Tag Archives: eating

Easy Christmas Dinner

This is going to be an odd year for many. May be you’re going to be tackling a smaller Christmas Dinner for the first time. May be you’ve decided to go all out now you don’t have to trek round to Auntie Sue’s because it’s “what you always do”! May be you’ve never cooked more than a fried egg but think this is your time to shine!

Whatever your situation, I thought it may be timely to do a little example of how to do a low effort Christmas Dinner as guidance for those that need it. Remember, Christmas Dinner is just a roast dinner but with cranberry sauce and crackers! Don’t let the weight of expectations get you down, this can be as simple or as complicated a meal as you want to make it!

You can look at the Christmas tag for some older recipes and round ups that are more comprehensive but I wanted to highlight some really simple recipes here. Whether you’re on your own or just a smaller family gathering this should hit the spot!

Canapés

We like to have nibbles to tide us over from noon to 3pm when we have our Dinner. If you want to keep it super simple just grab some party food from the freezer section. These days they almost all cook at 180°C for around 15 minutes. Any leftovers are also great for grazing at!

Starter

In my family the Prawn Cocktail is king. (Well, for me it is, mum does try to do fancy smoked salmon thingies!) This is not only traditional but super simple. Finely sliced iceberg lettuce, prawns, cocktail sauce (Iceland’s is my favourite!) and a twist of lemon on top to look fancy. Less than 5 minutes and you’re done!

The Roast

Turkey is, of course, traditional and if you want to keep it super simple I recommend a frozen Turkey crown. They’re about £10 and you can pick one up in almost any supermarket.

However, a large roast chicken will also do very nicely! I love to do a one pot chicken dish where you simply get a Really Big Pot, put in new potatoes in the base, add your chicken (put some herbs, garlic and half a lemon in the cavity), and scatter with bacon lardons. Drizzle with a little olive oil and cook according to the time on the packet (or 25 minutes per lb + 20 minutes in 180°C oven) Add a cup of frozen peas 30 minutes before the end. This also works well in a slow cooker on high for 3 hours if you need the space in the oven or even if you don’t have an oven! You can find the more detailed recipe here.

A roast dinner is all about timing. If you figure out your timings then it’s plain sailing. You can prep all of your veg in advance, even the night before, so all you have to do on the day is put dishes in the oven on time or you can get the roast in and then do your veg prep. I have a post outlining some of the timings for veg here.

For example:

2 hours before: Roast In

45 minutes before: parsnips in (I like them crispy.)

30 minutes before: leeks in cream sauce, stuffing balls & pigs in blankets in

25 minutes before: Brussels sprouts and carrots in steamer on the hob. Check the sprouts after 15 minutes by poking with a sharp knife. They should be soft but not soggy.

Serving Time: Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a serving board. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and peas and bacon. You can make gravy with the juices. I explain how here.

Pudding

Christmas pudding is traditional, easily available from the supermarket, and I hate it. So I have a couple of other seasonal options that you can make the day before:

Clementine Syllabub

Cranberry Fool

Leftovers

If you’re on your own do not let this stop you from having a full roast! The leftovers are the best bit! From this dinner I will be able to make sandwiches, soup, risotto and may be a few other dishes as takes my fancy! I basically won’t have to cook again for the next week, which is exactly how I like it!

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Filed under Canapés, Christmas, Desserts, Easy, Mains, Sides, Slow Cooker, Starters

Black Forest Loaf Cake

150g unsalted butter

150g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

1 tap vanilla extract

130g self raising flour

40g cocoa powder

3 tbsp milk

1 cup cherries (You can use fresh, frozen or tinned cherries here. I forgot to weigh them but about a cups worth went in, measure it with your heart!)

6tbsp Cherry liqueur

300ml double cream

3tbsp icing sugar

1/4 cup cherries + 1 tbsp cherry liqueur (leave to marinate for a while)

1tbsp grated chocolate

– Heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line a loaf tin.

– Cream together the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.

– Beat in one egg at a time.

