Italian baked chicken with grapes followed by semifreddo with honey, figs and walnuts

Italian feast

Boasting honey, figs, grapes, nuts and sweet wine, this Italian feast would surely have won the approval of Bacchus himself. When I think about good food, when I dream about delicious dishes bringing together the simplest ingredients to create something truly magical, when I picture myself being served an incredible meal in an idyllic setting, I tend to find myself transported to Italy.

It’s been a few years since I’ve travelled in Italy and I long to return. My parents are in Tuscany right now and as you can imagine I am extremely jealous. My step-mum Sue has been sending me droolsome updates on Whatsapp, replete with photos, documenting their food adventures. There have been accounts of wonderful salads with chicken, ravioli in a walnut cream sauce,  the thinnest pizzas with just one or two toppings, grilled sea bass with roast courgettes, fritto misto in the lightest of batters, fagiolini with fine green beans and bacon in tomatoes and garlic. Oh and lots of gelati with figs and cherries… The list goes on. It’s been pure torture.

So when Expedia challenged me to come up with an Italian meal for their #expediaworldonaplate challenge, I knew I would be taking my inspiration from Tuscany. Continue reading

Strawberry ice cream sundaes with rosemary shortbread

Strawberry ice cream sundae with rosemary shortbread4

I didn’t realise strawberries with rosemary was a particularly classic combination but on consulting the oracle that is Google I see cooks all over the world are pairing them. This is the first time I’ve tried them together and I think they make a brilliant partnership, especially in this spectacularly simple ice cream sundae.

And with rosemary biscotti being a bit of a winner on last week’s Great British Bake Off, I think rosemary biscuits could turn out to be rather trendy. Not that I keep up with cooking trends in the slightest. I’m always a tad late to the party on that score. I only tried matcha for the first time a couple of months ago, while coconut oil made its first appearance in my cooking just the other day.

But back to those sundaes…

I made the rosemary shortbread to accompany the Rich Clotted Cream ice cream we brought home with us from our recent visit to the marvellous Marshfield Farm. My kids demanded sundaes and as I’m the biggest sucker around for ice cream piled high in a tall glass, who was I to refuse? Strawberries were the obvious choice to go with clotted cream and shortbread seemed the obvious choice for strawberries. And then the rosemary outside the back door called to me, and this sundae was born. Continue reading

Posh prunes and custard

posh prunes and custard 2

My blogging friend Janie from The Hedgecombers is off on an incredible road trip across Wales this month, discovering the best places to eat and drink in the country. Lucky bugger! While she’s otherwise engaged, she’s handed over the reins of her blog to some fellow foodies, including me.

My recipe for Posh Prunes and Custard has just appeared over on The Hedgecombers if you fancy giving it a try, and do check out Janie’s tasty offerings while you’re there. I’m sure you’ll be tempted by more than a few…

Poached pears in red wine and spices

poached pear 2

I was lucky enough to meet the brilliant Italian chef Valentina Harris at a special dinner party thrown earlier this year by Paddy and Judith O’Hagan who are part of the team behind the Wells Food Festival. The party was for volunteers and supporters of the festival, and we were treated to an incredible Italian five-course feast, all prepared by Valentina, who cooked at last year’s festival and is lined up to be involved again this year. There were beautiful canapes, followed by a selection of pasta dishes, then a wonderful risotto, an array of sweet treats and finally cheese.

One of the desserts was poached pears in the most heavenly red wine and spice syrup. I was rather surprised by how much my oldest daughter Jessie enjoyed the pears – so much so, she insisted we take our chances and pop into the kitchen (we’d been warned about the amount of swearing going on in there!) to see if Valentina would share her recipe with us. Continue reading

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

Chocolate pancakes with berries & rose-scented yoghurt

Chocolate pancakes2 web

Pancakes are always a popular weekend breakfast in our house, and then when you go and add chocolate into the mix, well, who doesn’t love chocolate? So these bad boys are always a winner.

Served with juicy berries (I always keep a stock in the freezer so we can them all-year-round) and a heavenly perfumed rosewater yoghurt and drizzled with syrup or honey, these simple pancakes are elevated to celebration status, perfect for Valentine’s Day, Shrove Tuesday and birthdays. Continue reading

Swiss roll ice cream cake

swiss roll ice cream cake3 web

This is going to sound nutty but I’ve started watching cookery shows at six in the morning. I’m on a desperate get-healthy-lose-weight kick and so, as well as going back on the 5:2 diet, I’ve also started getting up half an hour earlier than I need to in order to fit in some exercise time. And I’ve found one of the best ways of taking my mind off all the stomach crunches and tricep dips is to watch celebrity chefs on the Food Network at the same time. I know. It’s not normal behaviour, is it?

The other morning I found myself drooling while I worked out as Lorraine Pascale made her Swiss Roll Bowl Cake. It looked so insanely easy and yet such a work of genius at the same time, I decided there and then I had to make it. My kids would love it, and I only need have the tiniest sliver. What’s more it’s frozen, so it’ll be around for a while. Plenty of time to have a few tiny slivers. On non 5:2 fast days, of course. Continue reading