Sunday, 27 December 2015

Hairy Bikers Honey and Marmalade Glazed Ham

As an alternative to the usual honey and mustard ham that we enjoy over Christmas, I sought out something different and was really pleased with the result. I found a Hairy Bikers recipe for a 6kg joint covered in a honey and marmalade glaze and studded with cloves and whilst it took a lot of cooking and preparation it really was spectacular and it served 8 of us for Boxing Day dinner plus we have a stash of it leftover for sandwiches and other delicious things.

You can find the recipe here on the BBC Good Food website - I cooked it to the letter with the only slight addition being the grating in of the zest of one whole orange into the glaze as I thought it would look pretty and add another hit of orange.

Here it is in all it's glory after resting:

Hairy Bikers Hony and Marmalade Glazed Ham

Leek, Potato and Cauliflower Soup

This is a lovely, quick and easy soup recipe that uses the classic combination of leek and potatoes and adds cauliflower to bulk up a little and if you need to try and sneakily get extra vegetables into your little ones this is a great way!

Leek, potato and cauliflower soup

Here's how:

  • 2 large leeks
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Fresh nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 1 tbsp cream or creme fraiche (optional - leave out if you're counting calories as it's delicious with or without)

Firstly add the rapeseed oil to a heavy bottomed saucepan and place onto a gentle heat. 

Now roughly slice the leeks and the garlic and add to the pan.

While these are softening, peel and wash the potatoes and cut into rough cubes about 1cm width. Once the leeks and garlic are softened add the potatoes to the pan and allow to saute for 2-3 minutes, coating in the oil.

Chop the cauliflower into florets and add to the pan (you can use the leaves too if you wish) and then cover with the stock. Add the black pepper and the bay leaves and pop the lid on. 

Slowly simmer for thirty minutes until the potato is cooked through and will easily mash with a fork. Remove from the heat and leave to stand for at least twenty minutes.

Now pour into a blender or use a hand blender to blitz into a finer consistency which will create the gorgeous creamy hue and texture. 

Return to the pan and place back on the heat, gently. Once warmed through, stir in the cream or creme fraiche if you are using and then ladle into bowls.

Just as a final, added extra grate over a little fresh nutmeg onto each bowl before serving and a tiny dollop of cream or creme fraiche. Enjoy!

Cheese Muffins

After Christmas, there is usually a stack of odds and ends of cheese left in the fridge and these cheesy breakfast muffins are a great way of using them up and serving up a delicious baked breakfast treat that are sure to be loved by all the family - they are great for toddlers too as a finger food if just one is eaten as you do need a little salt here for these savouries.

You could use almost any cheese in this quick and simple recipe but milder creamy ones may be a little too subtle. I recommend using some Cheddar, Red Leicester and a Goat's which will add a lovely oozy gooey quality too. 

Cheese Muffins

Here's how:

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp Worcester Sauce
  • 150g natural yoghurt
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 150-200g cheese (selection of your choice but here I used Strong Cheddar, Red Leicester and a Welsh Goat's cheese) - grate some and tear/chop some into the little cubes
  • 1/2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 and place 12 muffin cases into a tin and set aside.

In one bowl combine all of the dried ingredients (flours, mustard powder, baking powder, salt, pepper, thyme) and mix well.

In a different bowl mix all of the wet ingredients (everything else) and the cheese well. 

Add the dried ingredients slowly to the wet mixing well until all is combined and then spoon out equal amounts into each muffin case.

Place into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown on the top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes before serving - but be warned these are completely addictive if enjoyed warm. Enjoy!

Quick Pork Noodle Soup

If you have leftover roast pork, chicken, turkey or even beef this is a lovely, quick and easy noodle soup recipe that is fragrant, warming and makes a welcome change from a traditional British leftover stew.

Using Asian flavours such as Chinese Five Spice, a smidge of Thai Green Curry Paste and plenty of chilli, ginger, garlic and coriander this is an utterly addictive recipe and once you've made it I'm sure it will become a leftover staple.

Quick Pork Noodle Soup

Serves two.

Here's how:

  • Three slices of leftover roast pork
  • 1 tbsp Chinese five spice
  • 1 teaspoon green Thai curry paste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Bunch spring onions
  • Two thumbnail sized pieces of ginger
  • 1 and a half large red chillis
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 red pepper
  • Handful mushrooms
  • Handful bean shoots
  • Some green leaves - I used cavello nero here but you can use cabbage, lettuce, greens - whatever you have in stock
  • 1 lemon or lime
  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • 1 packet instant noodles
  • Bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Shaohsing wine

Firstly slice the pork into bite-sized pieces and pop into a bowl with a drizzle of the sesame oil and the Chinese five spice. Use a spoon to toss the meat to absorb all the flavours and leave to one side whilst you prepare everything else.

