Tag Archives: fast

The fast route to fabulosity

27 May

When it comes to exercise, I hold the same view as with cooking. I want the maximum return from the minimum of effort.

My reluctant and erratic gym attendance came to an abrupt halt once I was pregnant, with no hope of a resurrection once I was a working mum. All well and good, but I had gone more than a little ‘soft around the edges’ and needed something to tone me up fast.

That was when I discovered Power Plates. They are, in my opinion nothing short of a miracle cure for every time pressed gym phobic.

It was quite by chance that I stumbled upon the Good Vibes Power Plates studio in Covent Garden. It is a world away from your average gym. It’s the anti-gym!  A friendly and relaxed studio set in a converted warehouse, slap bang in the middle of Covent Garden. The staff couldn’t be more friendly. After a few visits, they remembered me by name, even Nahid, the owner* whom I had only spoken to a couple of times. *(Nahid is otherwise referred to as ‘Mistress of the Good Vibes Universe. Don’t you just love it?!)

A concise explanation of a Power Plate is a large vibrating platform that you exercise on. Sounds weird, and if I am honest feels a bit weird too, but you get used to it. Each class has no more than 5 participants, and lasts a mere 25 minutes. The instructors ensure that you are performing the exercises properly. It’s not easy, but none of the exercises last more than 1 minute. (If you want the longer explanation from the people who make them, then click here)

I was a very sceptical when I started. My scepticism soon turned to elation when after 6 sessions (over 3 weeks) I had dropped a whole dress size. To have achieved the same result at the gym would have taken months (and a lot more committment than I had to offer!)  If you are reading in disbelief, then I would point you in the direction of the testimonials on the Good Vibes Website. Everyone I have recommended this to has loved it, and reaped the benefits.

They have to my mind, a wealth of benefits over traditional gym membership

  • Speed. The classes are only 25 minutes so you can easily pop out for a class at lunch or first thing before a day out in the West End.
  • No membership fees. If you don’t go you don’t pay
  • No Sweat. It’s not so intense that you are puce faced and dripping at the end of a session.
  • Fast Results. 6 sessions over 3 weeks and I had dropped a dress size.
Once I had got back into shape, I only went once a week for maintenance, and it still kept me toned. So if you are looking for a quick fix to looking and feeling fabulous this summer, look no further. Power Plates are the answer.
At the moment, Good Vibes are offering a free session if you have not tried them before. Click here for link.

DISCLAIMER

Can I just say that I do feel slightly hypocritical writing this at the moment. It is a case of do as I say and not as I do. Since I stopped work last summer, I can no longer pop out for a quick session at lunch. We now live in deep suburbia which means the chances of childcare for a journey into town and back are few and far between. Couple that with a bad back and my inability to ‘step away from the cake tin’ I have slipped back into my pre power plates ‘soft around the edges’ state. But I know that if someone was to give me the childcare, and few sessions on these and I would be slipping back into my ‘just married’ jeans within the month.

I have not been paid or given any incentive to write this article. I just wish I had discovered them in my 20s instead of wasting all that time in the gym.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies – Now!

26 May

Chocolate Chunk cookies, fresh from the oven

My attempts to clear out the cupboards did not stop with the end of the spendthrifts challenge. I am still trying to clear the cupboards of all the weird and wonderful ingredients that are lingering on in a number of our kitchen cupboards.

I tend to prefer using dark chocolate in my baking, which means that for some time I have been wondering what to do with the bars of milk chocolate for cooking that I seemed to have stockpiled (no doubt when they were on offer)

The answer came courtesy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. His fab choc chunk cookie recipe was recommended on a couple of foodie sites, so yesterday, my two year old and I made these, as a gift for a friend that we were visiting for a playdate and tea (with a few left over for us to test, for quality control purposes of course!)

Chocolate Chunk Cookie anyone?

The joy of these is their simplicity. The ingredients list are all store-cupboard staples, you need no fancy equipment to make them, and they take less than 10 minutes to make, and only 10 minutes to bake.

