Cooking with kids – sweetcorn soup with garlic bread!

Here is a simple, budget cooking activity that has a good chance of success with kids! I find they tend to enjoy the sweetness of sweetcorn and the tastiness of garlic bread.  And by the way, when I say ‘cooking’ with kids what I actually mean is ‘maybe getting your kids to join in for 2 minutes before running off’!  I never get long out of mine, but I believe every minute counts…

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

This cooking activity is a good way to introduce kids to both soup and garlic/parsley, and all ages can contribute – young children can spread the bread with the garlic butter and tip in the soup ingredients and older kids can help with the chopping and (supervised!) stirring.

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

garlic bread sweetcorn soup

If you want to tart the soup up a little for your adult portion top it with some chopped fresh parsley and chilli flakes.  Allow at least 30 minutes to prepare and cook this meal!

sweetcorn soup garlic bread

Sweetcorn soup and garlic bread (serves 4 as a light meal)

For the soup

2 tbsp butter

2 small tins sweetcorn (I used value sweetcorn)

1 onion, chopped

280ml milk

2 veg stock cubes, crumbled (I like OXO as it crumbles easily)

Salt and pepper

For the garlic bread

tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

50g butter, slightly softened for about 10 seconds in the microwave (you only want it soft – it still has to be solid and spreadable!)

Small baguette, chopped in to rings

For the soup, fry the onion in the butter for about 5 mins, until soft.  Add the sweetcorn (putting aside a tbsp of sweetcorn if you want the soup to have texture) and then the milk and simmer for 5 mins.  Crumble in the stock cubes.  Use a hand blender for a good while to make it smooth.  If you want, add the remaining sweetcorn afterwards so there are a few bits visible in the soup.  Otherwise blend all the sweetcorn.  Add a little hot water if you think it is too thick.  Season the soup if you like but remember there is salt in the stock cubes so you may wish to leave salt out of your kids’ portions.

For the garlic bread, mix the softened butter with the parsley and garlic and spread it on to the rounds of baguette (you may have some garlic butter leftover).  Bake in the oven on gas mark 6/200 degrees for approx 7 minutes (maybe longer), until the bread is lightly browned and the garlic butter has melted in to the bread.

Serve the soup, topping the adults’ (or adventurous kids’) portions with fresh parsley and chilli flakes  for extra flavour and effect!  Eat along with the garlic bread, dunking it in to the soup if you fancy!

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Rich, tasty paella in 40 mins

I recently made the discovery that my two year old loves seafood.  This, and the recent pack of saffron that my mother -in-law brought me back from Turkey, lead me to one conclusion – make paella!  Paella is a traditional Spanish rice recipe that can be made in many different ways but over here we know it best with rice, seafood and peas.  My recipe is pretty simple and the saffron (a deep red threaded spice used in paellas, risottos and French fish soup) is optional – the dish will still taste rich enough without it. My family love chorizo so I added a bit to their portions but this is also optional – a seafood mix of prawns, mussels and squid is plenty of flavour and texture without the chorizo.

simple paella

We all loved this dish apart from my oldest who pushed it away dramatically without trying it.  I guess seafood divides people!  A hearty meal to warm you up at this cold time of year.

simple paella

Paella (serves 5)

Oil

1 leek, chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp tomato puree

200g tinned chopped tomatoes

300g paella rice or long grain rice

1 litre vegetable stock (I like Oxo as it crumbles easily)

300g frozen seafood/paella mix (normally contains prawns, squid and mussels)

Optional – 1/2 tsp saffron

200g frozen peas

Large bunch parsley, chopped

Heat the oil and soften the leek for 5 minutes.  Add the turmeric, paprika, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes and stir.  Add the rice and stir some more then pour in the stock.  Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.  Pour in the frozen seafood/paella mix and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the saffron.  Add the peas, stir and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the rice is cooked (if it seems dry add a little water).  Season, sprinkle with parsley and serve!

Algerian omelette from The Park Cafe (10 mins prep/15 mins cooking)

algerian omelette

Hands down one of THE most memorable meals I ate in 2014 was an Algerian omelette from the brilliant Park Cafe In The Hub in Victoria Park, London.  An unusual omelette made from eggs (obviously), chips, cheese, red onion, tomato, coriander and smothered in a smokey harissa rub, it is like a big, comforting, spicy hug.  The cafe’s manager Jamsheed very kindly shared their recipe with me so I could recreate it at home (I have also simplified it slightly).   While mine is not a patch on the cafe’s own, it is definitely worth a try!

algerian omelette

The cafe make their chips properly in a deep fat fryer while I cooked my shop-bought chips in the oven and as usual managed to overdo them slightly – try to just about cook yours without browning them too much.  The cafe also make their own harissa – a fiery North African rub that is used to flavour and marinate food (mostly meat) – while I bought mine from the supermarket.  I am addicted to harissa at the moment and have also been rubbing it on to halloumi cheese before griddling and enjoying it with salad.  For another harissa recipe using fish click here https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/moroccan-style-coley-20-mins-prep15-mins-cooking-depending-on-size-of-pan/.

To fully appreciate this Algerian omelette recipe I would suggest visiting the Park Cafe in the Hub itself (which has a number of other equally wonderful and interesting menu options).  If you have children or just happen to like slides then you can enjoy the massive, fast slides in the play area next door too!

algerian omelette

Algerian omelette (serves 2 hungry people)

4 eggs

1 small red onion, finely chopped

8 cherry tomatoes, each quartered

Large bunch coriander, chopped

Large handful grated cheddar

30 chunky/regular chips

Harissa (available from supermarkets)

Cook the chips (either in the oven or a deep fat fryer) until just cooked but not too browned.  While they are cooking get a mixing bowl ready.  Crack in the four eggs with the onion, tomato and most of the coriander.  Mix gently until the egg is blended well and make sure the texture is not too fluffy.

Once the chips are ready place and spread them in a fairly hot pan with some oil (veg or rapeseed oil – the cafe recommend rapeseed oil as it brings out the flavours more but i didn’t have any so used veg oil).  After one minute pour over the egg mixture, on a medium flame.  Cook for a few minutes until the egg is 3/4 cooked, then sprinkle on the cheddar and place it under a grill.  Once the egg is fully cooked and the cheese is melted and slightly browned, smear on the harissa (generously if you want lots of flavour and spice!) and place it under the grill again for 40 seconds.  Remove and garnish with the remaining coriander.  Cut and serve (with a crispy salad if you like).

Recipe by The Park Cafe in the Hub, Victoria Park, Hackney, London.  You can find their website at http://www.theparkcafeinvictoriapark.com, Facebook ‘The Park Cafe in the Hub’ and on twitter @jamsheedt