She roared like a wild boar!

Wild boar with Olives and Herbs:

Words flowed from my mouth as if it wasn't me talking. I even surprised myself!

Let me set the scene...

Day 15 of the school holidays.  Basic tasks to leave the house are taking forever and a usual 20 min round trip to the mall takes 3 times longer due to traffic before we even arrive at the park.

The sun had decided to come out properly for the first time all holidays and there were wall to wall cars flanking the park, not a space in sight. Except for one. I locked in.

With traffic stacked behind me, I did the due diligence of indicating whilst parallel with the space, wacked on my hazards and then drove ahead of the space before starting the reverse park.

You know what happened next. 

The car behind pulls up too close leaving me no space. I had clocked this was a learner driver but I'd hoped this would be a learning opportunity (unless they were on their test!) But I was not letting this space go.

It was going to be tight but I started my reverse, at which the car behind beeped in panic. I was within a foot of the learner cars front end. I felt confident and undeterred. The pressure was on! I glided into the space, without parking sensors I hasten to add;  I made it into the space first go. (PHEW!)

And here is where it happened. 

It was almost as if I was outside of my body observing what was happening. My initial thought was of annoyance at the lack of reading the situation from behind and in my head, the raging me said some bitter, angry "FFS, give me some more space next time." Bit harsh though, considering it was a learner driver!

But the reality of the situation was that my heart was rather pleased with myself at nailing the manoeuvre and I heard my sassy self-say...

"Now that's how you reverse park."

Being a warm day, both of us had our windows open and I had that grounding moment of OMG I just said that out loud AND she heard me. I was met with...

"Well done. PASS." Touche. 

As this experience came back to mind last night (I had forgotten about it and hadn't even told my husband) I thought about posting it and wondered what the greater learning of it all was.

In my efforts of evolving and raising my awareness being in the position of the observer is something I am making strides towards. It's easy day to day to get caught up in the drama and to be the feeling (I feel upset) rather than to observe or notice the feeling (I notice I'm feeling upset). 

I find when I am in the place of observing my behaviour and noticing how I feel this creates space for other things.  To be objective, more heart centred and listen to what lies within. A life where we notice how we feel and observe our actions and responses can only help us understand what lies within even more and enable us to give ourselves what we need. 

I am fast learning that it's nobody else's job other than my own to speak and find what I need and not expect those around me to be mind readers! There is also something somewhat empowering about finding and following what is true to your core and not relying on external things to fulfil a feeling inside. And breathe.

Back in February, I followed my heart to drive 2 hours to attend an Italian masterclass that I was kindly invited to by Bookings for You (Tuscan holiday specialists). I had the most fantastic day watching the Giovannini family cook their Tuscan family recipes, and I am sharing another one with you here. Wild boar! If you can't get hold of any boar you could use venison or indeed lamb. But your local butcher will stock it at the moment! 

If you would like to win an Italian hamper (right) like the one I received at the masterclass, including handmade goods from the family bakery then click through to The Fuss Free Foodie home page and follow the rafflecopter link. The competition closes on April the 15th 2018. Open to UK residents only.

Roasted Wild Boar with Olives and Herbs
  • 1.5kg Wild boar haunch, bone in
  • 20 sage leaves
  • 5g rosemary spines, no stalk
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 cup of pork fat, chopped into small cubes (you could use a little lard but your butcher will have it or just cover with slices of prosciutto)
  • 1/2 bottle of white wine
  • 2-3 handfuls of black olives
  1. Preheat the oven to 170degreesC Fan/190 conventional
  2. Roughly chop the garlic on a chopping board. Then do the same with the herbs. Bring them together to make a finer chopped mix of all 3
  3. Take a long pointed knife and make 20-30, 2-inch incisions all over the meat so that you can stuff the little pockets with herbs and fat
  4. Poke in a piece of fat and then stuff in some herbs
  5. When all the pockets are stuffed drizzle the top with olive oil, salt and pepper and then rub over the rest of the herbs and fat
  6. Place in a roasting tin, and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, uncovered
  7. After this time, take the boar out of the oven. Throw in the olives and pour in the wine. Put back in the oven for another 45 minutes. After this time flip the boar over and give it another 45 mins  
  8. Take out of the oven, check it is hot through to the middle (thermometer or just with a knife) and allow the meat to rest for at least 15 mins
  9. I served this with a celeriac and potato dauphinoise and some Italian cabbage (cavalo nero) but you could equally serve with some roast potatoes and veg of your choice!

