Friday, 28 January 2011

Spaghetti Con Gamberetti e Rucola

What is it with kids and spaghetti?  They love it, mine would happily eat nothing but "persketti" for the rest of their lives.  Just the mere mentioned of the word and they are jumping up and down on the spot and I even couldn't keep them away from this - I called it "grown ups persketti" in the hope that they wouldn't be yanking the knife and fork out of my hand but it was no use. I was still mugged for my dinner.

This is spaghetti with prawns and rocket for those of us who are not up to speed with the Italian lingo and it comes from Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Italy" book that was published back in 2005.

As always I was on the hunt for something that could be quickly rustled up after work and this sounded simple and tasty so I thought I'd give it a try.  The ingredients sounded right up my street and I figured if I could just get Mr M to overlook the rocket part he'd be fine. (My way round this is just to not tell him what I am cooking - he's then so hungry by the time it's ready, he'd eat roadkill).

We LOVED this. I can't tell you how much.  It's all so simple and unfussy - so much so that I thought maybe it woud be a bit bland or boring but it was delicious! I really enjoy a huge plate of pasta, there's something so satisfying, and this just pressed all my buttons.  I will be making this again, and again, and again until we're so fed up of it even hearing the name of this dish will send us running for the hills.

I felt I must share this with you so here it is. This recipe serves 4.

Spaghetti Con Gamberetti e Rucola


455g dried spaghetti
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled & finely chopped
1-2 dried red chillies, crumbled
400g cooked and peeled prawns
1 small glass of white wine
2 heaped tbsps of sun-dried tomato puree (or 6 sun-dried tomatoes blitzed in a blender).
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 handfuls of rocket, roughly chopped


Cook the spaghetti (according to pack) in a large pan of boiling water. (Jamie says salted but I rarely add salt when cooking pasta). 

Heat three tbsps of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan and toss in the chilli and garlic.  Once the garlic begins to colour slightly add the white wine and the sun-dried tomato puree and simmer for a few minutes to reduce the liquid slightly.  Throw in the prawns and simmer for a few more minutes until they are heated through.

When the spaghetti is ready, drain it in a colander.  Reserve some of the cooking liquid as you may want to use this to loose the sauce a bit.   Mix the spaghetti with the sauce, add the lemon juice and half of the chopped rocket.  (This is the point to add some of the reserved water if you wish to do so).  Have a little taste and add some salt and pepper now if you feel like it needs it.

Divide between flour plates and top with the grated lemon zest and remaining rocket.

Now, I couldn't find any dried red chillies on this occasion so I just used some Schwartz dried flaked chillies and it was fine.  I also used cooked prawns as that was what I had in the fridge but Jamie's original recipe uses raw prawns so I have adjusted the method slightly because of this.

I served this with some garlic tear'n'share bread and wolfed it down faster than the speed of light!


love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Book Review: How I Cook by Skye Gyngell

I was recently sent a copy of "How I Cook" by Skye Gyngell to review.  This is the first book by Skye Gyngell that I have ever laid hands on and I'll be honest and say I didn't really know a lot about her.  Turns out she is an award-winning chef and food writer and I've been living under a rock.  Skye is head chef at Petersham Nurseries Cafe in Richmond Surrey and a food writer who has contributed to the Independent on Sunday, Vogue and Delicious so it's fair to say, she knows her food.

The book has several chapters under headings like "Breakfast", "Simple Weekday Dinners" and "Afternoon Tea" and is extremely aesthetically pleasing. It's a pleasure to look through and read, and the photography within the book is excellent.

In all honesty, I found the book a little bit "aspirational" for want of a better word, I mean, it's clearly not a book for those short on time or money. For instance "strawberry, fig and greengage compote" sounds like a marvellous thing to have for breakfast but in reality greengages are not that easy to come by.  I've certainly never seen them in my local supermarket and there's definitely not an abundance of them growing in my garden.  As a busy (part-time) working mother I don't really have the time nor the inclination to stand soaking oats and making my own muesli, so whilst it's pleasant to idle the time away looking at the pretty pictures and imagining that it would be a nice thing to do the chances of me ever doing it are slim to none.

This is not me saying this isn't a good book though, on the contrary.  Skye focuses on good, fresh, seasonal food and combines ingredients in interesting ways.  The recipes are on the whole quite simple and straightforward and don't require tons of ingredients.  I'd feel confident about attempting the recipes as they are uncomplicated and there are definitely a few things that I will be trying like the lemon self-saucing pudding, the orange and current scones and the salad of jersey royals with herbs and creme fraiche.  There is also a delectable sounding summer aperitif "Vin de Peche" which I will be making for sure - it's made of cognac, red wine and peach leaves (so obviously you need access to a peach tree).

