This week, I’m craving…

This week I’m craving… a birthday feast comprised of all my favourite foods.

This week saw my 29th birthday come and go in a whirl. I’m not usually one for big blow-out celebrations but I do like to mark the occasion with a few special touches. My favourite way of celebrating is with the food I eat – it’s so easy to make eating a special experience whether that’s in a restaurant or at home. You could decorate the table with some candles, cook food that you wouldn’t usually have, or make recipes that require a little bit more time and care.

The other week I was trying to think of my food heaven and food hell (just in case I ever get invited on to Saturday Kitchen, you never know). I found it so hard to choose one particular ingredient or dish that I was absolutely devoted to or passionately hated – it turns out I’d happily eat anything (apart from obvious offal, like a plateful of liver and onions). There are a handful of foods that I would happily eat every day of the week and could be combined to make something yummy (more Ready, Steady Cook than Saturday Kitchen). Here are some of those favourite foods made up into an extra special birthday menu, some of which I did have as part of my birthday celebrations and some of which I’ll treat myself to in the week ahead.

My culinary inspiration for the week ahead:

Starter – Seafood and Broccoli

Roasted broccoli prawns
Image from The Wednesday Chef

Broccoli is hands-down my favourite vegetable. There were no veggie-eating tantrums in my childhood, especially if I was served broccoli. I used to pretend that I was a dinosaur and each floret was a tree. I’d eat the ‘leaves’ of the tree first before munching on the trunk. Seafood is another thing I love. If I see it on a special’s board in a restaurant odds are that I will choose it. Both these two ingredients make for some delicious stir frys and pasta dishes, but I’m showcasing an easy starter (add pasta or rice to make it into a main) with this roasted broccoli and prawn recipe.

Main course – Pasta

Spaghetti and meatballs tomato sauce pasta
Image from The Pioneer Woman

When my then friend (now boyfriend) was wooing me he would often cook me dinner. One of his specials was a very moreish spaghetti and meatballs. I haven’t been able to get enough of it ever since. There’s just something about meatballs in a tomato sauce that a similarly made Bolognese can’t satisfy. It must be the long simmer of meatballs flavouring the sauce. Nowadays I do most of the cooking and have made his original from time to time. I love experimenting with variations on the meatball ingredients and sauce (from spicy chilli to herby and everything in between). For my birthday we went old school again and he cooked a special batch for us to eat together (from separate plates, not Lady and the Tramp style). This is a perfect recipe to get you started, especially if you want to make it all from scratch.

Dessert – Cherries

Black forest gateau cake cherrie chocolate
Image from Butter and Brioche

I could wax lyrical about the combination of cherries and chocolate. Cherries being my favourite fruit and, well, everyone likes chocolate so I don’t need to explain myself on that one. Black forest gateau was always my choice of cake as a child. In true 70s style, my grandma would always have pre-bought one stashed in the freezer for our birthdays. Of course frozen aren’t a patch on a home-baked cake with fresh ingredients. I’ve yet to make this cake myself – the prospect is quite daunting – but if I have a weekend on my hands with nothing to do, I’ll definitely be following this recipe. Maybe making this tower of a cake should go on my ‘To do before I turn 30’ bucket list!

Drink – Whisky

Old fashioned whisky cocktail
Image from Felicity Cloake for the Guardian

Whisky is usually my spirit of choice, especially when I’m having a cocktail. On Friday night we came home and really fancied an old fashioned. Luckily we had a small sample bottle of bourbon in the cupboard, so we got out the bitters and sugar. We didn’t have ice, soda water, maraschino cherries or oranges so instead (and this might be sacrilegious…) we added a tiny bit of orange brandy and tap water. If you want to know more about making the ‘perfect’ old fashioned, take a look at this article from the Guardian. If you want to make our imperfect but tasty old fashioned, mix a spoonful of sugar with a few dashes of Angostura bitters until dissolved, add a short of bourbon and half a shot of orange brandy. Top up with water (soda preferred but tap will do in emergencies). Sit back and relax, preferably by sitting in a leather club chair listening to smooth jazz.

What’s on your menu this week? Are any of these dishes making your mouth water?

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

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