Thai-ish Salad

Thai salad 2

Right I must say from the off that this is a Thai salad in the loosest possible sense.  Yes there is coriander, lime juice, fish sauce etc but also apple and radish and I’m not sure quite how authentic they are.   That said, it is fabulous to eat and sometimes I am happy to throw authenticity out of the window.  I think I mentioned it with Paella (January 2013) – I am not trying to recreate an original dish, I simply want to make something good to eat.

This is crisp, crunchy and jam packed with flavours.  The ginger, garlic and (small amount) of chilli give this life and heat whilst the herbs and lime bring zip and zing to the party.  You can leave out the apple if you want but I love their tangy sweetness and likewise the radishes, if they are not your thing omit them but they add peppery crunch and a beautiful pink.

It is a bonus for me that my children like this.  My daughter is a bit of a salad phobe but she adores and this and happily ploughs her way through a bowlful, sometimes adding a little more chilli and then smacking her lips and puffing as a result.   Its good to see them enjoying a bit of healthy salad at this time of year when we are rather surrounded by root vegetables and a lot of hardy brassicas.

This is fab with pork chops or roast chicken (hot or cold) and also works very well with leftovers.  In particular I’m thinking leftover turkey here but then that would make it a challenger to my beloved Christmas Salad (December 2013).  Never mind, we’ll just have both.

Thai salad

Thai Salad

Make the dressing first so that the flavours can sit and meld for a bit.

Juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon sriracha or other chilli sauce

Small thumb ginger, finely grated

1 small clove garlic, finely grated

1/4 white cabbage

1 apple

6 radishes

2 carrots, peeled

1/2 bunch coriander

1/2 bunch mint

Mix the first nine ingredients together to make the dressing.  Taste and adjust as you see fit, a little more chilli perhaps?  Finely chop the rest of the ingredients and mix in a large bowl, add most of the dressing and combine.  You may or may not need all the dressing, it rather depends on the size of your cabbage and carrots!   Enough for 4 as a side.


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Apple and Raspberry Crumble

Apple and raspberry crumble 4

I can’t tell you how much I love a crumble.  Plum crumble, rhubarb crumble, apple and blackberry crumble, all of them have a place on my table.  Childhood weekend lunches often finished with a fabulous, fruity and crunchy crumble whilst apricot crumble at school was a thing to celebrate, the best pudding of all and something that made other school food worth living through.

All that said however, I hadn’t thought of giving you a crumble recipe here.  Not out of meanness you understand, rather I thought everyone had a good, reliable crumble recipe up their sleeve to be whipped out when required. It was only after being asked for this particular recipe six time in a couple of months that I began to wonder and so I present it to you now.  Soft tangy fruit under a blanket of oaty, sweet and buttery crumble, let me tell you the sum here far, far exceeds the total of its humble parts.

This particular incarnation is my absolutely favourite, the bee’s knees and the vicar’s you know whats.  Although a straightforward apple crumble is still something to sing about, the addition of raspberries lifts it, their fruity tang and fragrance make this wholly lip smacking and satisfying which surely is what a pud is all about.  Can I rave little more?  It is and easy and cheap to make, a perfect way to use up any apples looking a little tired and frozen raspberries are perfect here so regardless of the season this can be on your plate in around an hour, start to finish.

Apple and Raspberry Crumble

Ideally use a combination of cookers and eaters, the bramleys are the ones that cook down to a velvety apple puree whilst the eaters retain a little bite.  I say 7 tablespoons of sugar and water as this is usually about right but depending on the tartness of your apples you may need more sugar and add more water if you think it is required.  You can cook the apples and make the crumble ahead of time but don’t put the crumble onto the fruit until you are ready to cook it as it will get soggy, ideally keep it in the fridge.

1 kg apples (see introduction), peeled, cored and roughly chopped

7 tablespoons golden caster sugar

7 tablespoons water

200g plain flour

100g cold butter, cubed

1/4 teaspoon salt

80g golden caster sugar

40g oats

150g frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 190.  Put the apples, the 7 tablespoons of sugar and water in a pan and cook gently until the apples are soft and broken down, about 20-30 minutes.  You may need a little more water once cooked and taste in case you need a little more sugar.  Do keep the apples tart though as the crumble bring sweetness to the party.  Meanwhile either whizz the butter and flour in a processor until it resembles breadcrumbs or do this by hand then add the salt, sugar and oats.  Tip the cooked apples into a suitable oven proof dish, I tend to use an enamel one which is 29x23cm and add the raspberries to this, mixing so they are evenly distributed in the apples, no need to defrost.  Tumble over the crumble and smooth it gently but don’t pack it down.  Cook for around 30 minutes or until bubbling at the edges and just browning on top.  This serves 6 or better still 4 with lots of seconds, I like it with cold cream or custard whilst my children prefer vanilla ice cream.



