Showing posts with label Entertaining. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Entertaining. Show all posts

Monday, 13 August 2012

What to eat tonight - Cajun fish with sweetcorn and avocado salad



After having success after success with recipes from the Waitrose Kitchen magazine it is fast becoming my go to mag for a quick and delicious mid-week supper. Serve this beauty with a delicious crisp white wine and you're onto a winner!

Preparation time:10 minutes
Cooking time:10 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

4 Icelandic plaice fillets
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Cajun seasoning
326g can sweetcorn in water, drained
1 avocado, roughly chopped
1 x ½ x 250g pack cherry tomatoes, halved
1 x ½ red onion, sliced
1 lime, zest and juice
1 red chilli, deseeded and sliced
1 x ½ x 28g pack coriander, roughly chopped
4 tbsp half fat soured cream

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C, gas mark 4. Place the fish skin-side down on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Mix 1 tbsp olive oil with the Cajun seasoning and brush over the top of the fish. Roast for 5 - 6 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, mix the sweetcorn, avocado, tomatoes, red onion, lime zest, chilli and the remaining oil in a bowl. Season and toss with most of the coriander.

3. Mix the soured cream with the remaining coriander and lime juice. Serve the fish with the sweetcorn salad and the herby soured cream.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

What to eat tonight - Chilled Cucumber Soup



I have learnt over the years that chilled soup is a little bit like marmite. It’s something that you either love or hate. I still very clearly remember on a hot summer's evening a few years ago, cooking a 'fancy' dinner party for a group of friends and serving this little number as a starter.

I presented it with pride in a beautiful silver soup dish, sprinkled it with parsley and mint, chuffed as nuts that my guests were going to love the gorgeous creamy crispy chilled cucumber yumminess that awaited them. The oohs and aaahs were swiftly followed by confusion, which, I must admit, I was oblivious to at the time! So at the end of the evening and after a few glasses of vino blanco, one of my guests came over to me and in a 'Come dine with me' tone that was hideously embarrassing for me (rather than for him) whispered … ‘It was really great and all, but the only thing is... it was a bit cold...’

Needless to say, despite selling the concept to the best of my ability, he wasn't at all convinced by soup on the rocks and this is the thing with chilled soup - it’s an opinion divider.  Like marmite, you love it or you hate it! I have, however, learnt my lesson and only make it if I know I will have happy guests at the end of the evening.

Personally, I love soup - it's generally (if you avoid the stilton, creamy ones) low in fat, full of the good stuff and it fills you up - what's not to love?!

So do as the Italians do and enjoy yours cold! Here is my recipe for the perfect chilled cucumber soup just as my mama made it. It is a very relaxed, simple recipe and the amount of milk/cream you add is up to how thick or light you prefer your soup. Hope you like it!

Chilled Cucumber Soup
  • 2 Cucumber - grated or roughly chopped 
  • 1 cup of yoghurt 
  • 2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar 
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
  • Cream/milk depending on texture 
  • Half a clove of garlic grated 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Small bunch of parsley/mint to garnish 
Whizz altogether gently so you still have the bite of the cucumber.
Keep in the fridge until ready to serve
Serve chilled.

Do you have a favourite cold soup? We’d love to know which one you like. Or if it’s not your thing – we’re happy to hear what you love eating on a hot summers evening instead.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What to eat tonight - Pasta alla Norma

"Life is too short, and I'm Italian. I'd much rather eat pasta and drink wine than be a size 0."
Sophia Bush

And I agree.

Since watching the entire box set of the Sopranos I have been completely obsessed with Italian food. To be honest, I am sure it actually started way before that, but the Sopranos definitely revived it for me. I remember sitting on the kitchen counter as a little girl, with my dad checking whether spaghetti was cooked by throwing it up onto the ceiling - if it was cooked - it would stick. I am not sure if this really worked, but hey, it was fun at the time.

Tonight I am cooking Jamie Oliver's Pasta alla Norma. It easy and SO full of flavour - perfect for a midweek meal. First things first, pour yourself a glass of cold white wine and get cooking Italiano style.

