Edible Christmas gifts there’s still time to make…

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Rather than going out to get last minute presents today, why not stay in, listen to some Christmas tunes, and let the smell of edible gifts permeate the house instead?

Below I’ve collected a few of my gifts from Christmases past, and a few other recipes that work as presents – I hope they’re useful if you’re stuck for that last present for someone!

(Click on the titles to find the recipes)

Salted butter caramels

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These are a crowd-pleaser: I’ve made them numerous times in the past and they always get good comments! They also don’t take too long – about 15 minutes on the hob and then a couple of hours to set – stick them in a cute gift bag and you’re sorted…

Vanilla extract

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A lot of people don’t realise you can make your own vanilla extract, but it’s pretty easy and looks impressive! You will need to put a ‘use after’ label (or words to that effect) on this as the vanilla won’t be infused enough by Christmas – but it will look pretty in a glass bottle with the vanilla pods…

  Blue cheese & poppy seed biscuits

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These biscuits are great as an aperitif with a glass of fino, or equally as good with a glass of port post-meal. They’re a good pressie for anyone who likes cheese – just keep them in a sealed container after making. You can also swap out the blue cheese for any other semi-hard cheese you wish!

Pickled rhubarb

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This year I have decided to make some pickled cherries, but I don’t know what they taste like yet as they’re not quite ready. The pickled rhubarb I made earlier in the year was great though and a good accompaniment to cheese and cold meats. It also is quick to make, and can be used after 48 hours – winning!

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Have an excellent Christmas and New Year all – eat, drink and be merry!

Feeding a cold (with lentils)

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I write this swaddled in a blanket, trying to get over a cold which my loving husband passed on to me last week. It is taking its sweet time to leave. I’ve tried nudging it with Night nurse*, smothering it with sleep and Sudafed*,  and now I’m going to flush it out with food – chicken soup, stews, all the good, warm, autumnal stuff.

*Other cold/flu medicines are available.

One of my recent favourites that might help to do the trick is a kind of lentil stew with tomatoes, mustard, garlic and thyme. It’s from a book the OH and I are a little obsessed with at the moment: A Modern Way to Cook by Anna Jones. All vegetarian/vegan dishes, all amazing. There will be more of her recipes on this blog soon.

I admit, lentils don’t tend to get people excited, but these are blinking tasty – I’ll let the photo’s convince you…

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Garlic & thyme lentils with roasted tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and mustard cream 

lightly adapted from A Modern Way to Cook

Ingredients

For the lentils:

300g green/puy lentils

4 cloves garlic

1 tomato

a few sprigs thyme

2 bay leaves

1 vegetable stock cube

Glug of oil and splash of red wine vinegar (optional)

For the tomatoes:

400g cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

olive/rapeseed oil

2-3 slices wholemeal bread, blitzed into crumbs

small bunch fresh thyme (or equivalent dried)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

For the mustard cream:

2 tsp english mustard (or to taste)

100g cream cheese

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1. Preheat the oven to 220C and boil a kettle of water.

2. Put the lentils in a large pan with the tomato, the 4 cloves of garlic (unpeeled), the bay leaves, and the sprigs of thyme. Dissolve the stock cube in 1 litre of boiling water and pour over the lentils. Bring the pan back to the boil, then reduce to a medium heat and simmer gently for 25-30 mins, until the lentils are tender and most of the water has evaporated.

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3. Whilst the lentils are cooking, put the cherry tomatoes on a roasting tray – cut side up. Drizzle over some oil, sprinkle over the lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Put in the oven and roast for around 15 minutes.

4. Whilst the tomatoes are roasting, put the breadcrumbs on another roasting tray with the thyme leaves and the chopped garlic clove. Drizzle over some more oil and put in the oven with the tomatoes for a further five minutes.

5. Meanwhile, mix the mustard with the cream cheese and set aside.

6. When the lentils are cooked, scoop out the tomato, the garlic, and the bay leaves. Discard the bay leaves and put the tomato into a small bowl. Pop the garlic cloves out of their skins and mash into the tomato to create a rough paste, before stirring this back into the lentils. Check the lentils and add a glug of oil and a splash of red wine vinegar to the mixture, and extra seasoning if desired.

To serve: Ladle the lentils into a bowl and spoon over some of the mustard cream. Scatter over the roasted tomatoes and the breadcrumbs, and get cosy…

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Hopefully this will get my cold moving – wish me luck!

