OMG OMG OMG! I’ve fallen in love… with a compote!
No you are not imaging these words and I really am saying them. But I’ve just made the most amazing tropical fruit compote that’ll having you thinking that you’re sitting on a beach from the very first spoonful – and by beach I don’t mean Southend (although, of course, there’s nothing wrong with good old Southend!)
It was my second attempt at making this compote. The first attempt wasn’t too bad but I felt it was missing something. So I added more spices, some honey, and some booze – because let’s face it, everything tastes so much better with booze!
Initially I wasn’t a hundred per cent sure if all the flavours would work well together, even though I knew that many of the ingredients used to give flavour worked well individually with the pineapple, mango and passion fruit used in this recipe. Thankfully they did and I was thrilled with the result.
I loved the heat you got from the spices and the rum; the fresh zingyness of the lime; the sweet aroma of the vanilla, and the somewhat simultaneous sweetness and tanginess of the fruit. Delicious!
But don’t just take my word for it – have a go at making it yourself!
Another thing I’ve discovered about fruit compotes – whether you use fresh or dried fruit – is that they are so versatile. You can serve them hot, warm or cold and they can be used as a topping for porridge or toasted brioche as part of a yummy breakfast; they can be served as dessert with cream, mascarpone, ice-cream or custard. Compotes can also be used as a topping for cheesecake or a sponge pudding, or can be used as a filling for pancakes, crumbles, pies, cobblers or tarts.
And if you’re feeding little people – and by little people I mean children not vertically challenged people like myself – you might want to leave out the rum.
THE HEAT IS ON TROPICAL FRUIT COMPOTE
THE FOOD STUFF:
1 medium pineapple
2 large mangoes
5 passion fruit
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 vanilla pod
1 star anise
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
2 tablespoons runny honey
a couple of good glugs of Malibu
THE EQUIPMENT STUFF:
1 Sharp knife
1 chopping board
1 baking tray
A variety of spoons
- Turn oven on to
- Peel and core pineapple and cut into chunks.
- Peel mangoes and cut into large chunks.
- Cut each passion fruit in half and scoop out pulp.
- Place fruit in an oven proof dish.
- Cut vanilla pod in half lengthways and scrape out seeds.
- Add vanilla to the fruit.
- Add remaining ingredients.
- Combine well.
- Pop in the oven and cook for 25mins or until pineapple chunks have softened.
- Take out of oven – and enjoy any way you wish!
By now most people will have heard of Kenny Harmon, the grandfather from Oklahoma who makes a mean hamburger, and is now affectionately known as Papaw. He made headlines around the world after a photo posted on social media of him tucking into a hamburger went viral. OK, so there’s nothing remarkable about a photo of a man eating a hamburger – but the story behind it is!
THE STORY SO FAR…
The doting grandad had invited his six grandchildren over for dinner, and set about creating a hamburger meal for them, complete with twelve – that’s right, twelve – hamburgers! However come dinnertime, five of them were a no-show. The only grandchild who did turn up – Kelsey Harmon – took a snap of Papaw as he tucked into his dinner and posted it to her Twitter account, explaining that dinner for eight had become dinner for two. Then before you could ask for more burger sauce, the post totally blew up on social media with thousands of people commenting.
THE PUBLIC HAVE SPOKEN!
A lot of people commented that the look of disappointment etched on Papaw’s face made them a little teary, especially when they heard about how much effort he’d gone to. Many agreed that they wanted Papaw to be their grandad too. Others wanted to know what had happened to the remaining burgers – and rightly so! A few sad cases declared that Papaw couldn’t be a very good grandfather if his grandkids didn’t want to spend time with him, while the odd couple of lost causes made death threats against the kids who didn’t turn up. Seriously people, get a life!
Just about everyone had an opinion regarding hamburgergate although the response to Papaw’s photo was generally very good. And one thing this photo succeeded in doing was make us think about our own grandparents and the role we played – or for those lucky ones, still continue to play – in their lives. And it certainly made me think about mine.
OUR ROLE MODELS
When it comes to grandparents, Mr. D. and I consider ourselves to be extremely blessed. Our grandparents were exactly what you would expect grandparents to be and served as excellent role models, not just to us kids, but to many other people who also looked up to them. We were adored by our grandparents who spoilt us rotten but were wise enough to know when to stop. And in an age where marriages collapse faster than an undercooked chocolate fondant, our grandfathers were devoted to their wives – quite simply they couldn’t live without them. If Mr. D. and I could have just half of what they had, we’re on our way to a very successful marriage.
Our grandparents may no longer still be with us but they are still the people we aspire to be like. They played a massive role in our upbringing and helped shape us into the people we are today. It saddens us that they didn’t live long enough to see us marry and guide us through our married life.
BUT WE WEREN’T PERFECT…
But I’m sorry to say that although Mr. D. and I had the perfect grandparents, we weren’t always the perfect grandkids. As we went from sweet kids to rebellious teens, we swapped sleepovers at our grandparents for raucous nights out with our friends, followed by all night swotting before exams at uni, before getting started in our chosen careers. So as we got older, even though our grandparents were always in our thoughts, we didn’t always visit or call as often as we should have. It was never intentional but it’s something that fills me with shame to this day.
WHY WE WERE MOVED BY PAPAW
Papaw’s story is both heartwarming and inspiring because it illustrated that in a world where people don’t get enough quality family time, there are still people who make an effort to get their familes together. In an age where the family unit isn’t as cohesive as it once was, there are still grandparents out there who want to play an active role in their grandkids lives. And although some people have passed judgement on the absentee grandchildren, I know just how easy it is to let the demands of real life get in the easy of things we really ought to do. And even though its been a zillion years since I was a teenager, I remember putting off visits to my own grandfather to go and join in with my friends’ crazy antics.
