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


I love a good cheeseboard, it’s one of those indulgences that go into making a very special Christmas for me. I also don’t stop at cheese but add lots of other ‘picky bits’ to tuck into, like cold meats, dates, fruit and nuts.

We find that after Christmas dinner there’s not an awful lot of room left and we can quite happily sit out the rest of the day without even remotely thinking about food. Then it’s evening and the board games come out and somebody heads into the kitchen looking for something to pick at. They’re not hungry, it’s just a need to pick at something.

An indulgence.

That’s when I start to put lots of ‘bits’ on the table, crackers and crisps and dips. Cold meats, olives, fruit and nuts but it’s my cheeseboard that is the centrepiece and among my favourite cheeses you will always find a damn good Cheddar, like the Davidstow Cheddar seen here. In fact there are two Davidstow Cheddars on this cheeseboard that I want to talk about.

These award winning Cheddars are made on the north Cornish coast which I love as it reminds me of our favourite holidays in Cornwall.

davidstow cheddar cheese

We have a 3 Year Vintage Reserve Cheddar which is matured for a minimum of three years, this is a firm cheese with a crumbly texture, the flavour lasts just long enough to tempt you into the next mouthful.

The second Davidstow cheese is an 18 month Extra mature which has an intense flavour and crunchy crystals that burst in your mouth as you eat it.

Now everyone has their favourite way of eating Cheddar cheese. My husband for example loves cheese on toast, the twins like a toasted cheese sandwich and I love to eat my Cheddar on crackers accompanied by a tomato and chilli jam which adds a tiny burst of heat to each mouthful. This is a family recipe that goes back years to when my grandmother first came across it and it’s been a regular on our Christmas table ever since.


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Sweet Chilli Jam - The perfect Christmas cheeseboard accompaniment
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A delicious savoury jam with a burst of heat to be enjoyed with cheese and cold meats.
Recipe type: savoury
Cuisine: British
  • 8 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 10 red chillis roughly chopped
  • finger-sized piece fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 400g can cherry tomatoes
  • 750g golden caster sugar
  • 250ml red wine vinegar
  1. Place the peppers, chillies (with seeds), ginger and garlic into a food processor and whizz until very finely chopped.
  2. Pour into a heavy-bottomed pan with the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar and bring to the boil.
  3. If any scum comes to the surface skim it off, then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 50 mins, stirring occasionally.
  4. Once the jam thickens continue cooking for 10-15 mins more, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t catch and burn.
  5. Cool slightly, transfer to sterilised jars, then leave to cool completely.
  6. Keeps for 3 months in a cool, dark cupboard – refrigerate once opened.
How do you like to eat your Cheddar cheese? Do you have an onion jam or fruit chutney recipe that everyone enjoys at Christmas too?

Davidstow’s 3 Year Vintage Reserve is available exclusively from Ocado and Davidstow 18 Month Extra Mature is available from Tesco Extra, Sainsburys, Asda, Morrisons & Ocado

Disclosure: This post is a collaboration with Davidstow but opinions and recipes are all my own.


meatballs in tomato sauce

The first product I used from my Ciao Gusto hamper was a jar of passata sauce. This is a staple in my kitchen cupboard and can be used in so many recipes. Cirio Passata Rustica is one of the products from the very well known brand in Italy which has been going since 1856 when Cirio, a young boy born to an illiterate family in Sardinia, travelled to Turin and started preserving tomatoes in tin cans. Cirio is all about tomatoes, their brand includes tinned plum tomatoes, chopped plum tomatoes, a variety of passata sauces, a tomato puree and lots more.

I often use the tinned tomatoes as bases for casseroles, soups and pot roasts whereas the passatas are perfect for pasta sauces, like Arrabbiata, Amatriciana and a classical ragú. This time however I had some fresh meatballs and I wanted a recipe that was suitable for all of the family, that means tasty but not too spicy for the little ones.

Cirio vintage postcard


Linguine with meatballs in tomato and sweet pepper sauce

Linguine with meatballs in tomato and sweet pepper sauce
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A simple and delicious tomato and sweet pepper sauce to accompany tasty meatballs. Great for dinner, suitable for all of the family
Recipe type: Main meal
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • 1 tray of 12 meatballs
  • olive oil for frying
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 2 peppers diced
  • 1 jar of Cirio Passata Rustica
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan and lightly fry the meatballs until they are browed all over, scoop out the meatballs and place to one side.
  2. Add the onions, garlic and sweet peppers to the pan and gently fry until softened. Add the jar of Cirio Passata Rustica and stir the ingredients together.
  3. Return the meatballs to the pan, correct the seasoning, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the meat is cooked through.
  4. In the meantime, bring to the boil a pan of salted water. Add the linguine and cook until al dente.
  5. Once cooked, drain and add to the meatballs sauce, mix well and serve.
  6. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top and cracked black pepper
A simple recipe to prepare and ready to serve in no time at all. All of the family enjoyed this and dad added extra freshly ground black pepper to add a little kick to it.

