Super fast birthday dinner for bad daughters

You know when its Friday night and you’re supposed to be cooking a birthday dinner for your Mum? But you finish work late and then you have to make everything in half an hour and feel like having a mental breakdown?

Maybe you don’t, because you’re probably much better at life than me.

But if you do ever need to make a super-fast, super nice birthday dinner (or any dinner), this is what I would suggest making because I have SO BEEN THERE…and this kind of works.

First – whack parma and melon on a fancy plate…simple things.

Picture of melon and parma ham

Melon and parma ham

I love Jo Pratt’s ‘lazy tray baked chicken’. You just throw the ingredients in a large roasting pan  – big pieces of chicken combined with panceta, baby potatoes, chopped red onion and carrots (or any veg you feel like really – peppers work well), along with a generous helping of lemon segments,  rosemary and a good drizzle of honey. This needs about an 1.15 in the oven at 200 degrees.

Picture of chicken

Tray baked chicken

Desert is my take on another Jo Pratt classic – plums and peaches halved, de-stoned and filled with mascarpone (mix in the zest of an orange first) combined with amaretto biscuits. Pour over a good glunk of port with some flaked almonds sprinkled on top. This needs about 25 minutes in the oven on 200 degrees.

Picture of peaches and plums

Mascarpone peaches and plums

And finally – if you are crazy like me – some part of you will have pre-empted your late finish from work and have got up at 6am to make cupcakes – because you can’t have a birthday dinner without cake. We accidentally bought golden icing, but I think this actually looks way fancier. And tastes amazing with chunks of Green and Blacks on top. Of course.

Picture of birthday cupcakes

Birthday Cupcakes

Brownie Points

I consider myself a fairly modest individual but if anyone asks ‘what are you good at?’, I normally answer ‘thinking of the worst case scenario possible’ or ‘making brownies’. We’ll save catastrophic thinking for another post (always fun), and stick today with making brownies, which even for a cynic like me tends to have a bang on amazing outcome.

My chocolate nemesis

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

This is not my recipe. It belongs to the lovely and legendary cook Jo Pratt. I am a little obsessed with our Jo. I have two of her cookbooks ‘In the Mood for Food’ and ‘In the mood for Entertaining‘.

Image of Jo Pratt's 'In the mood for food' and 'In the mood for entertaining' books

I have been known to read Jo Pratt before bed as a treat

The thing about Jo is she really does put you in the mood for cooking. Opening up the pages of her recipe books triggers ‘Easy Like Sunday morning’ on full blast in my mind.  Her food is different but not difficult. Elegant and tasteful, but in no way pretentious.

I imagine her to be the opposite of those mothers of more middle class friends who used to terrify me in the 90s with their ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano and pancetta tagliatelle’. Instead you’d feel at total ease to say, ‘what is parmigiano Jo?’ and she’d probably chuckle and say ‘oh just nice cheese’.

So without getting into any more fantasy conversations with Jo (as it is starting to sound rather weird), whether you want a fried jam sandwich or a delicate apricot chicken tagine, Jo is your woman. But my favourites are her chocolate brownies. These are really simple to make, but I’ve not found anyone who hasn’t liked them yet.

Ingredients  – (one thing to point out is Jo makes them with chocolate and walnuts or chili – but I like to make them plain)

  • 200g unsalted butter
  • 200g dark chocolate –  Jo says use 70% cocoa solids, but I tend to use one pack of milk and one pack of dark cooking chocolate as this gives it a particularly toffee like consistency
  • 3 large eggs
  • 300g granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 125g plain flour
  • a pinch of salt

In Jo’s words here: “Preheat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC/gas 4. Grease and line an approximately 20 by 30cm rectangular baking tin, 3 to 4cm deep, with greaseproof or parchment paper. Melt the butter and chocolate either in a bowl over a pan of simmering water or gently in the microwave. With an electric hand whisk, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract until they are lovely and thick and creamy. Mix in the melted chocolate and butter. Finally stir in the flour, salt, cherries and walnuts. Pour into the baking tin and cook for about 25 minutes until the top is cracking and the centre is just set. Leave to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes before cutting into squares.

Nom nom nom x