THE BEST Tuna Pasta

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I recently ate this one-pot Tuna Pasta at my friend Jen’s, who is a genius at making tasty comfort food.  It was by far the best tuna pasta I have ever had, so once again I consumed an unacceptably rude amount of it.  In addition to the traditional tuna, sweetcorn and pasta, Jen adds feta cheese and olives, which give the dish a wonderful salty creaminess.  She also adds peas for extra goodness.

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There is no need to finish the dish off in the oven so it only takes about 20 minutes to make.  It also happens to be a good introduction to feta cheese for kids – my kids only knowingly eat cheddar or halloumi cheese but they wolfed this down without question!

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Tremendous Tuna Pasta (serves 4)

300g pasta ( any is fine but Jen uses penne)

4 handfuls frozen peas

Approx 20 olives, cut in half (any is fine)

Small tin of sweetcorn, drained

2 small tins tuna, flaked

80g low fat soft cheese

1/2 block feta cheese (about 100g), crumbled

Good shake of dried mixed herbs OR fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Shake of pepper

Cook the pasta, and a few minutes before it is ready add the peas.  Drain.  Add the olives, sweetcorn and tuna and mix well.  Add the soft cheese and mix, adding a little water or olive oil if it needs loosening up.  Add the feta cheese, herbs and pepper, heat and stir for a few more minutes and then eat hungrily in bowls!

One-Pot Chunky Fish Chowder (30 mins)

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This chunky fish chowder is a tasty, one-pot dinner full of goodness from the fish and vegetables.  I’ve reduced the fat content by adding just a splash of milk, but you could keep it traditional and use more milk, or cream, instead!  The whole dish is ready in 30 minutes, and is great on it’s own or with some bread.

Chunky Fish Chowder (serves 4 )

1 tbsp oil

1 leek, finely sliced

4 medium potatoes, chopped small (I don’t bother peeling them)

Splash of water

1 vegetable (or fish) stock cube

330g can of sweetcorn, drained

320g fish pie mix, chopped  in to chunks (or any combination of fish such as salmon, trout, cod, coley, pollock – include some smoked fish in the mix to add lovely flavour)

Juice of 1/4 of a lemon

1 tbsp milk

Handful of chives, chopped

Fry the leek and potatoes in the oil for around 5 minutes, until the leek is soft.  Just about cover the mixture in water and simmer for another 8-10 minutes, stirring occassionally, until the potato is tender.  Drain the liquid off using a sieve.  Put the leek and potato back in the pan and crumble in the stock cube, add the sweetcorn, fish chunks, lemon juice and the milk.  Gently fry/simmer everything for around 6 minutes, stirring regularly, until the fish is cooked through.  Add salt and pepper if you think it needs extra seasoning.  Add the chives and mix well, reserving a little for topping the whole dish if you fancy.  Eat!

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!

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.

Wild West Rice (ready in 45 mins)

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Wild West Rice is based on Jamie Oliver’s version of a Native American recipe.  It’s a unique, sweet and nutty dish full of interesting flavours and textures.   Rice is mixed with dried cranberries, onion, chopped almonds, cinnamon, garlic, dill and lemon juice and eaten with lovely thick wedges of roast butternut squash.  We had the dish with baked trout but it would be nice with chicken or a salad too.  My kids rejected the butternut squash but liked the rice!  I had a feeling that would happen, but it was worth a try… They were intrigued by the name of the dish, which sparked off a discussion about cowboys.

I used a packet of pre-cooked microwave rice to speed things up, and stir-fried it with the other ingredients instead of microwaving it.  Pre-cooked rice is absolutely brilliant for making cooking times quicker and can be kept in the cupboard for a good while until needed!

Wild West Rice (serves 4)

2 tbsp any oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped

1 red/white onion, chopped small

1 packet microwave rice (I used brown rice)

Shake cinnamon (I probably used about 1/4 tsp but use what you like – avoid lots though as it will overpower the dish!)

Large handful dried cranberries

Small handful roughly chopped dill

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

1 butternut squash, skin on and deseeded, cut in to thick finger sized chunks

Heat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees.  Put the butternut squash chunks in to a baking tray, drizzle with 1 tbsp oil, season with salt and pepper and mix well.  Roast, shaking the tray every 10 mins and turning the chunks if necessary, for around  30-40 minutes, until soft and golden brown on the outside (time will depend on your oven).

