Cinderella Party

4th party crete 031This year it was Cinderella, last year it was the Sleeping Beauty, it’s quite clear that Princess parties are rather popular with the ‘Pink’ one. This was a family production with everyone hands on helping. It always surprises me how much needs to be done; added to which Mr.P never likes things done by halves and whether you are going to be 4 or 40, a whole lot of effort goes in to create an unforgetable day for the birthday girl or boy. It’s small wonder the ‘blue’ one has started his countdown already and he’s a good six months off! So once again the stage was set down at Blackberry Farm, unbelievably the Gods smiled on us and the sun shone. The ‘Raj’ tent was erected for the grand performance of ‘Cinderella’, the palace ballroom was made up and the banquet took place in the courtyard archway, festooned with billowing long white muslin drapes and masses of ludicrous pink pom pom balls.

‘Sharkey and George’ were hauled in last minute, as in a moment of clarity I feared that entertaining 20 small princess’s and a number of prince’s could be well beyond my entertaining skills. In hindsight, Mr.P did a marvelous job of directing ‘Cinderella’ and I’m pretty sure we may be able to manage flying solo next year, who knows what the production will be then? I guess Rapunzel’s in the running, or possibly Snow White. Anyhow, the remarkable thing was, the little people really did rather enjoy our Blackberry Farm Cinderella, it is rather a one man (girl ) show, but after all it was the pink ones birthday, so Cinderella she was.  There was some genius casting of the ‘ugly sisters’ and some rather interesting horses that drew the carriage, the ‘blue’ one was the Prince and curiously, was pretty charming.

Catering for the ‘pink’ ones parties is always a treat. It’s fairy tale cooking with lots of pink, sweets and pretty flowers. A request for macaroons had been acknowledged, and then it was just all the old favorites, raspberry laced meringues, pink swirly fairy wand biscuits, cupcakes adorned with butter icing and crazy flowers and the cake itself, a ‘Princess Castle’. My cake making skills are really extremely basic, so like every year before I pitched for something relatively simple that just had to be iced to the nines. Inspiration was provided from some wonderful children’s cake book (sorry I forget which one) and I adapted it to what was practical and what was going to work for me. It was quite simply 2 large sponge cakes each sandwiched together in the old way, raspberry jam and butter icing, and then placed gently on top of each other with some round, firm card supporting the top cake, balanced on lolly pop sticks stuck in the bottom cake. The cakes were heavily iced with vanilla butter icing and decorated with mini marshmallows for battlements and little sugar flowers bought very inexpensively from Waitrose. The towers were made by sandwiching ginger nut biscuits together with butter icing and  the walls of the towers, was rolled out fondant icing. Turrets, were ice cream cones dipped in icing and then coated with hundreds and thousands and buttons. I cut out windows and doors from the left over fondant and made flags with some spare straws and wrapping paper. Naturally I was swearing by the time I finished but all in all it did not take that long. Trust me, I’ll never go into cake decorating though, it’s a real test of patience!



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The best ‘Crab Cakes’ ever…

April 2015 769If there is one recipe that I have been asked for over and over again in the last six months it has to be this. Crab cakes are very close to my heart and I have for years endeavoured to come up with a recipe that leaves the crab as ‘king’ so to speak. In my experience, as soon as one starts mixing anything with the delicate flesh, sadly the crab always seems to pale into insignificance. Tragic, given how expensive good crab can be. One pot – a rather miserly 250gms of fresh picked (unpasteurized) white crab meat from our fine shores, costs around £8 – £9 in London. Not cheap, I agree, but worth every penny when you make it into crab cakes!

The ‘pink’ and ‘blue’ have been gripped by crabs for sometime. Nostalgic, happy days spent on the Isle of Wight with lines dangling down into the unknown has only fueled their appetite for the sport and indeed the food that is intrinsically connected with this foraging frolic (at least in their minds it is – never let the truth get in the way of a good story, they don’t need to know that wee Bembridge crabs cannot be eaten). Even Mr.P has fond memories of ‘crabbing’ and nanny magically transforming the wee pincer clad crustaceans into crab paste on toast for high tea! I haven’t gone that far but both pink and blue have a somewhat enthusiastic appetite for trying the unknown. Squid and prawns have become a luxury for high days and holidays and are adored by both and said crab has had a lot of attention recently. I haven’t actually given it to them in any quantity as selfishly it’s a pretty expensive taste to develop at 3 and 5, they have had the odd morsel, but to date the crab cakes are for adults only. I don’t think I’ll get away with it for much longer! There’s not much not to like about these crab cakes, simply bound together with mayonnaise, a handful of coriander, some finely diced red chilli and rolled in panko and polenta crumbs they are as light as can be and taste simply and importantly of crab!

