When there’s strawberries in the house that’s how I know it’s summer. I never eat them out of season; I feel like it’s worth the wait to abstain from eating strawberries for nine or ten months of the year and then gorge on them from late May until they disappear again. Mostly I just eat them as they are but sometimes I like to make something a little more interesting. This Strawberry, Basil and Shortbread Mess is exactly that. Something that doesn’t take long to make but turns a weekday evening into something a little more special. And it does look rather lovely if I do say so myself.
This is a recipe I have actually made and eaten in a few different guises. Once I added the same ingredients but made it into a macaroni cheese, another time I added similar ingredients and had a cold pasta salad. My creamy bacon, spinach and pea pasta is a real favourite in our house for two reasons: we almost always have all the ingredients, and it’s cheap and quick to make. I don’t know what it is about peas and pasta but I love the combination of silky, smooth pasta and squeaky peas. With so many things going on at the moment, the World Cup, Wimbledon about to start, this excellent weather and doing up the house anything that takes less than half an hour to make is my best friend.
There have been several aubergine themed recipes on the meal plan and blog recently, I just can’t seem to eat enough of them! The combination of aubergine and tomatoes is a hard one to beat, it’s one of my absolute favourites. Even better when the veggies are roasted to intensify the flavour and served with cheese. My roasted aubergine and tomato pasta is the culmination of many attempts to get it just right. Dicing the aubergine up like this not only means a quicker cooking time but more aubergine surface area to soak up all that olive oil.
I love how a recipe evolves over time. Many risottos have been made in my kitchen over the years and I have to say a pea risotto has got to be one of my favourites. This recipe for pea, bacon and sundried tomato risotto is, in my opinion, the very best it can be. Other variations have included chorizo, fried speck, mint, goat’s cheese or spinach but this combination of ingredients gives such a variety and depth of flavour that is hard to beat.
You will need (for two people):
- 1 small onion, finely diced (preferably not a red onion)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove, crushed
- 4 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped or sliced
- 175g risotto rice
- 500-600ml hot vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 mug full frozen peas
- Small knob of butter
- 4 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 25g Parmesan cheese, grated
Start by adding the oil and onion to a saucepan and frying gently for at least 15 minutes until the onion is softened and not coloured. Add the garlic and sundried tomatoes and continue frying for a few more minutes.
It was one of those days where I wanted something simple but interesting. A dish which would take a few minutes to make and take plenty of time to enjoy eating it. I tried something similar to this artichoke and red pepper gratin when in France last year and have wanted to have a go at making it myself for ages. It’s a perfect recipe for a rainy Sunday afternoon and although made from a few simple ingredients is so much more than the sum of its parts.
You will need (for two greedy people or four less-so-greedy people):
Adding herbs to bakes and drinks is something I really like to do. I like the botanical flavour that herbs can bring to various dishes and I think woody herbs really suit being paired with chocolate. These chocolate, thyme and lemon shortbread biscuits are a delicious combination of flavours if I do say so myself and if you’re unsure about adding herbs to a biscuit you’ll just have to give it a try!
You will need (for 12 squares):
- 180g plain flour
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 50g caster sugar
- 150g softened butter
- 50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 1tsp dried thyme
- Zest 1 lemon
Preheat your oven to 160C and line a baking dish; I used a square one for this batch but round or circular dishes work just as well.
There are so many delicious cakes and biscuits which appear from the recipe books ready for Easter. Simnel cakes, hot cross buns and Easter egg nest cakes to name a few. Frankly I think it’s shameful that all the Easter treats aren’t served all at the same time with a huge pot of tea and some excellent company. So that’s exactly what an Easter afternoon tea is all about. An excuse to scoff all the tasty cakes and biscuits along with some sandwiches (which of course contain some sort of vegetable to negate the cake calories) and scones (because it’s not afternoon tea without a scone).
Sometimes I make something like a veggie stew or pasta sauce and realise that it could become a delicious soup with just a little extra water. That’s exactly how this Tomato, Butterbean and Spinach Pesto Soup came about. I had made it as a sauce for baking with gnocchi, similar to this recipe, and I thought it would make a great soup; something a bit different from a normal tomato soup. And I was right. Full of flavour, colour and easy to make from a few ingredients you probably already have in the cupboards.
Slicing open a blood orange has an air of anticipation about it. Will it be intense purple almost throughout, have a few red stripes or actually be mostly orange? Whichever colour you end up with they all have the same fantastic flavour. I love cooking with blood oranges; adding a splash to a cocktail or baking them into something delicious. This recipe for blood orange posset was something I had never tried before and I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make. Just three ingredients are needed for a pudding that tastes so much more than the sum of its parts.
Citrus in January is obligatory as far as I’m concerned. Whether its limes, lemons, grapefruits, blood oranges or, if you’re lucky, bergamot lemons there’s always got to be something citrussy in the kitchen. That sharp hit of acidic, fresh taste is just what I need on these cold, grey days and if that lifting flavour can be added to a cake then it’s all the better. This Upside Down Lime Cake was born out of necessity; my need to be greedy and a need to use up all the limes I had in my fruit bowl.