We served a glass of Santa Margherita’s Pinto Grigio with our meal

meatballs in tomato and sweet pepper sauce


chefs in the kitchen

When I heard that most of my favourite brands were coming over to present themselves to the UK market, I knew I HAD to be part of the debut. These were brands that accompanied my daily cooking for 18 years whilst I lived in Folgaria, brands that were regularly on my shopping list for my Italian recipes and ones that I have missed dearly since living back in the UK.

giovanni rana

I was invited by Ciao Gusto to a dinner at a very special restaurant, that of Giovanni Rana, the man who makes the most delicious tortellini and who, until that evening, I had only spotted on Italian television. I knew with all of the products that were to be present the meal was going to be fabulous.

I was right, the restaurant is beautiful and well worth a visit, I loved being able to watch the chefs through the windows as they rushed around the kitchen getting all of the preparations in order.

We started our evening with Bocconi & Bollicine – mouthwatering bruschette with Medusa octopus and another with a tuna and sun dried tomato topping, there were two brands of prosecco that I know well from my time in Italy, Zonin and Santa Margherita, both of home do a lovely range of wines too.bruschette

It was a traditional Italian meal and that means lots of courses, the portions are small to allow for a taste and not designed to fill you up, however you do fill up as it’s all so delicious.

For starters we had Giovanni Rana’s tortellini and Fritters made from polenta with Aurichio cheese, all accompanied with Barilla Arrabbiata sauce which is a lovely tomato sauce with a kick to it.

fried ravioli polenta fritters

The next course to be served was a tagliere, this is a board of cheeses, salami and Italian cured meats. This is served with fresh breads including focaccia and Misura rosemary crackers.

Then it was on to the Pasta & Rice after all, what Italian meal would it be if these two dishes weren’t included? Giovanni Rana served some exquisite Ravioli with Amalfi lemon and Ricotta. We had a risotto with sausage and Tastasal and the showstopper Barilla Cannelloni with asparagus, aurichio and beschamel sauce.

Desserts were a delicious panna cotta with cherry jam and Fabbri Cherry Fruit, a tiramisu and a Dairy free gelato with biscuits.

After dinner wasn’t forgotten and true Italian tradition coffee, herbal teas and the maestro, Vecchia Romagna Brandy in it’s wonderful triangular bottle was served.

All of the Ciao Gusto products can be found at Ocado online shopping

ciao gusto products

I had a ball and was even more delighted when a few weeks later I received a hamper full of all of the wonderful products! I’ve been cooking with them and will be showcasing my recipes one at a time but as a sneak preview, look what I’ve been up to.

cannelloini ricotta, spinach and ham

Cannelloni with ricotta, spinach and ham

meatballs in tomato sauce

Meatballs in a tomato and sweet pepper sauce

Disclosure: I was invited to an evening of degustazione by Ciao Gusto and sent through a hamper of the products to try. All opinions are my own.


Apple strudel della Nonna Daria is a post that has been sitting in my drafts for at least 4 years but finally I have a photo I am happy with and I can finally write it up and hit publish!

Who is Nonna Daria?

Nonna Daria was an exceptional lady, she was my Italian mother in law and when I first met her we didn’t even speak the same language plus she was lying in her bed having just undergone a kidney stone operation, not your regular first meeting. I was 19, it was 1986 and I was visiting my boyfriend in Italy for the first time. It was a very exciting period in my life and one that was to change my life forever.

I was part of nonna Daria’s family for 18 years and she left before I did, leaving us a very sad family in 1998. She had very humble beginnings, was 1 of 6 children and started working very early in life. She was a grafter and she was also an intelligent woman. She knew how to make people feel welcome and she had a great business acumen. She married her husband and on his death ran the family hotel, taking it through a complete renovation in 1988 to stay with the times and make sure her children had a future in front of them.

On top of all of this, nonna Daria was also a great cook and a highlight of our out of season periods was being invited to nonna’s for lunch. She put on a fantastic spread and apple strudel is just one of the many recipes that I learnt from her. Apple strudel is also the dessert that transports me back to my time in Italy in Folgaria.

Apple Strudel

apple strudel

What Sophie did next was to wipe her finger along the icing sugar and lick it!

This puff pastry delight is incredibly easy to prepare, quick to bake and everyone who tastes it will love it. If you ever visit north Italy, look out for it on the menu or visit a pasticceria and enjoy a slice with a cup of coffee or tea. It’s a simple recipe that uses apples, pine nuts and raisins, a touch of cinnamon and sugar and wrapped in puff pastry. You can serve it on it’s own or offer custard or ice cream to go with it.

When visiting Folgaria you can see families carrying their strudels home for lunch or afternoon tea form the bakery or pasticceria. Laid on a cardboard tray and wrapped in paper with bright red ribbons curled over the top.