INGREDIENTS LIST

  • 125g unsalted butter (I used salted. No complaints were received)
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 75g soft light brown sugar (I only had 20g brown left so topped up with caster sugar)
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark or milk chocolate, chopped into smallish chunks

METHOD

As this is Hugh’s recipe, I have attached a link to the instructions  here.

TIP

The mixture spreads when it bakes so leave a large gap in between each cookie. I cooked 6 on each baking tray.

DISCLAIMER

I ate 2 of these, but as I was full of a summer cold, I could not taste them (not sure why I ate 2?!!) All reports came back positive, and they didn’t see out the day, so I am relying on anecdotal evidence that they taste as good as they look. I may have to make some more when my taste buds get back to work!

Gift wrapped and ready to go

Happy Chickens Moroccan Style (Day 5 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

22 May

Todays Menu  

  • Breakfast. Cereal and yoghurt and fruit
  • Lunch. Wraps with cream cheese for the kids. Leftover pizza heated in toaster for mummy
  • Snack. Banana Iced Yoghurt
  • Dinner – kids – chicken thighs with couscous and broccoli
  • Dinner adults - Spicy chicken legs, chickpea and coriander couscous, morrocan style carrot salad.

 

 

 Banana Iced Yoghurt  

Did you know you can freeze bananas? I didn’t until I had a glut last year and threw a few in the freezer to see what happens. They freeze brilliantly. You can even leave the skin on. It will go black, but keep them all pristine inside, and ready for action when you want to bake banana bread or, some banana iced yoghurt.  

While I was rummaging in the freezer looking for inspiration for dinner, I came across some long ago frozen bananas. So, when the kids wanted a mid afternoon snack, it was delivered, courtesy of the blender.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • 4 medium sized bananas, broken into chunks (they should break easily, no kit needed)
  • 200ml plain yoghurt/greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • juice of half a lemon
  1. Blitz banana using ice function on the blender.
  2. Add yoghurt/vanilla and juice until you have a slightly melting ice cream consistency.
  3. Serve

    Slightly melting Banana Iced Yoghurt

     

  

Total prep time. About 2 minutes. From the taking of the bananas out of the freezer to the placing the used blender in the dishwasher. Now that’s what I call fast food! The bananas are so sweet you don’t need to add sugar. My kids love this as a snack. I tell them its ice cream, while secretly feeling quite pleased that they are eating just a piece of fruit with some pro-biotic yoghurt.  

DINNER  

The food stocks are getting low, as is this weeks kitty, so I was getting a bit concerned about dinner. Then I remembered one of my staple after work meals when I was working. Seasoned chicken legs, Couscous, Salad. Very little prep time required, and on the whole a very thrifty dish. M&S quite often do a promo on their organic chicken legs at 4 for a fiver, so not really a budget buster. In fact, this is a great dish to serve up if you are feeding a large group, as the preparation is minimal, and the ingredients are not too expensive.  

Happy Chickens  

Chicken with Ras El Hanout

 

I was vegetarian for over 20 years until about 5 years ago. When I gave up meat, ‘free-range and organic’ were nowhere to be seen in my little corner of South-West London. When I finally started to eat meat again I vowed only to eat meat where the animal welfare standards were high. That raises a bit of a dilemma when you are invited to lunch and are asked if you have any special requests. Its sounds a more than a little picky and snooty to say ‘I’ll eat your meat but only if it’s up to my standards’. So unless I know people well, I either say I am veggie or offer to bring some food along.  

Which brings me on to todays food. Happy Chickens. The Organic Free Range kind are not cheap. So when I see them on offer I tend to stock the freezer. Obviously I took this step 9 months ago, with a batch of chicken legs that I found, this morning, lingering in the back of our ‘spare’ freezer. Sell by date 29 August 2009. Eaten by date, today 21 May 2010!  

If like me, you are using previously frozen chicken, do make sure it has defrosted fully. I left mine out on the worktop today (I am sure the health inspectors would be tutting) and it was still cold but thoroughly defrosted.  

