Tag Archives: recipe

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!)

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!

a traditional greek moussaka

My love for Greece is a well known fact. I have been visiting every year since I was 7. My fondest memories are of those in tiny taverna’s with no electricity, just the glow of a few candles to light the table. The chef is your server, you go in, they tell you what they have cooking and that’s it. You get what what’s bubbling away on the stove. One of my favourite greek dishes is Moussaka. Simple yet utterly delicious, the longing for summer has had me craving some Mediterranean delights. The key to this dish is fresh food. Pick out the very best of all the ingredients and while in the kitchen, do a little dance ala Stavros Flatley.

For a Moussaka to easily feed 4 hungry Greeks, you will need:

a large lasagne dish 
2 aubergines, sliced
60ml olive oil
3 large onions
450g minced lamb
4 tomatoes, skinned and sliced
150ml beef stock
45ml tomato puree 
2 eggs
45ml milk
45ml cream
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 180c.

Moussaka’s are all about layering. First you start with your aubergines. Slice them so they’re not too thin and not too thick. Heat half the oil, and in batches gently fry them for a few minutes. When they start to brown, remove them from the pan and start your first layer.

You can be as creative as you like but just make sure the base is completely covered.

The next layer is the meat. Slice your onions and fry in the remaining oil. Then add the lamb and brown off the meat for around 5 minutes on a medium heat. I hope you’re still doing that dance?

Once nicely browned, add the onion and lamb mix over the aubergines to complete layer number two. At this point, take a spatula and gentle compact the layers. You don’t want to press too hard, just give it all a good squeeze.

Finally add your peeled tomatoes. I’ll let you in on a little tip here, instead of spending a painstaking amount of time peeling the tomatoes, with a sharp knife mark an “x” on the top of the tomato and plunge in boiling water for a few seconds. To cool them down, just plunge in a glass of cold water and, ta-da peel the skin away. I did not do this. And it was a nightmare.

Next up, mix the stock with the puree and stir until combined. Pour evenly over the mince, aubergines and tomatoes.

It’s starting to look delicious huh? Pop the dish in the oven for 30 minutes until its bubbling away and smelling delicious.

While you’re waiting, prepare the white sauce. Combine the eggs, milk and cream and season well. Give it all a good mix and one the timers up, pour over the hot, delicious layers and pop back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve up in large portions, add a little cheese if you fancy, and kick back and enjoy while dreaming of the med. Ok, add a little tipple of Ouzo if you have to. Cheeky.

This to me in the original greek moussaka recipe. Of course you could mix it up and add in some spices or make it veggie!