Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 8th May

IMG_0157

Sunny days are here to stay… it’s still just a tad chilly though so I’m feeling that we’re still somewhere lost in no man’s land between soup and salad.  I did check the weather app earlier and saw something about 24 degrees for next week though so now I’m really getting my hopes up!

This week we started, as always, with pasta, and a recipe from the National Trust Family Cookbook – sausage and tomato pasta on ricotta.  This is a fairly simple recipe in which you use the insides of some good quality sausages cooked up with onion, fennel and tinned tomato and then serve the dish on some ricotta.  My kids really enjoyed this today (and I did too), another good family recipe from this fab book.

Tomorrow I’m taking some inspiration from some of the recipes that people have been tagging with #feedtheteam on Instagram – puff pastry pizza.  I used to make lots of these simple puff pastry tarts using ready rolled pastry pre-kids but for some reason I haven’t thought of them for a while so this week I’m going to give it a go and I have high hopes given their general feelings towards pizza and pastry.  I’ll keep the toppings simple and pizza-like – salami and mozzarella – on their half to keep life simple and then I have some asparagus and goats’ cheese for our half to keep life interesting.

On Wednesday I’m going to hope for summer with a salad but it’s really an excuse to use some more Jersey Royals which are just one of my favourite things in the world and which are just coming into season now.  If you want to see more about what’s good to eat in May do check out our Seasonal page for more details on the ingredients and recipes that you could use them in.

Thursday I’m taking more inspiration from that #feedtheteam hashtag and doing a salmon traybake.  We went to watch a sea lion show at Knowsley Safari Park on Sunday and the kids were very excited to discover that the sea lions like eating salmon like them so it’s a good choice for this week and also for a fairly quick post-swimming lesson tea.  I’ll cook them with some more par-boiled jerseys, asparagus and whatever else is hanging around in the fridge.

And then Friday is really our last proper cooked meal of the week as we are off to a wedding (child-free!) on Saturday and we won’t be back until later on Sunday.  The excitement of someone making all of my meals for me is palpable.  We’re going out with a bang though with fish tacos – yet another #feedtheteam hashtag from this week.  There were a lot of tacos being made this week (largely I think due to cinco de mayo) and the fish tacos in particular looked fab.  It’s not something I’ve tried before so I’ve come up so far with a couple of recipes that look interesting including the below from Jamie Oliver but I think I prefer the idea of coating them in panko breadcrumbs, not so healthy maybe but certainly kid-friendly.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fish-recipes/tasty-fish-tacos/

And I’ve bought these which look perfect for the job, excited by this find!

https://www.ocado.com/webshop/product/Old-El-Paso-Mini-Stand-N-Stuff-Soft-Tortillas/345535011?ULP_CAMPAIGN_ID=52&gclid=Cj0KEQjwrsDIBRDX3JCunOrr_YYBEiQAifH1FnAUpoZavygqybi45Gy_tog61eW3DkwZ79UwsooKozUaAijC8P8HAQ&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CIuOi82D4dMCFTOC7QodkRYPrQ&dnr=y

Hope you have a great week.

Emma

Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 24th April

IMG_0080

I finally felt for sure like Spring had sprung this weekend. So far it’s been a bit of a stop start affair but this weekend we spent a lot of time in the garden, digging and planting and that’s when you know for sure winter’s behind you for another year and you can start looking forward to light nights and warmer toes. Woo hoo!

Having said that I think this week’s meal planner still demonstrates that we’re in that in between phase where we’re not quite into salads but it feels too light to crack out the slow cooker.

Tomorrow I’m starting with pesto pasta because I’ve reached my limit of how many times I can be asked for it without just laying down and giving in. They literally mention it every single day. I wonder how long the obsession will continue?

Tuesday’s are always our busiest and latest home days so it’s a simple one, some breaded fish from my Ocado shop with lots of fresh veg. It’s close enough to fish fingers for them to pass the test and nice enough for us to feel like we aren’t eating kids food. Obviously you could make the fish easily enough yourself but that doesn’t mean you have to every day!

