Food

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

Photo by Sweet Amaryllis on Unsplash

Serve up something special this Easter for friends and family. Our easy menu plan makes the most of seasonal ingredients.

Easter is the perfect time to spend with loved ones and enjoy the very best food and wines. Give your Sunday lunch the wow factor by following our classic menu plan.

Begin with a tasty sweet-potato and spring-onion mash, then tuck into roast lamb and all the trimmings followed by a decadent chocolate cheesecake.

Our tried-and-tested menu serves a minimum of six, which is great if you’re catering for family and friends.

Starter – Sweet Potato and Spring Onion Mash

Roasted sweet potato and onion mash is special enough for Easter and simple enough for a weeknight dish. As soon as you make it once, you’ll crave it – it’s that good!

Ingredients

  • 1.25kg sweet potatoes
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • 100ml milk
  • 40g butter
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Peel the potatoes then slice into tiny chunks. Cover with cold water in a large pan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat so they’re simmering and cook until the potatoes are very soft (about 15 minutes).
  • Meanwhile, finely dice the spring onions. Warm the milk in a small pan, throw in the onions and fry gently for a few minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and put back in the saucepan. Pour in the onions, milk and half the butter, and mash until smooth. Sprinkle with plenty of pepper. Pop into a warmed serving dish and dot with the remaining butter.

Main – One-Pan Easter Lamb, Potatoes & Vegetables

roast spring lamb

The real showstopper for Easter Sunday lunch has to be roast lamb, and this one-pot recipe is so simple to make. Seasoned with rosemary, garlic, white wine and seasonal veg, it makes a special family meal.

If you’d rather have chips with your lamb, swap the potatoes for McCain triple cooked chips (cook the chips separately from the other ingredients). These elegantly seasoned Cornish sea-salt chips take around 20 minutes to cook in the oven and come sprinkled with delicious seasoning.

Ingredients

  • 1.6kg bone-in leg of lamb
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 3 oregano sprigs, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 4 sprigs rosemary, leaves of 2 picked and roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested (save the juice for the spring greens)
  • 1 garlic bulb, cloves lightly crushed
  • 1 red chilli, pierced
  • 1kg potatoes, skins on, cut into thick wedges
  • 3 fennel bulbs, quartered lengthways, tops taken off, green fronds reserved
  • 250ml white wine
  • 250ml good-quality chicken stock

Method

  • An hour before cooking, remove lamb from the fridge. Make small cuts all over with a sharp knife.
  • In a bowl, stir in the oil with the oregano, chopped rosemary and lemon zest. Rub the marinade all over the lamb, massaging it properly into the incisions.
  • Fire the oven up to 200?C. Pop the garlic, chilli, potatoes, fennel and the rest of the rosemary into a big roasting tin. Drizzle over some olive oil and toss together.
  • Season the lamb well then place on top of the veg. Roast for 45 mins until the lamb is beginning to char, then pour in the wine and stock.
  • Continue cooking for 30 mins for rare (55?C on a cooking thermometer), 35-40 mins for medium rare (60?C) or 45 mins for well done (70?C).
  • Take the lamb out the oven and leave to rest for roughly 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 160?C.
  • Cover the veg with foil and, while the lamb rests, pop back in the oven until braised in the roasting juices. Toss the fennel fronds over the veg, pop the lamb back on top and bring the whole tin to the table to serve.

Dessert – Cadbury Egg Cheesecake

Easter traditions dictate that you need something sweet, and this dessert is almost too adorable to eat.

Ingredients

FOR THE COOKIE CRUST

  • knob of butter
  • 24 Oreo cookies
  • 6 tbsp butter, melted
  • pinch of salt

FOR THE FILLING

  • 4 blocks cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 215g sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 240g sour cream
  • zest of one orange
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

FOR THE TOPPING

  • 40g chocolate chips, melted
  • 240g whipped cream
  • 4 Cadbury Creme Eggs, halved

