Sunday, April 14, 2013


We did quite a bit of entertaining over the Easter holidays, and the most challenging aspect of choosing a menu for me, was choosing what vegetables to serve.  I want veggies that complement the main dish, and that are a little bit different - side dishes that look and taste as though you have gone to some effort.

We invited my husband's family over for Saturday evening, and there were 16 of us eating - I love having a large number for dinner as it gives me a chance to try out new recipes and allows for some experimenting too (my theory being that if there are enough people present, someone will like every dish!!).  On this occasion the recipe I tried was Nigella's Roast Red Onions with Basil (from Nigellissima) and I threw together this Asparagus, Peas and Sugar Snaps with Pesto and both went down really well.  The onions were a useful addition to the repertoire as they can wait out of the oven happily for at least an hour - which is wonderful when there is pressure for space in the oven.  They were delicious, the basil being an unexpected flavour combination (I would usually go with thyme or sage with onion dishes) that worked very well - and another bonus, they were lovely reheated the next day.

The pea dish was also a great choice for entertaining, as the asparagus stem can be cooked ahead of time, along with the peas - and then a final few minutes on a high flame will reheat them and cook the asparagus tips and the sugar snaps - easy peasy (please forgive me for the awful pun - sometimes I just can't help myself, it's an affliction!!). 

The two side dishes worked well together as the mellow round flavours of the onions contrasted well with the fresh crispness of the greens.  I also served Piedmont Peppers and Butternut Squash with Blue Cheese, and they all worked really nicely.

Asparagus, Peas and Sugar Snaps with Pesto

All I did was, break off the woody part of the asparagus stem and discard (you could of course save them for soup).
I then cut off the tips and put them aside. 
I chopped up the stems and allowed them to cook in a tiny amount of water for a few minutes, then I added a small packet of frozen peas and cooked until defrosted.
 At this stage you can put aside to cool down and then reheat later. 
When ready to serve add the sugar snaps and asparagus tips and steam for a minute or two.
Remove from the heat and add a tablespoon of pesto.
This is nice served with some Parmesan shavings (if I hadn't forgotten them!!!)

Roast Onions with Basil
based on Nigella Lawson's recipe

1 kg        Onions (I used pink - they were so pretty)
100ml     Olive oil
Pinch       Caraway seeds
1 tsp        Maldon Salt (or your favourite)
2 tsp        Good balsamic vinegar
1 pkt        basil leaves (fresh)

Preheat oven to 180 C

Quarter the onions and then peel them.
Place them in a roasting tin, and cover with the olive oil.
Scatter with the caraway seeds (Nigella uses fennel, but I'm not a fan)
Roast for about 1 hour, or until totally cooked through.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Season with the salt and vinegar.
You can allow to stand for up to an hour in a warm kitchen.
When you are ready to serve scatter the torn basil leaves over the onions.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


This is a recipe that just has to be shared - easy, delicious, healthy and nutritious, you can't ask for much more than that.  This is my "everyday" bread recipe, and has evolved over time (a commodity I have less and less of! - good job it takes so little of it to throw together).  The recipe is totally adaptable - and can be made with just four ingredients, but it is so easy to play with that you rarely go for the unadulterated version.

The revelation for me was that self raising flour (wholewheat and white)  makes a great bread - with no faffing about with yeast or even bicarbonate of soda (added benefit is that sunflower seeds don't go that alarming shade of green).

Another benefit is that you can use up old milk - you know that carton in the fridge that you don't dare use in your coffee.  I have used fresh milk, sour milk, goats milk, soya milk and even almond milk - all to great effect.

Then come the additions - I usually throw in a handful of seeds (linseeds, sun flower seeds, pumpkin seeds) and a handful or two of oats (must be the cheapest super food around).  I regularly replace the sugar with some treacle, and it is delicious when I replace some of the milk with a tub of hazelnut yogurt.  The choices are many and all yours -:

Basic Bread

250g       self raising wholemeal flour
200g       plain self raising flour
2 tsp       sugar
400ml     milk (approx)

Preheat oven to 180 C

Mix the dry ingredients together and then add enough milk to make a very slightly sloppy mixture - think porridge like. 

Spoon into a prepared loaf tin and bake for about 80 minutes.

It's ready when you tap the bottom and get a hollow sound.