Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip

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This is an unusual and grown up sharing platter of roast autumn vegetables, prawns and tortillas with Aji Green Dip – a Peruvian sauce which is full of flavour and kick.  The dip is super easy and can be made in minutes in a food processor.  If you use ‘lighter than light’ mayonnaise then the dip is also officially low fat!

The whole platter is lovely to share with someone else for dinner, or with several others as a starter.  As an alternative you could use the dip as a sauce by spooning it over roast veg or meat or swirling it in to soups.

Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip (serves 2 as a main or 4/5 as a starter)

For the things to dip

1 tortilla, cut in to triangles (or a small bag of plain tortilla crisps)

Small pack of king prawns, dry fried for a few minutes (you can use cooked prawns straight from the packet but they are nicer warm)

3 parsnips/2 potatoes/2 carrots – chopped in to thin wedges

Tbsp oil e.g. olive or vegetable oil

For the dip

Small pack fresh coriander
1 green chilli, chopped in to 3
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp mayonnaise (if you use ‘lighter than light’ mayo the dip will be officially low fat!)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

First put the vegetables in an oven tray and drizzle over the oil, until everything is lightly coated.  Roast the vegetables for half an hour or so, turning a few times, until browned and cooked through (the exact time will depend a bit on the oven).  Ten minutes before the veg are done, arrange the cut tortilla in an oven tray and cook each side for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and crunchy.

For the dip, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for about 20 seconds, until smooth.  Serve in a bowl with the vegetables, tortillas and prawns placed around it for dipping!

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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!

 

 

 

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!

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!

Chicken (or Veggie) Chow Mein

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This delicious Chicken (or Veggie) Chow Mein recipe comes courtesy of Judy and Andy Mus, a couple who run excellent ‘Saturday Cooking Club’ family cooking classes in Walthamstow, East London. Judy says this is the most popular dish at their cooking club, with many people commenting that it tastes better than a take away!  Even many fussy eaters have enjoyed it.   I have added fresh coriander to the recipe, as I can’t get enough of it and it is nice to sprinkle on some fresh herbs.

You can use chicken, prawns, tofu or quorn chunks along with the veg.  Allow about 25 minutes to prepare and cook it all.   The kids could help with all aspects of the dish – here is a guide to cooking with kids, in particular a video about knife skills: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/guide-cookery-skills-age.  I had never let my kids cut with a sharp knife until I attended the cooking club!  It was a little scary, but my 6 year old did really well and still has all his fingers.
If you are local to Walthamstow then check out E17 Pop Up Kitchens on Facebook for info about upcoming cooking sessions. It costs £15 per family, is fun and relaxed, and there is no minimum age.

Chicken (or Veggie) Chow Mein (serves approx 4)

3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
Small thumb ginger, peeled and grated or chopped very small
1 clove garlic, crushed or chopped very small
Any oil, for cooking
2 chicken breasts, cut in to small chunks OR chopped smoked tofu OR quorn chicken chunks OR prawns
1 pepper, cut in to thin strips
5 spring onions, chopped
200g beansprouts

200g noodles (any is fine – I used medium egg noodles)

Optional – roughly chopped coriander

Mix the ketchup, oyster sauce, soy sauce, ginger and garlic together and set aside.

Heat some oil in a frying pan on a medium heat and add the chicken (or tofu, quorn chunks or prawns), stirring regularly for about 10 minutes, until it is white and cooked through.

Meanwhile cook the noodles as per the pack instructions and set aside.  To the chicken add the pepper and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Pour in the sauce and stir well until bubbling. Add the noodles, beansprouts and spring onions and mix well for another 2 minutes.  Eat, sprinkled with coriander if you wish.

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!

Very Mediterranean Pasta (20 mins)

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Please excuse the ridiculous name of this Very Mediterranean Pasta recipe.  But it is the most Mediterranean tasting dish I have ever eaten and that is what makes it so flavoursome and wonderful.  The pasta is mixed with a sauce of sundried tomatoes, olives, capers, artichokes (tinned for ease), garlic, parsley, chilli and anchovies.  Don’t be put off by the anchovies – they add rich and salty flavour to many dishes without a fishy taste, and are excellent seasoning.  They are also great added to tomato sauces and creamy sauces.

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Thank you to my friend Cynthia for this recipe.  She is married to an Italian man so I knew this would be a winner.  Allow about 20 minutes to make the dish, and if you arn’t keen on chilli or have spice fearing kids then leave it out or add it separately at the table.

Very Mediterranean Pasta (serves 2 hungry people)

200g pasta (any is fine)

3 artichoke hearts from a tin, drained and chopped small

4 sundried tomatoes, chopped small

12 black olives, chopped smallish

2 tsp capers

4-6 anchovies, chopped small

2 cloves garlic, crushed/chopped

1/2 red chilli, chopped or 1/3 tsp chilli flakes

Optional – 125ml any white wine (or use water)

Small handful parsley, roughly chopped

Pepper (as in salt and pepper)

Grated parmesan for topping

Do all the chopping first!  Then start cooking the pasta as per the packet instructions.  Separately gently fry the garlic and chilli in oil for 1 minute.  Add the sundried tomatoes and artichokes.  When softened, after a couple of minutes, add the capers, anchovies, olives and some parsley.  Add the wine or water. Simmer for a few minutes so the liquid reduces down, and keep stirring.  Taste and if necessary add pepper (you probably won’t need salt).

When cooked mix the pasta with the sauce.  If it looks a bit dry, add a splash of oil.   To serve sprinkle with a bit more parsley, and grated parmesan if you fancy.