Veggie Tortilla Soup (20 mins)

We love this Veggie Tortilla Soup!  It is hearty, tasty and perfect to slurp on a cold day.  The soup is Mexican and traditionally made with chicken but there is plenty of flavour and texture without it, plus a hit of protein in the black beans.  Allow 20 minutes to make it.

If you are making this for kids too then you could leave out the chilli in the cooking and have it on the table instead.

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Veggie Tortilla Soup (serves 2)

1 tortilla, cut in to thick strips

Oil

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1/2 green or red chilli, chopped small

1/2 red onion, sliced

Can of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp cumin seeds/ground cumin

Tin of black beans, drained

Salt and pepper

2 lime quarters

1/2 avocado, sliced

1/3 block of feta, to crumble

Small handful of coriander

Heat the oven to 20 degrees/gas mark 6.  Put the tortilla strips on to a baking tray and bake them for a few minutes on each side, until golden and crispy.

Separately heat some oil in a saucepan and add the garlic, chilli and red onion and fry for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Add the canned tomatoes, cumin, black beans and a little salt and pepper.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon the mixture in to bowls then top each bowl with a lime quarter, avocado, feta, the coriander and the tortilla strips.  Slurp!

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Fun Family Turkish Breakfast

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A few months ago my boyfriend and our two boys went out for a Turkish breakfast at a local restaurant.  It was such a unique and delicious experience that we decided to recreate it at home!

This basically involved laying the table with lovely shop-bought bits for everyone to help themselves.  Help-yourself meals are always popular in our house, and there is zero pressure on the kids to eat everything (obviously I am secretly willing them to, but they often just choose two or three things).  We laid out: falafel (I like the Cauldron range); fried halloumi cheese; bread and honey; olives; cucumber; yoghurt and fruit; and rocket and tomato salad.  If you wanted to be really authentic you could also include sucuk (spicy and seriously tasty Turkish sausages), eggs, and muska boregi (Turkish pastries filled with feta cheese and herbs – if you can find them!)  For the adults we had builders tea Turkish style (black and with sugar!) and the kids had juice.  All in all a lovely experience,  a chance for the kids to try something different and a reminder that breakfast can be special too!

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For more ideas about help-yourself meals check out this previous post: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/help-yourself-lunch/

Radiant Ratatouille (20 mins prep/50 mins baking)

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I have always had a soft spot for ratatouille, a wonderfully flavoursome and colourful vegetable stew from the south of France.  My mum used to make a really tasty one and I have been known to eat canned ratatouille with a spoon when no one is looking.  Also, if you have ever seen the Pixar film Ratatouille, there is a beautiful scene where a mean and cynical food critic eats a forkful of ratatouille and the experience takes him back to his childhood and turns him in to a nice person..!

This recipe, from ASDA magazine, is simpler than many ratatouille recipes as you simply cover a dish with a can of tomatoes, garlic, dried herbs, basil and vinegar then chop the vegetables and layer them on top (allow about 20 minutes for this).  Bake for around an hour until all the flavours have mingled with each other and then eat it sprinkled with feta cheese alongside some rice.  Just gorgeous.

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Radiant Ratatouille (serves 4 with rice)

Tin chopped tomatoes

Large clove of garlic, crushed

Small handful of basil, torn or roughly chopped

Shake of dried mixed herbs

Dessert spoon of balsamic, white or red wine vinegar

Tbsp oil

1 aubergine, sliced

1 courgette, sliced

Approx 4 medium tomatoes, sliced

2 red onions, sliced

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Pour the tin of chopped tomatoes straight in to your casserole dish, add the garlic, basil, mixed herbs, vinegar and oil and mix well.

Arrange the vegetable slices in neat rows with alternating colours e.g. slice of aubergine/courgette/tomato/onion, and keep repeating this until you have filled the dish (as per the picture above).  Press the vegetables down in to the tomato mixture.  Brush or spray the top of the vegetables with a little oil, to encourage them to turn golden as they bake (this is not essential).

