James Villas team shot

Summer is here, yay! Let’s hope it is here to stay.

Summer for me, conjures up the thoughts of dining outdoors, barbecues with delicious salads and fresh meals that are simple to prepare, colourful to look at and downright tasty to eat. I also find it fun to have a go at preparing meals from far away countries, it’s a way of bringing that warm, sunny country into my home.

I find that my passion to travel, see new places and try new foods has an influence on the meals I prepare at home; for example our recent holiday in Lanzarote inspired a delicious paella when we returned home. Another evening we decided to eat tapas. In this video Jo Pratt shows you how to make Pan Fried Prawns and Chorizo Tapas.

If you find watching videos helps you create a delicious meal then you can find all of Jo’s recipes for #MyHolidayDish on You Tube

#MyHolidayDish

Recently I spent an evening in the company of celebrity chef Jo Pratt along with my fellow James Villas colleagues at a press event in London. James Villas like to encourage healthy, fun eating and together with Jo Pratt have come up with lots of recipes inspired by their holiday destinations; recipes that are easy to prepare whilst on a villa holiday or at home. #MyHolidayDish

The wonderful thing about this collection of recipes is that Jo has used products from the various destinations too, for example a souvlaki from Cyprus, fish from Rhodes and tapas of course from the Spanish destinations.

This particular evening we focused on a Baked Spiced Fish recipe with Beans and Greens and a Grilled Halloumi Kebab with a wonderful tomato salad to go with it.

I had my bloggers hat on and joined in alongside the press and bloggers invited along to watch Jo prepare the first dish of Baked Spice Fish with the green bean salad recipe.

easy summer recipes

Jo kept it very simple and it was easy to follow her steps as she prepared.

We were then split into groups of four and each group had a work station with all the ingredients set out. I was working with Alison Watson from Primary Times and Emily Nash from Hello magazine, who I later discovered over dinner was the royal correspondent which sparked an awesome conversation. We fell into a mutual division of work and with a glass of wine to help the progression, we were racing ahead with our preparations, obviously going to be the best team.

Once the Baked Spiced Fish and Green Bean Salad had been prepped our next step was to prepare the halloumi kebabs with a tomato salad in tahini dressing .

Again we watched as Jo ran us through the recipe before returning to our cookery stations to prepare our own.

Once again, my group nailed it and as we were grilling the halloumi kebabs our fish was baking in the oven, all coming together with perfect timing!

Marianne Weekes

The next chore was a tough one, sitting down to eat it all and my oh my was it delicious!

Back in the office I was really pleased to hear it was one of the best press events our guests had ever attended.

Easy Summer Recipes

Click the images to download the recipe

Baked Spiced Fish and Green Bean Salad

Halloumi kebabs

feta and pea frittata

Prawn and chorizo

 

So if you are looking for something a little different to serve and that is simple to prepare, download these recipes and give them a go. Just click on the images and you will find a PDF to download.

chocolate mousse

One last thing I must mention is Jo’s Chocolate Mousse that she prepared for us, you know I’m a sucker for anything chocolate! The recipe can be found in her book In The Mood For Healthy Eating and trust me, it was divine. (affiliate link)

Jo Pratt recipes featured on Mari’s World

Asian Salmon on Oodles of Noodles

Espresso Martini Cocktail

Chocolate Mascarpone and Raspberry Tarts

Seared Scallops and Smoky Leeks with Orange Butter

roast lamb

Easter is here! Hot Cross buns, chocolate eggs and of course Easter roast lamb.

We’ve only been home a couple of days from school and work but we’ve had so much fun! Our first day started with a cooked breakfast, that was then walked off down at the beach and now we are waiting for our lamb to roast but this is no ordinary lamb as it’s a one pot meal. The vegetables are roasting in the same pan so once the meat is ready we are ready to sit and eat. Which is just as well as a day in the fresh air has made us all ravenous.

Pudding of course can be hot cross buns and our latest Cadbury Creme Egg ice cream, yum!

As the days are getting longer and the temperatures warmer we love getting outside and spending our time walking, scooting or playing on the beach, however food still plays a huge role in our family time and a roast dinner cannot be beaten.

This recipe here, sent through by New Zealand lamb cooks alongside the vegetables and makes it’s own sauce, it is the perfect one pot meal that once prepared you put in the oven and pull out once cooked to serve.