My favourite recipe for celeriac and potato dauphinoise is here by Jamie Oliver

If you fancy making the Giovannini family Tiramisu the day before for pudding, follow this link here

This meat is also super tasty cold with a simple salsa verde too! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pick me up Tuscan style

Tiramisu:

My first trip to Tuscany was so eventful, I'm amazed  I ever wanted to go back! Amidst the stress of manoeuvring through the tiny Italian side streets and almost getting locked outside the city walls and having to hitch a lift back in, added to the holidays' charm!

People are often surprised that I haven't spent more time in Italy, and Italy is deep-rooted in my soul but France always seemed to capture my heart. But I think that may be about to change.

The rolling hill landscapes of Tuscany, stunning architecture, churches and piazzas of places like Siena and Lucca are what I recall of my time in Tuscany. But now there is somewhere else I want to visit!

Roughly midway between Siena and Pisa, there is a small town called Volterra. There you will find the oldest shop in town which specializes in perfectly crafted pastries of the region. Lucky for me, I was able to witness their traditional Italian cake being made a couple of weeks by Giancarlo the 2nd generation patissier from the Giovannini family when they visited the UK.

He and his wife Fabiola who set up the shop almost 25 years ago having joined his father in his pastry business when he was 14.  Decades of skill displayed before me, I was mesmerised watching Giancarlo. With dexterity, he assembled his handmade mille-feuille style pastry filled with pastry cream, fresh berries and topped with cream.

Tempting beyond belief....and tasted out of this world!

Dario, his son and daughter in law, Vera work in the family business and demonstrated their skill too as they made their family recipe for Tiramisu. A classic fuss-free Italian dessert that I have made twice since meeting them!

This has unleashed my desire to return to Tuscany and visit the Giovannini family and their stunning villa and land where they also produce their own olive oil too. It turns out they are only 25 miles from the beautiful pinewood coastal town of Cecina which we also came across 15 years ago and will be great for family beach time!

So now I'm off to call Jo from award-winning Bookings for You  (turns out we know each other form 20 years ago as it is!) to find us a villa with a pool so we can bring this vision to reality. All being well for this year too!

Jo founded the company 7 years ago and has over 350 properties in 8 regions of Italy (and has a small portfolio in France now too), so I'm confident our paths crossing again will be the intersection to new holiday adventures!

Tiramisu

This is super simple and fuss free, just follow my top tips along the way! This is easily doubled to make enough for 12.

Serves 6

4 eggs
60g caster sugar
250g mascarpone cheese
250g ladyfingers/boudoir biscuits
5 tsp. coffee
300ml hot water

Dish approx. 20cm by 15 in size with a depth of approx 6cm

1.Separate the eggs into two separate bowls. Making sure that you have as little egg white as possible in with the egg yolk
2. Using a hand mixer, start to whisk the egg whites until it becomes meringue-like. Gradually add 30g of the caster sugar slowly to the mixture whilst whisking until it forms stiff peaks
3. Clean the whisk and start whisking the egg yolks until the yolks go lighter in colour. Then gradually start to add the remaining 30g of sugar to the egg yolks whilst whisking until it grows a little in volume.
4. Add the mascarpone cheese to the egg yolk mixture and continue to whisk until it is smooth
5. Add a spoonful of egg white to the egg yolk mixture, to loosen the mix. Fold in SUPER GENTLY. Add two more spoonfuls and fold in SUPER GENTLY! A figure of 8 folding here is good. Continue until all the egg white is incorporated
6. Add the coffee granules to the hot water. Take a boudoir biscuit and dip it in the coffee, spinning it round in the coffee for about 8 seconds or less if your fingers are burning! Place it on the bottom of the bowl and repeat until you have a complete layer of biscuits on the bottom of the dish
7. Pour over half of the mascarpone/egg mixture over the biscuits. Repeat the dipping in coffee and place on top of the mascarpone mixture to make another layer. This time as the coffee has cooled spin for up to 10 seconds!
8. Once you have another full layer of biscuits, if you have any coffee leftover gently drizzle it over this layer of biscuits until it is all gone
9. Add the final half of the cream over the boudoir biscuits and make a level top without losing the volume of the mixture
10. Leave to set in the fridge overnight and sieve over cocoa powder before serving

If your mixture is loose, don't worry. With my first attempt, this happened, and it just meant it didn't hold its shape as well, but certainly didn't impair the delicious flavour!

If you are concerned about giving raw egg to children, pregnant women or the elderly please read the new advice released last year by the Food Standards Agency.

I look forward to sharing more recipes from my day with the Giovannini family and Bookings for You in the future and want to thank them for hosting me on a such a wonderful day.

The key to great gnocchi

Gnocchi with pesto

Last week I did something I have never done before.  Entering a darkened room before lunch felt unusual with only a few others present. We were the brave ones.  Bucking the trend.  Going against the grain of what most were doing before lunch on a weekday.

