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.

Cracking Christmas Cooking

Christmas chocolate truffles and Panforte

The last few weeks have been the craziest in the 1-year lifespan of The Fuss Free Foodie! A last minute shoot working on short foodie video for a British food maker, local TV network Made coming to do Christmas cooking in my house, and not to mention all the chat about my Hairy Biker appearances! (Click here to see Ep. 8 29 mins Ep. 9 29 mins on the iPlayer)

It made me wonder; at this time of year in the nature of living my brand...how does the Fuss free Foodie keep life fuss-free?! Well first of all in true FFF nature, let's keep things real. I don't always manage it! But I am aware of how it needs to be and I am getting better at living life this way.

It's so easy, at this time of year to feel the weight of the 'to-do' list on your shoulders. Balancing the daily routine whilst working towards making the magic of Christmas come alive and putting things in place for the big day.

This year's journey has been very much of a journey of self, as well as bringing the FFF to life. If there is one thing I have learnt to do more this year is trust that things will work out as they are supposed to.  So I'm trusting that Christmas will happen!  No amount of me playing over my to-do list in my head will make it happen any faster...or easier.  The doubts and negativity (monkey chatter!!) do not help!!

But what I do listen to more is my internal sat nav....or intuition! Those things that pop into your consciousness, normally at random times...in the shower for me. Maybe, someone, I've not contacted in a while, or an event I need to book or an idea of how to do something better. These are the things I'm listening to. So as I'm internally directed as to what 'feels' right for me, I get less caught up in the things I feel I 'should' be doing.  At this time of year, fuss-free is for me!

As the last week draws in, I am conscious I need to dedicate some time to my family and enjoy our Christmas. So I will be posting up my pieces from Made TV and see below some of my classic Christmas recipes from last year. Remember to follow me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to not miss a thing!

I hope you will continue to join me on the journey in 2018. Thank you all for your kind comments, loves, likes and shares this year!

Merry Christmas all!  Lisa x

Christmas Spiced Truffles (Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas Ep.   mins)

Syrup

  • 50g dark brown sugar
    • 250ml water
    • 1 mulled spice bag
  1. Put everything in a pan. Stir, bring to the boil, and simmer for a minute
  2. Pop into a jar and leave overnight or at least for a few hours.

Truffles

    • 100ml of syrup
    • 25g brown sugar
    • Pinch of salt
    • 150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
    • Cocoa powder, chocolate strands or edible bronze rocks (Waitrose)
  1. Finely chop chocolate on a chopping board
  2. Place chocolate in a bowl and set aside
  3. Place the syrup, sugar and salt into a pan. Bring to the boil for 30 seconds
  4. Pour the syrup over the chocolate
  5. Leave for a couple of minutes, to let the warmth start to melt the chocolate. Stir the mixture, starting from the inside and working your way outwards
  6. Cool and then place in the fridge until it is firm but not too hard
  7. I always feel less is more with the stirring to avoid splitting potential. If there are a few little bits of choc it actually gives the truffle a nice bit of crunch!
  8. If you chill the mixture overnight pull it out of the fridge half an hour before rolling
  9. Dip your hands in cocoa to stop the mixture sticking to your hands. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into lots of little balls
  10. Then re-roll the balls in the palms of your hands to make them sticky, then dip them in your chosen coating
  11. Pop into a cellophane bag or box....or just enjoy!

Panforte (Original recipe from Nigella Christmas )

Chewy Tuscan fruit and nut dessert. Great with a cup of tea, coffee or a great addition to a cheese board esp a sharp white cheese!

