Flavoursome Fattoush (Middle Eastern salad) in 10 mins


Fattoush is a salad eaten in the Middle East.  The main ingredients are pretty simple (tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce, red onion and broken toasted pitta bread) but the dressing is packed with flavour and zing (apologies for using the word zing – but no other word explains it better!).   The whole dish is full of crunch, is brilliantly refreshing in summer and takes 10 minutes to make.  The dressing is made from sumac (a tangy, lemony Middle Eastern spice – available in supermarkets and international shops), red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mint and parsley.  I use sumac a lot in salads, with a little olive oil. It’s great to have in the cupboard.

We ate the fattoush with some griddled halloumi cheese on top.  It would also be nice with fish on the side (salmon, trout or smoked mackerel would work well I reckon) or sausages.


Fattoush (serves 2)

For the salad

14 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/3 cucumber, chopped

1 little gem lettuce, chopped

1/8 red onion, chopped fine

2 pitta breads, toasted and chopped

1 tsp sumac

Small handful mint, chopped fine

Small handful parsley, chopped fine

For the dressing

1 garlic clove, crushed

Half tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Combine all the salad ingredients in a bowl and mix with hands.  Combine all the dressing ingredients , stir well, pour over the salad and mix.  Eat with griddled halloumi cheese, fish or sausages.

Prawn and mango curry – light, fragrant and ready in 20 mins

This is a beautifully fragrant prawn and mango curry that is quick to make and perfect for the summer months!  You fry some onion with ginger, korma paste (shop-bought), coconut milk, lime, prawns and chopped mangoes and top with fresh coriander.  Unique, light and satisfying!  We had it on it’s own but agreed it would be nice with a little rice on the side.  And an accompanying cold beer is pretty good!

prawn and mango curry

The recipe is based on one from Tesco magazine.  With the leftover korma paste you could a) try a veggie, fish or meat recipe by Pataks (putting ‘korma’ in the recipe quick search) http://pataks.co.uk/recipes/ or b) freeze the sauce in a freezer container or freezer bag for up to 3 months, defrosting overnight in the fridge before you use it.

Prawn and mango curry (serves 2)

1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 tsp grated/finely chopped ginger

3 tbsp korma paste (I used Pataks)

300ml (1/2 pint) coconut milk

175g mango chunks

175g prawns (or a bit more if you love them!)

Juice of 1/2 lime

Handful fresh coriander, chopped fine

Optional – rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan/wok, add the onion and ginger and gently fry for 5 minutes, until softened.  Stir in the korma paste and coconut milk, then simmer for 2 mins.  Stir in the mango chunks, prawns and lime juice, then simmer for another 3 mins, or until the prawns are pink and cooked through.  Scatter over the coriander and serve rice alongside the curry, if you wish.

Recipe by Tesco magazine

My 30 minute veggie cottage pie

veggie cottage pie

This cottage pie is a great family meal, using veggie mince, veg, tinned tomatoes, garlic, dried herbs, stock cubes, and Worcestershire sauce for a rich, sweet flavour.  The pie is topped with a cheesy mash then grilled for a few minutes to make it crispy and golden.  Healthy, low-fat, gluten-free and ready in 30 mins.  The recipe serves eight so lasted us two days.  I added salt to my portion once on my plate to keep the salt content down for the kids.  We had the pie on it’s own but it would also be nice with salad or bread.

If you have kids who are cynical about veg then make sure you cut them extra small (the veg not the children)!  The ingredients total about £5.50.

veggie cottage pie

30 minute veggie cottage pie (serves 8)

8 smallish mushrooms, cut small

2 sticks celery, cut small

2 smallish carrots, cut small

2 handful frozen peas

300g veggie mince

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Big shake dried mixed herbs

2 tins chopped tomatoes (I use value)

tbsp tomato puree

2 veggie stock cubes (I use OXO reduced salt)

tbsp Worcestershire sauce

450g potatoes, roughly cut (I don’t bother peeling)

2 tbsp butter/margarine

Large handful grated cheddar cheese/grated parmesan

Little milk

Put some oil in a pan and chuck in all the veg.  Heat, stirring regularly, for around 5 minutes, until starting to get tender.

Meanwhile boil the potatoes in some water for around 8 mins, until cooked.