The feeling of this being unruly behaviour stems back 20 years; Selling books door to door in America for the Summer.  Working 80 hours a week was required for success and quit rates were high. Visiting the cinema was a way of appearing to be out working and a way of avoiding the next door! As fun as it may have been, it was apparent who passed their time watching movies and not working towards their summer paycheck!

Little did we know that life was actually pretty simple back then! As responsible adults, a working week with all the extra facets that family life brings, how does a one size fits all schedule work for the individual?

Now I know that we can't all work from home and be on flexitime; After my movie chill out, I sat in my car and watched the world go by. Cars whizzing around the roundabout, spinning off to where they needed to be. I wondered how many of those people felt that they needed to take their foot off the gas and pull over and take 5. Sometimes life can feel like groundhog day looping round the neverending roundabout.

As I shed the last of the tears I needed to shift I felt very grateful to have realised I needed some time out and had the ability to do so. Taking a little timeout can help us come back stronger, sharper, maybe even more efficient. Just a little time with a loved one without the kids can leave us feeling fulfilled. If we can work out a way to follow our internal sat nav (or intuition!) we can still get to where we need to go, literally and metaphorically. But more with a sense of calm, control and joy.

Next time you have that feeling...spend a little time with it and see what you need. It may just be 10 minutes with a cuppa in the garden or a walk in the fresh air appreciating the arrival of the Spring bulbs. If we don't look after ourselves....who else will? Lisa

Gnocchi with pesto

350g (2 medium sized) Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes (floury potatoes) Skin on
140g plain flour
1/2 egg (lightly beaten) or vegan egg replacer
Few twists of salt and pepper

  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until they feel soft when a knife is poked through the middle (approx. 30 mins)
  2. Drain the potatoes and leave to cool for 10 minutes in a colander
  3. Peel the skins off the potatoes, and place in a bowl. Mash the potatoes with a masher or potato ricer
  4. Sieve the flour over the potatoes, salt and pepper and add the egg and mix until it's incorporated
  5. Dust the work surface with a little flour and pull the mixture onto the surface. Give a brief knead 3 times with the heel of your hand and then divide the mixture into 4 quarters
  6. Roll 1 quarter into a long sausage shape about 1cm thick. Cut at 1-inch increments on the diagonal and place the pieces in a single layer onto a tray which has been dusted lightly with flour.
  7. Repeat for the other quarters and place the tray in the fridge for half an hour
  8. Take the tray out of the fridge and with a fork, make an indentation on the cut side of the gnocchi, which should make an oval-shaped
  9. Place the 'forked' gnocchi back onto the tray and chill until ready to cook. Leaving at least half an hour (for a faster effect place for 10 mins in the freezer)
  10. Prepare a very large pan of boiling salted water. Place the gnocchi into the pan with a rolling boil (medium heat) and cook for approx. 3 minutes until the gnocchi float to the top
  11. In the meantime place 2 tablespoons of pesto into a frying pan on a low heat. When the gnocchi are cooked, drain gently in a colander and then place gently into the pesto pan and swirl the pan to coat the gnocchi
  12. If you like, add a couple of handfuls of rocket, serve with a little extra Parmesan

For a fuss free pesto I bought a high quality shop version. But you could simply make your own, or just serve with a little garlic lightly fried in butter, add some sage and grate over some Parmesan.

For more recipes and fuss free chat, remember to join the Fuss Free community on Facebook where we share and motivate each other to eat delicious food without the fuss!

The Parlour, Bristol

The Parlour, Bristol

I am a sucker for a great foodie family story, especially if it's Italian and for sure if ice cream is involved!

On Thursday, I was kindly invited as a guest by Nick Licata and Socialight to attend the new dinner menu tasting at The Parlour on Cheltenham Road, Bristol.  I used to live close by 15 years ago and would've loved this independent neighbourhood restaurant ... last thing I knew this was a lighting shop!

The Parlour has been here for 2 years in its ice cream carnation but the family has been involved in selling and making ice cream since 1974, spanning 3 generations.  You may recognise the family name of Licata from the treasure trove Italian deli that is located on Picton Street, a fine Bristol institution. So rest assured the ingredients used in the dishes are truly authentic which Nick is very proud of, and rightly so!

With ice cream being a fairly seasonal product, Nick has been working on creating a dinner menu to compliment the ice cream aspect of The Parlour. He wanted to reflect rustic Italian food that is accessible for all and I think he has definitely achieved this. The menu has a selection of simple starters including scallops and king prawns; Equally a sharing antipasti board or some beautifully light homemade bread and huge, creamy green olives would keep you going till the mains arrive.

