The People’s French onion soup – ready in 30 minutes

easy french onion soup

I love a stocky soup, especially when it starts to feel cold outside. Slurping up onion soup and dipping bits of cheesy toasts in to it is deeply satisfying. Traditionally this soup is topped with small rounds of baguette and melted gruyere cheese but I had to budget hard with shopping this week so used regular bread and cheddar cheese, and dried herbs. Still delicious and a simple dish to make as long as you don’t mind chopping and stirring a bit!

Plus you have the added bonus of finishing off the wine with your meal.

The People’s french onion soup (serves 4)

Olive oil
4 largish onions, peeled, halved and sliced thinly
A large knob of butter
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
A good sprinkle of dried herbs
Salt and pepper
180ml dry white wine (cheapest is fine)
3 cubes veg stock, crumbled (I like OXO)
2 – 4 pieces of any bread (allow half to one slice per person depending on how hungry people are)
Approx 80g cheddar cheese, grated

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add all the onions, stirring regularly to avoid burning. You may need to add more oil. After about 10-15 minutes they should be soft and a little sticky. Add the butter, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, continuing to stir. Add the wine, cook for another 5 minutes to reduce it down and then add the stock cubes and some boiled water until you are happy with the consistency. It should be be pretty watery. Simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile place the toast under the grill on one side until browned, take out and top the other side with the grated cheese and then finish off grilling that side until the toast is brown and the cheese is melted. Cut each slice of cheesy toast in to 4 pieces. Ladle the soup in to bowls and top with the pieces of toast. Eat greedily.

Sausage/veggie sausage tray bake (10 mins prep/50 mins cooking)

veggie sausage tray bake

I love tray bakes because you just chuck everything on a tray and the oven does (almost) all the work!  This sausage tray bake is made up of meat or veggie sausages, whole cloves of garlic, torn sage, parsnips, mushrooms, sweet potatoes and is topped with feta cheese.  You could easily add/subsititute other vegetables such as broccoli, courgette, butternut squash (if you want to sprain your wrist chopping awkwardly..), carrots, asparagus and peppers or use goats cheese instead of feta.  Remember that vegetables shrink when roasting so don’t assume you have too much.

veggie sausage tray bake

I was first introduced to roast whole cloves of garlic over a camp fire and have never forgotten it – you can pop the insides out and eat them whole as they become soft, sweet and almost caramelised! And sage is an unusual and distinctive tasting herb that goes well with veg and sausages.

Allow at least 1 hour for chopping the veg and cooking time.

Sausage/veggie sausage tray bake (serves 4)

8 meat or veggie sausages (for veggie sausages I like the Cauldron range)

2 red onions, cut in to wedges

2 parsnips, cut in to chunks

2 small sweet potatoes, cut in to chunks

100g mushrooms, chopped in half

8 whole unpeeled cloves garlic

1/2 20g pack sage, roughly torn

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

200g feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Put the sausages on a non-stick baking tray along with the veg, garlic and sage. Generously pour over some olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Mix everything up well with your hands.

Cook in the oven for around 50 mins, until everything is cooked through.  Shake the tray regularly to avoid burning.  You may need to add more oil.  About 5 minutes before taking the tray out of the oven crumble over the feta cheese.  Serve with salad!

Caribbean saltfish with peppers and onions (20 mins plus soaking time)

I recently had saltfish for the first time, cooked by St Lucia born Marilyn.  She topped it with peppers and onions, and I had a rude amount of it.  You have to soak the saltfish before cooking (to rehydrate it), and then once it hits the saucepan it becomes tender, flaky and delicious and, of course, pretty salty.  A simple dish with lots of flavour!

saltfish with peppers onions

Saltfish is eaten lots in the Caribbean alongside a fruit called ackee, which I will have to try next time.  It is also popular in Spain where it is eaten with tomato sauce and potatoes.  And I think it goes well with a salad or some rice.  We live in a multicultural area so can buy the saltfish in our local corner shop or supermarket, but am not sure how easy it would be to find otherwise! 

Allow at least a few hours for soaking the saltfish before making the dish, and change the water at least once!

Ingredients (serves 4)

300g saltfish (skinless and boneless)
2 different coloured peppers, cut in to strips
1 onion, cut in to strips
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Once the saltfish has soaked, give it a good rinse to get off some of the salt, then chop it in to chunks.  

Fry the peppers, onion and garlic in vegetable/sunflower oil for about 5 minutes until softening and then add the fish.  Heat and stir for about another 10 minutes until the fish is tender, cooked through and flaky. Serve alongside some rice, salad, or if you want to be really authentic, ackee.

Yummy peanut and date bars (chocolate topped so extra kid-friendly!)

It’s a nice feeling giving your kids a snack and knowing exactly what is in it. These nutritious yet moreish peanut and date bars contain only roasted peanuts, dates, a little honey and some chocolate on top, and are simple to make.

peanut date bars

Peanut and date bars (makes around 10 bars)

200g unsalted peanuts
250g dates, roughly chopped
A good squeeze of honey
100g milk chocolate buttons (or more if you want it really chocolatey!)

First put the peanuts on a non-stick oven tray and roast in the oven at gas mark 2/150 degrees for approx 10 mins until golden brown (make sure you check them regularly and keep giving the tray a good shake – burnt nuts are bitter and horrible!)