Its not that teenagers and young adults don’t love their grandparents of course. Its just that at that age, we often forget that the time we have with them is limited; we think that they’ll be around forever and that we’ll never see a time when they’re not around. At least that’s how it was for me. I think Papaw’s story has reminded us to make every second count when it comes to our loved ones.
WE LOVE OUR GRANDPARENTS…
Most of us really do the very best we can for our grandparents. Where I grew up in Northwest London, I saw even the roughest, toughest kids turn into big softies when it came to their grandparents and they couldn’t do enough for them. And even after their grandparents pass away, they’re never forgotten with their grandchildren marking birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions.
…BUT SADLY SOME ARE FORGOTTEN
I’m glad that Papaw’s story had a positive outcome but it also made me feel sad because I thought of the grandparents who are not made to feel loved or valued – and believe me I’ve come across plenty of them. Many elderly people I know talk about their huge families – complete with grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren – with pride. But these are the same people who struggle with the simplest of tasks as they go about their daily lives, depending on the kindness of neighbours, friends, acquaintances and even strangers rather than burden their children and grandchildren. In fact I know of people who usually see their grandchildren when they turn up demanding a handout!
I can’t help but feel a little angry at situations like this and marvel at peoples carelessness and lack of common sense. Surely if your family is bigger than the average village, than the responsibility of looking after grandma or grandpa should be a doddle, shouldn’t it? Well apparently not! I may not have called in as often as I could have but whenever Grandad needed help with anything, one of us was always there.
CHERISH EVERY MOMENT
When my grandfather passed away, I regretted that I didn’t spend enough time with him. It was only after his death I realised just how much he lived for his grandchildren and how every moment with us brought him so much happiness. But as a few people told me, no matter how much you did for your parents and grandparents, no matter how much time you spent with them even if it was every waking moment, it would NEVER be enough. And grandparents understand that we have things we need to do in life and we can’t always be there and nor would they want to stand in our way. As long as you show that you care, and that you love and value them, that makes them happy. So instead of feeling guilty, we should treasure the time we did get to spend together, know that we did the best we could and take comfort from those memories.
If there’s anything we can take away from Papaw’s story, it’s that awesome grandparents never stop giving, no matter how old their grandkids get. And despite a few exceptions, grandchildren never stop being loving – they just get busy! Modern life is frantic but we should do the very best we can to find even just a little time to let our grandparents know what they mean to us.
The Harmon family’s story did get a happy ending in that Kenny Harmon was reunited with all six of his grandchildren a week later for a special buffet lunch. And I did wonder just how many of those who wanted Papaw to be their adopted grandfather actually made the effort with their own grandparents. Well it seems that the other good thing about this story is that it actually made people reach out to their own grandparents immediately rather than putting off contact to another day.
Go Papaw… and grandparents everywhere!
Thanksgiving is about to descend upon us – and I can’t wait!
Ever since Mr.D. and I became a couple, I’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving with him. It’s a very special time for us and it’s become one of my favourite holidays. I know it’s not such a big deal to our family and friends in Britain but last year Mr.D. and I got to celebrate with our friends in Edinburgh – and they loved it. And I enjoyed cooking for eight people – the most I’ve ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for (all across America, people are going ” Eight people? Is that all???)
Going back to our first Thanksgiving together, I hadn’t a clue what to do; how to celebrate it; what to prepare; I didn’t know anything about the customs or traditions. I understood that a traditional roast turkey dinner was served, and that most people settled down to watch football and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving but not much else. So after interrogating Mr.D. about the dos and don’ts of Thanksgiving, he insisted that it really didn’t matter what the traditions were – we should work on creating our own ones. I thought it was a lovely idea. I also knew that it was Mr. D.’s way of saying that he hadn’t the foggiest what Thanksgiving traditions were despite having celebrated Thanksgiving his whole life!
So create our own traditions we did! Well not right away of course because the thing with traditions is that they need time to take root before they can be established as traditions. Though I’m very glad to say that the first ever Thanksgiving meal has not become one of our traditions or else we’d be eating roast turkey, raw carrots, stuffing and nothing else every year!
So as I prepare to celebrate my sixth Thanksgiving with the man who introduced me to it all, I take a look at all things that are typically Mr. and Mrs. D and that we have to include every year so that it feels ‘Thanksgivingy.’
1. TO CHURCH IN THE MORNING
For me, it’s very important to start Thanksgiving by going to a church service exactly as I would do Christmas morning. Mr. D. isn’t big on church but he does accompany me. It’s my chance to give thanks for all the good things that have happened in the last year and gives me time to reflect. I know that Thanksgiving has no real significance in Britain where we are now so there won’t be a special Thanksgiving mass in any of the churches but I will still attend a church service tomorrow.
2. PANCAKE BREAKFAST
Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without a traditional breakfast of pancakes drenched in butter and maple syrup with bacon/sausage and eggs. You might wonder why we’d be tucking into a very filling breakfast when we’re going to be tucking into a gut-busting meal later on but when you come to number 5, you’ll understand why!
3. ROAST TURKEY DINNER
What else could it be other than turkey? When it comes to Thanksgiving the most traditional thing about it is the roast dinner, which in my opinion – unless you’re a vegetarian – just has to be turkey as tradition dictates. I remember for Mr.D’s first Thanksgiving in Britain, my mum insisted on cooking a leg of lamb because she absolutely hates turkey. Well, I’m sorry – I wasn’t having any of it! I told mum she could have some lamb for herself if that’s what she wanted but we were damn well having turkey! Of course I put it very politely.
We always have turkey with all the trimmings including potatoes, stuffing, candied yams etc. Cranberry sauce usually gets left off the list (unless my father-in-law is with us) as it’s not really our thing. And if we happen to be in the States you can bet your life biscuits and pumpkin pie will be on the menu.
