I think it just might be that time of year, when the weather gets warmer, the jackets thinner, the meals lighter and seafood is in season. I am a strong believer in getting good quality produce. I understand that for most of us local is often not affordable (although more often than not this is actually a myth) but we try to at least go national. Making sure you only pick good quality products is particularly important when it comes to seafood, fish, meat and dairy. So most of the year prawns are a REAL treat. But spring is the time when you should indulge in these little things of loveliness, because they’re on offer everywhere and they are soooo good. There’s no need to smother them in copious amounts of sauce or cheese or anything like that. Just some lemon juice and olive oil work wonders.
Now this is what we had the other day and I would have it every day of the week if I could. It’s light and healthy and reminds me of the fact that spring is here.
PREPARATION 10 mins
COOKS 15 mins
- 250g fresh or frozen large prawns (to defrost your prawns, simply fill a large bowl or your kitchen sink with cold water and leave them in there for about 1hr. Mine floated, so I had to keep them pushed down with a glass bowl ;)
- 1-2 chillis, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- juice of 1 lemon
- zest of 1/2 lemon
- olive oil
- splash of white wine or dry vermouth
- fettuccine for 3 (approximately 75-100g per person), cooked to instructions
- a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
- a handful of chopped basil or parsley to garnish
- Get your pasta started.
- Mix the chillis, garlic and lemon zest with a little olive oil and fry in a pan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes.
- Add the prawns and wack up the heat. Mix thoroughly and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the prawns are warmed through. Now add the wine and half the lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. Once your pasta is done, drain it and add to the prawns. Mix with pasta tongs or two forks until everything is well combined. Add the remaining lemon juice, a generous amount of olive oil and the basil/parsley. Give it a final mix and serve.
This dish is soooo simple and absolutely divine. Enjoy with a glass of crisp white wine or cava/prosecco. Etta x
CUSTARD & SUMMER FRUIT CAKE
When it comes to cake I’m the kind of girl who will go for the simple sponge rather than the double cream chocolate fudge cake. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with cakes, creamed and iced to oblivion. However, nothing beats a moist sponge cake, especially when paired with creamy custard and fresh summer fruit. And that is why I ended up making this cake twice in one week.
Although not the most attractive piece of baking it was a real hit with everyone at work and generally anyone who tried it. - When it came to round two, it ended up being the mister’s birthday cake… and he was well chuffed, having it for breakfast, lunch and dinner (because you’re allowed to have cake for every meal on your birthday ;))
You will have to try this. It’s the ultimate spring/summer cake and lends itself perfectly for picnics and barbecues.
MAKES 1 CAKE
PREPARATION 20 mins
COOKS 90 mins
- 300ml ready made custard
- 300g fresh or frozen berries (defrosted), you can use any berries you like, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or cherries
- 250g unsalted butter
- 250g caster sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 250g plain flour
- 2tsp baking powder
- 125ml milk
- 4 tbsp brown sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 23cm/9inch round cake tin.
- Mix half your crushed berries into the custard until well combined.
- In a separate bow or food mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Now add the eggs, one by one until smooth and mixed thoroughly.
- Stir in the flour, baking powder, milk, and the remaining crushed berries.
- Pour half the mix into the cake thin then add the custard on top. Make sure you leave a 2cm edge around and only pour the custard in the middle. Now top with the remaining cake mixture.
- Sprinkle with the brown sugar and bake for 90mins. The baking time can vary slightly depending on your oven. Check by inserting a wooden skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean it’s done.
- Make sure you leave your cake to cool for about 1 hour. I mean seriously, leave it… don’t try to take it out or you’ll break it (yep, I did that).
Once cool, remove from the tin and demolish, with a nice cuppa of course. Yuuum!
Custard and Summer Fruit Cake recipe taken from Simon Rimmer and adapted by Etta.
I am by no means a health freak, nor am I one of those girls who wastes her time constantly checking the calorie content of every packet I pick up. However, and because I believe in a balanced and healthy diet, and because yesterday’s puff pizza was as sinful as can get, I decided to get some veggies into me.
I’ve never cooked pearl barley before and thought, why not give it a go. It was definitely worth it. The stew ended up being like a creamy risotto - without all the butter and cheese.
The label will most probably tell you to rinse the barley before using it in order to get rid of any excess starch. I decided against it, which helped my stew thicken beautifully.
