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.

Fish finger surprise (20 mins)

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I can’t claim credit for this culinary masterpiece (!) as my boyfriend invented it.  It is simple, appealing to kids but with a lovely little extra – you serve the mixture of pasta, chopped fish fingers and peas with a wedge of lemon that they can squeeze over their meal.  My kids love doing this and my oldest son (nearly 6) feels all sophisticated knowing that he is adding the flavour himself.  He also now knows that fish and lemon are a great pairing!  Since we first had this meal my boys have suggested a couple of other foods that would go well together.  The most memorable is ready salted crisps and jam – I held in my laughter and judgement and let them try it and my youngest seemed quite keen!  The important thing is that they are up for experimenting with flavours and their suggestions are taken seriously.

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The first time my boyfriend made fish finger surprise he added the lemon himself and asked the kids to guess what the surprise ingredient was.  And the second time we served the bowls with lemon wedges.  Chopped and stir fried broccoli, asparagus or soya beans would also work well instead of the peas.  Stir frying or steaming are the best ways to retain the goodness in vegetables, whereas boiling gets rid of most of it.

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Fish finger surprise (serves 4)

8 fish fingers, cooked as per the pack instructions

150g-200g any pasta, depending on appetite

Large handful frozen peas

Knob of butter

1 lemon, cut in to quarters

Cook the pasta as per the instructions, adding the peas a few minutes before the pasta is cooked.  Drain, add a knob of butter and stir.  Chop the cooked fish fingers and add them to the pasta with a little salt and pepper.  Either add the juice of 1/2 lemon if you want the kids to guess the magic ingredient, or put a wedge of lemon in each bowl for people to squeeze themselves.

 

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!