Cheesy leek and veggie sausage pasta

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This hearty, cheesy leek and veggie sausage pasta only takes 20 minutes.  Because 20 minutes is quite enough time to spend on dinner.

You could use a variety of possible cheeses e.g. blue cheese, cheddar or parmesan.  In this case I fried chopped, uncooked veggie sausages and leeks in butter and then mixed in creme fraiche, blue cheese, a stock cube and cooked pasta, and it was ready!  Quick, simple and yummy.  My kids react to blue cheese like it is some kind of monster, but mixed up in the pasta there were no complaints.

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Cheesy leek and veggie sausage pasta (serves 4)

1 large leek, finely chopped

5 uncooked veggie frankfurter sausages, chopped in to bite sized pieces (I used Quorn hot dogs)

Some butter/margarine

250g shaped pasta e.g. penne/fussili

150ml  creme fraiche

50g blue cheese, crumbled or cheddar cheese, grated

1 vegetable stock cube (I like OXO as it crumbles easily)

Fry the chopped sausages and leeks in butter or margarine for about 8 minutes, until cooked through.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the pack instructions.  Add the creme fraiche and blue cheese or cheddar cheese to the leeks and sausages and mix well.  Drain the cooked pasta and add.  Crumble in the stock cube and mix everything really well.  Eat!  Nice with a little grated cheddar sprinkled on top.

Mum’s fruit salad

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My mum makes these wonderful fruit salads that have so much more flavour and texture than I ever thought possible.  She gave me the recipe, and I tweaked it a little (sorry mum!)  You basically use any combination of fruit (but including a banana) and mix it with orange zest, orange juice, raisins, ginger and toasted nuts.  The nuts are the star ingredient as they add a kind of charred, slightly bitter crunch.  As long as you have the essential ingredients then you can decide what quantities to use.  The whole thing must be eaten in silence and with concentration as it is so delicious!

Mum’s fruit salad (serves however many you want)

Any combination of chopped fruit e.g. banana, kiwi, apple, satsuma, mango, pear

Sprinkle of orange zest (use a grater)

A little orange juice

Raisins (ideally soak them for at least 30 mins in warm water to plump them up)

Walnuts or pecans, dry toasted for a few minutes in a saucepan (move lots to avoid burning!)

Ginger (you can use finely chopped fresh ginger, finely chopped stem ginger from a jar or you can crumble ginger biscuits on top of the fruit salad)

Optional – chopped dates or chopped dried apricots

Optional – chopped fresh mint

Mix everything together.  Eat!  Great with a dollop of Greek or natural yoghurt.

 

Quesadillas (a top recipe!)

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These quesadillas were described by my 5 year old son as ‘awesome’ (a word normally only used to describe lego creations).  They take just 15 mins and are really versatile.  Quesadillas originate from Mexico and are made by putting a tortilla wrap in a frying pan, sprinkling on cheese and vegetables (and plenty of other possible ingredients), then topping it with another tortilla.  Once cooked and crispy on both sides they can be cut in to  portions.  This recipe uses red pepper, spring onion, cheddar cheese and dried herbs but you could also use: other cheeses (such as goats cheese or red leicester), chorizo, ham, cooked chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh coriander or fresh chilli.  Mumsnet even has a breakfast quesadilla recipe with sausage, scrambled egg, cheese and tomato inside.  And we ate the two leftover tortillas the next day with grated cheese, grated apple and a little grated broccoli, for a savoury/sweet snack.  You can buy gluten-free tortillas.

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Pile the cooked and cut quesadillas on to a plate so people can help themselves, and eat alongside avocado slices, guacamole and/or sour cream.  To make a quick guacamole mash avocado then add garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil.  And finely chopped tomatoes, chilli and coriander if you have them (not essential though).  A beer is a pretty good accompaniment too!

