Category Archives: Courgettes

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Healthier 15 minute Mac and Cheese

My kids adore macaroni cheese and as a mother I love it- it’s a meal that’s done in the time it takes to cook the pasta. But it’s a bit stodgy and lacking in greenery isn’t it? I’ve used a Jamie Oliver variant of this recipe, but this one’s a lot easier and you can use most vegetables that are lying around. I find that the vegetables that work best with creamy, cheesy sauces are:

broccoli
courgette/small squashes
spinach
peas
sweetcorn
cauliflower

Basically vegetables that cook quickly and according to the list above, don’t have strong flavours.
I use broccoli a lot as I’ve always got it in the fridge and everyone likes it. Here’s what you need for 4 big eaters with at least leftovers for the kids the next day.

500g pasta – (we use rigatoni, but macaroni, fusili etc would all work)
250g Veg
50g butter
a desert spoon of flour
300 ml milk
50-100g grated cheddar (maybe a bit more for the top?)

Get the kettle on and pour boiling water over the pasta (I usually need 2 kettlefuls for 500g- add a tsp salt and allow to boil gently.

Meanwhile chop the broccoli/cauliflower/spinach/courgette into small chunks so they cook quickly. Set aside.

When the pasta is a few minutes away from being ready- throw the veg- it will only take minutes to cook.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour. You’re looking for a mixture that is not a liquid. but not a dough either- somewhere in between! Cook very gently, stirring constantly for a minute until the roux is lighter in colour and changes texture. Add the milk a third at a time and keep stirring- use a whisk if it gets lumpy (it always does!) Bring slowly to the boil- the sauce should be thicker now. Turn off heat and add grated cheese.

Drain the pasta and veg and pour over the cheese sauce. Serve straight from the pan or tip into a serving dish, scatter over more grated cheese and bung under the grill for a few minutes until bubbling and golden.

Always a winner.

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Braised Turkey Meatballs with Feta

I almost confused this recipe with the titillating sounding “My Big Juicy Meatballs” which can be found (like this one) in the ubiquitous Joe Quick’s “Lean in 15”. Sadly Mr. Quick’s book does not tell you how to shed 2 stones in 15 minutes but how to cook lean food in 15 minutes.. sounds like a man with a plan. In all honesty, it takes more like 30 minutes to rustle this up if you’re not that keen on your onions retaining a crunch, but is very simple and absolutely delicious. Obviously being lean, Joe Quick doesn’t serve these meatballs with anything, but we like a bit of cous cous or rice to soak up the sauce. Oh and don’t be tempted to leave out the feta- it really makes the dish. I crumble some into the kids’ dinner before they notice.

This little dish could serve up as much as 3 of your 5-a-day, and is incredibly low-fat and nutritious.

For 4 (but we can usually get two meals+ out of this recipe)

Oil
1 red onion, diced
2 red peppers, diced
1 courgette, chopped
2 x 400g cans tomatoes
40g feta, crumbled
500g turkey mince
salt and pepper, minced oregano or parsley to add flavour to meatballs

Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and fry off the chopped vegetables for 10 minutes until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes and simmer for 20 minutes adding a little water to stop sticking if necessary.

Meanwhile, season the turkey mince and add the herbs: roll into small balls (wet hands help) you should be left with about 12-15 meatballs. Fry these off gently for a few minutes until golden all over then add to the tomato sauce- allow to braise in the simmering sauce for 10 minutes.

Just before serving, crumble in the feta and stir.

Serve with cous cous, rice or a salad.

May 019

Cake for tea, honestly…

Again a delay in posting. In truth, I’ve rustled up a few dishes with a view to publishing, but I was either unimpressed with the finished article, the kids have refused to eat it or I’ve been wholly unable to get a decent shot of said dish. And I’ve promised only ever to post recipes I’ve tried and tested and the kids like.

I’ve been meaning to try out this recipe for weeks- cake, hidden veg, cheese and cake. Cake? As Claire Thomson quite rightly points out -this is adapted from her recipe- (check out her beautiful 5 o’clock apron) it’s “part quiche, part frittata but nonetheless categorically cake” and it’s frankly amazing. I made it last night and fed it to a friend who made me promise to post the recipe.

