Asian prawn salad with toasted peanuts

Here is a pretty little salad with delicate Asian flavours that takes 10 mins to put together (plus 10-30 mins marination time) and makes a light meal.  If you fancy hosting an Asian inspired dinner party and using a smaller version of this salad as a starter, then check out this previous post for thai fish curry and easy mango ice cream to complete the menu:  You will undoubtedly impress your guests!


1-3 tbsp sweet chilli sauce – according to taste

Juice of 1 lime

2 tsp Thai fish sauce

Handful chopped fresh mint leaves

200g cooked prawns

1 carrot, peeled and ribboned (you can use a peeler to do this)

1 cucumber, peeled and ribboned (you can use a peeler to do this)

2 spring onions, finely sliced

50g peanuts, toasted (by frying without oil until they start to brown)

Handful fresh coriander leaves

Mix together the sweet chilli sauce, juice of 1 lime, fish sauce and the chopped mint leaves. Add the prawns, mix well, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 10 minutes, but 30 minutes if you have the time to spare.  Put all the other ingredients in a large bowl and toss well. Add the prawns and marinade, stir well and serve.


Kids snack – peanut butter, honey and seed booster bars

I love traybakes because they are quick and last for several days, plus you can put in lots of healthy ingredients such as dried fruit and seeds.  This is a particularly good tasting sort of flapjack that should be a winner even with fussy kids, like two year old Freddy whose favourite phrase at mealtimes is suddenly ‘NO I WANT SOMETHING ELSE’.  Grrrrrrr.  As a variation on this recipe you could replace the peanut butter with a mashed banana.  Recipe is from the brilliant cookbook River Cottage Everyday and makes 16.  Check out the ‘kids snacks/meals’ category on the right side of my blog for further ideas!


125g unsalted butter

150g soft brown sugar or light muscovado sugar

125g no-sugar-added crunchy peanut butter

75g honey

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

200g porridge oats (not jumbo)

150g dried fruit, such as raisins, sultanas and chopped apricots, prunes or dates, either singly or in combination

150g seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, poppy, linseed or sesame

Line a baking tin, about 20cm square. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees/gas mark 3.  Put the butter, sugar, peanut butter, honey and grated orange zest in a saucepan over a low heat. Leave until melted, stirring from time to time.  Stir the oats, dried fruit and the seeds into the melted butter mixture until thoroughly combined. Spread the mixture out evenly in the baking tin, smoothing the top as you go.  `Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until golden in the centre and golden brown at the edges.  Leave to cool completely in the tin (be patient – it cuts much better when cold), then turn out and cut into squares with a sharp knife. These bars will keep for 5-7 days in an airtight tin.

Family classic – tuna pasta bake in 25 mins!

Here is a nutritious, good value, scrumptious family meal.  I like to make a big dish of it to last for two dinners.  You could add other finely chopped veg such as brocolli or cabbage for extra goodness.  Serves 6.


500g pasta (I like macaroni as it’s a good size for toddlers)

1 red/white onion or bunch spring onions, finely chopped

2 tins sweetcorn

3 small tins tuna chunks

150g peas

250ml mayo

1 tsp dried mixed herbs or handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Large handful of breadcrumbs (I blend one slice of bread)

150g cheddar cheese

Cook the pasta according to the pack instructions, adding the peas a few minutes before it is done.  Meanwhile mix together the onion, sweetcorn, tuna, mayo and herbs then add to the cooked, drained pasta and peas.  Heat it all through and put the mixture in to a casserole dish.  Seperately mix together the breadcrumbs and cheese, put it on top of the pasta mix and grill until golden brown.

Gorgeous veggie gravy (5 mins prep and 1 hour simmering)

I’m a bit chuffed with this gravy.  It’s my thriftier, simplified version of a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe and it turned out rich and flavoursome.  It’s very easy to make as long as you have an hour or so spare to keep an eye on it as it simmers.  I had it over some root vegetable mash (mash a combination of vegetables such as celariac, squash, swede, carrots or sweet potato with some puy lentils, butter, ground cumin and honey) and shop-bought veggie sausages.  The gravy would also compliment mushroom roast (recipe below).  Make sure you give the gravy a good stir before serving.

