Vote for Bangers & Mash!

Did I mention I’m a finalist for in an exciting UK parent bloggers award? Well, it’s true!

I’m very, very excited. Only I feel a bit uncomfortable shouting about it. I’m hoping people will just vote for me without me having to do a big song and dance about it. That there are enough people who like what I do on Bangers & Mash.

But the thing is, I’d really, really like to win. So I’m going to have a quick shout if you don’t mind. If you like this blog, would you mind doing me a very lovely favour and vote for me? There’s only one week left til voting closes at 5pm (British Summertime) on Wednesday 6 June.

You can vote for Bangers & Mash in the Best Food Blog category of the MAD Blog Awards here. It only takes a couple of minutes. Please? Pretty please? OK now, I’m begging. That’s more than enough of that…

The aim of the MAD Blog Awards is to raise the profile of parenting blogs and bloggers, so please do take a look at the other finalists’ blogs – there is some amazing writing here – funny, helpful, thought-provoking, moving and inspiring. I’m only just realising how many incredible parent bloggers there are in the UK, and I feel very humble and priveledged to find myself in their company.

Finally if you fancy a laugh, here’s a great video put together by the MAD Awards organisers, featuring many of the finalists – including me. I’m the one in the hammock, paddling pool and trampoline! The theme of the video is parenting isn’t perfect – but blogging it can be.

Floral honey party sandwiches

Sometimes I am unashamedly girly and I make the most of the fact I have two young daughters as a good excuse to play with pink, fluffy, sparkly, flowery things.

When I happened upon Le Frufru’s beautiful blog recently, as I traced the source of some pretty pictures I’d come across on Pinterest, I fell in love with her sugary sweet sandwiches for children’s parties. I had to give them a go myself. My photographs are nowhere near as beautiful as the originals but you get the general idea.

I haven’t had the opportunity yet to actually make them for a party. I simply made them to give to the girls at tea time. And you can imagine how much they enjoyed them. Especially the way the hundreds and thousands clung to their lips as they took a bite.

Le Frufru’s blog is written in Italian and so I’m not entirely sure how she made her sandwiches but it doesn’t look complicated, does it?

I made mine by firstly trimming the crusts off white bread. Next the slices were cut into small squares and spread with butter. Using a flower-shaped pastry cutter, I cut out floral holes in half the squares and spread the remaining squares with runny honey. Finally I topped the honey slices with the floral slices and sprinkled into the hole a generous amount of hundreds and thousands.

Despite there being no baking involved, I’m entering these dainty little sandwiches into the Tea Time Treats blog challenge organised each month by Lavender & Lovage and What Kate Baked. This month Karen at Lavender & Lovage is hosting and the theme for May is Floral Flavours & Flowers. I thought my girly nibbles might (just) fit the bill.

Whether you make them for a girlie birthday party, a Jubilee street party, a dolls’ tea party or just a plain old back-from-school treat, I hope you enjoy! And of course you can use any shaped cutter you fancy, and use chocolate sprinkles instead of the classic hundreds and thousands.

Jubilee party cake

I’m feeling strangely patriotic. I’m actually thinking of putting up some Union Jack bunting around the house. Now anyone who knows me will understand how out of character this would be. But I have to admit – I’m being swept along with this Jubilee fever. Or perhaps the sun this week has simply gone to my head?

Everywhere you go, the red, white and blue theme is all pervasive. Every shop window, every catalogue, every advertisement – it all makes you proud to be British, in a kind of embarrassed, rather British sort of way, when we’re not sure we should but we want to go along with it anyway.

I’m not sure how much my children understand what it’s all about. It’s something to do with the Queen. It’s not her birthday but it’s something similar. Whatever the reason, it’s a good excuse for a party and what kid is going to knock that?

Jessie’s bunting for her school Jubilee party

Most food blogs I’ve visited recently are getting into the full Jubilee spirit, sharing amazing and clever culinary creations for impressing the neighbours at the street party. So I began to think maybe I should be doing something too. In fact, it’s been the last thing I’ve been thinking about as I drop off to sleep for the last few nights now.

As you know, I’m not a particularly talented baker, so I’ve come up with a easy party cake to suit my limited baking skills, which still delivers the ‘wow’ factor for a juvenile audience. It’s not sophisticated, it’s not refined. It’s quite simply a big, white cake with red and blue running right through it. And it’s sweet and gooey and moreish with a tonne of Smarties on the top.

