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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

 

Summer berry and almond clafoutis (10mins prep/40 mins baking)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clafoutis is a delicious French dessert, made by arranging fruit in a dish, covering it with a sweet batter and baking until puffed up and golden brown.  It is traditionally made with cherries but you can make it with any fresh or frozen berries e.g. blueberries/raspberries/strawberries/blackberries, and halved and stoned plums also work great.  I used the cheapest frozen mixed summer berries I could find plus 1/2 can of pitted cherries, and added ground almonds to the batter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Clafoutis is laughably simple to prepare – just 10 minutes using a food processor, plus approx 40 mins baking in the oven.  And it looks pretty!  Eat it with cream, ice cream or custard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients

Oil or butter, for greasing

350g frozen or fresh fruit e.g. cherries/blueberries/strawberries/raspberries/blackberries/plums.

For the batter

50g ground almonds

2 tbsp plain flour

100g caster sugar

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

250ml double cream

1/2 tsp almond or vanilla essence

Heat oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5. Oil or butter an oven proof dish (not loose bottomed) and scatter the fruit over the bottom.
Whizz all the batter ingredients in a food processor/blender until smooth, pour it over the fruit and bake for 35-45 mins until slightly puffed and golden brown. Serve warm with cream, ice cream or custard.

 

Rice, tuna and veg bake (10 mins prep/30 mins baking)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ve had a busy weekend and we are all tired! So this rice, tuna and veg bake is a low effort, yet healthy, recipe. Simply mix a packet of pre-cooked rice with canned tuna, canned sweetcorn, chopped pepper, two eggs, a stock cube and dried herbs. Top with grated cheese and bake for around 30 minutes. The bake is tasty and satisfying, with the egg making the bottom go a little crispy.

Most of the ingredients are long-life and can be kept in the cupboard for when you need them, and even the fresh ingredients last a fair while in the fridge.  We ate the bake with broccoli, but peas would also work well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Those packets of pre-cooked rice (as used here) are readily available and brilliant at time saving and I buy them regularly now. As well as microwaving or baking the rice, I sometimes fry it straight from the packet with some veg, prawns and a little soy sauce for a 10 minute dinner. Or use it in an extra quick kedgeree, which is a favourite in our house. Anyway, back to the original recipe!

Rice, tuna and veg bake (serves 4)

1/2 red pepper, chopped small
Small tin sweetcorn, drained
250g packet of pre-cooked rice (I used brown basmati rice but any is fine)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stock cube, crumbled
Sprinkle of herbs
Small handful grated cheddar (or other hard) cheese

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.

Put all of the ingredients apart from the cheese in a casserole dish and mix well. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until slightly browned and crispy on top.