Food

Recipes I try and love and that above all are easy and not time consuming – great for family meals.

Pizza Express Bluewater

It hit home recently that the twins have reached the stage where they start making the decisions. I had come home with two rain macs ready for the coming Spring (we hope), they took one look at them and turned their noses up. “I don’t like them.” one said. “No, neither do I.” chipped in the other.

The rain macs were put back in a bag along with the receipt until the next occasion arose where I could return them and get my money back. End of an era, right there.

However, I have been gaining some serious Brownie points on how we are spending our time this Easter break. The trip up The Shard was a straight win (Go mum!) and yesterday I accredited my account with some serious points by taking them over to the brand new Pizza Express restaurant at Bluewater. A girly day out with shopping and a fun lunch.

Pizza Express lunch

If you haven’t seen it yet, the new Pizza Express restaurant is near the cinema, it’s on the same floor, just around the corner…on top of Gravity could be the best way to describe the location! It’s a large, open space that has been sectioned off very cleverly and the interior design is a collection of gorgeous blues, copper and natural textures, it’s really fun and welcoming.

Pizza Express Bluewater

Our table had been booked for midday and this meant we were able to order and start before the midday rush started and boy did a lot of people eat whilst we were there. On the back of that observation, I’d recommend booking a table if you plan to go on a busy day.

We sat at a diner-like table close to the entrance and the girls were given a fab passata tin with colours and the best entertainment booklets I’ve ever seen – currently working with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Puffin books.

It didn’t take us long to choose from the menu and, as the girls were eating dough balls as a starter included on the child menu, I decided to have a starter too and went for my favourite Buffalo mozzarella. It was delicious drizzled with pesto sauce and served with sweet baby plum tomatoes.

I was really pleased to see a section on the menu called ‘Leggera’ which has pizzas for under 600 calories. As I am trying to lose weight around my middle but don’t want to give up all the good stuff this was the perfect solution for me. There were three pizzas to choose from and I went for the Leggera Padana which was scrumptious.

Pizza Leggera Pizza Express

The girls, of course, had their eye on a dessert before even tucking into their dough balls and seeing as this was an ‘occasion’ for us I wanted to try a dessert too but which one?

Our waitress, who couldn’t be more helpful, came up with a great idea that I hadn’t heard of before…

“If you’re not that hungry but still want to finish with something sweet, why not try one of our Dolcetti?”

Pizza Express Dolcetti

Dolcetti is ‘small desserts’ in Italian and Pizza Express have a section of puddings that are small enough to squeeze in after your meal, think of half a pudding. They are also served with a cup of coffee or tea in my case.

This impromptu, affordable lunch was the perfect occasion to talk about lots of different things with the twins and allow them to chat openly about things on their mind. It was the perfect girly lunch, thank you Pizza Express, we shall most definitely be back again soon.

Disclosure: Pizza Express invited us for a free meal for the purpose of this post, all opinions are my own.

my little sous chef

….and relax, it’s the Easter holidays! The best part about my still fairly new job as a TA is being able to take the holidays off with the twins. Being able to spend time with them, organise trips out  and just chilling together.

This Easter we have a few plans, the biggest being a trip to Sardegna which we haven’t visited since they were 3! We shall also be going to the top of The Shard – more of that to come – and stripping wallpaper in one of the bedrooms as Alice wants to have her own bedroom now.

We have also been able to spend some time in the kitchen together, a ‘job’ they both love and having been sent copies of My Little Sous Chef we had a look through the recipes and have earmarked a couple to try out together over these holidays.

Our first choice was the Tiramisu made with strawberries.

My Little Sous Chef Tiramisu

my little sous chef

Based on the classic recipe using Boudoir biscuits, mascarpone and eggs but instead of brandy and coffee, this recipe is more child-friendly using strawberries and milk. My Little Sous Chef comes in two books, an adult version including detailed method description and a list of ingredients for the recipes and a child’s version which has pictures to follow for the method with short bite-sized instructions.

I wanted to let the girls do as much as possible and this book allowed me to do that. I got all of the ingredients and equipment they would need and helped with the step by step shown in their book.

Whilst the children followed their steps in the book, I read the adult version to make sure we had the correct quantities of ingredients and that we hadn’t missed any important steps as they don’t all appear in the child’s version.