I have a selection of spices in the cupboard like Cajun, Sumac, and todays choice, Ras El Hanout. Its a lovely, fragrant moroccan spice blend. To prepare the chicken you need do nothing more than to rub a little oil on the chicken legs. Sprinkle with the seasoning. Cook for about 40 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees. Thats it.  

The couscous  

I love couscous. I always keep a supply of this in the cupboard. Boil the kettle. Pour on water. A few minutes later and its ready. What could be easier? Today I decided to add a few ingredients and flavourings from the cupboard, but it was simply an add, mix and cover with boiling water exercise.  

I have made this, and variations of it so often, that I tend to just add, mix and taste rather than following any strict recipe.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • Couscous. Enough to fill the bottom of a soup bowl by about 1cm. Maybe 300g
  • Vegetable bouillon. A dessertspoon. Add and mix
  • Raisins. A large handful
  • Chickpeas. A standard tin, drained and washed.
  • Cumin (seeds not ground). 1 dessertspoonful
  • Pine nuts (toasted if you have time) 25g
  • Chopped coriander (from freezer)1 tablespoon
  • Butter. About 25 g

METHOD  

  • Mix all ingredients in bowl
  • Pour over boiling water until mixture is just immersed a little in the water
  • Agitate mixture with a fork
  • Cover with a cloth or plate for 5 minutes or so
  • Fluff with a fork and serve

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad. Inspired by Stephanie Alexander.  

Moroccan Style Carrot Salad

 

If you have not yet discovered the cookery genius that is Stephanie Alexander, then you have been missing out. I was introduced to her only last year by my foodie friend Annmaree. This is not a glossy, picture filled cookery book. It is a tome. A reference book filled with a lifetime of cooking knowledge.  It is arranged alphabetically by ingredient (why aren’t all cookery books organised that way?). So, when you have a weird or wonderful, or perhaps just a very boring ingredient that you want to use up, look it up, and Stephanie will provide you will a selection of ideas and recipes for it. Today I was wondering how best to use the carrots in the fridge, when Stephanie came to the rescue, and gave me the inspiration for this dressing.  

INGREDIENTS  

  • about 500g carrots, grated
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 dessertspoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 dessertspoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Large glug of olive oil (1/2 tablespoons)
  • 1 dessertspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chillis

METHOD  

  1. Place cumin, garlic, salt, sugar in pestle and mortar and crush to a paste
  2. Add olive oil and lemon juice. Mix until you have a glossy dressing.
  3. Check taste and adjust seasoning
  4. Grate the carrots.
  5. Add the coriander and chilli and mix throughly
  6. Add dressing making sure salad well coated
  7. Serve

The biggest effort today, was not the cooking. Each dish probably took about 5 minutes preparation. The real effort was putting a little thought and imagination into the food available, and making an appetizing meal from it. The carrot salad exceeded all my expectations. It was not something I had tried before, but will definitely be one to use again.  

Dinner is served

 

DAY 5 SUMMARY  

A great use of some very neglected food from my freezer. 2 days of the challenge left. I am missing chocolate, and not at all optimistic that I wont go over budget. Food (or chocolate) donations anyone?  

Chickpea Couscous

Happy Eggs and Fabulous Fishcakes (Day 3 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

20 May

Keeping a close and slightly anxious eye on the challenge budget, last night I decided to bring the bread maker out of retirement, and before I went to bed put in the usual flour, yeast and water and left it to work its magic while I dreamed of a night of unbroken sleep. It was just a dream!  

This morning I descended the stairs, half asleep, nose in the air like the bisto kid,  inhaling the irresistable aroma of freshly baked bread. Every time I use the bread maker I am struck by its genius, and wonder why I don’t use it all the time.  

Breadmaker Bread

 

Dippy Egg and Soldiers

 

LUNCH – Dippy Eggs and Soldiers  

The fresh bread was a helpful head start to our quick and thrifty lunch of ‘dippy eggs’ (soft-boiled eggs to the uninitiated). This is one of my favourite midweek lunches with the children and is on our menu at least twice a week. Quick, easy, nutritious. A sure-fire winner for any busy person.  