Now crush the garlic, and finely slice the ginger and chill. Place the remaining sesame oil into a wok on a gentle heat and add the garlic, ginger and  half of the chilli to slowly soften and flavour the oil. 

Whilst these are softening in the wok, peel the carrot and very finely chop into matchsticks, slice the pepper, spring onions and mushrooms and shred the greens. 

By then the oil should be full of flavour - now add the marinaded pork including anything left in the bowl to the wok and allow to cook for several minutes until the pork becomes nicely gnarly from the five spice coating. Next add the carrots and pepper and allow to cook for a minute or so.

Now add the coconut milk which will make the basis for the soup, stir in the Thai curry paste and add the mushrooms, most of the bean shoots and greens. Add the soy and Shaohsing wine and squeeze in the juice of a whole lime and give a gentle stir. 

Now gently slice the coriander and remove the stalks - place the stalks into the wok with the soup. 

After the soup has simmered for four-five minutes add the instant noodles to the mix which should cook in three minutes. 

Whilst the noodles are cooking place the red chilli, the other half of lime and a bunch of fresh coriander onto a little plate as additional seasoning for the table and then dish up your soup into deep bowls. Enjoy!

Roast Pork with Jewelled Vegetable Couscous

This quick and easy meal works brilliantly with leftover roast pork - or in fact any leftover roasted meats that are probably plentiful after the onslaught of Christmas and Boxing Day! 

I use fresh mint and coriander to make the couscous lovely and fragrant but you could use parsley, dill or any other herb - experiment and use the flavours you like. The 'jewels' are the gorgeous pips from a pomegranate which add a lovely taste and crunchy texture to the dish.

The below serves four or two with leftovers for lunch the following day.

Leftover roast pork with jewelled couscous

Here's how:

  • 4-6 slices of leftover Roast Pork or other meat of your choice
  • 200g couscous
  • 400ml boiling water
  • Handful cherry tomatoes
  • Bunch spring onions
  • 1 courgette
  • 1/2 red chilli
  • 1 orange pepper
  • Seeds of 1 pomegranate
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Handful each of fresh mint and coriander or your preferred herbs
  • 1 lime
  • Some fresh green salad leaves - I used watercress here for a peppery addition

Firstly place the couscous into a jug or bowl and cover with the boiling water. Now use a fork to stir vigorously and then cover with a plate and leave to one side for five minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed.

In the meantime finely dice the courgette, chilli, spring onions, pepper, cherry tomatoes and any other vegetables you want to add to the couscous and half one lime. Shred the herbs

Slice as much meat as you need for the meal and set aside. 

Once the water has been absorbed fluff up with a fork, season generously and add the extra virgin olive oil and stir. Now add the vegetables and pomegranate seeds as well as the herbs and stir thoroughly. 

Plate up the meat and salad and serve the couscous in a bowl with a lime for additional seasoning in the middle of the table and let everyone dive in. Enjoy!

Roast Pork Shoulder with Crispy Crackling

Roast pork with crackling is one of the most delicious things to eat and is so simple to do. With all the trimmings (roast potatoes, a selection of vegetables and gravy) it's a truly beautiful thing and here's how to get a gorgeous joint of meat that will make a fantastic roast dinner and provide leftovers for a selection of delicious tasting meals. Ask the butcher to score the fat for you if you're not comfortable doing yourself or give it a go for spectacular crackling.

Roast pork shoulder with crispy crackling

Here's how:

  • 1 shoulder of pork - roughly 2.5-3kg 
  • 1-2 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme or three to four sprigs of fresh
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary or three sprigs of fresh
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • 1 large white onion
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil

Firstly take the pork from the fridge, remove any packaging and allow to sit for twenty minutes or so to get back to room temperature and preheat the oven to 180.

In the meantime roughly chop the carrots, parsnips, celery and onion (no need to peel either) and place into a large roasting tin - this will be a trivet for the meat to sit on. Add a whole bulb of garlic broken into cloves which will give fantastic flavour to the meat. 

Now place the meat on top of the vegetables and firstly drizzle over the oil. Next add the black pepper and salt to the outer flesh of the meat and rub in with your hands - you can wear gloves if you prefer. Now add at least one tablespoon of sea salt to the skin on top which will help to crisp up the crackling. Finally add the herbs and then loosely cover with tin foil and place into the oven.