Method

  • Preheat oven to 160°C and grease a 20cm or 23cm springform pan. To make the crust, crush or blend Oreos in a large a food processor until fine crumbs form.
  • Move to a bowl and tip in the melted butter. Throw in the salt and stir until crumbs are entirely coated and moist. Pack Oreo mixture into pan and 1/3 of the way up the sides, pressing down firmly.
  • Next, grab a large bowl and use a hand mixer to beat the cream cheese and sugar together until no lumps remain. Combine the eggs, one at a time, then mix in the vanilla, sour cream, and zest. Sift in the flour, salt and whisk until just combined. Tip mixture over the crust.
  • Cover bottom of pan in aluminium foil and pop in a large roasting pan. Fill the pan with boiling water (so it comes up halfway). Bake for roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes – you want the centre of cheesecake to wobble slightly. Switch off the oven, open the door, and leave cheesecake to cool in oven for about an hour. Take off the foil and pop the cheesecake in the fridge for at least five hours (it’s best to leave overnight).
  • Serve with some chocolate drizzled over the top. Pipe or spoon dollops of whipped topping into small rounds, 2cm apart. Set halved Cadbury eggs in the centre of each dollop. Serve.

If you’re hosting Easter this year, look no further than this tasty menu. We’re sure your Easter dinner will be the best yet – and impress your guests!

Disclosure: Collaborative post

 

pasta recipe book

A lovely new pasta recipe book caught my eye recently, The Long and the Short of Pasta. It’s written by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi owners of Caffe’ Caldesi in London and the Marylebone La Cucina Caldesi cooking school and of course, it’s all about pasta. How to make it from scratch and some delicious recipes to try.

An initial flick through the book shows recipes accompanied with lovely photos, not just of the food but shots of Italy, Italians and images you can expect to see wandering the streets of the country. In fact, the recipes are from all over Italy, Tuscany, Rome, Sicily and more of my favourite places.

Fresh pasta is something I have yet to master. Mum did suggest we make some on our last trip to Sardegna and we did buy all of the ingredients but you know what it’s like when you’re on holiday, we never got around to it. However, the how-to in the Caldesi recipe book is very easy to follow accompanied by some very inspiring images. One day I promise, I’ll give it a go. WAtch this space…

Then, there are plenty of wonderful sauces to use on your pasta – fresh or dried. I couldn’t decide at first but in the end, I decided to go with an old favourite of mine – Pasta alla Checca or Pasta with raw sauce. Don’t be alarmed at the ‘raw’, it’s all perfectly edible and in fact, is a recipe from Rome used by families to celebrate the arrival of summer. The sauce has cherry tomatoes, capers, olives, basil (my kitchen smells divine!) and mozzarella. It uses garlic and chilli too and is finished off with ricotta cheese

Pasta alla Checca

Pasta alla checca

5.0 from 1 reviews
Recipe book: The Long and the Short of Pasta - Caldesi
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A delicious summer recipe using cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella along with other ingredients. A family hit.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 320g spaghetti,
  • 200g cherry tomatoes halved,
  • 1 garlic clove,
  • 20g capers
  • 100g whole green olives stones removed and chopped
  • 125g mozzarella cut into 2cm cubes,
  • olive oil (extra virgin)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper,
  • handful of basil leaves,
  • 100g ricotta
Instructions
  1. Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of well-salted water until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the tomatoes, garlic, capers, olives, chilli, mozzarella and oil in a large bowl.
  3. Add the cooked, drained spaghetti and toss all of the ingredients well.
  4. Season well and add the basil.
  5. Serve with spoonfuls of ricotta on top.

There are 70 recipes to try including pasta sauces, ragus, gnocchi and ravioli all of them simple and quick to make. I love that Katie and Giancarlo have added in notes of their own throughout the book which adds a personal, authentic touch.

Gluten-free fans will be pleased to know that Giancarlo is also gluten intolerant and has spent a long (very long) time developing the perfect gluten-free pasta recipe which can be used for cut ribbons, stuffed and shaped pasta.

Other recipes I want to try out include Semolina gnocchi, (one of my favourites off the hotel menu when I lived in Italy) Linguine with seafood, Lamb ragu with spices and Sicilian ragu. As far as the fresh pasta is concerned, I’m going to start with some ravioli.

Disclosure: I was sent a book for the purpose of this review, all opinions are my own.

Find lots more of my Italian recipes on the blog.

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.