Wednesday, 20 August 2014


Peppers roasting in the street in Avola, Sicily

This has been the summer of BBQ’s both at home and away. We went back to Sicily and loved it just as much the second time.

Kindly pepper roaster

On every street corner in Sicily there seemed to be someone with a little BBQ roasting peppers or fish. We stopped here in Avola to buy some aubergines and peppers and the man above gave me a bag of cherries as a present when I took his picture.

In Palermo the men in via Butera spent the whole day preparing the charcoal and fish in the street before doing a roaring trade in the evening with crowds sitting at their rough tables on miss matched chairs, eating freshly caught fish.

Roasted aubergines in Sicily

Elsewhere round the island people roasted what they had on homemade BBQ grills in the street. Aubergines, peppers, onions. The smells tempt you as you walk past. Unlike here in the UK no one is quoting health and safety regulations at them, so they grow their veg or buy it from the local van that drives around the street and roast it. Other people buy it. Simple.  

Seafront near Avola,Sicily

We spent a week on the coast outside Noto, the gorgeous baroque town I have posted about before and home to the wonderful Caffe Sicilia- more about that later, and I went to Pescheria FLLI SPUGNETTI fishmongers in Avola, with my friend Ernesto.

Pescheria, near Avola, Sicily

The locals go as much for a chat as to buy their fish. Each visit includes handshakes, pats on the back and lots of banter. 

Fresh swordfish, Sicily

Catch of the day, Sicily

Chatting with the customers, Pescheria Avola

Banter on the shop floor! Sicily

One of the best things we ate was from them was local dentice, which looks a bit like a sea bream but apparently isn’t. It was quite simply delicious.

Fresh Sicilian Dentice, ready to BBQ.

Back at home, keen to prolong the holiday spirit and fight the creeping autumnal chill, we have continued to BBQ. The best thing has been local Hampshire trout, simply seasoned and with wedges of lemon. We might have to wear jumpers and sometimes due to rain, sit indoors but it tasted fantastic. 

Which sort of makes up for the cold!  

Hampshire Trout ready to BBQ


1.     Keep it simple.
2.     Buy some fresh fish. Easier said than done here, where there aren’t many fishmongers. But supermarkets are fine.
3.     Heat the BBQ and make sure you have a wire rack that the fish can’t fall through.
4.     Wash the fish in cold water. Some suggestions for serving
Trout – stuff wedges of lemon in the sides two per fish
Dentice- sea bream or snapper stuff with herbs like basil, parsley and bay then drizzle with olive oil and lemon
Prawns- as they are. Serve with a garlic butter or mayonnaise
Sword fish- drizzle with lemon and olive oil

 Cooking time varies but is always quick, about 7 minutes per side for the trout and slightly more for the larger fish.

BBQ prawns in San Vito, Sicily

Monday, 11 August 2014

A TASTE OF SUMMER- Rhubarb and Orange Swiss Roll- Inspired by the Great British Bake Off

GBBO inspired Swiss Roll

As we returned a few days ago into a grey and gloomy Britain after a few weeks away, I could feel our spirits sink, all except one daughter.

“Hey, The Great British Bake Off starts again today, so it’s not all bad!” She said enthusiastically.

However the following day whilst I tackled the washing then the overgrown and somewhat dead plants in the garden, typical we go away when there is a heat wave and so all the tomatoes and most of the beans I have nurtured are totally dried up and shrivelled..the Not Just For Rabbits Teens got creative  inspired by their viewing.

Using left over rhubarb jam made last summer, see post ...for September 2013...and oranges they created a light delicious cake that has all the reminders of warm summer sunshine that you need.

Food from the garden

Using left over rhubarb jam made last summer, see post for September 2013 for the recipe

..and oranges they created a light delicious cake that has all the reminders of warm summer sunshine that you need.


Serves 4 plus

Preparation time 10 minutes

Cooking time 8 minutes


3 eggs

3 oz caster sugar

3 oz plain flour

Zest of an orange and juice of half 

4 TBSP Rhubarb and vanilla jam


1.      Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees

2.      Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.

3.      Gently fold in the flour and orange zest.

4.      Pour into a lined tin (around 28x18cm) and cook for 8 minutes

5.      Remove from the oven turn out onto a sheet of baking paper dusted with sugar, then peel off the paper and score gently at 1 inch along one shorter side.
6.       Roll gently up as tightly as you can without the cake cracking, then when cooler squeeze over a little orange juice then smoother with rhubarb jam and re-roll
7.      When totally cool dust with icing sugar and eat!!

This is very light and the rhubarb and orange just give it a really different taste 

Rhubarb and orange swiss roll

Sunday, 6 April 2014


Stinging nettles

“Stinging Nettles?”

“Are you joking? Why can’t we just have normal basil pesto?”

That was the reaction I received when I produced this rather bright green looking pesto the other day. I must admit it isn’t something I've made before however, this doesn’t usually deter me from trying something new.

Recently there have been lots of articles in the paper and magazines about gathering your own food for free, maybe it’s the recession or just that spring is in the air. Who knows, however when I saw a huge patch of nettles at the back of the house I thought, Why not!