Ingredients

  • 20cm springform tin
  • Parchment
  • Extra butter for lining the tin
  • 125g almonds in skins
  • 100g blanched almonds
  • 120g whole hazelnuts
  • 75 soft figs, cut off the stalk, snipped into little slithers
  • 200g orange and lemon peel
  • Shake of white pepper
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 50g plain flour
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150g honey
  • 30g butter

Prepare the tin

  • Rub the base of the tin with butter, then add a disk of parchment the size tin to the base and around the sides
  • Rub butter over the parchment to ensure it is easy to remove at the end

Prepare the wet ingredients

  • In a pan gently melt the butter, sugar and honey until the sugar is no longer grainy and all nicely melted. Mix

Prepare the dry ingredients

  • Meanwhile, place the whole nuts and chopped fruits in a heatproof bowl. Stir
  • Add the spices, flour and cocoa into the nuts and fruit. Stir
  • For a fully traditional Italian version you can add separate spices, but for a more fuss free recipe you can use mixed spice. (1/2 ground cloves, 1 tsp cinnamon, grating of nutmeg)

Make the batter

  • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir thoroughly so that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed together with no bits of flour left un-stirred

Pour into the tin and cooking

  • Pour the mixture into your springform tin. Pat down with the back of the spoon
  • Wet your hands and push the mixture into the tin to compress it all together and achieve a flat surface. Use your fist in the middle and knuckles to get around the edges.  You could wear disposable gloves if you prefer!!
  • Cook in an oven at 170 deg/gas mark 3 for 45-1hr. It is ready to come out when the top of the cake is bubbling all over the top, not just around the edges. Leave the cake in the tin to completely cool before removing from the tin. At this point the cake should feel firm to the touch

Cutting and presenting

  • Remove the collar and paper and place onto a chopping board and chop into quarters and then into eighths. Chop each eighth into 3.
  • A tip for cutting is to go in with the tip/point of the knife into the middle and carve without using the back of the knife, as this can result in it breaking.
  • Place 6-8 in a bag and tie with ribbon
  • If your panforte feels too bendy and not hard. Reline the tin and stick it back into the oven for another 20-25 minutes until its really bubbling. It needs to reheat totally and then it will start the bubbling process again.

See the blog with the recipes from the first 2 episodes of The Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas

How to put together your Christmas cheese board

Christmas Chicken liver parfait

Happy Birthday Fuss Free

Stained glass window decorations and amaretti biscuits

I can't believe that this time last year I was only just posting up my first blog and hoping a few people would be interested enough to read! In fact, over 17,000 of you did! It's been quite a 12 months with many highlights but the last 2 weeks have been the cherry on top!

My first two films of edible Christmas gift aired last week on The Hairy Bikers Home for Christmas series (Episode 1:24 mins Episode 2: 9 mins) The response from everyone has been so positive, and really well received. The best bit has been seeing some of the kids at school work out that I was on the telly! Sweet!! I know some of you were very keen to have a go at making the tree decorations, so remember to have a go and please share the recipe with your friends too!

There has been so much going on that in the new year I will send a newsletter about what's happening across all social media platforms to FFF subscribers. You will get each new blog post directly into your inbox, and you won't miss a thing! So remember to hit the sign up tab and pop in your email address.  

So, for now, I'm going to leave you to check out the new website! Let me know what you like best on the FB page, and please share it with your friends too! I'll be back shortly with an extra post with the last 2 recipes from the Hairy Bikers episodes. Plus I will tell you more about 2 more bits of filming and a new club I'm starting!

Lisa x

Amaretti biscuits

200g ground almonds
225g caster sugar
2 egg whites
1 tsp almond extract
Icing sugar for dusting

  1. Place the almonds and half of the caster sugar in a bowl, mix and set aside
  2. Put the egg whites into a clean bowl and whip with a whisk until they form soft peaks
  3. Add the remaining caster sugar to the egg whites and continue whisking to form stiff peaks
  4. Add a little of egg white mixture to the almonds/sugar and mix in. Then add the remaining mixture and almond extract and fold in carefully
  5. Put the mixture into a piping bag (or food bag with the corner cut off about 3/4 of a cm) and pipe little rounds the size of a walnut onto the tray and baking parchment
  6. Cook for 12-15 minutes at 180/gas 4
  7. After 12 minutes watch them like a hawk as you want them dark golden brown to get the crunch…but they could burn in a minute too long!
  8. Cool on a wire rack then place in an airtight tin or put into little bags for gifts

