Peking Blinder

Fuss Free Peking duck with pancakes

You know sometimes there's not much to say but to share something that's a super tasty classic and a fuss-free version at that! 

Each week I tutor one to one with a 15 year old and we swap between sweet and savoury each time.  This week we tackled something that I have never made before but I love to eat. Peking duck in pancakes. You know the little ones with cucumber and spring onions all tucked up in a tiny thin pancake.....

If you can't get hold of some duck legs you could ask your butcher to joint a duck or have a go yourself; The legs are only going to get roasted so neatness isn't important! I guess if you wanted to you could use canned duck confit.  

Rub each duck leg with a teaspoon of Chinese 5 spice, place them on a baking tray and roast in the oven at 190 degrees C for 45 minutes, then turn and give them another 45 minutes. If they start to brown too much just turn the oven down to 170 degrees. 

To prepare the pancakes make a basic unleavened bread dough by mixing in a bowl... 

  • 150g plain flour
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • A pinch of salt

Use a spatula or palate knife to bring the mixture together. Once it's resembling a rough dough, tip it out onto the work surface, pull it together into a ball and knead it for 10 minutes. Then wrap it and leave in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes whilst you make the hoisin sauce.

In a small saucepan put all the sauce ingredients below and heat gently on a low heat until for 3-5 minutes. It doesn't need to boil just come to a gentle simmer and warm through. I wanted my sauce a bit thicker so I put a teaspoon of cornflour mixed with a teaspoon of water in a ramekin. Stirred it together and added it to the sauce. Add it bit by bit to get the consistency marmalade! 

  • 120g packet of Amoy black bean sauce
  • 10g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Leave the sauce to one side to cool. Meanwhile, trim the roots off 2 bunches of spring onions and then cut them in half to 3-5cm widthways and then cut them into long strips. Peel the skin off a cucumber, slice in half lengthways, scoop out the soft middle. Then cut into sticks the same size as the spring onions.

Take the pancake dough out of the fridge. It needs to be made into about 24 pieces.....the easiest way to do this is by chopping it in half, and then continuing to keep chopping the dough in half as evenly as you can! They should be about the size of a gobstopper.

Flour the work surface well and flatten out the piece of dough, then roll it out as thin as you can before placing in a dry frying pan which is on a medium heat. Cook on each side for 1 minute, then remove to a clean tea towel and cover it over. Repeat for all the dough. It may be quicker to use more than 1 frying pan! You don't really want any colour just to cook them briefly.

Decant the sauce into a little bowl, shred the duck off the bone using 2 forks and get ready to serve your tasty morsels!!

  • If you wanted to try and make a more authentic sauce you could use 150g black bean paste, 50g of water and 120g of caster sugar instead of the Amoy sauce along with the other ingredients

These are the two recipes I referenced to make this recipe if you want some more inspiration!

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/19/how-to-make-chinese-duck-pancakes

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/03/how-to-make-chinese-crispy-duck-recipe

 

 

 

Resolution Rebel…

West African Peanut Soup (Vegan)

In recent years I've rebelled against resolutions!  Those few months after Christmas before Spring is hard enough, so like an obstinate child, I would begin in February. To me, this felt a more gentle start to the year with a month to permeate the changes.....in line with what I wanted to do, rather than what I felt I 'should'!

It seems over the years the chance to morph into something new is ever increasing in January.  Become Vegan, tea total, adding or taking something away. But what does this say about ourselves?  Are we not enough already?  Will a change in January bring in a new perspective for the whole year? If you last 5 days or 2 weeks will you feel you have failed?!

I guess the answers are personal and are worth considering. Whilst these ideas are designed to bring about positive change, sometimes they may not turn out as we thought but can bring gifts all the same.  I am working on reducing plastic and my recycling offerings each week.  As I fast realised as I got into it, I cannot make these changes overnight without it becoming overwhelming. So 1 new change a week or every 2, is going to be massive over the course of the year.  We are now making our own yoghurt!

But life is pretty busy. Whether you are raising kids, working, looking after ageing parents, or all of the above....the modern world can be pretty full on. Expectations to do everything and be everything to everyone can leave us feeling a little overwhelmed.

