Puy lentils with beetroot and goats cheese

I tend to make this when I’ve got leftover puy lentils to use up as it takes 5 minutes, it’s delicious and very nutritious – packed full of iron. Lentils are a great and very cheap way of getting protein into your kids without giving them fish or meat. If you cook the lentils from scratch it doesn’t take much longer to make and you get a warm salad which is nice in winter. It makes me laugh how much Lexie looooves this dish but hates mashed potato!?!

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Puy lentils with beetroot and goats cheese

If lentils and beetroot pre-cooked (or vac pac beetroot)
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 0 mins

If cooking lentils and beetroot
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20 – 45 mins (depending on beetroot)

  • Puy lentils
  • Goats cheese – or feta cheese
  • Beetroot – fresh or vac pac
  • Salad leaves – spinach, rocket, watercress is nice
  • Spring onion (optional) – sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

If cooking the lentils and beetroot, put lentils in a pan, cover with lots of water (be generous, lentils guzzle water up), bring to the boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes until done. They should be tender but have a bit of bite. Drain and drizzle with olive oil. In another pan cover the beetroot (either whole or chopped in half) with water, bring to the boil then simmer until cooked through – generally 30-45 mins depending on size. Once done drain and leave to cool before removing skins and chopping into chunks. If you’ve never cooked fresh beetroot before be careful of it’s incredibly staining juices! Fresh beetroot is delicious, cheap and very easy to cook but it is stainy and faffy to peel. Vac pac beetroot is less of a faff (no boiling, peeling etc) but equally stainy and the texture is never as nice as fresh beetroot.

Once you have cooked lentils and beetroot assembling the salad is easy. Put leaves in a bowl, add the lentils, beetroot, crumbled goats cheese and spring onion if using (I leave it out for Lexie). Dress with oil and vinegar and season to taste!

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Butternut squash and feta salad

This is one of my staple salads. It’s a kids meal from Jane Clarke’s Yummy Baby book but I often make it if I have more than 3 people to feed because it’s delicious, cheap and really easy to make so I don’t get neurotic (I’m not a great host). Ironically it’s not Lexie’s favourite – she’s not into squash or sweet potato – but everyone else loves it and always asks for the recipe.

choose squash

It’s nice with sausages but today I’m serving it with lamb chops for a lunch with my mum and her best friend. It’s lovely as a warm salad using the squash straight from the oven but equally delicious served cold so you can roast the squash in advance and keep in the fridge till you need it. I’ve never made it with toasted nuts/seeds or bacon but I think both would be a great addition.

shopping

Butternut squash and feta salad

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 45mins – 1 hour (to cook the squash, takes 5-10 minutes to put the salad together)

  • 1 butternut squash cut lengthways in half
  • Olive oil
  • Feta cheese (or goats cheese is nice too and what I used in the pics)
  • Spring onions
  • Lemon
  • Salad – spinach, rocket, watercress is nice (I used watercress in the pics
  • Salt and pepper (optional)
  • Toasted hazelnuts or pumpkin seeds (optional)
  • Chopped, fried streaky bacon (optional)

squash ingredients

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or gas mark 6. Drizzle olive oil over the halves of squash.

oil squash

Put in the oven for 40mins – 1 hour depending on size. Do check the squash and adjust the temperature accordingly. Once it’s done either wait for it to cool, cover and keep in the fridge till you need it. Or remove the skin and seeds and chop the flesh into chunks.

roast squash

Slice the spring onions and cut the feta into chunks. Put the salad in a bowl and add the spring onions, feta and squash chunks. Dress with olive oil and fresh lemon juice to taste and season with salt and pepper if you want. Then if you are using them add the nuts/seeds/bacon to garnish (not used in the pics).

squash salad

Pan tumaca (bread with tomato)

Pan tumaca – bread with tomato – along with a cafe con leche and fresh orange juice is a traditional Spanish breakfast from Cataluyna. Lexie absolutely loves this and I give her a little bowl of tomato with rounds of toasted baguette which she dips into the bowl! I eat it all the time, including at work where my colleagues thought I was mental. I’d reply: “Yes well the rest of the world thinks you and your marmite are mental so ya boo to you.”

nummy matos

Pan tumaca is nice at any time of the day as a snack or a side dish. Often, if not being served for breakfast, you rub a bit of garlic on the bread too. As a snack I like it with slivers of manchego and/or jamon serrano.