In summary, I feel it's not every day food as it might suggest and certainly doesn't fit in with my ethos of family meals but there are some gems in there.  I'll certainly be cooking from it in the future when I am looking for something to impress or I've got more time to muddle around in the kitchen.  If you're an adventurous cook or class yourself as a proper foodie who likes to experiment with fresh produce and cook with the seasons then I think you'll like this book a lot.  

"How I Cook" is published by Quadrille and the RRP of this book is £25.00.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

You can't have failed to notice this documentary on Channel 4 - if you haven't seen it yourself, you'll no doubt have heard about it in newspapers, magazines, on Facebook or Twitter. I have to admit I was really looking forward to watching this after seeing the one-off documentary last year.  I wasn't disappointed, this is jaw-dropping tv.  Apparently the travelling community want to carry on their traditions and customs but what part of turning up at your holy communion in a bright pink limo or to your wedding in a customised truck is "traditional"?!

The dresses, oh the dresses. Last night saw the dressmaker spending the majority of the wedding clutching a fire extinguisher incase one of the many sets of lights the girls dress sported sent the dress up like a roman candle.  These are huge dresses, weighing twice their body weight in many cases and the scars that the dresses leave them with are "badges of honour". (I shouldn't really comment on that too much as I still bear scars on my back from my wedding dress...!).  I can't even imagine how much these dresses cost, the woman who designs and makes them must be making a killing!

Being a good Catholic girl myself *cough* there's something incredibly wrong about seeing these girls as young as six wearing these big elaborate dresses, full faces of make-up and spray tans. It's more American beauty pageant than first holy communion, and the outfits they choose to change into later?! Very uncomfortable watching to see young girls bumping and grinding in clothes that amount to little more than underwear.

But aside from entertainment and the fun parts, last night showed another side - where the travellers get evicted from the sites they live on.  Now I'm not going to debate the wrongs and rights, for most of us will agree I am sure that it's wrong to blatantly break the planning laws in the way some of the travellers do but what is clear is that there is a real need for the local governments and the travelling community to work out a solution together.  It was painful to watch peoples homes torn down, protestors (who were non-travellers supporting them) being dragged away by the arms and legs by burly bailiffs and small children watching all  this going on.  I don't know what the solution is, and in fairness I'm probably just as much of a NIMBY as many other people because generally all we hear is the bad stuff about travellers, and yes, there are some unscrupulous members of the community but there are bad apples in every area of society.

There are other more alarming parts to these programmes, especially the custom of "grabbing" which was shown in last weeks episode where the boys physically force the girls to kiss them.  By any other name this would be assault but apparently it's part of their culture so they accept it.  Travellers apparently have a very strict moral code which is no bad thing - teenage pregnancy, living together before marriage and divorce are all very shameful which is why girls marry young however I do remember watching one girl getting married last year who at the age of around 22 felt that she was basically on the shelf and I actually shed a tear (!) watching her dance with father at her wedding as she just didn't look happy.  She's now divorced and far happier it seems.

So in summary, yes, I am still enjoying this programme and laughing along with what I see but it also makes me sad at times. It sparks some interesting debates though and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

love & kisses
Mrs M x

PS I'd just like to add that I do know some travellers and their lifestyle - weddings, traditions, customs etc are nothing like this which does make me wonder if we are only seeing the very extreme side of the culture.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

A few weeks ago now I was tagged by Inspire My House Pretty with the Stylish Blogger Award.  I'm still getting back on my blogging feet so it's taken me a long time to get around to posting this.  It's always nice to be remembered/recognised my people as often I feel like nobody is reading my blog and now I know at least one person is!

The rules of this are that you have to share seven random things about yourself and then select ten blogs to pass along the award to. I'm going to share my seven things with you in a moment but first, I will say that I'm not going to actually tag anyone with this as I'm not sure who has done this and who hasn't so what I will say is please feel free to tag yourself and let me know if you've done it as I'd love to read your seven things!

So my seven random things, I'm going to try hard to make them things I've not mentioned on here before.

1.  I hate coffee, and anything coffee flavoured. 
2.  I have an extremely painful wisdom tooth that can't be extracted as it will paralyse my face.
3.  I'm petrified of moths and daddy long legs.
4. I have a thing about notepaper. Pretty notepaper that comes with stickers & matching envelopes.
5.  I had never eaten a prawn until I was 22.
6.  When I was a little girl I wished my name was Polly or Trixie.
7.  I have a great memory. I'm like an elephant, I never forget.