Bake the dish for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce is bubbling hot and the vegetables are tender.  Serve sprinkled with a little feta or goats cheese alongside some rice or bread.

 

 

 

Cooking With Kids – Baked Whole Fish with Tasty Roast Veg

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A fillet of fish in a packet bears no resemblance to the animal it used to be.  So I feel really strongly that if children are going to eat fish or meat they should find out where it came from.  I’d always assumed that cooking a whole fish would be technical and awkward, but actually if you buy it gutted and descaled then all you have to do is stuff it with lemon and herbs, shake over some salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and bake it until flaky .  My kids love the spectacle of peeling the cooked skin off and using a fork to serve themselves.  They really enjoy the texture and flavour of the fish and then seeing and touching the bones, head and eyes left at the end.  They don’t hold back, so having wipes nearby is a must!

My kids are young so I just get them to do little tasks when I am cooking.  In this case they chopped the olives in half with a blunt knife (next time it will be a proper knife!) and stuffed the fish (seabass) with the herbs and lemon slices.  The fish is baked on top of sliced potatoes, onions, the olives and sundried tomatoes, which become sweet and chard, along with the subtle flavour of the lemon juice.  Other vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli, pepper, tomatoes and asparagus would also work well.  Sainsbury’s do a pack of ‘British sea vegetables’ which you can fry in minutes, and make a great accompaniment (not according to the kids though, who stuck to their peas!)

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The whole dish is fun to eat as you can put it in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.

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Baked Whole Fish With Tasty Roast Veg (serves 2-4 depending on appetite)

2 large potatoes sliced

1 onion, sliced

12 olives, chopped in half

6 sundried tomatoes, chopped small

2 whole sea bass or other similar sized whole fish, descaled and gutted

Handful of parsley

2 lemons, sliced

Olive oil (or any other cooking oil)

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Spread the sliced potatoes, onion, olives and sundried tomatoes out on a baking tray or large casserole dish to make a sort of bed for the fish, and pour over some oil.  Lay on the descaled and gutted whole fish and stuff them with the parsley and lemon slices (don’t worry if they come out the side a bit).  Finally drizzle the fish with a little oil and shake over some salt and pepper.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the fish is flaky and cooked, taking out the fish briefly to turn over the veg halfway through cooking.   Let everyone serve themselves and the kids explore the fish as much as they like.  Watch this video from 37 seconds in for how to eat your cooked fish – it is simpler than you think!

 

 

 

Family-Friendly Couscous with Fried Halloumi

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This is a delicious, fresh tasting summer dish.  Couscous (it doesn’t even need cooking!) is mixed with courgettes, sundried tomatoes, chickpeas, spring onion, pine nuts (optional), mint, parsley, garlic and lemon juice, and topped with slightly charred and naturally salty halloumi cheese.  Super satisfying!  My kids generally turn their nose up at more adventurous cheeses like brie or goats cheese, but love halloumi.

You could vary or scale down what ingredients you use, to make it appeal to your family specifically.  I think mint, garlic and lemon juice are essential flavours though.  Veg wise peppers, fresh tomatoes, soya beans, red onion, green beans and asparagus would also work well.  And feta cheese would make a great substitute for halloumi.  Allow about 15 minutes to make everything.  If you have a griddle pan then use that to fry the halloumi, otherwise a regular non-stick frying pan is fine.

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Summer Couscous with Fried Halloumi (serves 4)

200g couscous

1 small courgette, chopped small

4 sundried tomatoes, chopped very small

Can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Large handful of mint (add more if you want a really fresh flavour!)