So whether you are just grateful to start the new year and be alive (see my FB Live) or tweaking aspects of the wonderful you person that you are, I ask one thing. Please approach this with a big side portion of self-care and kindness.

Whatever happens, this January, say positive things about yourself and be kind to you! It's easy to feel like you don't have all areas of life together.  And that's OK! If you are making changes, have a contingency plan. It's not just about morphing into something new overnight, it's about the longterm journey and making changes to carry through the year.  And beyond!

If you are trying out something new and learning lots along the way, why not share your experiences in the Fuss Free Foodie Community on Facebook.  We inspire each other to cook but for January why not inspire each other across all areas of our lives!! Wishing you all the best in 2018! Lisa

West African Peanut Soup

I am looking this year at introducing more vegan recipes into my diet.  I am not feeling like eating so much meat at the moment, so hence this recipe.  It really surprised me at how satisfying and delicious it was! I hope you will give it a try. I adapted this soup recipe to make it more filling and substantial by adding lentils and quinoa.  It's rich and creamy and has a bit of heat to it too!  Sounds weird but trust me it's delicious.....give it a try!!

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 green chilli, sliced
  • 2 tsp of grated ginger (or finely chopped)
  • 3/4 cup of red lentils, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup of quinoa or bulgar wheat, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup of peanut butter, smooth or crunchy
  • 1/2 cup of passata
  • 1.3L vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3-4 cups hispi cabbage or kale or cavalo nero, finely  shredded
  • 2-5 tsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Twist of black pepper
  1. Add a slug of olive oil to a large pan. Add the onions, ginger and green chilli and fry on a medium heat for about 5-7 minutes.  If you are trying not to use too much oil, add a splash of water to help the cooking process if it dries out.
  2. Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together the passata, peanut butter and 500ml of the stock into a smooth (ish) mixture. Don't worry if it looks like it's curdled! Set aside.
  3. Once the onion is almost soft, add the garlic and fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the tomato puree to the pan, stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the peanut butter/passata/stock mixture to the pan and stir.  Add the rest of the stock to the pan and stir.
  5. Add the lentils and quinoa/bulgar wheat and stir and simmer on a medium heat for 30 minutes. Go back and stir the pot every 5/10 minutes to avoid it sticking! Season with the salt and pepper.
  6. After 30 minutes the lentils should be soft. Add the cabbage, kale or cavalo nero and stir through. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Add the sriracha or hot sauce. Stir and check the seasoning.
  7. Serve in a big bowl and enjoy!  I didn't feel like I needed anything else with it, as it was a meal in a bowl!

If you fancy some more of my fuss-free soup recipes...

Cabbage, lentil and bacon soup

Broccoli and stilton soup

Leek and potato soup (Vegan)

Pea and ham soup

Minestrone soup (Vegan)

Orbs, Entities and Egypt

Falafel

There was no specific reason why I wanted to go to Egypt....it was based on a feeling. I couldn't explain it but the pull was great. So I booked it. When people asked me what I would be doing out there...I didn't even know! I hadn't checked the itinerary!!

I was going with a few people I met on a retreat a year ago. In fact, I had thought it would be fun for us to hang out again, I just hadn't expected it to be here!

In the run-up to leaving our travel plans changed due to unrest in the area. But we were assured by our Bedouin guides that they had our safety at heart. I had to trust. And I did. But leaving your husband and children with even an element of uncertainty didn't sit well. But the feeling of growth and fulfilment far outweighed any fear.

I knew I had done the right thing on waking that first morning in Cairo. After 5 hours sleep, within arms reach of the Pyramids, I listened to Lou our group leader talk. She had been drawn to visit many places on her personal journey, based on a feeling. Tears silently fell from my eyes. I knew this was right. Like Autumn where life dies and awaits its rebirth, I knew I was going to be stripped back in order for me to grow.

The morning was spent visiting the Pyramids and venturing inside. On Saturday the 11th of the 11th we were inside the Great Pyramid at 11.11am! For those who love numerology...you'll enjoy that one!

What I hadn't realised was how quickly we would be heading to camp in the desert. That Saturday afternoon we were due to leave. And news to me ....we were camping for 3 nights, not 2! (I guess a quick read of the itinerary would have told me that!!)