Buon appetito

Pasta alla Norma 

Pasta alla Norma - photo courtesy of Jamie Oliver - Jamie's Italy
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 large aubergines
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
optional: 1 dried red chilli, crumbled
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil stalks finely sliced keep the leaves
1 teaspoon good herb or white wine vinegar
2 x 400g tins of good quality chopped plum tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
455g dried spaghetti
150g salted ricotta, pecorino or parmesan cheese grated
  1. Cut your aubergines in half lengthways and the in half again so they are finger sized pieces. If the aubergines have fluffy centres remove them and chuck away
  2. Get a large non stick pan and fry the aubergine in oil and dried oregano - don't use too much oil - just enough to make sure the aubergine is lightly coated and is able to brown
  3. Once cooked add the chilli and turn it down to medium heat and add a little oil, the garlic and basil stalks 
  4.  Stir so everything gets cooked evenly, then add a swig of herb vinegar and the tins of tomato
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes then TASTE and correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Tear up half the basil add to the sauce and toss around
  6. Get your spaghetti in a pan of boiling water and cook according to the packet instructions. 
  7. When it's al dente, drain it in a colander and reserve a little of the cooking water 
  8. Add it to the Norma sauce with a little of the reserved cooking water, toss together back on the heat
  9. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking 
  10. Sprinkle with remaining basil leaves, grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. 
Let us know how you get on..



Sunday, 17 June 2012

Daddy's Girls - the perfect steak

It's Father’s Day today and if you haven’t got a snazzy restaurant booked in yet, we're saying go back to basics and keep it simple. 

Courtesy of the best steak restaurant in London - Hawksmoor


As daughters (and wives and sisters) of meat-loving men, we have spent many years witnessing the pursuit of perfection, when it comes to cooking steak.

It is essential to get your cooking technique just right and there are lots of theories on how you should do it. We have a Sous Vide water bath, well-used Weber BBQ, a thick bottomed pan, blow torch, ergonomic tongs, razor sharp Japanese knives, about 14 different types of mustard, and books by everyone from Delia to Heston to Jamie, to prove our dedication to this very cause!

So, if happiness to your Dad is a beautifully cooked piece of meat, accompanied by a bold bottle of rouge, here are a few tips that we highly recommend, courtesy of the excellent ‘Hawksmoor at Home’ cookbook that we think will guarantee you the perfect steak.

If our Dad’s were close by (hope you’re listening Dad’s) this is what we would be doing to celebrate Father’s Day:

TEN TIPS FOR THE PERFECT STEAK

1. Quality not quantity – It’s important to buy the best cut of meat – personally, we are fillet girls, but most men like a good rib-eye or sirloin on the bone. If you want a bit more on this, here is a quick guide on the best cuts from ‘The Ginger Pig’ in London.

Any good butcher will be able to advise you on the best cuts, but if you want to know all the right questions to ask, here is a buyer's guide.

2. Go BIG or go home – if you want the meat to be charred on the outside, but juicy and pink in the middle – 300g and 4cm thick is the ideal size.

3. Make sure your steak is dry - pat with a paper towel to remove any moisture - otherwise the meat will steam in the pan and you will struggle to form a decent crust.

4. Season the meat WELL before you cook it – probably more than you might think. Use a mix of 40% sea salt and 60% smoked sea salt – trust us, this makes all the difference.

5. The only way is HOT and we’re talking HOT HOT HOT - Make sure your pan is as hot as you can get it – put the heat on high and give it about 5 minutes to get up to temperature (you shouldn’t be able to hold your hand near the heat without it burning!). If you’re cooking inside, open the window so you don’t get totally smoked out.

6. Don’t use any oil on the meat or in the pan - if the grill is hot enough, the meat won’t stick.

7. Don’t be afraid to flip the steak every 10 – 15 seconds. Each time you turn the meat over it cooks slightly on one side, allowing you to get the perfect crust, without overcooking the centre.

8. If you’re cooking a sirloin or rib-eye and there is a thick layer of fat, remember to brown it first – the easiest way to do this is by holding the meat, fat-side down, with a pair of tongs.

9. When your steak is cooked how you like it, (if you want it rare it should be similar in feel to the fleshy part of your palm under your thumb) put it on a warm plate and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes (a really thick steak will be better after 10).

10. Serve with frites, mustard and a simple green salad. Voila!

Pair your perfect steak with a fine bottle of red wine – there really is no better alternative. We had a fantastic bottle of (South African) Cederburg Shiraz 2008 recently, which we would highly recommend.

A saucy tip
The sauce you serve with your steak will affect your wine pairing. When researching this blog, we stumbled across an incredible website by Fiona Beckett, whose son is the man behind Hawksmoor (can you tell we’re fans?!). She outlines the changes a sauce will make to how you should choose your wine.

If this is not your idea of fun, you could always buy your Dad the book and he could do it himself! ;) 

Have a happy Father’s Day!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Jubilee Garden Party Part 4

“I am thankful for the mess to clean after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.” - Nancie J. Carmody 


Though the Diamond Jubilee is now a distant memory (and this post is slightly late!) – blame it on the long weekend and a week of holiday – fear not, we have not forgotten! This is our final Jubilee post where we show you how we transformed our ideas on paper to over-all pretty (well, we think so at least!). 