This dish will take a little while to cook. And that is: to cook, not to prepare! It is one of those meals that require zero of your attention, apart from the occasional stir. So go off, pour yourself a glass of vino and watch an episode of CSI and tadaaa… dinner’s ready. Enjoy!
PREPARATION 10 mins
COOKS 60 mins
- 200g pearl barley
- 450-500g chicken thigh fillets, diced (you can also use chicken breast),
at room temperature
- 2 baby leeks, sliced (or one big leek)
- 150g frozen peas
- 1 large carrot, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large glass of white wine
- 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp Worcester sauce
- Parsley to garnish (optional)
- Fry your garlic, carrots and leeks in a little olive oil until soft then add the chicken and fry for about 5 minutes until lightly browned.
- Add the pearl barley and stir until it’s coated with the olive oil and the juices from the chicken. Pour in the wine and leave to reduce to half. Add the thyme and bay leaf and top up with the stock.
- Leave to simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and making sure your mixture doesn’t dry out. If it does, add a little water.
- Add the peas and Worcester sauce, mix thoroughly and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with a garnish of parsley if you want.
This dish is comfort food as comforting as it gets, super healthy and just incredibly good.
I am sure that you have noticed by now that I am a great lover of the chicken leg. It’s succulent, super flavoursome, versatile and so difficult to get wrong. Oh and did I mention, much better than an anaemic, dry chicken breast (no offence).
I spent quite a lot of time in Portugal a few years ago and Piri-Piri chicken reminds me of that time - of sunshine, cold beers, sangria, barbecues and the beach. It’s crispy and zesty and mouth-wateringly delicious and very easy and quick to make!
Because it’s spring now and spring means it’s almost summer (so excited!) I have been collecting some lighter recipes to share with you and to welcome the warmer season… and this one’s the first one.
We had the chicken with a tangy and sweet potato and feta mash but feel free to pair it with potato wedges, chips or a mixed salad and crusty bread. Scrumptious either way!
PREPARATION < 10 mins
COOK 45 mins
For the marinade
- small red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 red chillies (I used bird’s eye)
- 1tbsp smoked paprika (ideally the sweet one)
- 1 lemon (juice and zest)
- 2tbsp cider vinegar
- 1tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- a handful of basil leaves
For the chicken:
- 4 large chicken legs
- 2 peppers (ideally red and yellow), de-seeded and quartered
- 6 sprigs of thyme
For the potatoes:
- 1 potato (floury, such as Maris Piper or King Edward)
- 4 sweet potatoes
- 1/2 lemon
- 1 red chilli, finely chopped
- 50g salad cheese or feta, crumbled
- a handful of chopped coriander (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan and fry your chicken legs for approximately 15 minutes, skin-side down.
- Half your potatoes and place into a large microwaveable dish. Cover with cling film (pierce the cling film) and microwave on full power for 15 minutes.
- Chuck all you’re marinade ingredients + a lug of water into a liquidiser and whiz away until your marinade is smooth and liquid (you might have to stop half way through and give your liquidiser a shake to make sure everything gets mixed properly).
- Turn your chicken around with the skin-side up and fry for a further 5 minutes. Then place in a baking tray and pour over your marinade. Tuck the sliced peppers between the chicken and sprinkle with the fresh thyme. Cook in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes until the marinade has significantly reduced and your chicken soaked up all the lovely flavours.
- Take your potatoes from the microwave. Squeeze over the juice from the lemon (careful it’s hot) and stir everything with a fork, chopping the potatoes into bits as you go. Crumble the cheese and chopped chilli over the potatoes and continue mixing until your potatoes resemble a chunky mash. Season with salt and pepper. At this point you might want to sprinkle some coriander on top. I didn’t do so as, unfortunately I am one of those unlucky people whose palette cannot handle the trendy herb.
Serve the Piri-Piri chicken and peppers with the mash and enjoy with an ice cold bottle of lager or a light white wine.
Once the barbecue season has actually arrived, try marinading your chicken in a Tupperware the night before and take to a barbecue the next day.
Piri-Piri chicken recipe taken from Jamie Oliver and adapted by Toni.
….. And the following day I made this with the left-over chicken.
PIRI-PIRI CHICKEN SALAD
Mixed greens, Piri-Piri chicken, peppers, olives and cucumber with a lemon juice and olive oil dressing and toasted pitta bread. So simple and soooo yum!