Cook the meat for thirty five minutes per 0.5kg and then an extra 25 minutes and remove the foil for the final 30-40 minutes of cooking for really crispy crackling.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about forty minutes before serving.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Heinz Chilli Sauce Off: Gourmet Seafood Burger


Me with Lisa Faulkner

At the end of October I was invited by my sister, Bistro Becs and the people from Heinz Chilli Sauces to take part in a 'Sauce Off' challenge; a cookery contest amongst foodie journalists and bloggers to create and cook a delicious and innovative dish using one of the five Heinz Chilli Sauces (Fiery Sriracha, Jerk BBQ, Peri Peri, Sweet Chilli and Hot Pepper) at L'Atelier des Chefs on Wigmore Street. What's more the evening was hosted and judged by TV cook and personality Lisa Faulkner

As the sauces are supposed to represent various personality traits, it was a must for me to use the Fiery Sriracha being as I am hot and fiery myself and whilst I had time to think up a dish, it was a busy work time for me so I hadn't had time to practise at home prior to the event.

After careful consideration my dish was selected, a gourmet seafood burger comprising prawns, scallops and salmon and a generous helping of the Fiery Sriracha sauce - I also added a bit of the Sweet Chilli to the brioche buns too and the finish was great. 

Heinz Chilli Sauce Gourmet Seafood Burger

We had 45 minutes to cook and then the lovely Lisa tasted all of the dishes and made her decision. We then sat down as a group and tucked into each other's dishes too with a glass or two of wine - lovely. Stand-out dishes on the evening included Eat Cook Explore's Spicy Crab dish which was announced, unsurprisingly as the winner but I also loved Big Spud's Jerked Halloumi Kebabs too - and there was some other great dishes - also I got photobombed by William from Gogglebox who was also taking part! 

Not just that but it was a really fun evening and I realised that cooking competitively can be more than a little stressful, as can cooking to a time limit! Was also great meeting lots of nice blogger sorts such as the above as well as Jo Eats London, Rock N Roller Baby, Circus Mum, Chloe Pierre,  London Unattached, and Secret Temple not to mention a lovely lady from The Sun.

When I sat down with Lisa to taste and give her comments to me, she was complimentary about the flavours and presentation of the dish - and whilst I wasn't one of the winners I was chuffed she liked the burger and I thought it was frankly delicious!

Here's how:

(Makes x4 burgers)
  • 1 pack prawns
  • 8 large scallops 
  • 2 fillets salmon
  • 6 spring onions
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Thumbnail of fresh ginger
  • Handful of coriander leaves
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 lime
  • Panko Breadcrumbs
  • Heinz Fiery Sriracha Sauce
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • x4 Brioche Buns
  • Heinz Sweet Chilli Sauce
  • Gherkins

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Now roughly chop the sping onions, garlic, chilli and coriander and place into a bowl. Peel and grate in the ginger too. 

Now roughly chop the prawns, scallops and flake in the salmon, add the juice of a whole lime and a  generous tablespoon of Fiery Sriracha Sauce and 3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs and use a wooden spoon to combine. Once fully mixed, use your hands to mould into four rounds and pat down into even sized tight patty's. 

Now add the rapeseed oil to a pan and get on a high heat, before placing each patty in and frying for 4 minutes, then turning over and doing the same on the other side. Now place onto a baking tray and place into the oven for a further 8-10 minutes until cooked through.

In the meantime, dry fry the brioche buns in a griddle pan, then place onto a plate. Add a teaspoon of the Sweet Chilli Sauce onto the bottom bun and once the burgers are ready place on top, and then add a gherkin, halved on top. Voila - enjoy!

Guilt Free Apple Cake

This is a delicious and moreish apple cake, perfect with a cup of tea - and what's more it's low in calories compared to most cakes as there's no oil or butter required and yet the cake remains moist and tasty thanks to the liquid from the apples. 

Guilt Free Apple Cake

Here's how:

  • 500g apples (I use Granny Smiths but most would work here)
  • 110g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Zest of a lemon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 75ml full fat milk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg

Firstly pop your oven on at around 180 degrees and grease and line a 20cm round tin and set aside.

Peel and core the apples and thinly slice and then squeeze over a drop of lemon juice to prevent them browning.

Combine the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and mix well. Add half of the apples to the mix and mix then pour into the tin.

Now neatly arrange the rest of the apple into a nice pattern on top. Sprinkle with a teaspoon more of brown sugar and pop into the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out dry. 

Enjoy alone or with a little creme fraiche for a treat. Enjoy!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Carb-Free Salmon Risotto

This recipe makes for a filling, nutritious meal which sees Arborio Rice replaced by cauliflower rice instead - removing the carbs for a thinner version of a delicious and moreish meal.

It still has a light and creamy feel to it thanks to a touch of low fat crème fraiche so feels quite indulgent when in actual fact, a portion of this (half of the below) comes in at only 341 calories.

Even the boy who often scoffs at some of the healthier things put in front of him at the dinner table, now enjoys cauliflower rice at least once a week and loved this meal. What's more, using cooked salmon fillets which can be picked up fresh, very reasonably means this can be on the table in fifteen minutes. 