To the veg pan, add some more oil, the veggie mince, garlic and herbs and heat for another 10 mins or so, stirring lots, until the veg and mince are cooked and have absorbed all the oil.

Drain the potatoes, add the butter and mash.  Add a little milk until you are happy with the consistency.  Add the cheese and mix well.  Put aside.

To the veg pan, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and crumble in the stock cubes.  Heat for another 5 mins until everything is bubbling and smelling delicious.

Pour the veg mixture in to a casserole dish.  Carefully spoon the mash on top and spread it flat, then use a fork to make lines on it.  Pop the cottage pie under the grill for a few minutes until the top is golden brown and slightly crispy.  Eat!  Will last a couple of days in the fridge.

Salad Nicoise – summery, wholesome and ready in 20 mins

This is a very pretty summery salad originating from the French city of Nice.  It is full of textures and delicious flavours including tuna (canned or fresh is fine), potatoes, green beans, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, anchovies (optional!) and a vinaigrette dressing (I used shop-bought to keep it simple).  It only takes 20 minutes to make, is light yet filling and the cooking can be done in one pan to save on washing up!  My kids had a simplified version of it, using just the tuna, potatoes, eggs, green beans and a little of the dressing.

easy tuna nicoise

Salad Nicoise is also a great salad if you want a low-calorie or gluten-free meal.  If anchovies frighten you, I urge you to try them in this salad.  Chopped small they add a lovely, salty flavour and are not overwhelmingly fishy!  As a side note, they are also great for adding richness to tomato sauces and cheese sauces, and they dissolve completely once hot.  This dish comes to about £4 in total.

Salad nicoise (serves two hungry people or four as a side dish)

4 new potatoes, quartered

2 eggs

Large handful green beans, trimmed if necessary

5 cherry tomatoes, quartered

Small can tuna

1 little gem lettuce, roughly chopped

8 pitted black olives, torn in half

Optional – 4 tinned anchovies, chopped small (add lovely salty flavour)

Good shake of vinaigrette dressing (available in supermarkets)

Optional – a few torn basil leaves

Put the potatoes in a pan of boiling water along with the eggs (still in their shells).  Once the potatoes are nearly tender (after about 8 mins or so) add the green beans.  Cook for a further 3 mins then take off the heat and drain.   Take the shells off the eggs and cut each egg in to six.

Put the gem lettuce in to a salad bowl, then top with the potatoes, eggs, green beans, tomatoes, tuna, olives and anchovies (if using).  Shake over a generous amount of the vinaigrette.  Scatter over the basil, if using.  Take to the table and tuck in!  Add more vinaigrette at the table if necessary.

Potato, spinach and spring onion crustless quiche (25 min prep/40 min cooking)

potato, spinach and spring onion crustless quiche

I am very excited to share this delicious, seasonal and gluten free recipe!  It is quickly becoming a staple in our house for three reasons: firstly it can be eaten hot at home or cold as a portable snack (so great for picnics!), secondly you can vary what you put in it and thirdly it works out at about £4 for 10-12 portions.  Allow 25 mins to prepare the mixture and 40 mins to cook.

You basically boil and mash some potatoes, add soft cheese, eggs, cheddar, torn spinach and spring onions and finally some ground nutmeg (available from supermarkets) to add a particularly lovely and delicate flavour.   Spoon the mixture in to a tray and bake until golden.  I don’t peel the potatoes as it saves time and I like the nuttiness of the skin, but if you want a smoother consistency you could peel them.

potato, spinach and spring onion crustless quiche

If you use the mashed potatoes, soft cheese, cheddar and eggs as a base then you could experiment with these ingredients: torn smoked mackerel, smoked salmon, cooked ham, chorizo, peas, asparagus, broccoli, leeks, mushrooms, dried or fresh herbs.  I would love to hear of any combinations that work well!

Potato, spinach and spring onion crustless quiche (8-12 portions)

400g potatoes, diced (new potatoes are particularly nice but any would work, and there is no need to peel unless you want a smoother consistency)

100g spinach, torn up

10 spring onions, finely chopped

200g soft cheese (I use the value one)

4 eggs, lightly beaten

50g cheddar, grated

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees/gas mark 5.  Line a smallish baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Gently boil the chopped potatoes for about 10 mins, until tender (but not mushy).  Mash well.  Stir in the torn spinach and chopped spring onions.  In a separate bowl mix the soft cheese with the beaten eggs and then fold in to the mash.  Add the cheddar, nutmeg, some salt and pepper and mix well.  Spoon the mixture in to the lined baking tray (it will rise slightly during cooking).