The beautiful walnut antipasti boards we tasted were meat or vegetable based and a great accompaniment with their house Merlot or Pinot Grigio.  The boards included fennel salami, Parma ham, aubergines, mozzarella to name a few and the most beautiful marinated, almost cured courgettes in oil and lemon.

I was pleased to see the other starter dish come out was the scallops!  I am a huge scallop fan, and these did not disappoint. Sweet scallops served with creamy celeriac puree, and those delicious lemony courgettes to offer a little palate cleanse.  Ours were served with an Italian 'chorizo' which was a little overpowering for me with all the delicate flavours but I'm pleased to see on the menu released it is usually served with pancetta. This for me would seem a lot more balanced and work better for the dish.

No Italian menu would be complete without a meatballs dish...a favourite for young and old. The Parlours combination of beef and pork mince, sage and garlic are served in a rich tomato sauce. With a note of warmth from black pepper, the meatballs were succulent and super tasty. Available as a starter in the sauce or with pasta as a main, I imagine this will be a crowd pleaser and a menu staple!

The main courses are divided between baked pasta, including traditional lasagne, aubergine lasagne or pasta bake of the day. The rest of the pasta menu covers pesto, carbonara, chicken, seafood and aforementioned meatballs!  So really there is something for everyone.  Vegetarians are catered for with tomato or aubergine based pasta, and vegans will be fine as long as they request their dishes without Parmesan or mozzarella.  The children's options are child-sized lasagne or tomato pasta which as 2 courses, they can choose a scoop of ice cream with toppings and sauces for £7. A great deal. The main courses range from £9.95 to £14.95 but on average expect to pay £11-£12.

Our main course dish was The Boar which is a meat ragu...with pork shoulder, wild boar and beef shin slow cooked in a tomato-based sauce. This is a meat lovers delight, the kind of dish my husband would be drawn to.  I really enjoyed the pork shoulder and wild boar but would have preferred the meat all pulled and within the sauce rather than in meaty hunks but that's just my inclination!

To finish I guess it would be crazy to go to an ice cream parlour without sampling the ice cream, so pudding is certainly going to be well catered for here! The Parlours ice creams are made with only 5 ingredients.  The strawberry ice cream is 25% fruit and each scoop of coffee ice cream is a shot of coffee! SO we are talking a totally natural product here, and Nick has created a great vegan ice cream base too. We were treated to the salted caramel ice cream, chocolate sauce and brownie sundae, which regular Parlour visitors will be familiar with.  If you're in need of an indulgent dessert then this is definitely going to check the box for you!

In a fiercely competitive city of restaurants, I think the parlour dinner menu can have its place.  The service from the staff who looked after us on Thursday was faultless and the two guys clearly have a genuine love for what they do, with character and heart. The Parlour is open at 7 pm from Wed-Sat and 12-6pm on Sunday.  I can definitely see this as a place to bring the family and as long as they keep these simple rustic dishes en pointe, the quality of service high and with a family focus...I think The Parlour is going to be a great solution for family dinner times!

Trick or Treat Vs Bar Humbug

Butternut Squash risotto

About now you will find a bowl of pumpkin scoopings lurking in the fridge.....patiently waiting. But this year I went one better. I had a whole un-carved pumpkin acting as a trick or treating beacon, that did not receive any love.

In light of my new attitudes and being kind to myself, I didn't feel the need to broadcast my #mummyfail! I managed to rationalise it as I took the kids trick or treating this year, and one can't do everything!

You see I've managed to avoid the whole trick or treating thing for the last 8 years. I'm not meaning to be a killjoy or mean mummy! With 1 very sensitive child with an active imagination ....I've always aired on the side of caution.

On our busiest night, I prepared in military fashion. Out of the pool, we had our scary outfits, face paints and packed tea so we could deploy straight from the car. Our neighbourhood is well organised for reminding partakers to display their pumpkins; So compared to my previous door to door experience, this was fun!

Friedly neighbours playing along, offering small quantities (thankfully!) of sweets. Chatting to people I'd not spoken to in a while or even before, dispatching their kids to our group. For a scenario I felt a bit 'bah humbug' about, this had a great sense of community.

And this is my style going forward. With 3 of our family birthdays within a month, Christmas looming (and all in between), there is the chance for overwhelm, not joy. The need to control what I allow in, and push out the festivities as late as possible. This year as I started Christmas cooking in September, I'm embracing it all!

It may even result in the Christmas feeling I crave, but never quite find. I'm going to do what I can, the best I can, and not beat myself up in the process. So I'm already over Lebkuchen, reading Christmas stories ....wonder how long until we watch the Snowman and the Snowdog!

