Family-Friendly Scandinavian Smorgasbord

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once in a while we have a ‘theme’ night at dinnertime when we try food from another country.      It’s a fun way to be a little adventurous and learn about different cultures.  I sometimes simplify or adapt the original version to make it more kid friendly and not too overwhelming, so there is no need to completely stick to tradition.  Our latest theme dinner was a Scandinavian Smorgasbord consisting of smoked salmon and lemon wedges (the kids felt all fancy squeezing the lemon over the salmon!); potato salad made from boiled potatoes, capers and a little mayonnaise; and rye bread with butter (you can get rye bread from big supermarkets).

If you wanted to be even more authentic you could add meatballs, boiled eggs, crayfish, crackers, beetroot salad or dill and mustard sauce.  Or you could have a look in the Ikea food shop for easy inspiration (they even do vegetable balls as an alternative to meatballs).

There are endless possibilities for theme nights – we have had Italian pasta meals listening to opera and Mexican fajitas after watching the Pixar kids film Coco!  Google will give you lots of ideas.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Advertisements

Watermelon Sorbet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I absolutely love this watermelon sorbet, which is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe.    There are only 4 ingredients (frozen watermelon chunks, lime juice, mint and ginger preserve) which results in a wonderfully refreshing summer dessert.  And it takes minutes to whizz up in a food processor!

You should be able to buy the ginger preserve in the supermarket.  Happy summer : )

Watermelon Sorbet (serves 8)

1 small – medium watermelon

Small handful of mint leaves

2 tbsp of ginger preserve

Juice of 2 limes

Cut off the watermelon rind and chop the flesh (seeds and all) in to chunks.  Freeze for at least 8 hours.

When ready to make, remove the watermelon chunks and blitz in a food processor with the mint leaves, ginger preserve and lime juice until a sorbet consistency .  Do this in batches if you need to, as if you overload the food processor it will take ages!  Garnish each serving with a sprig of mint.

Roast Aubergine With Yoghurt Dressing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a sumptuous Middle-Eastern inspired dinner.  The aubergines are sliced in half, rubbed with oil and cumin seeds and baked until soft.  You then top them with a beautiful yoghurt dressing, toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander.  Allow about 10 minutes of effort and 50 minutes of roasting.

Cumin seeds are definitely one of my most *exciting ingredients*  I also sprinkle them over soups and once had an unforgetful wrap filled with fried halloumi, beetroot, yoghurt and cumin seeds!

Roast Aubergine With Yoghurt Dressing (serves 2)

  • 2 aubergines, sliced in half lengthways
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 200g Greek or natural yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp cashew nuts/pine nuts , toasted (do this by frying them on a high heat in a dry non-stick pan, shaking regularly, for about 30 seconds – 1 minute until golden – careful not to burn!)
  • 1 handful of roughly chopped coriander

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Gently score the 4 cut halves of aubergine flesh with criss cross cuts, then carefully rub/brush over 1 tbsp of oil between them and sprinkle over the salt and pepper and cumin seeds.  Roast for around 50 minutes until browned and soft.

While the aubergine is roasting mix the yoghurt, garlic and lemon juice together.  To serve, spoon the yoghurt dressing over the aubergine then top with the toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander.

 

Fantastic Family Nachos!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is a fantastic family-friendly Mexican nachos recipe that we all loved and takes only 5 minutes to prep (plus 10 minutes baking).

The tortilla crisp base is topped with kidney beans, sweetcorn, olives, grated cheese, avocado and coriander.  Put it in the middle of the table for everyone to share, and eat with hands!  You could have some salsa and sour cream on the side.

Fantastic Family Nachos (serves 4 but you might need dips and side salad to make it go further!)

1 large pack of plain tortilla crisps

1 small tin of sweetcorn, drained

1 regular sized tin of kidney beans, drained

Handful of chopped olives

1 reduced salt vegetable stock cube (I like OXO)

2 handfuls of grated cheddar

2 avocados, chopped

Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Spread out the tortilla crisps on to a casserole dish/baking tray.  Separately mix the sweetcorn,  kidney beans, olives, crumble in the stock cube and mix well. Spoon the mix over the crisps, evenly top with the cheddar and bake on gas mark 7/220 degrees for around 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

Remove from the oven and scatter over the chopped avocados and coriander. Put on the table for everyone to help themselves, and eat with hands!

A Handy Guide to Breakfast Cereals

Breakfast cereals are notoriously confusing to choose from.  And the marketing behind them can be very manipulative.  With this is mind I have put together a handy guide to making healthier choices with cereals.  I hope you find it helpful!

ADVERTISING: Many cereals will tell you lots of positive things to draw you in, particularly childrens’ cereals.  Just because it’s wholegrain’, ‘low in fat’, ‘fortified with vitamins and iron’, has ‘no added salt’, ‘no added sugar’, ‘no artificial colours or flavours’, has a healthy sounding name or photos of glowing kids and sprigs of wheat doesn’t mean it’s not high in sugar!  