Carb-Free Salmon Risotto 

Here's how:

  • 2 fillets of cooked salmon, bone and skin removed
  • Roughly 100g cauliflower, or about half a cauliflower head
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 leeks
  • Red chilli
  • 50 frozen peas 
  • 100g spinach
  • 1 thumbnail piece if ginger 
  • 20ml Low fat Crème Fraiche
  • 125ml Cava (other sparkling white wine will do - or just ordinary wine if you don't want to open a bottle) 
  • Small bunch of fresh dill

1 tsp rapeseed oil Firstly pop the oil into a non-stick pan and place onto a low heat. Now mince the garlic, slice the leeks and chilli, and grate the ginger and add to the pan to slowly sauté and flavour the oil to make a base.

In the meantime, coarsely grate the cauliflower to create your 'rice'.

Once the leeks etc have started to soften add the cauliflower and cook, stirring to ensure all gets coated, for two minutes. Now pour over the wine and reduce right down till neatly all of the liquid is reduced. Add the crème fraiche and season and give a good stir.

Meanwhile pull the salmon apart and add to the pan with the peas and spinach - all of which simply need to be heated through.

Now pull apart the dill and add some to the pan stirring through but retaining some for garnish.

Cook for a further four or five minutes, remove from the heat and give a final seasoning before dishing up and adding the final sprigs of dill. Enjoy

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Restorative Chicken Broth

Autumn is well under way and we’ll soon be in the icy grip of winter in London – as such our house has fallen victim to more than the odd case of the sniffle. Any sign of a cold, or worst, the flu and I immediately crave my Mum’s ‘Chicken Stew’ which was a stalwart mid-week dinner whilst growing up – full of vegetable goodness.

This is best, in my humble opinion, cooked using leftover roast chicken, preferably joints such as the legs, as the bones infuse plenty of chicken flavour into the broth and it is vastly improved by using fresh chicken stock. That said, I have in desperate times resorted to buying cooked chicken thighs and using shop-bought stock but I draw the line at stock cubes for this.

This version makes quite a thick broth, but if you prefer more liquid, perhaps to dip in doorsteps of bread, then up the stock by half.

My little girl who is still in the weaning process aged just over one, absolutely loves this too, although it can be messy as she doesn’t like to be spoon fed anymore and only likes to do this herself but what a great, healthy meal for her. 

Restorative Chicken Broth

Here’s how:

Leftover roast chicken – about 200g of meat is sufficient for 4-5 portions

  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 large parsnips
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • ½ red chilli
  • 70g pearl barley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cloves
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 500ml-1 litre of fresh or shop-bought chicken stock (I like Morrison’s Signature version)

Firstly peel and chop the carrots, onion, ginger and parsnips and add to a large saucepan.

Peel and crush the garlic and finely slice the chilli, celery and leeks and also add these to the pan.

Using your hands, pull apart the chicken and add to the pan including the bones from the chicken, which you can remove once the meat falls off.

Then add the pearl barley, bay leaves, cloves and black pepper and top up with stock.

Place on a medium heat and slowly bring to boiling point then turn right down and cook for 40 minutes. The longer you cook the broth for, the better it will taste and the pearl barley will need at least 30 minutes cooking either way.


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

A London Lunch: Bourekas at Balkan Bites

Today's lunch was a good one - a warming, satisfying plate that reminds me of sunnier climes.

I had a Spinach and Feta Boureka from Balkan Bites's outpost at Borough Market. Whilst I'm more familiar with the Greek version (Spanakopita), this is an equally delicious pie filled with unctuous feta and good-for-you spinach. What's more for only a fiver, this was served on a pillow of mouth-watering and freshly made hummus, with some cooked chickpeas and topped with salt and fresh chilli sauce.

Balkan Bites has a shop in Crouch End but can be found at Borough Market Monday-Wednesday's 10am-5pm, Friday's 10am-6pm and Saturday's 8am-5pm.

For £5.00 my boureka was a real treat - slightly naughty, but very, very nice.

Baby Bites Party Food: Spiced Chicken Goujons

This weekend we had 18 of our immediate family over in celebration of our daughter, Bridget reaching her first birthday - a little tea party, in honour of this first milestone. I did a range of different party foods to have universal appeal with both the adult majority as well as the three children.

Chicken goujons seem to be a mainstay as a party finger food and I made my own to avoid any nasty additives being used and so we knew the chicken was of the best quality and organic to boot. I used a spice combination that worked well, but if for smaller babies you may want to reduce the quantities to tone it down a little, but luckily Bridget and her cousin Pearl who is four months older, both love lots of spicier flavours so these went down well with both adults and children alike.

The below makes enough for a big platter full, as seen in the picture, and I served with some Ketchup, BBQ sauce and a Harissa Mayo as dips. In the breadcrumb mix I've also used some garlic salt which may seem like a lot but it really does add flavour. You can always omit to use if you don't want baby having any salt content at all but they will likely only have one goujon which will contain a minimal amount.