Wednesday has us still in Winter with our squash soup but I do love a soup as a good family friendly vegetarian option. The kids have always loved squash soup in particular because it’s slightly sweet although I tend to roast the squash in some vegetable oil with a teaspoon of cumin and garam masala in the morning so that it has been sitting in the spiced oil for the day. Then it’s really easy to cook up a diced onion, throw in the squash and a litre or so of stock and blitz. It’s on the table in 10 minutes.

Thursday I’m doing a dinner inspired by a recipe I saw on jamieoliver.com. It’s not a tricky one but if you’re interested you can see what’s involved on the link below.

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/fish-recipes/salmon-and-couscous/

On Friday the 5yo has friends over so we’re doing homemade burgers and oven chips and then I’m finishing the week with sausage and beans and Yorkshires. I saw someone having this on Instagram the other day and couldn’t believe it had never occurred to me! Looking forward to the new taste sensation beans and Yorkshire mash up.

Have a good week!

Emma

Desperately seeking inspiration

Looking for inspiration for this week’s meal planner got me thinking about the recipe sources that I turn to again and again when thinking about the week of meals ahead.

I look to lots of different sources when deciding what we’re going to eat including websites, my own brain (less and less reliable), good old-fashioned recipe books and, of course, social media. I like mixing it up, partly to make sure the kids eat a variety of different tastes as they’re growing up but also because I enjoy the variety, and I’m determined that we’re not going to live on pesto pasta alone.

In terms of the recipe books that inspire me day in and day out there are a few that have been staples for years. Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals has proved a great source for recipes that have become stock like his cauliflower macaroni cheese and a simple chicken pie. I’ve tried lots of his other books including the more recent health-focused ones but it’s 30 Minute Meals I turn to again and again for good, tasty family food.

In the same category I would add Felicity Cloake’s Perfect which is more obscure than Jamie but if you’re looking for foolproof recipes for staples like Coq au Vin, fishcakes and chocolate mousse. For me this is truly one of those that you’ll pass down to your kids when they’re ready to fly the nest (*sob!*)

Others that I use regularly would be Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen (which for some reason I assume would be annoying?), Marcus Wareing’s How to Cook the Perfect (I just made the most amazing custard) and also his Nutmeg & Custard which includes some more complex recipes but also a great almond and chickpea curry that I go back to again and again.

In terms of books that I’ve invested in more recently you may have noticed that I’ve been using a lot of Diana Henry’s recipes of late having bought her Cook Simple from about 10 years ago. I can’t get enough of how simple (duh) the recipes are and yet so full of flavor, they’re right up my street food-wise. I also recently bought the National Trust Family Cookbook by Claire Thomson (@5oclockapron) which has a really good number of recipes that feel feasible for a family mealtime – there are surprisingly few books around that hit that spot.

I’ve also bought Georgina Hayden’s Stirring Slowly which I like but see working less well in for your average family mealtime and others with a healthy agenda including Jamie’s Everyday Super Food and River Cottage Light & Easy.   Again, some great recipes but probably only a few that work for us as a family.

Of course as well as relatively expensive recipe books there are a wealth of online resources to access for free. I use the BBC Good Food website on a practically daily basis – there’s a recipe for pretty much everything you can imagine on there and the rating system is useful to tell you when a recipe is a particularly good one. I’ve used so many ideas from there it’s hard to narrow it down but the pulled pork, laksa and perfect Yorkshire puddings are the ones that spring to mind.

Also, if you’re a tad tragic like my sisters and I you can subscribe to the magazine and feel a burst of joy on the day it drops through the letterbox.  It’s almost as good as Birchbox but not quite.

I’ve also started using supermarket websites more for inspiration although it somehow seems like a less fashionable option. Ocado has some great ideas with a direct link to shop the ingredients and I’ve made their gluten free cats a couple of times now and I’ve also had some great ideas from the Tesco site, they’re certainly worth a look if you’re feeing devoid of inspiration one week.

And then last but not least – social media. This month we are asking our Instagram followers to use our hashtag #feedtheteam when posting their family food pictures so that we can share the food that we’re all making for our teams everyday. Hopefully you’ll find even more inspiration there!