– Mix in the vanilla.

– Fold in the flour and cocoa powder.

– Fold in the cherries.

– Scrape the mix into your prepared tin.

– Bake in the middle of the oven for 1 hour, turning it halfway through.

– Remove from the oven and pour the cherry liqueur over the hot cake. (If using frozen or tinned cherries you can use the juices.)

-Leave to cool in the tin.

– In a small mixing bowl whip the cream and sugar until it forms stiff peaks.

– Lightly fold in the cherries. (Barely fold them at all, you want the pink to ripple, not make the whole thing pink.) Retain three good looking cherries.

– Untin the cake and place on serving dish.

– Spread the cream evenly over the top of the cake.

– Garnish with your reserved cherries and grated chocolate.

– Store covered in the fridge for up to three days.

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Filed under Cakes, Desserts, Moderately easy

Simple mushroom soup

25g butter

250g closed cup mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

200ml white wine

400ml vegetable stock

100ml double cream

– Melt the butter in a medium sized pan. Add a small splash of olive oil to stop it catching.

– Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until soft and browned.

– Add the white wine and vegetable stock.

– Blend with a stick blender until your desired level of smooth. (I like bits in my soup but if you want a totally smooth soup you’ll need to decant into a liquidiser and blend in that then resume cooking.)

– Bring the soup to a boil then turn down to a simmer.

– Add the cream and heat gently until the edges are bubbling.

– Serve hot with bread and butter.

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Filed under Basic, Easy, Gluten Free, quick, Starters

Japanese Simmered Pumpkin (Kabocha no nimono)

1/2 Japanese pumpkin (kabocha)

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp soy sauce

– Deseed the pumpkin and roughly peel (leave some bits of peel there). Chop into large chunks.

– Place skin side down in a large pan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil.

– Add the sugar and salt and simmer on a low heat until the liquid is half reduced.

– Add the mirin and soy sauce and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced in half again.

– Either serve warm or leave to cool completely.

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Japanese, Mains, Sides

Pommes Anna Recipe

For a dish that bears my name this took me an embarrassingly long time to get right. I would have potatoes swimming in butter or too crisp to eat without worrying about your fillings. These little stacked Pommes Anna finally hit that sweet spot between buttery and crispy and look fab for what is actually minimal effort. You can do a lot of the prep beforehand in assembling the stacks in the muffin tin if you want to prepare these in advance and then just pop them in the oven when ready so good for dinner parties!

6-8 new potatoes (waxy)

125g unsalted butter

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp sea salt

Cracked black pepper

Fresh thyme sprigs

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6.

– Use a mandolin or very sharp knife to slice the potatoes into 1/8” slices. Put in a small mixing bowl.

– Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

– Brush the insides of six muffin tins with melted butter.

– Place a small sprig of thyme in the bottom of each muffin cup.

– Add the garlic to the melted butter and remove the leaves from the remaining thyme sprigs and add those too.

– Gently heat until fragrant.

– Pour the butter over the potatoes. Add salt and pepper to season and toss gently.

– Place the sliced potatoes carefully in the muffin tins. You want to arrange them so that they will look good when turned out. Press down firmly in the centre.

– Pour the remaining butter over the potatoes.

– Cover the muffin tray with foil and bake in the oven for 35 minutes.

– Place a large oven dish over the muffin tin and carefully flip over so that the potato stacks come out intact. If any fall apart you can push them back into shape.

– Place the oven dish back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes until the stacks look nice and crispy on the edges.

– Serve hot.

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Filed under Moderately easy, Sides

Japanese Egg Salad Sandwich

From time to time I find myself craving the food I had in Japan. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things, like this Japanese egg salad sandwich. Because even though you’d think there isn’t much wiggle room in how to make egg salad you’d be amazed what a difference a few little tweaks make. I think the biggest difference is that the egg is mashed, not chopped and the mayonnaise must by kewpie for a truly authentic taste. The pinch of salt adds that little je ne sais quoi that makes this run of the mill sandwich spectacularly moreish!