Pan tumaca

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 2 mins

  • Fresh or toasted baguette/ciabatta/white sourdough/pugliese
  • Tomatos – vine ideally
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • (garlic – optional)
  • (manchego/jamon serrano – optional)

toms ing

Get the tomatoes and cut them in half. You can just rub the tomato onto the fresh or toasted bread but its more economical to grate it. Grate the cut side till you get to the skin then discard the skins.

tom sauce

Lewis adds olive oil to the grated tomato, I don’t. I spread the tomato on the bread then drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt. Its so yummy – salt for breakfast!

If you want to have the garlic rub one clove on the bread before you add the tomato.

pan tuma

Vietnamese chicken noodle salad

I got a bit obsessed with Vietnamese food in 2005 after discovering the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. My dad worked in Vietnam so luckily we had Nicole Routhier’s ‘The Foods of Vietnam’ at home. There are loads of great recipes in this cook book and my favourite is this crunchy noodle salad (I wooed Lewis with this dish!!). It is seriously good!

viet book

Noodles are symbolic in Chinese culture for a long life and this morning at 3 am a new addition to the family arrived – a little red head baby girl! Lexie’s cousin and my niece. I can’t think of a better dish to make today so Lex and I celebrated by going to the market to get all the veg – I couldn’t resist buying the mini cucumbers!

lex buy

mini cues

I used roast chicken leftovers but this dish is equally nice without meat or perhaps with prawns. It is a cold salad and fantastic in summer but also clean and zingy enough to fit a January detox. It’s even better at this time of year served alongside a pho or Hugh Fearnley’s poached chicken with star anise (recipes to follow). A quick warning: it is faffy chopping up all the veg but it smells incredible – all that fresh mint and coriander. It’s also a very cheap dish once you’ve invested in the required condiments.

If I’m making these noodles for Lexie I do a separate dressing without chilli. And if we’re not eating together I put aside some of the shredded veg and herbs in a tupperware. Then when she’s having it, I’ll cook the noodles and make the chilli-free dressing from scratch before mixing it all together.

Vietnamese chicken noodle salad

Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 5-10 mins

  • 1 cucumber, julienned in a food processor or cut in thin slices
  • 2 carrots, julienned or grated
  • 2 handfuls of shredded white cabbage or chinese leaf cabbage
  • Lots of chopped coriander
  • Lots of chopped mint
  • Fresh lime halves
  • Chopped salted peanuts
  • Chicken slices
  • Rice noodles

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons of groundnut or sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 or 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar (to taste, I usually do 1 tbsp but recipe is 1 1/2)
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 knob of grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (to taste)
  • 1 chopped red chilli – leave this out if making for kids unless they ‘do spicy’ – Lexie’s words – she doesn’t ‘do spicy’.

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Start by making the dressing as it’s nicer if it’s sat for a while. Get a bowl and add the oil, vinegar and fish sauce. Mix in the garlic, ginger and chilli then add the sugar and stir till it’s dissolved. A tip for chopping chilli is to either wear rubber gloves or use scissors. That way you don’t need to worry about getting any chilli on your little one. Then cover and set aside.

chilli dressing

To make the salad do all the chopping and shredding then it’s a simple assembly job. Mix the carrot, cucumber and cabbage. Add the chopped fresh herbs and chicken slices. I also use scissors to chop herbs, sometimes like my 97 year old granny-in-law does, with the herbs in a glass so you can chop them very finely with the scissors.

mix

Cook your rice noodles as per the packet then, once done, you can either mix the noodles in with the veg or serve separately. Finish the dressing by mixing in the fresh lime then pour all over the salad. If you won’t eat all the salad in one sitting only dress what you are eating – it doesn’t keep well once dressed. Garnish with the chopped peanuts and some slices of lime and serve! Ideally with an ice cold beer or some jasmine tea.

