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Is there any nicer way to start the day than with pudding? No is the answer, especially on a Monday, as I proved to myself conclusively this Monday morning by making a cherry and dark chocolate clafoutis and eating it for breakfast.

I’ve never eaten a cherry clafoutis before, let alone cooked one, so I wasn’t sure what to expect – something cakey maybe? In pictures it looks a bit like a sponge? It wasn’t like that at all. It was much lighter and more delicious and gave me that happy face when something is so good that you scrunch up your shoulders a little bit, and your eyes, and do a contented sigh.

I’d say a cherry clafoutis is a bit more like a baked egg custard (which I love) but with a teeny bit more texture. Because Bee became severely gluten intolerant while she was pregnant, I always try to think about how I can make my recipes gluten free and with the cherry clafoutis it’s simple – just switch regular flour for ground almonds. Almonds and cherries always work brilliantly together, and to be honest even if you’re not particularly wanting to make a gluten free clafoutis, it’s worth making the switch anyway.

I love fresh British cherries at the best of times – so juicy and sweet and such a delicate flavour – but I can’t think that I’ve ever done anything with them other than scoff them straight from the box. (I stuck glace cherries on top of my piña colada cupcakes but that hardly counts).

Cooked cherries were a revelation – warm from the oven, plump and delicious and oozing with flavour, an absolute joy. British cherry season is currently in full swing, and cherries are full of good things like antioxidants and melatonin, which helps promote better sleep, so there’s very little reason not to make a cherry clafoutis really.

In fact, although the whole ‘pudding for breakfast’ thing might seem rather decadent, the cherries in one quarter of my cherry clafoutis count as one of your five a day and will give you 25% of your RDA of vitamin C. Then it’s basically eggs, milk, nuts – a kind of hearty pancake if you will.

cherry and dark chocolate clafoutis View Post

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I’ve been wanting to make a ham and cucumber pizza for ages now.

Every time I make one of my postcard lists it gets transferred – ‘homemade ham and cucumber pizza’ tacked on the bottom of every scrape of paper on my desk. It’s been getting a bit annoying to be honest, and as pizza accounts for two of Belle’s favourite foods (delivered and non-delivered) and eating pizza while watching TV has been shown to be the secret of happiness, I thought it was about time I got on with it.

Ham and cucumber has always been one of my favourite food combinations. Legend has it that as a child it was all I would eat, and that small plates of ham and cucumber would be left strategically around the house for me to happen upon and nibble. Still now it’s probably my favourite ever sandwich – soft white bread, real butter, ham and cucumber. You can’t beat it.

In my teens I took it to the next level and discovered the joy that is the toasted ham and cucumber sandwich. You don’t toast it as in put it in a sandwich toaster – that would be rank – you just toast the bread and then make it like a regular sandwich, only with toast. This variant actually works very well without the ham – just butter and chunky slices of cucumber.

If you’re screwing up your face at this point then all I can say is don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I remember making it once for this boyfriend,* when I was 21, and him looking at me very suspiciously. (He was the man who introduced me to exotic things like pesto and freshly ground black pepper remember.) He ate it though, and was impressed. I won him over with my toasted cucumber sandwich skills.

I’m also well known, amongst my own children at least, for one of my favourite parenting mantras – ‘have a bit of chopped up cucumber on the side’. Over the years, when I haven’t been able to get them to eat vegetables, I could always rely on them accepting a bit of chopped up cucumber on the side of whatever we happened to be eating.

For a long time then I’ve wondered why no one makes a ham and cucumber pizza. We have ham and pineapple, ham and sweetcorn – why not ham and cucumber? Like the toasted sandwich, I’m not suggesting you cook the cucumber, rather that it gets added before serving, like so many pizzas seem to do nowadays with rocket.

Chopped up on the side. Sort of.

ham and cucumber pizza

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An ‘immersive dining experience’ sounds almost dangerous doesn’t it? Don’t worry though, if you visit Chambers_ you won’t get your face held down in a bowl of soup or anything, it’s much more fun than that. In fact, it’s not just immersive, it’s MULTI-DIMENSIONAL.

Oooh!

Chambers_ immersive dining review

First up though, two questions.

  • Do you like food?
  • Do you like mysteries?

If you answered YES to both of those, and did a little twitch or smile or something similar at the thought of what the mystery might entail, then Chambers_ is definitely something you would enjoy. View Post

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homemade strawberry yogurt lolly recipe

‘What snacks have we got?’ says a muffled voice from the kitchen.

It’s Belle, her head in the fridge.