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Any leftover tortillas can be folded and frozen in freezer bags then taken out to defrost a few hours before needed.  For an alternative and equally tasty tortilla recipe try these veggie mince cups: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/veggie-mince-cups/

Quesadillas (serves 4)

6 flour tortilla wraps

1/2 red pepper, finely chopped

4 spring onions, finely chopped

100g cheddar cheese, grated

Dried herbs or roughly chopped fresh coriander

Place a tortilla wrap in a medium hot, dry frying pan (no oil needed).  Sprinkle over 1/3 of the grated cheese, 1/3 of the chopped pepper and 1/3 of the chopped spring onions plus a sprinkle of herbs.  Once the cheese is melting place another tortilla on top, pressing it down pretty hard.  Keep checking the underneath of the bottom tortilla and once it’s golden brown, flip the whole thing over so the other tortilla can brown.  Once the other side is cooked take the whole thing out, place on a plate and cut it in to 6-8 portions (a pizza cutter is easiest but a sharp knife is fine).

Repeat this process two more times until everything is cooked.  Eat the quesadillas piled on a plate and alongside chopped avocado/guacamole/sour cream.  I like to dollop the guacamole on top of the quesadilla portion.  Delicious!

Marshmallow crispy squares

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These marshmallow crispy squares are a great kids treat, contain four ingredients and are really easy to make.  You mix melted marshmallows with rice crispies, vanilla essence and butter then put the mixture in the fridge to harden.  I found the recipe on http://www.allrecipes.co.uk when I was looking for very low effort school fair recipes!  The school fair organiser said anything topped with a chocolate button or sweet sells instantly, hence the smarties.

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Marshmallow crispy squares (makes around 12)

50g butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g marshmallows
100g rice crispies (or similar)

Grease a smallish baking tray with butter or margarine, or line it with greaseproof paper.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the vanilla. Melt the marshmallows into the butter, stirring. Add the rice crispies when the marshmallows have melted and stir until they are coated. Quickly pour into the prepared tin and press down tightly and evenly. Top with chocolate buttons if you like!
Let set for 2 to 3 hours. Cut into squares.

Chickpea, spinach and potato curry

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I wanted to make a tasty veggie curry that is spicy and without an endless list of ingredients, and here it is!  You can eat the chickpea, spinach and potato curry scattered with coriander and with rice, naan bread or poppadoms (or all three!)  It is perfect with cucumber raita on the side (mix yoghurt with chopped cucumber, crushed garlic and a shake of pepper).

The curry contains garam masala, an Indian spice mix, which is a great spice to introduce to children as it is slightly sweet and not fiery.  My kids were not convinced about this dish, but they love kedgeree, which also uses garam masala and is one of our top family meals: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/my-one-pot-kedgeree-ready-in-20-mins.

Also, if you drain a can of chickpeas and shake over a little oil and garam masala and then roast in the oven for 15 minutes on a fairly hot heat, out come crunchy roast chickpeas!   A great snack for on the go.  Yes, garam masala has to be one of my *exciting ingredients*.  Anyway, I’m rambling, so here is the recipe.  Allow about 30 minutes to make it.

Chickpea, spinach and potato curry (serves 4)

1 large potato, chopped small (don’t bother peeling it)

1 onion, chopped small

100g spinach, roughly chopped

Can chickpeas, drained

1 large clove garlic, crushed

Little finger of ginger, chopped very small

1/2 can coconut milk

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (or more if you fancy)

Optional – if you want it spicy – fresh chilli or chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

Cook the potato in a pan in oil for about 12 mins until tender.  Add the onion and cook for another 5 mins.  Add the spinach and chickpeas, garlic, ginger, garam masala and cumin and cook for 1 minute.  Add coconut milk and seasoning and simmer for a final 5 mins.  Scatter with coriander (and chilli if you wish!) and eat alongside rice, naan bread or poppadoms.