April 2015 767Crab Rules:

Use fresh white, unpasteurized, hand-picked crab meat. I buy mine from ‘The Chelsea Fishmonger’ on Chelsea Green, 250gms  costs £9.95. You can order on 02075899432.

Crab Cakes

250gms white crab meat

1 red chilli finely diced

4 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander

mayonnaise to bind – about 2 to 3 tablespoons

 100 gm Panko and polenta breadcrumb mix

1. Mix the white crab meat with the coriander and chilli and bind together with the mayonnaise and a good grind of black pepper.

2. Shape into 4 crab cakes and gently place in the breadcrumb and polenta mix making sure all the sides of the cake are covered.  Place in the fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.

3. Place a splash of grapeseed oil or other non flavoured oil in a frying pan and gently cook on both sides till golden and heated completely through. Eat immediately with oriental slaw and a homemade sweet chilli jam.

250gms makes 4 adult size crab cakes. These crab cakes cannot be frozen and should be eaten on the day of making.

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Making macaroons easy

March 2015 047‘Macaroons made easy’, is that a joke I hear you say ? Actually not, after years of making macaroons, some that were passable and some that were a damn right failure, I have finally been introduced to a completely foolproof recipe. It has taken a couple of attempts to perfect it, but at least I know now where I have gone wrong previously, and hopefully how not to make the same mistakes again. Once mastered, if I can call it that, these little sandwiches of air and sweetness are remarkably easy to make and unbelievably cheap, unlike their stunning cousins from Lauduree. They make a brilliant present and needless to say the ‘little people’ inhale them. The pink one has already put in her order for her party! Being rather a novice, I have only really done a couple of flavours, once you get the taste for it I guess you can embark on a huge journey of discovery, but for now, plain old vanilla and chocolate will suffice.


Makes at least 20

70g egg whites (about 2 eggs but do weigh them) at room temperature

35g caster sugar

115g icing cugar

60g ground almonds

Food coloring

There are a few rules with macaroons. Follow them and they should work. Deviate, and they won’t.

Set a fan oven on to 125c. Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper.

1. Weigh out the egg whites and the caster sugar and pop in a Kenwood with your chosen food coloring, I use ‘Sugarflair Colours’, to beat on full speed for 10 minutes.

2. While the egg whites are being beaten furiously, sieve together the ground almonds and icing sugar. Once will do but twice is even better.

3. Stop the beaters after 10 minutes and fold in the almond-icing sugar mix into the meringue. You will need to make about 50 folds. Count as you fold, you do not want your mix to be undermixed.

The first photo shows the almonds and sugar just beginning to be folded in, the photo below shows what the mix should look like after 50 folds. The top left is the macaroons pre-cooking and the shot below is having just been removed from the oven.

 4. Now you need to pipe the macaroons onto the baking sheets. Place a piping bag over a small jug and using a spatula transfer the macaroon mix into the piping bag. Pipe onto the trays  around ’10p/50p’ sized macaroons. I pipe down so the mix spreads from the middle as such, so they are probably 3/4mm in depth. Evenly pipe them out.

5. Now the important bit. The trays need to be bashed 3 times on a table to knock out the remaining air. Lift them to 15 cm above a table and drop 3 times, turn the tray completely around and do the same thing again.

6. Now they are ready to go in the oven. Place in the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

7. Remove and leave to cool. They should have developed little feet where they have risen very slightly.

8. Fill with buttercream or ganache depending on what you fancy.

 I use a classic buttercream filling, enriched with a tablespoon of cream cheese. In the pink ones I recently gave to Mummy I added a wee bit of lemon curd, quite delicious!

March 2015 044Chocolate Macaroons

If you want to make chocolate macaroons use 1oog of icing sugar and 15g of cocoa powder. Chocolate macaroons should be filled with a chocolate ganache.

Happy macaroon making and roll on the Easter holidays, end of term fever around here!