And of course there’ll be a round of sandwiches the next day!
4. TURKEY MUST BE TOPPED WITH BACON
I thought everyone wrapped the top of the turkey with bacon in order to keep it very moist – after all, no one likes dry turkey, do they? It’s certainly something I consider a necessity. But it would seem that when I prepared Thanksgiving dinner in the States one year, many of Mr.D’s family had never seen a turkey wrapped in bacon before. Some even thought it was my own invention (I wish!) They thought it was the most awesome thing they’d ever seen, and before the turkey even made it on to the table, the bacon had already been devoured!
5. A VERY, VERY, LATE DINNER
This is a cross between a tradition and coincidence as try as I might, I can NEVER get dinner on the table at a time when most normal people would expect to eat. But then we’re not known for being a ‘normal’ household! From what I understand, most Americans have their traditional Thanksgiving meal between the hours of 1-3pm. Not in this house though!
I don’t know if it’s because of all the back-to-back movies we’re watching; the non-stop grazing that happens while we’re waiting for the main event, I don’t know why or how but dinner is never served before 9pm. In fact last year, when we were in Edinburgh with our friends we were having such an awesome time that we didn’t serve dinner until 11pm! That’s right – 11pm!!! Although by the time I eventually sat down to eat, it was after midnight and Thanksgiving was officially over.
So the moral of the story is that if you want to eat on time, Chez Mr.and Mrs. D’s is not the place to be!
6. FAMILY MOVIE MARATHON
Mr.D. is a movie nut so if it’s just the family who are coming over, it’s not unusual to find us watching movies until the early hours of the following day. We only stop to call friends and relatives, Mr.D. takes a break to game (also his chance to chat to his bestie who lives in South Carolina) and of course to scoff dinner!
7. GAMES WITH FRIENDS
If we are having friends over, we know that they will not want to sit around watching movies. So Mr.D. will watch his beloved movies until our guests arrive and then it’s raucous party game time. They might be a bit old hat but charades and bingo always go down well and have proved to be an excellent ice-breaker with people we don’t know very well. By the time they’ve put on their coat to go home, we’ll have made a whole new bunch of friends.
8. DEATH AT A FUNERAL
This may seem like an odd choice but it started out as purely coincidental. I realised that for the first few years that I’d celebrated Thanksgiving, we’d watched Death At A Funeral. I’ve seen both the 2007 and 2010 versions which both star Peter Dinklage. Don’t ask me why but that’s always something that’s on the movie marathon list. So now I feel that it isn’t really Thanksgiving unless we watch this hilarious comedy film that never fails to have me in stitches even though I’ve seen it five times now.
There’s nothing like candle light, and every Thanksgiving I make sure there are candles dotted around the place – especially beautifully scented candles. One of the things our friends remembered about Thanksgiving last year was how gorgeous the place looked bathed in candlelight and the welcoming aroma that greeted them as they entered the house.
And we always have a candlelit dinner for Thanksgiving because there’s just something about that gentle, cosy glow and the warmth of the flickering candles as we’re all sat around the table. In fact, come to think of it, that might be another reason why we serve dinner so late in the evening as a candlelit dinner at 1pm just isn’t the same.
10. CHEESE BOARD
OK I think it may be a little too soon to call this a a Chez D. tradition as last year was the only year we did a cheese platter but it was such a hit that I’m determined to do a cheese board every year. And of course, if you’re going to eat dinner so late, you’ve got to produce something to keep your guests going and this cheese platter seems to be just the thing.
I’ve done posts in the past about cheese courses and what to serve on a cheese board but if you’re going to make one as a precursor to a main meal then it’s best to keep things simple. And last year, everyone enjoyed nibbling on a selection of cheeses with crackers, mini sausages, apple slices, grapes and chutney in between playing charades.
11. I AM THANKFUL POEM
I was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple and we were living in the Pacific North-West when during the church service the priest read a beautiful poem that has stayed with me ever since. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the little things and to count your blessings – even if it may not seem like a blessing at the time. The poem is called I Am Thankful by a talented but unknown poet and there appear to be several versions of this poem. I like to read it every Thanksgiving:
I AM THANKFUL
I am thankful for…
The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.
The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
My shadow that watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.
A lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
All the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.
My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.
The lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.
The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.
The alarm clock that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.
Weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been productive.
Let’s be thankful – not only at Thanksgiving, but every day.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
In less than twenty four hours time, we’ll know who will be the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015.
The downside of this is that this year’s series of Bake Off will come to an end, so we’ll have to say goodbye to Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue, cakes, pies, biscuits, meringues, pastries and breads until we see them again next summer – though sadly we’ll have to bid farewell to the 2015 contestants forever!
I get lost in my own little world when The Great British Bake Off is on. I actually feel as though I’m in the midst of the tranquil English countryside where the Bake Off tent is pitched. All those pastel, candy shades of iced goodies appeal to the kid in me. And even though the bakers often feel flustered and panic-stricken, there’s something so calming about the gentle pursuit of baking. It also invokes memories of home life and family time because let’s face it, who didn’t have a mother, aunt or grandmother who didn’t whip up baked delicacies, and I remember that growing up, teatime was a pretty big deal. And of course, the show celebrates that great British tradition, afternoon tea – which I’m sure you all know I’m a huge fan of. And best of all, for one deliciously decadent hour every week, we can forget that healthy eating ever mattered!
I think it’s fair to say that The Great British Bake Off is my very own televised Disneyland!
