Flavoursome Fattoush (Middle Eastern salad) in 10 mins

fattoush

Fattoush is a salad eaten in the Middle East.  The main ingredients are pretty simple (tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, red onion and broken toasted pitta bread) but the dressing is packed with flavour and zing (apologies for using the word zing – but no other word explains it better!).   The whole dish is full of crunch, is brilliantly refreshing in summer and takes 10 minutes to make.  The dressing is made from sumac (a tangy, lemony Middle Eastern spice – available in supermarkets and international shops), red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mint and parsley.  I use sumac a lot in salads, with a little olive oil. It’s great to have in the cupboard.

We ate the fattoush with some griddled halloumi cheese on top.  It would also be nice with fish on the side (salmon, trout or smoked mackerel would work well I reckon) or sausages.

fattoush

Fattoush (serves 2)

For the salad

14 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/3 cucumber, chopped

1 little gem lettuce, chopped

1/8 red onion, chopped fine

2 pitta breads, toasted and chopped

1 tsp sumac

Small handful mint, chopped fine

Small handful parsley, chopped fine

For the dressing

1 garlic clove, crushed

Half tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl and mix with hands.  Combine all the dressing ingredients , stir well, pour over the salad and mix.  Eat with griddled halloumi cheese, fish or sausages.

Sweet potato and goats cheese pasta bake

sweet potato pasta bake

I was going to make this sweet potato and goats cheese pasta bake with butternut squash, but couldn’t be bothered with all that awkward, endless chopping…  Luckily using sweet potato instead makes a lovely dinner!  They (the sweet potatoes) are roasted with onions, garlic and sage then whizzed in a food processor with some creme fraiche and (oxo) stock.

sweet potato pasta bake

sweet potato pasta bake

Add the sauce to cooked pasta then layer in a buttered dish with cheese.  Top with goats cheese and some sage leaves for added prettiness and flavour.  All our bowls were empty by the end of dinner!

sweet potato pasta bake

sweet potato pasta bake

The preparation/assembling takes about 20 minutes and the oven does most of the work (allow about 1 hour 20 mins in total).  You could always prepare the sauce or assemble the bake in advance and cook later on.

Sage is a herb with a beautiful distinctive flavour which crisps up when roasted/cooked and goes really well with goats cheese and sweet potato/butternut squash.  If you wanted to disperse the flavour more you could tear up the sage finely on top of the dish.  Garlic cloves go wonderfully sweet and slightly caramelised when roasted – you can literally pop them out of their skins and eat them whole like this!  Roast garlic cloves are one of my *exciting ingredients* (for more exciting ingredient ideas check out the category on the right hand side of the blog).

We had the bake on it’s own but it would be nice with salad.  It costs about £5 in total.

Sweet potato pasta bake (serves 4-6 people)

2 large (or 3 small/medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped in to chunks

1 onion, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

3 cloves garlic, with skin still on

14 sage leaves

260g pasta (nothing too small)

3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche (I used lighter creme fraiche)

4 tbsp water

2 stock cubes (I like Oxo vegetable as they crumble easily)

60g cheddar cheese, grated

Optional –    120g goats cheese, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Put the sweet potatoes, onion, garlic and 8 of the sage leaves in a non-stick oven tray with a good glug of olive/veg/sunflower oil and some salt and pepper and mix it all together.  Pop in the oven for around 30 mins, turning a few times, until cooked through and lightly browned.  Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the pack instructions, drain and put aside.

Take the roast veg out, pop the garlic out of their skins and return to the tray, then put it all in a food processor.  Add the creme fraiche, water, crumble in the stock cubes and blitz until smooth.  Pour it in to the drained pasta and mix well.  If it seems a little dry add more water – you want it to be creamy and moist but not watery.

Layer half of the pasta in to a buttered oven proof dish and top that with half the cheddar cheese and half the goats cheese.  Put the remaining pasta on top followed by the remaining cheddar and goats cheese.  Pop in the oven for around 30 mins, until slightly golden on top.  15 mins in to cooking, take the dish out and arrange the sage leaves nicely on top then return the dish to the oven for the last 15 or so minutes.  Take out and eat!

Smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette – a family favourite

smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette

This smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette is a favourite at our house and we eat it lots.  It is packed with goodness and the kids love the salty flavour of the mackerel, the familiarity of the (frozen) peas and the crunch of the spring onions.  Smoked mackerel is excellent value and is already cooked so it’s really versatile.  The whole meal serves 2-4 people and costs about £2.50 in total.

smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette

The omelette is also great cut in to strips for young kids or if you are weaning your baby (just make sure you tear the mackerel really small).  For an even quicker alternative to the omelette, you can scramble the eggs instead (I do this in the microwave) then add the peas (also heated in the microwave), spring onions and mackerel.

The omelette takes about 20 minutes to make and is seriously delicious along with a dollop of mayo on the side or sweet chilli sauce on top!  Any leftover mackerel could be used to make this tasty one-pot kedgeree https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/my-one-pot-kedgeree-ready-in-20-mins/.

smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette

Smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette (serves 2-4 people depending on appetite and whether you eat it with something on the side e.g. sausages/salad)

Large handful frozen peas

3 spring onions, finely chopped

Small shake dried herbs

1 fillet smoked mackerel, torn in to smallish pieces (no skin)

3 eggs, lightly beaten with a little milk and pepper

Heat the peas in a (oven proof) frying pan with a little oil on a medium heat for about 4 mins, until they are cooked.  Add the spring onions, shake of herbs and mackerel pieces and stir for 2 mins until everything is mixed, then move the ingredients around the pan until they are evenly dispersed.  Give the eggs another beat then pour in to and around the pan, so it is covered with a thin layer of egg.  You may need to tip the pan carefully a few times to make sure it is covered.   Heat for another 5 mins or so until the egg is set in the middle and the edges are beginning to set, then transfer the whole pan under the grill for around 5 mins, until fully set and a little golden.  Eat with mayo or sweet chilli sauce!

Pitta bread pizza – great to make with kids

pitta bread pizza

This is a great way to make pizza in a hurry and to use up random bits of food.  It’s a nice little activity for kids to get involved in.  You simply spoon some tinned chopped tomatoes on top of pitta bread, sprinkle on some grated cheddar and dried herbs and anything else you fancy.  Then cook for around 10 minutes.

We have used various combinations of cooked ham, chorizo, prawns, red pepper, onion, tinned sweetcorn, asparagus, mushrooms, olives and capers.  Sometimes I finish mine off with chilli flakes.

pitta bread pizza

My kids are young so I tend to cut everything up and put it in to little bowls so they can assemble the pizza themselves.  They like this.

pitta bread pizza

pitta bread pizza

If my kids are feeling creative (a rarity in the kitchen!) I might quickly cut the ham in to triangle shapes (for scary teeth) and the pepper in to strips (for eyebrows) so they can put everything together and make a pizza face (olives for eyes/sweetcorn for spots etc).  The fun of this has even encouraged them to TRY SOMETHING NEW…

As pitta bread doesn’t have a long shelf life I usually freeze it and use it straight from the freezer.

pitta bread pizza

Pitta bread pizza 

Pitta bread (one per person – white or wholemeal is fine)

3 tsp chopped tomatoes per person

Small handful grated cheddar cheese per person

Shake dried herbs per person

Any combination of: cooked ham, chorizo, prawns, red pepper, onion, tinned sweetcorn, asparagus, mushrooms, olives and capers

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.

Spoon and spread the chopped tomatoes on the pitta.  Sprinkle over the cheese and dried herbs.  Add any other toppings of your choice.  Put in the oven for around 10 minutes until slightly crispy and the cheese has melted.

Lemon curd squares – simple summery deliciousness!

lemon curd squares

These gently tangy lemon curd squares are the perfect treat for summer and very straightforward to make, with a buttery shortbread base and a slightly squidgy lemon curd topping.  You mix together butter, flour, sugar and vanilla extract to make the shortbread, press it in to a tray then bake for 20 minutes before spreading on the (shop-bought) lemon curd and baking for another 25 mins.  Dust with icing sugar and they are ready!    The squares will last for a few days in a sealed container.  Gorgeous.

lemon curd squares

Lemon curd squares (makes 12)

175g unsalted butter, softened in the microwave/pan

200g plain flour

75g icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g lemon curd

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  Line a smallish square/rectangle baking tray with greaseproof paper.

