Pea and Mint Soup with Parmesan Crisps

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My favourite springtime recipe has to be pea and mint soup.  It is so fresh and flavoursome that I ate an unacceptably impolite amount of it at my friend’s house once.  You can make parmesan crisps to dip in to the soup for an extra impressive, yet surprisingly simple, dish.

My other seasonal springtime favourites are: charred lettuce and spring onions with goats cheese; potato, onion and fennel tortilla; asparagus with tomato salsa and crumbled cheese; and watercress pesto (all recipes are on this blog and can be made in 30 mins or less!)

Allow about 25 minutes to make the soup and crisps.  You will need a food processor or hand blender and baking/greaseproof paper.
Pea and Mint Soup with Parmesan Crisps (serves 4 as a starter or light main)

1 tbsp oil
Large knob of butter
1 medium potato, diced small
700g frozen peas
2 vegetable stock cubes (ideally OXO as they crumble well)
Large handful mint, roughly chopped
65g parmesan, very finely grated (or use double this if you want two crisps per bowl of soup)

Heat the oil and butter in a pan and when bubbling add the diced potato. Fry for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until golden and cooked through. Add the peas then add water so they are only just covered. Simmer for a few minutes, until the peas are tender, then crumble in the stock cubes and stir well. Add the mint then then use a food processor or hand blender to whizz everything together until smooth. If the soup is too thick then gradually add water until you are happy with the consistency.

To make the parmesan crisps, heat the oven at 220 degrees/gas mark 7. Line a baking tray with baking/greaseproof paper and on to this divide the grated parmesan into 4 long strips, in a thin layer. Bake for around 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Leave to cool a little, for about 5 minutes, then while still a little warm carefully peel the crisps off the baking paper. Cool until firm.

Serve the soup in bowls with a parmesan crisp on the side to dip in!

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.

My Easy Veggie Ramen

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I LOVE RAMEN.  A big slurpy bowl of goodness which is particularly enjoyable when it is cold outside.  You can eat lots, safe in the knowledge it’s pretty good for you.  Feel free to experiment with what veg you use, or add cooked prawns, meat or tofu to the vegetables for extra substance.  In fact, this is a great soup for using up leftovers so almost anything goes.  Also you could cheat a bit and get a pack of instant miso soup and use that as the water/stock base.

Allow 15-20 minutes to prepare the ramen, and remember the garlic, ginger and chilli amounts are only a guide – you may wish to use less or more, according to taste.

My Veggie Ramen (serves 2)

2 eggs

2 tbsp oil (any is fine)

3 cloves garlic, chopped or crushed

Small thumb of ginger, chopped very small, or minced

1 red chilli, chopped very small

4 mushrooms, sliced

4 large cabbage leaves, sliced thin

1/2 red pepper, sliced thin

4 spring onions, chopped small

1 litre hot water (or 1.5 litres if you want the soup more watery)

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tbsp soy sauce

200g noodles (any is fine – I use fine noodles which cook in 3 mins)

4 radishes, sliced thin

1 avocado, sliced in to small chunks

Small handful of coriander, roughly chopped

Chilli garlic sauce (or whatever sauce you fancy)

Boil the eggs in water for around 6 minutes, then drain, put them in cold water and set aside.

Fry the garlic, ginger and chilli for 1 minute in the oil in a saucepan.  Add the mushrooms, cabbage, red pepper, spring onions and fry for another few minutes, until softened.  Add the water, crumble the vegetable stock cube in, add the soy sauce and noodles and simmer for a few more minutes until the noodles are cooked.  Ladle in to bowls then top each bowl with the radishes, 1 egg chopped in half (hopefully it will be a little soft in the middle!), avocado slices, coriander and chilli garlic sauce.  Slurp then go back for more!

30 min salmon, fennel and pea risotto

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This salmon, fennel and pea risotto is fresh and lovely and best of all it is made in one pot and ready in 30 mins.  I was inspired to try it when watching Mary Berry on TV, but instead of using rice I used orzo.  Orzo is pasta that is the same size and shape as rice but cooks more quickly.  You can buy it in big supermarkets and international shops.

The fresh flavours of the fennel, peas and lemon juice combined with the salmon and the creamy orzo and creme fraiche is deeply satisfying and perfect for spring (I saw some blossom today so it is definitely spring).  For an alternative and very popular orzo dish check out this orzo and courgette bake recipe https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/orzo-and-courgette-bake-20-mins-prep30-mins-cooking/.

