Project Food Blog

Glad It's All Over

I have a confession to make. Christmas for me has not always been the joyous fa la la la la affair as portrayed in the Coca Cola adverts. Life happens, and sometimes this can deeply affect our feelings towards such calendar dates as Christmas, Anniversaries,Valentine's Day, etc. Christmas has been a bit of a grin and bear it event in the past, followed by loud broadcasting of Captain Sensible's 'Glad it's all over', while preparing to really celebrate on New Year's Eve.
This year, and I know this to be the case for a number of our friends, the certainty of Christmas being different, and possibly difficult, has been a little daunting to say the least. Newly divorced, separated, bereaved... all highly emotional places to be at Christmas time.
My attitude was to break with the past, and create new family traditions. The midnight walk will certainly be one to uphold, as well as Christmas Morning Hide and Seek, and the exchanging of joke presents. This year, a rubber, beautifully wrapped, causing much hilarity.  It's been a great Christmas. And I'm pleasantly surprised.
We have had 2 lovely Japanese girls staying with us, and Boxing Day Sushi will also be something we'll continue. Regular readers will know we are big fans of Japanese food, but to have it made for you in your own home was quite something.
As 2011 fast approaches, we are currently deciding what to eat and drink with our friends at New Year. It has been good to revisit our blog posts from the previous 12 months, and reflect on how many opportunities we have had to spend time with the people who really matter in our lives.
Here's to a very Happy New Year.  L&K x

Wholesome and Hearty

I don't know if it is the current weather situation, or because we are fast approaching the end of the year, early December is always a period that makes me want to eat really simply and healthily. Perhaps it is the onslaught of hedonism and parties in between these periods of health that spur me on.... I don't know...

Anyway, just as Kath reflected in our previous post, there is always a place on the menu for good quality, tasty veggie food.

So today we are mainly eating my new favourite thing, White Chili. You can use Chicken or Turkey instead of Quorn, but there is really no need. The smokiness of the Paprika gives the dish a lovely bonfirey flavour, perfect for these long Winter evenings, and the lack of tomato does not detract from the kick of the chili. Now there's tasty.

From meat feast to meat free



When your days starts with the best full breakfast in town, it's only appropriate that it ends with something a little more veggie-tastic. And having feasted on the Full Borough at Roast yesterday (details below, I went for poached eggs)

… I wanted to create something meat free for dinner. And I had a tin of pomodori d'oro sunshine yellow plum tomatoes that had caught my eye at the back of the store cupboard the night before.

Cooking veggie main courses is all very well but to my mind, they only qualify as a main meal (and not just a side dish with delusions of grandeur) if they contain a form of protein. I'm really keen on serving protein with every meal, whether it's nuts and seeds in the breakfast muesli, cashew butter, ham or hummus if we're having a mid-morning snack of oatcakes, or simply adding some pulses or legumes to a vegetable soup of stew.

Last night, I opted for soya beans, and concocted this simple, hearty, one-pot dish. Served with crusty bread and a strong Cheddar, and followed by stewed plums and custard, I don't think anyone at the table missed the meat.

Sunshine Soya Bean Stew

1 tbsp oil
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tin pomodori d'oro plum tomatoes
1 tin or carton cooked soya beans (or substitute any cooked beans or pulses)
1/2 vegetable stock cube
2 springs fresh marjoram, finely chopped
Dash white wine (I freeze leftover wine in ice cube trays and keep in freezer bags)
Dash white wine vinegar
Seasoning to taste, plus a pinch of sugar to balance the tomato's acidity if needed

1. Heat the oil over a medium heat, add the onions and fry for five minutes, then add the garlic and chilli.
2. Add the beans, the tomatoes, and the rest of the ingredients.
3. Simmer for 40 minutes, adding a little water if necessary.




Speedy Shortbread

Picture the scene, we're in our pyjamas, just about to head up to bed, when my youngest announces...
 'Mum..... I 've got to make something for the class, for everybody to try.....' 

'OK cool,'  I reply, 'we'll do something on Wednesday when I pick you up early...' 

Dead silence..... then.... 'Mum, it's got to be for tomorrow, Miss forgot to do the letter on Friday...'

I take a few deep breaths, then smile reassuringly and suggest we look in the cupboard to see if we have anything....

Plain flour. sugar... Hey presto, Shortbread... (Thank the Lord!)

20 minutes later, 30 round biscuits are baking merrily in the oven, homework done and all we need to do is wipe the surface down where we rolled out the dough.

Alright a couple of them might have been a little sunkissed, but crisis averted nevertheless;  for today at least!

Here is the recipe that saved the day... 

INGREDIENTS
125g butter
55g caster sugar
180g  plain flour
DIRECTIONS
Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5
Beat the butter and the sugar together until smooth
Stir in the flour to get a smooth paste. Turn on to a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is 1cm/½in thick
Cut into rounds or fingers and place onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with icing sugar and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack



Posh Mash

Just a quick one! Adding saffron to pureed or mashed potato transforms the ordinary into the sublime. You only need a few strands, and it not only creates a lovely aromatic flavour, but also adds a colourful buttercup tinge to the mash!

We ate it with pork chops, but it would also work beautifully on the top of fish pie.

Salacious Tales from Soho


Went out in Soho at the weekend to a gorgeous Tapas place called The Salt Yard on Goodge Street. We were lucky enough to get a table right next to the the pass, and we got a real sense of not only how passionately the food is prepared, but also how quickly. With 5 girls on the table, the kitchen staff may have been a bit taken aback by the raucousness of our chat, with the birthday girl regaling us with tales of Eastern European Spa treatments involving sexy male cleaners doubling up as masseurs, a cellulite treatment (Not that she has any!) involving being blasted by a water cannon, and a Thai treatement involving some very bizarrely worn paper knickers....

Anyway, we ate....

Saffron Arancini with Mussels, Crab, Squid and a Chilli Alioli

Roasted Scallops with Caramelised Cauliflower Puree, Hazlenuts and New Season Garlic

Line Caught Tuna Carpaccio with Baby Broad Beans and Salsa Verde

Courgette Flowers stuffed with Goats Cheese and drizzled with honey

Classic Tortilla

Salad Of Cherry Tomato, New Season Plums, Red Chard and a Lemon and Rosemary Vinaigrette

Manzanilla and Arbequina Olives

Selection of three Manchegos with Quince Membrillo
Chargrilled Country Style Bread with Alioli or Olive Oil

We drank....

