Cheesy vegetable twists

These cheesy twists are so easy to make and are a perfect mid afternoon snack. They are delicious fresh out of the oven, but much flakier too. So, if you're feeding them to little people, it's worth making them the night before,as the pastry softens over time and they hold together a little more. 

You can use any filling in these. I tend to use my 90 second pesto or a hidden veggie tomato sauce (watch this space for a recipe). 

Ingredients

1/3 roll ready rolled puff pastry 

50-75g grated cheese

1-2 tbsp pesto or other filling

Method

Pre heat oven to 200 degrees. Put a sheet of baking paper or silicone baking mat in an oven tray

Unroll the pastry and cut off a 15cm length. Cut this into 10 strips.

Spread your chosen filling over half the strips and sprinkle over the grated cheese. Place a strip of pastry on top of each of the ones with sauce on.

Twist each one into a spiral and place on the baking tray.

Cook for 10-15 mins until golden brown and oozing cheese!

Marvellous mushroom pesto

Marvellous mushroom pesto

This recipe! What's not to love? It's cheap, tasty and packed with goodness in the form of some sneaky spinach. 

One pot wonders: Pearl barley, chorizo and winter vegetable risotto

Why pearl barley? It's perfect for busy families. Unlike risotto rice, which you have to stir constantly, you can just chuck the stock in and leave (almost) alone while you ponder the glaring gender inequalities in Paw Patrol. 

Serves 2 adults and 2 kids

Ingredients 

250g butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

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1 onion, roughly diced

150g chorizo, sliced into 1cm slices and then halved

Small handful of sage

4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3 handfuls of pearl barley 

600ml stock (veg or chicken) 

Glug of olive oil 

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Heat a good glug of oil in a large pan.

Add the squash, onion and carrot to the pan and cook over a low heat for 15 mins, stirring occasionally.

Add the garlic and chorizo and sage and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the pearl barley, stir into the mixture and then pour in the stock. 

Cook on a low heat for 45-50 mins, stirring occasionally. It's ready when the pearl barley is soft but still has a little bite. Season to taste. 

For babies: This is a great weaning recipe. Leave out the chorizo and chop the veg a little smaller, if you'd prefer. Freeze in individual portions straight after cooking. Once defrosted, heat to piping hot, then allow to cool before serving.

Alternatives:  leave out the chorizo for a veggie version. Cook this the day after you have roast chicken, stir in the left over meat with about ten minutes to go. Make sure the chicken is piping hot in the middle.

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Parsnip, pear and cinnamon muffins

My never ending mission to disguise healthy food as cake continues. So far the toddler has eaten sweet potato gnocchi and pancakes under the false impression he's having cake for dinner. But there's only so much sweet potato one small boy can consume, so I came up with these little beauties.

No added sugar but bursting with flavour and sweetened by the pear, I've found myself eating these two at a time, fresh out of the oven. 

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Makes 10

225g flour

3 tsp baking powder

90g finely grated parsnip

1 small pear cut into little dice (roughly 140g)

2 tsp ground cinnamon

175ml milk

55ml olive or vegetable oil

1 egg

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Put the flour, baking powder, parsnip and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl mix the milk, oil and egg together and then add to the other ingredients along with the pear and mix gently until thoroughly combined.

Spoon the mixture into 10 muffin moulds. Pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown on top. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before taking out of the muffin tray and placing on a cooling rack.

These freeze really well so they are perfect for a quick meal on the go.  

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Sweet potato and tomato pancakes

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Despite my best efforts, the toddler still prefers to use a fork as a hairbrush, so for now finger food still rules in this house.

These pancakes are healthy, filling and perfect for little hands.

Ingredients

  • 125g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 sweet potato, weighing around 200g
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 25g butter (melted)
  • 125ml milk 
  • Glug of olive oil
  • Handful cherry tomatoes, sliced

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. 

Cut the sweet potato into four, place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for around 25 mins until you can squish them with a fork.

Take out of the oven and leave for a few minutes until you can handle them. Remove the skins and mash with a fork.

Mix the flour and baking powder in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the sweet potato, eggs, butter and milk and whisk to form a smooth batter.

Heat the oil in a non stick frying pan and ladle small dollops of the batter into the pan. Push a few slices of tomato into the batter. You'll have to cook these in batches as the mixture will spread.

Once bubbles have formed on the top of the pancake flip it over and cook for a further minute.