Easter Roast Lamb recipe - one pot meal
 
A typical Easter Roast lamb recipe using New Zealand lamb
Author:
Recipe type: Lunch
Cuisine: British
Ingredients
  • a half shoulder or half leg of New Zealand Lamb
  • 450g potatoes, roughly chopped
  • 250g chantenay carrots
  • 350g squash, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks
  • 2 red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic bulb , cloves separated but still in their skin
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • a few sprigs of rosemary
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • foil
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F Gas 6
  2. Blanch the potatoes for 5 minutes
  3. Place the lamb in a roasting tin, scatter around the carrots, squash, potatoes and red onions. Drizzle over the olive oil and season well.
  4. Add a small glass of wine and a splash of water.
  5. Place the roasting tin in the oven for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180C.
  6. After another 30 minutes add the garlic and rosemary sprigs to the pan, scatter the fennel seeds and lemon over the lamb.
  7. Continue roasting until the vegetables are soft and beginning to caramelise and the lamb is cooked to your liking. For medium allow 20 - 30 minutes more.
  8. If the pan is looking dry add a splash more of wine or water, once out of the oven, cover with foil and rest for 15 minutes before carving.
Roast lamb and not just for Easter!

Have a wonderful break and here’s to the Spring!

beef and guinness stew pressure cooker recipe

This post is going to be a Beef and Guinness stew pressure cooker recipe but before I move on to that I feel the need to catch up! Where have I been? What have I been doing?

Well, I love my not-so-new-anymore job, I feel as if I have settled into the role and got to know my colleagues who are all really lovely. I am so lucky to be working with such a kind bunch of gals and guys. They are all incredibly inspirational and I love being amongst them in their group and working together for a main goal.

School life has been very busy, we’ve had Stone Age dress up days, Zoo lab days, School Valentine’s disco and many other appointments that all required some of my time to get something prepared. We managed but now we have had a last minute surprise for World Book Day on Thursday so I’m going to have to come up with something for that too now.

Another big decision I took was to drop the girls swimming lesson on Mondays. We attend Brownies on Tuesday, Dance on Wednesday and Performing Arts on a Saturday morning so I felt the swimming could go and we could grab back our Monday evenings for a chilled at home evening.

Half term came and went and the twins enjoyed their first ever Brownie pack holiday. It was themed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which as you can imagine was perfect, Brown Owl and Barn Owl had gone to a lot of trouble organising a lot of really fun activities for them, in fact, the girls returned home incredibly happy but exhausted, it’s taken a week to get back to normal! Whilst they were away the husband and I spent a cheeky overnight in Canterbury which was lovely. That’s another post in the wings waiting to be completed!

sage smart scoop

We have been the lucky recipients of a Sage Smart Scoop recently! The most amazing ice cream maker in the world and whilst we have been trying a recipe or two out of the manual to make sure we have the hang of it I have already come up with a fabulous idea (I hope) for Mother’s Day, I’m just waiting on a couple of special ingredients to arrive – watch this space! I’m warning you there might be a bit of an ice cream takeover going on in Mari’s World this year.

Talking of Sage appliances, today I am posting one of my favourite recipes that I use in the Fast Slow Pro pressure cooker, a Beef and Guinness stew with lots of carrots, I also made a Colcannon mash to serve with it and it went down a treat. With St Patrick’s Day coming at us fast, this recipe is simple and delicious too. I do hope you enjoy it.

beef and guinness stew pressure cooker recipe

Beef and Guinness stew

5.0 from 6 reviews
Beef and Guinness stew with carrots - pressure cooker recipe
 
A simple but delicious beef stew made in a pressure cooker, ready on the table in 1 hour and 20 minutes
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Irish
Ingredients
  • olive oil
  • 1 kg stewing beef cut into large chunks
  • 1 onion diced
  • 10 carrots cut into large pieces
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 can of Guinness - or other stout
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • parsley
  • Colcannon
  • 3 large potatoes peeled and cut into quarters
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • 300g spring greens - chopped and boiled
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker and brown the meat on all sides then remove to a plate with any juices.
  2. Add another drop of oil to the pressure cooker and fry off the onions and carrots until soft and golden.
  3. Add the flour to the onions and stir well
  4. Return the meat and any juices to the pan and pour over the Guinness. Crumble the stock cube in and add the remaining seasonings.
  5. Close the lid, bring up to high pressure and cook for 30 minutes. release the pressure slowly.
  6. Colcannon
  7. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. In a separate pan boil the spring greens until soft.
  8. Mash the potato with a knob of butter and a splash of milk and once seasoned to your taste add the finely chopped spring greens and stir in well.
  9. To Serve: Place a spoonful or two of mash in a bowl and add a ladle or two of the stew to the side
beef and guinness stew pressure cooker recipe