My daughter Jessie walked into the kitchen just as I finished decorating it, and her reaction was “Wow!” which was exactly the response I was after. From a child anyway. My husband on the other hand was rather less complimentary about my efforts. But I hadn’t made it for him so I didn’t care. Much.

It’s three tiers of simple Victoria sponge (based on Nigella Lawson’s recipe), smothered in red, white and blue buttercream, and embossed with red and blue Smarties in a crude Union Jack design. Great for Jubilee parties, especially the kind involving lots of young children.

Queen’s Jubilee Party Cake

For the Victoria sponge

330g soft butter
330g caster sugar
juice of half a lemon
6 eggs
300g self-raising flour
40g corn flour
1½ tsp baking powder
6 tbsp milk

For the buttercream icing

280g soft butter
560g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp milk
red and blue food colouring

Plus

Lots of red and blue Smarties to decorate (I needed three ‘share’ bags to get enough reds and blues)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.

This couldn’t be easier. Put all the Victoria sponge ingredients except for the milk into a food processor and whiz until you have a smooth mixture. Then add the milk a spoonful at a time, whizzing to combine each time, until you have a good dropping consistency.

Grab your three 20cm sandwich tins. If they’re not non-stick, grease and line them, but if they are, job done. Pour in the cake batter across the three tins equally. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the cakes are golden and springy to the touch, and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the cakes from the tins and leave on the rack to cool completely.

To make the buttercream icing: beat the butter until soft in a large bowl. Add 70g of icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add another 70g and beat again. And again add the remaining 140g of icing sugar and beat well until smooth.

Finally add the milk and beat again to loosen the mixture. Put half the mixture into a separate bowl and set aside.

Split the remaining buttercream into two more bowls. Add red food colouring a few drops at a time to one lot until you get a colour you’re happy with the tone. Repeat with the other bowl with the blue food colouring.

If you’re cakes are well-risen and peaked, you’ll need to use a sharp knife to shave them a little until they’re nice and flat. Enjoy the sponge shavings as a chef’s perk, as Nigella would say.

Put your first cake layer on a large plate, and carefully smother with the red icing almost to the edge but not quite. Place the next sponge layer on top and repeat again with the blue icing. Then add the next layer of cake and smother with a generous topping of the plain coloured buttercream icing.

Decorate the top of your cake with your red and blue Smarties. I attempted a Union Jack style motif but go with whatever takes your fancy – concentric circles, spirals, stripes, random patterns – go crazy!

And just in case you’re reading this, a very happy Diamond Jubilee your majesty!

Sausage, carrot and fennel bake

My family is rather partial to the odd sausage or two. Or three. In fact, we eat rather a lot of them in our house. And now that I’m trying to be a bit more creative with our food, I’m always on the look out for new ways to present the humble banger. This sausage, carrot and fennel bake, which first started life as a Leon vegetarian side dish, is a great meal.

I love Leon. I love their style, their ethos, their food. If I lived in London and had rather more money, I’d be eating there all the time. But as I don’t on either count, I have to make do with their cookery books. Leon’s focus is on fabulous ingredients:

When we first started Leon… we tried to imagine what a high-street fast food joint might be like in heaven: a place where fresh unprocessed, satisfying meals are served with pride. (From ‘Naturally Fast Food’)

That says it all. Leon’s approach to food is definitely the Bangers & Mash approach. My food might not always hit the same culinary heights but I’m aiming in the same direction at least.

In Leon’s Naturally Fast Food, there’s a delicious recipe for roast carrots and fennel in parmesan breadcrumbs. I discovered it on one of those common occassions when an item arrives in the veg box and I desperately needed ideas on what on earth to do with it. The item this time was a fennel. Obviously any proper foodie worth their salt would be going wild with excitement at all the possibilities presented by a fennel. I just needed to find something that the kids might actually eat. And this recipe worked a treat.

After making this dish a few times, it occurred to me that with the simple addition of a few sausages, this side dish could become an easy one-pan main meal. I tried it and it worked. One of my more successful experiments. So here it is. My sausage, carrot and fennel bake, with a little help from the kind people at Leon.