Put the peanuts, dates and a good squeeze of honey in a food processor/blender and blend until the mixture is sticky and fine (you may need to do this in two batches). Cover a shallow square/rectangle shaped container with tin foil then press the mixture on to it until evenly dispersed. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (do this in short bursts to avoid burning) and pour and spread it evenly over the mixture. Refrigerate for a few hours then cut in to bars.

Keep them in the fridge – they will last a few days!

Kulfi (Indian cardamom spiced ice cream) – no ice cream maker required!

easy kulfi annum an and

I am very happy to have successfully made kulfi, an Indian style ice cream containing cardamom, which must be one of the most beautiful, delectable spices in the world. It definitely makes it in to my *exciting ingredient* list.

This kulfi is refreshing, surprisingly easy to make (95% of the work is stirring), you don’t need an ice cream maker and it tastes gorgeous and exotic. I have my sister to thank for my obsession with cardamom – she went to University in Bradford and every visit involved a trip to the Indian sweet shop.

The ice cream contains whole milk, ground almonds, rice flour, sugar and cardamom and is cleverly topped with flaked almonds and chopped pistachios to give it a little crunch. Allow about 1 hour 30 mins to make it (as I say most of this is stirring and cooling) and then at least 5-6 hours for it to freeze. It serves 4-6 people depending on what container you use – I recycled glass ramekins but you could use any small freezable container. You can get rice flour from most supermarkets now (sometimes in the gluten free section) and ground cardamom from Indian shops. If you can’t find ground cardamom you could buy cardamom pods from the supermarket and crush them. My kulfi was a little lumpy in parts when I put it in the ramekins but it still worked!

The recipe is from the inspiring book Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand. It is a great book if you want to try out Indian cooking for the first time and then feel pleased with yourself! For two equally manageable and delicious recipes from the book check out these previous posts: and

Kulfi (serves 4-6 people)

1 litre whole milk
2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp rice flour
5-6 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder or crushed cardamom
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
2 tbsp flaked almonds

Heat the milk in a saucepan over a low heat and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and cook gently, stirring often. Place the ground almonds and flour in a small cup and once the milk is warm, stir in a little milk, make a thin paste and stir back in to the pan with a little sugar. Continue to cook gently as the milk needs to reduce by half – this takes about one hour. If a skin forms on the surface just stir it back in.

Stir in the cardamom powder to taste. Cool completely, then decant in to your freezable containers (you will need 4-6 depending on the size). Freeze for at least 5-6 hours and take the containers out of the freezer 20 mins before serving. Dip them for a while in hot water to loosen them (and you may need to use a knife to cut around the edge) then turn on to serving plates. Sprinkle with the nuts!

From Indian Cooking Made Easy by Anjum Anand

Halloumi, bean and veg stew (ready in 20 mins)

halloumi bean stew

This is one of those meals that was invented when I was using up the contents of my fridge and cupboard. My kids didn’t turn their noses up at it so it is a success in my book! They loved the natural saltiness of the halloumi cheese and the Mediterranean flavours of the capers and olives, so much so that they happily accepted the presence of the beans and vegetables. My boyfriend approved too (if you read my blog regularly you will know that he normally only gets excited by fish fingers and Rustlers burgers).

This dish is healthy, tasty, colourful and quick so makes a perfect family meal! Allow about 20 minutes to make it.

Halloumi, bean and veg stew (serves 2 adults and 2 kids)

Tin chopped tomatoes
Tin haricot beans, drained
Shake dried herbs (or fresh e.g. parsley/oregano)
1/2 block halloumi cheese, chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
tbsp capers
tbsp chopped black olives
1 veg stock cube (I like Oxo as it crumbles easily)

Heat some oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic, herbs, and chopped onion and pepper. Sweat for at least 7 minutes, until softened, stirring regularly. Add the chopped tomatoes, drained beans, halloumi cheese, capers, olives and crumble in the stock cube. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 mins. Serve!

LA-style all green salad (ready in 15 mins)

LA style all green salad

This must be what the figure conscious celebs of LA eat. It’s super healthy, full of greens, lentils (canned for ease!), seeds and a deliciously tasty yoghurt dressing with cumin seeds. It only takes 15 minutes to prepare and is guaranteed to make you feel virtuous. I couldn’t resist having some mozzarella on the side though…

LA style all green salad

The recipe is courtesy of Sainsbury’s magazine (supermarket magazines are the best place to find clever recipes in my opinion). Here are a few tips for super-charging salad, also courtesy of Sainsbury’s: ‘liven it up with flaked salmon or sliced chicken; bulk it out with drained, canned beans; add roasted tomatoes, courgettes or cooked grains such as quinoa or pearl barley, to create more interesting textures and flavours; sprinkle toasted seeds or nuts on top for added crunch’.

LA-style all green salad (serves 4)

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, crushed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
80g fat-free natural yoghurt
1 medium head broccoli, broken in to florets
250g asparagus, trimmed
200g watercress
410g tin green lentils
1 ripe avocado, chopped
40g seed mix

Make the dressing: combine the olive oil, cumin, garlic, lemon zest and juice and natural yoghurt. Set aside.

Steam/boil the broccoli until just tender, adding the asparagus for the final 2 minutes.

Toss together the salad leaves with the asparagus, broccoli, lentils and avocado. Divide between 4 plates and drizzle with the dressing and serve scattered with the seeds.

Recipe from Sainsbury’s magazine