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Byline: Nadia Sawalha CONTACT ME @nadiasawalha weekend@mirror.co.uk

Hooray! June is here, which means people across the country are getting revved up for one of the best events of the year, The Big Lunch.

The Big Lunch takes place tomorrow and is a wonderfully simple idea that has been up and running since 2009.

Basically, people get together across the country with their neighbours and have lunch in an easy but highly effective act of community and friendship where everyone gets closer and (hopefully) fonder. Visit www.thebiglunch.com.

Last year, rather heart-warmingly, a staggering eight and a half million people in the UK took part, with every one of them wanting to be proactive in building a better community spirit in their local area.

Anyone can join in the fun and it can be anything from just having a few neighbours round to your place to a full-blown street party with music and, of course, lots of lovely nosh to go along with it.

So, you fabulous lot, why don't you get involved tomorrow and stoke up a bit of community spirit while also getting to know the people in your street a bit better? Go on, invite them round for a nibble and a tipple.

You never know, you just might discover some great new friends.

Here are a couple of super easy dishes you can easily double or triple depending on how many of your neighbours you fancy feeding.

And don't forget, you can also ask them to bring a dish too!

CHERRY BAKEWELL MINI LOAVES

150g softened butter

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

150g ground almonds

2 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp almond extract

8 tsp cherry jam

For the topping

250g icing sugar

2 tbsp lemon juice or water

Glace cherries, halved

You will also need an 8 hole loaf tray or a single loaf tin

1 Heat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Put the butter, sugar, flour, ground almonds, eggs and almond extract into a food processor and whizz together.

2 Spoon half the mixture into the individual holes or the loaf tin, depending on what you are using, and then dot the jam on top.

3 Spoon the rest of the mixture on top and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Leave the cake to cool.

4 Make the icing by simply mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice or water together until smooth. Spread it over the cake and let it set. Then finish off with the cherries as decoration.

A TASTE OF GREECE

Serves 4 to 6

375g ready rolled puff pastry

10 cherry tomatoes sliced

4 tbsp aubergine pesto

150g feta cheese crumbled

10 black olives

1 tsp dried oregano

1 Heat up the oven to 200C/Gas 6.

2 Unroll your pastry and lay it out on a baking tray. Then, using a tip of a sharp knife, score (don't go all the way through) a 1cm border from the edge.

3 Prick all over the inside of the border with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes until it is golden.

4 Next, using a fish slice, squash down the middle of the pastry. Spread the aubergine pesto inside the border and then crumble half the feta on top.

5 Now lay the sliced tomatoes on top. Finish by sprinkling on the rest of the feta and olives.

6 Sprinkle with the oregano and bake for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft.

ask Nadia

DEAR NADIA

I am going on a picnic this weekend with my flatmates and I've been given the job of sandwich maker.

I am going to make all the usual ones - egg and cress, ham and cheese - as I think people will be disappointed if they are not there, but do you have any ideas for something a bit more unusual to surprise them with? I'd like to be a bit adventurous.

MARTHA WOOLWICH, SOUTH EAST LONDON

Now you'll have to trust me on this because I know it sounds weird but I made some gorgeous sarnies last week when we were all fancying a sweet hit.

Mix together some cream cheese, chopped dates and chopped pecan nuts and spread the mixture on to some croissants. Yes, really! That should keep them quiet.

LOVE NADIA

Tips for throwing a Big Lunch

1 Get everyone to chip in and help as this will make it all so much more fun and easier on the host!

2 Have a back-up plan in case it pours down and you have to eat inside.

3 The food doesn't have to be fancy - it's much more about this being an event to feed the soul as well as the belly - so piles of homemade sarnies will be lovely as long as everyone is getting together.

4 Have a think about the kind of music to play as it will get everyone in the mood to party.

5 And make sure you get everyone to help clear up afterwards!

Saturday night flavour..

Pile tuna and roast peppers on to split panini breads, then top with cheese, drizzle with olive oil and grill.

Scrummy Sunday morning..

Grill fresh figs with a little mascarpone cheese and serve on toasted brioche.

CELEBRITY MASTERCHEF WINNER NADIA SAWALHA IS THE AUTHOR OF THE GREEDY GIRL'S DIET, KYLE BOOKS, RRP PS14.99
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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion, Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 1, 2013
Words:892
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