If you have teenagers you might recognise the kitchen snack cry. They seem to have bottomless stomachs requiring constant filling. Although I provide her with an array of wholesome and varied meals, (honestly I do), Belle seems to constantly have a snack on the go. She’s often to be found in the kitchen creating elaborate platters of treats – cucumber, carrot batons, crisps and dips, fruit and yogurt and big bowls of noodles. One of her favourite things, if she’s feeling particularly decadent, is strawberries covered in melted dark chocolate.

Strawberries are her favourite fruit and normally I spend so much money keeping her in berries that this summer we’ve grown our own. It’s perfect for Belle because she’s quite fussy about freshness and texture, and being able to pick just a handful straight from the plant when she wants them is ideal. Next year I’m considering a small strawberry farm. View Post

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Vegan coconut cupcake recipe

God, there are so many words to like in that sentence aren’t there? Vegan piña colada cupcakes with Malibu buttercream. Where to even begin??

Let’s start by taking a moment for me to get over the Malibu buttercream bit. It’s about 10.30am as I’m writing this, I’ve finished making the cakes, and I’ve just had to bury the piping bag with all the leftovers in the bin as a personal frosting intervention. I was literally standing at the kitchen window, first thing in the morning, squeezing Malibu buttercream into my mouth from a bag.

DAMN. It was so good.

To be honest, if you just wanted to skip ahead and make a bowl of frosting, close the curtains, and put on a DVD of the Golden Girls I think you’d have a pretty good evening, but if you do want to faff about making the cakes as well then you’re very welcome. It does all work together well and the pineapple centre allows you to pretend you’re having one of your five a day. (Possibly two if you count the cherry.) View Post

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Thai massamn lamb curry

No, ‘Slowthai massaman lamb curry’ is NOT a typo, honestly.

Let me explain.

I’ve been working with the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it‘ campaign for a while now, creating all kinds of yummy lamb recipes, including Greek lamb meatballs, Game of Thrones rack of lamb, (a must see in my opinion) and a classic Irish stew.

When I heard that my lovely lamb chums were going to be at Kendal Calling, a festival in the Lake District that’s on from 25-28 July, with the ‘Lamb Bam Lounge’, well… it would have been rude not to create a festival inspired lamb dish wouldn’t it? Nothing beats being sat out on the grass on a sunny day with a big bowl of something yummy from a festival food truck. View Post

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About a week ago Belle and I went for our second visit to Symonds at Redwood, a lovely restaurant on the outskirts of Bristol – Clifton side – with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced food. Symonds is a slightly unusual offering in that it’s situated within a luxury retirement complex, but don’t let this put you off – it’s open to everyone and the service, ambience and decor is top notch. You’d expect nothing less from a luxury retirement after all.

The first time we went, about a year ago now, Belle was in a grump. I can’t remember why exactly, but I know it wasn’t a great time for her generally. She had GCSE exams looming, and wasn’t what you’d really call going to school, as she was finding it all a bit much. Being made to go out for dinner with me seemed to tip her over the edge, despite having her every whim catered for, including an off-menu side of dauphinoise potatoes.

This time around though she was in much better spirits and I was feeling more optimistic about conversation levels.

Redwood near Clifton

As I had been expecting, we were greeted by friendly and attentive staff, and settled down for a look at the menu. The food changes every three months, inspired by what’s in season and available locally, and if you go now you can choose from delicious sounding things like ‘Skate wing, celeriac puree, girolle mushrooms, braised fennel and beurre noisette’ and ‘Asparagus, petit pois and basil oil risotto, pecorino crisp and wild rocket’.

(You know a menu is fancy when every ingredient is listed don’t you?) View Post

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easy homemade lamb burger recipe

Okay, I know, June this year hasn’t exactly begun with a barbecue vibe, but it’s only going to be a matter of time surely before the rain clears up and we all start rushing out to buy charcoal and burger buns at 4pm every Sunday?

I’m confident.

*looks doubtful*

To make sure you’re ready for the sunshine, I’ve been practising my barbecue skills by making some homemade lamb burgers. This is the latest in my series of lamb recipes to support the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it‘ campaign, and if you haven’t already, do pop back and check out some of my other lamb posts, like a Green Eggs and Lamb breakfast recipe, (genius, if I do say so myself), and a Game of Thrones inspired rack of lamb, which I feel has to be seen to be truly appreciated.

The aim of the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it’ campaign is to highlight the health benefits of lamb – lamb is rich in niacin and vitamin B12 and a fantastic source of protein, zinc, potassium and phosphorus – as well as show that cooking with lamb doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult.

In this vein, I’ve made what are quite possibly the easiest lamb burgers you will ever make. I came across a lot of recipes while I doing my lamb burger research that had long lists of ingredients – breadcrumbs, egg, vinegar even – but I just don’t think you need them. Lamb has a lovely flavour already, and lamb mince holds together really well, so all I’ve done is add a couple of ingredients to enhance the natural lamb flavour at the same time as keeping things super simple.