March 2015 048


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Spring has sprung

IMG_1359Four days of glorious sunshine and the ‘pink one’ has launched into her campaign to wear summer dresses. Granted, it’s sunny, warm is more debatable! I’m certainly not knocking these glorious blue skies, far from it, merely acknowledging how fast one can move from the dark days of winter to the promise of spring and then summer. Walking around the farm last weekend I spent some time admiring our steadily growing flock of Jacob sheep. What started off as two lovely ladies from the borders has grown to something more like 14, with the majority of those about to lamb. ‘Spring lambs’, how utterly divine; I’ll have money on it that come Easter the flock will have increased and we’ll have a field of bouncing lambs.

In order to eat lamb at Easter or ‘Spring Lamb’ as it is so umimaginatively called, it has to have been born about as far away from Spring as is feasibly possible, Christmas at the latest but more likely late Autumn. Our lambs that are going to be born in the next few weeks are in my view the true spring lambs. Born in March, at a time of year that is less hostile and unfriendly than the depths of winter, our sheep don’t even come inside to give birth. It’s all rather ‘do it yourself’, and takes place out in the field. All things being equal, and assuming there are no complications, the little darlings can be seen shakily walking around on the new spring grass within minutes of being born. Mr. Fox, that crafty rascal, often pinches one, which is very irritating, but otherwise our lambs soon learn how to fend for themselves and how to avoid ‘Toffee’ the fat Shetland and her rather wild kicking frenzies! Fed on Spring grass and their mother’s milk, fattened up on the richness of summer grass with the sun on their backs and then it’s curtains in the autumn, at least that’s what happens to the boys, the lucky girls are kept on to grow the flock. That’s nature, or so I am led to believe! All pretty logical – which is why I think lamb tastes much more interesting in the autumn than now. Lamb that is sold as ‘spring lamb’ is unlikely to have had any grass, it will have been entirely milk-fed and probably been indoors most of its’ life – which in itself can produce a delicious flavor but one that is much more delicate than lamb that has a combination of grass and milk. At the end of the day for a hobby sheep farmer such as myself, it has just baffled me for years all the hype over spring lamb when the maths simply does not add up. The reality is there are 2 different kinds of lamb, one that is born in the late autumn and early winter months that is predominantly milk-fed and destined for the Spring market, and one that is born in the spring months that has a mix of milk and grass and enters the market, somewhat different in flavour – arguably more intense, in the late summer early autumn. Bingo – spring lamb explained – (kind of)!

IMG_1356Will we be eating lamb at Easter? Well of course, I mean who in their right mind wouldn’t? Yet, it will be last years lamb, plucked from the freezer I hasten to add! We are now becoming pretty long on lamb but are a long way from tired of it. A recent addition to our lamb repertoire of recipes has a middle eastern flavour, it requires time and hence a little planning but you will be rewarded.  Hear me out; smothered in harrissa paste and slow roasting a shoulder for 5-8 hours in the oven creates the most wonderfully rich, aromatic and tender meat. I have to admit I’m quite addicted. Accompanied with the all important tahini yogurt and muhamra its a combination that is hard to resist. Now don’t get me wrong, this is not Easter Sunday fare, we tend to tow the party line where important, but it is refreshingly different and a real wind of change from the norm. One of the best things about it is the all important ‘leftovers’. Every lunch this week I have been feasting on the various components that go with said lamb but in a salad style combination. ‘Muhamra’ is the true jewel in the crown. Unlike anything I have ever eaten before I found a recipe in my favorite book ‘Honey & Co’ – it is quite delicious and versatile in the extreme. It really can be paired with anything. Please try it as it will bring a smile to your face. Happy days, spring is here!

Harrissa  Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb

1 jar of Belazu Rose Harrissa Paste

1 shoulder of lamb

Set the oven to 150 and place the lamb in a roasting tray lined with foil. Cover/ smother the lamb shoulder with the harissa paste – depending on the size of the lamb shoulder you may use the whole jar – or possibly only half. Cover tightly with foil and put in the oven to slow roast for between 5-6 hours. After this time the lamb should just fall away from the bone when you pop a knife in. It should not to be carved but more pulled apart. Serve warm.