It takes about 10 minutes to get together and 30 minutes in the oven. It’s also a great idea for lunch boxes too and how happy will the kids be with cake for lunch?

I have used grated courgettes and soft goat’s cheese here, but you could quite easily use broccoli and feta (simmer the broccoli first under tender), sauteed leeks, grated carrot or anything you fancy.

PS the kids keep asking for more…

For one large cake

200g grated courgette (squeeze excess moisture out)
2 small red onions
2 tbsp Olive oil
1/2 tbsp chopped rosemary
1 tsp picked thyme leaves
3 medium eggs
120g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
50g cheddar, grated
100g soft goat’s cheese
50g pine nuts
salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 200c. Grate the courgettes and squeeze- leave to drain. Heat the oil in a frying pan, finely chop the onion and fry gently until soft and transparent with the rosemary and thyme and set aside

In a bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the flours, cheeses, salt and pepper. Add the onions and courgettes, mix well and tip into a lined 20-25 cm cake tin ((springform if you have it). Scatter the pine nuts over the top.

Bake for 35 minutes until golden.

Easter 020

Roast leg of Lamb with lemon, rosemary, garlic and anchovies with Pear Tarte Tatin to follow

Here’s a two-parter that’s not only a Sunday crowd-pleaser, but probably the easiest roast you may ever make. Nothing beats the look of a leg of lamb fresh from the oven. The golden crusty bits on the edge, the rich fragrant gravy, and the promise of leftover lamb sandwiches. This is an incredibly quick way to ensure maximum flavour and hitherto unknown savouriness. And have Monday night’s tea sorted on Sunday. The Pear Tarte Tartin is the perfect solution to a fruit bowl spilling over with overripe pears (or apples if you wish) who seem to have a perfectly ripe window of about 30 minutes before going soft and shrivelled….It looks and tastes like you’ve spent all day making it- not 15 minutes.

Sunday for 4-5

Decent sized leg of lamb (at least 2.5kg)
salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
few sprigs rosemary
1 lemon
3 or 4 anchovies
splash of white wine (the cook gets to drink the rest)

Optional

1 courgette
tin flageolet beans
butter

Heat the oven to 170 degrees C. Make small incisions (7-8) in the lamb and rub all over with salt and pepper. Crush the garlic, chop the anchovies and rosemary and grate the zest of half the lemon into a bowl and loosen with a tbsp of olive oil. Rub well into the incisions in the lamb, place in a roasting tin and splash the wine over the joint. Cook for 20 minutes per 500g plus another 20 minutes. Cover with foil and leave to rest for 20 mins.

If you wish, 1 hour before the end of cooking, slice the courgette thinly and throw into the roasting tray along with the drained tin of flageolets, more crushed garlic, pepper, a few knobs of butter and another splash of wine and return to the oven to braise. Stir a couple of times during cooking.

Easter 017
Pear Tarte Tatin

1x375g puff pastry, rolled to 2mm
50g (2oz) unsalted butter, softened
100g (3 ½ oz) golden caster sugar
2 tbsp Poire William liqueur or lemon juice
4-6 ripe pears

Roll out the pastry and chill until needed. You can now buy ready-rolled rounds of puff pastry which are perfect for this. Peel, core and quarter the pears, squeeze a little lemon juice or Poire William over them to stop them browning. You need a small-medium sized ovenproof frying pan for the next bit. Place the pan you are going to use on the pastry and cut around, leaving an extra 3 cm all the way around. Prick the pastry with a fork.

Easter 015

Preheat oven to 200 deg c. Sprinkle the sugar into the pan, add 3 tbsp of water and allow the sugar to absorb the water. Cook on a low-med heat until it starts to bubble, then in around 5 minutes it will turn reddish brown as it caramelises. DO NOT STIR. Just shake it around a bit. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Tightly pack the pears curved side down and cook over a low-med heat for a further 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and place pastry over the top. Tuck in the edges to form the sides of the tart. Bake for 30 mins and leave to stand for 10 mins before inverting onto a serving plate.

Serve with big dollops of creme fraiche or vanilla ice-cream.

Monday

Stuff warmed pitta bread with leftover lamb, yogurt, and shredded red (possibly pickled?) cabbage and enjoy.