Category Archives: Recipes

Buckwheat Butternut Squash Ravioli and Noodles

One of my prized kitchen gadgets is my pasta maker. I’d wanted one for ages, then when I finally was bought one for Christmas I was of course super excited and quickly started making pasta. It was all going so well until I had to go wheat free. I had been meaning for absolutely ages to try out making wheat free/gluten free pasta, however a combination of much work and a small baby put things on hold 😉

Whilst having a rare baby free moment I slipped into one of my favourite places on the way home after a clinic… a food shop! I always end up looking round the special dietary foods sections and the baking section. This time I ended up buying some buckwheat flour. I use a large range of wheat free flours in my cooking – rice, tapioca, potato, rye, cornmeal… but buckwheat in one I hadn’t tried, and I was super excited to see it mentioned being good for pasta making. Woohoo!

So this week I’ve had a play with pasta, with buckwheat flour and fresh eggs from our chickens. I’ve found making the dough so quick and easy, getting use to the pasta machine has been the slower, trickier side but it’s getting there!

 

Our first buckwheat pasta meal was a Courgette Carbonara, a variation on the theme of Carbonara as I don’t use cream, so it’s healthier, lighter version and packed with veggies. I used thin strips of courgette, along with some mushrooms, some half fat creme fraiche and fresh herbs.

 

Yesterday I decided to make Butternut squash Ravioli using fresh buckwheat pasta. Now I won’t lie, this was time consuming. However I did it in stages around the baby. So whilst she snacked I had the butternut filling on the go, we made the dough together and then as she did some felt tip extravaganza I rolled out the dough and made the Ravioli. The thing I liked about this was I was able to leave the Ravioli covered in the fridge until we needed to eat and it was so quick to cook. We ate it with a little bit of pesto, partially as I hadn’t got round to making a sauce to go with it!

A brief recap of my recipe was: 1 butternut squash peeled, chopped then cooked with a little olive oil, white wine  and water along with onion and garlic. I added fresh herbs (parsley and sage), nutmeg, seasoned and pureed it. The buckwheat pasta was 200g buckwheat flour with 2 eggs. And here are the Ravioli themselves…not perfect but ok for a first attempt I hope you’ll agree!

 

Christmas Paella

Christmas Dinner – what does it look like in your home? Turkey with all the trimmings? Not in our home I’m afraid. We’re a bit untraditional in our house when it come to Christmas Day food. In fact I’ve only actually had Turkey on Christmas Day twice in just over 30 years. We’ve had duck, beef, salmon en croute, prawn linguine, Sri-Lankan curry, a Chinese banquet and more. For us it’s a chance to have whatever we really fancy having, buy quality ingredients and make it a special meal.

This year my husband has worked over most of the Christmas period, he was home on Christmas Day but working from home. Due to the nature of his work it could mean you just plate up a meal and then the phone rings….that’s that….cold dinner. So we wanted to keep things simple this year. Having spent Christmas in Spain before my husband requested Paella. His wish = my command!

Having looked through a few recipes I took bits from all of them and as always followed none of them but created my own version. We used saffron plus a special Spainish paella mix (brought over from Spain), chorizo, chicken, prawns and mussels along with the essential rice plus peas, peppers and mushrooms. Easy to cook, keep warm in case of phone calls and lots of left overs for baby dinners and Boxing Day. Here’s a photo of it cooking. It was so tasty that we only managed paella…no dessert, no chocolates, nothing till cheese and wine in the evening 🙂

Baking Flapjacks with the Little One.

My healthier take on flapjacks are well known by my friends, I’ve almost always got a tub of them on the go. They got me through the long early days of breastfeeding and are now enjoyed by 1 year old too. In fact she absolutely loves them. So today, when she was struggling to sleep and I was unable to bake during her naptime I decided she may as well help me. This turned into a really fun learning experience for us both.

I weighed out the oats and sultanas and Kezia enjoyed playing with the dried ingredients, especially as she was able to sneak a few sultanas! She also liked watching me measure out the sugar, honey and margarine.