Sausage, carrot and fennel bake

Serves 4

8 good quality pork sausages
500g carrots, peeled and cut into diagonal chunks
500g fennel, trimmed and cut into wedges
4 tbsp olive oil
a handful of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
100g stale white bread (if you only have fresh, bake a couple of slices in a low oven for 1o minutes)
4 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
50g parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/gas mark 7.

Put 2 tbsp olive oil and the sausages into a large roasting tin and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, toss the carrots and fennel in the remaining oil. Turn the sausages and then add the carrots and fennel to the roasting tin along with 75ml of hot water.

Put back in the oven for 15 minutes, then turn the vegetables and sausages and return again for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the carrots and fennel are tender and the sausages are browning.

Into a food processor, place the stale bread, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper and blitz until you have fine, herby breadcrumbs.

Once the sausages and vegetables are cooked, sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and then scatter over the parmesan. Return to the oven for a further 10-15 minutes until the topping is golden and crispy. And serve.

For a slightly different take on the same dish, head over to Emma’s Kitchen. The lovely Emma saw a picture of my sausage and fennel bake on this blog a couple of weeks ago and rustled up her own version. It’s quite similar but she uses ciabatta for the topping and also parsnip and onion. I’ll definitely be giving it a try sometime soon!

Gingerbread men and the ‘joys’ of baking with kids

I really have to be in just the right mood to cook with my children.

Cooking with children is supposed to be a joyful, carefree time; one of those warm, fuzzy memories you hope your kids will hold dear when they’re all grown up. If you google cooking with children, practically every result features the word fun. But unless I’m in just the right mood, cooking with children is anything but.

When my daughters were younger I would force myself to involve the children in kitchen activities, because that’s what good, wholesome mothers do. But just minutes into our chosen cookery adventure, I’d feel my temper rapidly rising as the kitchen grew messier, as egg shell started flying everywhere, as more chocolate chips ended up in mouths than in the bowl, and as the arguments started about whose turn it was to stir.

I know it’s important to get children active in the kitchen from an early age. But I’ve learned to choose my moments carefully, particularly with pre-schoolers. Children are going to make a god awful mess in the kitchen and there’s no getting around that.

And if they’re not making a mess, it’s questionable as to whether they’re actually having any fun. So I only cook with the kids if I’m in the mood to let go and embrace the ensuing chaos; prepared to accept the fact that I’ll be finding hundreds and thousands strewn across the house, to be discovered in every available nook and cranny for weeks afterwards.

But on those days when I am in the mood to just go with it, cooking with the children can be wonderful. Especially of course if there is any kind of decorating required, as with these gingerbread men I made with Jessie and Mia recently. It was a rainy Sunday and we didn’t get out of our pyjamas all day long. Baking gingerbread men just presented itself as the perfect lazy Sunday activity.

I love the look of concentration on Mia’s face in this picture. She’s not generally known for her focus or attention span, so I was rather impressed with her dedication in ensuring each of her gingerbread men was carefully covered from head to toe in stars and sprinkles.

Jessie’s gingerbread men on the other hand were decorated as the cast of Harry Potter. Can you spot Harry?

And yes, that is of course, a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead. Not 100% sure though about the sheriff badges. Or are they nipple piercings, as someone suggested when I put a photo on Twitter?!

So if you do find yourself in just the right mood for some fun in the kitchen with the kids, here’s just the right biscuit recipe…

Gingerbread men

350g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
125g soft butter
175g demerara sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp treacle
2 tbsp golden syrup
writing icing in a variety of colours
decorations – hundreds and thousands, edible stars and shapes, Smarties etc

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor. Then add the butter and blend until you have a mixture resembling breadcrumbs. Mix in the demerara sugar.

Lightly beat the egg and add to the food processor along with the treacle and syrup. Blend until the mixture comes together as a dough.

Tip out the gingerbread dough and knead gently until smooth. Wrap in clingfim and put in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough until it’s about half a centimetre thick. Using your gingerbread men (and women) cutters, cut out your shapes and place on the baking tray.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden-brown, swapping the trays around half way through to make sure they bake evenly. Leave to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then move to a wire rack. When completely cooled go wild decorating them with the writing icing and decorations.

Low-fat fruit fools

Plum and stem ginger fools

Fools are one of my favourite puddings. There is nothing finer than the combination of sweet, almost syrupy cooked fruit folded into gorgeously indulgent whipped cream.

