Category Archives: Dinner

Mexican Brunch with One-Cup Pancakes

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I don’t know about you but I normally like to know what I’m cooking for dinner the next day before I settle down to bed at night. It is therefore unusual for me to be standing there at 4 o’clock pondering what to cook. However, that was me today. All I knew was that we had a lot of eggs. A quick Google search later saw me perusing 32 Jamie Oliver egg recipes and, hey presto, tonight’s dinner was sorted.

The Mexican Breakfast turned out to be simple, healthy and delicious. As the original recipe was for 6 I only used one can of tomatoes and a single pepper but I did cook two eggs each (this was dinner after all!). I also added a courgette and a dozen cherry tomatoes to the onion, garlic and sliced pepper and cooked them on medium for 15 minutes with some mixed herbs and paprika.

Then comes a tin of chopped tomatoes and a dash of Worcestershire Sauce and simmer for 15 minutes until thick and flavoursome. Next, slice 2 tomatoes on top and crack 6 eggs into holes in the mixture. Cover and cook until the eggs are cooked but still runny.

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With this I served the One-Cup Pancakes (or 2/3 of a cup to serve 3!). Simply whisk together 1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal works well) with 1 cup milk and some salt. Then stir in the kernals from one corn on the cob or a large handful of frozen sweet corn, defrosted. The recipe calls for 20g feta cheese but I omitted this.

Simply ladle the mixture into a pan and fry for 2 minutes until bubbles appear. Flip and cook for a couple of minutes until golden brown. Delicious!

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How Do You Like Your Eggs in the Morning?

Poached Eggs

We eat a lot of eggs in this house. They’re cheap, easy, versatile and healthy. Weekend breakfasts often consist of scrambled or fried eggs. This week I had a sudden yearning for poached eggs. Quick as they are to make, there is something about them that makes them feel like holiday fodder. A treat.

Eggs Poaching

The secret to poached eggs is the vinegar. Two teaspoons in the water and something magical happens – instead of a mess of blobby rubber, the whites remain smooth and round.

Poached Eggs

I used to boil my eggs for 3 minutes but, since reading Lucy’s ‘Egg Poaching Knowhow‘, I now gently pour the eggs into boiling water before leaving them, off the heat, to gently cook for 5 minutes. Perfect!

Poached Eggs

Soft, white and just ready for eating. Tuck in!

Poached Eggs

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Pepperoni Pizza Soup

Pizza Soup

Last week my interest was caught by a post entitled ‘Hearty Pepperoni Pizza Soup‘ on Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts. Ever since I read the recipe it has been on my mind so, when my sister suggested dinner tonight, there was no decision to make.

I did adapt the recipe somewhat. Indeed, although I have kept the title, my version did not actually contain any pepperoni at all. I much prefer the sweeter, smokier flavour chorizo so used that instead. I also added a lot more seasoning as, for me, the herbs are the secret to this dish. At the end of the day, my soup still delivered exactly what it said on the tin – pizza in a soup. Brilliant!

So here’s my recipe:

  • 4 – 6 onions, minced
  • 1 chorizo, sliced
  • 4 peppers, chopped
  • 2-3 courgettes, diced
  • 6 cloved garlic, minced
  • 20 tomatoes, blended
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp dried mixed herbs (the dried oregano is what gives this soup the flavour/smell of pizza)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 500ml – 1l water
  • 50g parmesan cheese, grated
  • Cooked meat – I used left over sausages and chicken (optional)
  • Cheese to sprinkle on top

Fry the onions and chorizo until the onions are soft and the chorizo has released its oils. Add the peppers, courgettes and garlic.

Stir in the tomatoes, seasoning and water and bring to the boil. Cook for 30 minutes.

Stir in the cheese and meat and cook until hot all the way through.

Serve with crusty bread and cheese sprinkled on top.

Enjoy!

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Seeking Comfort

Lake

Good evening all! I hope you are well. I have been missing my regular postings and did not want to end the weekend without popping by. If I am honest, this last week has been rather difficult, stressful and exhausting. Things have been getting on top of me; my work seems to have become unmanageable and housework just non-existent. There has also been rather a lot of guilt as I have felt rather ineffectual as a wife and mother, even staying late at work a couple of evenings. All in all, I am seeking some equilibrium and intend to get things back on track.