Beautiful Bibimbap

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I’m one of those annoying people on Instagram who take photo’s of their food: I don’t do selfies, I do photogenic bowls of deliciousness instead. Some, taken in restaurants with dim lighting, don’t do justice to the beautiful creation before me. Others, when the light is good, or the food is particularly pretty, do have the desired effect. Bibimbap is one of the latter… and lots of people have realised it – over 158,000 photo’s tagged #bibimbap on Instagram and counting!

To be honest, I think Bibimbap probably did come to my attention from one of these photo’s – I love Asian food but Korean was a new one on me until recently, when restaurants started popping up and the food was papped. Also you can’t really forget a name like that…

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Bibimbap is essentially, a bowl of rice, with lots of different toppings, all arranged artfully in a bowl, with an egg on the top. The combination of colours is beautiful, but it’s not all style and no substance – it is also totally delicious.

I came to make Bibimbap a few weeks back when we returned home from a bbq with leftover meat – Korean marinated flat-iron steaks. This was great because it meant we missed-out the most time-consuming part of the dish: the marinade. (If you can’t find pre-marinated beef try this: 2 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, 2tsp sesame oil, 3 cloves garlic, 3 spring onions 1/2 tsp black pepper. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, add the beef and leave for at least 30 minutes).

I have cheated a little with another element of the dish too, but that’s only because it’s tricky to find (in Bath anyway) – Gochujang chilli paste. This is a Korean institution and is a paste made with chilli, sticky rice and fermented soybeans.  If you have a large asian supermarket then you may well be able to buy it there, if not try souschef, an online shop with all sorts of foodie things. I found a chilli sauce recipe that I made instead, which is not the real thing (no fermenting!), but it tasted good so it will do for now. I did find kimchi in our local thai supermarket which is another Korean staple made from fermented vegetables and chilli, so that gave the dish a bit more authenticity.

I used fried quails eggs instead of regular because i’d been given some (from someone who keeps quails!), they looked cute fried, but one big egg would be fine – and more satisfying when you break into it.

If you want to try making Bibimbap the recipe is below – it isn’t difficult, it’s just lots of little things that need cooking separately, so you may end up with quite a lot of washing up!

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Bibimbap

Recipe adapted from a variety of sources – koreanbapsang, mykoreankitchenepicurious & Jack Monroe (And the Observer Food Monthly Aug 2015 supplement)

 Ingredients

400g short-grain or sushi rice

400g beef steak, thinly sliced & marinated

a selection of vegetables, such as:

250g spinach

150g bean sprouts

150g carrots (approx 2 small), thinly sliced

200g shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

4 eggs or 12 quails eggs

For the sauce:

2 red chilli’s, deseeded and finely chopped

1 large garlic clove, crushed

50ml white wine vinegar

2 tbsp sugar

2tbsp oil

To serve:

A handful of toasted sesame seeds

Kimchi, if desired

  1. Firstly, cook the rice as suggested on the packet. Whilst the rice is cooking, make the chilli sauce and prepare your vegetables, keeping them all separate until the end of the dish.

2. To make the sauce, put the chilli’s and the garlic in a small pan and add the vinegar and the sugar. Bring to a boil, then cook for a couple of minutes so the mixture becomes sticky. Remove from the heat and leave to cool, stirring in the oil just before serving.

3. Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil and blanche the carrots and the bean sprouts – the carrots will only need about a minute, the bean sprouts about 2. Keep warm.

4. Heat some oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the mushrooms until cooked. Remove from the pan and fry the spinach until wilted. Squeeze out any excess water from the spinach and set aside. Keep warm.

5. When the rice is cooked, drain and put the pan back on the heat. Add some oil and then transfer the rice back into the pan, squashing it down into the oil. Leave the rice to cook for another 10 minutes (without stirring), until it is nicely crisped and browning on the bottom.

6. Using the same pan you used for the vegetables, fry the strips of marinated beef until cooked – between 3 and 5 minutes approximately.

7. In a clean pan, fry the eggs until the white is cooked but the yolk is still runny.

8. Now you’re ready to make it look pretty! Divide the rice into 4 bowls. Put a small amount of each of the vegetables and the beef around the rice, separated out so you can see all of the ingredients. Top with the egg(s) and the chilli sauce, and a dollop of kimchi, if desired. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.

Gaze in adoration, then tuck in!