Here's how:
  • 5 breasts of chicken
  • 4-5 slices of granary or brown bread
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 and line two baking trays with some baking papers then brush with a tiny bit of vegetable oil and set aside for the moment.

Now get two equal sized bowls together. Crack the eggs into one and gently beat.

The flour goes into the other bowl with a pinch of black pepper.

Now you need to make your breadcrumbs by placing one slice at a time into a food processor and blitzing then pouring into a larger bowl. Repeat until all the breadcrumbs have been made.

Now add the seasoning and give a good stir so everything is combined.

Now flatten out each chicken breast onto a chopping board and chop into chunky slithers unto all have been chopped. Don't worry about each piece being exactly the same - the fact they won’t be, will add to the rustic look and demonstrate the fact they have been homemade.

Now coat each piece coat in the flour by popping into the flour and turning. Then move it into the egg and turn, ensuring each part of the goujon is coated in egg, then finally dip into the breadcrumbs and turn and place onto the baking sheet.

Once each piece has been coated in breadcrumbs place onto the baking tray and then pop both trays into the oven to bake for twenty minutes. 

Remove from the oven and serve either hot or cold with your preferred choice of dips.

Pork Cheeks Braised in Cider and Apples

I have been experimenting with pork cheeks a lot lately - they are so delicious slowly braised, and yet one of the cheapest cuts of meat out there. I picked up four cheeks for £1.40 in Morrison's for this particular recipe - bargain.

This recipe calls for a bottle (500ml) of apple cider. I also used some Kentish apples straight from a farm in Hunton, but any cooking apples will do.

The combination of cider, apples plus the parsnip make this quite a sweet dish so I serve alongside some mustard mash or with a jacket potato with oodles of grain mustard to offset the sweetness and with extra vegetables too to ward off any colds or flu now the cold is setting in. This is a favourite batch cook meal too - you can make it, freeze it and it can be on the table in thirty minutes when you get in from work mid-week which makes it a winner in my eyes.

Pork Cheeks Braised in Cider and Apples

Here's how:
  • 4 pork cheeks
  • 1 onion
  • 4 celery sticks
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 2 apples
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 500ml apple cider
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Pinch salt & black pepper
  • Pinch of dried thyme or few sprigs of fresh
  • Drizzle olive oil 
Firstly slice the onion and celery, mince the garlic and add to a casserole pot.

Peel the carrots and parsnip and slice finely then add to the pot. Do the same with the apple.

Now drizzle the oil into a pan and place on a medium heat.

Season the pork cheeks and brown all over in the pan. Once browned, add to the pot and cover with the cider and stock.

Give a good stir, season again and place into the oven for 3 hours.

Remove the casserole dish every 45 minutes- 1 hour and give a stir.

When you remove the casserole from the oven check the meat is perfectly tender, it should fall apart easily if you prod it with a fork.

Serve with your accompaniments and enjoy.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Captivated by Kefalonia

In June my partner Glen and I took our little, then nine month old, daughter Bridget on our first holiday as just the three of us – destination Kefalonia.

If you regularly read this blog, you will know I’m heavily influenced by Greek cuisine in my own cookery – I adore the flavours and I adore the Greek islands too. This was my first trip to Kefalonia and I can safely say it won’t be my last and I jotted down a few things to share, should anyone want any pointers if visiting the island.

We travelled with Olympic and stayed in the resort of Lassi at the charming and quaint Irilena Hotel. The hotel was named for the owner’s daughter, who in her early thirties was regularly seen at the hotel bar – however this was primarily the domain of her fiancé Aggi, and Tasos, both local men from Argostoli. We got on so well with both of these, they were just the friendliest people and my daughter adored both of them as they were constantly making a fuss of her. We would have a tipple in the bar each evening – sometimes until 2am and then Tasos would have to get up and go to work in his 9-5 job too in the town – but you never heard a word of complaint from him.

In terms of the rooms – they are fairly basic and typically Greek to be honest – although kept spotlessly clean and they have everything you could need as a base if you’re not spending too much time in the room. Athina – the owner was around each morning and again made such a fuss of the baby and was always checking did we have enough of everything in the room. She even gave up her own personal room on our last day so we could get Bridget and ourselves showered before our late flight. Nothing was too much at this hotel.

Lassi in general, as we learned, is a purely tourist resort – but this couldn’t take away from its’ charm. With a scattering of tavernas serving all of the local delicacies, such as Kefalonian meat pie, moussaka, stiffado and kleftiko there really was something for everyone. I won’t go through each and every restaurant as we did have good meals everywhere – but some of the restaurants in the resort of note, include Veronika’s, Butler’s House and Nefelli’s. We also had a fabulous night at Zorba’s where traditional dancing took place and the food was fantastic too. 

