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!
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!
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!!!!
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!)
Yay! St. Valentine’s Day is about to descend upon us – and I’m thrilled. Say whatever you like about this day but I do love everything it stands for. And what’s so great about this St. Valentine’s Day is that it falls on a Saturday so it’s more like St. Valentine’s Weekend. Even better! And I’ve definitely got into the spirit of it. Although we’d originally planned to go away this weekend, I’ve been a little under the weather so we’ll be staying at home but it most definitely won’t be boring. We’ve got the cards, the gifts, the choccies, the booze, the candles, the rom-coms, the Valentine’s Day treats and all the ingredients for a fabulous dinner. Because we were long-distance for a long time, we never got to spend St. Valentine’s Day together until after we were married, so it’s very special to us.
So seeing as you have the whole weekend to lounge around and be totally loved up, there’s no excuse not to have a long, leisurely Valentine’s Day breakfast. A piece of toast on the go just won’t do especially as (I hope) you won’t have to dash to the office. And there aren’t many things that scream romance quite like breakfast in bed which is the perfect way to start a lazy weekend. And let’s banish all thoughts of your usual fare – Valentine’s Day is a great time to try something different and indulge in heart-shaped delicacies and dainty little pastries.
So here’s some ideas to inspire you – and have you wishing every day was a breakfast in bed day!
First things first. When serving breakfast in bed you’ll need:
- A tray
- Napkins or kitchen roll
- Newspapers or magazines
- A bottle of Champers (it’s a special occasion!)
What To Serve:
- Porridge served with berries/chopped bananas, honey and cream
- Pancakes with a selection of fillings: jam, honey, peanut butter, maple syrup, Nutella etc.
- Homemade croissants with butter and jam
- French toast with berry compote
- Scrambled egg and smoked salmon bagel
- Sausage, egg and cheese bagel (Mr. D’s favourite!)
- A fry up! How often do you get to have a full English? Be sure to serve on extra large plates.
- Fresh fruit salad
- Danish pastries
- Muffins – these can be made in advance to save you from getting up early to prepare them.
- Waffles with butter, syrup and strawberries
- Steak and eggs
- Fresh fruit smoothies (my fave!)
- Eggs Benedict
- Yogurt in a tall glass layered with fruit, cereal/oats and compote/honey
- Stuffed French toast with Nutella and raspberries or mascarpone and blueberries
- Crumpets with butter and jam
- Hot chocolate made from scratch with whipped cream
- If you’re going to serve toast, make sure you prepare that last so that it stays warm.
- Likewise if you’re going to serve yogurt, get that out of the fridge just before you go up so that it stays cold.
- Make sure you have all the things you need before you go up. It’ll be annoying to run back down because you’ve forgotten the cutlery.
- Napkins and kitchen roll are a must!
- If you’re going to serve Champagne/sparkling wine along with the breakfast, make sure you pop it in the fridge the night before.
- Don’t worry about crumbs or mess. This is quality time with your other half. Enjoy!
So a new year has begun, and for most of us, it will begin in the same way as it does for every other new year: trying to get our finances in order; working off all that excess food that was consumed over the festive period, and making resolutions which – let’s be honest – are most probably broken by now!
I begin every year by wondering what the new year has in store for me – and hoping that it will be the best ever yet. I was very fortunate that the last couple of years have been very good, and without wanting to sound greedy, I am hoping for another one! And that’s why I’m determined to make sure that I play an active role in trying to make life the best it can be. That means taking control and doing what’s best for me. I’m also going to spend more time working towards my goals and doing what I need to do to become a much happier person. Hopefully by the time we celebrate 2016, I’ll be able to look back on another awesome year (2016! Oh my goodness!) And I’ve already started putting my plans into practice…
So that’s what the first post in the Better Living series is dedicated to: setting a few basic rules to guide you into becoming happier, healthier, less stressed, and more focused on getting what you want out of life. It’s a good starting point but in future posts, we will look into each of these aspects in more detail.