Muhamra (from Honey & Co)

1 red pepper 180g

1 large plum tomato 120g

1 red onion 100g

1 head of garlic unpeeled

1 chilli red

1 tbsp + 1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 freshly ground black pepper

60g walnuts, roasted

3 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1/2tsp smoky paprika

Remove the seeds from the pepper and cut into chunks, cut the tomato into chunks, cut the onion into wedges and cut the head of garlic straight thorugh the middle.

Place the pepper, garlic, tomato, onion and whole chilli in a roasting tin with the  1 tsp  of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven until carmelised around the edges, about 30 minutes. REmove from the oven and let cool.

Squeeze out the soft flesh of the garlic, and discard the skins, remove the top stem of the chilli. Mix all the vegetables, all the walnuts, the pomegranate molasses, paprika and last spoon of oilve oil and now place in a magimix and blend to a puree, not completely smooth but not too chunky. More like a pesto consistency. Serve as needed. This will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Salads of the week:

Roasted butternut, beetroot, rocket, tahini yogurt, homemade pesto and Muhamra

Herbed bulghar wheat, avocado, beetroot, tahini yogurt and Muhamra

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February 2015 016If I’m not in the kitchen at 7.30am rustling up the little peoples breakfast – God forbid. It seems to be the one meal of the day that the pink and blue relish, leisurely taking their time over every morsel, almost in an act of defiance that next on the agenda is mummies ‘quick march’ to school. Unlike lunch and tea, that are inhaled, with the blue one dancing round with ants in his pants, breakfast is quite the opposite, eaten slowly with barely a care in the world, almost at a snails pace. Somewhat ironic given there is always a degree of time pressure and need to ‘hurry up’. Breakfast is sedate but the meal itself extensive. First there’s porridge, then scrambled eggs (but only the ones our hens lay -I mean how fussy can a 5 year old be), mushrooms and then toast and jam. Yogurt and honey feature here and there and a bowl of fruit. None of this however really tickles my fancy first thing in the morning. I juice – the pink one drinks it and then I juice again – and I drink it. We’re not that adventurous it’s usually carrot, apple and cucumber or something of that ilk. And then it’s a cup of Chai spiced tea made with almond milk. All of that is true until last week when I fatefully made a batch of nutty, coconut granola. Now I’m addicted, often caught halfway through the day with my hand in the kilner jar fishing out said granola, this is going to be the death of my waist!

I have been making granola for years and there’s no rocket science behind it. I doubt it’s any cheaper than buying it in the supermarket but at least you can tailor make it to your own requirements with a clear conscience of what goes in. Historically I have always made a classic maple sryup toasted oat base and added in dried cranberries and blueberries, nuts and seeds. Last week, after an epic trip to Tooting to introduce myself to spice land and where to buy weird and wonderful Asian produce I was inspired by the coconut oil and decided to make a more tropical version. Nothing new and particularly clever about this apart from it just tastes mighty good. With lashings of almond milk and a side of pink rhubarb I can’t think of a nicer way to start my morning.

February 2015 019Coconut, Nutty Granola

200g maple syrup

400g jumbo organic oats

125g hazelnuts

80 g whole almonds

50g walnuts

30g pumpkin seeds

30g sesame seeds

40g coconut oil

50g coconut flakes

1. Mix the coconut oil, syrup and oats together and place on a lined baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes at 170. Stir after 5 minutes to make sure the coconut oil has melted and is well mixed in. After 20 minutes the oats should be turning golden, remove and let cool.

2. Toast the nuts at the same time but in a separate oven tray for 10 minutes and then roughly chop.

3. Toast the coconut flakes – they turn fast, so keep an eye on them.

4. Once the granola has been toasted, mix in the nuts, seeds and coconut and store in an airtight container.


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Carrot and Spelt Cupcakes

Carrot spelt cup cakes 010We’ve been long on carrots all winter. One thing our garden seems to grow with relish is carrots and boy have we had a lot. They are delicious, sweet and intense and  seemingly  never-ending. I juice with them every morning and they go in to soups, stews and salads but importantly for the ‘little people’ they also go into cake!! The ‘pink one’ feeds them to ‘Toffee’, the fat pony and ‘Elsa’ and ‘Peta’,  the fatter rabbits. Every now and again I catch her digging one up and feeding herself, Peter Rabbit style, soil and all, and I can be heard screeching from the kitchen to at least attempt to wash it! No harm done yet and full points for hand to mouth living but a few lessons needed in cleanliness!