Feta topped Mushroom 

Kleftori Mushrooms

Beef Stiffado


Feta Saganaki and mix plate

Feta in the oven

We kept our week fairly low key, being as it was warm and we obviously had Bridget in tow. However this didn’t stop us venturing into Argostoli three days of the week. The bustling capital has some fabulous sites and was just an eight euro taxi ride away – I was very excited to see the fishermen selling their wares to local on the harbour-side. Argostoli is full of shops, bars and restaurants and if you were looking for some nightlife this would be the place to find it – on this part of the island at least. 

Argostoli harbour

Mid-way through the holiday we’d booked onto the island tour trip with Etam Travel and this was an absolute highlight. We took in some wonderful sites that are frankly must-see; Myrtos beach is that beautifully picturesque bay that is seen on postcards, in films and the like, and the view is truly spectacular. We were rowed through the Melissani Cave, a natural wonder, and traipsed down the Cave Drogarati too – a strangely eerie experience where you manage to feel incredibly cool, despite the outside temperature being over 90 degrees. Another highlight was visiting and tasting a selection of wines at the Robola Wine Co-Operative – where we also bought four bottles to bring home. We also visited the Monastery of St Gerassimos which was a moving experience – the people of Kefalonia call on this saint when in need even to this day and it brings back what a deeply religious place Greece can be. During the island tour we stopped for a couple of hours for lunch at Aghia Efimia a little fishing village where we enjoyed a lovely lunch and yet more beautiful views.

Myrtos Bay

Mellisani Cave

At Myrtos 

Aghia Efimia

I celebrated my 31st birthday whilst on the island and we took this opportunity to visit Lixouri – you take the ferry from Argostolli and on such a warm day, this was a pleasure in itself. We visited a little beach (I’m afraid I don’t recall the name) and had some cold drinks after about a thirty minute walk to find it. We then had a beautiful lunch in the main square of Lixouri – a platter of Greek specialities including Kefalonian meat pie, moussaka, dolmades, stuffed tomato, giant beans and a selection of dips – heavenly. 

Greek mix plate

My favourite experience of the week though has to be one we stumbled upon thanks to a female taxi driver we met – once again an example of how friendly and helpful a people the Kefalonians are. We asked to go to a different beach and Maria recommended one in Svoronata – she said it would be perfect as the water is shallow there for baby and slightly cooler as a result – she also told us the taverna there was so good that her family went there on special occasions, which we took with a pinch of salt wondering if she was recommending a friend or family’s business.

The beach was Avithos, and the restaurant To Enetiko – our best meal of the week by far. The beach was small and less busy than Costa Costa where we’d spent most of the week, it was perfect for Bridget – especially when she had a couple of naps. Peaceful and tranquil would be accurate descriptions. The food at the taverna was exceptional and makes my mouth water even thinking about it. We were greeted with home baked bread, olives and a tapenade and ordered a couple of Mythos beers to quench the thirst built up in the gorgeous sunshine. We shared the squid starter and it was the freshest, most tender, and flavourful version I have ever had – it literally tasted of the sea, in a good way. Glen had the special of the day, a slow-cooked rabbit dish in a tomato stew and I had my favourite prawn saganaki. Both were gorgeous. 


Prawn saganaki

We did spend a fair bit of time on Costa Costa Beach too and if you have little ones or like some proper shade from the sun, they hired out gorgeous white cabanas for 30 euros for the day which were ideal for keeping Bridget out of the sun. And another tip off if you can manage an uphill walk, is to visit Logos Beach Bar in Lassi – logos meaning hill means a beautiful view up there and perfect for watching the magnificent sunset – the perfect setting for a boozy cocktail.

Me at Logos Beach Bar

Having got to know Aggis and Tasos throughout the week and making friends with them, I had expressed my disappointment at not finding a good place for gyros or souvlaki in Lassi – having worked in Corfu previously this is a favourite item and I was so looking forward to it. They told us that you had to have a special licence to cook ‘on the spit’ and that the best place by far was To Karvouno and that they would happily deliver to the hotel. So on our day of departure we had a pita gyros with pancetta belly pork. We had one each, some chips and a feta salad and the entire meal cost 15 Euros and was one of the most enjoyable meals of our week in Kefalonia.

Pork Pancetta Gyros 

Kefalonia is the most captivating island I’ve ever visited and I’ve been raving about it ever since and cannot wait to return. If you haven’t been – I strongly advise you do.


In August, my friend Larni and I had a few days away in Berlin. As well as some important friend time it also coincided with my brother’s birthday - Dan was travelling across Europe during his six weeks break (primary school teacher) with some friends and we all had a great time. It’s an interesting city full of culture, historical buildings mingled with uber modern architecture and a complicated U-Bahn underground transport system which we just about navigated.

