Category Archives: Vegetarian

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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.

sweet potato pancakes

Caramelised Sweet Potato Pancakes

The sweet potater hater five year old loved these and I have to say, they are AMAZING. You’ll find a much simplified version of a Yotam Ottolenghi breakfast idea below: the original sounds an altogether more adult affair with spring onions, chilli and coriander.

Have you ever baked a sweet potato? If not, I urge you to do so. The sugars in the potato caramelise and the skin is rendered sweetly edible- it’s what this recipe calls for and the only time consuming element. Next time you have the oven on, throw in a few sweet potatoes. Once you’ve scraped the flesh from the skin, it can be frozen and has a wide variety of applications, sweet and savoury.

In order to keep their shape while frying, I poured the batter into round pastry cutters which stuck a little but worked in terms of a uniform pancake!

They can be served as a dish on their own or with smoked salmon (which goes incredibly well with the sweetness of the pancakes) or a rasher or two of crispy bacon drizzled with maple syrup.

For four

450g sweet potatoes
85g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
salt
2 eggs separated
70 ml whole milk
20g melted butter and
50g butter for frying
2 tsp maple syrup

To bake the sweet potatoes: Heat the oven to 220/425 degrees and put the whole unpeeled sweet potatoes on an oven tray and roast for an hour until soft and browned, remove and leave to cool. Peel the skin and using a muslin or j cloth, squeeze excess moisture from the flesh. You should be left with 180g.

Mix the flour, 3/4 tsp salt, and baking powder in a bowl. In another, whisk the egg yolks, milk, melted butter and maple syrup then stir into the dry ingredients. Whisk the egg whites separately until they form peaks and fold into the mixture.

Melt the butter in a frying pan and spoon 3 heaped tbsp of the batter to make each pancake- they should be 1.5cm thick and around 7cm wide. Cook for 2 minutes on each side until brown. You should end up with 8 pancakes.

June 017

Basiiiiiiiiil!

If you’re anything like me, you buy fresh herbs for a dish and use 3 sprigs, leaving the rest to slowly rot in the fridge. Sometimes I think the fridge is just a holding area for the bin. I started growing my own- rosemary, oregano and thyme. I must have saved hundreds of pounds. Well maybe not, but at least there was no waste. If you’re going to grow anything, grow herbs. But some herbs are trickier than others. Coriander likes to bolt in the heat and I never seem to be able to grow quite enough for the recipes I follow. Basil too is another plant that’s looks in rude health, that is until you have the audacity to plant it outside. I’m always throwing basil away. I know chefs bang on about making herb butters and scented oils (the sister of a friend of mine made a liqueur out of it- a night best forgotten) but how do you do make a meal with it that’s quick, easy and tasty?

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Ciabatta Tricolore

Over a decade ago, when I worked around Oxford Circus, this was a favourite Friday lunchtime treat from a local cafe. An unholy combination of the holy trinity of flavours; tomato, basil and mozzarella, you must use the thinnest, crispiest, bubbliest ciabatta and a soft, yielding mozzarella.

If you don’t have a sandwich maker (I don’t), use a frying pan and weigh the sandwich down with a plate on which something suitably heavy is placed. Cast iron works well.

For 2

1 large, flat ciabatta

4 slices parma ham

5 sundried tomatoes (in oil), chopped

10 basil leaves torn

125g mozzarella, sliced

Half the ciabatta lengthways and drizzle a little of the sundried tomato oil on both sides. Lay the ham on one side, then the tomatoes, basil and finally mozzarella. Season and cover with the remaining side.

Heat a small non-stick pan and toast the ciabatta over a low to medium heat for a few minutes on each side, until the bread is golden and the mozzarella melted. I always weigh the toastie down with a plate and something heavier on top- it’s worth it!

June 017

Proper Bruschetta (inspired by Ilenia)

Easy peasey lemon squeezey… beautifully ripe, sweet tomatoes work well here. I’m using miniature plum tomatoes from Waitrose at the moment, the best tomato I have ever tasted (and I don’t even like tomatoes) Chop the tomatoes into bite size chunks and place in a bowl. Season really well with salt and pepper and drizzle with a good glug of olive oil. Fold in some torn basil leaves and 1 or 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic. Leave the flavours to develop for a few minutes and taste- adjust seasoning/oil/basil if needed.

Lightly toast some good quality rustic bread- sourdough or crusty loaf and load up with tomatoes. It needs nothing else.

And finally… homemade pesto

blitz

a handful of basil leaves
a handful of toasted pine nuts
with a good pinch of salt for a few seconds until just combined.
Mix in a handful of grated parmesan and add enough olive oil to loosen to the consistency required.

Taste and season if necessary.

Use on pasta (obvs) or on toast, or drizzled over a salad of goats’ cheese, or over a frittata. The possibilities are endless.

Now, anyone got any ideas for leftover coriander…..

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.