Taking the bare minimum, we left and headed out into the darkness. Met half way by our guides, piled into 3 land cruisers and headed off in search of the desert! Now as you can imagine, a big part of the conversation was about the desert toilet facilities! Well, it's pretty simple... plenty of sand and space. Nuff said! But most of us were a little reticent at the prospect!

Arriving in the darkness it was difficult to see our home for the next few days, but with a roaring fire, and sheltered eating area, it felt comfortable. At this point, I felt that despite meeting the group less than 24hrs ago, we were really starting to bond as a tribe.

The next few days were spent visiting whale bones in the desert, and having quiet contemplation time alone with ourselves. Staring off precipices into vast open spaces, and swimming in beautiful lakes. Sitting together and sharing meal times; Gathering around the campfire, singing, drumming and drinking Bedouin whiskey (AKA super sweet tea!).

The nights around the fire were one of the most magical times. From the brightness of the day, it felt like the night time had no judgment and allowed you just to be. Losing ourselves in the flicker of the flames, finding our voices to the rhythm of the drums. Dancing to Bedouin music, under the watchful gaze of the stars. It seems that we were joined by more than just the millions of stars too, as a campfire photo showed up we were not alone!

In the quiet of the desert, you become super aware of the few things that are going on around you. The brightness and number of stars in the sky was totally mind-blowing. Lying on our backs you could notice the different constellations. It was here on the 2nd night that I noticed 2 orbs dancing in the sky.

In the pitch black of the night sky amidst the shining stars, these were different. As they randomly danced the do-si-do I couldn't keep my eyes off them. I'd never seen them the night before or indeed the night after. They were SO bright, bigger than the stars. I had never seen 1 let alone 2 orbs before! They gave me great comfort to see and made me feel connected to my two boys, especially as it was one of their birthdays......as if they were checking up on me to say hello.

Leaving the desert was tough for us all. We had all settled into camp life and bonded not only as a tribe but with our guides too. But we did one last thing....sandboarding! So as I jumped up to give it a go (and I am no boarder!) we went up the dunes. Figuring the more I thought about it the less chance there was I would do it... I jumped aboard.

As you can see from the video of our trip (Look right... before 2 minutes) I nailed it 3/4 of the way down. But I had neglected to ascertain one bit of info from our guide.....how do you stop?! As I reached the bottom and I started to spin around, my solution to break was to wipe out! And land on my head! That's definitely one way to stop! So my parting gift from the desert....momentarily took the wind out of my sails.

Heading back to Cairo was a shock to the system, least not because my body was dealing with effectively a whiplash injury! But lucky for us, we had 2 nights aboard a boat hotel on the Nile! In all the time I was in the desert, it hadn't bothered me that a couple of lake swims was the closest thing I got to washing. The sand didn't bother me one bit. It wasn't until I stood in the reception of this lovely hotel that I felt unclean and wanted a shower! And boy did it feel great when I did.

On our final day, we visited Saccara which is best known for its step pyramid, and vast ancient burial ground, and the Egyptian museum. The focus around death in Egypt was one I'd not contemplated before. Their beliefs of the soul returning to the body was the reason they placed a mask in the likeness of the persons face so it could return to the right body. The reason kings and gods were depicted with their hands on the heart is that they believe the heart to be paramount. And therefore was left in the body after to death.

This trip for me wasn't about acquiring facts about or memorising the details of Egyptian history. (I am no historian despite my interest!) What resonated with me deeply was the energy in these ancient times for the heart and the soul. The brain was inconsequential.....removed from the body after death but heart left in. For me, it was about opening my heart and awakening a part of me that maybe had been overridden by my head.

That feeling of joy, wonder, intrigue is still there in all of us. It's whether we allow these feelings to be covered as life's experiences make us protect our wounds. As we navigate less from our hearts and more from our heads, we work out how to not get hurt or feel that pain again. Adding layers of protection over the years can desensitise us to what life can feel like. If we allow ourselves to be open and to show our hearts.....we will get back to ourselves and feel so much more in return.