There you have it! Please feel free to tell me 7 random things about you!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Friday, 21 January 2011

2011 Reading List

Okay, you may have noticed the absence of my 2011 resolutions, that's because I'm not making any. I don't stick to them so what's the point? One of my resolutions last year was to read more and I've got to be honest I didn't make much headway with that for one reason or another.

2010 seemed like a crazy year - it flew by and I was busy with school activities, family history, work and by the time I settle down in the evening my head just isn't in the right place for reading anything other than Grazia or Heat but I am going to try harder this year. Okay, so all those things that filled my head in 2010 haven't gone away but I'm going to make more time to read and work on the HUGE pile of books that are waiting for me.  

I've just finished reading Breaking Dawn for the second time and am now deliberating over what to read next.  Here's my 2011 reading list;

Flowers in The Attic - Virginia Andrews
Garden of Shadows - Virginia Andrews
Seeds of Yesterday - Virginia Andrews
Petals on the Wind - Virginia Andrews
If There be Thorns - Virginia Andrews
Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
Gangs of Birmingham - Philip Gooderson
The Secret History - Donna Tartt
One Day - David Nicholls
The Holocaust - Martin Gilbert
The Last Curtsey - Fiona MacCarthy
Elizabeth the Queen -  Alison Weir
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne Bronte
Emma - Jane Austen
The Lady Elizabeth - Alison Weir
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
Elizabeth Taylor biography - Alexander Walker
Things I Want My Daughters Know - Elizabeth Noble
Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
Penguin Poems for Life - Laura Barber
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger
Children of England: The Heirs of King Henry VIII - Alison Weir
America's Queen: The Life of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis - Sarah Bradford
On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan
The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
Love in the Present Tense - Catherine Ryan Hyde
The Photograph - Penelope Lively
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Since I Don't Have You - Louise Candlish
Bad Science - Ben Goldacre
For One More Day - Mitch Albom
Tuesdays with Morrie - Mitch Albom
The Making of Modern Britain - Andrew Marr
Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel
Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
The Lady in the Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn - Alison Weir
The Secret History of Georgian London - Dan Cruickshank
The Mitfords - Charlotte Mosley
Black Diamonds - Catherine Bailey
Wicked - Jilly Cooper

That's quite a list and looking at that now I think I'm going to plump for The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to start with. I'd better get cracking!

If you've ready any of these do stop and leave me a comment. If one of them is cruddy then let me know and I may not waste my time!  Have you got a reading list this year?

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ham in Cherry Coke

I'm a bit late in posting this seeing as I made it on Christmas Eve but things have got in the way like the flu, non-existant broadband and 101 school commitments and I'm finally getting round to catching up!

As I say, I made this on Christmas Eve. It's a newly created tradition in my house that I cook a ham (well, gammon if we're going to be correct) on Christmas Eve.  Last year I made Nigella's Ham in Coke and this year I thought I'd try the cherry version.

I really enjoy cooking the ham, it's very therapeutic and satisfying even if Mr M did want to sling the darn gammon at my head that morning (I sent him to the butchers to buy one when he collected the turkey, he came back with one half the size I wanted so I sent him back to change it... If he'd just done what he was told in the first place...)

This was so easy to make and very tasty, it lasted well in the fridge and over the course of a week I think we (I mean Mr M when I say we, I was on hunger strike due to the aforementioned flu) ate it all.  I think overall I preferred last years ham and may default back to that one for Christmas 2011. I'm not sure, I just felt that something was missing but even so, it was top. There's nothing like fresh, home-cooked ham.

Ham in Cherry Coke


approx 2.5kg boneless mild cure gammon
approx 6 cans of cherry coke
1 onion, halved

For the glaze;
16 whole cloves
3-4 tbsps cherry jam
1tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp red wine vinegar


Place the gammon into a large saucepan and fill with cold water. Bring to the boil, drain and rinse the ham, rinse the saucepan and pop the ham back in. (This is to get rid of some of the saltiness).

Add the cherry coke and the halved onion. You want the liquid to cover the ham completely so if you've not got enough cherry coke, top it up with some water.  Put the pan back on the heat and bring to the boil.  Simmer and partially cover the pan. Leave on the heat for approximately 2 hours.

When it comes to glazing the ham, preheat the oven to gas mark 8/230 degrees.  Remove the ham from the pan and sit it on a large chopping board. Strip off the rind and some of the thick fat layer.  Cut a diamond pattern into the remaining fat - you want the lines about 2cm apart and then stud each diamond with one of the whole cloves.