Ca'di Ponti (Catarrato, Sicily 2009) (3 bottles)


The food was absolutely delicious, and so reasonably priced, came in at under £25 per head and that was with coffee and a generous tip. 

The evening was finished off with a couple of rounds of late cocktails at one of our favourite haunts, Milk and Honey (By God the staff are so polite there!)

and after a hilarious series of attempts to hail a cab, we were all home drinking CityLifeAcupuncture Destress Tea and asleep by 3...... ish!

Good Times x



















Garden glut supper


It's a constant source of amusement to my (country-dwelling) parents that I (city dweller with a postage stamp-sized garden that's decimated by two children and two cats. And unbelievably, as I write this post, I have had to pause to shoo away a large fox making his way through the garden…) spend so much money on my weekly Abel and Cole veg box delivery. And an even greater source of amusement when they get to see contents of said box. "More courgettes! Beetroot! And a tiny bunch of runner beans," they exclaim. "We've had gardens GROANING with these things for weeks, and you're paying HOW MUCH for them?"

Hard as it can be to hear this sometimes, it's such a great source of pleasure to be able to eat with the seasons, support local growers and avoid the supermarket, that I'm willing to pay whatever it takes to get my box scheme.

But having said that, the weeks when I get to see my parents and receive their version of the veg box are always good weeks on the culinary front.

Last visit's offering of plum tomatoes, a dear little pale yellow squash and an abundance of flat leaf parsley resulted in this vibrant, dry curry, perfect served with pearl barley and some fiery red chillies.

Summer Squash Curry

1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp each mustard seeds and coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 red onion, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow squash, peeled and chopped
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
Juice of 1 fresh lime
Salt and pepper
Chopped flat leaf parsley to garnish

1. Heat the two oils to medium heat in a large, heavy-based pan and add the mustard and coriander seeds. Stir until they start popping. Add the onion and squash and stir in the cumin powder. Keep stirring for 3-4 minutes, then add the chopped tomatoes.
2. Stir occasionally for a further 5-6 minutes, adding a touch of water if the mixture becomes too dry.
3. Stir in the turmeric and the lime juice. Season to taste.
4. Continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes until the squash is tender enough to eat.
5. Stir in the parsley, and chopped fresh chilli to taste if desired.
6. Great with pearl barley, or you could try flat breads, quinoa or rice.

Back on Line

We've have had a great Summer; loads of meals with friends, at home, in lovely restaurants including Blue Marlin and KM5 in Ibiza, as well as fab nights gatecrashing other people's holidays, and invites to spectacular parties! Our PC broke way back in August, and annoyingly Kath was burgled and her laptop was stolen. So it's been weird not blogging for a while, but we are back with a vengeance now. Already have a few good nights lined up, starting next weekend when we'll be cooking dinner for friends in The Cotswolds, which is kind of apt as that is where our Blog started, nearly 2 years ago now. Roll on Autumn, with its bountiful produce and many more opportunities to eat, drink and be merry. Happy days.......

A North African Vibe

There's a definite North African vibe going on in our place at the moment. The eldest is off to Tunisia in a few days with a friend to enjoy some 5 star luxury. Close friends of ours have just got back from an Activity Holiday in Morocco (It was so hot though that  it was more of an Inactivity holiday..) And our lodger has just moved in.... not the Italian girl that we had been expecting,  but a lovely girl from Algeria.... which is great as the kids are both learning French and also great as Sabrina loves cooking! Last night we spent a geeky evening with our mobiles looking at photos of dishes we had prepared, comparing notes on favourite foods, and swapping recipes. Saturday has already been reserved as Baking Day!

The main difference I guess between Sabrina and myself is that while we both like good honest local produce, and ethically reared meat, Sabrina is of course a Muslim, and will only eat Halal meat. I researched Halal on the internet, and came across many different and conflicting perspectives.... It's cruel, the meat is intensively farmed, it's not organic.... it isn't cruel, it is ethical... I became increasingly confused until I came across an article in The Times Online  which summed up all my  mixed feelings. I want us all to eat as a family, I don't want to go down the route of separate shelves in the fridge and separate meals,  I don't want to eat meat that has not been ethically raised or slaughtered.
I followed the link to Abraham Natural Produce and found the answer to all my culinary prayers. While not cheap, I know that there will be no conflict of interest from any of us when eating any of the meat originating from Muhammad-Ridha and Nicola Payne. The meat they produce on their farm is pure, natural, organic, slaughtered correctly and above all from animals that have been treated with compassion.

The company ethos is very simple.

They are against: cheap tasteless meat, inorganic feeds, the use of steroids and hormones, battery farming, unnatural farming methods, intensive farming, profit driven exploitation of animals and questionable "halal" meat.
They are for: quality British meat, organic and naturally reared animals, free-range farming, compassionate suppliers, small scale/local produce, a personalised service and real halal meat.

I will let you know how we get on! Cooking North African Spiced Shoulder of lamb for 10 this Friday!

Easy Fresh Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream

We seem to have a lot of eggs at the moment, despite using them at a rate of knotts (American Potato Salad, Meringue for Eton Mess, Breakfast...) those little darlings keep on popping them out! So finally today, despite the heat, I got myself together enough to make Fresh Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream to eat whilst watching the football.
It is so easy to do even if you don't have an Ice Cream Maker, so there is no excuse! And I love the fact that sometimes, even when you know you cooked it yourself, you still get as much pleasure as everyone else from eating it.

Secret Recipes

I bumped into my next door neighbour a couple of days ago, who was walking up the road carrying a large plastic bag, looking very pleased with himself! We got chatting, and as I am an inquisitive sort, I boldly asked him what was in the bag. He showed me the contents, several large heads of freshly picked elderflower, and then shared with me a closely guarded secret, that he had access to the sacred tome, Home Made Wines, Syrups and Cordials, from none other than The National Federation of  Women's Institutes. In exchange for a few eggs, John did later provide me with a quick look at said publication, and gave  me a hastily copied recipe for the Elderflower Champagne, which I had to commit quickly to memory as it was written in disappearing ink, and would self destruct in a matter of moments. So there we have it, the previously undiscovered truth that up and down the country, there is an underground movement where normally law abiding folk will stop at nothing to procure the culinary secrets of the WI.  Now John, about that jam.....











