Waiting somewhat patiently, the oven is blazing and I’m surrounded by the warming smell of a juicy red wine sauce that’s bubbling away. I’m counting down the minutes until it’s time for me to serve one of my favourite meals of all time, lasagne. I’ve been looking forward to it all weekend.
From my early childhood, a pasta dish was a staple meal in my household. Layered with cheddar cheese and mozzarella (oh yes); once dinner was ready, I would run to the dining table eager for my portion to land on the placemat, steam vaporising away to reveal the glory that was a melting pot of goodness gleaming in front of me.
If it was cheesy enough (who am I kidding, it was LAYERED IN CHEESE), I would twist the mozzarella around my fork and stand on my chair before everyone else had sat down, holding the cutlery as high as I could, I’d attempt to reach the ceiling to see how far I could stretch the cheese before it broke in two. Table etiquette was clearly not (and potentially still isn’t) my forte.
Whether I was eating food, cooking it, baking or buying it, I was always incredibly happy to get involved and try new things as my palette advanced. Growing up, I found so many joys and comfort in food that soon it didn’t take long for my body to feel the consequences of indulging and eating for pleasure.
And then ‘clean eating’ became a thing. Eating food for fuel and fun became about eating ‘healthy’, albeit with good intentions, where instead the diet focused on prioritising food groups which were more wholesome, natural, and minimally processed.
Don’t get me wrong, the whole clean eating trend seemed OK to some degree, but as it goes when new diet plans become popular, psychologically it can change your relationship with food entirely. Shame kicks in, along with a guilt trip we travel over our choices whenever we reach for items outside of the ‘healthy foods’ checklist, and all other food types become ‘bad’ for you.
mmm kale, said no-one
During a time where most recipes featured kale or quinoa, sisters Hayley and Lydia Sackett began their passion project, Scrumptious Sacketts. It’s a deliciously mouthwatering blog which shares recipes and tips about creating good, honest, homemade food because (and quite rightly so) it tastes amazing!
Hayley: “We come from a very foodie family. As kids growing up, our meals were very varied and our parents weren’t afraid to experiment with new recipes.
“At the time, wellness and the clean eating movement was in its prime, but we wanted to share recipes that had ingredients in them other than quinoa and kale.”
Born and bred in Chester, Hayley and Lydia’s earliest memories with food started in their childhood. While some children would come home and sit straight in front of the television (guilty, I was busy watching ‘Get Your Own Back’ with Dave Benson Philips), their afternoons at home were spent in the kitchen studying new tricks.
Hayley: “I remember getting home from primary school one evening and learning how to make spaghetti bolognese. This was the first dish we both learnt to cook and after a few tries cooking with our Mum and Grandma, eventually, we could make it with no supervision!”
Lydia and Hayley
From childhood to adulthood, it didn’t take long for their passion for food to evolve into more than just a hobby. Lydia went on to get a degree in food and consumer studies, and worked down south in the Cotswolds as a food taster and home economist at Campden BRI. After university, foodie turned designer, Hayley, worked for INOUT magazine where her real passion for food and trying new restaurants (in particular independents) developed.
Hayley: “As well as design, I was an amateur food photographer for the magazine which is when I also started taking pictures of my own food.
“One weekend I was down visiting Lydia when, over a bottle of red and a delicious Ottolenghi meal she had made, I ended up spending a good five minutes photographing it! It was then we decided we should make an Instagram account just for our food pics.”
Lydia: “Amongst our friends, we were always getting texts asking for recipes or ideas of what to cook. The Instagram account then grew into the idea of creating a blog. We thought it would be great to direct them there so they could keep learning more about the food we make.”
Leaning onto their earliest childhood memories of cooking at home with their family, it’s exactly the relationship with food they developed growing up which inspired them to create Scrumptious Sacketts, a culinary hub for mealtime to become fun and enjoyable again.
On the blog you can find recipes for classics like Grandma’s sticky toffee pudding in the Sentimental Sunday’s section (I love reading up on the backstory of each dish), or try something a little different with a twist like Auntie Gail’s salmon lasagne (I’ve never heard of it before, but it sounds delicious). Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, give beef and aubergine fatteh a go, which from looking at the photo, I’m not sure I’d be able to share! There’s definitely something for everyone, whether you have a sweet tooth, savoury, or both, you will find recipes for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and (you guessed it) even dessert.