Please keep sharing your thoughts in the FFF community and don't forget to follow the FFF FB page so you won't miss my Christmas TV debut!

Butternut, Sage and Goats Cheese Risotto

1 medium onion, diced
Small butternut squash (approx 500g) diced
1.5 Liters veg stock, hot
200g risotto rice
2 knobs of butter
2 tbsp sage, chopped
50g Parmesan**, grated
Slug of olive oil
Salt and pepper

1. Add 1 knob of butter and oil to a large, high sided pan on a low-medium heat. Once melted, add the onion and saute gently for 5-8 minutes until it is translucent.
2. Meanwhile, prepare the stock so that it's boiling hot.
3. Once the onions are done, add the squash. Stir and fry for 2 minutes. Add half of the sage, and season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the rice and coat in the oil and butter. Add 3 ladles of stock and stir for a minute. I don't continuously stir a risotto, but give it a stir every 5 mins or so.
5. Once the rice has dried out, add another 2 ladles of stock, stir and leave. Repeat this process for about 20-22 mins.  You know the rice is cooked when you bite a piece and it's firm but not chalky in the middle.
I like my risotto a little runny so it falls off the spoon, rather than thick like porridge.
6. Once your rice is cooked, take it off the heat, add the remaining butter and Parmesan (or alternative), season with a little salt and pepper (remember the Parmesan is salty). Stir, taste and serve. Dot the pieces of goats cheese on the top.
7. I sometimes get to the 15-minute stage and then leave the risotto to sit. Then I come back to it and finish it off later. If you run out of stock at this point, just add hot water to get the consistency you enjoy.

For more risotto ideas click here

**  Vegetarian Parmesan alternatives as recommended by the vegetarian society include Bookhams Vegi Pasta Cheese, Vegusto No Moo Piquant and Brazzales Gran Moravia.

Pasta Loco

Pasta Loco

I 'm sometimes reticent to go out for pasta as it is one of those fuss-free things to do at home, but Pasta Loco Bristol OMG: This was another level!

Far from the pasta my Nonna used to make this is pasta elevated. Rich, indulgent and full of flavour. We started with the salt cod fritters, which were light as a feather on a tasty pepperonata, with rich aioli and studded with capers, washed down with an Aperol spritz! Great start! Then backed up it up with beautiful caserecci pasta in a thick Norma (aubergine) sauce and goats cheese and linguine carbonara with pork 3 ways. The belly pork was stunning, moist, slow-cooked pork, and crispy skin and stunning salsiccia sausage with subtle fennel flavours. Delicious! The hype I've heard about Pasta Loco is duly justified, and with attentive, personal service, I look fwd to going back and encourage you book and visit! Let us know what you think! Lisa

Fig, mozzarella and prosciutto salad

Fig, mozzarella and prosciutto salad

This week was like bumping into an ex but knowing that it was going to happen as I travelled back to a city where I had a whole other life. If Cardiff was an ex we didn't finish on good terms, in fact, the split was messy and caused some heartache, which was a shame as we had some great times together!

This is all about my trip to see Coldplay this week, and it seemed I had something in common with the band, as they hadn't played a gig in Wales for 17 years, which is when I last visited properly too.

In the build up to the gig, I was acutely aware that there were some strong memories, almost mental photographs of places in the city that needed healing, as they still held some charge within me when I contemplated them. In fact, I recognised that I had closed off from those parts of myself as if I felt I couldn't relate to the person I was then and how she ran her life.

We were young and carefree and my lifestyle then, on the surface, couldn't have been any more different to now. I'm not even sure I enjoyed it all the time but I seemed to be a rebel with a dancing cause! With superficial enjoyment, I often felt disconnected from the crew that I hung out with and the majority didn't feel like true friends.

On reflection part of my sadness was that I didn't fully appreciate what Cardiff had to offer and that it was a missed opportunity; Despite this, the path I took was the one I was supposed to take. These photographic memories of heartache and joy had actual locations, and unknowingly I actually passed through these exact places, which felt like a changing of the guard from feeling empty to healed. I mean the chances of being sent to the wrong gate which lead me to see one place....the universe is funny like that!

So I was there to see a band who had become the soundtrack to my life in those subsequent years of living in Cardiff. Sipping Pu'erh tea (very grounding you know, after all those years with my head in the clouds) opposite a nicknack shop called Rebel! And you know, it's funny that I didn't associate so much with the rebel me from back then, as she was dared to be different but now I feel that I'm not that different... I'm just harnessing that inner rebel to be different in my mainstream foodie world!