PS if you don't live near a hedge, Abel and Cole were supplying Elderflower in their veg boxes on a first come first served basis. Read their blog here.

Easy Tasty Magic

On way to Birmingham to check out Selfridges Food Hall. I get all excited as soon as those silver orbs on the exterior of the building appear into view.

On my shopping list is Laura Santini’s Easy Tasty Magic… one of our favourite ranges. I will be stocking up on Taste No 5, as I have run out, together with her International Jerk rub for wings, breasts and thighs, and her Carnal Sin tenderising rub for red flesh, fish, sea food and vegetables.

With so many in the offing, we're going to be perfecting the ultimate BBQ menu, watch this space!

Sex and Drugs and Sausage Rolls

On Sunday, me and the kids were lucky enough to be given last minute VIP tickets to Cornbury Festival. The weekend had not gone at all according to plan as we were meant to be in Yorkshire at a reunion, but the girl who was giving us a lift had to work unexpectedly (Damn those PA's with their broken ankles!) so we were not able to go. Having just had a back operation, I'm also not ready to drive any distance further than about 5 miles! SO.... we were consigned to a weekend of local amusement, and as Cornbury is just down the road, we couldn't have had planned it better.... especially as visiting friends from Spain were already going, AND had space for us in their jeep. Armed with suncream, a purse full of pennies and camera at the ready, we all set off for the leisurely drive to Charlbury. The festival has been dubbed "Poshstock" for the amenities on offer and for its clientele, who this year  included locals such as Alex James, Jeremy Clarkson and David Cameron.... (I'm just saying!) On offer to the 20,000 people attending throughout the weekend were luxurious camping options, a fairground, tombola and plush food and drinks stalls – Waitrose cocktail bars, a Pimms bus, Jamie Oliver's food, and tea and cake. Looking out towards the main stage, the grass was a sea of deck chairs and picnic rugs. Sunday kicked off with The Blockheads and ended with The Feeling, but the highlights for me were of course sampling the delights of the food stalls. Lunch was a Chicken and Chorizo Paella from Paellaria, with lemon, fresh parsley and roasted red peppers, washed down with home made lemonade. The kids then had a crepe each from La Creperie... one chocolate, one lemon and sugar... later on there was Pimms (Come on, it is Cornbury!) and Paninis. Despite the slightly chilly afternoon, and the drizzle which began at about 6 pm, we had a great time... There is no better way to spend the day than with good friends, good music and good food. Roll on the rest of the Summer.

Born on the 4th of July

My friend is not only married to an American but has also had the foresight to be born on her husband's most celebrated National Holiday, American Independence Day. What better excuse than that do you need for a party? Also, there was an additional surprise, as the guest of  honour was another friend, celebrating her return from Jamaica after nearly a year there. And after all the recent unrest, I think secretly she was glad to be back on home turf. The mix of people is always eclectic at Gill and Brian's... there were South Africans, Croatians, Americans and Jamaicans as well as us locals. Carmen supplied a gorgeous Croatian pickled cucumber dish which was perfect with the home made burgers. Vince slightly disappointed me as he didn't bring his Spicy Jerk Chicken Wings, but I did manage to get his secret jerk paste recipe! As well as that, there was also Gill's amazing All American Potato Salad. Now I'm not a great potato fan, but this potato salad is so delicious, I'm ashamed to say I had 3 helpings...not good when you are cutting the carbs to get into a bikini in a few short weeks..... enough said! We had a great time, and I'm sure the celebrations continued well into the night! I left at sensible o'clock as we'd been given VIP tickets to Cornbury Festival for the following day.... and I just love that festival food!

Family Friendly BBQ for 20

To welcome our friends back from Spain for a month, we had a small BBQ at our place. Karen and Rich have 4 kids between them, we invited another family who also have 4 kids, then there was a couple of  other mutual friends and before we knew it we had a houseful! As I'm still recovering from my back operation, I did the bare minimum, and left everyone else to it. One of the boys, James, is in his final year of Primary School, and also a competent Scout, so he did all the barbecuing!  I bunged my Special BBQ Chicken in the Remoska, as the oven was playing up... mixed up some red currant and mint jelly to glaze the lamb chops, made a load of salads, and Voila! A few hours later everyone left well fed and watered!

You can't beat an egg


Especially when it's a fresh egg courtesy of Lucy's chickens, collected by Scarlett, 3.

Here's how we like our eggs in the morning

- lightly scrambled with watercress
- poached on top of a slice of spelt toast
- cold, chopped boiled egg served with smoked salmon and cheapo caviar (or expensive if you can, we can't!)
- mashed up with mayo and prawns on a soft white roll
- fried in olive oil and served with fresh tomato salsa in a sarnie

How do you like yours?

Let them eat cake for breakfast


It's a rare day that us Hospitality gals actually get to see each other in the flesh these days. 80 miles of motorway, four daughters between us and two full time jobs usually separate us.

So the fact that it's a sunny Saturday morning, my girls are screeching round the house with excitement, and we are about to get into the car and stop by to see Lucy for coffee, is a BIG THING.


Which we felt called for vanilla cupcakes. I've banned Lucy from baking so will see if she's stuck to this agreement when we get there. Otherwise, we'll just have to manage two lots of cake!

These lovely creations were knocked up last night and decorated using some butter icing that I'd got left over from making a birthday cake, and had popped into the freezer. I can thoroughly recommend making up larger batches of things like icing and then freezing. Perfect for last-minute requests for bake sales. Although I'd already coloured this icing purple, you could freeze it without colour and simply add the colour of your choice to each batch that you took fro the freezer.

These cakes are topped with pink glitter icing. As I said, we have four daughters between us. Khaki does not feature heavily in either of our houses…

Have a great weekend and if you've got a spare 20 minutes, why not knock up some vanilla cupcakes using this easy, foolproof recipe?

4oz self raising flour
4 oz butter
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
few drops vanilla essence.