Stained Glass Window Biscuits

  • 175g plain flour
  • 1 tsp mixed spice or ginger
  • 100g cold butter, chopped
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp. whole milk
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Bag of fruit boiled sweets
  • Parchment
  • Cookie cutters (round, stars, holly)
  • Ribbon 1m
  • Blender
  • Rolling pin
  • Cocktail stick

Making the biscuit dough

  • Place the flour, mixed spice, cold butter, salt and zest into the blender
  • Put the flour in first so the butter doesn't stick to the bottom
  • Pulse for a minute until the butter is blended into the flour and it almost resembles breadcrumbs or rub in by hand
  • Add the sugar and milk, and pulse for 30 seconds until it has a more defined breadcrumb mixture
  • Tip out onto a lightly floured surface. Start pushing the mixture together to try and make a ball.  Knead briefly and roll into a flat disk, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
  • By making the dough into a flatter shape before chilling will make it easier to start rolling out

 Making the biscuit shape

  • Bring the dough mixture out of the fridge 10 minutes before you are due to roll it
  • Dust the surface with flour and place the dough in the middle
  • Roll out the dough to about £1 coin thickness. Choose a large cutter to make the outer shape and then choose a smaller shape to cut out a hole in the middle. Re roll any leftover dough to make more
  • Place on a baking sheet
  • Don't forget to bake the bits from the middle, these are great to give to the kids to eat and the others go on the tree!
  • Using a cocktail stick make a small hole at the top so you can thread a piece of ribbon through to hang the biscuit on the tree

Making the stained glass

  • Meanwhile, put about 10-15 boiled sweets in a bag and bash with the end of the rolling pin until they are smashed into small pieces
  • Using a teaspoon place a scant amount of the sweets into the cutout shape of the cookie. 
  • Fill to the edges but don't be tempted to overfill as it will boil over into the biscuit and have a less sharp look
  • Place into a preheated oven 180 deg c. For 12-15 minutes. Until golden but not dark brown. 
  • Leave to cool slightly on the tray and then lift carefully with a fish slice onto a cooling rack to cool

Threading through the ribbon

  • Cut a 10cm piece of ribbon. Thread it through the hole at the top of the biscuit and knot it.  You can now hang your biscuits!

With thanks to Blue Ochre Design

When you lose your path, don’t seek too hard to get back on track….

Vanilla Panna Cotta

Sometimes lifes detours can reveal the best scenery; So if you lose your path, maybe don't try too hard to get back on track. Often what we THINK is what we need isn't always the case and the universe has a greater plan for us! Revealing far many more gifts and learnings than we could ever even imagine.

We have all experienced being diverted from an outcome, whether its day to day or a long-term goal or dream. And as frustrating as it can be, the reality is, it's not always easy to come from a place of gratitude and thanks when it happens!! A period of adjustment, acceptance, grieving or just plain old getting angry may be needed to shift first in order to move into this space. Without pulling out all the cliches, life IS about the journey and not just the destination. If we can arrive at that place of acceptance and allow things to unfold, we may be able to actually see the beauty in this new, less travelled path.

Maybe the deviated journey we will learn something....a new skill, meet a new person who will inspire us in our endeavours or discover something about ourselves that we hadn't realised. Yet had we tried to get back onto the original route we would never have had the chance to experience those things that would help us grow. As long as we are kind to ourselves along the way, and seek to approach the journey in a way that is true to ourselves, the experience and outcome is more likely to be positive.

I heard a saying 20 years ago that "what you will someday be you are now becoming." I understood what it meant back then, but now with a reflective eye over those decades gone by and my own deviations and digressions, I understand the meaning more fully.

There is no point wishing that if I knew then what I know now that I would be further along in my endeavours or realised my passion sooner. It's because of the exploits I went through that I have arrived at this point; I'm sure this isn't THE arrival point, it is a beautiful stop off on the journey!

