So apologies, i know i’ve been pretty slack with the whole cooking/blogging/ much of anything since i left Nassau but i decided it was time to get back down to it, so when i returned from London on Friday afternoon, off i went. We were heading to a friends house for the evening but Alex wanted a snack as we hadn’t really eaten that day so i had a rummage through the fridge and got cracking. It didn’t take long before i landed on the idea of a bruschetta/crostini kinda thing. These are something i make a lot, varying the ingredients depending on the season, what i have in the fridge and, most importantly, my mood; leading Alex to declare me the ‘queen of crostini’ the other day. Now, not meaning to brag (well, maybe just a little) but i think this one in particular definitely gets me closer to that kind of title. It’s yummy and it’s scrummy and you might love me just a little bit after trying this. Obviously if this doesn’t really grab you then just mix it up a little, you could swap out the herbs, use a different cheese, whatever you like really, that’s the whole beauty of something like this. I know that it’s basically just random stuff on toast but if you use some proper ingredients and are nice to your bread, treat it well etc, then what you end up with is so much more than the sum of it’s parts. This recipe will make 2 decent sized crostini, serve one with a salad for lunch. I had some really yummy bits left around the fridge, perfectly sweet cherry tomatoes from the market, a herb and chilli marinated feta from a great little deli stall and thick cut smoked bacon from the butcher. I know you’re probably getting annoyed with me rambling on about it already but honestly, buying good ingredients will make more difference than i can say. Don’t believe me? just try it and see

Crostini with tomato, bacon, feta, basil and topped off nicely with some fried quails eggs

2 pieces of bread, get some nice stuff, sourdough, ciabatta or just a good granary will all work well
2 rashers of smoked back bacon
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
5 basil leaves
1/4-1/3 of a block of feta
1 clove garlic
4 quails eggs

First things first, get yourself a frying pan on the hob and get it heating up, fry the bacon in a tiny bit of oil until it’s all nice and crispy, especially the fat, you really don’t want chewy fat in something like this. Once it’s done, remove the bacon onto some kitchen roll and chuck the halved cherry tomatoes into the pan, adding a tiny bit more oil if necessary. Cook until just soft and remove. Add the bread to the pan, this is such a good way of toasting bread as it means that it soaks up all the delicious flavours from the pan as well as getting golden. Once it’s nicely coloured on both sides, rub the toast with a cut garlic clove, it’s amazing how much of a difference this makes (you need to do it whilst the toast is hot though). Chop up the bacon into little strips and toss with the tomatoes and crumbled up feta. Tear up the basil and add that to the mix along with some salt and pepper. All you need to do now is fry up those quails eggs and assemble. Simply pile up everything on the toast and top each one with 2 quails eggs. Done and dusted, now tell me that’s not good?

Hmm, now what next? Well i got back the following day and was greeted by some pretty sad looking broccoli. It was looking at me as if to say “if you don’t use me today, tonight i’m going to die and then you’ll be sorry”. Obviously I couldn’t let that happen, so i decided to make some soup, specifically, Broccoli and Stilton soup. This is an age old combination and there’s good reason behind this, it’s luscious and rich and velvety smooth. What more do you want from a soup? So it might not be the most summery combination but when you taste it, i’m not sure how much you’ll care. Also, lets be honest, you know as well as i do that we’ll have at least a handful of crappy, rainy days during the summer so make it on one of those days if you can’t bear to do it when it’s sunny. It also is really quick and takes very few ingredients to make. All good so far so here it is.

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

1 small onion, diced
1 small garlic glove, thinly sliced
knob of butter
2 new potatoes (or 1 small normal, it’s just for a bit of body) thinly siced
1 medium head of broccoli
100g stilton
500ml chicken stock

Start by sweating the onions and garlic in a knob of butter until they’re soft and translucent but don’t let them get any colour. Add the stock and the potatoes. Divide the broccoli into florets and stalk. Peel and trim the stalk and then finely slice it. When the potato is nearly cooked, add the stalk, and after a minute or so, add the florets. Cook until the broccoli is just cooked as you want it to stay vibrant and green. Crumble the Stilton into the soup and stir to melt it in. Allow to cool a little bit and then blend. Top with a little extra crumbled stilton if you like (i like) and serve on it’s own or with a hunk of crusty bread.