Pop the cherry jam, smoked paprika and red wine vinegar into a saucepan and whisk it all together over a high heat. Bring to the boil and let the pan bubble away so that the glaze reduces to a kind of syrup.

Sit the ham in a roasting pan on some foil. (the glaze will burn and make an awful mess so don't forget this part!)  Pour the glaze over the top of the ham and pop in the oven for around 15mins or until the glaze has burnished.

Take the ham out of the oven and allow to rest on a chopping board before carving.

For some strange reason I always struggle to locate cherry jam in the supermarkets, this time however I found some lurking in the Polish section of Tesco!

A tip from Nigella is to use a snug pan when boiling the ham - that way you'll need less Coke!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Golden Globes Awards 2011

Yay! It's awards season again which means lots of bitching and fawning over the celebs dresses, one of my favourite past-times as you might well know from previous posts.

I'm going to leap right in. After all, who cares that Ricky Gervais ripped the pee out of some of Hollywood's finest? (Err, I do! I don't even like Gervais but it's funny all the same to see the celebs having the smug smiles wiped of their faces. That's entertainment folks!).

So, hits and misses....I actually don't have that many misses so I'll start with those first.  [Edit: Scrap that, I have SHEDLOADS of misses!)

Tilda Swinton. Oof. That's all I'm saying.

I want to love Helena Bonham Carter here, I do, because in fact I love her a lot but that doesn't detract from the fact that she's as mad as a box of frogs and this outfit is ker-razy.

I'm aware I'm probably alone in my dislike of a) this outfit and b) Halle Berry in any outfit but it's my blog and so I say it's a miss.

"Jenny from the block" Lopez manages to look quite harsh here? Me no likey.

Cripes January Jones, daring dress. I'm not keen and also on every photo I have seen of her she looked pig-miserable. Chin up!

Julianne Moore! Too frumpy, too pink, TOO CREASED!

First one of my Glee girls and somehow Naya Rivera manages to make everything she wears look slutty. That's no mean feat.

Does Christina Hendricks mean to style herself on Jessica Rabbit? The hair, the dress, the colour... Yes, she has killer curves but this dress makes her look a bit top heavy and funny around the shoulder area.

Could Michelle Williams look any more frumpy?

Now the hits;

Anne Hathaway - has she not grown into the most amazing beauty and great actress? Love her and love this dress. Super-sexy back.

Maybe a bit boring and safe but quite elegant and understand, Carrie Underwood looks good!

I'm no Zeta-Jones fan but I actually love this dress and I adore the colour, what a magnificent green. Not sure about the hair though.

Surprise! Yes I actually like this look on Christina Aguilera. I'm very fond of a lacy dress and she looks way better here than she did on her recent X Factor performance.

Another Glee girl, Dianna Agron. So pretty and demure. Love it.

Elizabeth Moss working the green as well, this dress is lush and she looks hot!

Safe old black but Eva Longoria (have we dropped the Parker bit now?) always hits the right note and looks amazing.

Okay, so Hayden Panettiere had a slight wardrobe malfunction which I am sure didn't look as bad if you were right there. Those darn camera flashes. That doesn't detract from the fact that this is a top dress.

Did you see Glee this week? The Brittany/Britney episode? Heather Morris has a figure I'd KILL for and she looks great in this dress.

You may know I love Heidi Klum, it's true. I think she looks great here working the seventies vibe that is going to be everywhere this Spring. Hubba hubba.

Jenna Ushkowitz is probably one of the more overlooked Glee girls but she's gorgeous and I love this dress on her.

Daring colour on Kyra Sedgwick and I think it works. Love the style of the dress too.

Lea Michele. I feel like I really should hate this but I don't. She looks happy, pretty and like she's having immense fun.

I'm not entirely sure about this dress but I do like the colour and Mandy Moore has grown up to be such a gorgeous gorgeous girl so it's a hit from me.

Blooming 'eck, Natalie Portman looks swell! (Pun-tastic, huh?) I wish I looked nearly this good in pregnancy.

 Scarlett Johansson almost blends in with this dress but it's beautiful, as is she.

Love, love, love all this sparkle on Amber Riley.

And finally, I've got a few maybes as I just couldn't decide. Help me?

I just can't ignore the fact that Angelina Jolie irritates the hell out of me. I like the colour of this dress but she looks very angular.

I like Sandra Bullock's dress. I hate Sandra Bullocks hair.

I do kind of like Olivia Wilde's dress in a kind of Barbie way.