Little Helper

Stage one of the recovery plan was some theraputic domesticity. Providing healthy, homemade food for my family makes me feel good and, as we do not keep in many ready made options, last minute baking is a regular necessity (especially when meal planning has gone somewhat awry). Today’s cooking was especially exciting as, not only did I have a little helper to test the ingredients, it gave me the opportunity to test my birthday new book – Paul Hollywood’s ‘How to Bake‘. As lunch was due on the table in under an hour, there really was only one choice of loaf – soda bread. It is amazing that four simple ingredients (wholemeal flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and buttermilk) can combine to create something so delicious. A great success and I look forward to trying more Hollywood recipes in the near future.

Soup and Soda Bread

The bread was served with my take on the traditional Brocolli and Stilton. As we had no brocolli, it became pea and courgette. Not wholly sure that this was an improvement as these ingredients do lack the flavour of brocolli but it was cheap, healthy and was enjoyed by everyone so no worries.

Anyway, I must dash now but I am ending the weekend with positive thoughts for the week ahead. I hope that you are managing to keep life balanced and are concentrating on the positives. Back soon! 🙂

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Creamy Sweet Potato and Pear Bisque

Sweet Potato and Pear Bisque

Yum yum yum! This was today’s dinner, kindly prepared by my dear husband: Sweet Potato and Pear Bisque (or soup for those of us who are not used to such fancy terminology!). I was inspired to make this dish after reading Teresa’s rave reviews of the recipe on her blog, Can’t Stay Out of the Kitchen. It sounded exactly what we need at the moment – healthy comfort food to warm one up on these dark January evenings. And indeed, it did not disappoint. This soup was delicious. Sweet and tasty, like velvet flowing down my throat.

And what better to serve this creamy dish with but fresh No Knead Bread! As I was running low on flour, this loaf is a bit of a mish-mash. 1/2 cup white bread flour, 2 cups wholemeal bread flour and 1/2 cup plain (all-purpose) flour. However it was none the worse for it! The wholemeal flour added a delicious nuttiness, enhanced by the addition of poppy and sesame seeds (it needs some sunflower/pumpkin seeds for some real bite but I am also out of those).

Plate

The other rather exciting element of this simple supper was that it gave me the chance to use my wonderful new plate, a Christmas present from my lovely mother. Happy days!

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A Sunny Saturday

 Lake

Evening all! I hope you have had a lovely weekend. We’ve been enjoying a bout of beautiful weather, bright sun and blue skies, giving hope that Spring is just around the corner. Above is the rather lovely view that I came home to this evening – soft, hazy light causing the surface of the water to shimmer and shine.

Blue Sky

Saturday was a particularly spectacular day – dazzlingly blue skies with a sun that gave off real heat. Now I am back at work, it is even more important to make the most of our valuable family time. I have decreed that we must have at least one proper outing at a weekend. This week we chose a trip to the park to soak up the rays and get a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

Sutton Park Picnic

We set up camp and brought out a quick picnic.

Courgette Picnic Scone

My Picnic Scone is becoming a firm favourite for such outings – quick, easy and transportable and the Little Man loves it! This time I decided to make a courgette version:

In a bowl put 200g self raising flour, 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda, and 1 heaped tsp each of paprika, rosemary and Dijon Mustard.

Add a small courgette, grated, and snip in 10 black olives.

Stir in 100g natural yoghurt and stir to combine.

Form into a ball and place on a lightly greased baking tray.

Flatten slightly, cut into wedges/chunks and sprinkle liberally with rosemary and grated cheese.

Bake at 200 °C for 20 – 25 mins. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

I even splashed out and made pudding – Microwaved Rhubarb Steam Sponge.

Rhubarb Steam Sponge

The method was based on this Pineapple Upside Down Cake that can be found on the rather  sweet Old Fashioned Values cookery site. Instead of pineapple I chopped 200g of rhubarb and a cooking apple, added 50g of sugar and microwaved it until soft. Placing this in the bottom of a buttered Pyrex bowl, I then made the sponge mixture (with the addition of a good tsp of mixed spice) and poured it over. It was a marvellous recipe – 10 minutes and you have a delicious dessert.

After lunch we spent a while enjoying the weather, lounging on the grass and being entertained by the Little Man who was chattering away merrily, whizzing about the place and demonstrating his walking prowess (he needs still needs to hold your fingers but can move his legs confidently on his own ).

