Cooking with kids – Baked Spaghetti Cake – like a spaghetti frittata!

baked spaghetti cake

When I saw this baked spaghetti cake recipe (like a spaghetti frittata) in ASDA magazine I tore it straight out.  It looked tasty and interesting, and I thought it would appeal to my kids, who pretend spaghetti is worms!  My kid-friendlier version contains spaghetti, eggs, cheese, asparagus, spinach, dried herbs and chorizo (optional).  You could experiment with it further – it would work with lots of different vegetables and is a great way of using up leftovers.

My kids enjoyed helping to make the cake, breaking the eggs, pouring the ingredients in, stirring, and ‘painting’ (greasing) the cake tin.  The result was as tasty and interesting as I thought it would be, and I was very impressed at how well the cake held together, with a slightly crispy top and a firm, creamy middle. It would also work well cold in a picnic.

The cake takes about 15 mins to prepare (or longer if the kids are helping!) and 40 mins to cook.   The ingredients come to about £6 in total and provide 6-8 servings.

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

We cut the cake in to wedges once out of the oven.  We all enjoyed it, apart from my oldest son, who wasn’t so sure.  3 out of 4 is a success in my book though!

baked spaghetti cake

baked spaghetti cake

Baked Spaghetti Cake (serves 6-8 people)

Butter/marge, for greasing

300g spaghetti (can be gluten-free spaghetti)

200g soft cheese (e.g. Philadelphia or cheaper alternative – I use the value soft cheese)

4 eggs

Shake dried mixed herbs

125g cheddar cheese, grated

Very large handful of asparagus tips, chopped small

150g spinach

Optional – handful finely chopped chorizo

Optional – salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Grease a (roughly) 23cm round cake tin.

Boil the spaghetti as per the pack instructions.  Drain well and put in a large bowl.

Beat the soft cheese and eggs with a fork until smooth and shake over some dried herbs.  Add to the spaghetti.  Stir in the cheddar cheese,  asparagus, spinach and chorizo.  Season with salt and pepper if you like, mix well and pour the mixture in to the cake tin.  Cook for 30-45 mins (this will vary according to your oven), until the cake is pretty set and the top is a little golden and crispy.  Wait five mins then cut in to wedges and eat.

Strawberry and lime tart (20 mins effort plus 1 hour chilling/baking time)

strawberry and lime tart

We ate this last night.  All of it between three adults.  The beautiful combination of strawberry and lime together with the crispy (shop-bought) pastry and the creamy mascarpone makes for a fresh, indulgent summer tart.   It takes about 20 minutes of straightforward hands on effort plus an hour to chill and bake.

strawberry and lime tart

You don’t have to make the glaze – it’s a nice finishing touch but is not essential and the tart looks really pretty anyway!

For an even simpler recipe idea, you could just top digestive or shortbread biscuits with the lime, icing sugar and mascarpone and strawberries (make sure the mascarpone mixture is slightly thicker so it doesn’t fall off).

strawberry and lime tart

Strawberry and lime tart (serves 6-8 if you are sensible, or three if you are really reckless!)

300g ready to use puff pastry sheet (available from supermarkets)

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Zest and juice of most of a lime

1/3 jar strawberry jam

200g mascarpone cheese

1 tbsp cold water

2 tbsp icing sugar

250g strawberries, hulled and cut in half

Roll out the pastry on to a baking tray and fold over the edges to make a 1/2 inch border.  Brush the border with the egg yolk (use your fingers if you don’t have a brush).  Prick the centre all over with a fork to stop it puffing up too much when it bakes.  Chill for 30 mins in the fridge.  Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Bake the pastry for approx 35 mins or until cooked, with the edges a golden colour, pressing the centre firmly down halfway through if it rises too much.  Cool.

Squeeze the lime juice and strawberry jam in to a saucepan and heat gently until starting to bubble.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Beat half the lime zest with the mascarpone, 1 tbsp water and the icing sugar.  Spread over the tart base up to the border.  Arrange the strawberries on top.  Brush or spoon the jam glaze carefully over the strawberries and grate over the remaining lime zest.  Eat more than you meant to!