The batter will keep till the next day if you don't eat them all at once, but the pancakes won't be as light and bubbly.

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Easy sweet potato gnocchi

Gnocchi is perfect for those weeks when you want to get out of a pasta rut but you need quick easy kids meals.

This recipe makes enough for up to 6 toddler portions (depending on how greedy they are!), it freezes brilliantly and cooks from frozen in minutes, so make a big batch and it's ready to go when you need proper food fast.

 Ingredients

500g sweet potatoes cut into quarters (or large chunks if it's huge) 

1 medium egg

120g strong white bread flour

A glug of olive oil

Recipe 

Coat the sweet potatoes in oil and roast them in the oven at 190 degrees for about half an hour or until soft and squishable.

Remove from oven and leave to cool for ten minutes or so until you can just handle them. Peel skins and put through a ricer or mash until really smooth.

Tip the mixture onto a well floured work surface and sprinkle the flour on top. Start to work it together, slowly adding the egg, until it forms a dough. It should be soft and gooey but not so moist that it sticks to your hands. Add more flour if needed. Knead for a couple of minutes. 

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Split into 4 and roll each ball into a sausage about 3 cm wide. Using a sharp knife cut  into 3cm portions, press a fork or your thumb into each one for decoration (or don't...it makes no difference and toddlers don't tend to mind.)

NB - this will make quite chunky gnocchi- perfect for toddlers who are still using their hands, or need a bigger target to aim their fork at. If you'd prefer something more dainty, cut a little smaller.

FREEZING: lightly flour a baking tray and lay out gnocchi. Pop in the freezer and once frozen, separate into individual portions in freezer bags. 

COOK: Lower the gnocchi into boiling water and turn it down to a simmer. Watch carefully; once a gnocchi floats to the top of the pan it's cooked, so fish it out with a slotted spoon. It will take around three minutes. If cooking from frozen it will take a few minutes longer.

Serve with a dollop of pesto or a simple tomato sauce. The one below includes broad beans and spinach.

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Cheesy winter vegetable muffins

So easy to make and perfect for feeding kids on the go. You can use any vegetable as long as you can grate it so it's perfect for using up the manky carrots and parsnips in the veg cupboard (it's not just me that has those right?)

These freeze brilliantly and if you grab one on your way out in the morning it'll be defrosted by lunch! 

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Makes 10

 225g flour 

3 tsp baking powder

100g mature cheddar

100g finely grated veg (carrot, parsnip, squash etc)

175ml milk

55ml olive or vegetable oil

1 egg

10 cherry tomatoes

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

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Put the flour, baking powder, cheese, veg and a pinch of salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.

In a separate bowl mix the milk, oil and egg together and then add to the other ingredients until thoroughly mixed.  

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Half fill the muffin mould and add a cherry tomato to each, then spoon the rest of the mixture on top. 

Bake for 20 minutes at 200 degrees. 

If you don't have a silicone muffin tray then get yourself on Amazon and order one asap - they cost a few £ and make this recipe so straight forward. 

 

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This recipe was inspired by this fab one: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/cheeseandcherrytomat_84142

One pot wonders: Simple sun dried tomato risotto

This dish is so simple but it packs a punch in the flavour stakes and its looks just gorgeous. It only needs a few ingredients and is my go to recipe for veggies, if I don't have time to get to the shops. 

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Serves 2

2 red onions, chopped

4 good handfuls Arborio rice

280g jar sun dried tomatoes in oil

125ml white wine

500ml veg or chicken stock

Handful fresh basil

Shake the jar of tomatoes vigorously to mix all the herbs in the oil and then pour 3 tbsp of the oil into a heavy bottomed pan on a medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they soften.

Add the rice and cook for 2-3 minutes until it starts to look translucent, stirring all the time. Add half the wine and keep stirring until it has cooked into the rice and then add the rest. Pour in the stock, a ladle full at a time and keep stirring and wait until it has been absorbed before adding more liquid. It should take around 15 mins to cook, but taste the rice regularly. If you run out of stock just use water. When done the rice will be soft but should still have a bite.

Once cooked take off the heat and add the tomatoes and basil, stir well, season and serve.

**This could easily be adapted for toddlers: the alcohol should evaporate from the wine, but leave that out if you're concerned. I'd add a handful of spinach too to make it a bit more nutritious**

 

Posh mushy peas

My husband is a mushy pea hater (I mean a serious hater; if they accidentally end up on his plate he has to move them on to mine before eating.) So imagine my surprise when he told me we were having his take on mushy peas with dinner one evening and served this. These beans are now a firm favourite and I've served it to everyone from my 6 month old to dinner party guests.