What I noticed on leaving Egypt and arriving back in the UK was the expectation of the western world. We are a society that works very much on external things and the money we need to earn to acquire things to 'get on' in life. What I loved about Egypt and in particular the desert was how there was nothing! No marketing. No feeling like you had to look or be a certain way. I had a sense of freedom I had not felt for many years to just be, and a connection to the stars I'd not had since the 90s rave scene!!

Back to reality, but at least on The Nile!
I realised that as a person I hadn't lost those intrinsic parts of me. They are in fact still there, but buried away under the responsibility and putting others first. My initial fears on coming home were that I would never get to feel this feeling and connection again. That 'normal life' would resume. I feared I would get to an age and reflect back and feel regret at what could have been. I guess that's why when people survive an accident or a serious illness they get a new lease of life to fulfil their hearts desires. They have another shot at living the life they want to lead and grasp it wholeheartedly.

So do we need to go through that to start living life today? My plan going forward is to bring in elements to my life that bring the joy of Egypt each day. Connect with my self to fulfil my own needs and nurture what needs nurturing. I know that my life and that of those around me will be richer from doing this. I hope you will find something for yourself too that will rekindle the fire inside your heart. Why wait. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. Carpe Diem. Tempus Fugit.

Next week is a big week for The Fuss Free Foodie, as we celebrate our 1st birthday and launch the new website!!! Keep an eye on the FB page too as I will be posting about the Hairy Bikers episodes I feature in too! Much love Lisa x

Falafel

2 cans of chickpeas, drained
1 large onion roughly, chopped
4 tbsp parsley and coriander
2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
8 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp plain flour

Put all the ingredients except for the last 2 in a blender and pulse until the mixture is a rough puree.
Add the baking powder and flour. Pulse gently and then place the mixture into a bowl.
Roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls.
Fill a frying pan with oil (about 1-1.5 inches deep) and heat to a medium-high temperature. Add half (or a third) of the balls carefully being careful not to splash oil on yourself or overfill the pan.
Cook the falafels until brown on one side, and then turn over. Remove from the pan, place on kitchen paper to drain. Fry the remain balls.
Serve the falafels with hummus and flatbreads. Enjoy!
Egypt ...The Movie!

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.

Doing a Meg Ryan…..

Moong Dhal with courgettes

I've got a new rule. When opportunities come knocking, I'm just gonna say yes! The cool thing with that is I don't have to let my brain get involved....and here's why. It totally means well, and is only trying to protect me, keep me safe and be logical by pointing out what could go wrong but that can take over from what my heart desires, and that's where the spark, excitement and joy can be in life. If I say yes, and it's meant to happen, it will. It just takes the control right out of my hands, and I'm OK with that!

So one of those 'Yeses' meant today I addressed 150 year 10, 11 and 12 students at a local girls school about my journey so far as the Fuss Free Foodie. Slightly daunting thought. A room full of eyes, being able to hear a pin drop and only my voice reverberating around the room. My head could've found many reasons why not to do it! But I did not allow myself to even get into my head about it. What's the worst that could happen!?! Sometimes its great just to bite the bullet and do it anyway and in the words of a well-known trainer company...Just do it! So let's see what comes up next that I have to say yes too!

I feel very blessed that so many of you are saying yes to the Fuss Free Foodie too, which I am so grateful for! Thank you! This week I've been hearing more of you giving my recipes ago, and even better you're families enjoying them as well! It's so easy to get stuck in a rut with the same 1-2 week recipe cycle, and we all experience that at some point and need to change things up!

This weeks recipe is still helping me use my yellow courgette glut (you could leave them out if you wanted but all part of your 5 a day!) and using those ingredients that lurk at the back of the cupboard. A fuss-free fast food, and is great for making ahead and reheating. Let me know how you get on! Lisa.