Now the blue one is a slightly different matter. It’s orange and therefore I wont eat it!! Orange means ‘beware’, ‘caution’, and in his view, ‘do not eat me’, I wonder if he’ll apply the same logic to easyjet? Well that was before a viewing of ‘Tractor Ted grows Vegetables’, hello carrot renaissance. Suddenly both ‘little people’ are obsessed with making carrot cake. Unsurprisingly, carrots in cake are fine, and to be honest let’s face it, they are pretty well disguised! We played around with lots of different variations and ended up with a spelt cake with carrot, sweetened with maple syrup and made with coconut oil. It’s a dairy free cake – at least it is until you top it with lashings of cream cheese frosting. You could just keep them plain but I think I would face a revolt. The spelt flour and polenta work really well, a little nutty and slightly textural,  and you can just taste a hint of the coconut but if this offends we have on occasion replaced it with sunflower oil or some simple light olive oil and both work brilliantly. The cakes are incredibly light thanks to the beaten egg whites and are super afternoon tea treats for those who have eaten their greens!

Carrot spelt cup cakes 011Carrot and Spelt Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 12 Cupcakes

70g spelt wholegrain flour

65g maple syrup

60g olive oil / or sunflower oil

40g coconut oil / or sunflower oil

20g polenta

85g carrots finely grated on a microplane

1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk

2 egg whites

¼ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp baking powder

Line your cupcake tin with cases and set the oven to 180.

1.Mix together the grated carrot, oils, maple syrup and eggs, ideally in a Kenwood for 4 minutes or so on a low setting.

2.Fold in the flour, polenta, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda  and cinnamon so you have a loose batter.

3.Beat the 2 egg whites till soft peaks form and slowly fold into the batter.

4.Spoon into cupcake cases and bake at 180 for between 10 and 15 minutes depending on the strength of your oven.

5.Remove when risen and bouncy to the touch.

Cream cheese Frosting

90gms of soft butter

130gm of icing sugar

50g cream cheese

Place the butter and icing sugar in an electric mixer and beat hard until light and fluffy and well combined. Add in the cream cheese and repeat so everything is really smooth and well incorporated.

Ice the cupcakes when they have cooled.

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‘Hangry’ Bars, otherwise known as ‘apricot, date and oat bars’

Healthy fruit and nut bars 019Back to school and don’t we know it in this house. Every day after the magical sleep dust has been brushed aside the ‘blue one’ suddenly realises the true horrors of the day ahead, with the dawn comes another school day. This in theory should not be a shock to anyone, we have been following the same routine now for over a term but anyone would think we are sending the little love off to boot camp. There’s a lot of stomping and ranting, silenced only by breakfast. Another fight follows trying to get the team out the door and then, a bit like ‘peace descending on the battlefield’, all is calm. We walk/ scoot/ run to school, all angry words long since forgotten.

Healthy fruit and nut bars 023In spite of the morning rant, school is broadly speaking good. The one bit that is not is the food. At least not for the ‘blue one’ who is one of the most fickle eaters I have come across. Now this poses quite a problem. Breakfast to tea with only fruit mid morning makes a growing boy pretty hungry. The upshot is I pick up my little darling at 3.20pm to find a rather ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) chap. It’s too early for tea and yet I have to give him something because frankly the wheels will come up, they may well do anyhow, but that belly needs sustenance!

Healthy fruit and nut bars 025The pink and blue are keen little chefs and they have been helping me cook a few new creations, one being these rather scrummy fruit and nut bars. Stuffed with dates, apricots, almonds, walnuts and oats they are my instant go to when ‘hangry’ boy greets me at the doors. These bars are a reflection of my new trend setting larder. Made with gluten-free oats, sweetened with apricots, dates, a smidgen of date syrup and maple syrup, they have no refined sugar or butter. Stuffed full of nuts and cooked with raw coconut oil they are our new healthy snack. They just about keep the jaws of hunger at bay and everyone sane till tea time – but not always!

Hangry Bars – Apricot, date and oat bars

100g walnuts

100g almonds (blanched)

100g gluten free organic jumbo oats – or just normal jumbo oats

100g medjool dates( remove stones)

100g soft dried apricots

35g hemp seeds / or pumpkin seeds or a combination of sesame and poppy seeds

50 g organic coconut oil

1 tablespoon date syrup

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Pre heat the oven to 170

Line a square baking tray (about 23cm x 23cm) with parchment paper.