The actual making of the pesto was really easy. The hardest part was trying to gather enough nettles to make a substantial quantity of pesto for the four of us.

nettle detail

It sounds stupid but it's amazing how light the leaves are. Fine if you live in the country side with abundant lanes and hedge rows, however in the city, they are harder to come by. It goes without saying you do need to wear thick gloves and have scissors and a tray or bag to put them in as you need bundles of the things.

I’m pleased to say I managed the whole thing without getting stung...but still had to answer the question

"Why eat nettles?" 

After a quick bit of research I found out that they are rich in vitamins A, C, D, K and many other minerals including iron and can often be used as a substitute for spinach. I won't put them in my salad like spinach, but cooked in a pesto, they are great.

 The colour alone is worth making it for, it's such a bright, intense green.

Intense green homemade nettle pesto

It is certainly different and served with homemade tagliatelle it's lovely, AND was a real hit with everyone.... 

 So if you have run out of basil pesto and have a patch of stingers nearby give it a go.

Spring shoots


Serves 4-6
Preparation time 5 minutes
Cooking time 5 minutes


 3 slugs of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
1 Tbsp pistachio nuts
4 Tbsp Walnut oil
60g  stinging nettles
20g Parmesan
 Salt and pepper to taste

Nettle pesto with half a ladle full of the pasta water

1.     First wash the nettles in boiling water, then place in salted boiling water and boil for 5 minutes.
2.     2. Meanwhile chop a clove of garlic put it in a food blender, I used a hand held one, add the pistachio nuts, and when drained, the nettle mush and oils and blend.
3.     If you are serving straight away then add the cheese if not, refrigerate and add the cheese when you need.

Cook your pasta as needed and then add half a ladle of the pasta water to the pesto in a pan and heat gently before adding the cooked pasta into the pesto.

Really simple!! The hardest thing is not getting stung when you pick them!!

Nettle pesto pasta served in a Richard Bramble bowl.

Thursday, 3 April 2014


Florentines in the spring sunshine

Apologies to all the kind people who have been asking why I haven't been posting on the blog and saying how they miss it. I’m sorry. I have missed not having the time over the past few months to write. I have been in a tunnel of work, which is slowing thankfully, however it has left me feeling like a mole emerging from the dark after the long dark winter.

Luckily signs of spring are everywhere and I am enjoying the sunshine, the time to think about life, to watch the birds and butterflies busy about amongst the blossom.

There were so many moments that I had wanted to share over the past few months but time got the better of me. Autumn, winter, Christmas...where did they go?

There have been a couple of significant changes in our household.

Firstly Teen V is fully recovered and back on with her life, and more significantly, eating meat again. This is rather funny as the whole reason I started the blog was to share the recipes and ideas that I, a non veggie but keen foodie, with a veggie teenager, discovered. The good news is I am still cooking lots of vegetarian food and constantly developing new recipes despite her wanting spaghetti bolognaise or roast chicken now.

The other significant addition to our household was, according to Teen Foodie 

"the best Birthday present ever" beating the sparkly sequin dress, the pasta maker that she received from her godmother for her birthday. (Thank you A!)

I must say Teen Foodie has quickly become excellent at making fresh tagliatelle, lasagne to name but a few. 

Flowers and chocolate

There have been several debates about my first post after such a long time.
 “It has to be a pasta recipe” was Teen Foodies input.

“No a tart with the fresh rhubarb” Teen V suggested. 

However the thing that I have enjoyed most recently and is one of the first treats I have cooked for a while, Florentines. I had some at a friend’s the other day and just couldn’t get the sweet little nutty treats out of my head.

They are a real pick me up, just what I needed.

As always I have tried a few recipes and adapted them to suit my mood and tastes.

So here is my recipe for pick me up Florentines, with a little help from Nigella and inspiration from WHAT KATIE ATE.

Florentine with a drizzle of dark chocolate 


Makes about 20
Preparation time 10 minutes
Cooking time 8-10 minutes


80g whole almonds
20g hazelnuts
90g of Italian mixed peel
40g of glace cherries
25 g unsalted butter
90g caster sugar
15g plain flour
150ml double cream

½ a bar about 50g of chocolate melted to drizzle over the cooked Florentines


1.     Pre heat the oven to 190 degrees. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
2.     Roughly smash the nuts up in a bag and roughly chop the cherries.
3.     Put the butter and sugar in a saucepan and melt them gently so they don’t burn.
4.     When melted add the flour and stir to make a thick dough like paste then take off the heat and add the cream, making sure you whisk in quickly until it is smooth. At this stage it tastes slightly careful it is very hot though if you are sampling it!
5.     Now stir in all the lovely fruit and nuts.
6.     Using a teaspoon make blobs of mixture that you spread evenly on the baking sheet. Beware they do spread a lot so do leave 5cm between each blob.
7.     Put them in the oven for about 8-10 minutes until they are golden brown.
8.     Remove them from the oven and leave on the baking sheet to harden. You can easily remould them at this stage if they have blended into one big mass.
9.     When they are hardened slide them off the baking paper and leave to cool on a wire rack.
10.                        Melt the chocolate carefully so as not to scald it. You can use a microwave or the old fashioned bowl over a saucepan; either way, make sure you do it slowly. Then, drizzle the melted chocolate with a spoon over the crunchy Florentines in artistic patterns!

You can totally cover one side with chocolate but I just found that too much.. the drizzles looks good and makes them slightly less heavy.

Florentines and camellia's