I adore Jayma Mays but her face/make-up scares me a little. I can't get past that.

Yeah, yeah Nicole Kidman always looks good but she also always looks the same.

So what do you think? Do you agree with my views? Who did you love and who did you hate?

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Best toys of Christmas?

This is not a sponsored post, I repeat NOT a sponsored post! I'm lying in bed with the flu, still, and pondering over what toys were a success this Christmas. The children got mounds of presents this year and clearly some are more loved than others, although I do have to say everything was well-received and has been played with - I think it pays to take time to choose things you know they'll love and that will get lots of use.

I thought I'd share with you the best loved toys and hopefully you might like to share with me what has been a hit in your house.

First up, the Playdoh Burger Builder

I was in two minds whether to buy this or not as generally these things get used once and shelved however this has been a huge hit. The children love making the little burgers up and even I have had a little fun playing with it, although I will admit to getting a bit OCD over the children mixing the Playdoh colours. That's clearly my *ahem* issue and not theres.  We've already had hours of use of this and for around £13, that's good value for money.

The Lucky Dancing Dalmatian Puppy from The Disney Store was a runaway success for my 3 year old boy.

In truth, I already knew it would be since he had spotted this in store one time and couldn't leave it alone, even giving it a kiss goodbye when it was time to go. Sweet! Yes, it's slightly annoying when you've heard "How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?" for the 45th time that day but it's a winner!

Next up the Rock Star Guitar from ELC.

Noisy? Yes, very but watching your 4 year old leap around like a loon with the specs and microphone on? Priceless.  Musical instruments have always been a favourite in this house and after a good few months of her playing air guitar (and quite well actually) I decided it was time for her to take it up a notch...

My little boy loves Ben 10 and had expressly asked Santa for some "Ben 10 toys". Santa delivered of course and brought him this projector watch. He actually doesn't do a lot of projecting with it however he does like the little light on it and when he wears this with his Ben 10 pyjamas I think he thinks he actually is Ben 10. He loves this so much he sleeps with it on his wrist.

Favourite game was Orchard Toys "Crazy Chefs"

I love the Orchard Toys games, they're perfect for my little ones as they're educational and the concept of them is easy enough that my 3 year old can grasp how to play them (and how to cheat at them). Crazy Chefs is a great game and we've played it so much already. I'm now eyeing up the Tummy Ache game, for them obviously, not me.

Baking Set from Le Toy Van

This was more of a hit than I ever thought it would be but along with the wooden tea set toys from ELC, this has been played with so much. I can't recall how much fake cake I've been forced to eat recently.  My daughter loves this so much and it's easy to see why.

Other favourites include bits and bobs from Brio for my 3 year olds wooden train set. His train set is probably his favourite thing ever so he was pleased to get a few other accessories. The Brio stuff is very good quality and takes a huge amount of abuse so whilst it's a little more expensive than some other products, I think it's worth the money.

Girly insisted on Slyvanian Families for Christmas so we got her a few bits but as much as she says she loves it and wants it she doesn't really play with it so it feels like a bit of a waste of money. She's only just 5 though so perhaps she's still a litte young for it?

Games like Hungry Hippos, Buckaroo and Pop Up Pirate were received well but I have to be honest, the quality of these games now is shocking. I don't expect them to last very long at all and was very disappointed with them.

Did you have any rip-roaring successes or mighty fails with regards to children's toys this year? I'd love to hear what your little ones are loving!

love & kisses
Mrs M x

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Out with the old...

So I am being a very bad blogger at the moment but I'm still feeling very yucky, I appear to get a new symptom every day and am not making a whole lot of progress towards getting better yet, am really quite fed up now.

I did have a day or two of feeling about 80% this week and have managed to start on the mass decluttering of 2011. No cupboard or drawer in the house is being left unturned, I'm trying to simplify my life and get organised!  I'm guilty of being a complete hoarder, something I am trying very hard to stop but I get so nostalgic over things - for instance I still have all my old school books and GCSE coursework festering in the loft and I left school in the mid 90s and have moved house twice since then!

Anyway I am enjoying getting back to normality, children went back to school today (and have obviously come back home with a long list of things for me to organise in the next few weeks) and work resumes again this week so if my sinuses would care to clear themselves up and I finally start to feel human again my blogging should resume to normal too, especially as I have a few posts that need writing. It's just hard to fully concentrate when your brain feels a bit like fudge.  I thrive on routine so I am hopeful that it's all going to fall back into place!

Do tell me about your Christmas and New Year - I'd love to hear what you've been getting up to over the break.

love & kisses
Mrs M x