I’m intrigued as to why they deserve the name fool, as there is nothing foolish about this desert in my eyes. All I’ve manged to discover is their first mention is in England during the 15th/16th century, along with that other great favourite of mine, the trifle.

The problem is though they really don’t do any favours for my ever-expanding waistline. I’ve taken the decision recently to try to eat a little more healthily. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going overboard. Just a few tweaks here and there – a little less butter, a few less carbs, watching those portion sizes, avoiding the biscuit tin in the office, and controlling my passion for double cream.

So I’ve tried out a couple of healthier takes on the traditional fool and the results have been rather pleasing. Both times I served them up for dinner guests and both times they went down a storm.

The first was a plum fool and I replaced all of the whipped cream for low-fat Greek yoghurt. When my husband heard what I was doing, I could see the disappointment in his eyes. A fool without cream? That’s like a hot crumpet without the butter! But there was no need for despair. The almost fat-free fool was a complete and utter triumph and still felt naughtily indulgent and satisfying and, well, everything you’d expect from a proper pudding, but without all the calories. Fabulous.

I followed this a week later with a rhubarb fool. This time I went for a half-cream half-yoghurt combination.

My (almost) low-fat rhubarb and stem ginger fool

Again it was delicious and certainly more creamy, but I wouldn’t say it was any better than the plum version for the inclusion of cream. So I proudly present a pudding that is delicious without being too bad for you. You decide whether to use cream and yoghurt or just yoghurt - it all depends on how happy you are with the size of your waist I guess.

Both fools feature crystallised stem ginger quite heavily too, as I happened to have a jar in. But if it’s not one of your favourite flavours, feel free to omit. Replace the syrup in the recipe with some runny honey or icing sugar.

Plum and stem ginger yoghurt fool

Serves 4

5 plums, stoned and quartered
1 ball crystallised stem ginger, finely chopped, and some of the syrup from the jar
2 tbsp demerara sugar
Splash of orange or apple juice
300ml low-fat Greek yoghurt

Place the plum quarters, ginger and sugar in a saucepan with a splash of fruit juice. Cover and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the plums are soft. Leave to cool.

Stir a tablespoonful or two of the syrup from the jar of crystallised ginger into the yoghurt.

Spoon a layer of the yoghurt into the base of four glasses or small bowls, followed by a layer of the plums. Continue with alternate layers of yoghurt and plum until they’re all used up. Keep chilled in the fridge until you are ready for them.

A pair of plum fools

Rhubarb and stem ginger fool

400g rhubarb, cut into inch long chunks
1 ball crystallised stem ginger, finely chopped, and some of the syrup from the jar
3 tbsp demerara sugar
Splash of orange or apple juice
150ml double cream
150ml low-fat Greek yoghurt

Place the rhubarb chunks, ginger and sugar in a saucepan with a little of the fruit juice. Cover and cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the fruit is soft. I like the rhubarb to be just turning mushy but still has a little bite. Leave to cool.

Stir some of the syrup from the jar of crystallised ginger into the yoghurt.

Whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks and then gently combine with the yoghurt.

Pour half of the cooled rhubarb into the cream and yoghurt and mix together gently.

Divide the remaining rhubarb between four glasses or small bowls and then top with the rhubarb, cream and yoghurt mix. Chill in the fridge until it’s time for pudding.

Creamy rhubarb fool

Highs and lows in the Bangers & Mash kitchen – part 3

Talk about highs and lows this week – more like the sublime to the ridiculous!

I just can’t stop smiling!

I haven’t come down from the ceiling since Thursday when I discovered I am a finalist for a national blogging award. Don’t worry, I won’t go on about it again here. I’ve been doing enough of that already on this blog and on Twitter, so suffice to say I am really rather chuffed.

I’m not the only spod in the family though. Just a few days earlier my daughter Jessie received a Blue Peter badge for a poem she had sent in. She’s already working out how to achieve her next one. I was a huge Blue Peter fan when I was little, so as you can imagine I’m a very proud mum…

But back to the food. I’ll get the hideous low out of the way first.

We had good friends over to stay at the weekend, who have really encouraged me in my blogging antics. There was a lot of good humoured banter in the week running up to their visit about high expectations of the culinary delights in store.