This lovely salad is one I made to take in the car to Cardiff and was heartily enjoyed on the way to Wales, so I thought I would share it with you. Please remember if you enjoy the Fuss Free Foodie to share any posts that resonate with you with your friends, as I hope to build our following and community, and this happens with your help! So loves and likes will help us grow and help people know what the FFF is all about! (In fact today at City Hall someone knew me because he'd seen his friends like the FFF!)

Have a great weekend Lisa

Fig, mozzarella and prosciutto salad

3 figs
1 ball mozzarella
3 slices prosciutto
3-4 handfuls rocket or mixed leaves
2 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp blackberry vinegar (red wine vinegar or lemon juice)
Salt and pepper

  1. Place the leaves over a large serving plate.
    2. Pull the tough stalk off the top of the fig. Then tear the fig into pieces and place over the leaves.
    3. Drain the mozzarella and tear into small pieces and place around the plate, and do the same with the prosciutto, tucking it in amongst the other ingredients.
    4. In a jam jar mix the olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper and shake.
    Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.
    This is a surprisingly good dish to eat in a car on the way to a Coldplay concert

Join the FFF community where we inspire each other to cook here or follow my week on the FFF page here. The new website should be here in the late Autumn!!

Risotto style rice and peas with salmon

Risotto style rice with peas and salmon

If food made with love tastes better, then surely a world filled with love would be more palatable too. In times when there are such displays of hate, it feels even more important to hold love in our hearts on a daily basis so that this echoes out to the world and we all resonate with the vibration of love.

Last weekend saw the One Love concert for those taken in Manchester and artists talked of healing the world with love. This has been long spoken of by pop legends like Micheal Jackson and The Beatles back in the day saying 'Love is all you need'. This is by no means a new concept, but one we still seem to struggle with.

As with everything it starts with ourselves. Do we love ourselves? Do we take the time and care to give ourselves what we need. Do we even create a space to hear our hearts desires? It's so easy in modern day society to do what we feel we 'should' do, or to conform to the norm and do what everyone else is doing, even if deep down we may feel we are destined for something else.

Day after day we embroil ourselves in things outside of ourselves like social media, 24/7 news, our businesses and our children. But what if we listen to our own hearts? We've all been in that situation when we have said yes to something we didn't want to do, which is saying no to ourselves. It doesn't feel right. It's not hearing what we need. Our hearts can give us the answers. When we listen and love ourselves we are in a far better position to be able to love and support others. Just imagine a world where everyone did this.

Food in Italy is often talked about being a 'labour of love'. Italian Nonnas who rule their kitchens with a rolling pin and a will of steel, who would spend all day preparing the meal for the family. Now as much as this is in my DNA and I love spending time cooking in my kitchen, I appreciate that this is not the act of love that most people choose or are able to display. But this aside most people get huge amounts of joy and pleasure by eating delicious food.

Risotto for me is one of those dishes. BC (before children!) it was easy to stand and stir a risotto until the rice grain reached a perfect balance of al dente without being chalky! But today the likelihood of being needed to referee a boxing match or a tablet tug of war means I need to be less tied to the stove. So I was really pleased that this recipe fits the fuss-free criteria with the labour of love results!!

So as my Italian ancestors turn in their graves, I wanted to share with you this awesome weeknight dinner, that needs just an occasional stir. To make it more filling I added a piece of salmon and if you wanted to make it more filling for a vegetarian, you could add some grilled asparagus on the top and use a Parmesan alternative.**

Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook your tweaks....you could easily use this fuss-free base for your favourite risotto recipe. So please remember to give a little like, share or comment to keep the FFF in your feed and spread the fuss-free love!

Risotto style rice with peas and salmon

Serves 3-4

  • 75-100g onion, diced
  • 40g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g risotto rice (arborio is less likely to overcook!)
  • 50g Parmesan, grated (or vegetarian alternative)
  • 400g frozen peas (or fresh if you prefer!!)
  • 1L vegetable, chicken  or ham stock, hot
  • Salt and pepper

Optional Extras: 100g of salmon or chicken breast, a bundle of asparagus, a handful of rocket

  1. On a medium heat, add 1/2 the butter and olive oil to a large saucepan. Once melted add the onion and saute gently for 5-8 minutes until it is translucent.
  2. Add the rice and coat in the oil and butter, then add 3/4 of the stock and peas and bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on, giving a stir every 5 minutes or so.
  3. After 20 minutes check the consistency.  The rice should be cooked.  If the rice is too dry add a little more stock, I like it a little runny so it falls off the spoon, rather than holding its shape like porridge.
  4. Take off the heat, add the remaining butter and Parmesan (or Parmesan alternative), season with black pepper and a little salt (the Parmesan can be salty!). Stir and serve.
  5. Ladle onto a plate, if you are adding rocket, place a pile on top of the rice, and add salmon or asparagus.