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Serves 2 big and 2 small people

300g frozen broad beans  

2 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

A handful of fresh mint (or 1 tsp mint sauce)

1 tbsp mint sauce

Seasoning to taste

 Put the beans in boiling water. Bring back to the boil and cook for three minutes. Drain.

Add the beans and all the other ingredients into a blender and blitz until it reaches your desired consistency.

I think this works better a bit chunkier but if you are feeding to a baby you might want to make it more of a purée. It works just fine without salt but you might want to add some if feeding adults. 

You can serve this hot straight after preparing, but they also work really well as a cold dip. 

Banana pancakes and Jack Johnson

''Make you banana pancakes, pretend like it's the weekend now. Can't you see that it's just raining, there aint no need to go outside"

Anyone who owns a toddler (or indeed, a cricket playing husband) will know that rainy days can be pretty miserable. Toddlers (and cricket playing husbands) need to get outside to stretch their legs, see new things and try to drink muddy puddles (i'm talking about the toddler here). 

If I wake up and see that the weather is grim and soft play is on the horizon then I at least try to start the day off well. There's something extra special about actually preparing breakfast - not just pouring it into a bowl or popping it in the toaster. Even if the rest of the day goes to shit (and it usually does on rainy days) at least you've tried!

So with that in mind, you should try banana pancakes, stick on some Jack Johnson and hope for the best. 

Ingredients

  • 125g plain flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 banana - one mashed (can be the hideous brown one at the bottom of the hand bag) One sliced (this should be slighty less over ripe!)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 25g butter (melted) plus extra for the frying pan
  • 125ml milk

Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add one mashed banana (the brown bottom of the hand bag one), the eggs butter and milk, and whisk to form a smooth batter.

Heat the extra butter in a non stick frying pan and ladle small dollops of the batter into the pan. Push a few slices of banana into the batter. You'll have to cook these in batches as the mixture will spread. Once bubbles have formed on the top of the pancake flip it over and cook for a further minute. 

Turn up the Jack Johnson and serve with a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche or a drizzle of honey. 

This recipe was inspired by this one on the BBC website...though it suggests you serve with bacon and maple syrup which is, quite frankly, an abomination (sorry Canada!)

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90 second pesto recipe....with added popeye Power

Pesto and pasta. The parents saviour. I regularly thank the gods for Mr Sacla and his little green jars. But if you ever find yourself 15 minutes before dinner time, on the night before the online shopping delivery arrives, with no pesto in sight then i'll let you in on a secret: making your own is easier than a last minute run to the shops. Honest. Ready? Lets go:

Makes enough for one small and two large appetites

 90 second pesto perfect for toddlers

90 second pesto perfect for toddlers

  • A good handful of fresh basil 
  • Three blocks of frozen spinach (I get mine from Sainsbury's and the blocks are perfect 1 person servings)
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped 
  • 2tbl spoon Olive oil (though vegetable oil will do)
  • 1tbl spoon tomato puree
  • Chilli to taste

Method:

Stick the spinach in the microwave for 60 seconds on defrost. Tip spinach plus all other ingredients in the blender and blitz for 30 seconds. Serve on pasta.

I also love this smeared on thinly sliced toasted bread, topped with cheese and grilled. I call it bruschetta but it's really just posh cheese on toast. 

 

Hungover Mother Ketchup

 Home made tomato ketchup 

Home made tomato ketchup 

Last Saturday I went to the hen party of one of my oldest friends. Last year, I missed my best friend and my sisters hen parties when L was still tiny. Needless to say I was very excited...All of this is a round about way of saying, last Saturday night I got horribly, horribly drunk. I spent Sunday morning in bed and Sunday afternoon, weakly sipping Lucozade on the sofa. I did absolutely zero mothering or wife-ing that day....but it was was worth it...almost.

In an attempt to assuage my maternal guilt; on Monday I tried something I have wanted to do for months - ever since I realised that L will eat anything I put in front of him if he can dip it in red sauce. 

Every ketchup recipe I found asked for either 30 ingredients or 500g of the finest tomatoes money could buy (I'm looking at you Jamie, Leon, and Hugh). Eventually I decided to wing it, adapting a recipe by preserving and pickling goddess Karen Solomon. Check the original recipe here.