20 STEPS TO A NEW YOU!
- Take care of the basics! – Eat healthy food; consume lots of fresh fruit and vegetables; take supplements if necessary; get lots of fresh air; drink plenty of water; do physical exercise; sleep well; meditate, and be happy!
- You are the scriptwriter and the star of your own show – not the supporting actor – It’s always important to listen to those around us who are genuinely there to give us support. But ultimately no one knows you better than you do so do what’s best for you. Don’t be afraid to get advice or ask for opinions but listen to the most sincere voice, not the loudest. Don’t let anyone push you off stage or grab your microphone. No one else tells you what to do or speaks for you – just you and you alone.
- Be a wise decision maker – Sometimes we only have one shot at things, so it’s important to be careful before making major decisions. Too many people jump head first into making decisions that require a lot of thought and then go on to live with the disastrous consequences. Much of our happiness and wellbeing depend on the little decisions we make in our everyday lives, so be aware of the consequences, don’t rush and choose carefully.
- Stop chasing your tail – Life can sometimes resemble being on an exercise bike: you’re peddling away like mad but you’re not going anywhere. Being unnecessarily busy and being productive are two different things. You can rush around like a crazy person but at the end of the day you still won’t have achieved anything constructive and will only have succeeded in stressing yourself out. Cut down on things that you don’t need to do and don’t be afraid to ask people for help.
- Do what makes your heart sing – This year I’ve started doing things that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s not just new skills like learning languages or instruments that are on my to-do list, but also spending more time with friends, getting more ‘me time’, and spending more quality time with my better half. So rather than concentrate on what you have to do or what you’re able to do; think about what you were meant to do and take steps towards doing it. And if you only have half an hour a day to spend on it, at least it’s half an hour that’s going to make you very happy.
- Do what’s right – not easy – There have been many times I’ve done what was the easiest thing to do rather than what was right. And what was ‘easy’ was usually what other people wanted which I went along with for the sake of a quiet life even though the person who lost out in the end was me. But there have been times when I’ve really had to put up a fight and do what was right because the easy way wasn’t going to benefit anyone at all. And looking back, I’m glad that I had the courage to stand by my convictions. You don’t have to do something purely because you can. Do what’s right in the long term – not what’s easiest. In the long run you’ll feel less stressed and resentful.
- Worry solves nothing, action does! – I can’t help it, I’m a born worrier. My friends actually worry about me worrying. But I know that in the long run worrying solves nothing. It just causes more stress and more problems. Replacing worry with solutions and positive action gets far better results. Don’t believe me? Just look at the most determined, successful, happiest people. Do they look like they have endless sleepless nights worrying their socks off? No, I didn’t think so either!
- Burying your head in the sand solves nothing!– Now this is advice I really need to follow. The only way to combat something negative is to take steps towards doing something positive in order to resolve it. Burying your head in the sand and not resolving problems only leads to stress; sleepless nights and a great deal of unhappiness. Now that we can live without.
- Let little frustrations go – Admittedly I do get wound up by silly, trivial little things. In fact I’ve been known to brood over things for days that most people would shrug off. But it’s absurd to let one meaningless incident put a dampener on tons of good things that are happening around you. Everyone has their fair share of day to day dramas but a lot of people have learned not to let it get them down, so focus on the positive.
- Peering over the garden fence gets you nowhere – If there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s people who never count their blessings and are forever wanting what other people have. The thing about people like that is whatever good fortune they’ve been blessed with, they’ll never be happy. Let’s be honest, it’s human nature to feel a twinge of envy when we see others with something we would like to have. But comparing ourselves to others and keeping up with the Joneses won’t make us happy. Focus on yourself and your own unique circumstances. Work on what you need to do to make life better for YOU. And don’t underestimate the power of gratitude and counting your blessings. Be grateful for the life that you have and all that is yours – you’ll feel happier, more positive and confident.
