Monday 5th March 2018
I opened the post this morning and the brochure from the local garden centre caught my eye.
“The ground’s warming up again and it’s time to wave goodbye to winter!
In reality, here we are with a very snowy, freezing scene, thanks to the Beast from the East; with more snow and high winds forecast for later today! We haven’t had such a blast of winter weather or experienced such low temperatures for decades.
However, best not to dwell on winter. Spring must be just around the corner and when it’s very cold outside, it does give us time to keep warm indoors and get on with some of the things we have been putting off for ages.
Some of my time has been filled, most enjoyably, by the way, working on a new cook book called “Let’s Party”. My Teens in the Kitchen book is more or less finished and over the winter, I am delighted to report a literary agent has come on board. I would like to introduce Helen Lewis from Literally PR. Helen, who also works in PR lives not a million miles from me and she is taking both my” Teen’s in the Kitchen “and the” Let’s Party” titles to the London Book Fayre in April with the view of finding a publisher for both, so finger’s crossed. Please wish me luck!
Coming from a large family as I do, we have ample opportunities to get together for all sorts of celebrations. Over the years, particularly since having got together with Malcolm and his brood, unbelievably, some almost 30 years ago now, I have learned plenty of things about how to throw a successful party.
Constantly and consistently writing down the recipes and the outcome of events, as they happen I hope it might be of help to others to have some of my thoughts and findings in the form of a cook book?
It will be a party menu book, with lots of pretty photographs, if I have my way! I am including 20 menus for various numbers of people at various entertaining events.
Think Summer Wedding for 60; Fireside Supper for 6; Adult Birthday Diner for 12; Summer Tea Party for 12; Buffet Supper for 24.
I hope you are beginning to get the picture? A time plan, for each menu will be included plus all the recipes and hints and tips to hopefully ensure the party goes with a bang!
Jumping back to today and the still unusually cold weather for March, I made easy pizzas from scratch for some of the kids yesterday as a treat when they returned from a country walk. The recipe will be in the book, as part of the Children’s Tea Party menu.
Here it is as a sneaky pre-view:
Home Made Pizza made Easy
Pour a packet of white bread mix into a large mixing bowl, then make the dough up as directed on the packet. Knead for 10 minutes, on a lightly floured work top.
Leave dough to double in size, in the bowl, covered with either oiled cling film or a damp clean tea towel. This will take about 40 minutes, in a warm kitchen.
Knead dough again for 2-3 minutes,” this is called knocking back” the dough.
Cut dough in half with a large, sharp knife and pull or roll each half into a large circle. Place each circle onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Set aside for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile light the oven to 230C, 210C Fan, Gas 8.
Pour 1x 340g jar of tomato pasta sauce into a small bowl. Stir in 3 Tablespoons tomato puree. Divide sauce between pizza bases and spread out. Top with sliced mushrooms, sliced pimento olives, chopped ham, drained pineapple, cooked sliced sausages, torn salami, drained canned sweetcorn, or whatever you find in the fridge or store cupboard, that might be suitable! The world is your oyster! The kids love helping with the toppings.
Finish with a good sprinkling of strong, Cheddar cheese, grated and a few slices of Brie cheese, if you have it.
Finally drizzle a little olive oil over the pizzas and bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly golden. Slice and enjoy. These pizzas freeze brilliantly and can be heated from frozen, in a hot oven, in about 12 minutes.
Looking for a quick, filling, home-made soup that is full of nourishment and absolutely delicious, to go with the pizzas?
Empty 2 x 600g packets butternut squash and sweet potato soup mix, available, chilled from large supermarkets, into a very large casserole. Add 2 litres of well flavoured vegetable stock. I use Swiss Bouillon powder and hot water from the kettle. Add 1x 500g carton tomato passata and a seasoning of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil.
Skim off and discard the foam that forms, which actually are the impurities, rising to the surface. Cover pan with a lid and simmer for 30 -35 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Blitz until smooth, with a hand held electric blender and serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley or coriander.
Mother’s Day Suggestions
With Mother’s day just around the corner, a couple of simple ideas come to mind.
The best gift of all, of course is simply to be there for your mum, so invite her over for a really simple meal and, more than anything, enjoy each other’s company.
For a starter
Serve a good pate, of your choice, from the deli, spread on either small savoury biscuits or small squares of freshly buttered hot toast. Garnish with half a small gherkin or a tiny piece of red pepper.
For the main event,
How about salmon fillets, individually wrapped in foil parcels with a little butter, salt and pepper, chopped spring onion and chopped coriander. Stand the parcels on a baking sheet. The sealed parcels should take 15minutes in a moderately hot oven.
Serve with jacket sweet potatoes, pricked, then brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt before baking, above the salmon for about an hour, then fill with sour cream or crème fraiche, and sprinkle with a few snipped chives to make them look pretty. A mixed dressed salad to which you have added some freshly sliced mango would look and taste amazing.
Plum and Blackberry crumble with a Brazil nut and oat topping is seasonal and delicious. It can always be made a day in advance and reheated as you take the salmon out of the oven. Serve with custard or cream.
Hopefully when I write my next blog, winter will be behind us and we will be enjoying warmer temperatures and some lovely sunshine which will help to cheer us all up.