** Vegetarian Parmesan alternatives as recommended by the vegetarian society include Bookhams Vegi Pasta Cheese, Vegusto No Moo Piquant and Brazzales Gran Moravia.

Got a favourite recipe you're going to try with this new method.....share your thoughts on the blog or on the FB page or FFF community! Lisa

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni

If we didn't judge we wouldn't survive. Somehow, this was quite a revelation to me this week.  To judge is to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions...we indeed wouldn't survive if we didn't do this on a daily basis.

I suppose what I feel I am struggling with is the negative connotation with judgement, where I feel judged about something that I do. So after a couple of situations this week where I felt judged, the word kept popping into my head. So clearly there was something there for me to work on!

We all have ideas, opinions and standards that we live by that impact how we bring up our kids, treat ourselves or behave with others.  So if how we deal with a situation is different to someone else, why do we analyse what that person thinks about how we dealt with that situation.

If I were listening to a friend explaining the situation I'd normally be empathetic, supportive and objective, more so than I am with myself.  I think we can be our own harshest critics. But what I have realised is that whilst I feel like I am being judged for my actions, I am actually the one who is making the judgement on them and what they are thinking about me. We can't always work out what goes on in other peoples heads, and we won't always know. Last week the presenter's opinion in my interview about stay at home mums being an important role, and that it should be celebrated was quite a surprise, and as a good friend pointed out, not an opinion that we would have expected. My own judgement of never conventionally going back to work feeling like something to be apologised for, not celebrated, was clouding that viewpoint!

So this week, please don't judge this recipe because it doesn't look fancy or have restaurant style presentation!  It is simple, honest and delicious (and naturally as fuss-free as possible!) Please give it some time and love and it will be good to you too!

Remember to see more of the Fuss Free Foodie, follow my Fuss Free Foodie FB page, especially as I will be keeping you updated on my kitchen being knocked down and rebuilt!  Also, my week in pictures Instagram and all my videos in one place on YouTube. Have a great weekend....I'm off to the Foodies Festival

Spinach and ricotta cannelloni

Serves 4

Preheat the oven 180℃

  • 500g frozen spinach
  • 1 box of cannelloni (approx 18 tubes)
  • 2 pots of ricotta (250g each)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 75g grated Parmesan, plus 25-30g for the top
  • 3 cans of plum tomatoes
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 heaped tbsps tomato puree
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 15 rasps of nutmeg
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • Black pepper and salt
  • Medium sized freezer bag, with 1 corner cut off (1.5cm)
  1. Leave the spinach out overnight to defrost.
  2. To make the sauce: Add 2 tbsp of oil into a large saucepan on a medium heat.  When warm, add the chopped garlic and fry gently, but do not let it go golden or burn.  If it is getting too hot take it off the heat.  Chop the plum tomatoes up in the can, and add to the pan along with the puree. Rinse the cans out with a little water, season with the sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer for 45 mins-1 hour and blitz smooth.
  3. To make the filling: Put the spinach into a tea towel, twist the sides together and squeeze out all the excess water.  Place the drained spinach into a large bowl. Add the ricotta, egg yolk, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper and mix. Set aside in the fridge until you are ready to build!
  4. Build the cannelloni: Have an ovenproof dish approx. 30cm by 30cm. Cover the bottom of the dish with the tomato sauce, about 1cm deep.
  5. Put half of the cannelloni mixture into the freezer bag, twist the top round so that it's like a piping bag, and proceed to fill the cannelloni tubes with the mixture. I find filling half from one end, then filling half from the other to meet it in the middle.  Check for air pockets by pressing the mixture into the tube with your finger.
  6. Line up the tubes on top of the tomato sauce, leaving a small gap in between, until the dish is full. Cover the tubes with the rest of the tomato sauce, and sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan.
  7. Bake in the oven for 45-1hr minutes.
  8. Serve with a salad of your choice and enjoy!

Stuffed chicken breast in Parma ham

Stuffed chicken breast with Parma ham

 I never once bunked off school....maybe I took an extra day to 'recover' but I played it pretty straight! So enter stage left 7 year old son, slightly flushed and hiding under the fleece on the sofa this week. Mummy, I can't go to school today...

You know that feeling when you feel the whole truth isn't being exposed especially when you catch a glimpse of those mouth corners turning up at the thought of a day at home without his brother! As it transpired, (and pleased my senses served me well) an admittance of, I'm not actually that ill mum was revealed an hour later, said 7 year was promptly chauffeured to school by 10am!