We took in the Jewish Museum in Lindenstraße - which documented some fascinating accounts of life during the war with some unusual artwork to boot, we made it to Checkpoint Charlie the infamous border crossing point which played a huge role for Allied Forces too – all very interesting and thought-provoking. I also did the Exit Escape Game with my brother and his friends which was a first for me – for those who haven’t participated, you get an hour to escape from a themed room – in this case a room in the war to prevent the president being assassinated with various clues along the way. A fun distraction in the centre of the city.

We took in plenty of shopping, visiting Bikini Berlin, Potsdamer Platz, the Europa Center and spent frankly hours in KaDeWe or Berlin’s answer to Selfridges. We also spent a fair bit of both time and Euros on cosmetics in the various Douglas stores dotted around the city. They were to us what Sephora was in New York on our last trip abroad together.

Shopping, cocktails and food are always the foundations of mine and Larni’s trips together and I really enjoyed the food in Berlin. Larni struggled a little, as the place where bratwurst is a mainstay wasn’t massively geared up for vegetarians. By mainly having Italian food in Germany we got by and below are some of the favourites.

Our first night we had a gorgeous meal at Petrocelli on Kurfürtendamm. It was buzzy and vibrant and full of happy chatter – it was a Monday night and the food looked good, that coupled with the atmosphere was what drew us in. Larni had a pasta dish that was nice – but nothing to write home about. I had a spectacular seafood salad that included prawns, squid, langoustine, mussels, and lobster and had the most sensational creamy, lemon dressing. It was just fantastic. We followed the meal with delicious desserts after, again, seeing them arrive at fellow diners tables. Larni had a chocolate fondant – perfectly oozing chocolate on the inside and I had what was essentially a fishbowl full of deliciousness – cherry, stracciatella and caramel ice creams, peach cream, whipped cream, caramelised almonds and maple walnuts. Immense. 

The meal, with wine and beer and two courses each came in around the £50 so I thought this was really good value too. The service wasn’t fantastic – but the food did make up for it for me.

I tried the classic Wiener Schnitzel at Reinhard’s am Kurfürtendamm which was nice – a little bigger than I was expecting and served with a slightly odd combination of boiled potatoes and pickled cucumber in a mayonnaise. 

We had a night of cocktails for Dan’s birthday at The Monkey Bar which overlooks Berlin Zoo and where they served incredibly good but incredibly strong drinks. A classy venue with a trendy vibe – I would return for sure. We headed from here over to Schöneberg where we popped into a few different bars and had a wild drinking night.

The hangover meal the next lunchtime was fantastic – a four cheese pizza bigger than I’ve ever tried and utterly delicious at L’Osteria at the Bikini Berlin – another place that was constantly heaving with people and it’s easy to see why. For about £15 a pop we had the most enormous pizza (which if you can’t finish they offer you a box to take it away) as well as a Peroni or two – great food, great value, great vibe.

On our last full day, we enjoyed most of the day at the Waldorf Astoria, an old faithful for us after staying with them in New York. We enjoyed a lovely lunch – steak for me with chips and grilled tomatoes – steak cooked exactly as I wished too. Larni had a goat’s cheese and roasted pepper sandwich with chips too – and she loved it. We also had a gorgeous slice of cake each – a chocolate torte for me and red velvet for Larni. I also had the best iced coffee there - these were hard to find!

Following our meal we headed upstairs to the Guerlain Spa and both enjoyed a massage. If we’d have known about it more in advance we probably would have gone here for the day and enjoyed the pool, steam and sauna facilities – we’ll know for next time.

A great city break with plenty to do – if I was to return I’d be sure to go at a cooler time of the year as it was incredibly hot (over 100) every day we were there and whilst we stayed at the modest and completely clean and comfortable NH City West hotel, they were lacking in air condition which was a massive fail for us and we really did struggle sleeping because of this. I have to say though, the bar in the hotel served some fantastic cocktails and did a very good breakfast – which we only made once in our four days!

Creamy Mustard Chicken and Mushrooms, Roasted Sweet Potato, Roasted Carrots and Asparagus in Garlic Butter

This is a lovely dish for the colder nights - it's warming and hearty and could be served with rice, pasta or just salad, or as I have with some roasted sweet potatoes and a selection of vegetables.

Surprisingly given the warm wholegrain mustard addition, this is also a weaning winner too - especially with the roasted sweet potatoes which are always a hit with Bridget. The vegetables and sweet potatoes make for great finger foods whilst the chicken and mushroom encourages the development of spoon feeding.

The below recipe makes enough for two adult portions and two weaning portions.

Here's how:
Chicken & Mushrooms:
  • 300g chicken breast
  • 150g mushrooms - I used Chestnut but any work well
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche 
  • 100ml hot chicken stock
  • 1-2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 2 tsp dried tarragon
  • Pinch black pepper
The accompaniments:
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 pack asparagus tips
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • Pinch paprika
  • Pinch dried thyme

Firstly place the oven on to 180 and the kettle on to boil.