Eggy bread (10 mins)

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Eggy bread is one of the standout treats of my childhood.  Lovingly made by my mum.  You soak bread in beaten egg, fry each side until golden and slightly crispy then top with sugar and ground cinnamon.  You could also eat it with a little honey on top and bacon on the side.  This time my boys helped plonk the bread in the saucepan (with supervision!)

Nothing beats using demerara sugar as the granules are large and crunchy so you get a little nugget of sweetness.  But any sugar will do.  Comfort food in 10 minutes!

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Eggy bread (serves 2)

2 pieces bread

1 large egg, beaten

Splash of milk

Butter/marge

A little sugar

A little ground cinnamon

Beat a large egg, mix in a splash of milk then pour in to a shallow bowl.  Put both pieces of bread in the bowl to soak, turning them over so they evenly absorb the mixture.  Heat a little butter in a pan  until melted and bubbling slightly then add the bread.  Fry for a few minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through.  Eat topped with sugar and cinnamon!

Cookbook review: ‘Make It Easy Cookbook’

I was recently asked to review ‘Make It Easy Cookbook: Foolproof, Stylish and Delicious Do-Ahead Recipes’ by Jane Lovett.

The first thing I did when the glossy, untouched book arrived in the post was to have a good look through it. I immediately liked the balance between more traditional English recipes and the array of more unusual and international ideas. The intro from the author Jane Lovett is warm, passionate and she assures us she has tried and tested the recipes many times and likes to cook great food for friends and family with minimum fuss.

The make ahead tips are an excellent bonus, as it is very clear if the tasks can be broken up and done in advance to save doing everything in one go. There is also useful advice about where to find certain ingredients or alternatives. My only tiny criticism is there were a few recipes without photos, and I like to be able to visualise every single one!

As for trying out the recipes: the spanakopita (Greek feta and spinach pie) was very simple to prepare and with only a few ingredients. It smelled amazing and tasted like salty, fragrant comfort food. We ate it hot for dinner and cold for packed lunch the next day. The parmesan-baked fennel was a subtle and classy side dish that was very easy to make and the touch about decorating it with the fennel fronds was lovely. The oriental salad was crunchy, zingy and only took 20 minutes to prepare. I loved how it encourages you to decide what quantity of each ingredient to choose, and think it is a really versatile dish. The salmon en croute with lime and coriander sauce is an interesting twist on a classic dish. So impressive and succulent and yet again it took only 20 mins to prepare!

I absolutely loved the plum frangipane tarts, which are a seriously great fancy dessert staple to have up your sleeve. They were much more straightforward than I expected and looked like something out of a French patisserie! I think I will add a little vanilla essence to the frangipane next time. The ginger creams with pistachio brittle were also totally manageable and very impressive. It was my first time making caramel and it worked! I will also use the brittle recipe to top shop-bought ice cream. I had to increase the flour content in the blue cheese and poppy seed biscuits but once cooked they were a big hit in our house. We ate half and froze half to enjoy later over Christmas.

Other recipes which I plan to try are: Tom Ka Gai (brothy soup); mushroom, thyme and taleggio galettes; Swedish salmon; quick creamy smoked haddock, saffron and chive risotto; baked vietnamese sea bass; tartiflette; crispy straw potato galettes; spiced roast root vegetables (similar to something I make lots at home); panzanella; pineapple and lime carpaccio; spiced orange panna cotta with blueberry compote; lavender and lemon shortbread and soda bread.  I don’t eat meat but there are plenty of meat recipes to choose from too.

Overall, ‘Make It Easy’ pushed me to try recipes I might have written off as too complex, which was a great thing. Those I tried were both simple and delicious!

‘Make It Easy Cookbook: Foolproof, Stylish and Delicious Do-Ahead Recipes’ by Jane Lovett is published by IMM Lifestyle Books.  It can be bought online at http://www.immlifestylebooks.com/page/detail/Make-it-Easy-Cookbook/?K=9781504800549 and from many other online book retailers or well known high street shops.