Beautiful low GI/low fat autumn salad with grilled ‘lighter’ halloumi (10 mins prep/45 mins cooking)

This is my version of a really gorgeous and subtly flavoured autumn salad from the book Veg Every Day by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  It contains pearl barley which is low GI and low in fat (and also good for thickening stews and soups or as an alternative to rice in a risotto), as well as roast squash, fennel, walnuts, parsley and grilled ‘lighter’ halloumi cheese.  A beautiful, wholesome salad.  Serves 4.

Ingredients

1 smallish butternut squash, chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2-3 fennel bulbs, cut lengthways into 6-8 wedges
1 garlic clove, finely chopped/crushed
50g walnuts
200g pearl barley
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Handful of parsley, finely chopped

Block of lower fat halloumi cheese, chopped in to strips
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. Put the squash in a roasting tin. Trickle over 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Toss so that the squash is well coated and put into the oven to roast. Meanwhile, cut the fennel lengthways into 6 or 8 wedges.  After 15 minutes, add the fennel and garlic to the roasting tin and turn with the squash and another tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft and starting to caramelise around the edges. Then scatter over the walnuts and cook for 8-10 minutes. By the end, the veg should be tender and caramelised, and the walnuts lightly toasted and fragrant. While the veg are roasting, cook barley in plenty of well-salted boiling water until tender, but still with just a bit of nutty bite, approx 30 minutes.

Drain well and toss with the roasted veg, walnuts and any oil from the roasting tin, the rest of the olive oil, the lemon juice and the parsley. Grill or griddle strips of the halloumi until charred and place on top of the salad.  Season with salt and pepper, and finally drizzle a little olive oil over the top, and a sprig of parsley if you want it to look extra pretty.

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Nana Martin’s scrumptious family dinner

Nana Martin made this last night and we all had seconds.  It is healthy, scrumptious and best of all can be adapted according to whether you want chicken, vegetarian quorn chunks, tuna or prawns as the main ingredient.  The sweet chilli sauce is more sweet than spicy so fine for kids, and you could vary the vegetables that you use.  Serve this together with some pasta, rice or a jacket potato.  Serves 3-4.

Ingredients

Main ingredient: 3 chicken breasts, chopped; OR small pack of vegetarian quorn chunks: OR 2 tuna fillets, chopped or 2 cans tuna; OR pack of frozen or fresh prawns

1 clove garlic, chopped/crushed

120g mushrooms, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

Small tub creme fraiche

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce

Fry the chicken, veg quorn chunks, tuna or prawns in a little oil until golden/cooked.  Seperately fry the garlic, mushrooms, onion and pepper for approx 10 minutes, until cooked and tender.  Add the main ingredient, creme fraiche, tomato puree and sweet chilli sauce and stir and cook for a few more minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve with pasta, rice or jacket potatoes.

Kids packed lunches special!

Several of you parents have requested a blog about kids packed lunches.  These savoury and sweet snacks are based on things I have have tried with 2 year old Freddy and his friends, or on other mum’s recommendations.   The snacks that require cooking are quick to prepare and make enough for several portions, so save you time in the long run.  They will keep for a few days in an airtight container or can be frozen.  If you take a portion out of the freezer in the morning it should have defrosted in time for lunch.  Hope my ideas work for you!

SAVOURY SNACKS

Tortilla wraps or bread with the following fillings (takes minutes!):

  • Cream cheese and grapes/pineapple/olives/avocado.
  • Peanut butter and grapes.
  • Canned tuna, mayo and sweetcorn.
  • Houmous and grated carrot/cheese and grated carrot with mayo.
  • Tinned sardines and tomatoes.
  • Mackeral pate (mix/blend together fresh or tinned mackeral, cream cheese, spring onions and a little lemon juice).
  • Shop bought falafel with houmous.
  • Egg mayo (check out my previous making egg cress sandwiches with kids blog here:

https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/food-with-kids-growing-cress-then-making-sandwiches-8/).

You could make sandwiches look more interesting by cutting them in to shapes with cookie cutters.

Lunch on a stick – Use straws to make kebabs using any combination of food e.g. cheese, leftover veg, meat, quorn, olives or cubes of tortilla omelette.  You can cut the straw so it fits in your child’s lunchbox.

Mushroom roast (20 mins  prep/30-40 mins cooking)  – This childhood favourite is loaf sized, so it will provide several portions.  It is also good as a family meal or with roast veg as a veggie Sunday roast!  See recipe below.

