Gratin Polesano / potato and cheese gratin

Gratin Polesano CollageI was given this delicious gratin recipe by Italian chef and cookery writer, Valentina Harris, who I met through my involvement in the wonderful Wells Food Festival, which has now become an annual event in England’s smallest city.

This gratin comes from Northern Italy, and is perfect as a supper dish in itself with a green salad on the side, but if you really fancy pigging out it’s also a great accompaniment to roast chicken or pork for Sunday lunch. Continue reading

Ciao bambino! The Family Foodies Italian challenge

ciao bambino

In my eyes, Italian food has to be one of the most child-friendly cuisines in the world, in the same way Italian restaurants are very often the most child-friendly places to eat with little ones in tow.

Italian dishes feature frequently in my family meal plans. There’s the now staple penne with pesto or a simple tomato sauce, spaghetti with meatballs, crowd-pleasing macaroni cheese and homely lasagne. There’s pizza and calzone – both the homemade and from-the-freezer varieties. There’s gnocchi and minestrone soup and risotto. And then there’s the puddings – the ice creams and semi-freddo, the tirimisu and panna cotta.

So for our latest Family Foodies challenge, we’re inviting food bloggers to share their favourite family-friendly, Italian-inspired dishes. From the traditional and authentic to your own unique twists on Italian classics, all are welcome at our Italian-themed feast.

What will you bring to the party? 

Family Foodies entry guidelines

  • You may submit any recipe on your blog that fits this month’s theme, new or from the archive, although there is a limit of three entries per blogger. You’re also welcome to submit the post to other challenges too. If the recipe is not your own, please give the appropriate credit.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at bangermashchat-at-gmail-dot-com, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Sunday 31 May 2015.
  • Display the Family Foodies badge (below) on your recipe post, with a link back to both Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, as well as details of this month’s challenge.
  • If you’re on Twitter, then please tweet your post to myself @BangerMashChat and Lou @Eat_Your_Veg and include the hashtag #FamilyFoodies. We’ll retweet all that we see.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe. The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries. Winners will get to display a Family Foodie Winner annotated badge on their blog if they wish and their recipe will go through to the Family Foodies Hall of Fame on each of our sites.
  • All entries will be added to the Family Foodies Pinterest Group Board.


April/May’s entries

  1. Seafood Pasta from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  2. Mushroom Pasta from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  3. Mackerel and Chilli Pasta from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  4. Gratin Polesano (potato & cheese gratin) from Bangers & Mash

What’s your favourite spice mix? Share yours in The Spice Trail

spice trail badge long

For April and May’s Spice Trail challenge, I’ve decided to celebrate the spice mix in all its many and various guises.

Every country, continent and cuisine around the world has its own spice mixes and blends. From North African dukkah and ras el hanout to French quatre epices and Jamaican jerk seasoning. The Middle East has given us baharat and za’atar, while from Asia we have garam masala and panch phoron.

Win an Indian spice selection from Our House of Spice

But what’s your favourite spice mix to cook with? Share your recipes in the April / May Spice challenge for a chance to win a selection of spice blends from Our House of Spice.

Spice Packets

The Our House of Spice story is an interesting one.

Take two sisters, Julia and Nadia. Add to that the daily grind of high-pressurised jobs. Throw into the mix the sisters’ passion for good, wholesome Indian food. Bubble until both sisters decide to take the plunge, leave their jobs and bring to the boil Our House of Spice!

When developing their range of spice kits, Julia and Nadia wanted people to enjoy them together, so they were developed to feed four hungry people. Their mixes take the stress out of cooking and provided step-by-step instructions on how to make each dish. The spice kits are quick and simple to use and, by adding a few things that can be found in the store cupboard and fridge, you can make your very own Indian banquet at home.

All their spice kits are completely free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives .They are expertly blended by the Our House of Spice team for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. I’ve tried the tarka dhal and Punjabi baked chicken mixes and they were a huge hit with all my family. In fact I’d go as far as saying that the tarka dhal was the best I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve tasted a fair few in my time! To find out more visit

How to enter The Spice Trail

spice trail badge square

  • Display the The Spice Trail badge (above and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  • Up to three recipe links accepted per blogger, so long as each one fits this month’s theme and features plenty of spice.
  • Feel free to link up recipe posts from your archive, but please add the information about this challenge to the original post and The Spice Trail badge.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at bangermashchat-at-gmail-dot-com, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Sunday 31 May 2015.
  • If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see.
  • As entries come in, links to these will be added to the bottom of this page.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose the winning recipe and the winner this month will receive a selection of five spice blends from Our House of Spice.
  • The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries.
  • Entries from bloggers all around the world are accepted, but unfortunately the prize can only be shipped to a UK address.
  • All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board.