This week for me was quite different, as I have experienced the sheer beauty of the journey on one side and conversely the scariest of sheer drops on the other. I guess sometimes some of us are lucky enough to be shown both at once.  So I will be focusing my learning this week to help me navigate my way!

This weeks recipe, out of the pure fuss-free simplicity is a Panna cotta. Being led by a 14-year-olds enthusiasm for wanting to turn his hand to make it, I experienced this for the first time this week as well. Enjoyed by him, my kids.....and myself too! It is the easiest of desserts and great to make ahead for a party.

Let me know in the Fuss Free Foodie FB community what you think of Panna cotta and what you serve yours with, or just remember to give a share to add it to your timeline or share some FFF love with your foodie friends! Lisa xx

Vanilla Pannacotta

Serves 6

6 silver dariole moulds or rectangle loaf tin or ice cream tub, lightly oiled

10g leaf gelatin (5 1/2 sheets) (1-11/2 tsp Agar agar powder for vegetarians)
100ml milk
500ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, cut in half to expose the seeds or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
100g caster sugar

1. Fill a bowl with water and add the gelatin leaves to the water and leave
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to just below simmering point, then remove from the heat. Do not boil
2. Squeeze all the water out of the gelatin and add to the milk. Set aside.
**If using agar agar, add to the milk, stir and you can allow to boil until it melts, which should be 5 minutes
3. Pour the cream into another pan, add the vanilla extract OR the vanilla pod (scrape all the seeds out, add to the cream and then add the pod as well)
4. Bring to the boil over a low heat, stirring regularly. Remove from the heat as soon as boiling point is reached. Remove the vanilla pod
Add the milk mixture to the cream and stir
5. Gently pour into the molds, and once cooled leave in the fridge to set (around 2 hours)
6. To turn out, run warm water around the mould to release the Pannacotta
Serve simply with fruit, with or figs baked with honey. For a flourish and bit of crunch, make a tuile or biscuit! Enjoy!

**I have not yet tried this recipe using agar agar, but based on the equivalents, 1-1 1/2 tsp should bring a nice wobble!

Remember to keep liking, loving and sharing to keep the FFF in your feed, and to spread the fuss-free word!

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

Aubergine Parmigiana

Aubergine parmigana

I'm giving up meat for Lent. That's what my 13 year old self-said a few decades ago to my mum!! She flawlessly countered this by offering me the keys to the kitchen.

Being a parent now, and knowing all about phases, I'm sure my mum thought I'd be back to normal carnivore duties in 6 days let alone last 6 weeks meat free! But through growing pains, exams, crushes, Uni and a semester in France, this 'phase' lasted 7 years! A summer working in the USA and discovering Big Macs, was the only thing to pull me out of that one!

These days, I can appreciate both. I do enjoy free-range or local meat from my butcher where I can be assured that animal welfare is taken seriously; Equally, I do love vegetarian from all over the world. The choice for vegetarians is far more exciting than the nut roast and veggie burgers of yore. And to quote my husband you don't even miss the meat in this dish. Nuff said!

This recipe became a favourite last year when aubergines were on sale at our local veg shop 2 for £1, and it seemed too good to not make something awesome with them. After doing the recipe on and off for 6 months (or more!) I certainly refined it to be fuss-free.

The great thing about this recipe is not only it vegetarian, but also gluten-free. It's basically like an aubergine lasagna. Funnily enough in the last week talk of aubergine parmigiana cropped up in 3 separate conversations, so I kinda felt the universe was asking me to share!

As with some of my fuss-free recipes, the fuss can be taken away by preparation. Having this dish in mind and the ingredients ready in the fridge will mean you can crack on with the easy tomato sauce, or frying the aubergines, whilst you are hanging out in the kitchen doing something else. Then the whole business of making the parmigiana becomes more of an assembly job just like last weeks Lasagne.