Mr.D and I have loved this year’s series – not to mention it’s sister program An Extra Slice with the hilarious Jo Brand. I often find that when I’m hooked on one year’s series of any show, the following year’s will fall a little flat so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series so much as I thought 2014 was brilliant. But this year has been equally fantastic and we thought the contestants were a delightful and mega-talented bunch. It was so hard to pick a favourite because I had a soft spot for so many of them including Alvin, Sandy, Nadia, Tamal, and Paul. We’ve been watching Bake Off since the third series and one of the things that I love about the show – apart from it developing my love of baking and further increasing my love of all things sweet – is the sense of camaraderie among the contestants and the way they’re always willing to pitch in and help each other out even though this is a competition, and this year’s series has been no different.
Everyone has their own idea about who will win the title of Great British Bake Off Winner 2015 but I personally cannot make my mind up between the finalists Ian Cumming, Nadia Hussain and Tamal Ray. A lot of the work they’ve done has been highly original and really had the wow factor. Some people may have thought that Ian’s chocolate well last week was too simplistic but I thought it was amazing and showed that he really thought outside the box. All three have worked hard to secure their place in the final, and they’re all so likeable that it’s impossible to decide who to root for, so I’m cheering them all on!
Tomorrow’s final is going to be a real show stopper in itself. It’ll be interesting to see what culinary creations Ian, Nadia, and Tamal conjure up. I cannot wait!
The road to healthy living is paved with good intentions: getting more sleep; exercising regularly; drinking more water, and consuming the all-important five portions of fruit and veg every day. There are some lucky people who have no problems getting their five-a-day. And despite the fact that I love fruits and veggies and have no aversion to them, I also love chocolate, cakes, pastries and anything sugary and stodgy, and more often than not, that’s what I opt for – especially when I need to dash. It seems such a mission to remember to eat healthily with my fast-track lifestyle where I’m always on the move.
I’ve convinced myself many a time that the jam tart I’m scoffing is actually quite healthy because it contains jam which is made from, er, fruit; that coffee and chocolate are good for you because they are made from beans; chips are made from potatoes which is a vegetable so all good in the hood there, and sugar comes from a plant – need I say more! But seriously, who am I trying to kid?
SO WHAT COUNTS AS A PORTION?
There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes a single serving of fruit or vegetables but it’s widely believed to be around 80g. The following are examples of single servings:
- 1 150ml glass of pure fruit juice
- 1 thick slice of pineapple or melon
- 3 heaped tablespoons of pulses or beans
- 1 apple, pear, orange, banana or other similar sized fruit
- 2 plums or kiwi fruit
- 1⁄2 a grapefruit
- 3 heaped tablespoons of vegetables
- 1/2 an avocado
- 3 heaped tablespoons of fruit salad
- 1 heaped tablespoon of raisins or sultanas
- 3 heaped tablespoons of stewed fruit
- 3 dried apricots
- 1 cupful of grapes, cherries or berries
- 1 small bowl of salad
With the exception of potatoes, which are very starchy and aren’t included in the recommended five a day, all other fruit and vegetables count, whether they’re fresh, frozen, dried, tinned, or pure juices.
But it’s worth remembering that no matter how much pure, freshly-squeezed juice you drink, it still only counts as one portion owing to certain nutrients being depleted in the juicing process. And because they don’t contain the same vitamins and minerals as other fruit and veg, kidney beans, chick peas, lentils and other pulses also only count as one portion, no matter how much you eat. Therefore in order to get a wide variety of nutrients, it’s advisable to munch on five different types of fruit and veg each day. It’s also worth noting that when people talk about getting their five-a-day, that’s just the minimum amount that we should be consuming every day. Ideally we should be aiming for about seven servings but goodness – it’s sometimes hard enough just getting the five so we’ll concentrate on that for now!
To be honest, it’s not actually hard to eat the recommended daily amount of fruit and veg. It’s just that we all live such busy lives these days and we’ve fallen into a pattern of bad eating habits. An ideal healthy eating day for me would see me start with chopped mango and pineapple with yogurt for breakfast; an oaty, apricot flapjack for mid-morning; prawn salad for lunch; a snack of fruit salad; and salmon with spinach, asparagus, broccoli and potatoes for dinner. What could be simpler?
I was thinking of ways in which you could effortlessly get the recommended five-a-day where it seems as though you’re not even thinking about it so it doesn’t seem such a drag. Many of the ideas below are things that I’ve tried or that appeal to me, and appear to be effective and not at all unrealistic ways of getting more fruit and veg into your diet. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to change your eating habits overnight, and lifestyle changes always seem a bit daunting but you’ll gradually be able to work your way up to incorporating more fruit and veg into your diet – and once you know how easy it is, you’ll be unstoppable!
USE REAL FRUIT INSTEAD OF ARTIFICIAL SYRUPS IN DRINKS
I always feel really disappointed when I call into a coffee shop, order a fruity iced drink, smoothie or milkshake – and find them pouring sickly-sweet, synthetic-tasting syrup into the glass instead of blending real fruit.
Well you can’t control what your local coffee shop uses, but you can make delicious cold drinks at home using real fruit. It may take a little more effort than opening a bottle but it’s so worth it!
2. GET SPIRALIZING!
Spiralizing has caught on in a big way where vegetables such as carrots and courgettes are cut into thin, spaghetti-like strands using a spiralizer before being cooked and eaten a lot like pasta with pesto or tomato-based sauces.
3. CAULIFLOWER ‘RICE’ ISN’T JUST FOR THOSE DOING ATKINS!
When I first heard about cauliflower ‘rice’, it was something that Atkins dieters were making as a substitute to rice, where they would pulse cauliflower florets to resemble rice grains.
I don’t really think it tastes like rice but I do think it’s really delicious. It tastes a lot like the fried cauliflower my mum used to make. It might sound quite bland but with seasoning, herbs, spices, a little chopped onion or crushed garlic, and a lot of imagination it can be very tasty. You can even add egg to it to make egg cauliflower fried ‘rice’!
