Wednesday, 16 March 2016


Another day, another orzo pasta recipe! This is one I found on the Waitrose website. I love supermarket websites for cooking ideas and find the Waitrose one the best, the recipes are generally pretty easy and simple. This took about 40 minutes in total. 

Ingredients for 4 people:

800g chicken thighs, skin removed
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, diced
300ml hot chicken stock
3 tbsp of pesto
100g orzo pasta
15g basil pasta, shredded

Preheat the oven to 200 C / gas mark 6.

Chop the peppers and onion and put in the roasting dish with the chicken thighs. I cut any "gross" bits off the chicken thighs before adding them.

Mix the hot stock with the pesto and pour over the chicken. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Stir in the orzo pasta and bake for another 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times. When it is ready, the pasta should be tender and the chicken fully cooked through with no pink bits. Serve with scattered basil.

I don't cook chicken very often and nor do I even order it in restaurants as I can sometimes find it a little dry. I do however love chicken thighs and this recipe really proved that point - it was really good. The chicken was so tender and went brilliantly with the pesto, pasta and vegetables and then basil added even more flavour. Arabella liked it other than the onions - I need to cut them smaller next time so she doesn't notice them! A great midweek comforting meal for all the family.

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Monday, 14 March 2016


I very rarely have complete cooking disasters but I did have one on Mother's Day - I tried to cook a Greek style slow cooked roast lamb. It was meant to be in the oven for 4 hours but was burnt to a crisp within 60 minutes!!! Consequently I now have lots of leftover orzo pasta to use up so I have been searching the Internet for recipes. Here is a Nigella one I found - there is enough here for 2 very large portions or three medium size ones and the recipe took around 20 minutes.

Ingredients for 2-3 people:

30ml / 2 tbsp of garlic oil (I didn't have garlic oil so I used olive oil and a couple of sliced cloves of garlic)
150g pancetta cubes
150g frozen petits pois
250g orzo pasta
625ml boiling water (you made need more)
1 tbsp of soft unsalted butter
50g grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium heat - the pan needs to be big enough to fit all the ingredients in later. Add the pancetta and stir regularly until it becomes crisp and bronzed. I cooked it for 4 minutes and then added a couple of sliced cloves of garlic for a two more minutes.

Add the frozen peas and stir for a minute until the frozen look leaves them. Then add the pasta and mix together.

Pour in the boiling water, I originally put in 625ml which is around 2 1/2 cups. Turn down the heat and leave to simmer for ten minutes stirring regularly to stop it sticking to the bottom. Mine did stick so I added some more water after about 5 minutes.

When it is ready the water should be absorbed, then mix in the butter and Parmesan and season to taste. Even though the pancetta is salty, I still needed some extra salt. Serve immediately with a further sprinkling of cheese.

I have never cooked with orzo pasta before but I have to say this worked really well - it is just like risotto but a lot quicker and easier as you aren't constantly stirring and adding stock. Arabella enjoyed  it, it is very child friendly to be honest and I would happily cook this for a playdate rather than the usual pesto pasta. I am already looking forward to my leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

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Thursday, 10 March 2016


As it was Mother's Day last weekend, it was my choice where we ate….and I was in the mood for afternoon tea. However we had to celebrate Mother's Day on the Saturday and we had to have afternoon tea at midday as my daughter Arabella had two birthday parties. Plus I wanted to find somewhere that offered a kids' tea as well as an adult one and St Ermin's Hotel completely fitted the bill.

St Ermin's has a fascinating history - it is built on the site of a 15th century chapel and the building played an important part in World War II. Winston Churchill held important meetings there, MI6 took over an entire floor for their operations and there is even a rumoured tunnel that runs from underneath the grand staircase to the houses of Westminster. The hotel is also home to over 300,000 Buckfast bees.

Hence why the kids' tea is called the Busy Bee Tea and it consists of chocolate, jam and egg sandwiches and a lemon meringue pie, a chocolate and honeycomb brownie and a hazelnut and bee pollen cake.

Arabella LOVED the sandwiches especially the egg one and her favourite sweet was the hazelnut and bee pollen cake. Her only complaint was she could have eaten many more sandwiches!!

Pascal and I started with some tea - peppermint for him and caffeine free English breakfast for me - and then we tucked into our delights.

Like Arabella, we adored our sandwiches of cucumber, smoked salmon and caviar, ham and mayonnaise and a sausage and black pudding sausage roll. But again like Arabella, they didn't refill our sandwiches which was a great disappointment to the both us as we could have eaten a lot more.

For sweet we had strawberry marshmallows, white chocolate with cherry ganache macarons, eclairs with  chocolate and orange, heart choux with tonka diplomat and strawberry jam and champagne and strawberry jellies.