The Egg Cooker

 

I am, I confess, a bit of a kitchen gadget collector, but in my defence, I only keep the things I use. One of my favourite and most used pieces of kit is the egg cooker that I bought from Lakeland last year. I am eggstatic about it! While I know that in theory, it doesnt take a genius to boil an egg, I used to always get distracted and get the timings wrong. Since the egg cooker found a home here we always have perfectly cooked eggs.  

Now for a little word about the eggs. For eggs that I am poaching, or soft boiling, or putting in a salad, I favour those from Clarence Court above all others. We usually have their pretty pastel coloured Cotswold Legbar eggs, or alternatively Burford Browns. They are unrivalled by any other brand I have tried. They have the most incredible deep orangey yellow yolk. They tend to induce a fit of nostalgia, reminding me of the eggs my Gran used to serve up in my childhood.  

I prefer to use freshly baked bread (from a bakery or the breadmaker) for the ‘soldiers’. With butter. Lots of butter.  

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

 

   

DINNER – Smoked mackerel fishcakes  

My fridge was looking very bare this morning, and I was starting to suffer from ‘almost empty fridge’ anxiety. A quick chat with a good friend, Rita, gave me the inspiration for using up the half  bowl of mash left over from Monday. Smoked mackerel fishcakes. Cheap, tasty, and full of good stuff.  

A quick dash up to Sainsburys after lunch found me in possession of 252g of mackerel for only £1.87. Could I be any more thrifty?!!  

I can honestly say I have never made these before. I had gained a rough idea of the framework for Rita’s recipe, then adapted that to suit the fridge contents. It took about 10 minutes in total to make them, then probably another 10 minutes or so to fry them in the pan.  

INGREDIENTS  

Fishcake Ingredients

 

  • 560g cooked mash
  • 250g smoked mackerel
  • 10g wilting chopped parsley (the fresh unwilting kind will do just as well!)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 dessert spoons chopped chives
  • 2 dessert spoons crème fraîche
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • breadcrumbs (from freezer). If you don’t have any, or are short of time, you can miss these out
  • 1 egg, beaten with a dash of milk
  • I almost forgot. I had half a cooked salmon fillet from yesterday left over so I added that in too)

METHOD  

I get the kids to wash their hands while I am gathering the ingredients together. They take a while and it gives me a chance to get everything out before they start bickering!  

The mix

 

  1. Take skin off fish, and using fingers check for bones. Then rub the fish between your fingers until it flakes.
  2. Put fish in large bowl with mash (or split between 2 bowls if you have 2 kids to save arguments)
  3. Mix the mustard with the crème fraîche, then add and mix to the potato/fish mixture
  4. Combine all the additional ingredients, tasting as you go
  5. Shape into patties, then dip in egg and coat with breadcrumbs
  6. Fry in a little oil and butter on a gentle/medium heat for 5 mins each side.

This made 11 medium-sized patties. Enough to fill a few hungry stomachs.  

I served this with broccoli and cucumber for the kids. Mr Mummyinahurry and I ate ours with the remains of the spinach and beans from Monday, some beetroot (the vacuum packed kind) , a couple of lemon wedges and a generous dollop of mayo.  These freeze well so you can always make a double batch and freeze them ready for a quick supper another day.  

Fishcakes, bean salad and beetroot

 

The children loved making these, and despite my reservations about the overly fishy taste, they literally licked their bowls clean when we had finished the prep, then ate all their dinner and asked for seconds.  

So, day 3, a great success. But the kitty is not looking so good, and I am wondering if I can really do this….  

  

 

Haddock with a herb and parmesan crust

12 May

This dish is one that satisfies both fussy children and demanding adults, and is a perfect way to engage the children in a little activity on a cold or rainy afternoon.

My inspiration for this recipe comes from Donna Hay, who sets the standard when it comes to the preparation of fresh, flavourful meals that are simple to prepare, and don’t leave you spending hours in the kitchen. And thanks to the fantastic offer at the fish counter at Sainsburys today, which allowed me to buy a very large (over 500g) haddock fillet for £2.58, this is a great choice if you are keeping an eye on the family food budget too.

