Valentine’s day dinner for the whole family

Valentine’s day dinner for the whole family

Valentine’s Day doesn’t feature largely in my life in the romantic sense since I’ve properly become a grown-up – by which I mean I have a 10y0 (A 7yo old too – but saying that doesn’t make me feel quite so old!), a never-diminishing mortgage, bags under my eyes and hair sprouting in peculiar places (feeling romantic yet?). As a teenager, a bunch of roses and a fancy steak dinner was validation to all that my relationship was not just puppy love, but the real thing and I placed more importance on it than birthdays. Which were EXTREMELY important. These days it is more about the children (frankly what isn’t?) and every year we have some kind of heart-themed play date around the 14th, a family meal and the exchanging of cards. This year along with the pink marshmallow flower bouquet and red-iced heart shaped cookies, we will be sitting down to this Valentine Day feast. OK – it is not steak and chips and chocolate fondue, but it is family friendly (well bar the parsley) and romantic in a less-hit-you-over-the-head-with-a-bunch-of-garage-flowers way than many traditional Valentine Day meals. Chicken pieces poached in wine (the alcohol burns off so the children can eat it) and garlic and served with a big plate of Persian jeweled rice is to me the perfect romantic meal for four. Exotic, yet everyday and easy to prepare. Leaving you time to put Barry White on the record player, get the heart-shaped sequins out and get stuck in to some Valentine’s Day crafts.  Pomegranate seeds add not only colour and intrigue (jewel-like they glisten in the rice) but represent fertility...
Valentine’s Day – a celebration of pink in a sea of blue

Valentine’s Day – a celebration of pink in a sea of blue

So. What do you think? I’m obviously very proud, as I’ve blown it up super-large. In fact, I’m not just proud. I am in love. I want to bathe in this photo, wallow in it, I want to live amongst those pretty pink sugar crystals. I’d like to paint the walls with those perfect hearts. Why am I so over-excited? Because I am the mother of boys. There is no pink in my life. There is only the soul-deadening russle of black nylon and the spirit-crushing glare of neon green. I am the mother of boys who like football. Jeans are a win in my household, I have to beg and plead to get son #1 to wear them, and usually he runs up at the last minute to change back into tracksuit bottoms. Six years ago, when I discovered during the five month scan that my second child would also be a boy I had a little moment. I allowed myself to sniff, wonder what I would do with my collection of Flower Fairy books and then I moved on. Occasionally I look at little girls in ballet tutus and fairy wings and feel a twinge. I was such a girly-girl growing up, the chance to relive it in an era when fairy wings are much easier to get hold of, where everything is available in pink glitter is very attractive. But instead I am surrounded by grey fleece and black nylon. I know mums of girls get infuriated by all the pink, but take it away from them and see what happens… This happens. This is what Valentine’s Day has morphed into...
Your crash guide to Christmas

Your crash guide to Christmas

Christmas is coming and in the five years since Claire and I started this blog we have learned a lot not just about Christmas but life, the universe and everything. Here is some of it, in handy-sized bullet points because at this time of year our brains can’t cope with anything but lists. Food and drink Make your gravy in advance – it is one of the most important and stressful bits about Christmas dinner as it is all done at the last minute, so making it a few days ahead takes the pressure off. There is an easy recipe here but leave out the star anise people. It is too much!  If that is too much faff, M&S turkey gravy is supposed to be the best shop-bought on offer. Likewise make your red cabbage in advance. It freezes really well. We made our own Clementine vodka this year as presents for friends, but it is also extremely delicious to have neat straight from the freezer. In a glass of course. It takes 10m to make, 3 days to steep and about 3 seconds to down. There is still plenty of time to make some before the 25th. What’s stopping you?  This very simple fruit loaf lasts for days, is easier to make than a normal Christmas cake and is very good with cheese.  Hate to boast but although these reindeer fairy cakes are everywhere this year, we first made them 4 years ago. Still as sweet now as they were then. For the best roast parsnip recipe click here For two great Brussels sprout recipes, click here. I love this lower fat mince pie – made with shop-bought filo pastry...
Two ways with sprouts

Two ways with sprouts

Sprouts – you either love them or hate them and although I started out as one of the latter I have ended up as one of the former, so it just goes to show in the life anything can happen. This year Claire and I set ourselves a challenge to come up with a new way to eat Brussels Sprouts. She made a delicious raw sprout, pomegranate, Parmesan and almond salad that is one of the best things she has made me. Ever. Whilst I pureed some sprouts with cream and Parmesan cheese and baked in the oven au gratin. This is great for Christmas day as you can do it before and just reheat it or m left-over sprouts. Being massively competitive sisters, we have decided to turn it into a competition – we made a film about it here – so please vote for your favourite in the comments below.  Sprout puree Takes: 10m Serves: 4 as a side dish 500g brussels sprouts, trimmed 40g butter 60g grated Parmesan cheese salt pepper Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, and cook the sprouts in it until just tender. I actually used ready sliced sprouts because I am extremely lazy. Drain then tip into the bowl of a food processor along with the butter and most of the cheese, reserving a handful for the top. Pulse until you have a rough, creamy purée. Spoon into an oven-proof dish and either sprinkle on the Parmesan and eat straight away or pop in the oven until the cheese melts. Raw sprout salad Takes: 15 m Serves: 6-8 depending on...
Cinnamon wreath

Cinnamon wreath

Now, as you may know, I’m not one to call attention to my perfection. I leave that to my husband and kids [hollow laugh]. But sometimes I exceed my own expectations and then, when sufficient praise doesn’t follow, I feel the need to draw attention to it. So. Here we go. Have you seen that picture? The one accompanying this post? The one of a cinnamon wreath which looks delicious, rustic, ok, maybe not quite bakery-bought, but pretty damn good all the same? I made that. In about half an hour. I know, I know. Comments below about how talented I am.  The idea behind it is that breakfast on Christmas morning can be a bit of a letdown, there are no bakeries open so normal treat-y breakfasts are out of bounds. However, a dearth of croissant and pain au chocolat needn’t make you downcast, because you can have this instead. Not only is it delicious, it can be easily prepped the night before, so there’s just 10 minutes faff in the morning before you pop it in the oven for 20 minutes. Time to open your stockings, inhale the incredible cinnamon aroma which fills your house and boom, it’s ready. Bring it to the table, a cafetiere of coffee at the ready, and yep, you’ve done it. You’re officially perfect too. For full details of the twirling it up (it’s really easy, but easier to understand in a demo than in words) take a look of the video we did of it here. Cinnamon Wreath Serves: 6-8 Start to finish: 20 mins prep, 1 hour (or overnight) proving, 10 mins...
Half term and Halloween

Half term and Halloween

Just a quickie, as I’m meant to be working. But if you are lucky enough to have half term off and want to spend at least some of it preparing for Halloween, here are some of the best recipes we’ve done for Halloween over the last few years. Some are great to do with the kids, some are better indulged in on your own. Lucy is on holiday, soaking up the rays in Devon – really, it’s gorgeous today! I am in the office for a couple of days, but will be free to finesse my mummy-cake making skills later on in the week. I made these with the help of my 6yo, and a Sainsbury’s icing pen – so easy! I wish every school cake sale was Halloween inspired! With the kids: Monster teeth cookies Spooky soups Scary donuts Food: Eyeball pasta Bonfire night bangers Edible eyeball jelly And fun:  Mulled cider Something for the kids How to make a jack’o’lantern quickly (and what to do with it once you...