Enjoy!

Emma

Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 20th March

IMG_0840

Every now and then I have a week where I’m completely devoid of inspiration for the week of meals ahead and this week was one of those weeks. Sadly my copy of the The National Trust Cookbook also arrived slightly too late to help out but I’m really looking forward to trying some of the recipes next week and I’ll also blog with my thoughts on the book in the next week or two.

For now though, I’m making do with some old favourites (including probably my all time favourite), a Diana Henry recipe (if you don’t know Diana Henry check her out, her recipes offer amazing inspiration whilst remaining relatively simple) and more help from The Spicery.

We started off today with the one that my husband and I could probably make in our sleep (and that would almost be the case today) – pasta and pesto. Not imaginative but an easy way to start the week at least.

Tomorrow will be the Diana Henry recipe which I actually found when browsing the Ocado site, you can find it here:

https://www.ocado.com/webshop/recipe/Diana-Henrys-Tenderstem-Nasi-Goreng/29587?selectedCategories

I’m looking forward to this one because Nasi Goreng always reminds me of living in Sydney at a time when I had zero responsibilities (and ate Nasi Goreng from the local takeaway about 5 times a week).

On Wednesday we’ll be having simple baked salmon with mash. The kids seem to be really into salmon again at the moment which is good news so here’s one to keep simple and serve with loads of lovely fresh veg.

Thursday is another long travelling day for me so the kids will be eating fish finger sandwiches and then on Friday the opposite of fast food, a steak pie. To make this I’ll slow cook some braising steak in stock in my slow cooker for most of the day and then add the filling to a shortcrust case. This was the meal I used to request on my birthday when I was a kid and it still feels special now, even if I have to make it myself these days!

And finally on Saturday I’m going to try out another recipe using my spices from The Spicery – a veggie tagine. I’ve mentioned The Spicery before – a spicing subscription which sends you bespoke spices as well as the recipes to make them – but having finally made my first full meal (a chicken jalfrezi plus accompaniments) last Friday I am now recommending it whole-heartedly. The meal was amazing and it was so simple to put together, great for if you’re having friends over and to push you out of your comfort zone. Looking forward to trying the next one.

And on Sunday it really has to be a day off given it’s Mother’s Day, hopefully I’ll get treated to something nice and I’ll be able to put my feet up all day (yeah right).

Have a good week!

Emma

Ladies that Afternoon Tea – An Interlude

IMG_0001

As part of our ongoing intrepid search to find the best Afternoon Tea experiences in Manchester I thought I would report back on my recent visit to the newly opened Grand Pacific on King St. This is not an official entry to our Ladies that Afternoon Tea series as I visited on a work jolly rather than with my fellow LTAF reporters but nevertheless I thought I’d share my views for the sake of mothers out there looking for a bit of me time.  I’m all heart.

If you haven’t yet had a chance to visit Grand Pacific I would heartily recommend doing so even if just to have a nosey at the décor. The venue has only been open for a few weeks (previously home to bar and restaurant Room and the Reform Club) and Living Ventures have done another great job.  The place is opulent and stylish without feeling overdone and it really feels like you’re visiting something a bit special.

With this amazing backdrop and the fact that you’re having Afternoon Tea at 4pm on a workday surely nothing could go wrong? Well… not exactly.

Whilst we were instantly wowed by the overall impression of the place and the beautifully decorated tables (not to mention the free flowing prosecco), the issues with service became apparent pretty quickly. The wait for the sandwiches just went on and on and in the end it was well over an hour before they eventually turned up.

I’d like to say that they were worth the wait but a lack of choice (egg, coronation chicken or salmon) coupled with the fact that there were some bizarre additions such as dry, cold mini crumpets and Eccles cakes meant that wasn’t really the case. The bread was also worrying dry, tasting like the platters had been ready for the last hour but someone had just forgotten to actually serve them.  So far, not so great.

