Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Another day, another little homework row - I don't know how Arabella and I are going to get through the next 11 years of prep - I expect it is going to be a bumpy ride. Thankfully I had chosen to cook something rather simple as otherwise our evening would have got even more complicated!!

This took 15 minutes in total and only needs a few ingredients so is perfect for a school or busy night when you have limited time.

Ingredients for 4 people:

400g pasta - I used spaghetti but you could also use fettuccine or linguine
40g butter
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
40g torn basil leaves
1 x 250g tub of fresh ricotta
Parmesan to serve

Cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the packet's instructions. Mine took 11 minutes until it was al dente. 

Whilst this is cooking, prepare the garlic and basil.

A couple of minutes before the pasta is ready, add the butter, garlic and pepper to a pan and cook for a 2 minutes maximum. I did slightly too long!!

Drain the pasta and then add it to the butter, pepper and garlic and toss to coat.

Stir through the basil.

Divide the pasta between the bowls.

Top with ricotta and sprinkle with Parmesan.

I love a quick and simple recipe and this certainly hit the spot. It only has a few ingredients however it is full of flavour - I love the garlic butter sauce. To be honest you could even have it without the ricotta. Arabella enjoyed it although she would swap the ricotta for some goats cheese but no surprise there!!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


Now my daughter Arabella is in year 3, she finishes school later and there is always a mad rush in the afternoons / evenings to pack in clubs, homework, reading, TV time, bath, story and for me to prepare a home cooked meal! Plus she comes home from school absolutely starving and so I only have limited time to prepare supper. I am on a mad hunt at the moment for quick, easy and healthy recipes. Here is one I found in Waitrose a while ago and it took about 25 minutes to prepare and cook in total.

Ingredients for 4 people:

227g can chopped Italian tomatoes
Pinch of crushed chillies
3 tbsp fresh basil or thyme, roughly chopped (you could use dry herbs instead)
4 white fish fillets, such as fresh haddock or cod
150g cheese, such as Cheddar, Jarlsberg or mozzarella, grated
2 Peperami sausages, thinly sliced
2 tbsp of capers
25g Parmesan, freshly grated

Place the tomatoes in a small pan with the herbs and chillies. I didn't use chillies as Arabella isn't a fan of spice. If you use dry herbs, use just one tablespoon. Cook gently for 10-12 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes are pulpy.

Preheat the grill to high.

Pat the fish fillets dry with kitchen paper and place them in a grill pan lined with lightly greased foil. Season well.

Spread the tomato mixture over the fillets.

Top with the cheese, Peperami slices, capers and Parmesan.

Grill for 10 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and golden.

Serve with a green salad or vegetables - we went for peas!

I really liked this, I love fish and I love cheese!! Arabella suggested exchanging the fish for a pizza base, she was not a huge fan! I think this is a great way to jazz up a simple fish fillet - if you are vegetarian leave off the Peperami and maybe add olives instead? It was quick, easy, tasty and light.

Sunday, 20 September 2015


My sister is vegan which means going out for meals isn't very easy. Most restaurants do a vegetarian option however that usually includes cheese which obviously my sister does not eat. When I booked to go to the Darwin Brasserie for my birthday, I didn't even give her dietary requirements one iota of thought - I was too busy thinking about the huge amounts I could eat!! 

Darwin Brasserie is one of the restaurants in the Sky Garden at the top of the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street in the city. The space there is incredible - I love a view of London and I can easily say this is one of the best as the area is so immense - you don't have that crowded feeling like you do in the Shard or the London Eye - plus there is a gorgeous open air terrace. The garden part is "green" but I was expecting more flowers and foliage, it was disappointing in that respect, however the view more than makes up for it.

Anyway back to the food! The Darwin Brasserie is an all day restaurant serving the best of British food. The a la carte menu is full of great classic dishes such as steak tartar, goats cheese and red pepper ravioli, a pulled pork burger and fish and chips. However they recently launched an all day Sunday brunch which is what we enjoyed.

We started at the buffet table which was delightful. Thankfully there were a few vegan options - Kirsty tucked into a beautiful heritage tomato salad, quinoa with roasted vegetables, antipasti of olives, garlic and artichokes, asparagus, rocket and peas and freshly baked bread. All absolutely delicious, fresh and flavoursome. 

Arabella enjoyed the charcuterie platter of hams and salamis - in fact she went up three times just for salami - the goats cheese, tomato salad, olives, potato salad and fresh baked bread and butter. 

I obviously went to town and had the same as the others plus more! I had a prawn cocktail salad, beautiful blue cheese, quinoa with roasted vegetables, salami, heritage tomato salad, goat's cheese, asparagus, cornichons, smoked salmon with red onion sour cream and freshly baked bread. It was hard to stop myself going up again and again it was all so good.

We also enjoyed some juices and the milkshake bar - I had a banana and caramel - fab combination.

For "mains" we ordered off the menu - you could choose from breakfast items such as a full English or an omelette or you could go for something more "lunch-like" for example roast leg of lamb or roast rib of beef. 