I forgot to photograph them all in my excitement but they were all excellent, especially the macaroon and the eclair which was even better than the acclaimed Maitre Choux eclairs. None of us were especially keen on the marshmallow but it wasn't bad.

Finally we tucked into scones - normal, sultana and white chocolate - I am proud to say we polished the lot off with plenty of clotted cream and homemade jam. I need to start baking some at home.

All in all a very good tea - it was reasonably priced at £29 for adults and £12.50 for children and we even had the added benefit of listening to a beautiful harpist. Our only gripe was they did not refill the sandwiches - I thought this was standard procedure at an afternoon tea? I obviously did ask for more but then Arabella ate most of them! In all honesty though we did not really need more sandwiches as the rest of the tea was more than filling but hey, we are piglets!!!

Afternoon Tea at St Ermin's Hotel

Caxton Street,
Tel: 020 7222 7888

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Tea Lounge - St Ermin's Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, 8 March 2016


I am always looking for different more exciting ways to serve fish, especially at the moment as I am trying to eat it every week without fail for the baby. However whenever I say I am cooking fish, I am always met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm!!

This recipe is from Fay Ripley's first book and I have made it several times - I do adapt it slightly as it suggests adding 300g of mushrooms but they are "poison" according to Arabella so I leave them out. Fay also says to use boned salmon fillets, I use boneless as I hate picking out bones!!

The recipe takes about 45 minutes and that includes making the tomato sauce however you could cheat by using a pre-made jar.

Ingredients for 6 people:

Tomato sauce
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
700g tomato passata
2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar

Salmon Pizza
300g-400g tomato sauce
1 tablespoon of olive oil
6 salmon fillets, boneless and sliced in half horizontally
1 tablespoon of chives
25g of chopped basil
250g ball of mozzarella
50g of pitted olives, green or black

Preheat the oven to 200 C fan / 220 C / gas mark 7.

Start by making the tomato sauce. Chop the onion and then fry in the oil until soft - mine took around 7 minutes. Then add the garlic for a couple of minutes.

Add the passata, vinegar and season well. Then heat through for a further five minutes or so.

Meanwhile slice the salmon fillets horizontally and I also removed the skin. Lay out the salmon on a large pizza stone if you have one, I didn't so used a large roasting tray lined with baking paper. Fay creates a circle with her salmon, however I chose the easier option of a rectangle pizza!

Cover with tomato sauce - you should need around 350-400g (and then you can freeze the rest and use it for pasta, meatballs, sausages - the list is endless). Sprinkle with the chopped herbs (my basil had seen better days)! Then add the mozzarella and a few olives. Bake for 20 minutes.

Serve immediately, Arabella had her "pizza" with peas and I had mine with salad. Fay also suggests garlic bread which I think is a great addition and will definitely be adding next time.

Even though Arabella wasn't happy about the prospect of salmon for dinner, after a few mouthfuls she told me how yummy this was. I really enjoyed it too, it definitely jazzes up a simple salmon fillet! Arabella even wanted to put goat's cheese on her one……I personally think the portobello mushrooms would be a fantastic addition….but each to their own! I just wonder if I can fool my husband Pascal into thinking it was an actual pizza and not a fish one!!

Thursday, 3 March 2016


I think this is a Jamie Oliver recipe which I ripped out of one of the Sunday Times magazines - my husband Pascal loves a simple pasta and so this was right up his street. I liked the fact it was easy to make and didn't need a million ingredients, and Arabella loved that there were no hidden extra vegetables! It took about 15 minutes.

Ingredients for 2 people:

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1/4 of a fresh red chilli, sliced (optional - I left this out)
400g ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
15g fresh basil leaves, torn
200g spaghetti (or linguine or tagliatelle)
125g ball of buffalo mozzarella cheese
Parmesan cheese to serve

Finely slice the garlic and chilli (if using) and half the tomatoes.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat and then add the garlic and chilli for two minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, season with salt and tear in most of the basil leaves, setting a few nice ones to one side. Add a good splash of boiling water and reduce the heat to medium, then cover and cook for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pan of boiling salted water according to the packet's instructions - mine took 7 minutes.

Reserving some of the cooking water (just a touch), drain the pasta and then mix with the sauce and half the mozzarella (add the cooking water if the sauce needs loosening, mine didn't).

Finally divide between your plates, tear over the remaining mozzarella, sprinkle with the reserved basil leaves and serve.

We also added a drizzle of olive oil and a grating of Parmesan. 

The tomato sauce really surprised me, it was so sweet and full of flavour and I loved the basil in it, plus the mozzarella melted into the pasta - it was all a bit pizza like! Arabella actually had goats cheese rather than mozzarella and she said that worked brilliantly as well. The whole dish was very light and fresh and quick and easy to make - a real winner.