So I thought I’d impress them with a retro feast of posh ham, eggs and chips. While the home-baked ham was very good, my homemade chips were an absolute disaster. They completely disintegrated on attempting to serve. Wrong kind of potato possibly, or was the oven too hot or too cool? Serves me right trying to make my own chips for the first time instead of doing what I usually do and cooking the shop-bought frozen variety. At the last minute I had to send the lads out to the local fish and chips shop in order to salvage the meal. Whoops.

Thankfully though the ham got a big thumbs up. I did Nigella Lawson’s ham in cola again – I last tried it at Christmas and absolutely fell in love with it. I know it sounds crazy but baking a ham in coca cola is fantastic and you end up with a beautifully moist, smokey, almost barbecue-flavoured piece of meat.

My next high point in the kitchen was a potato, cabbage and smoked bacon soup. I accept it doesn’t sound exactly like food porn but it was incredibly tasty and very satisfying.

Another highlight was my oregano and roast tomato pizza. I slow roast the tomatoes for about five hours in the bottom oven of the Aga, giving them an incredibly intense flavour and gorgeously sticky, slightly chewy texture. Simply sublime.


So now time for the detailed meal plans. Oh and if you do have any tips for homemade chips (in the oven rather than a deep fat fryer), I’m all ears!

Monday 30 April
Lunch: butternut squash soup
Dinner: pasta with wild garlic pesto

Tuesday 1 May
Lunch: cheese and chutney rolls
Dinner: sweet potatoes stuffed with cream cheese and spring onions

Wednesday 2 May
Lunch: pitta bread with hummus and salad
Dinner: fish pie

Thursday 3 May
Lunch: wraps with carrot, sultana and coriander salad
Dinner: potato, cabbage and smoked bacon soup

Friday 4 May
Lunch: Thai-style cauliflower soup (F)
Dinner: chilli con carne

Saturday 5 May
Lunch: bread and cheese
Dinner: cola ham, egg and chips followed by raspberry chocolate mousse

Sunday 6 May
Lunch: pub lunch
Dinner: bread and cheese

Monday 7  May
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: oregano and roast tomato pizza

Tuesday 8 May
Lunch: salad wraps
Dinner: wild garlic pesto and spaghetti

Wednesday 9 May
Lunch: pitta bread, hummus and salad
Dinner: cous cous, courgette and broad bean salad

Thursday 10 May
Lunch: ham and salad rolls
Dinner: bangers and mash bake (recipe to follow)

Friday 11 May
Lunch: grilled chicken and rice salad with artichoke hearts
Dinner: mushroom omelette

Saturday 12 May
Lunch: slow roast beef, roast potatoes and vegetables, followed by rhubarb crumble
Dinner: bread and cheese

Sunday 13 May
Lunch: warm bean and potato salad with leeks and smoked bacon
Dinner: bread and cheese

F = from freezer

Thank you very much!

I need to say thank you to lots of people today but I don’t know who they are exactly.

I found out yesterday I’m a finalist in the MAD (Mum and Dad) Blog Awards 2012 in the Best Food Blog category. I was supposed to be working at home yesterday but I guess I was looking for distraction and found myself on the MAD website. When I saw a little screen shot of the Bangers & Mash blog on the MAD finalists page I literally started shaking with excitement and disbelief. Really? Me? But I’m not a proper blogger. I can’t compete with the big boys (and girls) – can I?

I was supposed to do so much work yesterday, my one day at home all week, but that all went out the window.

I called my Nana Barbara straight away because I had to tell somebody. Oh yes, I did call one of my best friends before her but that went to answer phone and I left a very silly garbled message involving lots of squealing. And then I called Nana because I knew she’d be in and because she is one of my food heroes. She’s probably the only person in my family who knows how to bake, and I love our conversations about food. And her reaction was just perfect. I’ll always be the little grand-daughter who loves to make her Nana proud.

But back to saying thank you. People had to nominate the Bangers & Mash blog in order for it to be considered for a MAD award. However I have no idea other than my closest friends and family members who actually did this, so I want to throw a big thank you out there and hope that if you did nominate me this reaches you.

Why oh why though, when I try to think of ways to say thank you, do I come back time and time again to this corny advert from the British 1980s TV vaults? This was an ad for Cadbury’s Roses chocolates and I know it’s cheesy but somehow it remains the perfect way to say thank you.

