Roast sweet potato and sage risotto

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This roast sweet potato and sage risotto is a delicious, creamy dish with the lovely complimenting flavours of the sweet potato and sage.  The sweet potato roasts while you make the risotto, then you mix it all together at the end.  You can chop any leftover sage and store it in the freezer for next time.  You can also freeze any leftover grated parmesan then use instantly.

The risotto is a pretty simple recipe to follow as long as you can be near the hob to stir regularly!  Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days.  A perfect dish to warm you up as Autumn arrives…

Roast sweet potato and sage risotto (serves 4)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in to chunks
Oil e.g. vegetable/olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped small
Small handful fresh sage, chopped small
300g risotto rice
150 ml white wine (any will do!)
1 litre vegetable stock e.g. OXO
50g parmesan cheese, grated

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.  Put the sweet potato chunks in a baking tray, drizzle over 2 tbsp oil and some salt and pepper.  Mix well and put in the oven for around 25 minutes until cooked, stirring every 5-10 minutes to avoid sticking/burning.

Meanwhile make the risotto.  Cook the onion in a little oil for 5 minutes until soft.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute before adding the wine.  Stir regularly until there is hardly any wine left.  Add the rice and fry for one minute.  Add the stock one ladle at a time and stir regularly so the rice absorbs it and doesn’t stick or dry out.  After about 20 minutes the rice should be very nearly cooked (if it doesn’t seem cooked you can add a little more stock and keep stirring).  Add the parmesan and chopped sage and mix well.  Gently stir in the roast sweet potato.  Serve with a sprig of sage on top!

David’s 1950’s Style Berry Sundae

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This tasty and fun 1950’s Berry Sundae recipe was passed on by David, my ‘pensioner cooking for one’ friend and fellow food enthusiast.  We often exchange recipes, and he has some great waste saving tips.  This is his version of a 1950’s favourite and it is an indulgent treat.  All of the ingredients here come from cans so if you stock up, then you can whip it up with no notice needed!

You could always make smaller portions if you wanted to.  And feel free to experiment with the ingredients, as detailed in the recipe below.  Some crushed meringues and a sprinkle of toasted flaked almonds on top would work well too.  You could even get the kids to choose what to put in and help make it.

Allow about 15 mins to make 3 Berry Sundaes, and use any glasses you like – wine glasses and tumblers work fine, as long as you can see the layers of deliciousness!   Check out the photo of my son below.  I think he liked it…

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David’s 1950’s Style Berry Sundae (serves 3)

8 ginger nut biscuits (or any biscuits you like – amaretti biscuits would be nice too)

Tin of mixed berries in syrup/juice (or fresh fruit is fine e.g. berries/chopped peach/chopped banana)

Vanilla ice cream (or any ice cream you like)

Tin of evaporated or condensed milk/custard

Jelly (either set or straight from the packet)

Roughly crush the biscuits in to small bits and divide them between the three glasses.  Divide the packet of jelly in to three portions, keeping the marked cube shapes, or put a heaped tbsp of set jelly in to each glass.  Drain the syrup/juice from the berries and put the berries to one side.  Pour 2 dessertspoons of syrup in to each glass over the biscuits and jelly.  Put 3 dessertspoons of ice cream in to each glass.  Then 2 dessert spoons of berries in to each and finally top with a tbsp of the evaporated or condensed milk.  Eat!

Greek salad (15 mins)

In my humble opinion Greek salad is one of the most delicious summer salads EVER.  The crunch of the cucumber and red onion, sweetness of the tomatoes, salty creaminess of the feta and the fresh tasting dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil and herbs are absolutely gorgeous!  I like to eat Greek salad piled on top of a toasted pitta.

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Finely chopped red onion is an excellent addition to add crunch and flavour to lots of dishes.  As well as salads it is great in macaroni cheese and tuna pasta bake.

In Greece they tend to serve Greek salad with a slab of feta cheese on top, but I think it is best chopped up and mixed with the other ingredients.  Thank you to The Guardian for inspiring me to use capers in the recipe, which are apparently a Greek salad staple in certain parts of Greece!  Allow 15 minutes to make the salad.

Greek salad (serves 2)

Large handful cherry tomatoes, chopped in half

1/3 cucumber, chopped small

1/4 red onion, chopped small and thin

12 kalamata olives, chopped in half (regular pitted black or green olives also work fine, but kalamata olives are particularly authentic)

Optional – heaped tsp capers

150g feta cheese

For the dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs/oregano

Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives and capers together in a large bowl.   Mix the dressing ingredients together.  Arrange the salad in bowls and sprinkle over the feta.  Pour over the dressing and eat with toasted pitta bread in the sun!

Fish finger surprise (20 mins)

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I can’t claim credit for this culinary masterpiece (!) as my boyfriend invented it.  It is simple, appealing to kids but with a lovely little extra – you serve the mixture of pasta, chopped fish fingers and peas with a wedge of lemon that they can squeeze over their meal.  My kids love doing this and my oldest son (nearly 6) feels all sophisticated knowing that he is adding the flavour himself.  He also now knows that fish and lemon are a great pairing!  Since we first had this meal my boys have suggested a couple of other foods that would go well together.  The most memorable is ready salted crisps and jam – I held in my laughter and judgement and let them try it and my youngest seemed quite keen!  The important thing is that they are up for experimenting with flavours and their suggestions are taken seriously.

