One-Pot Chunky Fish Chowder (30 mins)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

 

Rice, tuna and veg bake (10 mins prep/30 mins baking)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ve had a busy weekend and we are all tired! So this rice, tuna and veg bake is a low effort, yet healthy, recipe. Simply mix a packet of pre-cooked rice with canned tuna, canned sweetcorn, chopped pepper, two eggs, a stock cube and dried herbs. Top with grated cheese and bake for around 30 minutes. The bake is tasty and satisfying, with the egg making the bottom go a little crispy.

Most of the ingredients are long-life and can be kept in the cupboard for when you need them, and even the fresh ingredients last a fair while in the fridge.  We ate the bake with broccoli, but peas would also work well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Those packets of pre-cooked rice (as used here) are readily available and brilliant at time saving and I buy them regularly now. As well as microwaving or baking the rice, I sometimes fry it straight from the packet with some veg, prawns and a little soy sauce for a 10 minute dinner. Or use it in an extra quick kedgeree, which is a favourite in our house. Anyway, back to the original recipe!

Rice, tuna and veg bake (serves 4)

1/2 red pepper, chopped small
Small tin sweetcorn, drained
250g packet of pre-cooked rice (I used brown basmati rice but any is fine)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stock cube, crumbled
Sprinkle of herbs
Small handful grated cheddar (or other hard) cheese

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.

Put all of the ingredients apart from the cheese in a casserole dish and mix well. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until slightly browned and crispy on top.

Cooking with kids – Prawn toasts

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I recently took the kids to a Chinese cafe to try out some Chinese food – the only thing they ate was rice and prawn toasts, which they LOVED.  We simplified an already straightforward sounding BBC recipe and tried making them at home: using a food processor you blitz prawns, cornflour, an egg white, garlic and spring onion, spread the mixture on bread, press on to sesame seeds then fry.  They are crunchy, delicious and authentic tasting!

My kids were ‘busy playing batpowder’ (whatever that means) so only helped a little – cutting bread in to (vague) triangle shapes and operating the food processor.

 

I strongly believe every second counts when ‘cooking with kids’ – somedays they might want to get really involved, other days they give just 10 seconds of their time and other days completely refuse.  But it is all experience and it is good for them to see the process!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You could prepare the prawn paste in advance if you want to save time later, and store any leftovers in the fridge.  Allow around 25 minutes to make the prawn toasts, depending on how much the kids get involved (or not!)  The toasts are great with sweet chilli sauce, for dipping.  We ate them with strawberries, a bit of an odd combination but we like both so why not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prawn toasts (serves 4 as a snack or part of a meal)

4 pieces of bread, crusts removed

1/2 cup of cooked prawns i.e. pink!

2 spring onions (white bit only)

1/2 clove garlic

1/2 white of an egg

Dessert spoon of cornflour

Sesame seeds

For frying – vegetable or sunflower oil

Put all the ingredients apart from the sesame seeds and oil in a food processor and blend until they are a paste.  Cut each piece of bread in to four triangles.  Spread the prawn mixture on to one side of each of the bread triangles and press down.  Fill a wide bowl or plate with sesame seeds and press each triangle in to it, so a layer of sesame seeds stick to the prawn paste.

Fill a saucepan with around 1/2 inch of sunflower or vegetable oil and once hot (but not smoking) plop in the breads for about 30 seconds on the plain side and around 1 minute on the prawn and sesame side until deep golden (this will vary a little so use your own judgement).  Use a slotted spoon to turn them over if you have one, otherwise a tablespoon will work (just make sure any excess oil drips off after they are cooked!)  Eat.

