Veggie Tortilla Soup (20 mins)

We love this Veggie Tortilla Soup!  It is hearty, tasty and perfect to slurp on a cold day.  The soup is Mexican and traditionally made with chicken but there is plenty of flavour and texture without it, plus a hit of protein in the black beans.  Allow 20 minutes to make it.

If you are making this for kids too then you could leave out the chilli in the cooking and have it on the table instead.


Veggie Tortilla Soup (serves 2)

1 tortilla, cut in to thick strips


1 large clove garlic, crushed

1/2 green or red chilli, chopped small

1/2 red onion, sliced

Can of chopped tomatoes

1 tsp cumin seeds/ground cumin

Tin of black beans, drained

Salt and pepper

2 lime quarters

1/2 avocado, sliced

1/3 block of feta, to crumble

Small handful of coriander

Heat the oven to 20 degrees/gas mark 6.  Put the tortilla strips on to a baking tray and bake them for a few minutes on each side, until golden and crispy.

Separately heat some oil in a saucepan and add the garlic, chilli and red onion and fry for 5 minutes, until the onion is soft.  Add the canned tomatoes, cumin, black beans and a little salt and pepper.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Spoon the mixture in to bowls then top each bowl with a lime quarter, avocado, feta, the coriander and the tortilla strips.  Slurp!


Pumpkin Pie With The Kids!


Pumpkin Pie is a wonderful Halloween comfort pudding.  It is also really quick and easy to prepare thanks to cans of pumpkin puree now being available in the UK (and pre-made pastry cases!).  Alternatively you could make pumpkin puree yourself by chopping and boiling the flesh for about 20 minutes or until tender, then draining and mashing it/blitzing it in a food processor.

My 5 year old pudding-loving son poured the ingredients in to a bowl, mixed them together and carefully spooned the filling in to the pastry.


My pastry case was on the small-side so I had some pumpkin filling leftover, which I spooned in to 4 recycled ramekins and baked as individual pumpkin desserts (a slightly healthier option!)


Another thing to note – according to the lid of the pumpkin puree it also makes a great substitute for eggs, butter or oil in many recipes.  Interesting.

Happy Halloween!  And thank you to the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which this recipe is based on.

Pumpkin Pie (makes 10 slices)

1 large sweet pastry case

1 egg

425g can of pumpkin puree

235ml evaporated milk

220g caster sugar

1/4 tsp ground cloves (if you don’t have this don’t worry – it’s not essential!)

1 tsp salt

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tbsp plain flour

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees/gas mark 3.

Put the egg, pumpkin puree, evaporated milk, caster sugar, ground cloves, salt, cinnamon, ginger and flour in a large bowl and mix until everything is combined and there are no lumps.

Pour the mixture in to the pie crust.  If there is any mixture left you can pour it in to ramekins or small ovenproof containers to make little crustless puddings.

Bake the pie in the oven for 35-50 minutes, or until the filling is setting (it might not completely set until it has been taken out of the oven and cooled for about 1 hour).

Serve with cream or ice cream!


Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip


This is an unusual and grown up sharing platter of roast autumn vegetables, prawns and tortillas with Aji Green Dip – a Peruvian sauce which is full of flavour and kick.  The dip is super easy and can be made in minutes in a food processor.  If you use ‘lighter than light’ mayonnaise then the dip is also officially low fat!

The whole platter is lovely to share with someone else for dinner, or with several others as a starter.  As an alternative you could use the dip as a sauce by spooning it over roast veg or meat or swirling it in to soups.

Autumn Platter with Aji Green Dip (serves 2 as a main or 4/5 as a starter)

For the things to dip

1 tortilla, cut in to triangles (or a small bag of plain tortilla crisps)

Small pack of king prawns, dry fried for a few minutes (you can use cooked prawns straight from the packet but they are nicer warm)

3 parsnips/2 potatoes/2 carrots – chopped in to thin wedges

Tbsp oil e.g. olive or vegetable oil

For the dip

Small pack fresh coriander
1 green chilli, chopped in to 3
2 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp mayonnaise (if you use ‘lighter than light’ mayo the dip will be officially low fat!)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

First put the vegetables in an oven tray and drizzle over the oil, until everything is lightly coated.  Roast the vegetables for half an hour or so, turning a few times, until browned and cooked through (the exact time will depend a bit on the oven).  Ten minutes before the veg are done, arrange the cut tortilla in an oven tray and cook each side for about 4 minutes, or until lightly browned and crunchy.