The result was delicious!

Be warned, however, that once the preparation is completed and it’s time to clean up the kitchen, your little ones will wander off and you will be left with the clearing up.

We are taking part in the Blog Tour and you can find the other tried and tested recipes on the blogs listed below. Have fun!

My little sous chef

Is there someone in your life who is difficult to buy for?

Are you always on the lookout for a new recipe book, something a little bit different from the usual?

Have you been thinking about reducing the amount of meat you eat, maybe even stepping into the world of vegetarians but you’re not quite sure how to start?

I have three cook books to show you that can tick all of those boxes, not only will they amplify your recipe base but also will make the most wonderful gifts. We are talking about the Soulful Baker by Julie Jones, The Flexible Vegetarian by Jo Pratt and Cook Yourself Happy by Caroline Fleming.

Soulful Baker

cook books

Probably one of the most beautiful books you will see on the shelf this autumn. The Soulful Baker is a delight to look through searching for that special sweet recipe. This book truly was a labour of love as Julie Jones put it together when her mother, who taught her to cook, was diagnosed with dementia. They would spend time baking together and Julie started an Instagram feed which then led to this book.

The astonishing beauty of her creations will take your breath away and the method is written in such an easy format that your creations cannot fail.

I have been flicking through trying to decide which recipe to try first but there are so many good ones to choose from, I can’t wait to get started.

For me, baking has always been associated with emotion. Those precious hours set aside to unwind and spend quality time preparing something with love and care. I was first introduced to baking when I was very small, stood upon a stool working alongside my Mother, her oversized apron folded in half and tied around my waist. I often think of her encouraging instructions and advice with affection, ‘beat really fast – otherwise the batter will curdle’. No fancy or expensive equipment was used then, just a big ceramic bowl and a wooden spoon. Such happy days. Days I recreate with my own children now. — Julie Jones

The Flexible Vegetarian

cook books the flexible vegetarian

The more I look around me, the more vegetarians I see and when I weigh up how much meat we consume I want to start reducing the quantity but not losing out on wholesome tasty meals. I have a few of Jo Pratt’s books, like In the Mood for Entertaining and Healthy Eating. I even met and cooked with Jo last year at a work event which was a wonderful experience plus I got to see first-hand just how clever her recipes are. Clever but simple, tasty and healthy.

cook books The Flexible Vegetarian

The Flexible Vegetarian is filled with delicious and practical recipes for every lifestyle and if you do have a stubborn meat eater to cook for the recipes offer a neat solution – just add meat or fish as they can be served either way.

There is a huge variety of ingredients that I have never cooked with before but aren’t difficult to find, so I am looking forward to trying my hand at some and venturing into a whole new culinary world.

Cook Yourself Happy

cook books

Have you heard of Hygge? I have a whole Pinterest board on it. It’s not so easy to translate as it refers to a state of mind, a sense of being rather than an object. Hygge is all about cosy, wholesome lifestyle and I think Cook Yourself Happy The Danish Way falls into this sense of being.

Caroline Fleming draws on old family recipes that boost your wellbeing both inside and out. Warm smoked salmon with pickled cucumber, fried pork belly and baked apples with marzipan are amongst some of the favourites but as she says herself, “Cooking and the results are (for me) ‘love’ that you can taste, smell and touch – all a big part, I think, of making us the happiest people.” See more of Caroline on her Instagram @carolineflemingofficial

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of each book for the purpose of this review.

lunchbox jelly pots

Two weeks under the belt of the Back to School routine and we seem to be doing fairly well…so far so good I’d say. We lost a cardigan but quickly retrieved it, we even found last term’s water bottle in the lost property whilst hunting it down! #winwin

As far as lunch is concerned, this term we have decided on 5 days a week lunchbox meals; the girls seem to think they get a longer lunch and they are constantly asking me to put less in as they don’t want to ‘waste all their time‘ eating.

Lunchboxes are a saviour but also a bit of a headache trying to keep them nutritious with food you know will be eaten.

Hartley’s have come up with an excellent idea – a wibbly, wobbly jelly in a cute little pot, perfectly sized for lunchboxes!

As previously mentioned, the girls are in that awkward stage between being little girls and big girls. A kind of no man’s land where they are trying their best to be grown up but there is a huge secret part of them that actually likes still being young. Like when we walk past a Build A Bear store for example.