Savoury carrot and feta cake (20 mins prep/40 mins cooking) – As with mushroom roast this is loaf sized so can be cut in to wedges, or alternatively you can make mini cakes.  You could make variations on it depending on what you have at home e.g. replace the carrot with grated courgette or add chopped veg such as pepper (no need to cook first) or squash (needs pre-cooking) and/or nuts for extra protein.  See recipe below.

Spinach and cheese muffins (15 mins prep/35 mins cooking) – These cheddar cheese and spinach muffins are a great snack size.  If you don’t have spinach you can use different veg instead and can add things like pumpkin seeds and pine nuts for extra nutrition.  You could grate carrots or courgette in.  See recipe below.

Cream cheese or houmous in pots with chopped veg for dipping in – Kids seem to like dipping!

Red pepper and cheddar tortillas (10 mins prep/up to 50 mins cooking) – – These mini oven-cooked omelettes are bound to be a hit.  See the recipe in a previous blog here: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/kids-snack-red-pepper-and-cheddar-tortillas-10-mins-prep50-mins-cooking-3/

SWEET SNACKS

Sugar free banana bread (12 mins prep/50 mins cooking) – This super quick to prepare banana bread contains oats and is sugar and egg free, but the vanilla essence and raisons make it sweet enough to appeal.  You can choose what nuts to add e.g. walnuts/pecans/brazil nuts.  See recipe below.

Fruit and seed muffins (15 mins prep/25 mins cooking) – I mentioned these in a previous blog.  You can vary what fruit you put in (whether fresh, canned or frozen).  They are sugar free which works for some kids but you may want to add a little sugar if your child expects more from a ‘sweet’ muffin!  See the link here:

https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/08/12/two-healthy-sweet-snacks-to-make-with-kids-fruit-and-seed-muffins-and-fruit-cereal-pots/

Fruit on a stick – Use a straw to make a kebab with fresh and/or dried fruit.

Apricot, honey and pistachio flapjacks (10 mins prep/40 mins cooking) – Again you can vary what fruit/nuts you put in these delicious flapjacks.  See recipe below.

Further suggestions for kids packed lunches are always welcome.  Oh, and just one last thing if you have younger children…these snack pods are great!

They are basically tubs with handles and a cleverly cut hole so kids can stick their hand in to get the food inside but the food cannot fall out.  They encourage self feeding and are great for snacks like raisons, beans or chopped fruit/veg etc.  I use them a lot on journeys as it makes the snack last longer and prevents mess!  Your local pound shop or supermarket may have them. Here is a link:

http://direct.asda.com/ASDA-Little-Angels-Snack-Pod-6-Months/002661976,default,pd.html

Recipes mentioned above

Mushroom roast

Ingredients

200g mushrooms, chopped

Large knob of butter

1 onion, chopped

150g grated cheese

90g breadcrumbs (I just blend some slices of bread)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp marmite

Seasoning

Fry the mushrooms and onions in the butter for approx 10 mins, then drain the butter out.  To the mushrooms and onions add the grated cheese, breadcrumbs, marmite, beaten egg and seasoning, and mix.  Place the mixture in a greased baking dish/loaf tin and push down.  Bake at 190 degrees/gas mark 5 for approx 35 mins, until nicely brown.  Leave to cool for 15 mins.  It can fall apart a little when you get it out of the tin.  Works well cut in to pieces as a snack, or as an alternative to a roast/family meal with roast veg (try with this roast veg with gremolata recipe:

https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/velvet-cupcakes-plus-a-great-veg-side-dish/).

Mushroom roast recipe from Vegetarian Cook Book by Doreen Keighley

Savoury carrot and feta cake

Ingredients

50g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
100g plain flour
100g cornmeal or polenta (available from supermarkets)
1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 carrots (about 200g), peeled and grated
180g feta, crumbled
3 eggs, lightly beaten
150ml milk

Warm the butter in a small frying pan over a medium-low heat and sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the cumin, stir for a minute, then set aside to cool.

Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Butter a 1.5-litre loaf tin, or a loose-bottomed Victoria sandwich tin, and line with buttered baking parchment.  Sift together the flour, cornmeal/polenta, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled cooked onion, grated carrot and feta. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, then mix into the flour mixture until just combined, and pour into the prepared tin (or tins).

Bake large cakes for 40 minutes, smaller ones for 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer comes out with no crumbs attached. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Savoury carrot and feta cake recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Spinach and cheese muffins (makes 12 – 14)

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter/marge

1/2 small red onion

360g plain flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

250g grated cheddar cheese

220ml whole milk

1 egg

130g spinach leaves

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/gas mark 3.  Melt butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion until cooked. Set aside. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk and egg together, then slowly pour into the flour mixture and beat until all the ingredients are well mixed. Stir in the onion and spinach with a wooden spoon until evenly dispersed.