 

chicken jambalaya slimming world recipe

Since the beginning of the year I have wanted to lose some weight and I’m not doing very well at all. It would seem I’m fine during the week and then come the weekend I pile it all back on. So I decided after seeing Kate at Wit Wit Woo come on so successfully and seeing her delicious recipes that don’t look like slimmers recipes at all, I too would join Slimming World. I have signed up for 3 months which should take me to my birthday and hopefully I’ll be a stone lighter. That is the plan.

Slimming World works differently to any other diet I have tried and I was amazed to discover there are certain foods you can eat as much as you want of, no really, As. Much. As. You. Want.

Pile your plate high to the sky and they aren’t talking lettuce and cucumber but meat, poultry, veg and all sorts of other filling foods.

They also have a fabulous directory of recipes and on Friday evening I was looking for a chicken recipe to suit the family and I came across this one for Speedy Chicken Jambalaya.

I had my first Jambalaya in Disney, Florida at the House of Blues restaurant which I am dying to go back to one day. Having listened to the Carpenters sing during my childhood, I knew the lyrics to Jambalaya before I even knew what Jambalaya was.

In a nod to my late father who was a huge Carpenters’ fan, here’s the video so you can see what I’m talking about, and don’t blame me if you’re singing it all day long afterwards as it’s really catchy.

I’m also loving my Sage Fast Slow Pro pressure cooker and have been using it lots, I used the pressure cooker – risotto setting for my Chicken Jambalaya recipe here and it was on the table in 20 minutes.

The Chicken Jambalaya recipe is very speedy and also scrumptious. I held back on too much tabasco as I was serving to the twins as well but if you like a kick then add some more.

chicken jambalaya slimming world recipe

Chicken Jambalaya - pressure cooker recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Jambalaya is a Louisiana Creole dish of Spanish and French (especially Provençal) influence. It consists of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. Traditionally, the meat always includes sausage of some sort, often a smoked sausage such as Andouille, along with some other meat or seafood, frequently pork, chicken, crayfish, or shrimp. The vegetables are usually a sofrito-like mixture known as the "holy trinity" in Creole and Cajun cooking, consisting of onion, celery, and green bell pepper, though other vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, chilis, and garlic are also used. After browning and sauteeing the meat and vegetables, rice, seasonings, and broth are added and the entire dish is cooked together until the rice is done. - Wikipedia
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • low calorie cooking spray
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped into chunks
  • 2 courgettes, chopped into chunks
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts diced
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 bay leaf
  • splash of tabasco
  • 350g long grain rice
  • 1 l chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to season
  • Fresh parsley to serve
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil on the saute setting of your Sage Fast Slow Pro, once hot add the onion, garlic and chicken and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan and season well.
  3. Close the lid and select the pressure cooker - risotto setting.
  4. Once cooked and the steam has been released, ladle into bowls and serve with a sprinkle of parsley.
chicken jambalaya slimming world recipe

sage fast slo pro

A couple of months ago I was sent a Sage Fast Slow Pro pressure cooker to review. I could end this post here and now simply by saying, if there’s one thing you buy in 2016, make sure it’s a Fast Slow Pro. That is how impressed I am with it but that wouldn’t make good reading, would it?

I used to use a pressure cooker when I lived in Italy and I remember how convenient it was, how it cooked wonderfully and in a short amount of time too. I also remembered the tales of kitchen explosions (not mine) and the feeling of great caution around this particular gadget and the general negative vibe associated with pressure cookers. Well panic no more as I have tried and tested the Sage Pressure Cooker model in every conceivable fashion because it does a lot more than just pressure cook.