Later on that evening, my mum and her friend were coming round for dinner so Alex and i decided to cook something relaxed and simple. In short, something that would ensure that we weren’t tied to the stove all evening frantically stirring and chopping. As the sun had decided to show itself we wanted something light and tasty and roast chicken with a big bold salad seemed like something that would fit the bill nicely. And it did indeed. Now, we found a chilli, garlic and pepper salt in sainsburys by Jamie Oliver so we used that but if you don’t have any then don’t worry.

Roast Chicken with a Big Summery Salad

For the chicken:
1 chicken
1/2 a peach
1/2 a lemon
3 garlic cloves
small bunch of thyme
salt and pepper
Jamie Oliver chilli, ginger and pepper salt
2 rashers bacon

1 red pepper, quartered
2 tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 mushrooms roughly chopped
1 onion roughly chopped into about 8

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Stuff the chicken with the 1/2 peach, 1/2 lemon, garlic cloves and thyme. Season inside and outside with salt, pepper and the chilli/ginger/pepper/salt if using. Put a roasting tin on the hob and get some oil hot in it. Sear the chicken on all sides until lightly golden. Remove the chicken and add the pepper, tomatoes, mushrooms and onion to the pan before setting the chicken back on top. Lay a slice of bacon over each breast and pop that sucker in the oven. After 15 minutes, or once the bacon is crispy remove the bacon and set aside and dot a knob of butter on each breast. Roast until the juices run clear when you poke it, about an hour or so. Make sure you stab it in the thickest part of the leg as this takes the longest to cook. Once it’s done, make a little tin foil tent over the chicken and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whilst the chicken is in the oven, get on with the salad

2 peaches, sliced
1/3 cucumber
15-20 cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 block of feta, crumbled
1 roasted red pepper (use the one from under the chicken)
2 bacon rashers (again the ones from the chicken)
2 big spring onions or 3 or 4 normal ones
1 bunch asparagus
800g-1kg new potatoes

Lightly pan fry the peaches (no oil) until they soften slightly, this won’t take too long. Halve the cucumber lengthways and finely slice, do the same with the spring onions. Peel and trim the woody ends of the asparagus, wash the new potatoes. Boil or steam them both (bear in mind that the new potatoes will take longer, depending on how big they are) until just cooked. Quarter the new potatoes. Once the chicken is done, chop up the bacon and red pepper and then toss everything up together in a big bowl and dress with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

After we’d all had a little rest, we rolled right on into dessert, which is, in fact, the first of many gooseberry recipes to come as I bought a fairly obscene amount the other day (but more of that next time). Anyway, one of goosebery’s bestest friends is the elderflower so i thought, simples, lets get those to together for a little reunion. This cake will serve 8 people and is a great tea time cake as well as a dessert as it’s light and refreshing. I used a standard sized, fairly shallow cake tin here so if you’ve have one then use that. This is a really easy cake to make, the cake batter itself i’ve been using in some form or another since i was about 4 so even if you’re not a baker i think you’ll be ok.

Gooseberry and Elderflower Cake

150g gooseberries
1-2 tsp elderflower cordial depending on how strong it is
100g soft butter + extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
100g plain flour + extra for the tin
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 180C (i put it in the same oven as the chicken). Butter your cake tin and then dust lightly and evenly with flour, tap out the excess flour. Halve the gooseberries and arrange as many as you can get, willy nilly over the bottom of the cake tin. For the cake batter, cream the butter and sugar together. Add one egg and combine followed by half the flour and repeat with the other egg and rest of the flour. Stir in the elderflower cordial. Pour the cake batter over the gooseberries and even the top. Add the remaining berries and push just under the surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden and a skewer/knife comes out clean. Serve with lightly whipped double cream to which you’ve added a little vanilla extract.