Those ad men in the 80s knew how to make an advert that would remain with you for the rest of your life didn’t they? My children embarrassingly know the words to the Finger of Fudge (a finger of fudge is just enough until it’s time to eat) and Club (if you like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit join our club!) songs, despite never having seen the original adverts. And only last week I was having a nostaligia-ridden conversation on Twitter remember lyrics to the Um Bongo and Ki-Ora adverts. Ah, they don’t make ‘em like they used to ‘eh?

But as ever I’m waffling on. Thank you whoever and wherever you are for nominating me for the MAD Blog Awards. If you happen to want to show me some support yet again you can now vote for me to win the whole blooming category. But considering I’m in the last five from more than 130 nominations, I’m really rather chuffed with how far I’ve got already. I’ve got a posh awards ceremony in London to go to in September with cocktails and a three-course meal and everything, so to be honest I couldn’t be happier.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Cheat’s strawberry cheesecake biscuit

Food is such a fantastic conversation starter the world round, isn’t it? As a freelancer I’m constantly in and out of different work locations getting to know new groups of people, and I find that food is always a common denominator. Or maybe it’s just me?

Anyway, I’m working for a few months in the marketing team at Bath Spa University where I sit next to the lovely Stef and we talk food quite a bit. It was Stef who passed on this easy peasy idea for livening up manky (or was it skanky?) Digestive biscuits lurking in the bottom of the tin: turn them into strawberry cheesecake biscuits – genius!

That same day, knowing I didn’t actually have any biscuits (neither manky nor skanky) at home, I stopped off on my way back to pick some up just so I could give it a go. I opted for Hob Nobs instead of Digestives as I thought these might be more reminiscent of the cheesecake base.

Stef wasn’t wrong – these really are good. A great way to use up old biscuits or a ridiculously simple sweet treat when you don’t have the time or energy to make a proper pudding. And they take only a minute to make.

No recipe required here – simply take your biscuit of choice and spread with cream cheese, then top with strawberry jam or any other flavour jam you happen to have at your disposal. My girls, Jessie and Mia, made them with me after tea and they were a big hit all round.

I’m only at Bath Spa for a couple more weeks, so I’ll need to get Stef to share the rest of her cheat’s repertoire with me before I move on…

Thai-style cauliflower soup with garlic and coriander bread

There are certain vegetables I get quite excited about when they arrive in my weekly veg box. Like celeriac or asparagus. Or Jerusalem artichokes. But cauliflower? Whenever I see a cauliflower in there I must admit to giving out an internal groan. Cauliflower cheese again? is generally my immediate thought.

But the last time a cauliflower turned up, I decided to try and be a little more creative. I’ve tried making cauliflower curries a few times but they’ve never been wholly satisfying, although I know the idea of spicy cauliflower is a good one. A quick search on the internet led me to this very tasty and spicy cauliflower soup recipe, which elevates the humble cauliflower to heady new heights. I found it on the Oxford Times website but apparently it first originated from a recipe in the Women’s Institute’s book Soup for all Seasons.

It’s incredibly easy to make and, despite looking quite a heavy soup, is surprisingly light and very fragrant. I swapped the Thai green curry paste for the red version, as it’s slightly milder and hence more child-friendly. I also used low-fat coconut milk but feel free to go full-fat if you prefer.

I served the soup with garlic and coriander bread. Again, very simple. Slice your baguette all the way along on the diagonal at intervals of an inch or so, just as you would for normal garlic bread. Fill each slash with a generous spread of butter into which you’ve mashed crushed garlic and chopped fresh coriander. Wrap the baguette in foil and bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes. To brown it slightly, open up the foil for the last couple of minutes. Easy as.

But now back to the main event…

Thai-style cauliflower soup

Serves 4

1 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp red Thai curry paste
1 potato, peeled and diced small
1 cauliflower, broken into florets
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
400ml tin of low-fat coconut milk
300ml vegetable stock
Small bunch fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Spring onions, finely sliced to garnish

In a large saucepan, gently cook the onion in the oil until golden. Add the red curry paste and cook for a minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the potato, cauliflower and garlic and simmer for 15 minutes. Leave to cool a while.

Add the coriander to the soup and pour half into a liquidiser. Blitz until you achieve a smooth velvety finish, and then stir this back into the chunky soup in the pan. Check for seasoning and add if required.

Heat through again and serve garnished with a sprinkling of spring onions, and warm garlic and coriander bread on the side.