Food

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

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

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
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  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

Method

  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
Shark
Suits
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
Transformers
Captain America
Sicario

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
Winx
Project Mc2
Ever After High
My Little Pony
Mako Mermaids
LoliRock

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.

Snozzcumber ice cream

One of the greatest discoveries you can make as a child is the world of reading and the twins are huge fans of the world of fiction. It’s an absolute pleasure to watch them devour books and have opinions on them. Alice enjoyed the first Harry Potter book so much she wants to re read it.

There are so many wonderful books around for kids today including some great timeless classics such as the BFG by Roald Dahl, what an imagination. His books really do transport you into another world.

We had been invited to the premier of The BFG in London but sadly it clashed with the twins birthday and a family party that had already been organised but it didn’t stop me coming up with a fun ice cream recipe for the summer months ahead – Snozzcumber ice cream.

snozzcumber

The Snozzcumber is a fictional foodstuff featured prominently in this The BFG. The Snozzcumber resembles a cucumber but differs in various respects. The snozzcumber varies from nine to twelve feet long. It is striped lengthwise black and white, with wart-like growths all over its surface.

It’s the invention of words like snozzcumber that tickle me and it is the language that the BFG uses that is so clever and gives him such a great character

“But if you don’t eat people like all the others,” Sophie said, “Then what do you live on?”
“That is a squelching tricky problem around here,” the BFG answered. “In this sloshflunking Giant Country, happy eats like pineapples and pigwinkles is simply not growing. Nothing is growing except for one extremely icky-poo vegetable. It is called the snozzcumber.”
“The snozzcumber!” cried Sophie. “There’s no such thing!”
The BFG looked at Sophie and smiled, showing about twenty of his square white teeth. “Yesterday,” he said, “we was not believeing in giants, was we?
Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers. Just because we happen not to have actually seen something with our own little winkles, we think it is
not existing.”

Alice is currently reading The BFG and Bessie Matilda, another Raold Dahl favourite so it seemed the perfect excuse to invent a Dahl-ish ice cream.

Snozzcumber ice cream

snozzcumber drink

When coming up with ideas, I knew instantly it has to be green but it also had to have black flecks in it. I didn’t want it tasting too weird as I wanted the girls to enjoy it so I went for kiwis and cucumber with the addition of chocolate chips.

Snozzcumber ice cream recipe

5.0 from 1 reviews
Snozzcumber ice cream - The BFG
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Snozzcumber ice cream recipe, a delicious green ice cream inspired by The BFG with fruit and chocolate chips.
Author:
Recipe type: ice cream
Cuisine: dessert
Serves: 1 litre
Ingredients
  • 375ml whipping cream
  • 125ml whole milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 75g caster sugar
  • Fruit mixture
  • 250g kiwis, peeled and choipped into chunks
  • 200g cucumber, peeled and chopped into chunks
  • 55g caster sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • green food colouring
Instructions
  1. Place the cream and milk into a medium heavy based saucepan, heat until the mixture just starts to simmer.
  2. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl until pale and thick, once the cream mixture is hot, slowly whisk it into the egg mixture.
  3. Clean the saucepan and return to a low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture has thickened and coats the back of a spoon.
  4. Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl, cover and refrigerate until well chilled.
  5. To make the fruit base, blend the kiwis and cucumber, add the sugar and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Refrigerate until cold.
  6. Once both mixtures are cold, gently fold together, add the green food colouring to the desired tone of green, I added 7 tsps.
  7. Churn in the ice cream maker adding the chocolate chips when the machine beeps for add ins.
  8. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze for up to 1 week.
snozzcumber ice cream

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