For one sandwich:

2 hard boiled eggs

2tbsp kewpie Japanese mayonnaise

Pinch of salt

Soft salted butter

Two slices white bread

– Put the eggs, mayonnaise and salt in a bowl and mash with a fork until there are no large chunks. You could even use a food processor to get it even smoother (some conbini do) but I prefer a little texture.

– Spread the bread with butter and add the egg mix. This should be a well filled sandwich! (Though factors such as egg size and bread size will affect it, you may find this makes two less well filed sandwiches if using smaller bread.)

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Filed under Basic, Easy, Japanese, quick

Meal Planning

These days it just makes sense to Meal Plan.  No matter how large or small your family is you will save so much time and money if you have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be a rigid plan, you can change things as you see fit but I have found over the last year that it really helps me to jot down what I’m eating for the week ahead.  I used to just buy what I fancied but I always ended up buying far too much food for one person and it was wasteful (not to mention seriously damaging to my wallet!)

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Now I can plan around any events I have, if I know I will be late home and tired that day then I make sure I have something ready cooked or easy to prepare.  It helps me realistically look at what I want to cook and eat and decide how that’s going to work out across the week.  Got a good value pack of mince on sale? I can work that into my schedule with enough variation so that I don’t just end up eating spag bol every night for a week!  Got a pack of veg that needs using up? Schedule it in!

I try to sit down and make a plan at the weekend so I can look at what’s in the fridge and start from there, then if I need to I can run out and get anything extra as I need it.  Everyone’s system varies according to their own lives and needs but I thought I should share the printable meal plan I made that I’ve found works best for me.

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It has sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack (if I’m going to snack I’d rather be in control of it!) as well as charting how many veggies I’m getting and what exercise I plan to do.  It’s all part of keeping a handle on an overall healthier lifestyle and it has really helped me stay in control of my budget and my waistline this past year.  I hope it helps some of you too!

Weekly Meal Planner

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Filed under Not Food

Thai Noodle Crab Cakes

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These were a bit of an experiment, hashed together from a few different ideas I’d seen about the place.  I may tweak the recipe further still but for now I like this one!  I love crab cakes but they tend to be rather calorific (I recently saw a crab cake starter clocking in at 789 calories!!!) The idea here was to cut down on the calorie count and embrace more “eat clean” ideas in my diet.  These are quick and simple to whip together and taste great!  I served them here with sticky rice, edamame and tsuyu dipping sauce but they’re equally good with a bit of sweet chilli sauce.  (And, yes, spot the deliberate mistake, I forgot to buy the spring onions when I cooked them in these pictures, it adds a nice aspect in both taste and colour but they work just fine without them!)  These also make a nice addition to a picnic or lunchbox as they don’t fall apart!  I’d even be tempted to make them into mini cakes for a picnic or party.

Makes 6

50g vermicelli rice noodles
1 Frozen Coley portion ~90g
1 tin crab meat, drained
2 egg whites
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp corn flour
3 tbsp tinned sweetcorn
3 spring onions, sliced

– Boil some water and pour over the noodles in a bowl, leave to stand.
– Put the frozen coley on a microwave safe dish and microwave for 1 1/2 minutes (Your microwave may vary, you want the fish to be defrosted and just cooked)
– Shred the coley in to a bowl, you can use fingers or forks to gently flake it apart into small shreds.
– Add the crab meat, the egg whites, the fish sauce and the sweet chilli sauce and give it a good stir.
– Add the corn flour and again, stir well to combine.  If the mixture is still very wet looking you can add more corn flour, you want to be able to take a scoop of it.
– Drain the noodles well and roughly chop them then add them to the mixture.
– Add the tinned sweetcorn and the spring onions and mix well.
– Heat some oil in a large flat bottomed frying pan.
– You should be able to make 6 patties out of this mixture, take a scoop, roughly shape it and place it in the pan where you can tidy up the edges a little if you like.
– Leave to cook on the first side for 3-5 minutes until the cake is cooked about halfway up, you should be able to see the difference in texture as it cooks.
– Carefully flip over the cake and leave to cook for another 3-5 minutes on this side without moving it.
– The cakes should be dry and firm to the touch when fully cooked.
– Serve with whatever sauce you prefer and may be some rice and veggies, they also go nicely with salad!