Whisk until creamy and light, place into fairy or cupcake cases, bake at 180 for 25 mins, top with icing and decorations of your choice.

Quick Kedgeree

It's great now that the kids have started showing an interest in food and making things themselves. I was faced with the question tonight of 'what's easy, tasty and healthy. Oh, and fishy?' from our youngest. 'Kedgeree', I replied decisively. 'Keja what?'
Kedgeree, it's easy, tasty, healthy AND fishy. Now it's not often that happens, is it.?.. So we seized the moment! 
I had some saffron infused basmati rice in the freezer, left over from the paellas I made a few weeks ago.
 All the other ingredients luckily we had in the fridge!
My daughter chopped the shallots, wilted the spinach, poached the haddock, boiled the eggs, steamed the beans, .. and in less than twenty minutes we had before us an easy, tasty, healthy AND fishy dinner.

In praise of the skinny

Skinny asparagus, that is. I always love this time of year when the super skinny asparagus hits the market stalls and green grocers. Even my butcher, Bob Dove, always has a few bundles for sale. Compared to these sleek delights, the fat stuff pales into comparison and don't even talk to me about the tinned, or the white, they have no place on my table! But the skinny stuff, served as a starter, a between meal snack, a welcoming nibble with drinks, now we're talking.

It's set to be a scorcher this weekend, so we're planning to make the most of what may only be a short glimpse of summertime to roll out all of our favourites. So drinks wise, we're opting for campari served with freshly squeezed oranges, and some ice cubes. And for soft drinks, we like to make cucumber and lemon water, enjoying a bit of a revival at the moment thanks to the efforts of Kate at Stealth PR. She has got this onto the menu at Giant Robot, and also at our friend Sonya Winner's home boutique sale this week, where she displayed her amazing graphic rugs, and we sampled the delights of London Edible Gardens. We also met – and sampled the wares of – a Jewish pig and cow farmer who lives in Hampstead Garden Suburb – but this fascinating lady deserved a blog post all of her own, so watch this space…

And for food, well this weekend, it has to be lots of bundles of this skinny asparagus, steamed for a couple of minutes, then grilled or barbecued, then left to cool slightly and served with balsamic dressing and shavings of pecorino or Parmesan.

Heading up our barbecue this weekend will be some sirloin from the aforementioned farmer, and some fresh tuna steaks, marinated in lime and chilli. I'll be serving these with cold udon noodles tossed in sesame oil and tamari dressing, garnished with fresh coriander and sesame seeds.

Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy your cooking, and do share your weekend recipes with us!

A foodie upside to the cold snap

'Cast ne'er a clout till May be out' – whichever smart Alec said that seems to have hit the nail on the head. I have been absolutely freezing the past couple of weeks (not helped by the fact that I'm refusing to budge from my wardrobe stance of sandals and summer jackets, because it's meant to be warm).

So we may not be lingering in the garden over a glass or two of rosé, and we may not be planning another barbecue weekend – we are, in fact, blogging with a hot water bottle in lap and a cup of herbal tea in hand…

But as always, food provides the upside. Any trip to the butcher at the moment always ends with my swerving the summery cuts, and buying a large joint or bird for roasting, and I can hardly use the excuse that the kitchen's too hot to boil up stock, so homemade stock it is.

Here's how I like to make mine:

• Take off the excess skin, break the chicken carcass down slightly and place in a large stock pot so that the joint is just covered with cold water
• Add 1 stick celery, 2 chopped carrots and 1 chopped onion
• Add one bay leaf, small handful of peppercorns and small handful fresh herbs
• Bring to boil then summer, uncovered, for up to two hours
• Leave to cool then strain and pick the remaining flesh from the chicken.

Our family favourite is chicken noodle soup – we simply reheat the chicken stock with thin noodles, handful of peas and sweetcorn, 1/2 tsp five spice and a good shake of soy sauce. Serve with freshly chopped coriander and chilli if desired.

Quesadillas Al Fresco

Just been round to see my gorgeous South African friends for an impromptu christening of their hot tub. Jeanine is the sort of  host who is big on hospitality and making you feel so welcome, and we stayed well past our bed time... and on a school night! While I chatted to her husband Johann, Jeanine rustled up a delicious Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tart, and some really tasty Spicy Chicken Quesadillas, seemingly in the blink of an eye... oh, and a couple of refreshing spritzers... well, you have to don't you, when poolside!

The kids were still in the water well after dusk, and had pulled over the tarp to keep the heat in! They had certainly worked up an appetite, as there was very little food left after they had got out.
I have never tried sandwiching a filling between 2 tortillas, which is what a Quesadilla is. Jeanine then baked them in the oven (rather than frying) before finally serving cut into quarters. I shall certainly be preparing these in the near future.

Now I wonder,.how long can I  leave it before inviting myself round again... Do you think tomorrow is too soon?

Because we're worth it!

 The days of ready meals may well be numbered. Maybe it's due to the impending election, and all the depressing talk of National Debt, but the topic of 'getting back to basics' (NOT I hasten to add à la Maggie Thatcher) seems to be high on people's agendas at present.
My kids have begun really asking about food and food choices since we began this blog, and they appreciate the effort that goes into making an edible meal. Quite often now I will return home after some meeting or other to a kitchen looking like a bomb has exploded... but I really don't mind. So far they have made (YES, together, without arguing either!!) simple pasta dishes, cakes (a lot of cake come to think of it!) stuffed baked potatoes, simple salads and rice dishes, and it is with great joy that we sit to eat these meals. Sometimes they don't use a recipe, but there has been nothing that has been consigned to the bin as yet.
As mentioned last week, food can also produce great changes in people's habits in the wider arena of their lives, and to that end we have begun a cookery club at school, part funded by a Government Grant for disadvantaged children. A few years ago I ran a cookery club that included one lad who really struggled, and it really did make an impact on his self esteem... Look what I made, for you, for my Mum, for us..... I think that when cooking and creating a meal to share, it brings out that very basic human instinct of the desire to nurture others, and in so doing, is also self nurturing. So take a bit of extra time, don't buy something full of salt and additives, reward yourself with the satisfaction of producing a meal from scratch. Because we're worth it....