COMPARE BRANDS: Most supermarket brands and Nestle use the helpful ‘traffic light system’ on the front of the packet – this shows whether fat, sugar and salt are high (red – a bad choice), quite high (amber – not a great choice but ok sometimes) or low (green – best choice).  Kelloggs hasn’t signed up to the traffic light system – their nutrition info is all in blue – so is the least easy to understand.  

SUGAR GUIDELINES: This is the recommended amount of daily sugar for the different age groups (you don’t need to count the sugar naturally present in milk, yoghurt and whole fruit): Adults and Children over 11 years 30g; 7-10 year olds 24g; 4-6 year olds 19g.

BEST AND WORST CHOICES: The best cereals to choose are wholegrain ones (for longer-lasting energy) which are also low in sugar, salt and fat (particularly sugar).  So aim for the sugar tab on the traffic light bit to be green.  Branflakes, porridge and shredded wheat are all good choices.   Although not wholegrain, cornflakes only have 2g of sugar per 30g bowl so are an okay choice some of the time.  And definitely better than crunchy nut cornflakes, which contain 12g of sugar per 30g bowl!  This is nearly 2/3 of the daily recommended amount of sugar for a 4-6 year old.  Cinnamon Grahams and Coco Pops both contain 8g of sugar per 30g bowl.  And some mueslis and granolas can be very high in sugar.

PORTION SIZE: 30g is a small bowl and many kids and adults have much more than that for breakfast.  Try weighing out the amount you all have and then work out the total sugar – you may be shocked!  Note that some cereal boxes (usually those aimed at adults) will tell you how much sugar per 40g/45g so check closely.

MAKING CHANGES: If you/your kids love sugary cereal, consider mixing it with a healthier similar cereal and over time reducing it until you are only left with the healthier choice.   Or buy a few new, more healthy cereals for people to choose from, so atleast people feel there is some choice.  Topping cereal with fruit provides greater nutrition and a little natural sweetness.

Effortless Egg Curry

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This totally delicious egg curry is based on a BBC recipe.  It is quick to make (about 20 minutes) and great with some rice and mango chutney.   An excellent, effortless recipe to have up your sleeve!

Effortless Egg Curry (serves 4)

Oil

2 white or red onions, thinly sliced

2 heaped tbsp curry paste (I used Patak’s Korma Paste but apparently Tikka Masala also works)

400g can chopped tomatoes

8 eggs

140g frozen peas

2 tbsp natural or Greek yoghurt

Rice and mango chutney to serve (I use microwave brown rice to save time)

Heat the oil in a pan and add the sliced onions.  Gently fry for around 10 minutes, stirring, regularly, until golden.  Stir the curry paste in for 2 minutes then add the can of chopped tomatoes and 200ml of water.  Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, boil the eggs for 9 minutes until hard boiled, remove the shells and cut in to quarters and put aside.  Add the peas and yoghurt to the curry sauce and simmer for 3 minutes.  Add the hardboiled eggs.  And your curry is complete!

Best enjoyed with rice and mango chutney on the side.

Orange and Raisin Soda Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My 5 year old son and I love Nadia Hussain – former Bake Off Winner and all round loveable mum – so we made the delicious, slightly sweet soda bread from her World Book Day book Bake Me A Story.   The great thing about soda bread is that you don’t have to knead it, it is just a matter of mixing the ingredients and patting the dough in to a rough ball.  It was easy and we all loved it with a spread of butter! We replaced the dried blueberries with raisins as we had them at home already.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My son tends to help a little then run off, then help a little more and run off, before declaring he is tired.  Which is fine, because every second helping out counts.  He helped tipping in and mixing the ingredients, cutting a cross in the loaf before baking, and tapping on the bottom of the loaf to check it was cooked (it should make a hollow sound).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here is the recipe!

Orange and Raisin Soda Bread (makes one loaf)

400g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

50g caster sugar

2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

100g raisins/dried cranberries/dried blueberries

Grated zest of 2 oranges

1 large egg

185ml buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk you can easily make it by mixing milk with lemon juice – mostly milk topped up with lemon juice to 185ml – it might curdle and that’s fine)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 6.  Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl mix the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, oil, raisins and orange zest until combined.  Separately beat the egg with the buttermilk then pour in to the bowl with the other ingredients, and mix with a spatula.  Gently bring the dough together to form a ball, but don’t overwork it (you may need to use your hands at the end).

Place the dough on the lined tray and make two deep cuts in the top in a cross shape, nearly all the way through.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the loaf is golden and sounds hollow when taped on the base.

Leave to cool then enjoy with butter!  Should last 2-3 days and can be toasted.