 

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Fast Day Food, Gluten Free, Low Fat, Mains

Nibbles – Honey Mustard Glazed Sausages & Wheat Thins

This is the time of year for nibbles and canapés. I am usually in charge of canapés on Christmas Day and I always try to make at least some effort. There are some things that are always a given. I make my Breakfast Bites with quails eggs because there would be uproar if I didn’t! I usually make something based on biscuits and that ever useful timesaver, Primula! I saw the recipe for Wheat Thins on Smitten Kitchen and, while I don’t have the first idea of what a Wheat Thin is supposed to be like, I thought they looked like a quick and simple way to make some extra effort this Christmas. They are so simple to make, quick to cook and really rather delicious!

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I got the craving for some nice sticky sausages too. Whenever my office get catering in they always do these brilliant sticky sausages so I thought it was high time I tried making them myself. Now, Tesco wanted to charge me £2 for itty bitty cocktail sausages… Um, no. I bought regular chipolatas for 95p and simply twisted them in the middle to get double the number of itty bitty sausages!

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Honey Mustard Glazed Sausages

1 pack of chipolata sausages
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp soy sauce

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Take the chipolatas and twist them in the middle to make mini sausages.
– Put them in an oven dish and bake for 25 minutes.
– Mix the honey, mustard and soy in a clean oven dish.
– Drain the fat from the sausages and snip them apart.
– Put the cooked sausages in the honey mustard mix and toss to coat.
– Place back in the oven for 5 minutes.
– Skewer each sausage with a cocktail stick and serve with a little of the extra sauce on the plate.

Wheat Thins

155g whole wheat flour
20g sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smokey paprika
55g butter
60ml cold water

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C and prepare two baking trays.
– Put everything except the water into a food processor and blitz until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.
– Slowly drizzle in the water with the motor running until the dough starts I come together into a ball.
– Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out super thin then cut into whatever shapes you desire. I rolled my dough so thin you could basically see through it but they don’t have to be quite that thin! It may help to split the dough into two.
– Place your cut out biscuits on a baking tray, they won’t spread so you can place them very close together.
– Pop in the oven for 5-7 minutes. Keep an eye on the first batch to see how long they take to cook but whip them out the second they start to colour.
– Prep the next batch while the first tray is cooking.
– Put the biscuits on a wire rack to cool and keep cutting and cooking until all the dough is gone.
– Top with whatever you fancy. I find Primula and Houmous work well!

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Filed under Basic, Cookies and Biscuits, Easy, Sides

French Wines with Style Blogger Challenge

Sorry for the hiatus guys! I’ve been working on something special though, so I hope you’ll forgive me.  I have not just a recipe today but a fantastic summer menu! I am taking part in the French Wines with Style Blogger Challenge.  For this challenge I was kindly sent a summer hamper with tasting notes for the wines and the challenge was to come up with some “perfect summer recipes paired with summer French wines with style”.

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Now, you’ll never have to twist my arm to support French wines, having spent every summer in France as a kid, I have been on more tours of vinyards than I can remember. (Best one was where the dog peed on my dad but that’s 11 year olds for ya!) I have always prefered French wines over their new world compatriots.  There is just something classier about them! I love the history, the wealth of knowledge and the traditions of wine growing in France and for me that adds to the whole experience.  I also happen to think they’re just damned tasty! Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Do you enjoy drinking it? If the answer is yes, then you have a winner!  I will never be one for “notes of goosberry and a hint of sweaty sock” type wine drinking.  I either like something, or I don’t.

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My stylish BBQ venue, complete with tableware handmade by my mother!