4. SNACK ON DRIED FRUIT AND FROZEN BERRIES INSTEAD OF SWEETS
I do love my sweet, sugary treats but thankfully I also love dried and frozen fruit and it’s a healthier way to get my fix of something sweet.
5. ICE ICE BABY
Blend yogurt, and honey with your favourite fruit, pop into ice-lolly moulds and you’ll have a delicious, frozen sweet treat that takes next to no time to prepare.
6. GO BANANAS!
Bananas are so versatile and contain a lot of potassium which is great when you need an energy boost -something many of my colleagues know only too well as they’re always bringing bananas to work to snack on. There’s so much you can do with them. You can have them on toast, or blended into a milkshake or smoothies for breakfast; coat them in chocolate and freeze them as an alternative to ice-lollies; mash them into pancake, muffin or cake batter; bake or barbecue them and serve them with ice-cream… the list goes on!
7. DREAM TOPPING
Purée some berries with honey and pour over ice-cream as a healthy alternative to sugar-laden ice-cream toppings.
I don’t know many people who don’t own a juicer – but I know many juicer owners who don’t use them. This is a real shame because fresh, pure juice is so good for you. And of course with a vast array of fruit and veggies available, you can have fun trying to come up with unique flavour combinations.
9. SWAP POTATO CHIPS FOR APPLE CRISPS
Slice an apple (or pear) very thinly; place on a baking sheet; place in the oven at a low temperature, and bake until crispy, turning over occasionally.
10. BLEND VEG INTO SHOP BOUGHT FOOD
There are times when we don’t have time to make things from scratch – no matter how much we want to. But you can always add veggies to shop-bought stews or blend vegetables into shop-bought soups. My grandfather always liked adding mushrooms to frozen pizzas while I tend to add sautéed onion, garlic and mushrooms to shop-bought pasta sauces – something Mr.D. is not happy about!
11. MAKE VEGGIE DESSERTS!
It started with carrot cake but now there seems to be a trend for adding vegetables such as beetroot, sweetcorn, pumpkin and courgette to baked goodies and desserts – and it seems to be going down a storm. It’s great because you can enjoy the sweet treats you love so much AND get the necessary nutrients. So you get the both of best worlds!
12. CHIPS AND DIPS
Ever since I discovered that I can make dips and salsas that taste better than the shop-bought stuff and that they’re so quick and simple to make, I’ve been making delicious guacamoles and spicy salsas to serve with tortilla chips when I want to snack on something in front of the telly. Not only do they taste great but I feel so much healthier.
13. FEEL THE PULSE IN A CAN!
These are a great cupboard stand-by and a good source of fibre. A serving (three tablespoons) of canned beans or lentils can be added to soups, stews, salads etc. And let’s face it – how much effort goes into opening a can?
14. LIVEN UP THAT SALAD
Gone are the days of boring lettuce, cucumber and tomato salads. Today we have a fantastic array of fruits and vegetables available – not to mention awesome dressings – which will change the way you look at salads forever and let’s face it – how hard is it to prepare a salad? My favourite is prawn with mango and avocado with a chilli, lime and coriander dressing. I’d eat it every day if I could!
15. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN’T DO WITH AN AVOCADO???
When I was a kid, there was only one way in which people used to eat avocados and that was halved with a little salt, pepper and lemon juice. Nowadays the humble avocado has come a long way since then, and like the banana, it’s quite versatile, and is even making an appearance in sweet dishes. Salads don’t seem the same without them, and you can add avocados to dips, salsas, smoothies, milkshakes, desserts and is also used as a substitute for butter or cream in cakes and mousses. I even saw a contestant on Come Dine With Me baking them – something I didn’t know you could do with avocados.
Here in Britain, we celebrated Mothering Sunday back in March, but tomorrow people in the rest of the world will be celebrating motherhood and honouring the very special women in their lives: mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, stepmothers, mothers-in-law, godmothers and even aunties. So what could be a more special way to spoil the extraordinary women in our lives then by treating them to a decadent afternoon tea – which if you ask me, is an occasion made for mums!
In case you didn’t know by now, I really love the idea of a themed afternoon tea (come to think of it, I love the idea of a themed anything!) and when it comes to a Mother’s Day afternoon tea party, vintage is the only way to go, with mismatched, floral, china teacups, an elaborate cake stand, bird cages, and decorations in the form of pearls and lace. Mothers are obviously all different, so you’ll cater your tea party to your mum’s tastes but inspiration for my ideas have come my own mother who’s pretty big on tradition. Chocolate and flowers also feature quite heavily as they tend to be gifts we traditionally give our mothers on their special day. Colours for this event could be in the traditional pink and lilac, or any pastel hue, or maybe even cream and gold for a classic vintage feel. With the weather getting warmer, there’s a good chance that you could hold your tea party outdoors.
When thinking about the menu, I went for old-school English classics, real ‘like mother used to make’ stuff, with an added touch of elegance and luxury. After all you can’t get more English than afternoon tea, so English classics it is! The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Ham and English mustard
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese
- Rare roast beef and horseradish
- Rose petals with honey
- Prawn mayonnaise
- Smoked salmon soufflés
- Mini sausage rolls
- Blinis with smoked salmon
- Mini Cornish pasties
- Parmesan thins
- Roast beef-filled Yorkshire puddings
- Goats’ cheese rarebit
- Spinach and parmesan muffins
- Cheese straws
- Potted shrimp on melba toast
- Trout pate on melba toast
- Mini chicken and asparagus pie
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Tea loaf
- Tea cakes
- English muffins
- Scones with clotted cream and rose petal jam
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Victoria sponge cake
- Apple pie with cinnamon cream
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Lemon drizzle cake
- Cherry Cake
- Jam tartlets
- Battenburg cake
- Rose and raspberry or chocolate macaroons
- Fruit cake
- Mini Bakewell tarts
- Chocolate mousse with sugared violets in shot glasses
- Mini English trifles
- Pink and lilac iced buns
- Lavender shortbread
- Chocolate éclairs
- Strawberry shortcake
- Custard slices
- Frozen strawberry daiquiris
- Mixed berry tea
- White chocolate mocha
- Jasmine tea
- Pink lemonade
- Chilled Chrysanthemum tea
- Raspberry bellini
- Cava with nasturtiums
- Pomegranate Martini
- Chamomile tea
- Champagne with hibiscus
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles.