Playing with the dry ingredients.

 

Then came the bananas, amazingly none of these went into Kezia’s mouth, she spent some time transferring the bananas from one bowl to another and watched as I mashed them. I left her a little in the bowl to play with being an interesting texture and tasty too 🙂

Banana time

Stirring all the ingredients together was a lot of fun, although the spoon was probably a bit too large! It was a pleasure watching Kezia have a good go at mixing and seeing the look of satisfaction on her face.

Stirring with the biggest spoon!

I was allowed to place it all in the baking tray and of course Kezia then was left with the empty bowl and spoon, which she instantly started to scrape with her fingers….finding the leftovers showing it’s a natural reaction to lick the cake mixture off the spoon 😉

Scraping out the bowl and spoon

Finally we had time for more mixing practice at super fast speed!

Look at me Mummy! Mixing in action.

What are your favourite recipes for cooking with children? Any tips to pass onto me?

 

Roasted vegetable and mozzarella pasta.

Tonight I needed a quick, easy meal that could be thrown together with ease. You know those days when you wake up feeling tired, then spend the day running around, get to the evening and suddenly uh oh, it’s almost dinner time and you’ve not made any, you need something healthy and filling….well that was my day today. Pilates class, washing, cleaning, baking, baby party, and a teething, clingy baby but hungry mouths to feed.

So 5pm came and I raided the fridge. Finding a pack of peppers and some mozzarella I felt inspired. Cue the oven warming up to gas mark 6. Peppers thickly sliced onto a baking tray, chunky onions join them along with some halved large mushrooms, a drizzle of olive oil along with a splash of water and in they go to roast for about 40 minutes. Remember olive oil may be a healthier fat but it is still a fat, so a small drizzle, the water does the rest.

Meanwhile the baby partially ate her dinner and partially painted it in her hair and around her highchair 😉

Towards the end of the roasting the pasta went on (wheat free for me). Once cooked all that needed to be done was mix the pasta with the roasted veggies, mix in some chunks of creamy mozzarella and a teaspoon of pesto. After a busy day, this was simple, quick, easy, healthy, tasty family food.

Parsnip Soup for 10p a head.

I love a bargain, shoes, clothes, bags, they’re all good, but I must admit one of the bargain that excites me the most is food. I love rooting round the reduced food section of the shops and pulling out random items then concocting a hopefully delicious meal based around my beautiful bargains.

But what can you do if all that’s in the reduced section is a pile of worse for wear veggies? Do you pass those slightly sad specimens and ignore them? They may not be in their prime but if you take them home and use them quickly (on the day preferably) then you can knock up a scrummy meal for a cost saving price.


This week I picked up a couple of large bags of parsnips, reduced right down, so today we have made parsnip soup. Here’s what I did:

Parsnips peeled and chopped, put into a pan and cover with some stock (either a stock cube and water or homemade stock), simmer until parsnips are soft (10-15 mins). Then blitz with a blender until it’s smooth and creamy. I then added in come curry powder, black pepper and milk plus some grated nutmeg. And that’s it! I made enough soup for 6 people for about 60p.

10 Minute Minestrone Soup

It’s officially winter in our house, which means the jumpers are out, the heating on and soup is being made. We love soup. What’s not to love…it can be packed with veggies, warms you up and is easy to make.

Yesterday was a rush around day and I knew we were out over lunch so would come back home starving, wanting an instant late munch. So whilst baby had her lunch I threw together this 10 minute Minestrone number. The added bonus being it was made from store cupboard ingredients and our version was wheat/gluten free, plus baby friendly 🙂

Here’s what I did…

Put 1 tin of chopped tomatoes in a pan with 1 litre hot water and a salt stock cube (gluten free and low salt in our case), of course you could use fresh stock if you are clever enough to have some. As this all comes up to simmer add in some broken up thin noodles or spaghetti. We used rice vermicelli which cooks almost as soon as it hits the water. Whilst that is simmering for a couple of minutes, dash to your freezer and pull out a bag of frozen veggies, add about 300g. Let the whole thing simmer for a few minutes, season well and there it is. Soup in 10 minutes. Enjoy.