First of all a few words about the buying of the fish. Sadly I don’t have a local fishmonger, as he has gone out of business. I have, however, been making use of the fish counter in the supermarket which has been the best alternative I can find at the moment.

Take a close look at the choices on offer. Often (as I did today) you can save yourself quite a bit of money just by choosing an alternative cut and asking the ‘fishmonger’ (?) to do the work for you. Today I had the following choice. Skinless haddock loin, boned, £14.99 a kilo. Haddock fillet £4.99 a kilo (it was on special). So, I chose the latter, and asked the friendly assistant to skin and pin-bone it for me, which he did without a second glance. Result, I saved £5 on the total spend, and bought myself strawberries and chocolate for dessert.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2 BIG PEOPLE AND 2 LITTLE PEOPLE)

All this fish for only £2.58!

500g approx haddock, or any firm white fish

200g fresh breadcrumbs

70g Parmesan, grated

10g chopped fresh parsley

1 or 2 dessert spoons chopped chives (to taste)

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 dessert spoons plain flour, lightly seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees (180 for a fan oven)

Herb and Parmesan breadcrumb mixture

Mix the breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon zest and parmesan together. Set aside half the mixture into a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer for another day.

With the remaining mixture, add the oil and mix so that the breadcrumbs are thoroughly coated.

Set up a conveyor belt type operation with 3 bowls in a row. The first with the

The conveyer belt

seasoned flour, the second with the egg and the last with the breadcrumbs.

Chop the fish into desired sizes. I used the thin end for the children’s chunks and fingers, and left two large fillets for me and Mr Mummyinahurry.

Fish fingers and fillets

Get the children to dip the pieces, first in the flour (dusting off any large clumps), then into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, pushing the mixture gently onto the fillets. Follow the same process for the larger fillets.

Kids at work

Place on a baking tray. and cook for 15 minutes, turning once. (This cooking time holds good for the adult portions, in case you are cooking them separately)

Serve

The finished product

I often cook the childrens serving first, reserving the adult portions for a later evening meal. This a a great dish if your other half is working late, as you can leave theirs in the fridge, uncooked and covered in cling film ready for a late supper.

I tend to serve this with one of my favourtie sides, fresh spinach with garlic. A bit more salt and pepper to season the adult portions, some lemon wedges on the side (from the lemon I zested) and a dollop of good quality mayonnaise. Yum!

Feeding time for mummyinahurry

TIPS

The Breadcrumbs

I make these myself. Shop bought are generally overly dry and extortinately priced They are so quick and easy to make, and you can freeze them in small portions. If you are watching the pennies, then just pick up a fresh baked loaf at the supermarket when its reduced to clear, let it dry out a little for a day or two, then tear into chunks and blitz in the processor or liquidizer until you have breadcrumbs. If you dont have stale bread, cut the bread into thick slices and place in a low oven for about 15 minutes to dry it out.

Fresh spinach with garlic

This is sooo easy and sooo good. Rinse spinach. Heat frying pan and on a low heat soften 1 dessertspoon of chopped garlic (I used the ready chopped frozen variety). This will take a minute or two. Turn up heat, add spinach, and turn regularly for a minute or two, until it is wilted. Strain. Add a little butter, and salt and pepper. Serve.

All in all, the activity time of this with the children was about 10 minutes. It was a bit more mess than if I had done it alone, but they loved it, and they ate all their dinner too. For the adult meal, while the fish is cooking, lay the table, and pour a glass of wine. Relax for 10 minutes. Take fish out and leave to rest for 5 minute. Plates can go in oven to warm while you make the spinach. Thats it. And having made an extra serving of breadcrumbs ready for the freezer, you can make some more soon, in even less time.

Nigella’s Never Fail Victoria Sponge

10 May

Let me dispel a few myths. You don’t need to be any sort of domestic goddess to make a good Victoria sponge. You don’t even need much time. If you have all the ingredients in the house, you should have it all prepared and in the oven in under 5 minutes. And the washing up is  courtesy of the dishwasher.