 

Salmon en croute with a Thai twist

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is a unique and impressive recipe. French classic Salmon en croute is given a Thai twist by topping the salmon with a creamy lime and coriander sauce. It is succulent and fragrant and we ate it for dinner with beans and samphire (how posh!) If you use shop-bought puff-pastry then it is simple to make. You can use a knife to cut out little shapes from any leftover pastry and stick them on top. I think I need to work on my egg glaze technique next time though as it could look better!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The recipe is based on one from a great new cookbook called ‘Make It Easy: Foolproof, Stylish and Delicious Do-Ahead Recipes’ by Jane Lovett.  It does exactly what it says in the title!  Allow 20 minutes preparation time plus 30 minutes cooking.  If you like you can prepare the salmon en croute a day in advance then brush it with the egg when ready for baking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Salmon en croute with a Thai twist (serves 2-4 people)

70g soft cheese

4 spring onions, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

Zest of 2 limes

Small handful fresh coriander, chopped

Salt and pepper

320g ready rolled puff-pastry

2 large ish and long salmon fillets, skinned

1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.  Mix the soft cheese, spring onions, garlic, lime zest and coriander together and season with salt and pepper.

Place some greaseproof paper on top of a large baking tray.  Cut the puff pastry in half (in to two roughly square shapes – see photo), leaving a little pastry aside for decorations.  Place a salmon fillet on each of the pastry squares, ensuring the pastry has plenty of room to envelope it.

Spread the soft cheese mixture evenly on top of both salmon fillets and fold the pastry over each, ensuring it is sealed (by pinching together) on the top and at both ends.  Make little leaves using a knife to cover the seal on top if you like.  Brush or carefully spoon the beaten egg evenly over the top.  Bake for 20-3o minutes until puffed up and golden brown.  If your oven is a bit rubbish like mine then you may need to turn the pastry over halfway through for even cooking.  Eat with greens!

 

Swedish salmon and potato bake (10 mins prep/1 hour cooking)

swedish salmon and potato bake

I love this traditional Swedish recipe, which I picked up in ikea of all places!  The smoked salmon baked with sliced potatoes, eggs and cream make it really delicious and comforting.  It’s a great family meal or something for a special occasion.  My kids love it too as it’s salty!

I buy smoked salmon ‘trimmings’ from the supermarket as they are much cheaper than regular smoked salmon (£1.25 for 120g) but equally tasty.  If you have a mandolin or a food processor with a veg cutter it only takes 10 minutes to prepare the mixture (plus 60 mins baking), or if cutting the potatoes by hand allow longer.  If you don’t want to spend ages thinly cutting the potatoes and slowly losing the will to live then cut them thick then parboil on the hob before mixing the ingredients together.  Saves time and effort!  Also I don’t bother peeling the potatoes – I like them with the skin on.

swedish salmon and potato bake

We ate the bake alongside some kale (well, we adults did, the kids won’t give kale the time of day).

swedish salmon and potato bake

Swedish salmon and potato bake (serves 6)

300g smoked salmon trimmings

8 medium size potatoes

1 vegetable stock cube (I like OXO as it crumbles easily)

2 eggs

320ml single cream

A little butter

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Cut the potatoes in to thin slices (or, if you can’t be bothered or don’t have a mandolin/veg cutter machine, cut them in to thicker slices then boil them for around 8 mins until nearly cooked).  Butter a casserole dish and add the potatoes and smoked salmon.  Mix well with your hands.  Whisk the cream and eggs briefly and crumble the stock cube in.  Pour over the potato and salmon and make sure it evenly covers them (it will slowly trickle through the layers).

Dollop a few bits of butter on top of the dish.  Cook for around 60 minutes until cooked through, slightly golden and bubbling.  Eat!

Mini make-ahead fish pies (15 mins prep/25 mins cooking)

make ahead fish pies

I am trying to make the most of my time and freezer at the moment, preparing big meals and then freezing some for later.   These yummy little fish pies can be cooked and served in small containers (I use recycled ramekins from shop-bought desserts) or in one big casserole dish.  I like using ramekins because they look sweet and my kids feel they are having something special.  Plus if you want to freeze some then you can freeze the pies in portions (I put the ramekins in a freezer bag).  Adults or older/hungrier kids may need at least two portions per meal though!

make ahead fish pies

The fish pies are simpler to make than most – you chop and boil some potatoes (I don’t bother peeling them) and mix with chopped fish, torn spinach, onion, parsley, soft cheese and a stock cube.  Make sure some of the fish is smoked to give the pies a particularly delicious flavour.  My kids and partner love smoked fish and wolfed their meal down!