Beef and aubergine fatteh
Sesame tuna and thai noodle salad
Lydia: “Food has always been a big part of our family. Our Mum and Dad are both quite adventurous cooks and were always adapting recipes, which is why our dishes come from a place of nostalgia. It’s the kind of food that we were brought up on and still make today.”
As I read through their recipes, my eyes are everywhere. I click on the latest post on ‘Bobotie’, an African inspired moussaka, reminding me it shouldn’t be too long until my lasagne is ready. My stomach pangs as I scroll down the page only to be teased by neighbouring photos on the left, enticing me to learn more about a delicious chorizo and aioli salad, and a yummy looking Vietnemese curry.
Chorizo and aioli salad
Hayley: “One of the most exciting things about cooking is food discovery: new flavours, trying out new recipes and going to different foodie hotspots in Chester and around the UK.”
Lydia: “If we go away somewhere abroad, sampling the local cuisine is always high on our priority list so we can get inspiration and recreate the dish once we’re back home.”
Hayley and Lydia’s favourite local restaurants in Chester:
- Chef’s Table
- Sticky Walnut
- Joseph Benjamin
- The market
- Bean and Cole
- The Flower Cup
From eating and catching up with friends; sharing a recipe like Auntie Angie’s moussaka with a fellow foodie; and exploring the local restaurants and creations of the talented chefs we have on our doorstep: food brings people together, which makes it even harder to resist.
For me, Hayley and Lydia’s blog is also a reminder that food is something to enjoy in the moment, rather than fretting over how many calories are in each dish, or the impact it’s going to have on our health. Let’s live a little!
On the blog you’ll also find the ‘Cookbook Corner’ with reviews on the Sackett’s favourite culinary books including Rick Stein, Rachel Khoo and Nigella Lawson, who they both saw at the Storyhouse last year.
Hayley: “It was refreshing to hear what Nigella had to say about food. She said you should never say a food is bad for you”.
“For us, life is too short to be eating purely healthy all the time. After a day at work, it’s exciting to come home and think about what food you’re going to make. It’s something to look forward to.”
And that’s exactly what Scrumptious Sacketts is all about. It’s clear they’re both fantastic at putting food together, and reading over each of their recipes, it doesn’t take long to understand why they both have a charming relationship with food; it’s personal.
Best dishes to make for busy lifestyles (dishes after work)
- With a slow cooker, you can almost make anything: curries, bolognese, stew, a whole chicken. Our favourite is our Grandma’s braised beef with ginger and mushrooms
- Chilli noodles with hoisin sauce and a fried egg.
- Spaghetti with olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, basil and mozzarella
- Veg curry with coconut milk
Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and garlic spaghetti
What I really admire about their blog is the variety. The range of posts and themes reminds you exactly why we obsess love and get so excited about food – because there are so many good things that come from it.
Hayley “Cooking is our main source of inspiration. A couple of years ago we went to see the founder of Mowgli, Nisha Katona, at the Liverpool Food & Drink Festival for a cooking demonstration and she shared her story about how she got into cooking.
“Nisha was a barista, loved cooking and always wanted to make food she cooked at home and bring it into restaurants – she’s such an inspiring woman. From what started as a little restaurant on Bold Street in Liverpool has led to opening more restaurants all over.”
I’ve just clicked onto Lydia’s Lovely Lemon Cake recipe (which she created herself!) and oh god, now my stomach is rumbling. To stop torturing myself anymore, I quickly click onto the Sackett’s Instagram account to (hopefully) give my bigger than my belly eyes a rest. Sadly, it doesn’t work, as I’m greeted by more beautiful, colourful food photography. It won’t be long until my own culinary creation is ready, so I hastily tap on a highlight to learn more about their top tips. Who knew you could freeze parmesan rinds to create flavourful sauces?
Lydia’s lovely lemon cake
Scrumptious Sackett’s top cooking tips:
- Bulk cook meals for the freezer, perfect for those evenings where you might get home late.
- Freeze food! Bread, parmesan rinds, bananas for milkshakes and smoothies.
- Buy a roast chicken; make a curry, stir fried rice, there’s so much you can do with it.
- Make vegetable curries or a chilli to use up leftover veg in the fridge.
If you haven’t already, have a look at Scrumptious Sackett’s to feel inspired: it will take approximately thirty seconds before your mouth begins watering and you’re raring to get back in the kitchen. Even if cooking isn’t your thing, use their blog as motivation to get down to one of our local restaurants instead. If you’re not hungry by now, I’m not sure we can be friends. But that’s ok, it means there’s more lasagne leftover for me.