On the plus side, I felt that what was on offer (dry bread aside) was a pretty good quality – the potato cakes heaped with smoked salmon being a particular highlight – and there was also more than plenty to go around, if anything we ended up feeling slightly wasteful at being unable to put a serious dent in the servings.

IMG_0002

Having waiting an age for the sandwiches the wait for the sweet course was, thankfully, far shorter. The platter once again looked pretty special and there were plenty of interesting and tasty things to try including extremely rich chocolate truffles, vanilla and raspberry cake pops, zingy lemon tarts and big servings of trifle.  The only obvious omission was scones – I mean I don’t think it’s illegal not to provide scones with an Afternoon Tea but I did feel a bit bereft at their absence.  I was looking forward to the clotted cream.

IMG_0003

It was only when we were coming to the end of our lovely cakes that we suddenly realised that at no point had we been offered any tea. In fact, just as we were starting to put our coats on and collect our things, a waiter came to ask if we would like some.  At that point we’d been at the place for 2 hours.  For an Afternoon TEA.  Worrying.

Again, to err on the side of fairness the staff recognised some of the issues that we’d had and knocked 25% off everyone’s bill was probably the minimum reduction I’d expect given the experience.

All in all my scoring for Grand Pacific would be:

For sandwiches – a charitable 3/5 because the salmon was nice but my kids could have made them quicker – 60%

For cakes – a disappointed 2.5/5 due to lack of scone action – 50%

For drinks – a lowly 1/5 due to lack of tea in their afternoon tea and an average prosecco – 20%

For service – another lowly 1/5 because nobody should have to wait an hour for a sandwich – 20%

For atmosphere – a much more respectable 4/5 because the place is beautiful – 80%

All in all that gives Grand Pacific a total of 46% which tells you the story that this was a pretty below average experience only rescued by the beauty of the place. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re having some teething troubles but as it stands it’s a tough one to recommend unless you enjoy waiting long periods of time for someone to cook a tiny crumpet.

Woman’s Hour on Fussy Eaters

IMG_0875

I’ve posted before when the Woman’s Hour podcast has covered Fussy Eaters but as they’re covering it again as part of their current series on Parenting I thought I’d cover this one again too as I think they always have some interesting points of view (and their other Parenting podcasts are also well worth a listen).

Today’s podcast had a couple of guests – Ciara Atwell from myfussereater.com and a mum of two (3 and 6) as well as Jackie Blissett, Professor of Childhood Eating Behaviour at the University of Coventry and also a mum of two (17 and 13).

And in fact I think listening to two mums at different stages of the parenting spectrum was an interesting dynamic.  One of the comments from a listener was basically that all of this passes and one day you wake up, mother to a teenager who doesn’t insist that they will only eat plain pasta everyday or that you chop up the cheese into hedgehog shapes before they’ll contemplate it.

To some extent this is comforting, it’s always nice to know that the painful phases are just that and that your daily efforts will ultimately result in a relatively normal adult.  My sister Cara definitely seems to be discovering this now and has two pretty adventurous teenagers on her hands to show for all of the years of refused dinners.

It also resonates with one of my strongly held beliefs about feeding young children – the more stressful you make the experience the more likely you are to have a fussy eater on your hands. I’ve always refused to use the naughty step (or whatever disciplinary method you might choose) as a method to “punish” reactions to food at the dinner table (not something my husband has always agreed with) because I think it brings added stress into the situation and the child ultimately starts to associate dinner and the dinner table with an unpleasant situation at which they are being held at against their will.

I’m fully aware that this is all sound enough in principle and that in reality it’s quite hard to hold your shit together when you’ve been cooking for the last hour and nobody will eat any of it, but this is one of those occasions where it really does pay off to bite your tongue as much as you are able I believe.  So I found it interesting that Ciara’s view tallied with this and her main piece of advice was not to get too stressed about the whole thing.  After all, they really are unlikely to starve themselves.

Again, of course this is all sound enough if the scenario is short lived and your child eats well in general but if you’re in the midst of a fussy eating war and it’s been going on for some time the advice that it one day passes or that you shouldn’t lose your mind is probably not that comforting at all.