Sage Fast Slow Pro

First off it has to be said the Sage pressure cooker is more than just a pressure cooker; it’s a slow cooker, a risotto maker, it sautès, sears and reduces. With this baby you need never dirty another pan again. However it comes with a fancy price tag, £199.99 so my first plan of action was to discover if it was worth that money or would this contraption end up in the Cupboard of Forgotten Kitchen Gadgets too?

How do you cook with a pressure cooker?

I had no idea! The last time I used one was about 15 years ago. Fortunately Heston is on the case and when you buy your Sage appliance it comes with a recipe book which covers a great selection of basic recipes, in fact my first dabble with my #FastSlowPro was Heston’s Beef and Guinness pie recipe. It was a massive hit with all of the family.

I found the pressure cooker very simple to use as there are a lot of pre recorded times and pressure levels to start you off with, in fact, unless you are developing recipes, you could quite happily stick with them as they all work perfectly.

chicken pot roast - pressure cooker recipe

I tried the Bolognese sauce, a classic pot roast, a whole lemon and herb chicken, the pulled pork, the beef en daube. I even made a chicken stock, which alter made a chicken soup.

I was so intrigued, I invested in the BBC Good Food Pressure Cooker favourites book, a nice compact book with some wicked recipes. I tried a curry recipe, the lamb shanks, the Irish stew, the pork and rice one pot and a chicken casserole recipe.

I was very impressed, they all worked wonderfully.

lamb shanks pressure cooker recipe

Slow cooker

If you are a fan of the slow cooker, like I am, the Fast Slow Pro has incorporated the Sage Slow cooker and works exactly the same way. In fact I have been using all of my much loved slow cooker recipes in it too.

Risotto maker

I was very relieved to discover the Fast Slow Pro also makes risottos, as the previous Sage appliance did them so well. I have tried Heston’s mushroom and bacon risotto but also some new recipes I have come up with, recipes to follow.

Soup maker

Tomato soup - pressure cooker recipe

My soup kettle is also looking for a new home as the Fast Slow Pro does that job perfectly as well. I’ve made a pearl barley soup, a tomato soup and a Spicy root vegetable soup

Tomato soup - pressure cooker recipe
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A delicious fresh tomato soup recipe for the pressure cooker ready in minutes.
Author:
Recipe type: soup
Cuisine: British
Ingredients
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped roughly
  • ⅘ spring onions chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1.5 k fresh tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 300ml of tomato juice
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • 50g Fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker and fry off the onion, spring onions and garlic until soft and golden.
  2. Add the chopped fresh tomatoes, the tomato juice and chicken stock and close the lid.
  3. Select the soup setting, bring up to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Reduce the pressure slowly.
  4. Finely chop the fresh basil and add it to the soup holding back a tiny bit to sprinkle on the soup before serving.
  5. Whizz with a hand held blender until smooth.
  6. Place in soup bowls with a scattering of freshly chopped basil and serve with chunks of fresh bread.
 

Reduce button

This was a revelation to me as it makes the perfect gravy. After making a pie filling one day, I took out the meat and vegetables from the liquid and put to one side. Then I hit the reduce button and the machine turns into the best gravy maker in town, boiling the liquid and reducing it to a delicious thick gravy to pour over your pie. Amazing.

Practicalities

I think my favourite thing about the Sage Pressure cooker is I don’t have lots of dirty pans to wash up after the preparation. I can sautè the meat, remove, then sautè onions and vegetables, add flour, seasonings, wine stock and once I have everything ready in my pot, I shut the lid and switch on to pressure cook or slow cook as the recipe determines.

The cleaning afterwards is very simple, you wash the removable pot and if desired the lid too.

It’s a heavy piece of equipment and sits on the kitchen surface but that’s fine with me because I use it at least once a week, plus it’s an object of beauty to look at.

Verdict

I love it. I would go as far to say that if you invest in only one kitchen gadget in 2016 I really would make it the Sage Fast Slow Pro. It covers all the basics and more. I cannot ever see myself without this kitchen appliance. It is worth every single penny in my book.

Further reading

Mummy BarrowPressure cooker beer can chicken

Lavender and LovageChicken and Pearl Barley Stew

Disclosure: Sage Appliances sent me a Fast Slow Pro to review, all opinions are my own.