But it got me thinking... If I didn't bunk school, I must have stretched the truth at some point!?! And my memory served me well! So in the early 80s I was a keen gymnast, and I was in a local 'friendly' competition. I was doing really well, in the top spot, in fact after bars and beam, and it was time for the vault. As I did my run up, I somehow didn't get it right, and just ran up the springboard. You get 2 chances. No pressure on the next one!

So off I run again, gaining speed and, damn. Did the same again. But fully knowing this was my last chance...I feign a twisted ankle. Oh dear. The judges decided to give me another go, to which I did said vault successfully. So there we go. I went on to perform a successful floor routine and took the gold. But unlike him, I didn't get found out. Although I did fess up to my gym pal Tracy at our friend Hayley's wedding a couple of years ago and I haven't unduly accepted any Gold medals since!

As an adult, I find it hard to see our offspring skew the truth, but I guess we have all done it, and the important thing is we learn from it. There are many layers to us all and I guess each one shapes the person we are today and there is no shame in that!

This weeks recipe is a chicken breast masquerading as something else, as it is has hidden treasures inside of mozzarella and cleverly concealed in Parma ham! It's an awesome meal that is fuss free because it can be prepped ahead of time, and cooked within 20 mins. Prepare the chicken and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. The mash can be cooked, mashed, and then reheat and add the Parmesan when you are ready.

I hope you are enjoying reading the Fuss Free Foodie blog and tutorials?! If you are I am looking to add to my crack team of sharers to reach out to a larger audience, so you can either hit the share buttons below or share directly from Facebook if this resonates with you and have friends who will enjoy the Fuss Free Foodie too! Either way, thank you for reading and your support ...Lisa x

Stuffed chicken breast wrapped in Parma ham (Serves 2)

2 chicken breasts (approx 170g each)
1 ball of mozzarella (125g)
(Optional) 6 sheets of Parma ham or bacon

Chicken prep:

  1. Take the chicken breast and flatten it out by covering the chicken with cling film and whacking it with a rolling pin!
  2. Lay out the chicken and put about 35g of mozzarella in the middle. Try not to over fill it. Lay out 3 sheets of Parma ham so they overlap.
  3. Lay the chicken onto the ham, making sure that the gap that holds in the mozzarella is folded over, and faces down onto the ham so that it has a complete seal.
  4. Pull up the sides of the ham around the chicken breast, almost tucking it in as you go around.
  5. Place on a plate, cover and keep in the fridge until ready to cook. Pull out the chicken breast 1/2 an hour before you are ready to cook.
  6. Chicken cooking: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Use a heavy based frying pan suitable for the oven on a medium-high heat, rub the bottom of the pan with oil.
  7. If you do not have a pan that goes into the oven, fry in the pan and then transfer to a tray that has warmed in the oven.
  8. The idea is to gain a little colour on 3 sides of the chicken. So over 7-8 minutes, colour up a side and then turn it around onto the next side. With the side that has no colour leave this facing down in the pan, and place the pan in the oven. (Or place the chicken onto the tray).
  9. once the chicken has had 7 minutes, turn it over to cook through the other side for another 7 minutes. It should take around 20 minutes total cooking, but bear in mind it will take less/more time if your chicken breast is different in size. If the mozzarella starts to come out, its another sign it is done.
  10. Rest the chicken on a clean plate before serving.

Sweet Potato Mash (Serves 2)

650g sweet potato, chopped into 1cm dice
50g butter
40g Parmesan
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper

  1. Add 25g of the butter to a large pan and melt. Add the chopped sweet potato, coat it in the butter and cook for 20-25 minutes on a medium heat with a lid on. Stir every 5 minutes to avoid it sticking or browning. The steam created by having the lid on will help it soften.
  2. Mash the sweet potato with a fork, roughly. Add the rest of the butter, and stir briskly with a wooden spoon. Add the chilli and pepper, and a little salt. If you are preparing the mash ahead of time set the mash aside until you are ready. Reheat the mash, and then continue with step 3.
  3. Add the Parmesan, check if the mash needs any more salt or pepper. Parmesan has a salty note so be careful not to add too much salt at stage 2!

We served this dish with kale, but spinach or any other greens will work too! Serve the chicken sliced to expose the stuffed inside and enjoy! Like it? Feel free to share or pin for later with the buttons below!

Fuss Free ideas...
1. Add a teaspoon of pesto to the inside of the chicken, along with the mozzarella
2. Add a few chopped sun-dried tomatoes and a sprinkle of dried oregano with the mozzarella
3. Leave off the ham, season the chicken with salt and pepper or just use bacon instead