Sutton Park

We finally managed to drag ourselves up and enjoyed a stroll through the park.

Stream

I loved light filtering through the trees.

Sutton Park Path

The afternoon ended with a cheeky (and probably unnecessary!) ice-cream. Afterall, what’s a picnic in the park without a Mr Whippy?!

Sutton Park Ice Cream

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Souper Duper – Leek & Sweet Potato

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Snuggled down enjoying the final slices of last year’s Christmas cakes. Just clearing out before embarking on this season’s bake-athon. Cosy warmth on a chilly evening. Just need something little stronger to sip now.

Apologies for the title of this post. I love a good pun, I love a bad pun. Hey ho. But I do have some soup related stories and recipes to dazzle you with. I have mentioned before that one of the Little Man’s favourite dishes is soup – delicious, nutritious, easy to eat and, ahem, is easy on the digestive system.

We work on a rough weekly rota in an attempt to avoid the ’empty your fridge into a pot and hope for the best’ style soup. One week I tend to whizz up a ‘red’ soup, (a selection of carrots, swede, peppers, a few fresh tomatoes, possibly a sweet potato or two and thickened with red lentils or yellow split peas and flavoured with tumeric and cumin or paprika) whilst the following week the soup is green (cabbage, kale, broccoli or spinach with white potatoes, herbs and possibly a few beans). All are made with a base of onions and garlic.

This week, however, I decided to create two soups that require a more specific recipe.

Everybody knows of Leek and Potato soup but my friend recently introduced me to Leek and Sweet Potato. Smooth, silky, tasty, I loved it. Having no recipe I just made it up and, I have to say, the results were delicious.
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Leek and Sweet Potato Soup

In a pan, sweat 2 chopped onions and 3 garlic cloves, crushed.

Obviously vegetables vary greatly in size but ensure you include enough potato to obtain a silky texture. I used 3 large leeks and 6 medium sweet potatoes along with 3 carrots. Add these to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.

Add 2 tsp ground coriander and enough vegetable stock to just cover the vegetables. Boil for 20 minutes until everything is soft.

Blend until smooth then season to taste.

Of course, don’t forget the final touch:

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Some fresh bread. Scrummy!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. Tomorrow I shall share the other with you tomorrow.

What’s your favourite soup?

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Thou Shalt Have a Fishy

I wrote this post before the weekend, intending to publish it before we went away. Unfortunately it was not quite completed on time so it is a little out of date! Apologies. Thank you so much for your lovely comments on my Ripple Reveal – you’re all wonderful! x

On Friday hubby went back to work. How sad (probably even more for him than me, but I will miss having him around). He’d been off for what seems like ages because his annual leave was up in September so he’d taken it all in a couple of chunks over the Summer. The majority of these weeks were taken up with gardening but it is the last few days that I have really enjoyed. We haven’t done anything much, fixed a few jobs around the house, caught up on some sleep, but mainly we’ve just had some low-key family time.

Thursday was an unusual day for us because we spent it doing something that we do not do very often – shopping. I am not a big shopper. Don’t get me wrong, I can spend money with the best of them but I am not very interested in clothes and find going into town a bit of a bore, an opinion confirmed when the excursion is accompanied by a 5 month old! There is one sort of shopping that I do enjoy though and that is food shopping. What is more, this particular grocery shop was gearing up to an exciting event that will be happening this month – weaning. Yes, the time is approaching when the little man will begin to supplement his daily milk ration with solid stuff. Exciting!

This event has been heralded by an avalanche of junk mail from what feels like every supermarket and baby food manufacturer in Britain advertising their wares. Now I understand why people use ready-made infant food but I have been looking forward to preparing food for my little ones for years so will not need shelves of glass pots. However, all of these magazines came with strips of vouchers and I thought, what harm can there be in getting in a few packets to use in emergencies? Even more exciting, this meant I got the opportunity to frequent my favourite supermarket that is located near my parents’ house. All good.

I say we spent it shopping but in reality I mean the whole day was gearing towards the final event. By the time we finally arrived at my mom’s we decided it was lunchtime (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, yummy). Cue 90 minutes of soaking up the sun whilst all parties were fed, watered and changed. Procrastination supremos, that’s us!

Our final purchases were not anything particularly noteworthy but they have led me to pondering food and the family. When I was younger we always ate together. Even when we return home now all meals are eaten around the table and the TV is never on. I cannot wait for the little man to join us for dinner and love to plan what foods we shall share. Family favourites, those suppers that are guaranteed to please, and new ideas.