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For relaxing times, make it: Tahini Time

DSCN2280As soon as it gets hot in England I start thinking about going abroad – I don’t know why, it would make more sense to enjoy the weather here, then go somewhere when it turns cold and wet again… maybe it’s because working in the heat is not so fun and going abroad normally means relaxing a bit more! Alas, I’ve had my summer holiday already this year so I’ll have to live vicariously through exotic food instead…

I do enjoy eating alfresco wherever I am though, and light, summery dishes are usually quite quick and easy to make. This dish is a case in point – the most time-consuming bit is shelling broad beans (which I actually quite enjoy doing).
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This dish is middle-eastern inspired, which I gravitate towards when it’s hot (and also because we had some leftover tahini in the fridge that needed using up). I’d read recently that tahini goes well with lamb – so lamb kofta’s it was. These were served with flatbreads, a broad bean, mint, & pomegranate salad, and the aforementioned tahini mixed with yoghurt to make a dressing. It was delish – we had it two days running but I could have carried on 😉 The lamb kofta’s are lightly spiced, the tahini and yoghurt cool them down but add some nuttiness, and the salad is fresh and crunchy…

Spiced Lamb Kofta’s with a Tahini Yoghurt Dressing and Broad Bean, Mint & Pomegranate Salad

serves 4

Ingredients

500g lamb mince

1tsp cumin

2tsp ground coriander

2 garlic cloves

1tsp harissa paste (optional)

2tbsp tahini paste

250g greek yoghurt

2tbsp olive oil

pinch of salt & pepper

500g broad beans

6 radishes, thinly sliced

1 pomegranate

5 sprigs fresh mint, chopped

5 sprigs fresh parsley, chopped

8 small flatbreads or 4 large

To make the kofta’s: Mix the lamb mince with the cumin, coriander, garlic and harissa (if using). Separate into 8 balls, then roll to make ovals. Thread onto metal skewers then place under a grill (or on a griddle pan or bbq) and cook for approx 3-4 mins on each side, until lightly brown.

To make the tahini dressing: Mix the tahini, yoghurt, olive oil and salt & pepper in a bowl and set aside.

To make the salad: Blanche the broad beans and shell, then put in a large bowl. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate and add to bowl. Add the sliced radishes, the mint, parsley and a drizzle of olive oil and white wine vinegar, and mix well.

Serve with flatbreads and a glass of something cold…

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Salad inspired by my wondering if broad beans and pomegranate would ‘go’ together. Helpfully realised by appetite magazine 🙂

Three New Ways With Rhubarb (and a birthday!)

Well would you believe it – my blog is a year old today! Happy Birthday to me 🙂 🎉🎈🎁🎂

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A year ago I started this blog with a recipe for rhubarb syrup (found here), and today I am continuing the rhubarb theme with some more ideas of what to do with the beautiful pink stalks of loveliness…

I think it’s quite easy to get into a rhubarb rut, most people make a crumble with it or stew it (both of which are delicious), but I was interested to see what else could be done with it. I found a guardian online article entitled ‘The 10 best rhubarb recipes’ and took inspiration from that, and also from food blog Vanilla Garlic.

So behold recipes for Pickled rhubarb, Rhubarb & custard cake, and Fennel basted pork chops with rhubarb!

Pickled Rhubarb

recipe found & tweaked from Vanilla Garlic

Pickled rhubarb is really quick to make (apart from having to wait 2 days to eat it!) and is delicious with cheese and charcuterie – particularly goats cheese camembert which is an excellent invention that you can find in Sainsbury’s. Pickled rhubarb would also make a great foodie present for someone!

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ingredients

3 stalks rhubarb

Spices: 2 star anise, 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes, 1/2 a cinnamon stick, 1 bay leaf, 5 cloves, 5 peppercorns

1/4 teaspoon salt

325ml white vinegar

155g caster sugar

1 large preserving jar (at least 750ml) – sterilised

Trim the rhubarb and chop into approx 2inch chunks. Put into the preserving jar with the spices.

Put the sugar, salt and vinegar into a small saucepan and boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour the mixture over the rhubarb and stir.

Put the lid on and leave in the fridge for 48hours before using. Use within a month.

Fennel basted pork chops with rhubarb

recipe found on guardian website here

Pork goes well with apple, apricot, raisins – loads of different fruits – so why not rhubarb? The fennel adds an extra dimension of flavour, and we served this with celeriac mash and green beans. This would make a nice addition to a spring dinner party!