1.Put the walnuts, almonds in a magimix and chop finely – remove and pop in a bowl and add the oats.

  1. Put the dates (stones removed) and apricots in the magimix and whizz till finely chopped.
  2. Add back in the nuts and oats, coconut oil (which is very hard – it will melt in the oven but the magimix will break it up more evenly), seeds, date syrup and maple syrup and whizz. The mix should just come together in a soft dough .
  3. Press into the tin and bake for between 12 and 15 minutes. It will have gone slightly golden and come away from the sides of the paper. Leave to cool and cut into squares or bars. These bars will keep for 4 days in an airtight container. Perfect little energy pick me ups!


URBAN DICTIONARY: Hangry. When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.

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Go East … Sunday lunch from Persia

Sunday lunch is not something our family really subscribes to, at least not in the traditional sense. I can’t actually remember the last time we sat down for a classical, British ‘roast’ and I have to admit I really don’t miss it. I’m not a big carnivore for a start so the new trends of cooking making vegetable ‘king’ and meat a sideline are much more up my street. Hence when confronted with 15 for lunch on a cold sunday in January I decided to head east for my inspiration in the hope that I could tick the obligatory meat box for the hungry boys yet also keep the girlies happy with accompanying dishes that were altogether lighter, prettier and tastier. I can’t really vouch if the food created really had a natural home, flavors from Morocco, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey took precedence but there were others as well. A stunning Ottolenghi inspired aubergine salad won the beauty contest, a mezze medley derived largely from my superb new cook book ‘Honey & Co’ had the taste buds zinging, there was the obligatory bulghar wheat salad and then some punchy butternut squash roasted with chilli and fennel seed. It was a welcome change and devoured by all, a distant cry from roast lamb swimming in gravy with tatties and 2 veg!

I am extremely fond of ‘Middle Eastern’ food and have quite a lot to thank that kitchen wizard, Ottolenghi for. That said, the stoic, fabulous Diana Henry was probably the lady who initially introduced me to some of the more subtle flavors and complex combinations in her gorgeous book ‘Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons’. My book shelves are now weighed down with more recent publications, ‘, ‘Istanbul’, ‘Persiana’ and my most leafed through, ‘Honey & Co’. Talk about feeling the love. This is my favorite cookbook from 2014. Bought, and I’m rather embarrassed to admit this, for someone else, yet for some reason it never quite made it to its intended destination and thankfully I am now the proud, and extremely lucky owner of it. I have been slowly flicking through it, picking out recipes and savouring every morsel. Last week I was spoilt rotten and taken out for lunch – an extremely rare treat – to their modest establishment on Warren St. It was fabulous. It’s not smart or grand but it is warm and welcoming, the staff are heaven and the food DIVINE. If you like middle eastern food you have to go to ‘Honey & Co’ – or failing that at least buy their book.

December 2014 193

Back to that Sunday lunch. Now if I’m totally honest I have tried this once before and it was pretty popular.  Second tine round I did a bit of tweaking here and there, added to the menu and came up with the following. It does sound a bit messy and yes, I guess it does require a bit of forward planning but such a refreshing change I can’t tell you.

Sunday Lunch from the Middle East

Mezze with Lavoush

Labaneh – strained cheese made by mixing yogurt and lemon juice, oil and salt (Honey & Co recipe)

Hummus  with sumac and zatar sprinkled on top (Honey & Co recipe)

Saffron yogurt – left over from the aubergine salad (Ottolenghi)

Muhamra (Honey & Co recipe)

Tahini yogurt ( natural yogurt, tahini, garlic and honey)

Lavoush – flat bread (Honey & Co)

Rose red Harrissa marinated leg of lamb

Bulghar salad with roasted almonds, parsley and lemon

Butternut squash roasted with chilli and fennel with tahini yogurt

Roasted aubergine with pomegranate, basil and parsley with saffron yogurt (Ottolenghi)