To make the shortbread, mix the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl.  Stir in the butter and vanilla extract then use your hands to squash it together until it resembles a dough.  Press the dough evenly in to the baking tray and prick lightly with a fork.  Bake in the oven for approx 20 minutes until slightly golden (the dough might be a little soft but should have set).

Gently spread over the lemon curd while the shortbread is still hot then return the tray to the oven for another approx 25 minutes, until the top is slightly golden.  Set aside to cool and then dust the top with icing sugar and cut in to squares.  Eat, eat , EAT!

Prawn and mango curry – light, fragrant and ready in 20 mins

This is a beautifully fragrant prawn and mango curry that is quick to make and perfect for the summer months!  You fry some onion with ginger, korma paste (shop-bought), coconut milk, lime, prawns and chopped mangoes and top with fresh coriander.  Unique, light and satisfying!  We had it on it’s own but agreed it would be nice with a little rice on the side.  And an accompanying cold beer is pretty good!

prawn and mango curry

The recipe is based on one from Tesco magazine.  With the leftover korma paste you could a) try a veggie, fish or meat recipe by Pataks (putting ‘korma’ in the recipe quick search) http://pataks.co.uk/recipes/ or b) freeze the sauce in a freezer container or freezer bag for up to 3 months, defrosting overnight in the fridge before you use it.

Prawn and mango curry (serves 2)

1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 tsp grated/finely chopped ginger

3 tbsp korma paste (I used Pataks)

300ml (1/2 pint) coconut milk

175g mango chunks

175g prawns (or a bit more if you love them!)

Juice of 1/2 lime

Handful fresh coriander, chopped fine

Optional – rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan/wok, add the onion and ginger and gently fry for 5 minutes, until softened.  Stir in the korma paste and coconut milk, then simmer for 2 mins.  Stir in the mango chunks, prawns and lime juice, then simmer for another 3 mins, or until the prawns are pink and cooked through.  Scatter over the coriander and serve rice alongside the curry, if you wish.

Recipe by Tesco magazine

Tasty roast chickpeas – a quick snack or versatile ingredient!

roast chickpeas

Canned chickpeas are cheap, healthy and versatile – the cheapest can costs 40p in many supermarkets.  If you roast them in the oven with some oil and a crumbled stock cube (or with a shake of dry seasoning such as cajun seasoning, or dry spice such as garam masala, paprika or ground coriander) then the chickpeas go golden brown and absorb the flavour.

Great as a simple snack to eat at home or when out and about.  You can also add them to salad or use them as a soup topping to give crunch and texture.

roast chickpeas

roast chickpeas

Yesterday my kids (who like them – hooray!) had their chickpeas along with dinner and then we adults had them later in a salad and with soup, on top of a dollop of creme fraiche and cumin seeds (for my veggie soup recipe click here https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/fantastic-variations-on-a-roast-autumnwinter-soup/).

roast chickpeas

Tasty roast chickpeas (serves 2-3 people as a snack or more people in a salad/as a soup topping)

Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Good glug of oil (ideally olive oil but I have also used vegetable and sunflower oil)

1 veg stock cube, crumbled (I like OXO as it crumbles easily) or good shake of seasoning or spice (see above for ideas)

Heat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 6.

Put the chickpeas on to a non-stick baking tray, pour over some oil and sprinkle over the stock cube/seasoning/spice.  Mix really well with a spoon.  Roast in the oven for 10-20 minutes, shaking the tray regularly to avoid burning/sticking.  If you want the chickpeas lightly roasted then 10-15 minutes is enough, or if you want them a little crispy 20 minutes should do it.  Depends a bit on the oven – you want them slightly browned.

Remove from the oven and eat on their own, with salad or as a soup topping.