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Garden Party

Last weekend we headed to my grandparents quaint little village in the west country for my Grampy’s 70th birthday garden party. Returning to the village is always nostalgic. I remember running around the gardens playing games and chasing the dogs when we were kids. Nana would always provide us with a feast at the end of the day, and it was almost like we were returning the favour for Gramps, by cooking up some of his favourite foods.

Of course I baked Rosie Londoner’s Tommy Tart which was a complete hit with the guests.

Sliced gerkins (a favourite of mine and my Grampys).

Bowls and bowls of Patatas Bravas. I used this Waitrose recipe which has never failed!

Bowls of spanish olives.

A variety of homemade quiche (my favourite was the spicy chorizo with mushroom and a potato crust).

Vegetable cous cous.

A selection of homemade breads.

Homemade butterfly bunting.

My attempt at incorporating our heritage. My Grampy is Polish and was born in India as a refugee before being saved by the English in World War 2. I used this Fruity Flag Tray bake recipe and added white chocolate buttons and more raspberries to create the Polish flag.

Pots of strawberries with local clotted cream.

Mum’s award winning – show stopping – always the favourite, Baileys Cheesecake.

And a kiwi and blueberry pavlova.

Polish Apple Cake made by more Polish relatives.

The garden looked beautiful and the party was a real success. The boys were manning the bar and the girls ensured everyone had a constant supply of food and cake.

All that was left to do was raise our glasses and sing HappyBbirthday (in English and Polish) to a very special Grampy.

(Being on your feet all day at 33 weeks pregnant results in extreme tiredness and grumpiness!)

Beach BBQ Menu

With this glorious heatwave we’re currently experiencing (ok, maybe I’ve spoken too soon), we’ve been BBQ’ing on the beach every evening we can. I got a little patriotic after Murray’s Wimbledon win and bought this red, white and blue picnic rug so have been using it at every BBQ’ing opportunity!

Most people’s reaction when I tell them I practically live on the beach is “WOW you’re so lucky”. I get it, its awesome, but some days when you’ve been sat in a sticky office and not able to even get out in the sun at all during the day, I can tell you it sucks being so close to the seaside.

So in the evenings we dash to the beach, armed with our BBQ, chasing the last few rays.

If we’re lucky, I even get a glimpse of the lifeguards packing up.

After three continuous days of chicken, steak and burgers on the BBQ, I fancied a bit of a change to our usual speedy routine of grabbing food out of the packet and cooking it. The food prep time is limited to around 5 minutes, so thought I’d share with you what I’ve come up with!

Sizzling Prawn Skewers

Marinate enough prawns for your picnickers (I normally allow 6 big ones for each skewer) with some Sweet Chilli Sauce. Add a sprinkle of chilli powder, a little squidge of honey and some chilli flakes. Pop them in the fridge while you’re at work. Chop up some red onion and pointed sweet peppers and thread with the prawns onto the skewers. Cook on the BBQ until crisp.

Naughty Mushrooms

Pick up a pack of large mushrooms, like Portobello and snip off the stem. In a bowl combine finely chopped sweet pepper (about half a pepper), 3-4 finely chopped spring onions, 1 or 2 teaspoons of pesto depending on tastes (homemade if you have time), and half a roll of chopped goats cheese. Divide the mixture on top of each mushroom. Place directly on the grill and leave to cook for 20 minutes.

These are one of my finest inventions. I adapted the mixture from my Stuffed Potato recipe and now I don’t know which one’s better!

Simple Salmon

I love salmon and usually spice it up with lots of chilli, honey and soy Asian flavours. Sometimes I like taking it back to basics. Make a little tin bed for the salmon and squeeze half a lemon into each. Add a finely chopped garlic clove and some mixed herbs. Wrap in the foil and cook in their beds for around 10-15 minutes.

Three simple recipes, and a different and flavoursome BBQ.

After devouring our food we had a little visitor on the beach in the doggy form of our friends new puppy Macey.

She’s trained well and even arrived with some chocolate dipped strawberries.

We sat and watched the sun set while Macey licked away at our plates.

Some great beach side food and a very beautiful evening.

A Girls Night In, Summer Pesto Chicken

We all have a friend that is a timeless part of life. You may not see them for years, just exchange a few “life update” emails, but when you reunite, it’s like you were never apart. I have this in one of my closest friends Claire. She’s been gallivanting around the Med for the last few years as an entertainer and when she came home just after Christmas, well it was like she’d never left.

Due to my impromtu trip to Italy, I missed her birthday. I’d promised that I would make it up to her. It’s rare that I get the flat all to myself, so when I do, I girl things up to the max (flowers and little presents included).

Bournemouth has been sizzling for a good few weeks now so I needed to cook something suited for the hot weather. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing sea view from the comfort of my dining table so with this is mind I wanted three things to make it as Mediterranean as possible; chicken, pesto and vegetables.

Enter my Summer Pesto Chicken. For this delicious (and healthy) summer supper you will need:

500g New Potatoes, halved
2 Red Peppers (I used pointed ones as they’re ohh-soo sweet and juicy)
200g of cherry tomatoes
4 Garlic Cloves
Handful of rosemary leaves, finely chopped
Some homemade pesto (use my Jamie recipe here)
4 chicken fillets 

Heat the oven to 180c (fan) and pop the potatoes in a shallow roasting dish, covered in foil, and cook for 20 minutes. In the meantime, chop up the peppers and put aside with the tomatoes, garlic and rosemary.

After 20 minutes, remove the potatoes from the oven and give them a good stir. Chuck in the vegetables and return to the oven uncovered for another 20 minutes.

While the vegetables are bubbling away, cook the chicken breasts. I chopped mine up into mini-fillet sizes, but you could do whatever you fancy. Once they’re cooked (about 5-7 minutes), remove from the heat and mix in your freshly made pesto.

Once the vegetables are cooked, put everything in a large serving dish and give it a good mix.

Serve immediately with a balsamic salad and enjoy!

Of course I couldn’t leave out dessert, so I did the very English and oh-so-simple strawberries and cream (with a little sugar and honey). We chatted the night away until the the early hours (and the wine was finished!).

There are alot of things in my life I couldn’t have conquered without my friends as my backbone. The last 12 months have been the hardest of my life and I will be forever thankful that I have friends like you, Claire, to guide me through to the other side.

There you go, The Southerner just got a little personal!

Never underestimate the therapy of a girls night in, even if you don’t think you need it, it really is a girls best defence weapon! I was recently contacted with some pretty juicy figures on a “Girls Nights In” and as a complete numbers geek, I was shocked that only 17% of us girls in the South West prefer something home cooked than a takeaway for their girls night in. So come on, get the girls together and whip up some Pesto Chicken while the sun’s still out! No excuses ladies!