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!

 

 

 

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Katie’s Caponata

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Caponata is an incredibly flavoursome Sicilian aubergine stew and really, really worth a try!  Sicilian food is a mixture of traditional Italian and North African influences, and in this dish the aubergine, tomatoes, capers, raisins and white wine vinegar create a dish that is rich, sweet and sour all at the same time.   My boyfriend (a man who is not over the top with compliments) loved it too.  It’s delicious on it’s own, on some crunchy toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  It also works well hot or cold and will last a couple of days in the fridge!

I did quite a bit of research to keep the Caponata recipe authentic but without a long list of ingredients, and am confident this is a winner.   Hope you like it : )

Katie’s Caponata (serves approx 2)

Olive oil

1 medium to large aubergine, cut in to small cubes

1 onion, chopped small (white or red onion is fine)

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Small shake of dried mixed herbs or small handful of chopped fresh basil or parsley (depending on what you have at home or what you fancy)

Tin of chopped tomatoes

2 heaped tsp capers

1 heaped tbsp raisins

Optional – large handful of pine nuts

1-2 tbsp white or red wine vinegar, depending on your taste

Optional – grated parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top

To avoid having to cook the aubergine in lots of oil, firstly place it in a colander or sieve, lightly salt it (ensuring the salt is mixed in) and leave it for at least 30 minutes over the sink.  This will draw out the aubergine’s natural juices, which will drip a little in to the sink.

Heat some oil in a pan and add the aubergine.  Fry it for 10-15 minutes, until softening, then add the onion, garlic and whatever herbs you have chosen.  Fry for another 5 minutes, until the onion is softened, then add the tin of tomatoes, capers, raisins, pine nuts (if using) and vinegar.  Leave it to simmer for at least 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have reduced down and you are left with a sticky, rich, tasty sauce.  Add salt, pepper and a wee bit more vinegar if you think it needs it (the other flavours might be plenty!)

Serve the caponata with a little olive oil drizzled on top.  Enjoy it on it’s own, on toasted bread, with pasta or couscous.  Grate over some parmesan if you fancy!

 

 

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.