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Blackberry Crumble Cake and the child who swallowed a fly….

Blackberry Crumble Cake

Once, when blackberry picking as a child, I swallowed a fly.  This moment has stayed with me and returns, annually.  Every year as I reach for that plump, glistening purple berry I remember the slightly panicked feeling that my eight year old self felt on the realisation that that fly had gone into my mouth and was not coming out.  The song about the old lady who swallowed a fly came rushing to mind and I wondered if I would have to follow her lead.  What actually happened was that I was encouraged to eat several more blackberries to help the fly down (remember no one walked around with small handy bottles of water in the early 70′s) and then get on with picking.

I can’t say I was harmed by this event as apart from my yearly recollection I adore blackberries and certainly wasn’t put off them by the experience.  Blackberrying is all part and parcel of autumn and I relish these moments during the year.  I’m an enormous fan of seasonal pursuits such as making marmalade when the Seville oranges are in season, elderflower cordial when those lacy white flowers are abundant and of course sloes to make fabulous heady sole gin with and then stash in a dark cupboard, saving for it for Christmas.

This cake will be ready to enjoy much sooner than sloe gin and is perfect to make with any blackberries you might pick at the weekend.  It won’t matter if any of them are squashed by little hands or in my case, by Tom putting his paw on the bag as we drove home.

Blackberry Crumble Cake

I made this in the summer with blackcurrants and raspberries and it was great, their tangy sharpness a perfect foil to the sweet crumble.  Now though I am using blackberries or plums, you could try apples and pears as well.   This would also work very well as a pudding with custard or cream (ideally followed by another slice for tea).

100g soft butter

100g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

175g self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

Pinch of salt

200g blackberries (around 200g it doesn’t really matter if you have a few more or few less)

For the crumble -

25g butter

75g plain flour

40g demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 170 and butter and baseline a 20cm tin.   Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time with a little flour each time then sift in the remaining flour and baking powder, add the vanilla, salt and milk and combine.  Put the mixture into the tin, smooth the surface and scatter over the blackberries.  Melt the butter for the crumble in a small pan mix it with the flour and sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle this over the blackberries and bake for 50-60 minutes but check after 40 and if the top is browning too much cover with foil.  Once it is done, leave in the tin for 20 minutes and then remove from the tin and tuck in if you are serving it warm as a pudding or leave to cool completely.  Dust with icing sugar if you want.

Blackberry Crumble Cake 3

You may recognise this recipe from last year, I am posting it again partly because it is perfect for this time of year but also because following our house move we still haven’t got any Internet. Back soon with lots of new recipes!






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Courgette, Broad Bean and Feta Salad

Courgette and feta salad 2

I know I say that every new salad I make is my new favourite but truly, this is.  I must have made it six times in the last two weeks and still show no signs of getting bored.   Crunch from little new courgettes go amazingly well with the glorious double podded emerald green beans.  A flurry of snow white tangy, salty feta along with a lemony garlic dressing brings the whole thing together with a boom.   Completely fresh and seasonal and got to be good for you, what is not to love?  I implore you to make this while the courgettes are small and the beans are around.

Broad beans might not be everyone’s cup of tea when single podded and served in their sometimes tough, grey outer jackets.  This I would concur with, a reminder of school lunches, both chewy and a little bitter.  Unrobe them further however, reveal that stunning inner green and you are in for an absolute treat, a true taste of the English summer.

I admit you need quite a pile of pods to end up with 200g of the inner bean but it is a job I enjoy, sitting at the table releasing each bean from its cosy padded sleeping bag.  A gin and tonic would be the ideal accompaniment to this task and reminds me of sitting with my granny podding beans recently picked from her garden (she had the gin in those days obviously, not me).    Granny’s kitchen garden was one of my favourite places in the world and although its been many years since I was there I remember the rows of vegetables like it was yesterday.   My first taste of asparagus, artichokes and fennel came from here along with beans of all variety.  Fruit trees in one corner offered regular treats when I was wandering around and the strawberries and raspberries further delights if I could negotiate the netting on the fruit cage.  It was a dreamy place and the excitement of picking fresh produce has never left me.