New Beginnings

Kath's recent posts about Nu Beginnings and changing old habits has got me thinking about a family that I work with. Forgive the food pun, and I'm not making light of their situation at all... but they had got themselves into a bit of a pickle. (A euphemism in my line of work for a ruddy big hole.) Long term unemployment, lack of qualifications, debt, 3 children under 5 (1 a new born baby) and a little bit of misuse if you get my drift. It was with a heavy heart that I began the latest family meeting. However, Dad (who usually excuses himself from these meetings) arrived, declaring that he had discovered a passion that he had never felt before... inspired by the desire to change things for his wife and kids, he has begun........ COOKING.... with a goal to training as a chef. I could have hugged him, the way he spoke about gaining the qualifications he needs, his desire to widen his kids' food choices.... Bless him... He's staying away from his old friends/ associates, and instead is digging his garden to plant vegetables. Sometimes I have to admit I can be a bit cynical about what people say, the expected patter to professionals, but the way he spoke about the fire in his belly, I know he has found the recipe for change...Good luck to them, and it is true..the longest journey starts with a single step...and in his case a spade and a cook book.

Happy St George's Day!


And in London at least, it's a beautiful evening. We've got friends coming over for dinner, and seeing as curry is fast becoming our national dish, I thought it seemed only appropriate to celebrate with a few rubies (that's Ruby Murray - curry for all of you non-Brit followers). We're having prawn and chick pea bhuna; lamb, aubergine and spinach madras and a chicken korma, served with my fave chilled red, Brown Brothers Tarrango.

But if you are feeling like something a little bit more English this evening, may we suggest unearthing that bag of charcoal and firing up the great British BBQ?

How about corn on the cobs in foil, pork steaks brushed with sage butter, bangers served with a honey and mustard dipping sauce, new potato and chive salad, and a green salad? We always get our bangers from Bob Dove, it's the finest meat in south London, and the barbie selection is always spot on.

Served with plenty of Pimms and lemonade, and followed by a game of British Bulldogs. Bottoms up!

A taste of Nu Beginnings

So, I'm back from Nu Beginnings, the UK's only boutique boot camp. And it was a fantastic week. Yes, I've emerged lighter, and 10 cm smaller – but more importantly, having spent a week with a fantastic chef and nutritionist, I've learnt some great new GL recipes, and approaches to healthy eating, that I'll certainly be putting to good use (at least most of the time).

One of the things that has really benefited me this week is cutting out wheat, I have noticed a real difference in terms of digestion and bloating. But at Nu Beginnings, they also follow a low GL (Glycemic Load) diet, and so replace foods with a high Glycemic index (such as white pasta and arborio rice) with those that are lower (such as spelt pasta and pearl barley).

The purpose of this is to avoid refined, high sugar foods that cause a spike in your blood sugar – fast-releasing foods are bad, slower ones far better.

Anyway, enough of the science – anyone wanting to read further, check out any of Patrick Holford's excellent books. And I can't recommend Nu Beginnings highly enough for anyone wanting a healthy, holistic holiday with great food.

Chef Gary was kind enough to share some of his recipes, including this risotto made with pearl barley which was a huge hit with the group. It couldn't be easier, and I'm making it again for Sunday lunch for veggie guests tomorrow. Because, lovely as it was to have our own chef last week, I couldn't wait to get home and start cooking again.

Barley Asparagus Risotto
Serves 8

2 red onions, 4 stalks celery, 2 clove garlic, finely chopped
240g pearl barley
1 1/2-2 pints stock, made with Marigold Organic Bouillon Reduced Salt
Large bunch asparagus, chopped
Dash white wine vinegar
Handful Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1. Simmer the onions, celery and garlic in a small amount of the stock until softened
2. Add the barley and stir for 2 mins
3. Add stock so that it just covers the barley and cook for 20 mins, stirring occasionally and adding more hot stock when needed
4. Stir in the chopped asparagus, apart from the tips, and cook for 10 mins
5. Add the vinegar, cheese and thyme, then stir in the tips, and cook for a further 5 minutes.
6. Serve with extra spears of steamed asparagus on top and plenty of black pepper.

Note: Nu Beginnings cook without alcohol or salt, but feel free to add either or both if desired!

The World is Your Oyster

QUESTION: What birthday could be more special than being given a gift of a beautiful Lulu Guinness Clutch and spending it with a group of good friends, eating, drinking, laughing and chatting?

ANSWER: Being taken out for lunch the next day with said bag to The Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield.
Actually, if the truth be told, I couldn't choose between the two

To keep things simple and easy, and as there were long journeys made by some, for the evening of my birthday, I chose to do two Tom Yam Soups (1 prawn, 1 vegetarian) plus a selection of Thai appetizers and a plate of whole meal chapatis which people could then help themselves to as they arrived.  

The following day, we set off in terrible weather down the motorway to Beaconsfield, to eat lunch in the most lavish surroundings. My friend Heather described the decor as 'maximalist'.  Seven of us were seated in a Swarovski encrusted cream leather buttoned booth, where we treated to exquisitely presented food from The English Restaurant Menu.  Between us we had the Goat's Curd and Beetroot salad; Smoked Salmon with Ginger, Vanilla and Lime pickled Cucumber; and Poached Veal Fillet with soft boiled Quail's Eggs. For mains we ate Roast Sea Bass with Salsify, Roast Breast of Corn Fed chicken with Truffle sauce, beautifully presented locally produced Lamb Chops with Dauphinoise Potato, and for the vegetarians in the group, Winter Spinach, Chestnut and Squash Risotto.

To sum up, the past 24 hours of eating, drinking and being with truly great friends have been very special,  and I hope all of you reading this get the opportunities to spend time with people you love. If you don't, make sure you make time. In the words of my handbag, the World is your Oyster... Enjoy it.










Our favourite recipe


So this one is our ultimate recipe, you just take one moose, and a punnet of ripe strawbs. Hull the strawbs, de-bone the moose, and … oh okay, but we nearly had you there, right?
Happy April Fools Day and Happy Birthday to Hospitality Inc founder Lucy!

Kath xxxx

That ain't no pie, lady!


My dear friend Kent in San Francisco has just become a fan of this blog. It would be safe to say that Kent is a man who enjoys his nosh. (He once crashed a car when he saw a sign across the road for fried chicken, and instinctively veered towards it.) We don't get to see our American friends much any more (miss you Erin, Mike, Kristen, Locknecks et al) – even less so since we all had the babies and life changed. But when we do, we always build in a good amount of gourmet experiences.