I am not sure that any cook can honestly claim the rights to a ‘recipe’ for a Victoria Sponge, as the ingredients and quantities seems to be almost identical in a number of cook books. On this subject I am slavishly devoted to the teachings of Ms Lawson in her first (and to me her best) book, How To Eat. Since I first made this speedy, all in one, processor method of making a Victoria Sponge, I have resisted the siren call of all other cookery prophets and remained loyal to this easy peasy never fail recipe.

To those of you that buy your cake in the supermarket, or make your cake from a packet mix, I would like to prevail upon you to cast aside your prejudice and to try this, just once. You will not look back. You are likely to have everything you need without even stepping into a shop. Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder, vanilla essence, Jam. All storecupboard staples.

Just follow a few simple rules and you cannot go wrong

  • Use the size of tin that is recommended or the cooking times will change
  • Know your oven temperature. They can vary widely. Cooking it at the right temperature is key.
  • Relax. Even if it does not look as pretty as a shop perfect cake, the first bite will have you hooked.
  • To make life easier I use pre-cut cake tin liners. This saves the step of greasing and lining the tin..

So successful and easy has this cake been, I have made it on numerous occasions, to cheer up a sad friend, to fuel a tired new mum, and when I am calling in on friends for coffee and realise I have not even a packet of biscuits to take.  And I made it for myself twice a week, when I was an almost sleepwalking tearful and tired new mum, just to give me something to look forward to in the afternoon.

A few tips

  • The recipe suggests room temperature/soft butter. Not many people are so well prepared that they get the butter out of the fridge a day early in anticipation. I use the defrost facility on the microwave, until it gets soft but not runny and melted. It takes about 60 seconds on defrost in my microwave. Try it in 20 second bursts. You are looking for a glossy, gooey, about to melt texture.
  • I recommend keeping your eggs in a cupboard at room temperature, then you don’t have to remember to take them out in advance.
  • If you are using fridge cold milk I would recommend 15 seconds in the microwave to take the chill off.

You can find Nigella’s recipe at page 26 of her book.

I have adapted the quantities to suit the size of tins that I have (18cms)

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (or 160 degrees for a fan oven)

INGREDIENTS

6 oz  or 170g plain flour

6 oz  or 170g soft unsalted butter (but you can use salted if thats all you have – it just alters the taste a little)

6 oz 170g sugar

3 large eggs – if you only have medium eggs just add a little more milk

2tbsps (ish) milk.

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (not essence)

Place all ingredients into processor. Blend until combined, adding enough milk to give the mixture dropping consistency.

Put in oven for 25 minutes. If you are not sure if it is cooked put in a skewer (or knife if you don’t have one). If it comes out clean (ie without sticky cake mixture on it) it is done.

Just out of the oven

Once the cakes are out of the oven, leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then turn out on to a cake rack (or grill rack if you don’t have one)

Allow to cool for about 45 minutes.

On the rack

Add jam to one sponge then put them together. Sprinkle with caster sugar. Serve

I don’t generally add whipped cream, unless I know it will get eaten that day, as it doesn’t keep well.If you have just used jam, it will keep in an airtight container for a few days.

Ready to eat

Fast Feast

4 May

This is not, as the title might imply, a recommendation that you eat quickly. This is my combination of a few recipe ideas, that represent a template for a simple yet sumptuous buffet that will comfortably feed a crowd, without sending you into a stressed host(ess) meltdown.

These tried and tested recipes can be prepared ahead, and require only minimal supervision in the kitchen, allowing you to join the party and share a drink and nibbles with your guests while the main course is cooking.

This particular menu was borne out of my usual knack of over scheduling our weekend. We had planned to meet friends for brunch, on the same day that I had offered to host my brother’s 30th birthday get together for the entire family later in the day (8 adults and 6 children ranging in age from 11 to 4 months old). As I was short on time, I decided to provide only one main course that would be suitable for all.

As we were going to be out for a good part of the day, nearly all of this was prepared ahead. In total (aside from cooking times) the preparation took about 1 hour.