What’s your favourite soup? I’d love to hear your recipes.

Small Potato Rock

I’ve been working with the Potato Council recently doing parent and toddler roadshows with the Small Potatoes. For those of you up on Cbeebies you’ll know all about the “Small Potatoes”.  These potatoes like to sing and dance…. so that’s exactly what I have been doing too! Songs include “Small Potato Rock”, “Potato Love” and the “Potato Train”. No laughing now, this is serious stuff.

It’s been a lot of fun watching excited toddlers hug the potato characters, judging colouring competitions and talking to mums about healthy eating and family meals. It’s also shown me how needed this type of thing is, the mums had loads of great questions and were dying to get recipes, meal planners and tips.

My little one meets the "Small Potatoes" who are rather larger than her!

So here are a few potato inspired recipes for you:

BOMBAY POTATO CURRY (serves 4)

  • 500g new potatoes halved
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds, tumeric, cumin and coriander
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bag spinach

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds, let them pop for a couple of minutes then add the onion and garlic, saute. Add the tumeric, cumin and coriander plus a little chilli if wanted, cook 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes and potatoes, plus spinach and cook for 2-3 minutes.

POTATO AND VEGETABLE TAGINE (serves 4)

  • 2 tsp paprika, cumin
  • 600g potatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions in large chunks
  • 3 carrots, in wedges
  • 1 red pepper, thickly sliced
  • 2 parsnips, in wedges
  • 1 star anise
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 handfuls dried apricots

I sometimes do this one in the slow cooker – throw it all in, press the button, walk away and come back several hours later to eat it 🙂

Alternatively….cook the spices in the oil, and add the potatoes, after a couple of minutes add the rest of the vegetables, plus the chopped tomatoes and half a tin of water. Stir and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, star anise chick peas and dried apricots and simmer for 10 minutes.

So what are your favourite potato recipes? Let me know by commenting below.


Risotto Love.

We love risotto in our house. It’s just so versatile. You can dress it up all fancy and swish for a dinner party or keep it simple for an everyday family meal. Plus, its wheat and gluten free, can easily be vegetarian and it’s easy, peasey to make….even my husband who isn’t into cooking can make a risotto 😉

Our favourites at the moment are mushroom and blue cheese and a creamy leek and lemon version with salmon. Butternut squash with a grating of nutmeg works well as does chicken and pea.

Risotto’s take a bit of love and time, you can’t really walk away and leave them to cook themselves, unless you like crunchy rice…so stay by the cooker and let it cook slowly, simmering not boiling.

Using a home made stock is tasty and lower in salt. We make stock using the chicken bones after a roast and freeze it down for later.

Swap cream for low fat creme fraiche or natural yoghurt and low fat creme cheese. Keeps the creamy taste but cuts the fat.

Add a splash of wine and some fresh herbs for extra flavour. You can go fairly bold in a risotto so try some different flavour combos.

You can make it in advance, then finish off with the last bit of stock or a swirl of milk/wine when heating up. It also makes great leftovers for lunches.

If feeding a baby it’s perfect sticky finger food, my baby adores risotto.

 

Tips to reduce food waste.

Mouldy carrots, liquid cucumber, out of date yoghurts…we’ve all had it. In this time of us all trying to be more eco-friendly not only should we be trying to shop more locally and reduce petrol, buy local produce and reduce food miles, grow more food ourselves…but also not overbuying food that we don’t need and making sure food doesn’t get wasted.