I loved seeing how many of you were cooking lasagne last week in the Fuss Free Foodie Facebook group, so let me know what you think of this one too! If you want to see what I get up to for the rest of the week pop over to the Fuss Free Foodie page and give a little like there. See my fuss-free life in pictures on Instagram or what I'm tweeting on Twitter. Don't forget to keep seeing FFF in your feed, keep giving a little like, comment or share! Thanks for being here! Lisa x

Aubergine Parmigiana

Oven 180℃/350℉/Gas mark 4
Serves 4-6

For the sauce:
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
800ml passata
Few sprigs of thyme or 1-2 tsp of dried herbs
2 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the Parmigiana:
4 aubergines, sliced length way, 1/2cm thick
2 balls of mozzarella (125g each)
100g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Olive oil

  1. Place the oil in the pan on a low heat and gently fry the garlic for a few minutes, without colouring.
  2. Add the passata to the pan, season with salt and pepper and add the herbs. Simmer on medium heat for about 45mins to 1 hour, until reduced to a thick sauce. Set aside.
  3. Frying the aubergines. I use two frying pans at the same time to get the job done quickly. If you feel like you are adding loads of oil, don't worry, as aubergines are like little sponges, and it's important to have the aubergines more soggy and unctuous, than spongy and dry! I fry them, get a bit of colour on each side, and then pop them under the grill to brown a little more and crack on with the next batch. See my sunny whether alternative below!
  4. Assembly. Get all your ingredients in place and as a guide, I did 4 layers with mozzarella on. Place 2 spoonfuls*1 of sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread it out. Layer 4-5 slices of aubergine on top to create your first layer.
  5. Put 2 more spoonfuls of sauce onto the aubergines and spread out. Break up around 60g (half of 1 ball) into chunks and place on the sauce, and then sprinkle around 10g of Parmesan on top.
  6. Repeat the process until you are left with a final layer of aubergines. It is better to have a complete covering of aubergines for the top layer, so if you feel like you are running for this, use fewer in one of the middle layers (like I did!).
  7. When you have your aubergines on top, pour on the rest of the tomato sauce to make a thick final layer and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese to complete.
  8. Cook in the oven for 1 hr. If you feel the top is browning too quickly, pop a piece of tin foil on top and take it off 10 minutes from the end. The parmigiana will benefit from resting for 15 minutes after it comes out of the oven....as will the roof of your mouth! Is great reheated the next day (or cold) in fact sometimes even nicer!
  9. Serve with a sourdough loaf.

Forget the Fuss...

If you have the weather, the quickest way to do them all in one go is to BBQ them! Don't be shy and rub them with oil first.

If your bread isn't fresh, I make breadcrumbs and make a final layer out of the crumbs instead (without sauce on top) and sprinkle with Parmesan
*1 I use a serving spoon which is probably the equivalent of 2 tbsp.

De La-sagne

Lasagne

I guess I am not in your typical demographic to be going to a hip-hop gig! On Saturday Morning at the park, when I mentioned to a dad I was at De La Soul the previous evening, I could read the subtext running behind his eyes...! Funny thing about the friends you meet when you become a mum...they have no clue of your past!

I played De La Souls, 3 FT high and rising album on repeat in my teens; It's hard not to love the beat, riffs, mixes, rapping and scratching. It's really 'out there' and full of silly humour and until this day still 'get' the hip-hop vibe. As my friend at the gig pointed out, quite a lot of the time hip-hop can be based upon struggle and oppression; Maybe my connection with this genre of music is more than just an appreciation but is set in my DNA.

My Italian grandparents
Vittoria and Luigi, my grandparents came over from Italy to the UK back in the 50's. Times were tough back then after the war, and work was scarce. My grandmother's father worked, her mum stayed at home and the few stories of my great grandfather's background were, let us say, from more of the 'underworld' side of Italian culture and maybe that's the reason I enjoyed reading Mario Puzo books!!

They sought a better future for themselves and their future family with a strong desire to work hard and succeed. But to leave your motherland over 60 years ago and settle in a country where you didn't speak the language or know the culture couldn't have been easy. So maybe this struggle to succeed is locked into my cells and why hip-hop resonates with me. So writing this week's blog fitted well with my weekends escapades...Da La-sagne!!

