Cooking with kids – Toad In The Hole

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Toad in the Hole (along with mushroom roast) is the nostalgic taste of my childhood.  I decided to become a vegetarian aged six, so it was an extra special treat to have a traditionally meaty dish with the sausages nestled in puffed up golden batter (even if the sausages were Linda McCartney vegetarian ones!)

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This recipe is based on 7-year-old Sam’s recipe from BBC Good Food.  I choose it as the reviews said it was foolproof, and indeed it is.  I have simply added some dried herbs for extra flavour, and included 2 veggie sausages as well as meat ones, since I still don’t eat meat.  The kids helped place the cooked sausages in the casserole dish, make and mix the batter and then pour it over.

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We all absolutely loved eating the Toad in the Hole, alongside some roast vegetables and gravy (see below for empty plate evidence)!  Allow time to cook the sausages, 5 mins to make the batter and around 35 minutes for the whole dish to bake.

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Toad In The Hole (serves 4 with veg)

8 cooked sausages (can be meat, vegetarian or a mixture of both)

140g plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

175ml semi-skimmed milk

1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs

Cook the sausages as per the pack instructions.  While they are cooking make the batter by tipping the flour in to a bowl with the salt, making a well in the middle then cracking in the eggs.  Use an electric whisk (if possible) to whisk it together, gradually adding the milk.  Leave to stand while the sausages finish cooking.

Heat the oven to 220 degrees/gas mark 7.  Arrange the cooked sausages in a casserole/baking dish, then pour the batter all around them.  Sprinkle the dried herbs on top of the batter then bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes, until puffed up and lightly golden.  Eat with roast veg and gravy!

My Easy Veggie Ramen

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I LOVE RAMEN.  A big slurpy bowl of goodness which is particularly enjoyable when it is cold outside.  You can eat lots, safe in the knowledge it’s pretty good for you.  Feel free to experiment with what veg you use, or add cooked prawns, meat or tofu to the vegetables for extra substance.  In fact, this is a great soup for using up leftovers so almost anything goes.  Also you could cheat a bit and get a pack of instant miso soup and use that as the water/stock base.

Allow 15-20 minutes to prepare the ramen, and remember the garlic, ginger and chilli amounts are only a guide – you may wish to use less or more, according to taste.

My Veggie Ramen (serves 2)

2 eggs

2 tbsp oil (any is fine)

3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed

Small thumb of ginger, chopped very small, or minced

1 red chilli, chopped very small

4 mushrooms, sliced

4 large cabbage leaves, sliced thin

1/2 red pepper, sliced thin

4 spring onions, chopped small

1 litre hot water (or 1.5 litres if you want the soup more watery)

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tbsp soy sauce

200g noodles (any is fine – I use fine noodles which cook in 3 mins)

4 radishes, sliced thin

1 avocado, sliced in to small chunks

Small handful of coriander, roughly chopped

Chilli garlic sauce (or whatever sauce you fancy)

Boil the eggs in water for around 6 minutes, then drain, put them in cold water and set aside.

Fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for 1 minute in the oil in a saucepan.  Add the mushrooms, cabbage, red pepper, spring onions and fry for another few minutes, until softened.  Add the water, crumble the vegetable stock cube in, add the soy sauce and noodles and simmer for a few more minutes until the noodles are cooked.  Ladle in to bowls then top each bowl with the radishes, 1 egg chopped in half (hopefully it will be a little soft in the middle!), avocado slices, coriander and chilli garlic sauce.  Slurp then go back for more!

Potato, Onion and Fennel Tortilla

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This potato, onion and fennel tortilla is my favourite recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals cookbook.  The slightly caramelised potatoes and red onions are delicious encased in the egg, and the fennel seeds are a really interesting addition.  As you can see my tortilla turned out flatter and more like an omelette, but it doesn’t matter either way!

We ate our omelette/tortilla with baked trout and peas and sweetcorn, but it would also be nice with a salad and/or sausages.  My kids enjoy eating it with their hands (hence it also makes a great cold snack the next day)!  Allow about 30 minutes to make.