Based on a recipe from Sainsbury’s magazine

Mini make-ahead fish pies (15 mins prep/25 mins cooking)

make ahead fish pies

I am trying to make the most of my time and freezer at the moment, preparing big meals and then freezing some for later.   These yummy little fish pies can be cooked and served in small containers (I use recycled ramekins from shop-bought desserts) or in one big casserole dish.  I like using ramekins because they look sweet and my kids feel they are having something special.  Plus if you want to freeze some then you can freeze the pies in portions (I put the ramekins in a freezer bag).  Adults or older/hungrier kids may need at least two portions per meal though!

make ahead fish pies

The fish pies are simpler to make than most – you chop and boil some potatoes (I don’t bother peeling them) and mix with chopped fish, torn spinach, onion, parsley, soft cheese and a stock cube.  Make sure some of the fish is smoked to give the pies a particularly delicious flavour.  My kids and partner love smoked fish and wolfed their meal down!

If freezing, Freeze the pies once they are in the dish but before cooking, then you can simply take them out and put them in the fridge in the morning to defrost (or overnight if having for lunch), and cook at mealtime!

Don’t laugh, but I have decided to serve the kids a pretend ‘restaurant’ meal at home every so often, with posh napkins (tea towels).  We did this yesterday and they loved it.  They actually said things like ‘oh this waiter is very nice and her food is delicious’ and ‘thank you very much’.  They would NEVER say that normally..!

Mini make-ahead fish pies (fills 8 ramekins or a casserole dish)

8 small potatoes, chopped small and skins on

40g spinach, torn or roughly chopped

1 small onion, chopped small

300g fish pie mixed fish, chopped (or a combination of smoked fish and non-smoked fish.  Smoked river cobbler is particularly cheap and tasty.  You could also use smoked pollack, trout, cod, salmon etc).

Small handful parsley, chopped or shake of dried herbs

150g soft cheese (I use the value one)

1 stock cube

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.

Boil the potatoes for about 8 minutes, until tender.  Drain and put in a large bowl.  Add the spinach, onion, fish and parsley and mix.  Add the soft cheese and a little hot water and mix until the right consistency (see photo above).  Crumble in the stock cube and mix again.  Put the mixture in to individual ramekins/containers or a large casserole dish.  Cook on an oven tray for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and the fish is cooked through.  This may take longer in a casserole dish. Serve with a sprig of parsley on top.

If freezing, do this when the fish are in their containers but not cooked yet, then take out the night before or in the morning and cook as above (or maybe a little longer to ensure the pies are cooked through).

My fuss-and-mess-free carrot cake! (10 mins prep/50 mins cooking)

carrot cake

I wanted to come up with a quick, healthy ish carrot cake recipe that can be eaten on the go with minimum mess.  Much as I love the frosting on traditional carrot cakes, it’s not great when you are on the bus on a hot day with two clumsy (yet lovely) children!

carrot cake

I tried a few recipes and here is a simple, frosting-free, egg-free and lower sugar version. It’s light, moist, tasty and has become quite a staple in our house. Best of all it takes only 10 minutes to prepare (plus 50 mins cooking time) and is a great way of using up those one or two remaining carrots and getting some veg in to kids.

carrot cake

Hope you like it!

My fuss-and-mess-free carrot cake (approx 12 portions)

175g plain flour

110g light brown soft sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

1 large carrot, grated

70g walnut pieces

80g raisins

100ml veg/sunflower oil

Milk

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees.  Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.  In another bowl mix the carrot, chopped walnuts, raisins and oil. Mix both bowls together then gradually add milk and mix until it’s a slightly sloppy consistency (as in the photo above).

Put the mixture in to a greased cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown at the edges and a knife inserted comes out pretty much clean.  If the cake goes brown at the edges quite early on then cover the tin with foil to reduce the possibility of burning. Eat!

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!