It's not the most fuss free of recipes though right? After all these years I have finally found a way to make it feel fuss free. It's a bit of a 2 pronged attack, but you do get a meal at the end of attack 1! First of all its about making a great tomato sauce with 5-6 different veg, (as always use what you have and swap stuff in and out) passata and a combo of pork and beef mince to effectively make a spag bol. Phase 2 is just building the lasagne....easy!

But instead of making the traditional bechamel/white sauce, which I know would put some people off, I use crème fraîche, which really makes it easier. Having the lasagne all built and ready to go in the oven on these, still, chilly evenings for me is a joy. We still have half left for tonight.....a glass of red wine with it this time I think.

Let me know what you think about my fuss free lasagne and hip-hop music in the Fuss Free Foodie Facebook group or take a look behind the scenes and read food reviews on the Fuss Free Foodie page. See my fuss free life in pictures on Instagram or what I'm tweeting on Twitter. Don't forget to keep seeing FFF in your feed, keep giving a little like, comment or share! Lisa x

Fuss Free Lasagne
Serves up to 6
Approx. 24Cm sq Pyrex dish

For the spag bol:
500g pork mince
500g beef mince
1 onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 celery stick, diced
125g mushrooms, diced
1 courgette, diced
Half butternut squash, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1L passata (x2 500g boxes from Aldi)
1 glass of red wine
Salt and pepper
2-3 tbsps olive oil
3 branches of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried herbs

For the lasagne:
250g dried lasagne sheets (at least half a box needed)
600ml crème fraîche, decanted into a bowl and stirred, so it has a thinner consistency if too thick add a dribble of milk
150g Parmesan, grated finely

  1. In a large casserole dish, add a tbsp of oil and fry the pork on a medium heat until all the meat has changed colour and any juice has started to evaporate.
  2. Take out of the pan and put to one side, then do the same with the beef mince. Keep all the meat to one side whilst you make the tomato sauce.
  3. Put 2 more tbsps of oil in the pan and add the chopped onion, carrot and celery and fry on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until it has softened and reduced in size. Add the garlic and fry for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms and fry on a higher heat to extract the water. Once this has all evaporated, add the courgette and squash and continue to soften for another 10 minutes.
  5. When everything is softened and reduced down add the wine. Reduce the liquid by half and then add the passata. Season with salt and pepper, add some herbs and simmer for 15-10 mins. Blend smooth.
  6. Add the meat to the sauce and simmer for at least another 15 mins or longer on a lower heat. You are aiming for a fairly sloppy sauce. Once it cools the meat will soak up more of the juice and be firmer. You can use some of this for a spaghetti bolognese and then when cooled store the rest in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to make your lasagne.
  7. (See tutorial!) When you are ready to build your lasagne, have all your ingredients to hand. Your first layer is the meat sauce. Spread about 3-4 serving spoon fulls on the bottom, and cover the base completely. Drizzle 2 spoonfuls of crème fraîche on top too. Cover with a layer of lasagne sheets all over the top of the sauce.
  8. Spoon another layer of around 3-4 spoonfuls of meat sauce on top of the lasagne sheets. It should be about 1cm thick roughly. Drizzle on 2-3 spoonfuls of crème fraîche and a good handful of Parmesan. Repeat this process until you get a layer of lasagne at the top. Put the last of the crème fraîche on this final layer and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
  9. As you are building the lasagne be conscious that you are probably going to have 4-6 layers and try and manage the amounts according to the size of your dish. But sometime one layer may be thinner or thicker than another, and this doesn't show in the final dish!
  10. Set aside until ready to cook in the oven for 45 minutes at 180℃/350℉/Gas Mark 4. If the top is browning too quickly just throw a piece of tin foil over the top and take it off a few minutes from the end to crisp the top up.
  11. I like to serve with a salad...but if it was up to my husband he'd serve it with chips or garlic bread!