You will see feta mentioned again and I admit it finds its way into a lot of my salads.  If you aren’t keen on it though a little labneh (simply drained yogurt) would be a perfect, less salty alternative or some fresh ricotta (Herby Ricotta, September 2014) a delicious addition.

Courgette and feta salad-2

Courgette, Broad Bean and Feta Salad

3 small courgettes

200g double podded broad beans,

100g feta, cubed

1 small clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

Juice of half a lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Fresh mint or marjoram, chopped to serve

Finely slice the courgettes and put into a bowl.  Blanch the beans in boiling water for 2 minutes then drain and run under cold water and drain again.  Mix the garlic with the lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper, taste and check you are happy with the seasoning but bear in mind the feta can be quite salty.  Turn the courgettes in the dressing and make sure they are well covered then add the beans and feta and mix the in gently, sprinkle with herbs and serve.  Enough for 4 alongside other things or 2 on its own.




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Roasted Aubergine, Feta and Mint Salad

Aubergine and Feta salad

At this time of year I am happy to eat salad after salad.   By this I don’t mean just a regular green salad with a vinaigrette.  Rather piles of fresh crunchy vegetables with handfuls of fragrant herbs, texture from seeds or grains, creamy feta, labne or ricotta and all anointed with a punchy dressing designed to bring the components together.

I like a classic Nicoise or a retro Coronation as well as the next person and a perfectly made Caesar is a thing of joy.  More often though my salads will be veggie based, at once healthy and delicious whilst celebrating the bounty of salad leaves and vegetables spilling from the shelves during the summer months.  Tomatoes, courgettes, beans of all kinds, beetroot, aubergines, carrots, peppers either raw, steamed or roasted.   Loads of verdant green herbs bringing all their gorgeous flavours to the party and lots of salady leaves.  If there is meat or fish it will often be almost as a seasoning, some small cubes of chorizo or bacon for example or salty slivers of anchovy.

You will find lots of suggestions here, Green Beans with Tomatoes and Chorizo (September 2013), Christmas Salad (December 2013), Favourite Green Salad (January 2014) and Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses (July 2014).   I turn to all these regularly and honestly, never get bored of them.  Todays salad is a new kid on the block and celebrates that trinity of good friends aubergine, feta and mint.  I often use these ingredients in other dishes but this time wanted them to shine and along with some bulgar for body, leaves of rocket and a garlicky dressing it is a stellar combination.

Aubergine and Feta salad 2

Aubergine, Feta and Mint Salad

I have mentioned previously my determination to find a way to make all vegetables agreeable to my children but it would seem that aubergine may be my nemesis…..

2 aubergines, sliced and then cubed

1 tablespoon olive oil

100g bulgar wheat

1 large handful of mint, torn

100g feta (more if you like) roughly cubed

1 large handful of rocket

1 clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 teaspoon runny honey

Juice of 1/2 lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200, turn the aubergine cubes in the oil and spread out on a baking tray (you may need two), sprinkle with salt and roast for 20-30 minutes until golden.  Put the bulgar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm over the bulgar and leave for 10 minutes.  After this time taste a bit, if it is still a little hard leave for a few more minutes before draining.   Meanwhile make the dressing by mixing the garlic, honey, lemon juice and oil, season with salt and pepper until you are happy with it.  Mix the bulgar with most of the dressing and then gently mix in the aubergine, feta, rocket and mint.  Taste for seasoning and just before serving pour over a little more dressing.  Serves 4 alongside other things.


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Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo with bacon and tomato

This is a winner.  A little girl (aged 3) recently came to stay and when it came to teatime she wasn’t in the mood for any nonsense.  I was fairly confident she would like this as my children adore it, even my son who is absolutely not the first to request pasta, ever.

When  the time came to serve though, I realised I had forgotten the vagaries of young children and must admit, felt a brief tremor of nerves.  Hurrah, it was a huge success and she polished off three helpings much to the panic of my daughter who was eyeing the reducing seconds in the pan with alarm.

So offer this with confidence and not only to children, I make no secret of loving it and am often to be caught sneaking a spoonful or two from the pan before it disappears.

Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo is a rice shaped pasta we have a particular fondness for but use any small shape you like. I keep those little rectangular packs of pancetta in the fridge and along with some small packs of passata in the larder this becomes an almost store cupboard supper.