Bake for 35-40 mins until golden at the edges and firm (when you insert a knife in it should come out fairly clean).  Leave for 5 mins then carefully cut wedges out (you can leave the quiche in the greaseproof paper if you want to eat it cool).

Cooking with kids – Fish in a parcel (15 mins prep/18 mins cooking)

fish in a parcel

This is a nice activity to do with kids.  You lay out some fish, veg (I chose mini corn, green beans and pepper), couscous (optional) and sauce on the table and they can load a sheet of tin foil with what they like.

fish in a parcel

Then they wrap everything up in the foil and pop it in the oven to steam for about 18 minutes.

fish in a parcel

fish in a parcel

When their parcel is done they can unseal it and eat their ‘dinner delivery’!  Feel free to vary what fish and veg you use (broccoli, carrots and asparagus would also work well and cheaper fish would bring the cost down).  The sauce here consists of soy sauce and honey to keep it simple but for an adult version or for adventurous kids you could add chilli, garlic and/or ginger.  My boys are really in to chopsticks at the moment (you can get cheap kid friendly ones off Amazon) so eating with these added to the novelty of the dish.  Allow about 15 mins to prepare the food before cooking.

fish in a parcel

fish in a parcel

I am going to put my thinking cap on for other dinner in a parcel ideas!

Fish in a parcel (serves 4)

Optional – 1/2 cup couscous, cooked as per the pack instructions (usually involves pouring with hot water, adding butter and leaving for 5 mins)

1/2 stock cube (I like OXO vegetable as it crumbles easily)

Oil, for brushing

2 handfuls mini corns, chopped in half lengthways

1/2 pepper, chopped lengthways

2 handfuls green beans, trimmed

5 spring onions, finely chopped

2 skinned fillets fish, cut in to chunks (e.g. salmon, trout, haddock, coley)

1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce mixed with 1/2 tbsp honey

4 sheets tin foil

Lay the tin foil out on the table.  Mix the cooked couscous with 1/2 crumbled stock cube and put that, plus all the other ingredients, in separate bowls on the table.  Brush/spoon oil on to the middle of the foil.  Put the couscous on first (if using) followed by the chunks of fish then the veg.  Spoon over the sauce.  Seal the foil tightly but ensuring there is some free space inside so it steams properly.  Pop in the oven for about 18 mins until the fish is flaky and everything is cooked.  Remove the foil parcels and let them cool for a few minutes (for young kids open them up to get rid of the steam and cool the food inside down before resealing)  Let the kids open up their parcels and eat!

Mediterranean fish stew (with veggie and kid friendlier options!)

This is a great meal for using up onions, tinned tomatoes and many different types of fish and it only takes 25 minutes from chopping to serving.  The addition of the olives and capers give an unmistakable Mediterranean taste and the more unusual flavour of the fennel seeds (optional) compliments the fish beautifully.  I had a feeling my kids were not ready for fennel seeds yet so took out their portions before adding them, and replaced the fennel seeds with familiar peas (which I had cooked separately).

Mediterranean fish pie

To make the dish more adult you could add a splash of white wine with the tinned tomatoes and use fresh parsley instead of dried herbs.  And if you don’t eat fish you could use chopped halloumi cheese or a tin of (drained) chickpeas instead.  Eat the stew on it’s own as a light meal or alongside some rice, pasta, salad or jacket potato!

Mediterranean fish stew (serves 2 adults and 2 kids)

1 white/red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Shake dried mixed herbs

Tin chopped tomatoes (value are fine)

200g fish fillets, skin removed and roughly chopped e.g. trout/salmon/coley/cod/haddock

10 green/black olives, chopped

tbsp capers (optional)

1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)

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

Salt and pepper

Fry the onions, garlic and dried herbs in oil for about 7 minutes until the onions have softened.  Add the chopped tomatoes, fish, olives, capers (if using), fennel seeds (if using) and crumble in the stock cube.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until the fish is flaky and cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper and serve!