Here’s a recipe for the unusual but delightful sounding rose petal sandwiches which is taken from The Vintage Tea Party Book by Angel Adoree
ROSE PETAL SANDWICHES
60 dried organic rose petals
Few drops of rose essence
25g (1oz) butter, at room temperature
12 slices of soft white bread
6 tsp lavender honey
1. Soak the dried rose petals in a bowl of cold water with the rose essence for 20mins.
2. Drain and set aside.
3. Butter the bread.
4. Spread honey over 6 of the slices.
5. Divide the petals between 6 slices of honeyed bread.
6. Top with remaining slices.
7. Cut off crusts.
8. Cut each sandwich diagonally into four.
9. Serve immediately.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!
Here in the UK, Mother’s Day was way back in March. But the rest of the world -including Mr. D. – will be honouring their beloved mums on Sunday. But whether we’ll be celebrating or not, we’ll definitely be keeping our mums in mind.
Everyone says I’m my mother’s double. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve actually been mistaken for her. No it’s not that I look so old (well at least I hope not!) but Mum looks so young. She really could pass for my (slightly older!) sister. But I always felt that our looks are where our similarities begin and end as personality-wise we couldn’t be more different. I’m definitely more outgoing whereas Mum’s a bit reserved. Our style in dressing is very different: I probably dress a little too young for my age (why not? I can get away with it. I think!) whereas Mum dresses in a way that makes the Queen look like Avril Lavigne (which always frustrates me!) I like a good drink and can really put those cocktails away but Mum’s a teetotaller who just has to look at a glass of wine and her head starts to spin. I like my music loud and angry while Mum’s the queen of the easy listening classics. We couldn’t be more different – or so I thought…
I was in bookshop this afternoon, perusing the cook books and wondering what to add to my already ever-increasing stack of cook books when it dawned on me where I got my addiction from – Mum! As a kid Mum had a whole load of cookery books (and I do mean a whole load of books) which I used to pore over, looking at the pics, while Mum would be putting the recipes to good use. All these years later, I’m doing the same (all I now need is the little girl to sit on the kitchen worktop and pore over the books…)
It got me thinking about other ways in which I’m a lot like my mother. I’m often so busy focusing on the differences that I don’t think about things that we have in common. It’s the same with the majority of my friends – they love their mums to bits but don’t think that they’re anything alike. Maybe one day they’ll also discover that they’re more alike than they think.
1. MUM AND I ARE BOTH FEEDERS!
This is where the cook books come into effect. When you come to our homes, you’d better be coming with an empty stomach. Just don’t think you’ll be leaving with one. In fact you may need a crane to carry you out because we’re in danger of overstuffing you! Nothing makes us happier than cooking for other people and having people around our table (something we both get from Mum’s mum and my lovely grandma) and we feel really humbled by the appreciative comments we get.
2. WE WATCHED ALL THE SOAPS RELIGIOUSLY… BUT DON’T NOW!
I got my love of soaps from my mum who used to watch them all: Coronation Street, Crossroads, Dynasty, Dallas, Emmerdale Farm… and naturally I’d watch these too and became something of a soap addict myself, especially with the advent of EastEnders, Neighbours, and Home And Away. It was amazing because I couldn’t remember my six times table but I could remember what caused Sue Ellen to slap JR six episodes ago!
However over the years our love of soaps dwindled. In Mum’s case it’s because she’s too busy to keep up with what’s happening in Weatherfield or Albert Square, and in my case it’s because I just don’t watch TV as much as I used to, and on the odd occasion when I do tune in, I’d much rather watch something other than soaps (which in my opinion aren’t as good as they used to be anyway!)
3. WE’RE GREAT WHEN IT COMES TO THE OLD HOSPITALITY!
I only invite people into my home if I really like them, so it’s very important to me that everyone who does come to our home, whether it’s for a quick visit or to stay for a while, is made to feel very welcome and know that we are happy to have them over. So we go out of our way to make sure they’re happy, comfy and that they treat the place like their second home (even though all of the above meant that Mr.D. and I once had to sleep on the sofa. Not good but hey – it was for our friends!)
And looking after guests is something I learned from Mum. However I think most people prefer to go to Mum’s than mine because she’s a much better cook than I am!
4. SPORT IS NOT OUR THING.
Just about everyone in our family is into a sport of some kind. And just about everyone supports a particular football team.
All except Mum and me. I’ve tried to get sporty in the past but it just wasn’t happening. Mum didn’t even try! It’s a good job I don’t live in California or I really would be in trouble.
We do however tune in to watch the World Cup especially when England’s playing. That’s as sporty as we get!
5. AND NEITHER IS DRIVING!
Mum never learnt to drive and nor has she ever wanted to. I once asked her why and she said that if she learnt to drive then that would be one less thing that Dad did – and he doesn’t do much as it is!
I did get my licence but sadly I’m a real hazard on the road so I tend to leave the driving to those who are less of a calamity.
6. WE’RE NOT ONES TO COMPLAIN
OK maybe not strictly speaking true as we have been known to have the odd grumble. But compared to a lot of people we know, we hardly ever complain. If life’s getting us down, something seems unfair, or we’re just having a bad day, we just suck it up and get on with it.
And on the rare occasions when we do complain, it’s only because it’s absolutely necessary. I guess you could say that we know how to pick our battles.
