4 simple steps to tapas heaven!

Lemon chicken skewers, sticky chicken skewers and patatas bravas

Tapas is one of my favourite cuisines. It allows you to try a great variety of tastes and flavours all washed down with a glass (or four) of wine. The difference between cooking a meal and cooking tapas is timing; timing really is everything, and a lot of the food needs to be cooked at the same time or within minutes of each other. This is where the difficulty lies, each recipe alone is somewhat simple, but then added together, preparation is the key to success. As a friend always says, prior preparation prevents poor performance.

Rory’s parents were up for the weekend and we decided on the Saturday evening to cook tapas for them, and hopefully showcase some of my culinary skills. Rory was mostly on the entertaining (drinking) side, although he did help with a lot of the preparation. I have been experimenting with a few of these dishes for a while now, others were first or second attempts.

I must have got my quantities wrong, I cooked enough food for 8 people, rather than 4, but it is delicious re heated the next day, and the day after. On the menu, I included two types of chicken skewers, first off I made a sticky chicken and pepper skewer (recipe here), and then I made a lemongrass chicken skewer (recipe here). These are delicious, I love skewers, so simple and easy to cook, marinated for at least an evening before and only ten minutes under the grill make these a simple go to dish.

Next on the menu was meatballs and sauce, this is the second time making these so I have not done a recipe, a few tweaks needed but a great deal of flavour. Then I made Spanish omelette, I tried a new twist on my usual recipe and it tasted delicious! You can’t have a tapas evening without patatas bravas, it shouldn’t be done (recipe here). This simple dish can be prepared ahead and re-heated the next day or evening.

Other dishes on the table included, halloumi, a mozzarella, tomato and spinach salad with balsamic glaze, mozzarella wrapped in parma ham on a stick with a piece of fresh mango, my first attempt at Arancini, although these ended up flat, so I referred to them as flarancini. Several appetisers lay about the table including olives, hummus and flat bread, oiled peppers and various nibbles. I had planned to flash-fry king prawns with chilli and garlic but once I saw how much food was on the table, I made the executive decision to quit while I was ahead.
Tapas-meal
Tapas is so much fun to make and even better to eat, a little stressful but totally worth it when you see the sheer glory of all the food in front of you. A wonderful evening with great company, delicious food and lots of wine.

Hope you enjoy the three recipes I have included below, very easy to make but so much flavour and delicious to eat! Like, share, comment and subscribe.

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Sticky chicken skewers

Marinated sticky chicken and pepper skewers

Overnight marinated sticky chicken and pepper, skewered and grilled for a delcious starter


Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. runny honey
  • 2cm knob of ginger peeled and grated
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper cubed (2.5cm2)
  • 500g skinless chicken breast cubed (2.5cm2)

Directions

  1. Prepare all ingredients and place in a glass bowl. Combine until mixed well, then cover and leave in fridge overnight (the longer the better). If possible, mix a couple of times throughout to make sure all is combined.
  2. On the day of serving, skewer the chicken and peppers, around 5 chicken to 3 peppers on each.
  3. This should make about 6 skewers, more if you use less chicken on each one.
  4. Place on grill pan, drizzle extra sauce on top and grill for 10 minutes, baste and turn halfway.

Lemongrass chicken skewers

Lemongrass chicken skewers

Marinated overnight, lemongrass chicken skewers, delicious as a starter


Ingredients

  • 2 lemongrass stalks finely chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks (cut into 2.5 cm sticks)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 500g skinless chicken breast cubed (2.5cm2)

Directions

  1. Prepare all ingredients (except lemongrass sticks) and place in a glass bowl. Combine until mixed well, then cover and leave in fridge overnight (the longer the better). If possible, mix a couple of times throughout to make sure all is combined.
  2. On the day of serving, chop up the lemongrass stalks into small sticks (about 6 little sticks in total), then thread chicken onto a wooden/metal skewer, with 1 piece of lemongrass in the middle.
  3. This should make about 6 skewers, more if you use less chicken on each one
  4. Place on grill pan, and grill for 10 minutes, turning halfway.

Patatas bravas

Patatas bravas

Spicy patatas bravas, the perfect accompaniment for any tapas dish


Ingredients

    Equipment:
  • Hand-held blender
  • Large saucepan
  • Saucepan with lid
  • Roasting tray

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 kg potatoes, chopped into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil plus extra for roasting
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 60 ml (4 tbsp.) white wine
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • ½ tsp. crushed chillies
  • 1 ½ tsp. smoky paprika
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180oc. Roughly chop potatoes and par boil in cold water, bringing to the boil and boiling for 3 minutes, drain, pat dry with kitchen roll and transfer to baking tray, coat in oil and sprinkle salt, place in oven for 40 minutes, shaking every so often.
  2. Finely chop onion and garlic, fry onion in olive oil for 5 mins until soft, add garlic and fry for a further minute. Add the white wine and let this simmer for 2 minutes.
  3. Add all the other ingredients (tomatoes and spices etc.), and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Using a hand blender, blend sauce until smooth and return to pan. Once potatoes have finished cooking, add them to the sauce and serve.