125g orzo

1 teaspoon olive oil

100g pancetta, pack sizes vary and a little more won’t hurt if that is what you have

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

100g passata

2 tablespoons cream

A few sprigs of parsley, chopped


Cook the orzo according to the packet instructions, probably around 11 minutes.  Meanwhile put the pancetta into a large frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and cook until well coloured and crispy in places.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the passata, stir and cook for a few minutes before adding the cream.   Drain the pasta retaining a little of the cooking water.  Put the pasta into the sauce, stir until combined adding a little of the cooking water if you need it to loosen the sauce.  Grate over some parmesan, add the chopped parsley and serve with more parmesan to hand.  Serves two adults or three children.




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Cinnamon Pannacotta with Maple Syrup Apples

Cinnamon Pannacotta

To me this has a faintly Autumnal air about it and I had been saving it until the end of the Summer but then someone asked me for the recipe.  In truth it is good any day of year and as apples are around all the time a good one to have up your sleeve.

I adore Pannacotta, there is something about the creamy wobbliness that is irresistible.  Usually I make a vanilla version which I can then serve with any fruit that happens to be in season, pureed gooseberries, rhubarb and blackcurrants all being favourites.  Should the fruit bowl be bare however, then a good chocolate sauce (one without cream) makes them a pudding of dreams.  You can find my Vanilla Pannacotta here (July 2014).

This one came about because I’d made a note ages ago to combine cinnamon with apples and maple syrup and eventually got around to having a go.  A favourite North American combination I suspect and a possible Jelly Bean one too if that is your thing.  I tried pie and crumble and whilst a good combo the individual flavours got a little muddled.  An ice cream was a nice idea but try getting apples to make themselves heard against cinnamon in an ice cream.  This pannacotta really works though.  Gently bosky sweetness from the cinnamon goes so well with the creaminess of the pannacotta which is kept the right side of too rich with the addition of yogurt.  The apples and maple syrup compliment each other politely, allowing both to show themselves off.

Cinnamon Pannacotta with Maple Syrup Apples

On another occasion just make a panful of these sweet, soft apples and serve over vanilla ice cream.

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

60g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

2 eating apples such as Braeburn, peeled, cored and finely sliced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, cinnamon and sugar until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the yogurt and divide between 4 ramekins or small metal moulds.  Put into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.  About 20 minutes before serving prepare the apples,  melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the apples gently in this for about 10 minutes until turning golden brown and becoming floppy.  At this point add the maple syrup and cook for a further 5 minutes until the apples are well coated and the syrup reduced.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serve with the apples.  Serves 4.

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Smoked Haddock and Chive Risotto

Smoked haddock and chive risotto

We are in the midst of that horror that is house buying.  The house selling seems to be a dream but the purchase is causing unknown stress and as such I am in need of great comfort.   What could be more reassuring and bolstering than risotto.  Cosy, creamy and requiring very little effort to eat, sofa food if ever there was.   As it oozes gently across your plate you just know it is going to make you feel better.  That, and the bar of chocolate to follow….

For this I have chosen smoked haddock because I find it an old fashioned, nostalgic ingredient which in itself brings me comfort.  Purists may recoil at the hint of yellow coming from this fish and by all means use undyed if you prefer.  The haddock I purchased did, clearly, have a belt of sunshine yellow about it but as it was good quality I wasn’t going to let it bother me.  Indeed I rather like the jolly jauntiness of yellow and it certainly makes this uplifting to look at along with its green chive freckles.

Parmesan I know is not traditional with fish risottos but I do think cheese goes rather well with smoked fish so personally, I am all for a good grating but I leave that up to you.  One final suggestion I make is a poached egg.  The golden yolk breaking over the risotto is a fabulous addition and would make this go further should you wish to feed more souls in need of comfort, or otherwise.

Smoked haddock and chive risotto 2

Smoked Haddock Risotto with Chives

I am not keen on fish stock unless I have just made it so tend to use chicken or vegetable, either works fine.  That I can use stock cubes if necessary makes this a superb store cupboard supper as smoked haddock is happily stored in the freezer and the chives can be growing in a pot or your garden.   Onions, lemons and arborio rice I always have in the larder.   Finally, you will have to stand and stir this for around 20 minutes but the beauty of being trapped stove side is that you are unable to help anyone find their homework, walk the dog, hang the washing out……

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

200g arborio rice

1 wineglass dry white wine

500/600ml stock (see introduction)

Juice of half a lemon

Chives, about 10g, finely chopped

250g smoked haddock, cut into pieces

Salt and pepper

Make your stock if using cubes or heat it up if is already liquid, either way keep it hot by or on the hob.  Melt the butter and oil in a large pan and cook the onion for 5 to 10 minutes until soft but not coloured and then add the rice.  Give it a good stir to ensure all the grains are well coated.  Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice.  Then add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until each addition is absorbed.  Towards the end of this process you should taste a grain of rice as different brands vary but I suspect it will take around 20 minutes.  When it is nearly done add the fish and your final slosh of stock and continue stirring.  Finally add the lemon juice and taste for salt at this point as you may not need much depending on the saltiness of your fish but add lots of pepper and most of the chives.  Stir and leave it to stand for 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle with the last of the chives and serve.  Enough for 2.