Fennel seeds are one of my *exciting ingredients* and also work well in fish pies and Mediterranean tomato based sauces.  They are cheap and last for months in the cupboard!

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Potato, Onion and Fennel Tortilla (serves 4-6 with a side)

200g potatoes, chopped very small in to approx 1cm chunks (I don’t bother peeling – I like the nutty texture)

1 red (or white) onion, chopped small

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large clove garlic, crushed

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

5 eggs, lightly beaten, with a little salt and pepper

Fry the potatoes in a frying pan in oil on a medium heat until they start to soften and get a little golden (about 8-10 mins), then add the onion, fennel seeds and herbs.  Mix well and keep stirring for another 6 mins or so, until the onion is soft.  Add the garlic and stir, then pour the eggs in.  Briefly stir and swirl the eggs in the pan until the pan is covered and the other ingredients are nicely spread out.

Once the egg starts to set around the edges, you have two choices.  You can either finish the tortilla off by cooking the top for a few minutes under the grill until set (my preferred option) or you can leave it on the hob to gently cook through.

Once cooked, carefully cut the tortilla in to wedges and eat alongside whatever you fancy.

Chickpea, herb and halloumi salad

This chickpea, herb and halloumi salad is an old favourite of mine from the excellent Cranks Vegetarian Cookbook.  It manages to be both refreshing and filling at the same time.  The flavours of the lemon and herbs really compliment the rocket, chickpeas, roast tomatoes and olives, and the fried halloumi on top is a salty treat.  It’s lovely whatever the season and only takes 20 minutes to make (or 10 minutes if you don’t roast the tomatoes) – whoop!

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Chickpea, herb and halloumi salad (serves 2-4 depending on appetite)

2 x 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 tbsp lemon juice

100g pitted black olives, cut in half

Small handful chopped parsley

Small handful chopped coriander

Oil (ideally olive oil but any is fine)

1 clove garlic, crushed

200g halloumi cheese, sliced fairly thick

100g rocket (spinach would also work)

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

If you want to roast the tomatoes (to make them extra sweet), put them in a baking tray with a drizzle of oil and roast on gas mark 6/200 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until soft and slightly charred, stirring them a couple of times to prevent sticking.  Alternatively you can just use them raw.

In a bowl mix the chickpeas with the lemon juice, olives, parsley and coriander, a good dash of oil and the garlic.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Dry fry or griddle the halloumi on both sides in a fairly hot frying pan until golden – this should only take 1-2 minutes each side.

Once the cherry tomatoes are cooked, place some rocket on each plate.  Add the chickpea mixture, the tomatoes and finally top with 2 or 3 slices of the halloumi and a drizzle of oil.  Eat and enjoy!

Veggie sausage and bean cobbler

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This dish is genius because it is healthy, wonderfully warming on a winter’s day and many of the ingredients can be used instantly from your freezer or cupboard.

Baked beans and frozen veg are mixed with cooked sausages and stock to make a tasty stew and then topped with homemade cheesy scones to transform the stew in to a cobbler! The scones are really simple – you just mix the ingredients and then dollop the mixture in messy mounds on top and let the oven turn them golden. The whole dish is a real treat and shows how convenience food can be healthy if you choose wisely.  I have adapted the recipe from Netmums (www.netmums.com), who have lots of family friendly recipes.

Allow about 25 mins prep plus 40 mins cooking time.

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Veggie sausage and bean cobbler (serves approx 6)

For the stew

1 onion, roughly chopped

6-8 sausages (could be meat or veggie. To save time further buy frankfurters then probably no need to pre-cook)

2 cans baked beans

500g frozen veg (could be anything – I used a bag of mixed veg – peas, sweetcorn and carrots)
1 vegetable stock cube (I like OXO)
2 tbsp hot water

1 tsp dried mixed herbs

For the cheesy scone (cobbler) topping

125g self-raising flour

75g cheddar cheese

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp oil (e.g. olive/vegetable oil)

60ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.  Grill/bake the sausages until browned, leave to cool slightly then chop in to bite sized chunks.  Meanwhile fry the onions in a little oil for approx 5 mins, until softened.  In a casserole dish mix the onion with the baked beans, frozen veg (straight from the freezer) and chopped sausages.  Crumble in the stock cube, water and dried herbs and mix really well.