Fabulously British weekend away in Cambridge

Weekends away really are lovely, just a few days in a new city seeing some friends is for me, the perfect way to spend it.

On Saturday morning Rory and I travelled down to Cambridge to visit some friends for the weekend. I have never been to Cambridge (I think I went as a child but my memory is somewhat lacking), so I wanted to experience everything I could in the short time I was there. And what a beautiful place to go! Pedestrian friendly, minimal use of cars, cyclists everywhere and lovely fresh air, what could be better?!

Top of my to do list was to go punting on the River Cam with two so called experienced punters we began our trip down the river. A rocky start involving several near misses, and some extremely dodgy manoeuvres, but slowly the boys seemed to get the hang of it. I decided I couldn’t go on the boat and not have a go myself. But wow is it tough, just holding the punt itself was strenuous, attempting to make it reach the floor took it out of me and we had barely moved. I quickly learnt where I should be, with the prosecco…prosecco popped, I sat back down and relaxed on the slow route down the river, occasionally over hearing the guided tours for some insight into the history of the surroundings.
Cambridge-punting
You can’t go to Cambridge without visiting the colleges and looking around all the grounds. The beautiful architectural buildings and impressive estates were wonderful to see and experience. Next on the list was a Cambridge wine bar, because at 2pm on a Saturday what else should you be doing? A great little wine bar which sold tons of wine, gin, rum and so much more. Shelves and shelves of alcohol all at a reasonable price. My kind of heaven.
Cambridge wine bar
For dinner, we booked a table at Wildwood and went back home to have some more drinks and get ready for the evening to come. Arriving perfectly on time we were seated straight down in a lovely booth and given menus. After ordering wine for the table we all began choosing our meals.

In any good Italian, a caramelised onion pizza bread should be ordered. This is such a simple dish but so tasty. We shared between the four of us with the addition of a mediterranean platter including italian ham, salami Napoli, salami Milano, buffalo mozzarella, pesto, olives and warm flatbread. Through the first bottle of wine, we quickly ordered another before the mains came out.

Caramelised onion pizza bread
Mozzarella and garlic, caramelised onion pizza bread – £5.55
Mediterranean platter
Mediterranean platter to share – £11.50
The menu offered a great range of choices, pizza, pastas, salads, and meats; difficult to choose! I was struggling between a duck pizza and a meat calzone, so Rory and I had half and half (such a great decision). The meat calzone was delicious, although not as magnificent looking as the calzone in Stratford (read about it here). It had a nice garlic glaze, a delicious tomato sauce, and an unexpected bit of chilli which just gave it a great kick. Now the duck pizza was a little strange, I don’t think duck really goes on a pizza, it just made me want some pancakes and hoisin sauce (not quite the Italian cuisine).

Meat calzone
Spicy meat calzone (chicken, blognese, meatballs) – £11.25
Hoison duck pizza
Hoi Sin duck pizza – £10.35
Steph ordered a baked chicken and mushroom penne pasta with melted cheese on top, and Jon ordered a peri-peri chicken pizza which both seemed to go down well. Very simple but tasty Italian food, and a great ambiance in the restaurant with candles and friendly waiters.

Baked chicken and mushroom penne pasta
Baked chicken and mushroom penne pasta – £10.85
Peri-peri chicken pizza
Peri-peri chicken pizza – £9.85
Filling up on the mains we decided to skip dessert and have some chocolate back at the house (melting Dairy Milk over Daim ice cream is an awesome idea FYI). Many drinks consumed, and a great deal of chocolate and ice cream finished, we all went to bed.

The next day we had a great breakfast cooked by Jon and Steph, and then once all dressed and ready, we headed out for a lovely walk down to Grantchester Orchard. About an hour walk through fields and some track to the Grantchester Orchard Tea Garden; definitely worth the walk. Once we arrived at the orchard we ordered a large fruit scone with jam and clotted cream with a cup of tea. It being quite a mild day we sat outside and enjoyed the fresh air. This was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend; I will definitely be going back to Cambridge and I am sure there is much more to discover.
Cambridge - Grantchester scones
If you think I missed something about Cambridge which you love, let me know in the comments below. Hope you enjoyed this blog post, like, comment, share and subscribe if you did.
Cambridge - Cheers Wine

Rory’s mars bar and marshmallow, toffee crispies


As a child, we always used to make little crispy cakes, but I had never really experimented with all the different ingredients you could add to make these simple cakes even more incredible. Rory however had! This was great news for me as he showed me how by adding toffee and marshmallows, it turned a simple crispy cake into something even better. Then we decided to experiment a little bit with quantities and added mars bars for the extra kick, and found the perfect recipe for a deliciously gooey, yet chocolaty toffee crispy.

This recipe is crazy easy; anyone can make it and it’s even great to get kids involved! The actual process takes less than 30 minutes, but it does require 1-2 hours setting time. This is a perfect recipe to display at any party, or to take into work, or even just as a treat at home. Rory and I demolish these way too easily.