Thanks to the wonderful English summer, our Jubilee Garden Party was a lot less ‘garden’ than we had planned. Luckily we didn’t let that dampen our spirits – we opted for plan B and moved the party indoors. 

I always forget how much work goes into hosting a party – food preparation (is there going to be enough?), decorating (will anyone even notice the miniature food flags?), more food prep (how hungry will everyone be?), drinks (is there such a thing as too much wine?), ding-dong (the guests are early!). 

But as the quote above so nicely puts it, all of the planning and preparation is worth it if you’ve celebrated with friends. And celebrate we did… 

Before we share a few of our favourite pics from the day, a huge ‘we-appreciate-you-so-much’ shout-out must go to our wonderful (long-suffering) husbands. Thank you for cutting, slicing, pouring, hanging, dicing and hosting with us. We couldn’t have done it without you both (we know you secretly enjoyed it all!).

The food...



The drinks...



The decor...



The photobooth signs made by the very talented Roxy Sayer...



Did you have as much fun as we did? 




Monday, 28 May 2012

Jubilee Garden Party Part 3

What is a party without a puffy paper pom pom? 


When I was planning my own wedding I spent many, many hours poring over inspiring blogs with creative ‘how-to’s’. It made me want to DIY everything – stationery, food, d├ęcor, my veil. I was constantly amazed at the perfect Martha Stewart-esque weddings created from nothing but tissue paper, coloured card and double-sided tape! 

Of all the DIY tutorials I came across, the tissue paper pom poms were my favourite – so light, so fluffy, so dreamy.

Sadly I didn’t end up making these for my wedding (the most I DIY-ed was the labels for our favour table – my brilliant mum and mum-in-law did the rest!). 

Our Jubilee Garden Party has given me the perfect excuse to make them. The best bit? They’re easy peasy lemon squeezy! 

Note: Please excuse the fuzzy iPhone pictures - I can assure you that these look spectacular in real life!


How to make: Tissue Paper Pom Poms 

Step 1: 
Lay 12 sheets of tissue paper flat on the table (most tutorials suggest eight, but I think 12 gives you a fluffier result!). Make (roughly) 3.5cm wide accordion folds, creasing with each fold (so it looks like a fan). 


Step 2: 
Cut a (roughly) 30cm piece of steel wire or florist’s wire (I used garden wire because that’s all I could get hold of!). Then fold your accordion-folded tissue paper in half (to find the centre). Wrap the wire around the middle and twist it to secure it (tightly, but not so tightly that it rips). Wrap the ends of the wire so it creates a loop. 


Step 3: 
Using a sharp pair of scissors, trim the ends of the tissue paper stack (into either round or pointy shapes). I personally prefer pointy. 



Step 4: 
Lay your pom pom on a flat surface and very gently separate the layers – the tissue paper tears easily, so be patient. Pull it out from the bottom, as near to the wire as you can get. 


Step 5: 
Tie a piece of clear fishing wire or ribbon onto the hook and hang it from the ceiling. Ta da!



Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Jubilee Garden Party Part 2

"After all, what is your host's purpose in having a party? Surely not for you to enjoy yourself; if that were their sole purpose, they'd have simply sent champagne and women over to your place by taxi." - P.J. O'Rourke


This week we created our guest list (hand-picked for their scintillating conversation and general loveliness - but mostly for their photogenic features... they are going to appear on the blog after all!) and sent out our invitations.

We've included a few of our favourites below if you are still looking for some invitation inspiration:


Above left: The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Tea Party Invitations (free printable) via the lovely Lyndsay at All Things Handmade
Above right: Bunting Party Invitations via notonthehighstreet.com
Bottom left: Jubilee Modern Vintage Designs (Iris Art Designs) via Folksy
Bottom right: Prepare to Party (Really Good Card Company) via John Lewis


And finally, the "green" version we sent out using Paperless Post. Fit for a Queen (or at the very least, a Duchess)!



Monday, 7 May 2012

Jubilee Garden Party Part 1

We don't need much of an excuse to throw a party, so come June, we will be celebrating the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in style. 

Today we bring you the inspiration for our Jubilee Garden Party. Think cucumber sandwiches and sausage rolls, coronation chicken and Victoria sponge; Union Jack bunting and jugs of Pimms and punch in the sunshine. The sunshine part might be optimistic… 

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing the planning behind the scenes and then revealing the party in pictures. The excitement mounts! 

How will you be celebrating the Jubilee?