I think there were some interesting pieces of advice to those in this scenario too however.  Ciara advised taking the fussy eating element away from the table – that is, don’t try and introduce new foods at the table in the mealtime environment.  Consider letting younger children play with food that they may be suspicious about outside or on a picnic blanket on the floor at other times to get them used to the concept of different foods and textures.

For slightly older children reward them for giving things a try, and see that as a win even if they don’t eat a full portion.  My friend has put together a meal planner which encourages her 6 year old to try one new meal a week whilst keeping the other days more Jack-friendly so he feels like he still has some control over the situation.  Blissett rejects the idea of rewarding kids with pudding if they do eat the food in dispute as this gives that food a less attractive connotation which I agree with the principle of but I do find that if there’s ice cream on offer they’re much more likely to try something than when I’m not offering ice cream so I’m happy to use it every now and then.

Ultimately, as Blissett points out at the beginning, fussy eating is a case of “gene environment interaction” so whilst some kids definitely are more likely than others to be disposed towards fussiness, the environment in which they are exposed to food is also an important factor towards their subsequent attitude to it.  So basically those kids that see their parents eating varied, healthy food and are offered it on a regular basis are less likely to be fussy eaters than those that don’t.  That doesn’t mean that the whole thing doesn’t have everyone tearing their hair out on a pretty regular basis but stick to your guns and, more importantly, your broccoli and one day you too will wake up with a teenager that eats it without the need for negotiation.

Emma

Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 13th March

IMG_0797

A colourful meal planner for a colourful week…Starting off with some fantastic birthday celebrations for our mum’s 70th as well as our niece’s 18th and nephew’s 21st and ending with my… well let’s just say it’s not another big one quite yet and leave it at that.

Today was my mum’s actual birthday so after relieving her of her babysitting duties(!) I made her a hearty bolognese followed by a birthday cake and some singing. I think she approved. I’ve started whizzing up my garlic and onion as the base for this kind of dish with a splash of water in the food processor instead of dicing. The kids complain so bloody much about onions but I refuse to do without them. Turning it into a paste in this way seems a fair compromise and worked well today, the 5yo went for seconds and thirds.

Tomorrow I’m repeating one from a couple of weeks ago – jacket spuds with roasted veg. I’m going to roast up some veg in the morning – squash, courgette, carrot pepper and then reheat while the potatoes cook in the evening and serve with plenty of cheese for them. Less for me to compensate for the excess of cake recently…

Wednesday we are also reliving an old favourite, egg-fried rice served with prawns. I do find that this is one that seems to go down well with most kids and given the upping of vegetable quota we’re on at the moment they’ll get plenty of greens with it too.

Thursday is quesadillas which we repeat frequently on days when we’re very short of time and Friday is fishcakes because you’ve got to have fish on a Friday.

On Saturday I’m doing a recipe from Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen, a book that I really rate if you’re trying to come up with new recipes to cook for all of you. I’ve added the recipe to our recipes page if you want to cook along.

And on Sunday, well I think I deserve a day off. We’re thinking of heading to Morecambe to the day, back to the hotel where we got married but the weather may dictate otherwise. Either way, I’m not cooking!

Have a good week!

Emma

Ladies that Afternoon Tea – Part 1

The King Street Townhouse, Manchester

IMG_0772

After a busy week at work I do honestly relish the opportunity to spend 48 hours in the company of my little ones. Inevitably there is a party to go to (and rarely of the grown up variety) and it’s also mandatory to spend several hours in the park regardless of the weather.  Having said that, every now and again it’s a bit of a treat to have an afternoon away with the girls and not have to wipe the snot and break up the fights.  Thus was born The Ladies that Afternoon Tea.

Over the next year or so (or perhaps decade) our intrepid group of ladies are intending to bring you the lowdown on the best afternoon teas out there for that well deserved trip out. Selflessly sacrificing hours of our own Saturdays we’ll let you know who does the best sandwiches, who has the best chairs and, most importantly, the biggest cakes.  We’ll mostly be focusing on Manchester in the first instance but who knows where our afternoon tea adventures may take us?!