The Food Waste Report says we throw away 1/3 of the food we buy, 6.7 tonnes a year. The main foods wasted being potatoes, bread and fruit and veggies. According to statistics if we stopped wasting food it would be the equivalent to taking 1 in 4 cars off UK roads! I found this figure pretty alarming. Reducing the amount of food waste is key if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Being a dietitian I must admit I do watch what others do in their homes. I’m not judging but just interested. What I tend to see is a lot of wasted food. Leftovers from meals being thrown away, things in the fridge not being used in time, fruit half eaten and then chucked in the bin. None of that is allowed in my house. If a banana is left in the car and is by the husband and is past its best it either gets used straightaway in my banana flapjack recipe or frozen for use later on. Leftovers are fought over for lunches! In fact I now just cook extra so the baby and I can have leftovers for lunch in the week, and the freezer can be fed.

I’d like to inspire you to be a little less wasteful so here are some tips:

Top Tips:

1. Plan, Plan, Plan. At some point in the week plan out what you are going to do for meals. In our house this is a flexible plan as I’m guided also by what is on offer in the shops. So I may decide to do a risotto, but leave the type of risotto flexible until I shop. Planning helps me buy the right things, saves me time and money and keeps me organised! It also ensures that most of  the time we don’t get caught out on a busy day with no time to cook…as I think about what we are all doing and try to plan in when I will have time to cook dinners.

2. You don’t need to throw away food just because it is past the best before date. There are 2 types of dates on foods…the use by date is important, food can be eaten up to the end of the ‘use by’ date, but not after even if it looks and smells fine. The best before date is different. This refers to quality rather than food safety. When the date is passed, the food won’t be unsafe but it might begin to lose its flavour or texture.

3. Keep leftovers. Leftovers are amazing. Use them for lunches, add them into the next days meal, add them to a whole new meal – use as the base of an omelette, a frittata, soups and stews… Or freeze them.

4. Be aware of what is in your fridge and veggie rack. Think about what needs using up first before you start to cook. Is the spinach wilting? Are the peaches going off? Then use them up quick! Stir fries are great for using most veggies, fruit can be lightly stewed and turned into a dessert or a compote for breakfast. Use the internet to find a quick recipe.

5. Make soups…if we have a glut of veggies it becomes soup time.  Homemade soups are so quick and easy to make. Soften a little onion, ad your veggies, cover with stock and simmer till the veggies are soft. Whiz in the blender, add seasoning and hey presto…fresh soup. It’s cheap, easy and full of nutrition.

6. Get composting 🙂 Scraps, peelings, apple cores, teabags, torn up paper and tissue, toilet rolls etc… can all be composted. Get a compost collecter in your kitchen and start a compost heap in the garden. Then use the compost to grow some yummy veggies!

7. Try to buy food that has less packaging or biodegradable packaging. Fruit and veggies can be bought loose, from the green grocer or have a box delivered from the farm. Recycle as much packaging as possible or compost some of it.

References:

WRAP. Food Waste Report. The food we waste.  April 2008. http://wrap.s3.amazonaws.com/the-food-we-waste.pdf

The Art of lazy cooking…by the slow cooker.

I love my slow cooker. Fact. It’s one of my fav kitchen gadgets, along with my food processor, bread machine and the kettle. Shows I’m pretty lazy doesn’t it! I’d love to have the time to mix everything by hand, make bread by hand and boil water in a pretty singing kettle on the hob, but in my whirlwind life it just isn’t going to happen. So I cheat…pretty much all the time.

Today I fancied cooking a heathy stew full of beans, lentils, veggies and chicken. Now I’m looking after an active baby, running pilates classes, teaching step aerobics and writing a diet sheet today, not much time to cook. So my solution was to get out the slow cooker.

This is what we do…raid the cupboards and veggie rack, chop things nice and chunky, throw it all in and switch it on 🙂 Today we have chicken thighs, chunky bacon bits, carrots, squash and mixed beans and pulses all with some chopped tomatoes, fennel, mustard seeds and balsamic vinegar plus a star anise. Towards the end of cooking I’ll add a handful of fresh herbs and serve with mashed potatoes as its potato season in our house.

Give it a go, the house will smell lovely, the food will taste great and it’s all healthy stuff.