PARTY MENU

FOCACCIA WITH A SELECTION OF ANTIPASTI

RICOTTA AND HERB STUFFED CHICKEN, NEW POTATOES, GREEN BEAN SALAD

3 TIERED CHOCOLATE BROWNIE ‘CAKE’

SARAH’S LIME AND GINGER CHEESECAKE

The amount of food that I prepared here, was far too much. I do however, follow Nigella’s mantra of ‘never knowingly undercatered’. And there is a distinct upside to over catering. The leftovers will provide a couple of meals that can be assembled in moments for a couple of days after the party, freeing you from the shackles of the seemingly endless meal preparation production line.

FOCACCIA AND ANTI-PASTI

I have for the past few weeks, been making focaccia at home. I used to go to the farmers market and buy a fairly small oblong loaf, studded with rosemary, or tomatoes, or onions, paying £4.50 a time. Obviously if you are feeding a crowd, this can be a pricey addition to the menu if you need 3 or 4. After discovering how easy it is to make, I have not looked back. This takes less time to make that it would for you to find your credit card, coat and keys and leave for the supermarket. The recipe I follow is not my own, but provided by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, provided in his book River Cottage Everyday. For obvious copyright reasons, I have not re-produced it here, but if you want to make your own, there are numerous versions available on the net. You simply measure out the flour, dried yeast, water etc, leave it in the mixer with a dough hook for a few minutes, then leave it to rise. If, like me you are going out and wish to make this ahead of time then you can put it in the fridge for a few hours where it will rise slowly. When it is ready to go in the oven, stud the top with whatever you have to hand (I did cherry tomatoes and rosemary on one, and red onion chutney and goats cheese on the second), then a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of sea salt. 15 minutes in a hot oven later and it is ready.  You may have neither the time or the inclination for this step, in which case most of the supermarkets offer this bread in one form or another.

RICOTTA AND HERB STUFFED CHICKEN

This is dish that both Jamie Oliver and Bill Granger offer a recipe for. I was a bit pushed for time and therefore didn’t have time to look up a recipe, but here is a link to Bill’s version if you want something more specific to follow.

INGREDIENTS

3 free range/organic chickens, spatchcocked. (you do this by cutting out the backbone, the squashing it flat. If you are a bit squeamish about this part, then buy from a butcher and get them to do it for you)

2 x 250g tubs ricotta

2 tbsps chopped chives

2 tbsps chopped parsley

1 tbsp thyme leaves

zest of half a lemon

salt and pepper to taste

Mix herbs, salt and pepper with ricotta. Using your fingers (or a wooden spoon if you have sharp nails) loosen the skin over the breast and thighs. Push ricotta mixture under skin over breast and thighs. Drizzle chicken with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. I cooked this hot and fast. The cooking times are much more reliable if you cook from room temperature. You can make this ahead but I would advise taking it out of the fridge about an hour before you cook it. I started it off with about half an hour on 210 degrees then turned it down to 180 degrees for the last 15 minutes. If the chicken looks like it is browning too much, then cover with foil.

The first time I tried this method I was hooked, so I would urge you to try it at least once. The result is tender juicy moist chicken, complemented by the light, delicate taste of the ricotta and herbs. I left this to rest under foil for 15 minutes once out of the oven, then served on platters, with carving knife and forks for guests to help themselves.

The new potatoes were steamed then dotted with a little butter and salt and pepper.

The green bean salad, is another recipe from Bill Granger. You can, as I did, make this ahead then leave in the fridge, then dress it at the last minute.

BROWNIES AND CHEESECAKE

Dessert I prepared the evening before. I made Sarah’s Lime and Ginger cheesecake, and a double batch of my five-minute brownies.

To serve I arranged the brownies on 3 glass cake stands, placed one on top of the other like a tiered wedding cake, then added a few candles.

The best part of this meal for me, was the fact that I had the chance to relax and join in. And, the children all loved the chicken and cleared their plates.

And, you may have guessed that I used banqueting roll to cover the table, so when the party was over, the table was cleared in moments, and the dishwasher (and Mr Mummyinahurry) did the washing up, giving me a chance to put my feet up and read this month’s copy of delicious magazine.

Home made focaccia bread

Three tiered brownie 'cake'

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