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Ingredients

serves 2

2 pork chops

1tsp fennel seeds

1tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp black peppercorns

1/2 tsp sea salt

50g butter

finely grated zest & juice of 1 orange

4tbsp sweet sherry (or other dessert wine)

225g rhubarb

1 tbsp honey

1 celeriac, peeled and chopped (optional)

Using scissors, snip the rind of each chop at approx. 1 inch intervals. Put the fennel, coriander, pepper and salt in a pestle & mortar, and crush (but not to a powder). Rub this into each chop.

If serving with celeriac: Put the celeriac into a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cook for around 20 minutes until soft, then mash with butter & milk. Keep warm.

Melt a third of the butter in a frying pan with some oil and hold the pork rind-side down in the pan for 2-3 minutes, until browned. Fry the pork chops for 2 minutes on each side, then add the rest of the butter and the orange zest to the pan. Baste the chops and turn them over once.

Pour in the sweet sherry and let it bubble for a few seconds, then add the orange juice and bring back to a simmer.

Add the rhubarb to the pan, fitting it in around the pork chops, and drizzle over the honey. Cook for around 4 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft but not collapsed, and the chops are cooked.

Using a slotted spoon, take the pork and rhubarb out of the pan and keep warm. Stir the sauce and let it simmer until it has thickened, but before it turns into syrup.

Serve with the celeriac and steamed green beans.

Rhubarb & custard cake

Rhubarb & custard is a classic combination, put it in a cake and you have a surefire hit! This recipe is a cross between one from the guardian rhubarb article, and one from food blog eat, little bird.  The layer of custard sank to the bottom (I don’t think I thickened it enough), and took the rhubarb with it, but it still tasted delicious and I will be making it again…

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Ingredients

Serves 6-8

175g butter

250g caster sugar

4 eggs

175g plain flour, sifted

25g custard powder

2½ tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp salt

1½ tsp baking powder

100-150 ml ready-made custard, heated and thickened with cornflour, then cooled

2-3 tsp ground cardamom, or the seeds from 2 cardamom pods, crushed

4-5 sticks (400g) rhubarb, cut into 12cm lengths

Preheat the oven to 180C.

In a saucepan, heat 25g of butter with the cardamom, 1tsp of the vanilla extract and 50g of the sugar. When it starts bubbling, add the rhubarb and simmer for a couple of minutes until cooked but still holding its shape. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then add all the other dry ingredients and the vanilla extract and fold together to make a batter.

Line a 23cm baking tin with greaseproof paper and pour the batter in. It is quite a thick batter so may need some help from a spatula to make it even.

Spoon the custard in a layer over the batter and add the rhubarb on top, keeping some of the syrup from the pan for drizzling.

Bake in the oven for approx 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Once cooled, drizzle with the remaining rhubarb syrup and enjoy!

Thanks for reading my blog over the past year – here’s to the next one!

Wild Garlic

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If you’ve been walking in any woodland this spring, or by a river in my case, you may well have caught the scent of garlic on the breeze – oh yes, it’s free food!

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Wild Garlic is all around England in the spring, and is best picked before it flowers (although I think it’s fine after too, just less pungent). The long green leaves can be eaten raw or cooked, and the flavour is milder than regular garlic.

If you fancy picking some, just make sure it’s garlic by rubbing the leaves with your fingers and inhaling the garlic smell – if it doesn’t smell it might not be garlic, and therefore might be poisonous, so make sure you check.

I ended up making Wild Garlic Oil and Wild Garlic Pesto with mine, but it is pretty versatile – if you want more inspiration try the demuths blog here.

 Or see below for what I did with mine…

Wild Garlic Oil recipe

Inspiration from @ellypear on instagram

1 quantity of Wild Garlic (I picked a large handful which was about 65g when weighed)

1 small bottle of olive/rapeseed oil

sterilised bottles/jars to fill with your oil

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Fill a bowl with cold water and ice cubes and set aside. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

Wash the garlic, then pour the boiling water into a pan and immerse the garlic to blanch it. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and plunge into the iced water.

Remove from bowl and squeeze out as much excess water as you can. Roughly chop the leaves and put in a blender/food processor with some olive or rapeseed oil. Pulse until the mixture becomes runny and very green – you may need to add more olive oil as you go.

If you are making oil, push the mixture through a sieve to remove the pulp and give you a lovely green oil.

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I had some with a fried egg & mushrooms on toast and it was delicious!

