I didn’t mean it to happen just before Christmas – but it is! Revamping the kitchen by having the kitchen cabinet doors and housing resprayed – which, of course, meant the walls had to be repainted; new blinds, new cushions and throw for the sofa. And all the cupboards had to be gone through and cleaned and tidied as they will be on display for the week that they have gone off to be painted! Half way through and it’s looking great.

With all this going on, though, there has been little time for cooking – and it was easier to do first thing to be out of the way for the day. Never interrupt a girl with a paintbrush in her hand! So thinking ahead, I pulled out some old recipes I hadn’t made for a while that I could start off whilst having breakfast and then leave until the evening to finish. It struck me, then, that these were actually good recipes for this time of year when everyone is busy, busy!

Heavenly Spare Ribs

  • 1/2 dozen pork spare ribs (or however many you are hungry for!)
  • 250ml water + beef stock cube
  • chopped onion
  • 60ml soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons five spice powder
  • 60ml dry sherry (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons honey or sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Put stock in a saucepan with all of the following ingredients and bring to the boil. Add the ribs and turn to simmer for about 45 minutes until tender with lid on. (at this point you can leave till later). Remove the lid and bring to boil until sauce thickens to a rich, sticky sauce. Serve with rice and pak choi and garnish with sliced spring onions, chilli and chopped coriander..

Coconut Basil Rice – this wonderfully fragrant, slightly sticky rice is perfect for mopping up the above. Black mustard seed add texture and a nutty flavour without being too hot.

  • 175g basmati or Thai rice
  • 6 thai basil leaves
  • 25 ml sunflower oil
  • 3 dessertspoons black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 can coconut milk (use the remainder to make a delicious rice pudding another day!)

Place the rice in a sieve and wash under cold running water. Drain well. Tear leaves into small pieces. Heat oil and add mustard seed until they start popping. Stir in the rice until well coated with il. Add the coconut milk and 125 ml water. Bring to the boil, stir and simmer uncovered for 10 – 15 minutes. Stir in the leaves, cover tightly and eave to steam for 10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and serve immediately.

Thai Style Baby Back Ribs - Oliver's Markets

After all this, I still need something sweet (just think of all the calories I must be using running up and down ladders!). So this is my cheat’s pudding – very quick and easy but you can also make it look good enough to serve at the dinner party you are going to have to show off the new kitchen!

Yogurt Panna Cotta

  • one and 1/4 sheet leaf gelatine (just snap off with scissors)
  • 50ml milk
  • 225 Greek yogurt (half a large tub) – any flavour you like! We love coconut and/or mango

Soak the gelatine in cold water. Heat milk up – not boiling. Squeeze out the water from gelatine and add to hot milk. Stir to completely dissolve. Add to yogurt. Put into 2 ramekins and put in fridge to set. You can eat straight from dish but if you want to show off, run a knife around the edges and turn out.

Fun part:

You can add jam/compote/ fruit to bottom of dish before adding yogurt. Top with any fruit, grated chocolate, grated coconut, crushed amaretti biscuits, a shortbread biscuit on the side. ANYTHING really – experiment! – that will look as if you have spent ages making (when you haven’t!)

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Raspberry Compote Recipe | MyRecipes

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