Courgette Moong Dhal

1 cup of Moong Dhal/yellow split lentils, well rinsed in water and drained
Heaped tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp turmeric
3 1/2 cups of water
2 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
2-3 medium courgettes, sliced

 

Temper
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 red/green chilli, sliced
1-2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5-6 tbsp butter/ghee/oil
Salt
(Optional 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/4 tsp chilli powder)
I did it without and was still delicious

1. Put the lentils into a medium-sized saucepan with 3 cups of the water (retain the rest for later). Add the turmeric, tomatoes, and ginger. Stir, and bring to the boil and then return to simmer. Stir occasionally and add more water if it dries out or starts to stick.
2. This should take about 30 minutes until the lentil are broken down and the dal has a porridge consistency. Add the courgettes at this stage and let them cook in the dal for 10-20 minutes. Add a little water if is drying out. Season with a good pinch of salt. It's not going to do any harm cooking it for longer, just keep adding bits of water if needs be.
3. In a separate frying pan, add the oil/butter and raise the temperature to medium to high, so that you can add the cumin seed and fry for a couple of minutes with the shallot. It is OK to get the shallot brown, but turn down to a medium to low heat when you add the chilli and garlic. This doesn't want to be brown, just cook for a further minute or 2.
4. Add the tempeh to the lentil mixture, stir in thoroughly. Check the seasoning for any more salt, and serve with chapatis, rotis, naan or rice. I only had pittas and that worked well too!!

Remember if you love the Fuss Free Foodie, maybe you're friends will too, so please remember to keep liking and loving to keep me in your feed! Lisa x

Sexy summer salad

Sexy summer salad

I was never a fan of Star Trek, but I have to agree with The Borg that resistance is futile, as resistance can be the compass that steers us to our soul's true purpose. Let me explain further.....

A week ago I was invited to be a part of a kitchen demo at St Nicks market in central Bristol. Exciting! And this was literally my initial emotion and feeling as it's exactly where I want to be taking the Fuss Free Foodie.

However. The next feelings that came about were fear and self-doubt. Feeling overwhelmed with the work going on at home and challenges with the children had left me feeling like maybe this wasn't the right thing for me right now. The timing just wasn't right.

I had a few days to commit to the slot, and I sought counsel from friends who know me. As one rightly said, I was just dealing with fear. And I acknowledged and recognised this. Another stripped away my rationalisations. If you weren't overwhelmed with your kitchen and the kids would you pass up this opportunity? Of course, I wouldn't, I'd be saying yes straight away. I quickly fired off an email to say I'd do it.

And here's the thing. I listened to an interview with the author of the War of Art, a couple of months ago and he talks of resistance being the very thing that stops us being the person we are meant to be. That the actions that fill us with the deepest terror ARE the very things that we should be doing. Layers of conditioning, fears of failure, success and external judgments are what stop us from being internally directed.

I realised that this was what I was doing. The very thing I was resisting was what I needed to be moving towards, as it was closest to moving towards where I want to be. By listening to my own rationalisations I would have sabotaged this. As in the words of Steven Pressfield, our only job is to be the person who we already are. So when you feel resistance come knocking, don't fight it, run towards it with open arms! You are right on course to getting out of your own way to find your true calling.

Let me know what you think to this week's blog in the thread on the Fuss Free Foodie Facebook page or in the Fuss Free Foodie community, about the callings you are following or ones that you aspire to. If you would like to follow more daily what the Fuss Free Foodie is up to you can follow me on Instagram and Twitter too. Lisa

Caerphilly cheese, cherry and walnut salad

 

A handful and a half cherries pitted
A handful of walnuts (or pistachios) broken up
100g Caerphilly cheese, crumbled
Bag of mixed leaves, rocket or spinach leaves
Dressing:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
Salt and pepper

To make the dressing place all the ingredients in a jam jar and shake.
On a serving plate lay your leaves on the plate and tear the cherries and lay on top.
Drizzle over about half of the dressing and then sprinkle over the walnuts and Caerphilly cheese.
Serve with some lovely bread or alongside an awesome BBQ.

Pesto courgetti salad with feta and almonds

3 medium-sized courgettes, made into strips with a veg peeler, julienne or spiralizer
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved if large
3 tbsp high-quality pesto
100g sheep's cheese or feta
A handful of chopped parsley
A handful of almonds, roughly chopped (or walnuts would work too)
Half a lemon or tsp of white wine vinegar.
Take your courgettes and make the courgetti using whichever tool you have. If you don't have one, just use a veg peeler to make long ribbons.
Add the courgettes to a bowl, along with the parsley and tomatoes. Then add the pesto and stir through so they are all coated. Season with salt, pepper and add the lemon or vinegar. Stir again and taste for the seasoning.
Place the salad on a serving plate and sprinkle over the nuts and cheese.
This is a great salad to eat in its own right, or with a piece of grilled chicken, or even a piece of salmon. Some people don't enjoy fish and cheese, so you could leave the cheese out if serving with fish.

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!!

Chicken, bacon and avocado salad with maple mustard dressing

Chicken, bacon and avocado salad

A change is as good as a rest they say. That should be prefixed with *unless that comes with a crew of builders and heavy machinery! So if my latest life endeavours aren't going to bring me rest, then I wonder what will it bring? {I know, I know...a new kitchen.....!)

So the day came yesterday when the work on the house finally started, to extend our dining room and knock through to the kitchen. And to be fair there was a part of me (for 24hrs at least) that was excited for the talk to turn to action! But I know myself, and adapting to 'change' isn't necessarily one of my strong points, so I guess with this, brings opportunity!

Change can mean modification and we will be certainly be making plenty of those to our home, but change can also mean a shift and when things shift this can make way for new openings to occur. So over the next few months, I'm not entirely sure where the ideas for cooking and writing are going to come from as my little vantage point where I enjoy writing from and my kitchen will be non-existent by next week.

But I feel that actually, the blog may be more of a continuum and not necessarily conclusive each week. As people offer support and space to me, I will for sure be inspired by things that I haven't imagined. And to be fair this week has been a bit of a mental haze!! But as I work from my new bolt hole this afternoon at The Chiron Centre, I can already feel many great things could be on offer! I hope you will join me on the journey and see where it will go, and that you'll enjoy the most fuss-free cooking of all!

If you fancy following our progress, I'm adding stories on Instagram and photos on the Fuss Free Foodie FB page ....so remember to come and join us there if you aren't already! Wish us luck! Lisa x

Chicken, bacon & avocado salad with maple mustard dressing

Serves 2 (easily doubled to serve 4!)

Salad

150g leftover roast chicken meat or 2 small chicken breast
3 bacon rashers, cooked crispy, roughly chopped or torn
100g mixed lettuce leaves
1/2 red onion, sliced into thin half moons (or 6 spring onions, chopped)
150g tomatoes, diced
1 ripe avocado, diced (cut in half, remove the stone, quarter, scoop out the flesh and chop)
4 tbsp sweetcorn

1. If using chicken leftover from a roast dinner, pick all the meat off the bones and set the carcass aside to make some stock or pop in the freezer until you are ready to. Go to step 3.
2. If you are using a chicken breast, flatten it out so that it is about 1cm thick all over. Do this by laying the chicken in cling film on a chopping board and whacking it with a rolling pin! Then rub the chicken in a little oil, season and either grill, fry or cook on the BBQ.
3. Assemble the salad. Share the salad leaves between two plates. Sprinkle with the red onions, sweetcorn and avocado. Add the chicken and bacon.

Dressing
Make in a jam jar. Double up if you fancy having some leftover for another day...it tastes so good!!

6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or best salad oil
3 tbsp cider vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 heaped tsp wholegrain mustard
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup
Twist of salt and pepper

1. Put all the ingredients in a jar and shake! And pour over your lovely salad!

This is a classic recipe for using up what you have, so don't let not having one ingredient stop you giving it a go, substitute for what you have! Remember to let us know if you give the recipe a try in the comments below or on social media! Lisa

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

Top 3 Fuss Free BBQ dishes

Top 3 Fuss Free BBQ dishes

 
 Is it possible to loose yourself when you don't even have any space? To feel free, available and unoccupied in family life these days can sometimes feel light years away.

Finding space to do the things you did BC (before children!) certainly changes when you sign up for family life...especially if you don't have grandparents on tap! Your opportunities to play golf for the day or have a spa weekend at a drop of a hat are few and far between and even feels indulgent at the thought!But isn't it funny the very things we probably need to make family life run more smoothly is often put on the back burner. Being caring and compassionate to ourselves seems to come at the bottom of the list but ironically will, in turn, lead to this being reflected to those around us.

Last weekend I had 24 hours on my own in the house for the first time in 7 years! Having that sense of space to do what I wanted to do, on my terms also created a sense of space on the inside too.  My ability to be more objective, and look at situations from a different (calmer!) standpoint was evident.