Spoon the mixture in to paper cases until two-thirds full and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and a knife/toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place the muffins on a wire rack to cool.

Spinach and cheese muffins recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery – Cupcakes and Muffins book

Sugar free banana bread

Ingredients

450g ripe bananas,mashed

50g chopped nuts

100ml sunflower/vegetable oil

100g raisins

75g rolled oat flakes

150g plain flour

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl.  The consistency should be moist.  Spoon in to a greased 450g (1 lb) loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50 to 60 mins or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 mins.

Recipe from www.bbcgoodfood.com

Apricot, honey and pistachio flapjacks (makes 16)

140g butter

140g soft brown sugar

2 tbsp honey

175g rolled oats

75g chopped pistachios

140g dried chopped apricots

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees/gas mark 4.

Put butter, soft brown sugar and honey in a small pan, then heat gently until melted. Tip oats, pistachios and apricots into a medium bowl. Pour over the melted butter mixture and stir to combine. Transfer to a 20cm x 20cm greased and lined baking tray and cook for 35-40 mins, until slightly browning. Remove and cool in tin, then slice into 16.

Recipe from www.bbcgoodfood.com

Fantastic variations on a roast autumn/winter soup!

The idea behind this post is a basic soup recipe that you can add to, to suit your tastes, dietary needs and the social occasion.  It is delicious, hearty and very healthy.  Kids seem to like it too.  Serves approx 4.

Basic recipe

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Put a roughly chopped onion plus a peeled chopped vegetable/vegetables of your choice in a roasting tin (try butternut squash, carrot, parsnip, sweet potato, celeriac or beetroot).  Add two crushed garlic cloves, a few sprigs of thyme and some olive oil.  Cook until the veg are slightly caramelized but not burnt, turning them a few times.  Blend the roasted mixture along with veg stock (approx 2 stock cubes in hot water) until the right consistency.  If you want extra texture, only blend 3/4 of the soup.

(Beetroot soup with creme fraiche)

If you want a high protein soup

  • Boil red split lentils in the stock before blending it with the roasted veg mixture (works best with butternut squash, carrot and/or sweet potato).  OR
  • Add a tin of butter beans after the basic recipe has been blended.  Gives extra texture too.

If you want to add spice/extra flavour

  • A few minutes before you’ve finished roasting the veg, add spices such as ground cumin, ground coriander or garam masala.  OR
  • Roast the veg with some fennel seeds/spinkle a few seeds on top before serving.  OR
  • After blending and before serving, add some finely chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or coriander.

If you want to impress

  • When serving, swirl some double cream or creme fraiche in to the soup.
  • Top with surprisingly simple to make sage and chestnut gnocchi (recipe below).
  • Top the soup with garlic ciabatta croutons.  See recipe below.
  • Top with shaved parmesan.
  • Don’t forget a drizzle of olive oil to finish off all the above toppings.

(Butternut squash soup with sage and chestnut gnocchi)

Hope the soup warms up your autumn/winter!  Please let me know if you have any further suggestions.

Recipe for sage and chestnut gnocchi (from Waitrose magazine)

Gnocchi are little dumplings that are a staple in the Italian diet. I am very excited to have made them for the first time and discover how quick it is (about 15 mins once you have baked the potato).  I think it takes practice but it turned out well and tasted lovely.  The gnocchi can also be a meal in their own right – just add some blue cheese/goats cheese, rocket and olive oil.

Ingredients

1 baking potato, about 250g

50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

20g grated parmesan

Pinch ground nutmeg

1/2 egg, beaten lightly

2 tbsp chestnut puree (available in supermarkets)

4 sage leaves, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  Bake the potato for one hour until soft, scoop out the flesh and pass through a sieve or potato ricer in to a bowl (I didn’t do this – they still worked but may have been better had I done).  Add the flour, parmesan and nutmeg and mix.  Stir through the egg, chestnut puree and sage.  Alternatively chuck it all in a blender!  Lightly flour a work surface and, with your hands, roll out the dough to form a sausage about 1.5cm in diameter, cut in to 2.5cm pieces.  Gently roll, then press with the back of a fork to create ridges (I forgot to do this and wish I hadn’t!).

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add half the gnocchi and simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the gnocchi float to the top.  Remove the cooked gnocchi and transfer to a bowl of cool water.  Repeat with the remaining uncooked gnocchi.  Remove from the water and set aside to dry on a tray covered with a clean tea towel.