Wild Garlic & Hazelnut Pesto

1 quantity of wild garlic (as above)

olive/rapeseed oil

parmesan

nuts (pine nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts or almonds would all work)

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If making pesto, do the same as for the oil above, but instead of pushing the mixture through a sieve, leave in the food processor.

Add roughly half the amount of parmesan and nuts to wild garlic (I used hazelnuts as I had no pine nuts), and a pinch of salt and pepper.

Pulse until you are happy with the consistency of the pesto, and taste as you go, adding more of the various ingredients if you need to.

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This pesto was really delicious and went perfectly with:

Pan-fried Gnocchi with Wild Garlic Pesto, Broccoli, Spinach and Pancetta

adapted from Michel Roux here

serves 2

1 pack fresh gnocchi

1 portion of Wild Garlic Pesto (see above)

200g tenderstem broccoli or equivalent green veg

50g pancetta cubes

100g spinach

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  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and tip in the gnocchi and the pancetta. Fry until golden-brown. (the gnocchi will look a bit like mini roast potatoes!)
  2. While the gnocchi and pancetta is cooking, steam the tenderstem broccoli (or whichever green veg you end up using).

  3. Tip the spinach into the frying pan for the last minute of cooking, so that it wilts. Pile into bowls and stir through the pesto, adding extra parmesan if desired.

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The amount of wild garlic I had made one small jar of oil and two of pesto (about enough for 4 servings). I made the oil first, then realised I had all this lovely pulp left that I didn’t want to throw away, so made that into the pesto. I’m not sure if the pesto would’ve tasted stronger if I’d left the oil in it, but I was really happy with flavour of both the oil and the pesto!

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 Happy foraging!

Weekend Brunch: Italian Eggs

Happy Easter all!

What better way to celebrate than with eggs – of the savoury kind…

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I recently bought a book called ‘Breakfast: Morning, Noon and Night’ (could be my mantra) written by Fern Green, a food stylist & writer. I’m a sucker for attractive cook books, and this one would certainly help you to wake up in the morning with it’s sunny cover! The book is helpfully split up into sections such as ‘healthy’ ‘hungover’ and ‘on toast’, and many of the recipes would be absolutely fine for supper or lunch as well as brunch – as the title implies…

I now have so many brunch recipes to get through (including a pinterest board here) that I may start a little weekly brunch theme if I get the time, as there are so many to try.

Onto the recipe:

The first recipe I tried from the new book is called ‘Italian Eggs’ or ‘Prosciutto, Chilli, Eggs & Rocket’. It’s basically a twist on the traditional Mexican ‘Huevos Rancheros’ – put a load of stuff in a big frying pan, crack some eggs into it, and enjoy! This is under the Hungover section of the book, but it is equally as tasty when not hungover, as I can testify. If there was a ‘lazy’ section of the book it would definitely be in that, as it’s one-pan cooking (so less washing up after), and you can put the pan onto the kitchen table and let people grab their own. It’s therefore great if you have company too – just make extra.

Italian Eggs

(serves 2)

Ingredients

olive oil

1 small red onion, chopped

2 slices prosciutto, roughly torn (we were greedy and had about 4 slices)

2 slices bread, torn or cut into cubes (we used wholemeal)

1 red chilli, chopped (we used dried flakes)

1 tomato, chopped (seeds removed)

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

4 eggs

2 handfuls rocket

1 tablespoon chopped parsley

salt & pepper to taste

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Pour some olive oil into a frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the red onion to the pan and cook for around 3 minutes, or until soft. Tip in the bread, prosciutto and chilli. Drizzle some more olive oil over the bread to help it crisp up into croutons. Fry for another 3 minutes, until the bread is crispy.

Add the tomato, vinegar (or lemon juice), and salt. Stir again and cook for another 30 seconds.

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Make 4 gaps in the mixture. Crack your eggs into a small cup, then slide the eggs into the gaps. Put the lid on your pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes, depending on how well you like your eggs cooked.

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Top with the parsley and rocket, and season with salt & pepper. Add another drizzle of olive oil if you wish.

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Enjoy!

P.s I had big plans to make my own hot cross buns this year, but I’m afraid they fell by the wayside (because they take blinking ages and I’m too knackered) – I did however buy extra hot cross buns so I can make Hot Cross Bun Puddings with Salted Brandy Caramel Sauce – because that sounds epic.

I hope everyone has a relaxing and Happy Easter 🙂