I made of one those crowd pleasers last week – Fish Pie. My mother was making fish pie for us before I can remember but, over the years, our recipe has adapted to include new foods and flavours. The basics, however, have always remained the same – fish, parsley sauce and creamy mashed potato. So, without further ado, let me share the secrets of our family’s fish pie.

Let’s start with the base ingredients. I am not going to give amounts because that depends on personal taste. For example, I use a lot of onions and veges etc. compared to chefs’ recipes because it’s healthier and cheaper but it depends what you like. So I begin with onions and chorizo. The latter is less conventional and optional but I find it gives an extra depth of flavour and, let’s face it, chorizo’s always wonderful!

For me, the vegetable portion of a fish pie is always carrots, peas and sweetcorn. I do sometimes use peppers as well, but these were earmarked for a curry so were omitted this time. I think the secret to chop up the vegetables into small chunks because nobody wants giant chunks of carrot taking centre stage.

Anyway, now’s the time to start cooking! Fry the onions and chorizo until the onions are soft and the chorizo has released its delicious oil.

Stir in the vegetables and leave on the heat for 15 – 20 minutes.  

Whilst this is all going on it is time to talk fish. For this pie I used salmon and kippered mackerel (I do not understand how a mackerel is ‘kippered’ but essentially it was smoked!). I chose these because they were plentiful and good value at the time but it is up to you. I recommend that you include some smoked fish because this adds flavour, but really there are no rules!

Place the fish (filleted) in a pan with a bit of water and cover. Leave it on the heat until it is nearly cooked through but the centre has not quite turned opaque. It will be cooked again later so this time just needs to be done enough to work with. Transfer to a plate to cool but keep the water for stock.

When cool, remove the skin and flake the fish, checking for bones as you go.

A fish pie would not be complete in our house without seafood. Now I live just about as far from the sea as it is possible to be in the UK so fresh seafood is not free-flowing. I therefore make life easy and buy the frozen ‘seafood selection’ packs from the supermarket. If you live in an area where good seafood is plentiful then go wild!

Next up is the Parsley sauce: Melt 40 g butter then stir in 20 g plain flour. Take off the heat and slowly stir in 250 ml cold milk and 200 ml of stock (add a stock cube to the fish water from earlier – voilà!). Return to heat and stir til simmering. Add plenty of chopped parsley (dried parsley works well too).

Place the vegetable mixture, fish and seafood in the bottom of the dish and cover with the parsley sauce.

Top with mashed potato (make relatively soft so it can be spread easily) and a little grated cheese (strong cheddar or blue cheese gives good flavour but you can use less). For an alternative topping, cook a whole potato for 10 minutes. When cool, peel and slice before layering on top.

Cook in a moderate oven until piping hot and brown on top.

Serve with veges and tuck in! 🙂

Let me know if you try this recipe – I hope you enjoy it! x

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It’s all a matter of balance

The above picture has nothing to do with this post is meant to be about but I just Had to show you the amazing new towels that my mother bought us. Don’t you just love them?! They’re my special crochet towels – they make me want to start whipping up rainbow granny stripes now! So wonderful. I smile everytime I use them. Who doesn’t love a good towel fest?! My mom’s actually quite obsessed with towels but cannot fit any more in her house. If this means that she has to buy me more of these beauties to get her fix then all’s good – whatever makes her happy! 

Anyway, let’s consider getting to the point, shall we?

I realise that so far sweet treats have featured quite heavily in this blog (see here, here and here). Now I would be the first person to admit that I am quite a fan of a slice of cake or a bit of chocolate with my morning/afternoon/evening cuppa but I try to maintain a good balance in my eating habits. I love cooking and like to prepare a fresh, healthy evening meal when I can be bothered time allows. There are usually 3 main considerations when preparing dinner: quick to prepare, cheap (my maternity pay is reducing every month) and healthy (I really am working hard to loose the baby weight, believe it or not!).

I have my favourites, meals that I prepare time and time again, but sometimes I like to try something new. Last Tuesday was one of those days. I love lasagne but do not make it very often because of the time of preparation, the cost of ingredients and the calorie count (meat, cheese sauce, pasta = diet buster!). It is a Special Occasion Dinner. On Tuesday, however, I had a yearning for layers of flat pasta – the appearance of lasagne without the rich, calorific meat and cheese sauce. I raided the fridge and put it together to make a mushroom and spinach lasagne – I am going to name it Abigail’s Light Lasagne. Cheap, healthy and quick to prepare (it was in the oven by the time little one had been bathed and dressed!).