Ingredients for gorgeous veggie gravy

2 tbsp olive oil

2 onions (white or red), chopped

400ml red wine or port

200ml veg stock (I used an Oxo cube)

2 bay leaves

Sprinkle of dried mixed herbs

1 tbsp caster sugar

Salt and coarse ground black pepper

Put the oil and onions in a pan and fry, stirring occasionally, for five minutes, until well coloured.  Add the wine/port, stock, bay leaves, dried mixed herbs, sugar and salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for around an hour until the liquid has reduced to a thicker, gravy like consistency.  Serve.

Ingredients for mushroom roast

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

Salt and pepper

Fry the mushrooms and onions in the butter for approx 10 mins.  Add the grated cheese, breadcrumbs, marmite, beaten egg and seasoning, and mix.  Place the mixture in a greased baking dish/loaf tin and bake at 190 degrees/gas mark 5 for approx 35 mins, until nicely brown.  Leave to cool for 5 mins.  Works well for a Sunday roast or as a cold snack cut in to wedges.

From Vegetarian Cook Book by Doreen Keighley

Oriental stir-fried veg with marinated halloumi (10 mins prep/15 mins cooking plus 1 hour to marinate)

This dish is fantastically tasty and packed with veg and protein.  Initially when I asked my boyfriend’s opinion of it he charismatically replied ‘it is good, very good’, but when pressed to be more specific he said ‘it looks healthy, but it doesn’t taste like I’m being lectured’ .  I love the flavours that the marinated halloumi add to the crunchy veg.  This dish is pretty substantial on its own but if you want a carb hit you could eat it with rice or noodles.  Recipe is by Sainsbury’s and serves 4.


Halloumi light cheese, drained and chopped in to bite size chunks

4 tbsp olive oil

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed/finely chopped

15g piece ginger, finely chopped

1 tsp soft brown light sugar

1/2 tsp Chinese five spice (available from supermarkets)

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 red pepper and 1 yellow pepper, cut in to thick strips

200g green beans

100g brocolli, cut in to small florets

150g beansprouts

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

Place the halloumi in a shallow dish and stir in 2 tbsp olive oil plus the onion, garlic, ginger, sugar and Chinese five spice.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and the sesame oil in a large frying pan or wok and stir-fry the peppers, beans and brocolli for 5-6 minutes.  Add the beansprouts and cook for a further 1 minute.  Add the cheese mixture to the pan together with the soy sauce and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Serve.

So simple baked blueberry cheesecake (15 mins prep/40 mins cooking)

The more I bake stuff the more I realise I shouldn’t have been scared of it for all those years, and this dessert is one example why.  All I had to do was put the ingredients in a bowl, mix it up and pop it in the oven, and look how nice it turned out!  Tastes good too.  You could use lots of other fruit instead of blueberries e.g. raspberries/blackberries/strawberries.  Recipe is from and serves 8.


8 digestive biscuits

50g butter/marge, melted

600g cream cheese

2 tbsp plain flour

175g caster sugar

Vanilla extract

2 eggs, plus 1 yoke

142ml pot soured cream

150g blueberries/raspberries/blackberries (whatever you fancy!)

Heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Crush 8 digestive biscuits in a food processor (or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Mix with 50g melted butter/marge. Press into a greased 20cm springform tin and bake for 5 minutes, then cool.

Beat 600g cream cheese with 2 tbsp flour, 175g caster sugar,a few drops of vanilla extract, 2 eggs, 1 yolk and a 142ml pot of soured cream until light and fluffy (I only did this for a couple of minutes). Stir in 150g blueberries and pour into the tin. Bake for 40 minutes and then check, it should be set but slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave in the tin to cool.

Fish stew with coriander, spring onion and chilli toasts

This is a sort of Mediterranean style fish stew with crunchy toasts on top, courtesy of Nigel Slater.  A good dish for entertaining!  The recipe includes mussels but I did not use them as they’re pricey.  I’m sure they would work brilliantly and make the dish look even prettier though.  You could use any white fish (I used pollock).  Oh, and for all you anchovy haters out there, this dish is proof that they are great to use as seasoning – they dissolve within about one minute of being in the frying pan!  I think the toasts would also compliment lots of soups (see my previous soup special blog here for ideas:  Baguette can be tricky to get out of the toaster so you may find using a grill or a griddle/frying pan to brown it is easier.  Or just cut up regular toast!  Serves 4.