Arabella easily chose spinach and ricotta tortellini. The pasta shells were stuffed to the brim and had a hint of lemon and were extremely tasty.

Unfortunately there was not one vegan friendly item for my sister Kirsty to order so instead she had second helpings at the buffet and I ordered two dishes for myself (oink oink). My favourite is Eggs Benedict which I can never resist on a menu. This was very good - perfectly cooked eggs and a creamy hollandaise sauce. 

Even though I felt I could not eat another bite, I could not resist the pancake stack with bacon and maple syrup. A true American breakfast. These were good, however the bacon wasn't crispy enough - it was too British. If I had them again I would order them with chocolate and caramelised banana.

Next was the pudding buffet - I had been eyeing up the treats since we walked into the restaurant and even though I literally could not fit in another mouthful, I had to give it a go. There was so much to choose from. Kirsty had a mixed berry smoothie and fresh fruit….no wonder she is so skinny and healthy!

Arabella had the same but also a chocolate brownie which we decided was the best brownie we had ever eaten.

Being the piglet that I am, I had a donut and creme brûlée. The creme brûlée was a little disappointing - I guess because it hadn't been made there and then, but the donut was good!

There were many more puddings such as blueberry cheesecake, roast peach sundae and a selection of cheeses but we were too full - unfortunate but not surprising. 

My darling sister and daughter organised me a little birthday treat and then we literally rolled out of the restaurant.

A really fantastic meal. These types of buffet brunches are always popular overseas and I am pleased to see more of them over here - I think it is a great way to spend a Sunday with friends. However you need to have a big appetite - all this food is not for the faint hearted. The food cost £38 per head (£19 for children), which considering the amount and quality, is not a bad deal. Service was quick, friendly and efficient and the view was phenomenal. A great restaurant - I can not wait to come back again soon. 

Darwin Brasserie

Sky Garden
20 Fenchurch Street
Tel: 0333 772 0020 (option 4 or 5)

Square Meal
Darwin Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, 18 September 2015


As I mentioned in a previous post, I am really uninspired by my cooking at the moment - Arabella complains about tummy aches a lot and I wonder whether she has an allergy to gluten - therefore I am trying to cook more protein based meals. I am not convinced that the stomach aches aren't just an attention thing…..she never has a problem when she is watching TV and eating sweets! Anyway here is an egg based recipe I cut out from a magazine, it took about 30 minutes to cook.

Ingredients for 4 people:

250g lardons
1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
3 spring onions, sliced
8 eggs
2 handfuls of grated Parmesan
1 small handful of tarragon, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4.

Add a drizzle of olive oil to a large oven proof frying pan and fry the bacon, spring onions and pepper for around 7 minutes.

Meanwhile beat the eggs and stir in the Parmesan and tarragon. Season and then add to the pan.

Cook for a few minutes until the bottom is set and then bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and set.

Cut into quarters and serve - we had it on its own however it would be delicious with a crisp green salad.

This was way better than I expected - really good flavours. Plus it only needed a few ingredients which is always a winner in my books. If you are a vegetarian, you could substitute the bacon for another veg like mushrooms. Arabella has suggested we mix it up by adding goat's cheese next time and I think it would be a fabulous addition. We will definitely be having this again as it tasted fantastic, it was easy to make and it is protein rather than carbs…a new path I am trying to follow…..for this week anyway!

Friday, 11 September 2015


Thank goodness the new school term has started and I can get back into a routine. Summer was lovely but I am happy it is over. However I am at a complete loss of what to cook at the moment, I think we eat too much pasta and white carbs but they are everyone's favourites! Anyway tonight I decided to cook a very traditional cottage pie.

This took about an hour in total and the recipe is from Fay Ripley's second cookbook.

Ingredients for 4 - 6 people (depending on portion size):

500g potatoes, peeled and chopped
250g parsnips, peeled and chopped
A big knob of butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
Splash of olive oil
500g lean mince beef
1 beef stock cube
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp tomato ketchup

My daughter Arabella is keen to help cook as she thinks it is good "family time". I am not going to say no to that so she helped me peel and chop the parsnips and the potatoes! We then put them in a saucepan of boiling water for about 20 minutes until soft.

Once cooked, drain and mash with a big dollop of butter until smooth and then set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180 C (fan) / 200 C / gas mark 6.

Meanwhile fry the thinly sliced onions in oil for around 5 minutes.

 Add the mince and fry until it turns brown.

Dissolve the beef stock cube with three tablespoons of boiling water and then add to the mince along with a tin of chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of tomato puree, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons of tomato ketchup. Mix all together.

Scrape it all into an ovenproof dish.

Top with rough dollops of the mash and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

This was easy to prepare but tasted very good - we did obviously add some grated cheese at the end which I would really recommend and next time I will probably add some to the top of the pie before I cook it. I also think it would be great served with peas. A fantastic mid week family supper - plus you can make it the day before and it is freezable.