Small handful of parsley

6 spring onions, chopped small

Optional – pine nuts, toasted (do this by frying them in a hot dry pan until slightly browned for about a minute, shaking regularly to avoid them burning)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled

1-2 tbsp oil from the sundried tomato jar (or any oil)

1 block halloumi cheese, sliced

Make the couscous as per the pack instructions (normally only takes 5 minutes).  Meanwhile, fry the courgette in a little oil for 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, mint, parsley, spring onions, pine nuts (if using), garlic, lemon, vegetable stock and  oil.  Heat for another minute or two until warmed through.  Taste and add salt and pepper and extra mint if you think it needs it.

Griddle or fry the halloumi on each side, until golden and slightly crispy (1-2 minutes each side).  Spoon the couscous salad in to bowls and top with a few slices of halloumi and a sprig of mint.  Eat!

Noodle Salad with Asian Pesto

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I spotted this Noodle Salad With Asian Pesto recipe in the Itsu cookbook, and really fancied trying a different take on traditionally Italian pesto.  This pesto is made from unmistakably Asian ingredients – coriander, mint, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce.  The pesto is mixed with noodles, avocado and topped with fresh chilli and toasted seeds, and I have added some soya beans too.  This is a really unusual and warming dish!

Toasting seeds is really simple – you just briefly dry fry them in a non-stick frying pan, shaking regularly.   I buy frozen soya/edamame beans lots, and you don’t even need to cook them, they just need to defrost.  They are great for adding to salads, as a snack or with scrambled eggs, and make a nice alternative to peas.

My kids were a bit sceptical when I served up this meal, as they adore regular pesto, but they ate most of it in the end.  We had just watched a beautiful and insane Japanese family film called Spirited Away so were able to link the food to the film!

Noodle Salad With Asian Pesto (serves 4 and takes around 20 minutes)

For the Asian Pesto

50g coriander, roughly chopped

1 tbsp mint leaves

Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated tiny

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp lemon or lime juice

1 tbsp honey

For the salad

320g noodles (any is fine)

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 ripe avocados, chopped

2 tbsp soya/edamame beans, defrosted or fresh (no need to cook them)

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

1 red chilli, topped tiny

To make the pesto, put all the pesto ingredients (leaving a little coriander for serving) in a blender/food processor and blitz until it is a smooth sauce.

Cook the noodles as per the pack instructions, drain and toss with the sesame oil.  Add the chopped avocados and defrosted/fresh soya beans.  Toast the sunflower and pumpkin seeds by heating them in a dry non-stick frying pan for 30-60 seconds, shaking regularly so they don’t burn.

Add the pesto, avocados and soya beans to the noodles and put in to bowls.  Top the mixture with the toasted seeds, chilli and remaining coriander leaves and eat!

Cheat’s Summertime Pizza

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I love recipes that make life easier, but involve a few touches to make them your own.  This colourful, delicious, summery pizza is just that – you buy a margarita pizza and then add sweetcorn, prawns and pesto (either homemade or shop-bought).  If you’re making the pesto you will need a food processor.

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If you like you could vary what ingredients you use to make this a summertime pizza – other seasonal summer ingredients are spring onions, tomatoes, asparagus, crab and rocket.

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We ate the pizza in the garden with our hands, along with some chopped carrots and cucumber and a jug of squash.  Yum!

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Cheats Summertime Pizza (serves 4)

Large Margarita pizza

Small tin sweetcorn, drained

Small pack of king prawns

Shake of dried mixed herbs

For the pesto (alternatively use shop-bought pesto)

40g watercress or rocket

Juice of 1/4 of a lemon

1 clove garlic, crushed

Small handful of pine nuts (or other nuts)

Dessert spoon of oil (ideally olive oil but any will do)

Optional – 1 tsp chilli flakes

Put the Margarita pizza on a baking tray.  Scatter over the sweetcorn and prawns and a shake of the herbs.  To make the pesto, blitz all the pesto ingredients in a food processor until well combined, adding a little more oil if it needs loosening up.  Dollop the pesto  all over the pizza.  Scatter over the chilli flakes if using (or just use them on half if you want half of the pizza to be non-spicy).  Cook the pizza as per the packet instructions.  Eat with hands!