7. OUR BODIES ARE MADE UP OF NINETY SEVEN PER CENT SUGAR!
It’s not just my looks I got from my Mum but my incredible sweet tooth. Thanks to her, I’m a real sucker for sugar and it’s virtually unheard of for me to go to a restaurant and not end a meal with a dessert. And if I’m too stuffed for dessert, I at least take a peak at the dessert menu to see what I’m missing out on!
8. WE’RE USELESS WITH TECHNOLOGY
Oh my goodness, where do I begin with this? At least with Mum, she was born way before technology took hold of us the way that it has. She didn’t grow up in an era where people stopped breathing if they were clinically detached from their iPhones. I however, have no excuse especially as I’m a blogger as well. I’m not as bad as I’m making out as given a certain amount of time, I can usually figure things out. That said, I’m still far from good!
9. ADVICE IS OUR MIDDLE NAME
For as long as I can remember, people having been calling on my mum whenever they had a problem of some kind – and they still do. Perhaps it’s because Mum’s very understanding, a good listener, gives good advice, and tries to help out in any way that she can.
Well it’s a good job I’ve been trained by the best because at I’ve had all sorts of people – friends, family, colleagues, clients, random people on the bus – confiding in me about their problems.
I guess I just have one of those faces!
10. WE’RE REAL HOME BIRDS
Mum was always a home bird. I don’t think she even went to the pub as a teenager. I, on the other hand, was a real night owl, and once I got a taste of London night life there was no stopping me.
However now that I’m older, those wild nights out are pretty much a thing of the past – although nothing comes between me and my rock gigs! I’d much rather stay at home and cook for friends. and believe it or not, we still manage to have a great time!
Hope all the mums out there enjoy their special day!
Easter is just around the corner and we are looking forward to yet another gloriously long weekend. For me, long weekends mean gatherings, socialising, fun, food as well as a healthy dose of r n’r – and I reckon afternoon tea combines all of these elements perfectly. I’m a huge fan of afternoon teas, and when it’s a holiday-themed afternoon tea, then that’s even better! One of the great things about hosting an Easter/Spring themed afternoon tea party is that if it’s a gloriously sunny day, you might just be able to hold your party outdoors. Inspiration for this party comes from colours and ideas associated with this time of year as well as food that is in season. Colours in soft, muted pastel shades are typical of Spring, and chicks, bunnies, Spring flowers, eggs and chocolate are what springs to mind (excuse the pun!) when we think of Easter, so these will probably play a role in your choice of food, drinks and décor. The list below gives food ideas of what you can include as part of your Spring-themed afternoon tea party menu:
- Egg and cress
- Cucumber and cream cheese
- Chicken salad
- Chicken and pesto
- Ricotta and apricot jam
- Egg and asparagus
- Prawn cocktail
- Scotch eggs
- Mini asparagus and quail’s egg tartlets
- Mini Yorkshire puddings with lamb and mint gravy
- Pea and mint soup in shot glasses
- Bite-size lamb samosas
- Chicken tikka on bite-size naan bread with mint raita
- Spinach and ricotta/feta in filo pastry
- Cheese and spring onion scones
- Broccoli and spinach mini quiche
SWEET SCONES/TOASTED BREADS
- Hot cross buns
- Fruit loaf
- Apricot muffins
- English muffins
- White chocolate and raspberry scones
- Rosewater and vanilla scones
CAKES, TARTS AND OTHER SWEET TREATS:
- Lemon cupcakes
- Chocolate fudge cake
- Carrot cake
- Simnel Cake
- Mini rhubarb and custard tartlets
- Crème egg chocolate brownies
- Pastel coloured macaroons
- Chocolate whoopie pies
- Lavender shortbread
- Raspberry panna cotta in shot glasses
- Mini chocolate and cherry trifles
- Lemon tea
- Raspberry tea
- Vanilla latte
- Mint tea
- Elderflower cordial
- Shot glasses of thick chocolate milk
- Chocolate flavoured cocktails
Don’t forget the extras you need to serve such as butter, clotted cream, honey and a selection of jams to go with the toasted breads and scones. And for the savouries, you may need to provide a variety of chutneys, sauces and pickles. And now I’m going to leave you with an awesome recipe for raspberry and white chocolate macarons. Yum!
- 130g pure icing sugar
- 110g almond meal
- 2 egg whites
- 65g caster sugar
- 4-5 drops of pink food colouring
White chocolate and raspberry ganache:
- 50ml double cream
- 100g white chocolate
- 45g raspberries, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 140C.
- Combine icing sugar and almond meal in a food processor until finely ground.
- Triple-sift into a large bowl and set aside.
- Whisk two-thirds of the egg whites in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks form.
- Add caster sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until fully combined and mixture is thick and glossy.
- Add food colouring.
- Stir in almond mixture in batches until fully combined and mixture slowly slides down sides of bowl when bowl is tilted.
- Add remaining egg white to loosen mixture.
- Spoon into a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Pipe 3cm-diameter rounds of mixture onto heavy baking-paper-lined oven trays.
- Stand until a crust begins to form which should take around 5 hours.
- Bake macarons until firm.
- Cool completely on trays.
- Meanwhile, for white chocolate and raspberry ganache, bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan.
- Remove from heat.
- Add chocolate, stand until melted, stir until smooth and glossy.
- Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable then stir until smooth.
- Add raspberries, stir to form a ripple effect, then spoon a teaspoon of ganache onto half the macarons. Sandwich with remaining macarons and refrigerate until set.
- Macarons will keep for 1-2 days refrigerated in an airtight container.