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PS: I love these chopsticks – Lewis and I bought them in Peru from an amazing Japanese restaurant. We were so grateful to all the Japanese immigrants in S America whose restaurants saved us from the ubiquitous meat, rice and beans or ham and cheese toasties.

done done

Easy roast chicken and homemade chips

young mum

We had dinner at my mums after an afternoon at the Science Museum. That photo above is a pic of my mum when she was younger! Va va voom! I bought a thyme and rosemary rotisserie chicken from Waitrose (the easiest roast chicken ever!). Mum lives within walking distance of 5 Waitroses can you believe it? We get one every time we visit her. She made her amazing homemade chips and served it all with green peas and salad.

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Such a delicious dinner and it’s a real skill to be able to make homemade chips in a pan. In Spain one of the most popular kids’ dinners is definitely chips with a fried egg. And a staple teatime snack is a chocolate sandwich – either nutella or a nestle crunch in a sweet bread roll. Rice cake anyone?!

PS: Mum served Torres Vina Sol white wine with this meal, currently £5 on offer at Waitrose, a lovely dry wine.

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My mum’s homemade chips

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Potatoes – mum likes the red skinned desiree ones – they are all rounders but waxy potatoes are supposed to be better for chips
  • Sunflower oil
  • Kitchen roll
  • Salt

Peel the potatoes, cut into chips and pat dry with kitchen towel – something to do with starch. Mum and I cut pretty uneven chips, some skinnier than others. Lewis, who learnt how to make chips off my mum, cannot help but make the most even and perfect chips of all time!

mum peel

Get a deep frying pan and fill with lots of sunflower oil. My mum has a special pan she only uses for chips or tortillas. Heat the oil so its hot and add one chip to test – there should be lots of little bubbles around the chip.

test chip

When ready add the rest of the chips and fry on a high heat for a couple of minutes, moving the chips around a few times. Then reduce the heat and let them sizzle away for a while. Keep checking them until a few chips start turning golden like this.

turning golden

Then you can either turn the heat up and do a final fry until the chips are golden and crispy. Or do what my mum often does, cook the chips until this just turning golden stage, then turn the pan off and leaves them (top chefs remove the chips from the oil then put them back for the final fry but mum never bothers and they always taste good). Just before you need to serve give them a quick blast fry.

final stir
almost done

Either way, once they are done, remove with a slotted spatula and place into a kitchen towel lined bowl. Add more kitchen towel and pat the chips to remove excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve! Mum always says that the housewives of Andalucia make such good chips (and fried fish) they can put them in their pocket because they are so crispy and not greasy! You should save the used sunflower oil (we use old jam jars) for the next time you need to make chips or other dishes like tortillas that need fried potatoes.

little bundle

 

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voila

Leek and potato soup

I’m writing this covered in face paint. I painted a lovely rainbow on Lexie’s face.

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She did this.

mum paint

Don’t we look nice! It’s a typical January evening – cold, dark and wet so at least we look bright for her supper! Tonight I made my staple leek and potato soup. It’s easy, uber healthy and right now she loooves dipping toast into things.

I love this soup with lots of baguette and cheeses but Lewis isn’t at all keen on it. One boxing day I made a flask of it with wholemeal cheddar cheese sandwiches for a long walk in Richmond park. He huffed: “I like you because you’re Spanish and make manchego and serrano ham baguettes! This is like school packed lunch!” I was gutted!

Leek and potato soup

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins

  • 2 small leeks or 1 big leek
  • 1 fluffy potato like a maris piper – medium sized
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 chicken stock cube

This soup is very quick to make and is so healthy. I’ve made it before sauteing the leeks in butter and olive oil but it didn’t taste as nice. Wash and chop the leeks and put into the saucepan. Peel and chop the potato and add to the pan. Add a bay leaf and one stock cube, we use Kallo organic or Knorr. For babies just starting to eat you can leave the stock out or buy special stock cubes for babies with less salt. Top up with water so the potatoes are covered, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Once the potatoes start getting mushy, take the bay leaf out and juzz the soup in a blender. Voila – serve with buttered toast or a yummy cheddar cheese toastie.

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