Peel the sweet potato and slice into rounds of about 1/2 cm thickness.

Peel the carrots and cut into chunky wedges and place into a saucepan with the sweet potato and pour over the boiling water till everything is covered and place on a medium heat and cook for five minutes.

While the pot is boiling, finely slice the spring onion and 1 clove garlic and add to a non-stick pack with the olive oil and place onto a low heat.

Slice the pepper and mushrooms and set aside for a moment.

Chop the chicken into evenly sized chunks and once the spring onion has started to soften add to the pan. Turn the chicken to cook and whiten on each side.

By now the potato and carrot will be nicely blanched. Remove and drain away all water and give a vigorous shake.

Place into a baking tray or dish. I try to pop the sweet potato one end, and the carrots the other if possible. Now sprinkle over the thyme over the carrots and the paprika over the sweet potato. Add four of the garlic cloves to the pan and then drizzle over about a tablespoon of olive oil. Place into the oven to cook for 30 minutes.

Once the chicken has turned white on all sides add the pepper and mushrooms to the pan and allow them to soak up the cooking juices and slightly soften.

Now add the creme fraiche and stir till it reduces down to a less solid and more liquidy format then add the chicken stock, tarragon, mustard and black pepper and give a good stir. Allow to cook, stirring every few minutes for about five minutes. Then add the flour and stir until all is absorbed by the sauce. Now this needs to cook away until the sweet potatoes are nicely charred – stir every few minutes and this should thicken up beautifully.

A few minutes before removing the sweet potato and carrots from the oven and the chicken off of the heat, in a separate pan, melt the butter with a clove of garlic – I just cut in half and this is enough to flavour the butter. Now add the asparagus and shake every minute or so. Leave these to cook whilst you plate up everything else and that will be plenty of cooking time. Enjoy!

Sandwich Face

This isn’t a recipe, just an idea to make mealtimes fun for your tot during the weaning stage and beyond.

This is an especially good tactic if you have a fussy eater or one who needs a lot of encouragement and motivating little ones to eat finger foods is really important too.

By simply using a cookie cutter to make round sandwiches (use their favourite filling – ours at the moment are soft cheese with cucumber) and then use some salad items to make a face shape outline – using different items for the different features of the face. You could grate some carrot to make the hair, or use some radishes to make rosy cheeks but I’ve just kept it plain and simple here – a cucumber nose and hair and cherry tomato mouth.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Baby Bites Cheese and Vegetable Fingers

These are a lovely way of using up leftover mash and are a great finger food. You can add whichever leftover vegetables you have to hand too.

Serving them with a dipping sauce makes them seem a bit more fun - and this one is homemade and has no additives or any nasties in there either.

The below makes enough for six fingers - 2 are sufficient for my little girl who is 12 months but 1 would be enough for smaller appetites. They keep in the fridge for a couple of days too, but I wouldn't freeze as potato doesn't tend to defrost too well. 

Also these are popular amongst older children too, way past the weaning stage.

Here's how:
  • 2 tablespoons of leftover mash potato
  • 1 tablespoon sweetcorn
  • 1 tablespoon frozen peas
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1 large spring onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 30g Cheddar or another hard cheese
  • Black pepper
  • 1 slice granary bread
  • 1 egg
  • Tomato Dipping Sauce

Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180.

Now peel and chop the carrot into very small cubes and place into a saucepan of water with the peas. Pour over some boiled water and cook for five minutes to soften.

Place the mash into a bowl and give a stir with a wooden spoon.

Chop the spring onion and parsley very finely and add to the potato with the sweetcorn and give a good stir.

Drain the carrot and peas and return to the pan to absorb any moisture. Then add to the mash mixture and again stir well.

Grate in the cheese and give one final stir.

Blitz the bread with a blender to make the breadcrumbs, then place onto a plate or bowl.

In a separate bowl crack the egg and give a quick whisk.

Now get about 1 tablespoon of mixture in your hands and shape into a finger - kind of like a sausage shape, and then place onto a clean plate. Repeat till all the mixture has been used. 

Now pat each one until it is a little rectangular shape, then dip into the egg and turn over, then dip into the breadcrumbs then return it to the plate and do the same to each finger.

Now drizzle a little vegetable oil into a pan and place on a medium heat. Once warmed add the fingers you are cooking, and allow to cook for two to three minutes or until the breadcrumbs have turned nicely golden brown. Then turn over and repeat for the other side. 

Once golden brown on each side, place the cheesy vegetable fingers onto an oven tray or dish and place into the oven to heat through for ten minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes until cool enough for baby to handle. Serve alongside some tomato dipping sauce.