopped 

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Unroll each chicken thigh and cut away all the nasties. I love chicken thighs, I much prefer them to the breast, but I hate this part of preparing them!

Spread about a teaspoon of mustard on to each thigh.

Cut the cheese into fat matchsticks of around 15g each and place one in the middle of each thigh. Then roll up the chicken.

Wrap each chicken thigh with a rash of bacon and secure with a couple of cocktail sticks. Put the chicken rolls in a baking tray (I lined the tray with foil) in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Cut into the chicken to check it is cooked before serving.

While the chicken was cooking I made the garlic mayonnaise and I basically just copied a random recipe from the Internet. However I had to change the measurements as otherwise I was making a week's supply of mayo!! it was very simple to make, I just mixed all the ingredients together in a bowl and voila!

Despite all the cheese melting out of our chicken rolls, I scooped it all up with a spoon (waste not want not) and these worked perfectly. I love how tender chicken thighs are and I am a big fan of the cheese and bacon combo. These worked perfectly with a green salad for me and cucumber and sweetcorn for my daughter. Another easy recipe to add to the list. These can also be made up previously and frozen until needed. Just defrost fully before you cook. Perfect for the busy school afternoons that are soon to be upon us.