The notes that came with the wines were my starting place.  The words that caught my attention for the Emmanuel Delaille – Le Petit Salvard Cheverny 2010 were “goosberry and lime characters” and the suggestion that it would be a good match for “Chinese and other exotic dishes”.  I immediately thought that a recipe I’d seen for fish with lime, chilli, corriander, ginger and garlic was probably a winner there.  As for the Gabriel Meffre Le Cirque – Vin de France Chardonnay Gros Manseng 2011 the “peach and ginger spice” and “honey and floral notes” immediately made my mouth start watering at the thought of sticky marinated pork with peaches.

For stylish summer eating you’ve got to be outdoors and if you’re luckly enough to be outdoors then you’ve got to fire up the BBQ!  (Although, being British, this whole menu can be prepared inside in the oven, or even, in desparation when the gas runs out on the BBQ, on a health grill… ahem.)

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For the first course I prepared sticky ribs with grilled nectarines.  This recipe and the recipe for the fish came from a Jamie Olive BBQ special in the Daily Mail but I’ve tweaked them and added my own notes here.

I found that this recipe did not work at all as it said it would.  It was tasty, but instead of a paste/rub this was definitely a liquid marinade.  Slowcooking the ribs first was a great innovation though, and one I’ve been toying with the idea of for a while.  While you can cook ribs on the grillstraight after marinading they always have a bit of a “crunch” to them.  After slowcooking the meat is incredibly soft and tender and the flavour goes right through the meat.

Slow Cooked BBQ Sticky Ribs with Grilled Nectarine

1 large rack of ribs (or 2 if you need to feed a large group)
1 nectarine per person, sliced into 8ths

Marinade:
1 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp five spice

Glaze:
1 tbsp olive oil
3tbsp/ a few squidges honey
1cm grated ginger
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 small chilli, finely chopped

– In a large baking dish or roasting tray big enough to fit all of the ribs, mix all of the marinade ingredients together.  Just dump it in then whisk it up to combine.
– Add the rack of ribs and coat well with the marinade.
– Cover the tray with foil and seal tightly.
– Pop it in the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
– Heat your oven to gas mark 3 and then cook the ribs, still tightly covered for 2 hours.
– Make a glaze by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisking together.
– When you’re ready to cook the ribs on the BBQ simply uncover them, brush all over with the glaze and pop on the hot BBQ.
– Turn after about 5 minutes and keep brushing with the glaze turning to cook evenly.
– In the meantime place your sliced nectarines on the BBQ.
– Cook until everything is just a bit blackened with all of that great BBQ flavour.
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Now for the fish!  I love cooking a whole fish.  It’s just so much more fun, and it is just so easy.  One of my favourite ways to cook any fish is en papilotte, wrapped in a paper parcel.  My mum has been cooking salmon this way for as long as I can remember and it always seemed so stylish and grow up to me when I’d see her preparing it when I was a child.  The advantages of cooking a fish this way are that you can impart a lot of flavour to the fish, it keeps it nice and moist, keeps the fish from falling apart and you get a lot of lovely juices full of flavour.

I have made this dish with rainbow trout and mackrel and I think I prefered the mackrel.  (We named him Malcolm.)  It seemed to me that the flesh of the mackrel took on a lot more of the flavours where as the trout seemed more perfumed than flavoured.  Mackrel is a meatier fish and oilier too but the trout was lovely and delicate.  Either way this recipe worked brilliantly with both fish, so really, just get whatever whole fish your fishmonger has that you fancy.  Just remember to get your fish gutted as we forgot to get the mackrel gutted and there was some delay while I YouTubed how to gut a fish, wimped out, and then had to wait for my dad to do it for me! I think I’d give it a go next time but let it never be said that I am not a wimp at heart, let the fishmonger do it!20120726-212132.jpg

BBQ Whole Fish En Papilotte

Serves 1

1 trout or mackrel or other whole fish, gutted.
1 lime, halved and sliced
1 small birds eye chilli
1 stick lemongrass
1/2″ root ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch coriander stalks (if making for 4 then just get a whole bunch of coriander and divide into 4, no need to stick to just the stalks)
Salt, pepper and olive oil