Meanwhile, put 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan/saucepan on a medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion and fry for a few minutes until soft.  Add the rice and cinnamon, cranberries, dill and lemon juice and fry for a few more mins until all mixed and cooked through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Put the rice on a plate with the butternut squash chunks.  Eat with fish, chicken or a salad.

Afternoon Tea – at home

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A few weeks ago we were on our way to a very rare treat of ‘afternoon tea’ at a family cafe, when it all went wrong and we didn’t make it (I won’t go in to detail, but let’s just say that tensions were high).

Anyway, not to ruin the whole day, we decided to have afternoon tea at home, which turned out to be more fun than I reckon it would have been at the cafe.  The point of afternoon tea at home is to enjoy yourself and momentarily forget about having a balanced meal.  You don’t have to make anything from scratch as it is the experience that is most important.  You could get everything from the shop, make one thing yourself or go crazy if you feel like it.

Since we don’t have those fancy three layer cake stand thingies we constructed them out of an upside-down cup and two plates.  And my son helped me decorate kitchen roll sheets to use as napkins.

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The kids decorated the table with some bizarre things like an egg timer and a dice (!)  I made two sweet treats that I knew were pretty simple: a damp lemon and almond cake (the first cake I ever made a few years ago) and banoffee pie, plus we had some leftover digestive biscuits in the biscuit tin.  I also made some simple parmesan and poppy seed lollipops (see below for recipes) and got creative with the contents of the fridge – egg mayo sandwiches, cheese sandwiches and cheese and chorizo sandwiches.

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The kids had a carton of juice each and I used my gran’s dusty teapot to serve tea, but a jug of squash or even water with sliced fruit or cucumber is a great alternative.  If you have sweet lollipops handy you could put them in a cup for people to help themselves, or if you have fruit you could cut and thread them on to a straw or skewer.  Sausage rolls, cheese biscuits, cheese and pineapple, crisps, any sweet biscuits and scones and jam would work great too.  Absolutely anything goes!

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Here are the recipes I used:

Damp lemon and almond cake: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/damp-lemon-and-almond-cake-20-mins-prep1-hour-cooking/

Cheats banoffee pie: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/cheats-banoffee-pie-ready-in-30-mins/

Parmesan and poppy seed biscuits: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2012/12/29/snazzy-yet-simple-party-food/

And a few that would also work well:

Instant cheesecakes https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/instant-cheesecakes-for-the-party-season/

Veggie mince cups (feel free to fill with other ingredients as long as not too wet): https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/veggie-mince-cups/

Sausage rolls: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/stilton-crust-veggie-or-meat-sausage-rolls-20-mins-prep30-mins-cooking/

Choc peanut butter cups: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/02/04/chocolate-and-peanut-butter-cups-4-minutes-of-effort/

Pad Thai (ready in 20 mins)

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This delicious Pad Thai recipe (a classic Thai street food dish) is based on one in Asda magazine.  My lovely mother-in-law always keeps their free magazines for me as supermarkets always seem to have great recipe ideas.

This is a vegetarian dish full of texture, flavour, interestingly chopped veg and noodles, and is topped off wonderfully with lime juice, coriander and peanuts.  I am sure chicken and prawns would be great additions too.  To make it family-friendly, sweet chilli sauce or fresh/dried chilli can be added at the table.  I hope one day my kids take the plunge and add a bit of chilli to their meal!

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My youngest son wasn’t sure about this dish, but my oldest wolfed it down.  Three out of four of us liking it is pretty good though.  Allow about 20 minutes prep time.  And chop and freeze any leftover coriander in freezer bags, then it can be used instantly when needed!

Pad Thai (serves 4)

1 tbsp oil (e.g. vegetable/olive)
1 garlic clove, crushed
Thumb-sized piece ginger, finely grated/chopped
400g broccoli, roughly chopped
½ cabbage, finely sliced

Tofu or cooked prawns (I like Cauldron marinated tofu)

1 red pepper, descended and sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into ribbons
100g beansprouts
1 tbsp soy sauce
325g noodles (any is fine – I used medium egg noodles)
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, juiced
Peanuts, roughly chopped

Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan over a medium heat. Cook the garlic and ginger for 2 mins then add the broccoli, cabbage and pepper (and toy or prawns if using) and fry for 3-5mins until beginning to soften.  Toss in the carrots, beansprouts and soy sauce and fry for another 3 mins.

Separately cook the noodles and put them in bowls, then add the vegetable mixture, and top with the lime juice, coriander and peanuts.  Add sweet chilli sauce or fresh or dried chilli at the table if you fancy.