Jelly, however, has no age limitations – ask Dad!

That means I can easily add a jelly pot to the lunchbox knowing they won’t be ridiculed at school, actually they may even get some street cred, I mean jelly is associated with the best parties, right?

hartleys jelly pot

The jelly pots come in six flavours, strawberry, raspberry, blackcurrant, orange, apple and tropical.

They have no added sugar in them, all of the sugar is naturally occurring and no artificial colours or flavours have been added. They are also perfect for vegetarians too.

 

Hartley’s are giving away the bright yellow lunchboxes, all you need to do is collect 12 Jelly pot lids and fill in the online form. A Hartley’s lunchbox will be on its way to you and let’s face it, it won’t take too much time to collect 12 lids, will it?

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post with Hartley’s who are promoting their no added sugar jelly pots for lunchboxes. All opinions are my own.

Black Forest ice cream with Fabbri

As ice creams go I think Black Forest ice cream sums up a delectable combination of chocolate, ice cream and of course cherries. But what if I said Amarena? Would you know what I was talking about?

Allow me to indulge for a moment.

Amarena are the most exquisitely delicious cherries in a thick syrupy sauce that are used widely in Italy in desserts but also in many other recipes like, bruschetta with gorgonzola and amarena Fabbri drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Now that idea to me sounds heavenly and one I shall certainly try sooner or later.

But let’s get back to amarena. When I first moved out to Italy I was 19 and had lived a relatively normal life in Kent with the annual holiday to my grandparent’s apartment in Mallorca. I was wet behind the ears but with a great passion to learn and understand. My boyfriend Enrico, lived in the mountains and together with his family he ran a hotel; a hotel that had been in the family for almost 100 years (we celebrated the centenary in 2002).

I used to wait in the bar of the hotel in the evening whilst he was working, I would speak with his friends and slowly, slowly I learnt to speak Italian and they became my friends too. In that time I also had a glimpse into this new life and, whilst spending my evenings in the bar talking and playing cards, my eyes would always be drawn towards one very prominent vase on the shelf in the ice cream area. It was white with blue swirls on it and the word Fabbri.

My curiosity got the better of me (always a good idea) and I discovered it contained cherries in syrup called amarena so, me being me, I was curious to see what they tasted like….

Oh boy! Shall we say first taste and I was hooked.

More recently I was asked to a wonderful evening by Ciao Gusto where all of my favourite Italian brands were displayed and used for the meal we were invited to eat. I was sent a Ciao Gusto hamper later and amongst all of the wonderful products, I found a vase of Fabbri amarena. Can you imagine my delight?

Oh how I enjoyed them and when I learnt I could buy them from the Ciao Gusto shop at Ocado, it was like a dream come true.

If only to have a pretty blue and white vase on your kitchen shelf – which will soon be empty, trust me – I would highly recommend you buy some Fabbri amarena and taste these special cherries for yourself

Black Forest Ice Cream

Black Forest ice cream mix

Mixing the chocolate cake with the Fabbri amarena

Black Forest ice cream mix

The Sage ice cream maker working its magic on the ingredients…

5.0 from 1 reviews
Black Forest Ice Cream
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Black Forest Ice cream takes the traditional ingredients for the world famous cake and presents them in a delicious ice cream suitable for all of the family.
Author:
Recipe type: ice cream
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 1 litre
Ingredients
  • ½ pint of double cream
  • 1 x 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
  • 50g Fabbri amarena cherries
  • 90g chocolate cake crumbled
Instructions
  1. Mix the condensed milk, cream and vanilla essence in a jug and place in the fridge to cool.
  2. Place the mixture in the Sage ice cream maker and start to churn.
  3. Tip the cherries into a bowl and smash with a spoon, add the crumbled chocolate cake and mix well.
  4. When the ice cream maker signals to add the mix ins add the cherry mixture.
  5. Once completed, it's ready to eat or place in the freezer for later.

The Ciao Gusto shop on Ocado is the easiest way to order your authentic Italian products all in one place. With an amazing selection of products; some famous names and some new gems to discover. Find out more here: Italian Shop. Or, visit the Ciao Gusto website where you’ll also find more information and history behind all of their brands and a host of wonderful, season recipes too.