I can’t wait to see your entries and hear about your favourite spice mixes…

April/May’s entries

  1. Vegetarian Japanese Curry from Green Gourmet Giraffe
  2. Bharwan Baingan/Stuffed Eggplant from Thou Shalt Cook
  3. Southwestern Avocado Scramble Salad from The Taste Space

16 sensational sweet and savoury pancake ideas

Pancake Collage

Pancake Day might well be a distant memory now, especially since we’re practically into Easter, but, as I’ve said before, pancakes are just too delicious to only eat one day a year. Sweet and savoury, healthy and indulgent… this round-up of perfect pancake recipes from the last Family Foodies challenge is sure to get you reaching for your frying pan. Ready? Steady? Toss!

Let’s get started with some ideas for savoury pancakes.


Louisa from Eat Your Veg is first to dish up and she’s brought her homely Savoury Kale & Mushroom Pancakes to our pancake party. Louisa is forever trying to find new ways to encourage her children to eat kale and this was her latest experiment. The adults loved it; the kids weren’t so sure. But she’s going to persist with kale nonetheless…


Seasonal kale is also the star ingredient in these wholesome Little Green Kale Fritters from Shaheen at Allotment 2 Kitchen, spiced with chilli and garam masala and accompanied by a home-made sweetcorn-chilli relish. I am so very tempted by these…

findus Collage

Caroline from Caroline Makes has gone brilliantly retro with her tasty ‘Findus’ Style Ham & Cheese Crispy Pancakes. It’s so retro, her recipe even uses packet cheese sauce and tinned ham!

crepes with ham leeks and tallegio

There’s more oozy, melty cheese and ham in these wonderful Crepes with Ham, Baked Leeks and Tallegio from Claire at Foodie Quine. They look delicious and I love the idea of topping them with pesto too.

Crispy Chinese Duck Pancakes3 web

Whenever I think of savoury pancakes, I start hankering after some Crispy Chinese Duck with Pancakes and that’s precisely what I decided to bring to the table. My children go crazy for these as well; there’s just something about food you’re allowed to eat with your fingers, isn’t there?

beetroot and carrot pancakes

I have a thing for experimenting with beetroot and so my second savoury pancake offering comes in the form of these Beetroot & Carrot Pancakes with Herby Mascarpone. My kids love them and you’d be hard pushed to tell they contain and vegetable matter, which might be useful to know if you’re looking for new ways to sneak some veggies into yours.

So that’s our main course over. Anyone up for a sweet pancake or two (or three) for pudding?

vanilla buttermilk pancakes

Kate from the Gluten Free Alchemist is really out to spoil us with her beautifully indulgent and gluten-free Vanilla Buttermilk Pancakes with Berries & Freshly Made Chocolate Sauce. Don’t you just want to dive straight into that little stack? 

Kefir Pancakes 3

More chocolate sauce smothered pancakes next as Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog (now relaunched as Tin & Thyme) dishes up her glorious Spiced Kefir Pancakes with Manuka Honey and Crème Fraîche Chocolate Sauce. Completely sugar-free and made with wholemeal spelt and buckwheat, these pancakes are as healthy as they are tasty. I’ve never tried kefir before. Choclette explains it’s a fermented milk beverage, similar to yogurt but easier to make, with its own distinctive taste and are regarded by many as a probiotic.


Spelt also makes an appearance in these Almond-Spelt Pancakes from Alexandra, The Lass in the Apron, created for the medieval characters of her sister’s novels, using ingredients that would have been available in that era. What a wonderful idea. Medieval food doesn’t look half-bad!

grain free almond pancakes

Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen also features almonds in her lovely little Grain-free Almond Pancakes. Elizabeth pulverised whole raw almonds and coconut to make her very own flour. Just how clever is that?

vegan banana oat pancakes-8

I’m amazed at just how fluffy these Banana Oat Pancakes from Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe look considering they are vegan and therefore contain no eggs. I had no idea you could make pancakes without eggs. Definitely a recipe I’ll be testing out soon – I’m intrigued!

chocolate pancakes-3

Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe has brought a second pudding in the form of Chocolate Pancakes with Berries and Chocolate Sauce. There’s no way I could refuse a plateful of these, and I’d be after seconds too.