If you wish you can then dust the gnocchi with a little flour and fry for a couple of minutes until starting to colour, but it is not essential.  Top each bowl of soup with a few gnocchi and serve.

Note: You can freeze gnocchi once you have cut them in to pieces, as long as you keep them seperated.  You will know when they have cooked as they will rise to the top of the water in the saucepan.

Recipe for garlic ciabatta croutons (by Jamie Oliver)

These croutons compliment soup by giving crunch and extra flavour.  The croutons also work well in salads.  Yum.

Ingredients

1 ciabatta loaf

4 cloves garlic, crushed

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees/gas mark 7.  Rip the ciabatta loaf in to small or large chunks and put in a roasting tin.  Add olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and mix it all up.  Cook until crisp and golden, approx 15 – 20 mins. Add croutons to each bowl of soup and serve, or put them in a seperate bowl for people to help themselves.

Easy peasy pecan pie (15 mins prep/30 mins cooking)

This pecan pie is so easy to make my two year old son did most of the work!  And everyone loves it.  The recipe is from a great 1980’s cook book that my old housemate used to own.  She agreed to give me the book if I made her the pecan pie, and since then I’ve made it a dozen times.  I think the book was quite popular in it’s day as my boyfriend raves about it’s ‘superb cheesecake’ recipe that his mum used to make, and I’ve also heard the’ haddock chowder’ is a winner (both likely to be the subject of future blogs).

Here is the pecan pie recipe, which serves approx 6, depending on how greedy you are.

Ingredients

130g crushed digestive biscuits (food processor makes this super quick)

65g  butter or marge, melted

2 eggs

75ml double cream

75ml golden syrup

Pinch salt

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

75g dark soft brown sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

75g chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  In a mixing bowl combine the crushed biscuits with the butter.  Turn the mixture in to approx 8cm tin and press the crumbs firmly and evenly over the sides.  Put aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, cream, golden syrup, salt, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla essence and mix well.  Add the pecans and stir.  Pour the mixture in to the crust and place the tin on a baking tray.  Bake for approx 30 mins, until the top of the pie is brown and puffy.  Watch carefully towards the end of the baking to prevent burning.  The filling will set as it cools.  Serve with cream or ice cream.

Super healthy Scandinavian mackerel salad (15 mins prep)

This is an extremely healthy, great value, delicious Scandinavian style salad.  I love the crunch of the watercress and red onion alongside the flaky mackerel, buttery potatoes and juicy capers.  I think it’s nice to have the potatoes and mackerel served warm.  A big dollop of mayonnaise is essential.  Don’t worry, I’ll be making up for this healthiness by blogging an awesome pecan pie recipe soon…

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 smoked mackerel fillets

70g watercress (or any salad leaf)

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 potato, chopped

Teaspoon capers

Boil the potato until soft and tender then add some butter, salt and pepper.  Put the watercress on plates and top with the potatoes, flaked mackerel (heated if you wish – takes one minute in the microwave), red onion and capers.  Drizzle with a little olive oil.  Serve with mayonnaise.

Curried potato pasties (20 mins prep/20 mins cooking)

This pasty is very easy to make – simply boil some potatoes and peas and fry onions, curry paste, coriander and mustard seeds then wrap the mixture in puff pastry.  I much prefer it the next day reheated in the microwave for a couple of minutes, as it makes the pastry more dense and less flaky.  It goes nicely with a big dollop of chutney and some salad.  You could also add some pickled onions and cheese to make it in to an alternative ploughmans lunch.  Be careful not to overcook the pasties or they will be too hard.  Makes 4.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

300g potatoes, cut into small chunks

100g frozen peas

2 tsp oil

1 onion , sliced

1-2 tsp curry paste (any type – I used Sainsbury’s korma paste)

1 tsp black mustard seeds

Handful coriander , chopped

375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.  Heat a large pan of water, add the potatoes, then cook for 8 mins until just soft. Add the peas 2 mins before the end of cooking time. Drain, then set aside. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan. Fry the onion until soft and slightly coloured. Add the curry paste and mustard seeds, then fry for a few mins more until the mixture smells fragrant. Carefully stir in the potatoes and peas, trying not to mash them, and finally the coriander.

Unroll the pastry rectangle, place on a floured surface with the long side towards you and roll it out a little more to make it into a square shape. Cut into 4 squares, then cut each one in half so you have 8 long rectangles. Place 4 of them onto a baking sheet, brush the edges with beaten egg and place a quarter of the filling down the centre of each. Top with the remaining pastry, then pinch the edges together to make a sealed parcel. Brush with more egg, then bake for 20 mins until puffed and golden. Serve with fresh green salad and a spoonful of chutney.