Salmon, fennel and pea risotto (serves 4)

1 small fennel, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

200g orzo pasta

Vegetable stock (I like OXO as it crumbles easily)

Large handful peas

250g salmon fillets, chopped in to chunks

1 tbsp creme fraiche

1/2 small lemon

Small handful fresh parsley and/or fresh tarragon, finely chopped (or just use 1 tsp dried herbs)

Handful parmesan

Pour some oil into a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the fennel and fry for about 5 minutes, or until softened, stirring often. Add the garlic and orzo and fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly, until the orzo is coated in the oil.
Pour in some vegetable stock (made using hot water from a kettle and a stock cube), enough to just cover the mixture. Simmer and keep adding a little more stock and stirring regularly, so the orzo gradually absorbs the water. Wait until the stock is almost fully absorbed before adding more. Do this for around for 15–20 minutes, until the orzo is moist and very nearly cooked.  Add the peas, juice of the lemon, salmon slices, creme fraiche, herbs and parmesan.  Keep stirring until the salmon is cooked through, about 7 mins.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately, sprinkled with extra parmesan if you fancy.

Chickpea, spinach and potato curry

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I wanted to make a tasty veggie curry that is spicy and without an endless list of ingredients, and here it is!  You can eat the chickpea, spinach and potato curry scattered with coriander and with rice, naan bread or poppadoms (or all three!)  It is perfect with cucumber raita on the side (mix yoghurt with chopped cucumber, crushed garlic and a shake of pepper).

The curry contains garam masala, an Indian spice mix, which is a great spice to introduce to children as it is slightly sweet and not fiery.  My kids were not convinced about this dish, but they love kedgeree, which also uses garam masala and is one of our top family meals: https://katielovescooking.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/my-one-pot-kedgeree-ready-in-20-mins.

Also, if you drain a can of chickpeas and shake over a little oil and garam masala and then roast in the oven for 15 minutes on a fairly hot heat, out come crunchy roast chickpeas!   A great snack for on the go.  Yes, garam masala has to be one of my *exciting ingredients*.  Anyway, I’m rambling, so here is the recipe.  Allow about 30 minutes to make it.

Chickpea, spinach and potato curry (serves 4)

1 large potato, chopped small (don’t bother peeling it)

1 onion, chopped small

100g spinach, roughly chopped

Can chickpeas, drained

1 large clove garlic, crushed

Little finger of ginger, chopped very small

1/2 can coconut milk

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (or more if you fancy)

Optional – if you want it spicy – fresh chilli or chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

Cook the potato in a pan in oil for about 12 mins until tender.  Add the onion and cook for another 5 mins.  Add the spinach and chickpeas, garlic, ginger, garam masala and cumin and cook for 1 minute.  Add coconut milk and seasoning and simmer for a final 5 mins.  Scatter with coriander (and chilli if you wish!) and eat alongside rice, naan bread or poppadoms.

Salmon en croute with a Thai twist

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

Veggie tagine with almond and chickpea couscous

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Tagine is traditionally a Moroccan dish that is cooked very slowly in a clay pot.  My version is a bit different, and might anger Moroccan grandmothers (!), but it is still full of the interesting flavours and textures of North Africa.  Vegetables are fried until tender and then raisins, fresh mint and coriander, ground cinnamon and honey are added. The couscous is made separately (and very quickly) with canned chickpeas and flaked almonds.

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The dish is packed with flavour and really satisfying.  It is also quite sweet and gentle so a good way to introduce children to spices, herbs and unusual flavour combinations (although mine were not convinced on this occasion!)

Allow 30 minutes to make everything.

Veggie tagine with almond and chickpea couscous

For the tagine

1 small carrot, chopped small

1 onion, chopped small

1 courgette, chopped small

1 red pepper, chopped small

Large handful of raisins

Vegetable stock cube

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Small handful of fresh mint

Small handful of coriander

Small squirt of honey

For the couscous

150g couscous

1/2 tin chickpeas, drained

Handful flaked, toasted almonds

Optional – heaped tsp harissa – spicy!

Salt and pepper if not using harissa

Gently heat the carrot and pepper in oil in a pan for around 5 minutes, then add the onion and courgette and cook for a further 10 mins, until all cooked through and tender.  Add more oil if you need to.  Add the raisins.  Crumble in the stock cube then add the cinnamon, mint, coriander and honey.  Stir well and heat for 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, make the couscous as per the pack instructions, adding the chickpeas at the same time as the water.  Once ready add the flaked almonds and stir well.  Add the harissa (if using) or if not season with salt and pepper.

Eat the tagine on top of the couscous!