– Take your fish and rinse it under cold water.
– Pat it dry and lay on a sheet of baking paper with a row of lime slices underneath it.
– With the side of a large knife crush/bruise the lemongrass, ginger, and galic cloves.  Split the chilli in half lengthways.
– Stuff the cavity of the fish with the lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilli.
– Lay the remaining lime slices on top of the fish.
– Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
– Fold the baking paper around the fish to make a sealed packet.
– Place on a large sheet of newspaper and wrap this securely and tidily round the baking paper package.  Tie with string to secure.
– Soak the parcel for about 3 minutes in a sink/bucket of cold water.
– Place on a hot BBQ and cook for 45 minutes, turning halfway through.  Be careful though as the newspaper may disintegrate and make a mess!

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As for the sides, a parcel of roasted summer vegetables, sweetcorn on the cob and South African BBQ breads (the actual name of which I totally forget, saw it on the Food Network) work a treat.  The roasted vegetable parcels create a lot of juices of their own and the bread is great to mop those and the fish juices up.  Sweetcorn on the cob is just a summer essential, I love grilling it, you don’t need to precook it, just pop it on the BBQ and cook until slightly charred.  You can brush it with soy sauce if you want to or simply serve with a sprinkle of salt.

Roast Summer Vegetable Parcels

1 stalk cherry tomatoes on the vine
1/2 courgette, cut into batons
1/2 lemon
olive oil, salt and pepper

– Take a large sheet of tinfoil.
– Place all of the vegetables in the lower half.
– Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
– Fold the top half over the lover half and fold up all of the open edges to make a sealed parcel.
– Place on the BBQ and cook for 20-30 minutes.
– Open the parcel by splitting the top open, being careful of all of the lovely juices inside.

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Bread

250g strong bread flour
1 tsp fast action yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water

– Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
– Make a well and pour in the oil and water.
– Mix together to make a dough.
– Turn out onto a floured worksurface and knead by hand for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable.  It will be rather sticky but just keep it moving and try not to add too much extra flour.
– Place in an oiled bowl covered in a warm, draft free spot and leave to raise for 1 hour or until doubled.
– Knock down the dough and turn out onto a worksurface.
– Divide the dough into four and shape into rounds.
– Place on a board or plate and leave to rise for 20-30 minutes.
– Cook on the BBQ turning after 10 minutes and cook for 10 minutes more on the other side.
– Remove from the BBQ and tap.  If the bread sounds hollow then it’s cooked.

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And now for dessert!  After all of that faffing about you need something that is simple, no cook and that you can prepare ahdead.  However, it still has to look great.  I give you, the summer fruit flan!  This is a wonderfully stylish cheat dessert.  You can buy all of the ingredients and simply assemble a few hours in advance.  It will even keep in the fridge for a few days if necessary (while you wait for that elusive sunshine, perhaps!) but you’d need to use very fresh fruit.

Cheat’s Summer Fruit Flan

1 large flan case.
1 sachet creme patissiere
Fresh fruits (I used frozen raspberries and blueberries, fresh strawberries and whole cherries with a few fresh raspberries fro the garden for good measure.)

– Place thr flan case on your serving plate.
– Drizzle with any available fruit juices or a few tbsp of Framboise liqueur if you have it.
– Spread the creme patissiere over the base of the flan.
– Cover the top with fresh fruit.
– Set aside for a few hours for the flan to soften, if you try eating it straight away it ca be a bit dry and crumbly.

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So there we have my summer menu to go with my stylish French wines!  Hope you’re inspired to give some of them a go this summer.  There’s nothing like eating and cooking al fresco, no matter the size of your gathering be it close family or a crowd of friends a bit of sunshine is always the perfect excuse to crack open a few bottles of French wine and laze away a few golden hours in the back garden with a Barbie!  Bon appetit!

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Filed under Breads, Desserts, Drinks, Easy, Mains, Moderately easy, Sides, Starters