  • 1 large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tins of whole tomatoes*
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 50 grams golden caster sugar
  • 110ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 5 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 star anise
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Puree the tomatoes in a blender. Tip 3 quarters of the mixture out into a bowl and add the onions to the remaining quarter of the tomatoes and blitz until smooth.

Heat the oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pan and add the onion, tomato puree, cook on a low heat for ten minutes, then add the rest of the tomato mix, along with the sugar and vinegar. Simmer for 15 minutes until it has reduced, stiring every so often. Add the spices** other than the paprika. Cook for 10 more minutes.

What you do next depends on how voracious your ketchup appetite is. If you'll eat it in a month or so then just pop it in a plastic box or clean jar. If you'd like to keep it longer or are making larger quantities then you'll need to sterilise your jars as you would if making jam. BBC Food do a great guide.

*For years I bought basics tinned tomatoes until I realised I was often using double the quantities specified. Tinned toms are one of the few things it's worth spending money on. Italian whole tomatoes are best if your budget will allow.

 **I put the spices in a metal tea leaf holder which I've had lying around for years, but you can just fish them out at the end or when you serve. Taste, season and add the paprika.

Don't hate me but I made my own fishfingers

 Home made fish fingers perfect for todders

Home made fish fingers perfect for todders

*Disclaimer* No one needs to make their own fish fingers. Captain Birdeye's offering is perfectly acceptable. The only reason I turned into one of 'those' mums and made my own is because I'd done the food shop that day and forgotten to buy some.

The above aside, they were bloody easy to make, they tasted better than shop bought and they were much more toddler friendly - they stayed whole rather than flopping into bits when L grabbed them.

Makes 4 toddler sized fish fingers

  •  1 Basa fillet (i used Aldi frozen fillets but see notes at end of recipe)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 4 tbsp of breadcrumbs (buy em if you want but if you put your mind to it you could have a years supply in a month if you end up with as much stale bread ends as we do!)
  • 1 tbsp dried dill (more if you fancy)

Pre heat over to 200 degrees

Cut the fillet down the middle and then cut each half in half - do it diagonally so you don't get one skinny and one fat finger!

Put the flour, egg, and bread crumbs mixed with dill on to three separate small plates or bowls, in a row, in that order.

Dip the first fillet in flour, coating all over - this is important - don't miss a bit. Next, dip the fish in egg and drop it in the bread crumbs, and roll it around till its coated.

Pop the fillets on a well oiled baking tray and bake for around 15 mins.

NB The fillets I use have already been frozen so aren't suitable for refreezing. However, if you made these with fresh fish you could make a larger batch and freeze before the cooking stage. Place them on baking paper on a oven tray. Stick them in the freezer and once fully frozen, pop them into a freezer bag or plastic box.

Girls night in? My fail safe meal

I've been cooking this dish for friends since my university days. It's a Jamie Oliver classic, which I've played around with over the years. Whenever someone asks me to suggest a dinner party dish, this is the one I recommend. It's so easy - there's practically no prep and everything is cooked in one tray.

Last week my two best friends came over for a long awaited catch up. I was going to sling a couple of pizzas in the oven, but they've both had a crappy few weeks so I thought something nourishing was in order.

Ingredients 

  • 3 salmon fillets
  • 350g fine beans
  • 150g cherry tomatoes (more if you fancy which i usually do)
  • 1 tin anchovies (don't throw away the oil)
  • 1 good handful basil
  • 1 lemon
  • Splash red wine vinegar
  • handful of good Kalamata olives (I substitute for caper if i don't have any in)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

If the beans come with their little stalks attached, chop these off, but don't take any more of the bean than you need to.

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the beans, turn it down to a strong simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Drain. 

Add the tomatoes, beans, olives and basil to a bowl and drizzle with the oil from the anchovy tin, the juice of half a lemon and a splash of red wine vinegar. Toss the mixture so everything is coated in the dressing. Tip the entire mixture in to one side of a baking tray. Lay the anchovies over the top.

Put the salmon fillets on the other side of the baking tray and season.

Cook for 20/25 mins until the salmon is cooked.

When you come to serve, give the bean mixture a bit of a stir so the anchovies crumble. Squeeze the other lemon half over the salmon and serve.

This is a brilliant and healthy meal on its own, but i like to serve with my green lentil salad.

Dinner party salmon recipe

 Dinner party salmon recipe

Dinner party salmon recipe