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The first time my boyfriend made fish finger surprise he added the lemon himself and asked the kids to guess what the surprise ingredient was.  And the second time we served the bowls with lemon wedges.  Chopped and stir fried broccoli, asparagus or soya beans would also work well instead of the peas.  Stir frying or steaming are the best ways to retain the goodness in vegetables, whereas boiling gets rid of most of it.

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Fish finger surprise (serves 4)

8 fish fingers, cooked as per the pack instructions

150g-200g any pasta, depending on appetite

Large handful frozen peas

Knob of butter

1 lemon, cut in to quarters

Cook the pasta as per the instructions, adding the peas a few minutes before the pasta is cooked.  Drain, add a knob of butter and stir.  Chop the cooked fish fingers and add them to the pasta with a little salt and pepper.  Either add the juice of 1/2 lemon if you want the kids to guess the magic ingredient, or put a wedge of lemon in each bowl for people to squeeze themselves.

 

Sundried tomato and olive loaf (no knead!)

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If, like me, you are scared of properly making bread and/or are short on time, then this sundried tomato and olive loaf is for you.  You literally mix all the ingredients together and chuck it in the oven, with no need to knead (!)  Once cooked the loaf cuts brilliantly and the sundried tomatoes, olives and dried herbs give it a lovely flavour.  It looks highly impressive and tastes seriously good with just butter on top.  I also cut the loaf in to small pieces and took it at school pick up, so it works well as an outdoor snack too.

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Allow 20 mins prep and 45 mins baking time.  You could freeze portions in bags then take out the same morning to eat at lunch.  Thank you to http://www.bbcgoodfood.com for the inspiration!

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Sundried tomato and olive loaf (approx 12 slices)

100ml oil (I used olive oil)

200g self-raising flour

Good shake dried mixed herbs or chopped thyme

3 eggs, lightly beaten

100ml milk

Very large handful pitted black or green olives, chopped in half

100g sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

100g cheddar, grated

Heat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Line the base of a medium loaf tin with greaseproof paper and grease the sides with oil/butter.

Mix the flour and herbs together in a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre, then add the eggs, milk and oil, stirring all the time to draw the flour into the centre. Beat for 1 min to make a smooth batter.  If it remains lumpy, use a whisk to help separate the lumps (you will need to put some welly in to it!)

Add the tomatoes, most of the olives and two-thirds of the cheese to the batter. Pour into the tin, then sprinkle with the remaining olives and cheese. Bake for 35-45 mins until the loaf is golden and crusty on top and a knife inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn out.  It will cut easier once it has cooled.  Will keep for a few days in a sealed container.  Gorgeous with butter on top!

Indonesian fried rice (nasi goreng)

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You may have noticed that I am quite in to rice at the moment.  It’s really versatile, pretty cheap and I find I can be quite adventurous with what I add to it, with a (normally!) happy response from everyone in the family.  This recipe is comforting and delicious, with the tasty texture of prawns, softness of the egg, the crunch of the veg and the subtle flavours of the sweetened soy sauce, ginger and coriander.  You could experiment with the veg content – broccoli, mangetout and baby sweetcorn would also work well.

I got the kids to guess the secret ingredient (ginger) – they didn’t, but were interested to know that ginger (normally associated with gingerbread men!) was in there.

Allow about 30 mins to make the dish (or less if you use microwave rice – just add it at the same point without pre-cooking it).  You can freeze any leftovers.  The recipe is a simplified version of one in Annabel Karmel’s The Fussy Eaters Recipe Book, which is full of great ideas.

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Indonesian fried rice (nasi goreng) – serves 4

160g rice (I like brown rice)

Any oil

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1/4 red pepper, chopped small

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp grated/finely chopped ginger

Handful frozen peas

150g cooked prawns

1 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

Cook the rice as per the instructions, then drain.  Meanwhile heat the oil and add the onion, pepper, garlic and ginger and cook for around 5 mins, until the veg is tender.  Add the cooked, drained rice, peas and prawns and stir fry for another few minutes, then add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly and scrapping the cooked egg off the bottom of the pan until it has scrambled (about 5 mins max).  Turn off the heat.

Mix the soy sauce and brown sugar together and stir through the rice.  Stir in the spring onions, then spoon in to bowls.  Serve with the coriander scattered on top!

 

No-bake booster bars

 

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These booster bars are simple to make, packed full of goodness and energy and are also sugar free.   The honey and dates provide the sweet hit, the nuts add crunch and the lemon/orange zest give extra flavour.  They are great for trips out and as an after-school snack for ‘starving’ children (their words, not mine).  You can also be flexible with what dried fruit/nuts/seeds you use – see the recipe for more info!

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Allow 15 mins prep plus an hour max to set in the fridge.  The bars will last a few days in a sealed container.

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No-bake booster bars (makes 15 bars)

200g dates, roughly chopped or 200g raisins/dried cranberries
170g roughly chopped nuts (any is fine – I used mixed nuts)
30g seeds e.g. linseeds/pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds
100g oats
100g honey
85g peanut butter
Grated zest of 1 lemon/orange

Melt the peanut butter and honey in a saucepan on a low heat, then add the other ingredients and mix well.

Line a smallish baking tray with greaseproof paper and spoon the mixture in, patting it down so it is evenly spread and tightly packed. Once cooled put in the fridge for an hour or so to harden, then cut in to bars. Will last a few days in a sealed container.