Our first stop a couple of weekends ago, was the King St Townhouse which, annoyingly, is not actually on King St at all but Booth St but we’ll let them off that minor indiscretion (and also for being within view of my office which is a bit off-putting on a Saturday).

This is a truly lovely hotel, one of the stable of Eclectic Hotels, which opened to the public in December 2015. The décor is beautifully done and as soon as you’re through the door you’re made to feel like you’re going to experience a real treat.

Our only criticism of the hotel on this front is that we were seated in a small area off the main bar and restaurant which was a bit cramped. This we could have lived with but our table also had weirdly small chairs which made you feel like you were sitting with your knees around your neck.

We spent quite a while trying to understand the reasoning behind this furnishing decision – was it because the ceiling was quite low and they were trying to compensate by chopping half of the legs off the chairs so you didn’t notice? Were they trying to effect a chaise longue feeling but without the longue?  Who knows?  But what we do know is that we’re some way off retirement age and it was still hard to stand up after 2 hours in that position.

On a more positive note, two of the ladies had noted before we got started that the problem with Afternoon Tea is often that there isn’t enough of it. This definitely wasn’t the case at KST, there was more than enough to go around and a good chance you’ll need a doggy bag at the end of it.  I’m a bit picky when it comes to sandwiches but there was a great selection and a good veggie alternative for one of our ladies.  Don’t be too tempted to fill up on the sandwiches though as the cakes are coming next.

IMG_0768

And what cakes they are. Scones (naturally) with clotted cream and jam which were great.  We also had an amazing raspberry panna cotta which was my favourite part of the meal as well as Bakewell tarts (lovely), pistachio profiteroles (in raptures) and an orange cheesecake which as you can see was a slightly off-putting colour but still went down well with most.

IMG_0769

For the £30 fee you also get a glass of champagne which was really good quality or you can choose to have it with just tea and a soft drink for £23.50.

All in all the food went down a storm and it was hard to fault them in this regard.

In general I think the service at the hotel is good and you’re made to feel very welcome as soon as you arrive but we did deduct points for the fact that our server had to go and check when we asked what was in the sandwiches and what the cakes were which you’d think would be a fairly straightforward request. Having said that, we did discover that they were pretty good in emergency situations when they looked after an old man that fell and hit his head while we were there.  So that’s good to know.

And so to the scores on the doors.

We will score each tea a score out of 30 for each of the following:

  • Sandwiches
  • Cakes
  • Drinks
  • Service
  • Atmosphere

The KST scored well in all regards.

For sandwiches we awarded them a whopping 27/30 or 90%

For cakes an admirable 23/30 or 76%

For drinks an amazing 29/30 or 96%

For service a slightly lower 16/30 or 53%

For atmosphere a middling 21.5/30 or 71%

All in all the food and drink are fab but KST you need to sort out your chairs if you are anticipating an audience of greater height than 3ft 5”.

Emma

 

Meal Planner (Archive)

img_0777

Week starting 6th March

After a week off from the meal planner (but not from eating don’t worry), I’m back on it this week with this week’s plan and hopefully also with a blog later this week on the first in a series of review of Manchester-based afternoon tea establishments after a visit to The King Street Townhouse on Saturday.

Tomorrow we’re starting with an oldie but a goodie – pasta pesto. Now that Max (the 5yo) can read he can obviously see the meal planner and looks ahead. When he sees this he counts down the days until it’s pasta pesto day. There is a special reverence for the green stuff in this household.

On Tuesday we will probably be having a day off/pizza house visit as it’s his Parent’s Evening. I’m anticipating that it’s going to be a relatively positive one (because he’s a swot) and so I can reward him/me with some tea out after we’ve sat on the tiny chairs.