Mr. D. told me today that if he could live on three meals for the rest of his life, he’d choose steak, pizza and pasta. That’s it – he’d never need any other type of food for the rest of his days on earth. However when he asked me for my top three meals, it was impossible to choose (and no, I wasn’t allowed to choose desserts!) And this is coupled with a colleague asking me what I’d have for my last meal if I was on death row (we do have some strange conversations in the staff room!) and once again I couldn’t decide. I clearly have a more varied palate than Mr. D. and I couldn’t possibly live on just three dishes and neither could I have just one ‘last meal’. For me, you’d have to make it ten!
So if I could only eat ten dishes for the rest of my life, these are the ten I’d choose:
1. ROAST DINNER
A roast dinner is a family favourite. It doesn’t matter what kind of roasted meat it is – though when I was growing up it was usually chicken or lamb – but it has to be served with stuffing, gravy, and Yorkshire pudding, or if I’m in the States, biscuits. I always add either red or white wine to the pan while the meat is roasting, and I usually tend to vary the types of vegetables that accompany the dish.
Seriously, who couldn’t love a good roast dinner?
I’ve never understood people who say that they don’t like curries, usually because they insist it’s too spicy. I don’t like overly spicy food either. I don’t see the point in not being able to taste what you’re eating because you’re mouth is engulfed in flames! But that’s the beauty of curries – you can make them as mild or as spicy as you like. I’m lucky that because of my cultural background, curry was almost always on the menu when we were growing up, and not just curries from the Indian subcontinent either, but also from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Africa and the Caribbean. There are so many ways of making this very versatile dish, and I can honestly say that I enjoy them all – providing they’re not too spicy of course!
3. NASI LEMAK
Nasi Lemak is Malaysia’s national dish, and even though I believe it is traditionally served for breakfast, I could quite happy eat this dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Whenever I go to a Malaysian restaurant, I don’t really need to look at the menu, as I know I’m going to choose my favourite Nasi Lemak. This classic dish contains a serving of coconut rice and various other components which can vary but typically include a curry of some kind, fried chicken, an egg, sliced cucumbers, and crispy fried anchovies and peanuts, all served up on a banana leaf.
Mr. D. is a real sweetheart. He knows how much I love salmon so whenever we go out to dinner, he’ll be checking out the menu for my favourite salmon dishes before he’s even decided what he wants!
At home, I’ll usually pan-fry or oven bake the salmon with some lemon, coriander, and maybe a little crushed chilli (if Mr. D.’s OK with that!) But I really don’t mind how it’s cooked, as I know it’ll be delicious. I’ve eaten salmon curried; in a salad; poached; with teriyaki sauce; in a red Thai curry; grilled with a mango salsa, and this weekend I’ll be trying Jamaican jerk salmon for the first time. Bring it on!
But strange as this may sound, I can’t actually stand smoked salmon at all! How bizarre!
5. FISH AND CHIPS
This one can hardly be a surprise – I’m from England after all! I didn’t like it very much when I was a child though. I suppose it was because I was a very picky eater and I found fish and chips to be way too greasy. But as I got older I grew to love it. I still don’t like fish and chips if it’s overly greasy, and furthermore the chips have to be thick and chunky; I don’t care much for mushy peas, and the fish should preferably be cod and should always be battered NEVER breaded! Oh and you can hold the ketchup: I prefer to have a squeeze of lemon with chilli and garlic sauces. Not very British, I know, but it hits the spot!
I’ve tried fish and chips in other countries, and even though they’re not bad attempts, they’re obviously no match for the fish and chips at home. However I have to say the fish and chips in Zurich were pretty good!
6. SHEPHERD’S PIE
Another British classic that I absolutely love and it takes me right back to my childhood. As fussy as I was during childhood when it came to food, I loved shepherd’s pie and I’d surprise everyone by asking for thirds! Some people – Mr. D. included – might just write off shepherd’s pie as bland slop on a plate but as far as I’m concerned, it means they’re not ‘doing it right.’ Minced lamb in a thick, brown gravy topped with mashed potatoes looks, sounds and tastes boring. Whenever anyone in our family makes it, we always try to jazz it up a bit. You can do that by adding herbs, garlic, cheese, spring greens or mashed root vegetables to the potato topping, and a tin of chopped tomatoes, a dash of Worcestshire sauce and a load of veggies taste great in the minced lamb and helps to improve the appearance.
Though try as I might, I can never get Mr.D. to have more than a couple of forkfuls.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of seafood: crab, lobster, prawns, squid, scallops, clams… I seriously can’t get enough of them. Mr. D. and I went to an American restaurant in London last year where I ordered a kind a stew that had virtually every kind of seafood in a delicious white wine sauce. Bliss!
I’ve tried seafood cooked in many different ways but I believe that the best way of cooking seafood includes a fair bit of spice and zing to bring out the flavour.
8. MINTED LAMB CHOPS
Oh my goodness – heaven on a plate! This is something else that takes me back to my childhood as this was something I’d happily guzzle without complaining. It also happens to be my little brother’s favourite dish too. However, as the minted lamb is the star of the show, I like the accompaniments to be quite simple, so it’s just boiled potatoes, savoy cabbage and lashings of gravy for me – just like Mum used to make!
9. TRICOLORE SALAD
I love this salad of mozzarella, tomatoes and avocado with a bit of basil. What’s so strange is that I was never a huge fan of cheese or avocado when I was younger but I absolutely love it now, and try to make a tricolore salad whenever I can – and it tastes divine in a wrap!
10. TROPICAL FRUIT SALAD
OK, so Mr. D. said no desserts but I had to sneak one in here! I’ve never really been an apples, oranges, grapes kind of girl. So if you’re going to serve me any kind of fruit or prepare a fruit salad, tropical’s the only way to go. I could eat mangoes, pineapples, passion fruit, papayas, jack fruit, soursop and kiwi fruit all day long. And it’s better than gorging on cakes and pies (though I adore those too!)