My favorite bit was the mezze. I can’t resist a dollop of hummus, tahini and the totally addictive muhamra. Served alongside the ‘Lavoush’ I was as happy as a sandboy, in my kind of foodie paradise. Now ‘Lavoush’ is very much a newcomer to our kitchen and something I have only made since the acquisition of said ‘Honey & Co’ cook book. I am told the bread is a staple in the Middle East and has even crept on to menus as far away as London – extraordinary! Frankly I can see why it has a worldwide appeal, unbelievably moreish and so easy to make it works with everything and anything, mezze is the obvious but it would be lovely with a starter as long as you get the topping right. Given we had bought into the whole ‘Middle Eastern’ lunch ‘shebang’ we embraced the toppings for said bread. On went the zatar, sumac, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sea salt, fennel seeds – not all at once but all kinds of combinations. Once cooked we broke it into uneven shards and served in the most rustic of fashions. This is certainly something we will make again and again. Firstly because it is so easy, chances are you have the ingredients in your larder now  (flour, butter, sugar, salt and water) and secondly because it is so damn good.


180g strong bread flour

14g soft butter

a pinch of sugar

1/2 tsp salt

60-80ml water

1 egg for brushing

Toppings of your choice. Sumac, Zatar, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, salt etc etc.

Mix the flour, butter, sugar salt together and start to add the water until there is a heavy, dry dough. It will just come together, it will not be springy or soft. Wrap in cling and place in fridge for at least an hour.

Heat your oven to 190 or 170. Remove the dough and start rolling. If you have a pasta machine pop it through on the skinniest of settings. You want really thinly rolled dough – wafer thin! Place the dough on lined baking sheets, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with your chosen topping. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until the bread turns golden. Once cool  break into uneven shards. It will store well in an air tight container.

This will make 4 large pieces – good for 4-6 people to eat with dips.

December 2014 195

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Yee ha cowboy….


You guessed it, cowboys was the theme this year. Well if I am honest, last year to be precise – where did December go? I digress, ‘Cowboys’ was a very good choice given all the paraphernalia we have knocking around the farm, though ‘Toffee’ the fat pony sadly did not make the grade. A seemingly endless supply of appropriate props; saddles, cowboy boots, bales of straw, reins and even a cactus or 2 meant we really could pull off with some authenticity the ‘Wild West’ look. Needless to say we had a lot of fun theming this one. Even the food was fun- burgers in mini buns, mini hotdogs, potato wedges, tiny pizzas – it was the blue ones dream meal. Naturally the savoury titbits were topped off with a volley of sweet eats – cowboy cupcakes, cactus and cowboy boot biscuits and of course the original chocolate cowboy fort cake with a rather blood thirsty shoot out taking place. Thankfully I didn’t entertain the cowboys and cowgirls that was wonderfully taken care of by the magnificent ‘Harry’ from Sharkey & George. It was high octane, high speed fun. Non stop games and treats and lots of happy faces.

No new recipes here today but just a few tips on how I made the cowboy party work. Meri Meri has been my go to for many years for invitations, and table decorations and this year was much the same. The internet as normal is a treasure trove of kit that can be ordered to create the magic. I bought bandanas, a cactus and cowboy boot cutter, mini milk bottles and the cowboy party bag fillers. The Fort Cake was remarkably easy to make, a simple chocolate square with buckets of butter icing, chocolate fingers and a collection of lead figures that had clearly had a few too many gun battles!  We had the wigwam and lots of animal skins to transform the barn into a ‘Wild West’ extravaganza, along with a few pairs of cowboy boots and saddles which were draped over an old wooden saddle horse or two. I seem to remember Johnny Cash was crooning in the background – but I’m not sure he is very cowboy. All the food was served on oak wooden planks and the classic ‘WANTED’ sign of the 2 outlaw cowboys was hung on every door. A chill out cowboy zone was created in the archway with bales of straw and of course the necessary target practice. All in all it worked really well. There is something very special about hosting a party at home, especially for the little people, it is hard work, I would go as far to say, exhausting, but worth every effort!

Like all parties it did require a little forward planning and luckily I had the time and inclination to do this. Here is my little black source book and menu for said ‘Cowboy Party’.

Meri Meri : for invitations, table decorations and very cool cupcake cases and toppers

Amazon – Cowboy themed cookie cutters, bandanas, cowboy books for the party bags, sheriff badges, ‘Wanted’ posters etc etc etc

Sharkey & George for the entertainment:

Mini milk bottles –

Striped paper straws –

Mini burger buns and mini hot dog buns Park Bakery Miniatures 02088747688

Cactus’s from the local garden centre and bales of straw from ‘Toffee’s’ stable!