Wednesday I’m planning on working from home for the day so can do a slightly more interesting midweek meal than usual. I’m going to go for Toad in the Hole because it’s another crowd pleaser and I’ll make some onion gravy for the grown ups. My parents are both from Yorkshire so I’ve both eaten and made a lot of Yorkshire puddings and there are a few things which are key to a nice fluffy pudding. The first, I think, is a good mix – see the one below which has a lot of great ratings. The second is whisking plenty of air into the batter and the third, and the most important in my book, is getting the oil good and hot before you pour the batter in.

https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9020/best-yorkshire-puddings

On Thursday it’s going to be veggie stir fry with noodles and then on Friday we’re finally doing our long awaited Spicery curry night which is a chicken jalfrezi with all of the trimmings.

I’ve mentioned The Spicery on this blog before but in case you missed it it’s a subscription service to a spicing site which sends you a set of bespoke spices each month to make a recipe from somewhere around the world. It includes all of the spice mixes to exact quantities as well as a detailed recipe card. So far I’ve had the spices for this jalfrezi meal, for a tagine, for a Szechuan dish and this month for a fab looking Iranian meal. If you want to see more you can check it out here:

https://www.thespicery.com

On Saturday I’m going to make some crab cakes with potted crab meat. I think I might neglect to tell the kids it’s crab in case it puts them off but I love crab so I hope it’s something they’ll tolerate more frequently. Granted it isn’t cheap but for a nice weekend meal I think it’s worth it.

And then finally we’re off out on Sunday for a birthday extravaganza. My mum is turning 70, my niece is turning 18 and my nephew is turning 21 all in the space of 3 days so we’re all off out to celebrate – with a big meal of course. Oh and it’s also my birthday a few days later but I’m a non-interesting age so they’ll just forget about little old me… sob. Actually that suits me just fine, trying to forget that next year is a big one myself…

Have a good week!

Emma

The Home Cook

Without wishing to sound like a stalker, I do tend to follow what Thomasina Miers does with interest.  This is partly because I’m a bit of a Masterchef addict and wannabe and that’s where her career took off.  It’s also because about 10 years ago my then little family (now mostly my size) enjoyed her Cook’s Tour of Spain together; there were lots of moments which, because we spend a lot of time with family there, resonated with us – such as the goose-necked barnacle eating!  I spent time in Spain (pre-children) too and Miers spent time in Mexico, collecting ideas and recipes.  Ok, so she did more with her experience but I’m not bitter….! Now that it seems both she and I have 3 kids, I thought there might some common concerns and decided I’d give this new book a go and see how useful and inspiring it was.

IMG_4944

 

So I was impressed on flicking through, which I did as soon as the book arrived, instead of focusing on the essay I was supposed to be writing (shh!). It was a weekend and I’d promised a roast of some sort so I decided to try out the Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder with Anchovies, Rosemary and Potatoes.  I like shoulder because it’s cheap and slow-roasted is nice and tender for the kids.  This is a pretty quick thing to throw together before heading out to do something else.

 

IMG_4911

 

Verdict:  Very tasty; the kids enjoyed the lamb in particular.  The only criticism was that the potatoes were a little greasy; so even though the idea is to do this as a one-pot thing, I’d probably cook the potatoes separately rather than under the meat.

 

Whilst that was roasting, I put in some chopped sweet potato to roast for another recipe, to take to work the next day (unusual organisation). The recipe for Sweet Potato & Watercress Salad with Quick Labneh really appealed to me because it reminded me of one of my other favourite cookbooks, Moro.  It also satisfies the cook-geek in me, suspending yoghurt in a muslin over a home-made contraption which the kids enjoyed mocking me for.

IMG_4913

Verdict:  It made going to work something of a pleasure.  It was delicious, different and filling.  The labneh (strained yoghurt) turned out surprisingly well and the dukkah (crushed spices and nuts) really brought everything together.

 

All in all, this is a great book and I’ve got a good few things ear-marked to try next.  Top of the list is the Coconut and Jasmine Rice Pudding, which is right up my coconut-obsessed daughter’s street.  Miers has really thought about things which are interesting but not too ridiculous, or too expensive.  It is good for families, as well as for special occasions; the food is tasty without being unhealthy and is influenced by different cultures in a knowledgeable way.  It’s enjoyable to read and I only have one criticism – I like pictures of everything!

Cara