Only a few ingredients needed and all but mars bars can be own brand (Aldi is perfect for this), the whole recipe costing just £4.79 from Aldi, and you get plenty of butter and crispies left over so win win! The recipe makes about 25 squares (or more if you cut them smaller).
rice-crispy-cakes
Equipment:

– 20x20cm greaseproof tin

– 1 large microwaveable bowl

– 1 small microwaveable bowl

– 1 soft spatula

– Kitchen scales

– Greaseproof paper

– Scissors

– Pen
Ingredients:

– 100g unsalted butter

– 200g mini marshmallows

– 200g dairy toffees

– 175g Rice Krispies (referred to as crispy rice throughout)

– 4 small mars bars (or 2 medium)

1. Line the tin (and sides) with greaseproof paper, an easy method to do this can be found here.

2. Weigh the butter add to a large microwaveable bowl with the pack of toffees, melt on a medium heat in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds.
rice-crispy-cakes
3. Meanwhile, break mars bars into bitesize chunks and put in a small microwaveable bowl.
rice-crispy-cakes
4. Once microwave has pinged, mix this up and add the marshmallows and mix again, place back in microwave for another 1 minute 30 seconds on a medium heat.
rice-crispy-cakes
5. Then take this out of the microwave and replace with the mars bar bowl for 1 minute 15 seconds on medium.

6. While the mars bars melt, mix the marshmallows, toffee and butter together, this should all combine and melt as you mix, if after mixing for a minute it hasn’t fully melted, place back in microwave for 20 seconds once the mars bar bowl has finished.
rice-crispy-cakes
7. Take the mars bar bowl out and mix until all is melted, and then add to the large bowl and combine with marshmallow mix. Weigh and add the crispy rice, combine until you have a gooey mixture.
rice-crispy-cakes
8. Break the chocolate into the mars bar bowl (or a clean bowl if preferred) and place in microwave on medium heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
rice-crispy-cakes
9. Transfer the crispy rice mix onto the pre-lined tin. Now you need to flatten this mixture, use the back of the spatula to press the mix down into the tin. It should reduce by about a ¼.
10. When the microwave pings, stop flattening and mix the chocolate, then place back in microwave for 20 seconds burst, mixing each time until it has melted fully (carry on flattening if required).

11. Finally, pour the chocolate on top of the flattened crispy rice mix and smooth over until all is covered. Place in fridge and leave to set for 1-2 hours.
rice-crispy-cakes
12. Take out of the tray (shimmy it out from each side, it can get a bit stuck) and chop into squares or whatever shape and sizes you wish! Most of all, enjoy them!
rice-crispy-cakes
Such a simple, delicious recipe! You can find a printable, easy to read version below. Hope you enjoy the recipe and get baking!

Rory’s mars bar and marshmallow, toffee crispies

  • Servings: 25
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

    Equipment:
  • 20x20cm greaseproof tin
  • 1 large microwaveable bowl
  • 1 small microwaveable bowl
  • 1 soft spatula
  • Kitchen scales
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Scissors
  • Pen

  • Ingredients:
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 200g mini marshmallows
  • 200g dairy toffees
  • 175g Rice Krispies (referred to as crispy rice throughout)
  • 4 small mars bars (or 2 medium)

Directions

  1. Line the tin (and sides) with greaseproof paper, an easy method to do this can be found here.
  2. Weigh the butter add to a large microwaveable bowl with the pack of toffees, melt on a medium heat in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds.
  3. Meanwhile, break mars bars into bitesize chunks and put in a small microwaveable bowl.
  4. Once microwave has pinged, mix this up and add the marshmallows, place back in microwave for another 1 minute 30 seconds on a medium heat.
  5. Then take this out of the microwave and replace with the mars bar bowl for 1 minute 15 seconds on medium.
  6. While the mars bars melt, mix the marshmallows, toffee and butter together, this should all combine and melt as you mix, if after mixing for a minute it hasn’t fully melted, place back in microwave for 20 seconds once the mars bar bowl has finished.
  7. Take the mars bar bowl out and mix until all is melted, and then add to the large bowl and combine with marshmallow mix. Weigh and add the crispy rice, combine until you have a gooey mixture.
  8. Break the chocolate into the mars bar bowl (or a clean bowl if preferred) and place in microwave on medium heat for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
  9. Transfer the crispy rice mix onto the pre-lined tin. Now you need to flatten this mixture, use the back of the spatula to press the mix down into the tin. It should reduce by about a ¼.
  10. When the microwave pings, stop flattening and mix the chocolate, then place back in microwave for 20 seconds burst, mixing each time until it has melted fully (carry on flattening if required).
  11. Finally, pour the chocolate on top of the flattened crispy rice mix and smooth over until all is covered. Place in fridge and leave to set for 1-2 hours.
  12. Take out of the tray (shimmy it out from each side, it can get a bit stuck) and chop into squares or whatever shape and sizes you wish! Most of all, enjoy them!