For the dip, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz for about 20 seconds, until smooth.  Serve in a bowl with the vegetables, tortillas and prawns placed around it for dipping!

Fun Family Turkish Breakfast


A few months ago my boyfriend and our two boys went out for a Turkish breakfast at a local restaurant.  It was such a unique and delicious experience that we decided to recreate it at home!

This basically involved laying the table with lovely shop-bought bits for everyone to help themselves.  Help-yourself meals are always popular in our house, and there is zero pressure on the kids to eat everything (obviously I am secretly willing them to, but they often just choose two or three things).  We laid out: falafel (I like the Cauldron range); fried halloumi cheese; bread and honey; olives; cucumber; yoghurt and fruit; and rocket and tomato salad.  If you wanted to be really authentic you could also include sucuk (spicy and seriously tasty Turkish sausages), eggs, and muska boregi (Turkish pastries filled with feta cheese and herbs – if you can find them!)  For the adults we had builders tea Turkish style (black and with sugar!) and the kids had juice.  All in all a lovely experience,  a chance for the kids to try something different and a reminder that breakfast can be special too!


For more ideas about help-yourself meals check out this previous post:

Radiant Ratatouille (20 mins prep/50 mins baking)


I have always had a soft spot for ratatouille, a wonderfully flavoursome and colourful vegetable stew from the south of France.  My mum used to make a really tasty one and I have been known to eat canned ratatouille with a spoon when no one is looking.  Also, if you have ever seen the Pixar film Ratatouille, there is a beautiful scene where a mean and cynical food critic eats a forkful of ratatouille and the experience takes him back to his childhood and turns him in to a nice person..!

This recipe, from ASDA magazine, is simpler than many ratatouille recipes as you simply cover a dish with a can of tomatoes, garlic, dried herbs, basil and vinegar then chop the vegetables and layer them on top (allow about 20 minutes for this).  Bake for around an hour until all the flavours have mingled with each other and then eat it sprinkled with feta cheese alongside some rice.  Just gorgeous.


Radiant Ratatouille (serves 4 with rice)

Tin chopped tomatoes

Large clove of garlic, crushed

Small handful of basil, torn or roughly chopped

Shake of dried mixed herbs

Dessert spoon of balsamic, white or red wine vinegar

Tbsp oil

1 aubergine, sliced

1 courgette, sliced

Approx 4 medium tomatoes, sliced

2 red onions, sliced

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Pour the tin of chopped tomatoes straight in to your casserole dish, add the garlic, basil, mixed herbs, vinegar and oil and mix well.

Arrange the vegetable slices in neat rows with alternating colours e.g. slice of aubergine/courgette/tomato/onion, and keep repeating this until you have filled the dish (as per the picture above).  Press the vegetables down in to the tomato mixture.  Brush or spray the top of the vegetables with a little oil, to encourage them to turn golden as they bake (this is not essential).

Bake the dish for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce is bubbling hot and the vegetables are tender.  Serve sprinkled with a little feta or goats cheese alongside some rice or bread.




Affogato – a ridiculously simple yet sophisticated dessert


Affogato is a sophisticated and grown up Italian dessert that also happens to be ridiculously simple and quick.  Affogato, meaning ‘drowned’, is just vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over it.  I topped mine with toasted almonds to give it extra flavour and texture, and it was gorgeous.

You need to eat the affogato straight away before the espresso melts the ice cream.  To slightly delay the melting you can scoop the ice cream in to a shallow glass or cup and put it in the freezer for a few hours before adding the espresso.  Genius!

If you can’t make ‘proper’ espressos at home, just dissolve a tbsp of instant coffee in a little hot water instead.

Affogato (serves 1)

2 scoops vanilla ice cream, in a shallow glass/cup (freeze the ice cream in the cup for a few hours to get it all really cold)

1 shot of espresso (make this with instant coffee as above if you need to)

A sprinkle of toasted, flaked almonds (to toast them yourself dry fry them in a pan for 30-60 seconds, until lightly browned, shaking regularly)

Make the espresso.  Take the ice cream in it’s glass out of the freezer and pour over the espresso so it covers just half the ice cream.  Quickly sprinkle over the warm toasted almonds.  Eat instantly!

Cooking With Kids – Baked Whole Fish with Tasty Roast Veg


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!)




The whole dish is fun to eat as you can put it in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves.




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!