For the soup

3 large cloves of garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

6 anchovy fillets

2 bay leaves

3 sprigs of thyme or tsp of dried mixed herbs

Optional – Glass of white wine or dry sherry

2 x 400g can of tomatoes

500ml fish or vegetable stock (I like OXO)

Approximately 400g of assorted fish per person (pollack, gurnard, etc)

Optional – 24 mussels

For the toasts

8 thin slices of baguette

2 red chillies

Small bunch of coriander

4 spring onions

Peel and finely slice the garlic and cook in a deep pan with the oil, anchovies, orange peel if you’re using it, bay and thyme/dried mixed herbs till the garlic is golden and the anchovy has dissolved. Pour in the wine, boil rapidly for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes. When the sauce is thick and slushy, lower in the fish, firmest first. Then, once the fish is opaque and tender, add the mussels. Cover with a lid and, when the mussels open, serve with the toasts tucked among the fish.

To prepare the toasts, toast the bread. Seed and very finely chop the chillies, the coriander and the spring onions, and mix together. Divide the mixture over the toasts.

Ginger hot chocolate – a great Christmas gift

It’s nice to have a jar of this at home to warm you up.  But it also makes a great little Christmas gift.  To make a cup of ginger hot chocolate simply put 2 teaspoons of caster sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of cocoa, 1/3 teaspoon of cornflour and 1/3 teaspoon (or more or less depending on preference) of ground ginger in a cup, mix it up and add hot milk.  For a proper treat top with mini marshmallows and other sprinkles such as chocolate crispies (available in supermarket homebaking sections).  To make a jar as a present, just sterilise the jar first (instructions below), fill the jar with an increased quantity of the mixture (minus the milk of course), and decorate the jar as you please.   You could fill another jar with toppings too.  I just recycle jam/olive jars.

Here are Nigella Lawson’s instructions for sterilising jars:

‘Wash them well in hot, soapy water, rinse well with hot, clean water and dry with a clean cloth. Then put the jars in an oven preheated to 140 degrees/Gas Mk 1 for 10 minutes. Put the contents into the warm jars, seal and leave until completely cold then store in a cool, dark place’ (from

More edible Christmas gift ideas coming up!  In the meantime check out this chilli jam recipe from a previous blog:

My veggie chilli with roast avocado and cheesy tortilla chips

I’ve been tweaking this veggie chilli recipe for years and think it’s ready to share.  It goes nicely with some cheesy tortilla chips and roast avocado, which if you haven’t already tried you really, really should as it’s an unexpected treat.  Or alternatively you could have the chilli with rice, pearl barley (low GI option!) or on top of a jacket potato.  It contains the *exciting ingredient* soy sauce, which is great for adding a richness to tomato based sauces.  If you’re feeding kids and don’t think they’ll like chilli, just leave it out.

You can change the veggie chilli in to veggie bolognaise sauce by omitting the kidney beans and instead frying veggie mince with the vegetables.  And of course leaving out the chilli… Hope you like it!  Serves 4 – 6.


For the veggie chilli

Olive oil

2 cloves of chopped/crushed garlic

1 tsp of dried mixed herbs

Approx 8 mushrooms, finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 courgette, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

2-3 tins of chopped tomatoes

2 tins of red kidney beans

Half a tube of tomato puree

2 tablespoons of soy sauce (and possibly more, according to taste!)

3 veggie stock cubes to crumble in

1 red chilli, very finely chopped, or 1/2 – 1 tsp ground chilli, depending on how hot you like it

Salt and pepper

(Optional – a big glug of red wine, added at same point as chopped tomatoes)

For the roast avocado

3 ripish avocados, skin off and cut in to quarters

Sprinkling of cumin seeds

For the cheesy tortilla chips

200g packet of tortilla chips

Grated cheddar cheese

1 tsp pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to a hot setting.

Fry the garlic and herbs in the olive oil for a minute and then add all the vegetables.  Once they are tender (approx 10-15 mins) add all the other ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes.  When adding the chilli, keep testing it to see how hot you want it.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, put the avocado quarters on to a baking/roasting tray and drizzle over some olive oil and scatter on some cumin seeds.  Roast for approx 15 minutes until the avocado is a little golden.  Then on the rest of the baking tray add the tortilla crisps, top them with the cheese and sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds.  Pop the baking tray back in the oven for about 5 minutes until the crisps are a little golden too.  Serve the cheesy crisps and avocado with the veggie chilli.