Spinach and Mushroom Lasagne (serves 2)

Fry 2 chopped onions until soft. Add 250g sliced mushrooms, season and cook on high for 5 mins. Stir in 2 crushed garlic cloves for a further 2 mins.

Rinse 100g spinach with boiling water to blanche it.

In a separate dish, pour boiling water over 6 sheets of lasagne and leave for 5 mins to soften. Drain.

Lay half of the pasta on the bottom of an ovenproof dish then spread the filling over it. Top with the spinach then cover with the remaining lasagne.

Beat 1 egg and whisk into 250g yoghurt. Season and pour over the pasta. Sprinkle a little cheese over the top.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30 mins.

Serve with a side salad and enjoy!

This dinner was given the thumbs up by hubby who thought it was cheesy (the topping reminded him of creamy ricotta) – not faint praise from a cheese fanatic. Let me know if you try the recipe – maybe you could try a different filling depending what you have in your fridge? Do you have any ‘light alternatives’ to family favourites? xxxxx

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French Onion Soup

Happy Saturday! And a very enjoyable Saturday this is turning out to be. Any day’s off to a good start when pancakes are around. Lemon and sugar is always good but toffee sauce and strawberries won out this morning. This plate of goodness brought a ray of sunshine to proceedings, which was welcome considering the gloom outside.

However, the clouds slowly lifted and the sun is shining brightly around here this afternoon.

The trees are blowing merrily and fluffy white clouds are whizzing through the sky. Everything seems right with the world when the sky’s that colour.

I love watching the light dance over the lake like little jewels glinting on the surface. We are very lucky to have such a beautiful area of tranquility opposite us. You can almost forget that we live in the middle of England’s 2nd biggest city!

Now, I know that I said that today would be sharing the delights of yesterday’s adventures however today has involved some last minute cooking so I am going to share my lunch with you instead!

Soup isn’t the automatic choice for the hottest recorded day in 2012, but this morning did not give many clues to the delightful weather instore. Also, the good thing about French Onion soup is that it is a soup that can be enjoyed all year round without making you think of chilly January evenings with the fire blazing.

I love French Onion Soup – it is always my chosen starter at Café Rouge.  Unlike many others, it is a really simple soup to make at home but the results are restaurant quality in both taste and (sometimes) appearance without the price tag. For a really indepth study of broth creation check out this page on the Guardian website, but I think the recipe is fairly flexible and can be adapted to suit your store cupboard.

French Onion Soup – serves 4-6

1kg onions, finely sliced

2tsps sugar (I use demerera)

1tbsp vinegar (balsalmic, cider or wine vinegar work well)

2 heaped tsp cornflour/cornstarch

1.2ml stock (see below)

1tsp Bovril/Marmite (optional)

Salt

Glug of sherry/brandy (optional)

The secret to good onion soup is to fry the onions for a long time on medium, stirring regularly, until they are brown and caramelised. I usually do them for 30-40 mins.

When they start sticking, stir in the vinegar and scrape any goodness off the bottom of the pan.

Many recipes will tell you to add flour now but I find that this can lead to the possibility of lumps, especially if you are impatient and trying to get dinner on the table. To eliminate this problem, mix the cornflour with a little water to make a paste then add to the stock.

A word about the stock. I usually prefer a mixture of beef stock and cider or white wine, though the booze may be omitted if preferred. The better quality your stock is the tastier your soup will be so I usually use stock pots or ready made stock, although cubes will be fine. Vegetable stock will work well if you are looking for a vegetarian version.

Add your chosen liquid to the onions and cook on low – the longer, the better so allow 1hr or pop in the slow cooker until dinner. (If the family is threatening mutiny then just simmer for as long as possible!)

Finally, season to taste and add in the booze if using.

Serve with cheesy croutons – toast some baguette, sprinkle with grated cheese then grill until bubbling. Stringy cheese, such as Gruyère works particularly well but this was last minute cooking for guests so we had cheddar on ciabatta!

I hope you will feel inspired to soup up your dinner one day soon. Let me know if you try the recipe or have your own version.

xxxxxxx

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