Mini burgers in mini burger buns

Mini sausages in hot dog buns

Homemade potato wedges with ketchup

Mini tomato and cheese pizzas

Hula hoop crisp wands

Cucumber, carrot and pepper sticks

Cupcakes with multi-colored butter icing

Cactus and cowboy boot cookies


Wagon wheels to go in the party bags

Chocolate Fort Cake with brutal shoot out taking place!


Posted in Toddlers and tinies | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Yum Yum Broth

762Call me boring but broth has to be my absolute ‘go to’ when it’s time to button down the hatches warm up and eat something that warms the soul. Nothing gets my taste buds tingling more than the fiery heat of  chilli, ginger and coriander in a ‘Asian’ style broth stuffed full of vegetables and finished with udon noodles. This is part Vietnamese ‘Pho’, part Thai soup and part Japanese  – I guess you could call it fusion. It’s a building block dish and not something that can be done instantly as it requires a few steps, none of which are complicated but all require a little time. Oh the luxury of that, but hear me out. There’s a bit of chopping involved and a lot of simmering, so all it really requires is a wee bit of that famous forward planning – easy!

Firstly one needs stock. It really has to be homemade, ideally chicken but pheasant and partridge will also do. Then one needs to infuse said stock with chilli, ginger, star anise, lemon grass, coriander, coriander seeds, lime leaves, carrots, a banana shallot and a few stalks of celery. After this ‘infusion’ of ideally 2 to 3 hours on a low simmer, sieve out the spices and vegetables and put the clear broth in a new clean pan.  Bingo, now you’re ready to go. You can go meat, fish or vegetable based just depending on what you feel like. I went for the vegetable option being a ‘meat free monday’ (ignore the meat based stock) and added roasted butternut and brocolli and then udon noodles. After that there is a little tampering; additions of Thai fish sauce (very important), fresh lime juice, maybe a pinch of palm sugar, more fresh coriander, fresh slithered red chilli and some grated ginger, all topped off with roasted, chopped cashews. It should taste hot, sour and salty and from my experience be greeted with coo’s of gratitude and thanks.


Serves 2 healthy portions

Infusion Stock:

800ml of fresh homemade chicken stock (you can also use game stock but it can be quite strong)

2 organic carrots, scrubbed and roughly chopped

1 banana shallot, finely sliced

1 large red chilli, roughly chopped

2 inch piece of fresh ginger, skinned and roughly sliced

2 sticks of celery, washed and roughly chopped

3 star anise

8 coriander seeds

1 stick of lemongrass, roughly chopped

2 fresh lime leaves

1 large handful of coriander roughly chopped

Sieved Broth Additions:

Juice of at least 2 limes

4 table spoons of Thai fish sauce

1 red chilli very finely sliced

2 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander

2 tablespoons of cashew nuts, roasted in the oven and chopped finely

Freshly grated ginger

200gms udon noodles – cooked as instructed

Broth building blocks:

I used diced roasted butternut, a handful of brocolli florets and a handful of julliened mange tout. You could also add in prawns, squid for a fishy take on it or go for shredded chicken or duck. Pak choi works well as does shitake mushrooms, there are so many combinations you really have to play around to see what works for you.

1. Place all the ingredients for the infusion broth in to a large pan and bring slowly up to the boil. Turn it down to a very low simmer and continue at this heat for about 2 hours. Sieve all the ingredients out and put the Asian spiced broth in a clean pan.

2. Dice the butternut and roast in a baking tray for 35 minutes until soft to the touch and slighltly caramelised.

3. Cook the udon noodles as instucted. Add the butternut into the sieved broth, add in the brocolli and let it cook till it is just al dente, add in the cooked noodles. Now get your tasting spoon out, add in the thai fish sauce, lime juice, additional chilli and coriander. Taste the broth…. it may need more lime juice or more fish sauce, or a little more grated ginger.

4. Lift the noodles out of the sauce pan and place in soup bowls and then ladle the broth and vegetables over the top. Top with more coriander, a slither or 2 of chilli and the cashew nuts.




Posted in One Pot Wonders | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment