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An Italian Dinner Party

I’m certain that a few people will loathe me for saying this, but it’s too bloody hot to eat at the minute. Maybe it’s the muggy weather, but food seems to be the last thing on my mind. There I said it. Truth be told, it’s been an awful week anyway, which may be another reason I’ve taken a side step from the kitchen. My good friend Richard decided to fall out of a window and break his back and his ankles. Ouch! So, with working and doing my Florence Nightingale bit I’ve not even had time to think about pulling out pots and pans, nor, quite frankly, could I be bothered to.
Anyway, enough about me and what I’ve been up to, I wanted to share this recipe/ menu plan with you in light of how busy I’ve been this week. This really is the simplest menu to put on for your friends. Everything can be served cold, which is perfect in this weather, and it also means you can prepare everything ahead of time – no last minute rushing around and working up a sweat which, lets face it, isn’t difficult in this weather.
You’ll notice the Italian theme with the menu, yes; I’m still stuck on Italian food. It’s so simple and tasty, what’s not to love? I decided to take the Jamie Oliver approach with this menu, by which I mean sticking everything on a big platter and letting people help themselves, it’s easier and a huge platter of steak looks great in the centre of the table, doesn’t it?

Italian Canapés

For the arrival of my friends I made some canapés. Perhaps the easiest thing to prepare, but they look really impressive and colourful, people comment on the effort you’ve made, when it actually takes you no longer than 2 minutes, great! Make the canapés by poking a little ball of mozzarella, a sun-dried tomato, a piece of Italian cured meat and a little basil leaf onto a cocktail stick. I’d make about a dozen for four people. Serve with some Italian olives.



Bruschetta Starter

You can’t get more Italian that bruschetta, it’s a simple, colourful and wonderfully rustic starter to serve for a crowd. And, you can be as creative as you like when it comes to the toppings. I’d recently seen a recipe for goat’s cheese and dill bruschetta in Olive magazine, so I knew that was a must, but with one of my friends being pregnant, I wasn’t entirely sure which cheeses were safe, so I thought I’d make few other variations.
Slice and toast the ciabatta bread, remove from the oven and rub with a raw garlic clove, drizzle with olive oil and top with any of the following combinations:
  • Chopped cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella
  • Soft goat’s cheese, dill and semi-dried tomatoes
  • Mozzarella, salami and semi-dried tomatoes
  • Mozzarella and salsa verde

The variations of toppings are endless. Experiment and create different types to suit your guests. I had a pregnant friend, a friend who doesn’t eat goat’s cheese and a friend who’ll eat anything (you know who you are!). Serve your bruschetta as is, or with a bowl of king prawns and a quick homemade lemon, mustard and mayo dip.


Homemade Italian Salsa Verde (for the main)

2 garlic cloves
80g fresh basil, roughly chopped
80g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
60g fresh mint, roughly chopped
6 anchovy fillets
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp capers
1 tbsp good Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blend the garlic and herbs in a blender until very finely chopped (you may prefer to do this by hand). Add the other ingredients and blend to combine, pouring in the oil slowly whilst still blending. You should be left with a thick pesto like consistency; it may be a little thinner, which is fine.
The salsa verde will keep in the fridge for 1-2 days

Steak Salad with Salsa Verde and New Potatoes – Main Course

Take a large serving platter and scatter with rocket, watercress and baby spinach.

Using rump or sirloin, season and fry the steak for as long as necessary. I like mine rare so a couple of minutes each side is enough. Rest for 10 minutes and slice thinly. Arrange the stake on the bed of salad and drizzle with a little olive oil, parmesan shavings and toasted diced ciabatta bread. Serve with homemade salsa verde and buttered new potatoes. 



Pintrest

Like my mother, I’ve a memory like a sieve

It was many, many months ago, when I discovered the excitement of Pinterest. As usual, I was probably way behind everyone else in discovering the remarkable website and realising the potential of what it could do for me, or for my memory to be more precise.

Like my mother, I’ve a memory like a sieve, and Pinterest is a great tool  for collecting and organising the things you love, such as recipes, items you want to buy, hair and beauty tips and even ideas for my friend’s baby shower. This is great for me, as i’m rubbish at remembering things, honestly, i’m one of those people that makes a million lists a day, and then forgets where I’ve put them. Pinterest allows you to create mood boards, as a visual reminder of the things you want to make, create, buy or discover. There is something quite wonderful about scrolling through the never ending images and pinning away to your hearts content. I’m one of those pinners that gets a little click happy, but who cares, with individual boards all neatly organised it’s a tidy little place to keep my ever growing stash of ideas and recipes.

Ever wanted to know how to whiten your teeth at home, or knit a jumper? It’s all here, and with each picture linked back to a website or tutorial, you’ll be benefiting from your new skills in no time.

I’m most fond of my ‘recipes I’d like to try’ board, which if I’m honest, I’ll never get around to making all of, but I’m not bothered by this, it’s like having a personalised recipe book, where you want to make every recipe in it. That said, I am going to make an effort to start working my way through some of them, then I can create another board ‘tried and tested recipes’. You see, it’s quite addictive, and you turn into this super organised person. Why, I cannot pin that hair style idea to my beauty board, so I create another one, simply called ‘hair’.

I have an abundance of boards including, but certainly not limited to, the following:
 

  • Books I’d like to read
  • Arts and crafts
  • Fitness tips
  • Healthy recipes
  • Indulgent recipes
  • Home interiors
  • Garden and balcony


If you’ve not yet discovered Pinterest, try it out, it’s free. However, please note that you should approach with caution, it’s very addictive, and it’s fairly likely that you’ll lose two hours just scrolling through shepherd’s pie recipes.

You can follow Miss Friday’s Feast’s Pinterest board here



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The Balcony Garden



Hurrah for the sun, it’s finally decided to put his hat on. And, it’s about time too. I don’t know about you, but I was certainly getting sick of the countless dreary days we’ve been having. This glorious sunshine has prompted me to finish my balcony garden, which is now a beautiful little sun trap for me to enjoy, whilst sipping a gin and tonic, not to mention a space to grow various foodie goodies, such as chillies, tomatoes and herbs.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to enjoy relaxing in the sunshine at home, so I’m thrilled to have my very own balcony garden. The flat that I have moved into with my brother has two balconies, one leading out from the lounge/kitchen and the other from my bedroom, so that’s where I decided to start. There is nothing nicer than waking up every morning and admiring the beautiful space I’ve created. 

When I moved in, the balcony was being used to store various old broken pots, a broom and a few other pieces of junk. The railings were laden with cobwebs and I discovered a rather ghastly ant’s nest. What a waste of a balcony I thought, so having swept and cleared the area, I headed off to the garden centre. I also stopped by my uncle’s house, as he had a few plants for me. A while back he planted some chilli seeds for me, and already my chilli plant is nicely established, my tomato plant has enough fruit to keep me going a while, and low and behold this sunshine has encouraged those little tomatoes to turn red. My chilli plant is just beginning to flower so I’ll have an abundance of them in no time. Look out for spicy recipes over the coming weeks.

couldn’t be more happy with my efforts, so I thought I‘d share a few pictures with you, and perhaps encourage you to clear that forgotten balcony, patio or shabby looking courtyard in an attempt to transform your outside space into an area you can really enjoy. I can’t wait to get started with the lounge balcony already. I’m thinking a large herb garden and maybe even some spuds. 

My balcony makeover has cost around £100, if not less, that’s the plants, pots, table and chairs, cushions and accessories, not bad for such a delightful little place to sit and enjoy the sunshine. 

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Authentic Tuscan Ragú


The best Italian food is simple, rustic and colourful

There must be a million ragú recipes out there, but this wonderfully versatile sauce plays such a big part in authentic Italian cookery, so one more won’t hurt. Made with the freshest ingredients and slow cooked to perfection, there is no doubt that a huge pot of rich, mahogany ragú bubbling away on the stove will set your taste buds tingling. The red wine and mix of different meats, beef and lamb mince and chicken livers really set this recipe apart from the rest and creates the most wonderful depth of flavour.
The versatility of this ragú is what I love the most; enjoy it with freshly made pasta or in a lasagne. But, for me its best served on toasted ciabatta bread, topped and vine tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and a few shavings of parmesan, all washed down with a delicious Italian red wine. Make a big batch and freeze it for delicious, but quick, weeknight meals.

I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve recently discovered a love of authentic Italian cookery, so I was delighted when I received an email from the folks at To Tuscany, explaining that they were running a foodie blogger competition, and they wanted me to enter. The idea is to post a Tuscan inspired recipe, which is something I was only too pleased to set about making. Having thought about the basics of Italian cookery, and the simplistic approach Italian’s seem to adopt when cooking, I knew the recipe had to encompass three things, fresh ingredients, good preparation and enjoyment. There is nothing the Italian’s love more that sitting down to enjoy a lovingly prepared meal over a lazy afternoon. And, given that seasonality plays such an important part in Italian cookery, only the freshest ingredients would do.
I’m excited at the prospect of a foodie competition, mostly because it allows me to put my thinking cap on and get creative, but also because I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas. Really I do! Imagine sitting in the warm Tuscan sunshine enjoying a glass of the finest Italian wine and munching your way through some delicious bruschetta, knowing you’ve earned your way there by creating a delicious Tuscan recipe. Fingers crossed!
Given that ragú is probably one of the most common Italian recipes, and one that is showcased in various different versions all across Italy, it may seem an obvious choice. But, ragú is all too often ruined by people mistaking it for a simple flavour combination; it’s a far cry from simple, dull or boring. Made with the best quality ingredients and just the right about of love your ragú will have the most wonderful depth of flavour, making you feel as if you’re enjoying an authentic Italian dish on a hill-top hamlet in Tuscany. We can but dream…

Authentic Tuscan Ragú Recipe

Recipe makes a large batch for freezing

250g Beef mince
250g lamb mince
200g Chicken livers, finely chopped
5 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil (such as De Cecco Il Classico)
800g chopped tomatoes
5 tbsp tomato purée
200ml of red wine
Salt and black pepper
Handful of freshly chopped basil
10 vine tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp parmesan shavings
A combination of the following ingredients finely chopped is what the Italian’s call Soffritto, which forms the basis of many authentic Italian meals:
2 Red onions
2 Carrots
2 Celery sticks
1 sprig of rosemary (optional in most Soffritto recipes)
2 bay leaves (optional in most Soffritto recipes)

Start by heating the oil in a pan and gently frying the red onion, carrots and celery. Add the rosemary and bay leaves. Cook until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the meats to the pan and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes. Once browned add the wine and stir well. Cook until the wine and fat from the meats has evaporated.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and season to taste.
Serve with toasted ciabatta, topped with a generous spoonful or ragú, a few chopped vine tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and parmesan shavings.

Bon appétit!

 Wine Paring – Piccini Super Tuscan – medium bodied, it’s a blend of Sagiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, particularly good with red meat, pasta and rich tomato sauce – Perfect indeed!