The last time that we stayed in SF, me and Kent decided to cook a meal together for all of our friends. We wanted to make it a typically British affair, and so he took me to a supermarket where they had a British aisle. It was hilarious to see what home delights could be found across the pond. Suffice to say that according to this American retailer, our nation's culinary contribution consists of Marmite, Bisto, Tetley Teabags and Lime Marmalade. But I for one was pretty happy to find the Bisto, as I made a retro jug up to serve with this Shepherds Pie.

So, Shepherds Pie. The Americans loved the name. They were expecting something a little more, well, pie like though. Of course they all thought it was hilarious tht this pie contained no shepherds and was not covered with any pastry. But it's our language, and we shall do what we like with it, I reckon!

The reason that this dish was such as success that night was that it's so easily adaptable for vegetarians or vegans. We simply made two large pots of the mince, one with 1kg best lamb mince, and one with 1kg soya mince. Here's what else we added to each pot.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peelend and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large glass good red wine
2 beef or vegetarian stock cubes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 large glass water
1 bouquet garni

We fried off the vegetables and mince in the oil, then added all other ingredients and simmerered for 1 1/2 hours.

We boiled 2 kg potatoes and mashed with plenty of butter, milk and a little nutmeg. We poured the mince into two shallow bowls, topped with the mash, and baked in the oven for 45 minutes on a low heat.

We then served it with steamed vegetables and plenty of bisto gravy!

Cheat's Pumpkin Ravioli

I may have mentioned already that we are getting a lodger. The girls are excited because they sound very exciting and exotic... and having checked her out on Facebook, also very beautiful!! Oh, and Italian...

I love making people feel welcome, and think that the medium of food is a very powerful introduction into one's home and and family, hence the practicing of Italian dishes. (The salt crusted sea bass was lovely BTW...) 

I have also recently discovered a fantastic local Italian wholesaler, run by a family from Puglia. They open their doors on a Saturday morning to the public, and display an array of goodies to try. Recently I have bought sage pasta, anchovies, the most delicious Parmesan, squid ink something or other and lots of olives. Oh and wine. Lots of wine....

I have also been trying out some quick and easy, yet still reasonably impressive meals to prevent Dilette from getting homesick....Tonight, the secret method of QUICK ravioli made from sheets of fresh lasagne...

Did you make this Pumpkin Ravioli yourself? Yes I did. (Did you make the pasta? No I did not...)

Definitely DELICIOUS and definitely NOT a disaster, for anyone following us on Twitter.

I ravioli della zucca erano molto saporiti!

Porridge – the healthy power breakfast!


I've been reading a lot about the negligible nutritional qualities of most big brand boxed cereals recently, and so have vowed to try and find alternative breakfasts at least half of the week. This morning, we'd run out of bread, so plans for sausage sandwiches (made with Irish sausages from The Co-op) will have to wait until tomorrow. So today was porridge day. Here's how we serve it in our house (smiley faces optional)…

– Speed is of the essence in the mornings (two full time working parents, one girl at school and one at nursery) – but we loathe instant porridge. For a start, it's more like dust than a proper porridge oat. Secondly, these varieties often have unnecessary nasties added. So we opt for thick whole flakes - they only take 5 minutes to cook.
- we don't have a microwave (don't like 'em, never needed 'em) so cook the oats on the hob in a large pan and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon
- we like half milk, half water for a creamy finish - and soya milk is really good in porridge (plus cuts down the amount of mucus-producing dairy food that your family are ingesting)
- we like a drop of sweet stuff on our porridge (although it always brings back memories of my godfather) Slan White, who used to eat his porridge with salt in the mornings). But we don't like to start the day with a refined sugar crank, so opt for agave syrup (it's low GI) plus a few raisins.
- because we're catering for littl'uns, the raisins make the face, the agave syrup the long golden hair.

Eat this for breakfast and you'll feel happy and full, and will only need a mid-morning snack of oat cakes or a piece of fruit to last you until lunch.

Lunch Envy

I'm sure that anyone who works with other people has experienced this, it's a bit like when you go out for dinner and wish you'd ordered what someone else has chosen, and if you're practiced at it, you may even get them to swap with you! (Doesn't usually work if they are sitting at another table however!)

I walked into our staff room the other day, and spied our Deputy Head with a bowl of something deep pink and delicious looking. She knows I am interested in all things foodie, and caught me eyeing up her bowl of loveliness with amusement. 'What's that?' I asked, to which she replied in her Welsh lilt, 'Get yourself a spoon doll and have some FFS.'

                                           Beetroot and Orange Soup. Yummy.

Vodka Pasta and Pals


Kept the catering really simply this weekend for three reasons – although I still had a houseful for dinner and we all had a splendid time. So what were the reasons for the simplicity?

Firstly, am running a half marathon next weekend and so... not that the bastard long training runs are done and dusted, it's all about the carb loading and tapering (aka stuffing face with pasta and not running an awful lot).

Second reason – the ladies were actually nipping off after dinner to a party at Leon , so didn't want to do too many courses of anything fancy shcmancy, or make it a long and drawn out dinner type thing.

And thirdly, these are my lovely, known 'em since I was 10, school friends and we very rarely get together. I wanted something simple but cooked with love, so that the focus was on spending time together, not timing my complex dinner party food. As you'll see from this pic, it was all about fresh, simple flavours with a bit of a twist. The twist, in this case, being vodka, which adds brilliant depth to a basic pasta sauce.

Here's how I make one of my old favourites – vodka penne. It always goes down a treat and is really easy to throw together.

Basically, you just make your favourite version of a tomato pasta sauce (you can follow our one in the recipes section) and add a really good slug of vodka to taste. You can make this up to a day in advance. Then, when cooking dinner, simply heat gently, stir in single cream and chopped flat leaf parsley. Penne works best for this type of sauce.

As not all of my guests like chilli, I served this on the side. But normally, I would add a liberal tsp of dried chilli flakes when cooking to give this a real kick.

The non marathon training ones among us drank champagne and sloe gin with dinner. It looked potent – and I looked on longingly.