Apple Strudel della Nonna Daria
Apple Strudel good for dessert but also good for an afternoon snack
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
  • 1 packet of puff pastry (500g)
  • 5 medium sized cooking apples
  • Juice of ½ lemon (optional)
  • ¾ tbsps sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g raisins
  • 1 egg beaten for brushing the pastry
  • Icing sugar to dust
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C Gas 6
  2. Butter a baking tray or line with baking paper
  3. Peel and core the apples, chop into bite size chunks. Add lemon juice to stop discolouring if desired
  4. Add the sugar and cinnamon to the apples and mix well, add raisins and mix again to distribute evenly throughout your mixture
  5. Roll out your pastry to a large square the width to fit on your baking tray.
  6. Spread the strudel mixture over evenly keeping 2 cms from the edges
  7. Roll the pastry over itself until a long ‘sausage’ is obtained
  8. Brush the egg mixture down the remaining flap and seal the strudel
  9. Place the strudel on the baking tray with the join of the pastry underneath and brush the egg mixture all over
  10. Bake in the oven for about 20 mins checking to make sure it browns all over
  11. Leave to cool for about 20 mins, dust with icing sugar and serve warm with ice cream, cream or custard
  12. Buon appetito!
Enough of my reminiscing, I would like to toast the lady who taught me how to be a mother, how to be part of a wide Italian family and who will be in my heart forever. Please enjoy her delicious apple strudel, the only difference I have made is using ready made puff pastry but I’m sure she would be ok with that.

Here is one happy taster

apple strudel


mince pies tv snacks

Don’t judge us but we’ve popped our Mince Pie bubble already regardless of how many days there are until Christmas, and why not indeed?

Is there a rule somewhere saying you are not allowed mince pies until Christmas? I don’t think so. After all I bought a packed of 6 Hot Cross buns this weekend, we devoured them all and we are months off of Easter!

But less of Hot Cross Buns and more of Mince Pies. It was Netflix who prompted us to think about what we like to eat whilst watching some great tv and after a really busy Saturday we had planned a very lazy Sunday, with a TV afternoon all together tucked up on the sofa.

mince pie recipe

I’m not going to lie to you, the mincemeat came out of a jar and the pastry was ready made and even pre-rolled but the whole thinking behind these particular tv snacks was getting the girls involved.

I did very little and they were so pleased to be doing something for the whole family.

Mince Pies recipe

1 roll of ready to roll sweet shortcrust pastry

1 jar of mincemeat

1 x baking tray for tarts/pies

lots of cutters

making mince pies


  1. Grease the tray well with a butter paper.
  2. Roll out the pastry and cut rounds larger than the tin you are using to enable the pastry to curl up the side of the tin.
  3. Place the pastry rounds in the tin and gently press into place
  4. Add a large teaspoon of mincemeat to each pastry case so each tart is full but not overflowing.
  5. With the remainder of the pastry cut out some fun toppings, in this case we used letters for Netflix and a couple of home made heart stamps.
  6. Pop in a hot oven (Gas mark 6 – 200C) for about 20/30 minutes until the pastry has cooked and is browned on top.
  7. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

As a snack we ate them as they were but if they were to be served as a pudding I would warm up some custard or offer cream/ice cream

mince pies recipe

What we’ve been watching on Netflix

Tommy is loving Netflix and has been bingeing every weekend since he arrived at the end of August. He’s gone through all of the Star War episodes and the entire Top Gear collection. He’s also watched the following…

Olympus has fallen
Dracula Untold
Jack Reacher
The Hunger Games part 1 and part 2
The Fall of Reach
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Captain America

I think he’s done Netflix very proud don’t you?

netflix letters

I have continued with the OITNB, I’m on season II now and hooked.

Alice & Bessie watch Netflix every morning before school and frequently in the evening after homework, they’ve been continuing with

Gem & the Holograms
Pound Puppies
Glitter Force
H2O Mermaid adventures
Project Mc2
Ever After High
My Little Pony
Mako Mermaids

Adding new Netflix profiles

netflix for young boys

Is so incredibly easy so, I’ve set up another two profiles for Sophie who is 3 and Evan who is 4 but going on 5 in January. I made them separate as Evan is the first boy in the house and will enjoy wathcing Pokemon, DinoTrux, Casper and Hotel Transylvania whereas Sophie is younger than the twins so will enjoy Peppa Pig, Beat Bugs and Care Bears.

What I’m watching next on Netflix

There’s a lot of attention around the Season 1 of LukeCage which looks dramatic and interesting  but with the arrival of Evan and Sophie, both of whom will need to pick up their English pretty quick I have my eye on Paw Patrol as I’ve seen parents talk about it so much. Anything LEGO related or to do with Dragons to watch with Evan. Plus, I am so pleased to see so many of my favourite Christmas films coming up.