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Salmon with Pickled Cucumber

Salmon and Pickled Cucumber

I was asked recently for more supper recipes, easy, quick, everyday numbers to resolve that daily dilemma, what are we going to eat tonight?    Several ideas came to mind but this is the one I was cooking that night for supper and in itself presented me with a problem.  Could I actually offer this up as a recipe?  As you will see it contains very few ingredients and furthermore part of it is from a recipe I created last year, the Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber (September 2014).   Surely no one needs the suggestion of salmon for supper but maybe the pickled cucumber is a bit of a departure?  Indeed the crunchy, sweet and sour elements of this go splendidly with the rich, oily salmon, quite a partnership.  Anyway I dithered for a bit before realising how mad I sound.  Get ahold of yourself I said.  This is not a dilemma, choosing names for your children, deciding which house to buy, what career to pursue – these could all be considered dilemmas but not whether this can be justified as a recipe or not.

That it is unbelievably quick and easy is hardly a problem; nor that it requires a shopping list you could probably fit on a stamp;  most crucially it is extremely good and of course, good for you.  If you aren’t a carbo phobe it goes perfectly with glorious, fudgy Jersey royals and a big green salad, heavy on the fresh mint, would also be just the ticket, a fab supper.

Salmon with Pickled Cucumber

I made extra of this last week and had it cold for my lunch the next day.  I ate it with a salad but couldn’t help thinking it would also make a stellar filling for a sandwich.

2 salmon fillets

1 teaspoon olive oil

A couple of chives, finely chopped

Half a cucumber

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar


Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl.  Leave for half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”.  Meanwhile brush the salmon fillets with the oil on both sides and put skin side down in a hot pan.  Leave for 5 minutes before turning and cooking on the other side for a further 5 minutes – this should be just right but cook a little longer if you prefer or your fillets are huge.  Sprinkle with the chives and serve with the pickled cucumber.  Enough for 2 but easily doubled, tripled….



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Grissini with Rosemary


When I lived in London there were several favourite Italian restaurants that I would frequent from time to time.  There is something particular about entering such an establishment, the clamour and enthusiasm, the noise and bustle, the smell of herbs and garlic cooking that fills the air.   Following the greeting and seating a proper treat awaits you.  The grissini – slender, crunchy breadsticks all the better for gouging through the butter.  Not as filling as the proffered focaccia but the perfect nibble with a glass of wine whilst perusing the menu.  I love them and so do my family so we make our own.

Now I can’t pretend that dining in my kitchen offers quite the same experience.  Different certainly but just as much fun I would hope.   These grissini however are definitely up to those of nostalgic, rose or should that be frascati touched memory.   Crispy, savoury and in this case taken to new heights with the addition of chopped rosemary.   I serve these before and alongside lunch or dinner, take them on picnics and they are much in demand for packed lunches.   Very delicious and moreish to eat and so easy to make.  The rolling out takes me back to the days of plasticine and playdoh and is repetitive and relaxing, in a black clad Italian Mama sort of way.  Think Sophia Loren….

Grissini with Rosemary

Children love making these which is always a help and last week, rather than making the traditional stick shapes, my daughter fashioned each dough snake into an initial to place in each diners place at the table.  It looked charming and went down a storm.

250g plain flour

250g strong white bread flour

7g sachet yeast

7g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

25ml olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary

Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put both the flours, yeast and fine salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, turn it on and then add the water and oil until it comes together in a ball (you may need a drop more water).  Leave it kneading away in the machine for 10 minutes, adding the chopped rosemary for the last minute so it is evenly mixed through the dough.  Pinch off pieces the size of a large cherry and roll these out until about a foot long and pencil thin on a non-floured table or surface.  Gently and with fingers splayed seems the best way to do this.  Put them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 15 minutes.   After this time they should be golden brown and crispy, leave to cool on a wire rack and then store in an air tight container.   Makes around 40 grissini but if you get bored whilst rolling these out the dough will sit happily in the fridge for a day until you feel like making some more.   I’d say they last for a week but I’ve never had any hang around for more than a day or two.

Finally, they make a fabulous present to take if you are going to friends for supper.

Grissini 2


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