Day Goes Pie

INGREDIENTS
For the pastry

225g/8oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
65g/2½oz vegetable suet
65g/2½oz unsalted butter
pinch salt
splash cold water


For the filling
2 tbsp butter
1 onion, finely sliced
2 leeks, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
200g/7oz smoked Cumbrian farmhouse cheese (or other smoked cheese), grated
150g/5oz cooked new potatoes, cut into cubes
1 free-range egg, beaten


To serve
Pickles, hard-boiled eggs, fresh dill, walnuts, cooked beetroot and watercress


DIRECTIONS
For the pastry, rub the flour, suet, butter and salt together in a bowl. Bring the mixture together to form a dough, adding a little cold water if necessary.
Cover the bowl with cling film and place into the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 4 x 15cm/6in circles and 4 x 8cm/3in circles.
For the filling, heat the butter in a pan and fry the onion, leeks and garlic until softened. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drain off any excess liquid.
In a bowl, combine the onion mixture with the mustard, cheese and potatoes. Set aside until cool enough to handle.


Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.

To make the pies, place a quarter of the filling mixture in the middle of one of the larger circles. Place one of the smaller circles on top of the mixture, then bring the sides up and pinch around the top to help it stand.
Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling to make three more pies. Brush the pies all over with beaten egg.
Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp.
Serve warm or cold with the selection of pickles, hard-boiled eggs, dill, walnuts, cooked beetroot and some peppery watercress.

Mothers Day Breakfast – Dos and Don'ts


There aren't many things better than a lazy breakfast in bed at the weekend. Especially if you're not the one that's had to dash to the kitchen and bring the haul back up to the bedroom for all to share.

But there's an art to putting together exactly the right sort of breakfast in bed. And there are pitfalls which frankly, it's better to avoid. So welcome to our brekkie in bed do's and don'ts – based on exhaustive research (it was hellish, frankly, but someone had to do it). They're perfect for Mothers Day, or in fact for any day that you want to treat someone.

DO stick to one theme – either a lush continental or a cooked breakfast, not both
DO think about the best things to eat in bed – soft croissants are good, hard crunchy toast ( and the millions of crumbs it creates) not so good
DO prepare it for the person who's being treated – you may like a full English complete with black pudding – she may prefer softly scrambled eggs and muffins
DO upgrade a little – swap your bog standard orange juice for freshly squeezed; make fresh coffee not instant
DO add a hotel-like touch – a small blossom or bunch of snowdrops in a vase, a folded napkin, butter in a tiny pot only take minutes but will get a great response
DO include reading material to extend the lazing experience – a newspaper or favourite magazine
DO prepare more than you think – this is an indulgent occasion
And on this note, DO consider a small bottle of fizz if you think it will be appreciated!

DON'T make too much noise while preparing the breakfast – the person you're cooking for should be woken with the breakfast, not lying upstairs listening to you crashing pans and swearing
DON'T try anything new or complicated – this is not the time to grapple with Hollandaise sauce
DON'T burn anything – being woken by the smell of burnt toast or bacon will probably drive the person you're cooking for out of bed to flung open windows and doors
DON'T just plonk the food on the plate – this is a sensuous feast for the eyes, too
DON'T think you have to have separate plates – how about a large sharing platter of mini favourites?
DON'T forget the card/pressie if this is a special occasion
DON'T forget about timings – a Mothers' Day lie in and a huge, late brunch in bed is brilliant – but not if you've got a restaurant booked for a slap-up lunch an hour or so later.

And lastly, here are some of our most memorable breakfasts in bed – we'd love to hear yours, too:

• Lightly scrambled eggs, and baby plum tomatoes served with spelt toast and fresh orange juice
• Strawberry and banana smoothie served with freshly baked apple and cinnamon muffins
• Cheese, tarragon and mushroom omelet
• A sharing platter of mini pastries and different types of toast and warm rolls
• Bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese
• A ditch-all-rules, hang-the-healthy-eating-plan box of cupcakes, served with a demi sec champagne!

Watch this space for more details of our ultimate pamper me breakfast!

Best Pamper Day

When I was at University I was very lucky to make life long friends, with whom I still spend as much time as I can now.  One of my closest friends was (and still is) Shara, from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. Brilliant fun, but a terrible cook. (Sorry love!) However, that said, she did have one very special dish up her sleeve that she could make really well. Best Pamper Day... for those special breakfast in bed days, hence the name Best Pamper Day. It is the only thing that I would have as my breakfast in bed treat. Forget scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and a glass of ready made Bucks Fizz.... This is the real deal if you want to really show someone (especially me) that you love them.
Click on the Love Heart for the recipe....

Inspiration from the Mother Tuckers – Pt 1


A few weeks ago, we did a guest spot on the excellent Mums Rock site (if you haven't been there, go –but not until you've finished up here, of course…) Our name for the day was Mother Tuckers, a name that we really quite liked – and which seemed apt for our 'getting ready for Mothers Day' posts this week.

So, before we proceed to actual cooking later this week, let's deal with the gifts. As two mums who are not exactly rolling in the pretty green stuff (we didn't marry hedge funders, we work in publishing and teaching, you do the math), we like a gift as much as the next gal. But let's face it, it's Mothering Sunday this weekend, not some landmark birthday – so really, there's no need to roll out the diamonds, caviar and Chanel handbags (although if you insist…)

Nope, we're delighted to get any well thought out, small token of appreciation – and especially pleased if it's a food or drink that we love. But if it's foodie, it has to be quality, and it has to be chosen with love and thought. For us, this means small suppliers who do what they do exquisitely well.

So we've put together a small list of options – we'd be happy with any of these on Mothering Sunday, and they all cost under £8

shop bought:
1. A small box of chocolates from Booja Booja, Rococo or Lindt. Or swap your choc for a Fair Trade variety.
2. A beautiful box of cupcakes
3. A bottle of pink prosecco (on offer this week at Co-op for £4.99)
4. A selection of our favourite cheeses, with a bottle of red and some crackers

Homemade:
1. A homemade cake (lemon drizzle is easy for kids to make)
2. Homemade fudge
3. Homemade muffins served with a fresh pot of coffee and the Sunday papers

See you later in the week for recipe ideas to cook on the day!