Also, who wants to be slaving away in the kitchen making breadcrumbs on a sunny day?? Not me. You want to be sat outside drinking beer and pretending that life is sunny and full of possibilities don’t you?

Quite right.

So, get the barbecue lit, crack open the beers and let’s go. View Post

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Irish stew easy recipe

Is there a word that means the opposite of heritage? Opposite in that it’s about looking forward rather than backwards? Forwardtage maybe? No, that’s terrible.

What I’m looking for is a word to describe the fact that my sister has been living with her Irish husband and my neice and nephew in Ireland for a few years now, and the longer they stay and the more often I visit, the more I feel a connection to Ireland as a place that part of my close family is growing up in. I may have no Irish heritage, but I feel a growing sense of Irish forwardtage.

When the latest theme for my lamb recipe project came through then, and it was all about cultural influences on food, an Irish stew seemed like an obvious choice. I’ve never cooked an Irish stew before, but the ‘Lamb. Try it, Love it’ campaign is all about inspiring you to try new lamb recipes, so this felt perfect. View Post

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Is there anything more spring-like than a huge bowl of Jersey Royal new potatoes, slathered in butter and fresh mint?

I mean sure, there are lambs and primroses and what not, the smell of grass, cut for the first time after winter, but give me a Jersey Royal, butter dripping down my wrist, and I’m a happy woman.

Jersey Royal new potatoes

I didn’t take much persuading then to get on board with creating a spring recipe using Tesco Jersey Royals. In store now until the end of the season in July, Tesco Jersey Royal new potatoes have a heritage that dates back over 140 years. They’re still produced and harvested using traditional methods like planting the seed potatoes by hand and fertilising using seaweed from Jersey beaches.

‘Delicate and nutty’ it says on the bag, which describes most of my ex-boyfriends, so it’s no wonder I like them. View Post

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I’m going to subtitle this post ‘how NOT to look like you’d normally pick whatever was on offer at around the £6.99 mark in the supermarket, even though you’re 40 years old and should know better.’

Catchy isn’t it?

The truth is though, that despite having ‘learn more about wine’ on my mental to-do list for about the last 15 years, I haven’t quite gotten around to it. On dates, when faced with the wine list, I find myself smiling at my date coquettishly and saying ‘you choose for me’, as though it’s 1953 and I can’t possibly make a decision on my own, but really it’s just that I have no idea what’s what.

One way around this is to buy your wine online through a company that helps you to choose decent wines and provides you with information about them, so you can drop in impressive sounding key phrases at dinner parties. This option can sometimes feel too pricey though, especially if you don’t drink a lot. Surely there’s a middle ground?

There is.

(You knew I was going to say that didn’t you?)

It’s the Naked Wines ‘Angels’ scheme.

Naked Wines Angels

I was sent 6 bottles of wine to ‘test’ them, (tough job…), but I accidentally drank one bottle before I remembered to take a photo.

The Naked Wines Angels programme is a kind of crowdfunding scheme for wine, designed to benefit you, the buyer, AND the winemakers. It comes from a desire to stop wine producers having margins squeezed endlessly by supermarkets, and to give them the investment they need to produce exclusive, exciting wines. View Post

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easy mint rack of lamb recipe

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You heard me, Game of Thrones.

I have to say that the brief to create a ‘lamb recipe to tie in with the new series of Game of Thrones‘ presented a bit of a challenge to me initially, as I’ve never even seen an episode of Game of Thrones, not even five minutes of it. When I read ‘Game of Thrones’ then, my first thought was ‘sexy dwarfs’. I have no idea if there even are any dwarfs in it. The sexy bit I think was just because I’ve heard there’s a fair amount of nudity.

I asked around, and was given clues that mentioned brutal violence, murder and dragons.

I still wasn’t really feeling the lambiness.

The ‘Lamb. Try It, Love It’ campaign is all about making you think differently about lamb though, and I was definitely doing that.

I remembered a few years ago how we’d gone to Northern Ireland to tick ‘visit the Dark Hedges‘ off my list of 40 things to do before 40. The Dark Hedges is a country road in the middle of nowhere, where massive trees have grown over the road and intertwined to make a tree tunnel. Tree tunnels are one of my best things, and when I’d seen a picture of this one in a magazine a few years earlier I knew I wanted to see it in real life.

What I didn’t know when I visited was that The Dark Hedges was actually used as a location for some of the action in Game of Thrones.

Here at last was my way in!

I looked back at the photos, and an idea started to form in my mind… View Post

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