- Give from the heart… but don’t let anyone steal your energy – Don’t give with the expectation of getting something back because not everyone thinks the same way and you’ll only be setting yourself up for disappointment. That’s why if you’re going to do something for someone, make sure it’s because you really want to do it; that the gesture comes straight from the heart, and that you don’t expect anything back in return. BUT be wary of those who keep taking and give nothing back. All they do is drain your strength and energy and make you feel worthless and resentful. This is where good decision making comes in to play: know when to give and when to draw the line. And if someone really is taking advantage, it’s time to close the door and focus on those who are more appreciative of your efforts.
- Start focusing only on what you can control – It’s pointless banging your head against a brick wall. Do the best you can and then let whatever happens happen. If it’s meant to be it will be, but if not then you have to accept that there are some things that are out of your control and move on.
- You own technology – technology does not own you – Twenty first century living definitely has its emphasis on gadgets, and while they are very useful, it’s very easy to let them take over your life and I feel that some people have definitely lost that human touch. Don’t allow technology to control you. Know when to put down your iPad, to switch off your phone, and to stop texting, make eye contact, have face-to-face conversations, write letters, and hug more!
- Live in the moment – Don’t carry the heavy burdens of the past on your shoulders. And don’t excessively worry about what the future holds. Time has a habit of going by so quickly and before you know it, the here and now will have passed us by without us having the chance to experience it. Try not to dwell on past mistakes, and don’t get caught up in thoughts about the far, distant future. Enjoy the present and live in the moment.
- Start being the difference you want to see in the world – We are all destined for great things. Some of us realise that and act on it, but sadly some of us never fulfil our potential. Being ‘the difference’ can mean writing a prize winning novel, finding a cure for cancer, or winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Or it could be something as simple as making time to have a cup of tea and a natter with someone who needs a friend. We all have the ability to make a difference in someone’s life in one way or another – it’s a gift that should never be wasted.
- Be relationship rich! – Working hard and making money is essential to live in today’s world. But don’t get so caught up in the daily grind that you forget about the people who matter. Show those special people that they are loved and valued. Close relationships are important to our happiness so make an effort to be rich in good friendships and value family time.
- Embrace new growth opportunities – I’m not always one for change but I wonder how much different my life would have been if I hadn’t taken a different path from time to time. I wouldn’t have experienced everything that I have done up to now and I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. We have to accept the possibility that there may be things out there that are better for us and in order to find it, we may sometimes have to get out of our comfort zone. Try something different; go somewhere new. Life is full of countless opportunities and new possibilities. So embrace life, keep an open mind and have fun exploring new avenues.
- Understand life’s lessons – Sometimes life teaches us painful lessons that we didn’t think we needed. But everything happens for a reason and these lessons make us wiser and help us to grow, Everything that happens helps you grow. Learn from your experiences but furthermore learn from the painful experiences of others too. There’s always a lesson to be gained from everyone’s experiences.
- Be proud of those little achievements – We all think that when we hit a certain age, we’ll be at a certain stage in our lives. But real life doesn’t always work that way and you may find that you’re not where you want to be right now. But bear in mind that you’ve come a long way and you’re not stuck where you once were. Don’t set unrealistic targets for yourself. Give yourself attainable goals and work towards achieving those. As a work in progress, you’ll get there a little at a time, not all at once. So celebrate the small progresses that you make.
- True happiness comes from within – You could have all the money in the bank, a jet set lifestyle, a fabulous relationship, and be stunning to boot – and still not happy. That’s because being happy starts with you. If you’re not happy with who you are, you won’t find happiness from any external influences. So if there’s something in your life that you’re not happy with, it’s time to start making the necessary tweaks, adjustments, and changes, and getting rid of what doesn’t work for you anymore.
I hope this post has given you food for thought and that you’re able to put some of these plans into action. We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day so it will take some time before you see results but don’t let that put you off. The trick is to take things one step at a time. Just think, by the time we get to the end of this year, we could be looking at a whole new you!