Trash, Treasure n' Tarts

It's very empowering to witness a group of women get behind something they believe in, and feel such empathy for someone they don't even know. Last night we hosted a Trash and Treasure night as a fundraiser to support a beautiful little girl called Bobbie, who was diagnosed with leukemia on her 6th birthday on Christmas Eve. Everyone brought 10 items, clothes, home ware, unused makeup, candles, jewelery... and we set up a pop up shop in the lounge from which we could browse, try on in the changing room (office) (although as the night progressed there was random strippage in the lounge and kitchen!) and 'buy' with their £10 donation. A few people who had never met before ended up swapping phone numbers, everyone went home with lovely new to them pieces that they were very pleased with, the food of course was fabulous and the house now looks like a bomb site!

We have devised a rolling programme of these nights, next one will be on the 27th of March, with everyone instructed to bring a friend. My friend Jeanine, a beautiful South African woman who I met modelling at a fashion show a couple of years ago, has arranged to talk to the Manager of one of  the more chi chi shopping arcades in the area to do a fundraising event, and Donna, who I met only a few weeks ago, has offered to get her Brownie pack to do some sponsored events too. The best news of the night was not however counting the money we raised, but that at midnight we received an e-mail from Bobbie's mum to say she was in remission. It had been a thought provoking evening despite the semi nakedness of some of the guests, and what I was really touched by was how much everyone wanted to help. My diary seems to be getting rather full, but if you can have some fun and create something positive so much the better. Maybe I'll do a Pop Up Restaurant next time!

Not that this seems at all relevant really but we ate Crab Croustades, Spinach and Hollandaise Croustades, Tiny Stuffed Peppers with Cream Cheese, miniature Jam Tarts with Home made Blackcurrant and Apple Jam, Mini Lemon Tarts, miniature Chocolate Muffins, and in honour of Bobbie Belleve's love of pink, Pink Champagne.

Curry Night

There is nothing better than a big old get together with good friends, good food and good wine....

So... on Saturday night 25 of us sat down to eat curry, chat breeze and enjoy a glass or two of vino. The highest compliment was paid by Lee, who remarked that the food tasted 'proper Indian.' You can't do better than that! The hideous drive to London in high winds and lashing rain with 2 kids in the back, together with discovering a rear tyre pressure of 5 psi on arriving, paled into insignificance once the first cork was popped! We were celebrating a 3rd birthday and the completion of a friend's hard graft to achieve a 2:1 in their second degree, as well as a not insignificant  nod  of  gratitude to truly great mates.

We ate a huge and very delicious Madras Shoulder of Lamb (from Dove and Son on Northcote Road) with Black Salsify and Carrot, an experimental Chicken and Coca Cola Curry, plus another huge Vegan Vegetable Madras with again Black Salsify (thank you Abel and Cole!) and Charlotte Potatoes. This was served with Mango Chutney, Mint Raita, a selection of Rotis, Chapatis & Naan Bread, and perfectly cooked Cardamom Rice.   

We drank Pink Champagne on arrival, and a gorgeous and very large vintage bottle of Chateau Chasse Spleen with our food. 

On asking the now 3 year old the next morning, if she had enjoyed her party (which finished way after she had gone to bed) she remarked that 'It was my best party ever.' I know it's only a couple of days later, but already we are all looking forward to her 4th! 

Jerusalem artichokes – curse of the veg box?


Opinion is divided on the humble Jerusalem artichoke in our household. I love it when they turn up in my Abel and Cole box at this time of year, all gnarly and knobbled, like this. Others, less so. At least, I'm the only one who ever cooks them when they arrive.

And, like all of the more unusual veg that arrives on the doorstep, I like that its arrival makes me think a tad harder about what to cook, and takes me out of any hamster-like repetitive cooking patterns that I may be developing (I know if I shopped for veg at a supermarket, I'd be very dull and largely buy the same things every week.)

Anyway, I've been saving last week's delivery of Jerusalem artichokes to fashion a dish based on one that the wonderful Lucas Hollweg cooked up in the Sunday Times Style magazine a while back.

Here's my version:

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a roasting tin and place in oven preheated to 180
2. Peel and roughly chop 3 onions, and slice one head garlic in half through the middle.
3. Peel and chop 8-10 Jerusalem artichokes into 3cm cubes
4. Cut 2 lemons into quarters
5. Add to the heated oil in the pan along with 6 chicken thighs, 1 tsp chopped sage, and seasoning
6. Cook for 35-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Perfect for a sodden Feb evening served with boiled potatoes and a green veg.

High Tea

As a kid, I always used to love going to my friends’ houses for tea.  Whenever I was invited to Jane’s I remember getting particularly excited, as her Mum would push the boat out and do a proper old school High Tea. French fancies, cucumber sandwiches, brown bread rolls with sandwich spread,  which I have never had any where else. Really posh, crusts off the sandwiches, home made lemonade, just lovely.
Fast forward a few years, and I find myself at Time for Tease, (at The Volupté near Chancery Lane) a rather more risqué affair, every bit as Posh (with a capital P) but just a bit more grown up and saucy.... A mixture of delightful finger food, including sandwiches, scones, home made jam and clotted cream, plus a variety of teas, champagne and cocktails, with a big dollop of Burlesque Cabaret thrown in for good measure!
Kitty Von Strumpet played her ukulele, a variety of Gateaux Vivants appeared to titivate, French Maids served us our tea, all within the beautiful 30’s inspired décor of The Volupté.
My High Tea at home nodded to both these elements, although as it was for my daughter’s 13th birthday, we stuck to 1930’s music and Pink lemonade, the only buns on view were those on the cake stand. I’ll take her when she’s older though, as it is such a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Sinner's soup

Here's what we're cooking up this morning – it feels right after the excesses of yesterday! It's fat free, vegan and packed with vegetables.

- Peel and dice 2 sticks celery, 1 onion, 3 carrots.
- Place in a large pan with 1 tin chopped tomatoes and same quantity water
- Add 1 tsp oregano, 1 stock cube and 2 bay leaves
- Simmer for 50 mins

Add anything you fancy once this stage is done – you could turn it into a minestrone with some pasta and grated cheese, add fried pancetta and spinach leaves and serve with crusty bread, or just eat as is.