To make the cheesy scone topping mix the flour and cheese together in a bowl with a fork.  Add the egg, oil and milk and mix again.  Using your hands take out smallish mounds of the mixture and dollop it all over the veg and sausage mixture until fairly evenly covered.  The scone topping may be a little sticky so keep a glass of warm water next to you to keep rinsing your fingers.

Bake in the oven for 25-40 minutes (this depends on your oven!), until the scones have puffed up a bit and gone golden brown (it is fine if they sink in to the stew a bit).  Devour and feel warmed up.

Sundried tomato and olive loaf (no knead!)

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If, like me, you are scared of properly making bread and/or are short on time, then this sundried tomato and olive loaf is for you.  You literally mix all the ingredients together and chuck it in the oven, with no need to knead (!)  Once cooled the loaf cuts brilliantly and the sundried tomatoes, olives and dried herbs give it a lovely flavour.  It looks highly impressive and tastes seriously good with just butter on top.  I also cut the loaf in to small pieces and took it at school pick up, so it works well as an outdoor snack too.

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Allow 20 mins prep and 45 mins baking time.  You could freeze portions in bags then take out the same morning to eat at lunch.  Thank you to http://www.bbcgoodfood.com for the inspiration!

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Sundried tomato and olive loaf (approx 12 slices)

200g self-raising flour

Good shake dried mixed herbs or chopped thyme

3 eggs, lightly beaten

200ml milk

Very large handful pitted black or green olives, chopped in half

100g sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

100g cheddar, grated

Heat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Line the base of a medium loaf tin with greaseproof paper and grease the sides with oil/butter.

Mix the flour and herbs together in a large bowl.  Make a well in the centre, then add the eggs and milk, stirring all the time to draw the flour into the centre. Beat for 1 min to make a smooth batter.  If it remains lumpy, use a whisk to help separate the lumps (you will need to put some welly in to it!)

Add the tomatoes, most of the olives and two-thirds of the cheese to the batter. Pour into the tin, then sprinkle with the remaining olives and cheese. Bake for 35-45 mins until the loaf is golden and crusty on top and a knife inserted comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 mins, then turn out.  It will cut easier once it has cooled.  Will keep for a few days in a sealed container.  Gorgeous with butter on top!

Indonesian fried rice (nasi goreng)

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You may have noticed that I am quite in to rice at the moment.  It’s really versatile, pretty cheap and I find I can be quite adventurous with what I add to it, with a (normally!) happy response from everyone in the family.  This recipe is comforting and delicious, with the tasty texture of prawns, softness of the egg, the crunch of the veg and the subtle flavours of the sweetened soy sauce, ginger and coriander.  You could experiment with the veg content – broccoli, mangetout and baby sweetcorn would also work well.

I got the kids to guess the secret ingredient (ginger) – they didn’t, but were interested to know that ginger (normally associated with gingerbread men!) was in there.

Allow about 30 mins to make the dish (or less if you use microwave rice – just add it at the same point without pre-cooking it).  You can freeze any leftovers.  The recipe is a simplified version of one in Annabel Karmel’s The Fussy Eaters Recipe Book, which is full of great ideas.

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Indonesian fried rice (nasi goreng) – serves 4

160g rice (I like brown rice)

Any oil

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

1/4 red pepper, chopped small

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp grated/finely chopped ginger

Handful frozen peas

150g cooked prawns

1 1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp brown sugar

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

Cook the rice as per the instructions, then drain.  Meanwhile heat the oil and add the onion, pepper, garlic and ginger and cook for around 5 mins, until the veg is tender.  Add the cooked, drained rice, peas and prawns and stir fry for another few minutes, then add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly and scrapping the cooked egg off the bottom of the pan until it has scrambled (about 5 mins max).  Turn off the heat.

Mix the soy sauce and brown sugar together and stir through the rice.  Stir in the spring onions, then spoon in to bowls.  Serve with the coriander scattered on top!