If freezing, Freeze the pies once they are in the dish but before cooking, then you can simply take them out and put them in the fridge in the morning to defrost (or overnight if having for lunch), and cook at mealtime!

Don’t laugh, but I have decided to serve the kids a pretend ‘restaurant’ meal at home every so often, with posh napkins (tea towels).  We did this yesterday and they loved it.  They actually said things like ‘oh this waiter is very nice and her food is delicious’ and ‘thank you very much’.  They would NEVER say that normally..!

Mini make-ahead fish pies (fills 8 ramekins or a casserole dish)

8 small potatoes, chopped small and skins on

40g spinach, torn or roughly chopped

1 small onion, chopped small

300g fish pie mixed fish, chopped (or a combination of smoked fish and non-smoked fish.  Smoked river cobbler is particularly cheap and tasty.  You could also use smoked pollack, trout, cod, salmon etc).

Small handful parsley, chopped or shake of dried herbs

150g soft cheese (I use the value one)

1 stock cube

Good shake of dried mixed herbs

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.

Boil the potatoes for about 8 minutes, until tender.  Drain and put in a large bowl.  Add the spinach, onion, fish and parsley and mix.  Add the soft cheese and a little hot water and mix until the right consistency (see photo above).  Crumble in the stock cube and mix again.  Put the mixture in to individual ramekins/containers or a large casserole dish.  Cook on an oven tray for 20-25 minutes until bubbling and the fish is cooked through.  This may take longer in a casserole dish. Serve with a sprig of parsley on top.

If freezing, do this when the fish are in their containers but not cooked yet, then take out the night before or in the morning and cook as above (or maybe a little longer to ensure the pies are cooked through).

Smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette – a family favourite

smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette

This smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette is a favourite at our house and we eat it lots.  It is packed with goodness and the kids love the salty flavour of the mackerel, the familiarity of the (frozen) peas and the crunch of the spring onions.  Smoked mackerel is excellent value and is already cooked so it’s really versatile.  The whole meal serves 2-4 people and costs about £2.50 in total.

smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette

The omelette is also great cut in to strips for young kids or if you are weaning your baby (just make sure you tear the mackerel really small).  For an even quicker alternative to the omelette, you can scramble the eggs instead (I do this in the microwave) then add the peas (also heated in the microwave), spring onions and mackerel.

The omelette takes about 20 minutes to make and is seriously delicious along with a dollop of mayo on the side or sweet chilli sauce on top!  Any leftover mackerel could be used to make this tasty one-pot kedgeree https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/my-one-pot-kedgeree-ready-in-20-mins/.

smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette

Smoked mackerel, pea and spring onion omelette (serves 2-4 people depending on appetite and whether you eat it with something on the side e.g. sausages/salad)

Large handful frozen peas

3 spring onions, finely chopped

Small shake dried herbs

1 fillet smoked mackerel, torn in to smallish pieces (no skin)

3 eggs, lightly beaten with a little milk and pepper

Heat the peas in a (oven proof) frying pan with a little oil on a medium heat for about 4 mins, until they are cooked.  Add the spring onions, shake of herbs and mackerel pieces and stir for 2 mins until everything is mixed, then move the ingredients around the pan until they are evenly dispersed.  Give the eggs another beat then pour in to and around the pan, so it is covered with a thin layer of egg.  You may need to tip the pan carefully a few times to make sure it is covered.   Heat for another 5 mins or so until the egg is set in the middle and the edges are beginning to set, then transfer the whole pan under the grill for around 5 mins, until fully set and a little golden.  Eat with mayo or sweet chilli sauce!