Chocolate pancakes2 web

I am rather partial to chocolate pancakes, which is probably why that’s what I also chose to bring some along to the pancake party. My Chocolate Pancakes with Berries & Rose-scented Yoghurt are so easy to make on the Aga hob, and are a staple weekend breakfast in our house.

orange pancakes with turmeric

I am particularly taken by the colour of these Orange Pancakes with Turmeric from Sudha at Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous. Her family were all suffering with colds and so Sudha came up with the idea of incorporating cold remedies like orange juice, honey and turmeric into her son’s favorite pancakes. What an amazing concept. And her son loved them too.

grandma's pancakes

Claire from Foodie Quine is back again with her Grandma Monearn’s Pancakes, which she says smell and taste irresistible. They look so good, I totally believe her.

crepe cake

We end this pancake party with something of a showstopper. Caroline from Caroline Makes brings us a fabulous Crepe Cake also known as a thousand layer cake. Caroline made this for her local Clandestine Cake Club – they were challenged to create something using Tudor ingredients. Since pancakes were popular in Tudor times, Caroline decided to make this monumental crepe cake, with an indulgent creme patissiere and sweetened cream filling between each layer. I am so impressed!

So there you have our 16 sensational ideas for sweet and savoury pancakes the whole family are sure to love. And now that Lent is nearly over, there really is no reason to wait til next Shrove Tuesday to start working your way through the list!

Thanks to all the bloggers who shared their perfect pancake recipes. I’ll be announcing the theme for April’s Family Foodies challenge very soon – watch this space!

Cherry pie (and a damn fine cup of coffee)

Cherry Pie Collage

I don’t know a single person who’d turn down a big fat slice of hot cherry pie. It’s been one of my favourite pies for as long as I can remember, but this mighty fine dessert took on extra special significance when I was about 15 and became absolutely obsessed with the cult David Lynch / Mark Frost surreal murder-mystery, Twin Peaks. To this day, whenever I hear the opening bars of the ever so haunting Falling, a shiver runs down my spine.

Every Wednesday morning I’d rush to school so I could swap notes with my best friend Ruth on all the twists and turns of last night’s episode. I would have given anything for a leather jacket-clad biker boyfriend like James Hurley, was terrified if ever I entered a room with long red curtains, had recurring nightmares about Bob, and I so wanted to be Audrey Horne. I wasted much too much time trying in vain to tie cherry stems with my tongue…

Continue reading

Healthy and delicious temple food

Temple Food Collage

Temple food
Definition: food that does you good from the inside out;
restorative, refreshing, reassuring and revitalising;
virtuous and delicious;
as in ‘my body is a temple’

As you know, I’m on a mission to eat more healthily; not just by embarking on a silly fad diet, but by introducing better, more balanced food choices as part of my everyday lifestyle. And I am feeling so much better for it.

Thanks to my fellow bloggers who took part in the latest Spice Trail challenge, I now have an incredible menu of vibrantly virtuous (and of course beautifully spiced) dishes to test out in the weeks and months ahead. Take a look at the entries below – eating well never looked so tempting! Continue reading

Benedictine truffles for Mother’s Day

Chocolate at Home4

Mother’s Day isn’t usually a big event in our house as it generally falls pretty close to my birthday. Some years it’s even fallen on my birthday.

This year I turn the big four-oh and I am being treated to a whole host of dinners and parties, which started last weekend with Saturday lunch at the outstanding Ethicurean and then pampering followed by tapas at the Lido in Bristol on Sunday. My other half is cooking us a fabulous Middle Eastern feast for us tomorrow (my actual birthday), as well as baking his infamous carrot cake. And then next weekend there will be a gathering of family and friends at the Thali Cafe in Southville, and who knows we might even venture out to a club on Saturday night – partly to prove I’ve still got the stamina despite my advancing years.

So this year I really don’t expect much on Mother’s Day. My family has organised quite enough for me already!

And so when my Mum came to stay for a long weekend at the end of February, I decided to celebrate Mother’s Day a little early but in her honour.

me and mum

I’d been sent a chocolate making kit from Chocolate at Home to try out so I thought it would be lovely if my daughters helped me make Mum some special chocolates laced with her favourite liqueur, Benedictine. This was always my mother’s Christmas time tipple and I have memories of sniffing her glass as a child and absolutely loving that intense perfumed scent. I tried it for the first time when Mum was here and hated it – much too strong for me! But it works a treat with chocolate, and I can imagine it would be good in cocktails too. Something to investigate… Continue reading