The space that it created inside of me also allows for a little more personal growth, a little more creativity and a little more fulfillment to achieving what I want in life. Now that's not a bad thing, is it? I hope you can manage to find a quiet hour or afternoon to create a little more space for yourselves this bank holiday weekend!

As always, some of these recipes have come a long way through my life.  The chicken skewers recipe was from a Sainsburys calendar I used to have, and it's SO fuss free that I still do it now.  In fact, I remember, in 2006 preparing a big bowl of this for a world cup BBQ in Stourbridge and my 'husband to be' dropping the dish on the floor and it smashing......not his finest hour!!! But I love how food creates memories and I can laugh about it now!

The couscous dish is really fuss free too , as you can interchange different cheese and nuts to what you have in .......delish! Look out for a quick video on how to put together this couscous salad over the weekend on Facebook or YouTube. Lisa

Chicken Skewers (Makes approx 4 skewers)

Try and keep the chicken a similar size.
 
  • 4 large chicken breasts, diced 2cm sq. (approx 600g)
  • 100g mango chutney
  • 100g Pataks curry paste...not sauce (Madras, Rogan Josh)
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  1. Place the mango chutney, curry paste and olive oil in a bowl and mix.
  2. Then add in the chicken and stir well so all the chicken is coated.
  3. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to build you skewers.
  4. When building the skewers, try not to push the meat together too tight, allow a little space
  5. Cook on the BBQ on a medium heat for 20-25 mins, turning regularly to get an even colour.  The sugars in the mango chutney will char the skewers slightly, but this give a lovely flavour.

Halloumi and vegetable skewers (Makes approx 6-8 skewers)

Try and cut your veg into a similar size and shape for even cooking.
 
  • 1 pack of halloumi, cut in half lengthways, and then into chunks
  • 150g cherry/small tomatoes
  • 150g small courgettes, cut into rounds about 1cm thick
  • 100g ramiro peppers or small peppers, cut into 2-3cm square
  • 50g shallots, cut lengthways and in half (or red onion)
  • 150g mushrooms, cut in half if large
  • 5g fresh mint, chopped
  • 3 tsp sumac
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 75ml olive oil
  1. Once you have chopped all your veg and halloumi, place in a bowl with the herbs, garlic, sumac and olive oil, and mix together so everything is coated.
  2. Leave in the fridge until you are ready to build your skewers.
  3. When building your skewers try to get at least 2-3 pieces of halloumi on there with a variety of veg.
  4. Coat the BBQ grill with a little oil on kitchen roll. (Or if you have a flat grill on your BBQ with no bars use this). Cook on the BBQ for about 20 mins on a medium heat until all the veg are cooked, turning to give even colour.

Couscous salad

  • 200g dried couscous
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced (or 5-6 spring onions)
  • 2 handfuls of chopped fresh herbs (Mint, parsley, dill or whatever you have)
  • 75-100g feta or goats cheese, crumbled
  • 2 handfuls of nuts (walnuts or almonds), chopped
  • 1 pomegranate, cut in half
  • Boiling water
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  1. Tip the couscous into a large flat dish.  Squeeze on the juice of 1 lemon, olive oil and salt and pepper.  Mix and coat the couscous.  Then pour over freshly boiled hot water, so that it covers all of the couscous and just goes over the top by  about 1mm! Cover with cling film and leave for 15 mins.
  2. Meanwhile, chop and prepare your ingredients.
  3. After 15 mins, fluff up the couscous with a fork, add the herbs, nuts, cheese and onions and stir in.  Once mixed, take one half of the pomegranate and have it flat side down in your hand with your fingers spread.  Wack the pomegranate with a rolling pin and let the jewel seeds land on top of the salad. Stir in the first half, and then add the second half to the top.
If you are looking for some more fuss free additions to your BBQ, check out my fuss free coleslaw recipe.....or try roasting some hassellback potatoes in foil on the grill. Want to know what beers to have with your BBQ? Follow this link to a fantastic guide to which beers to choose for your BBQ.
 
Please remember to post up your BBQ pictures on the weekend thread on the Fuss Free Foodie community on Facebook. Have a great Bank Holiday! Lisa x