Herbs on Saturday – July Round Up

Well, I have to say I have thoroughly enjoyed my first experience hosting a blog challenge. What a wonderful opportunity to get to know new food bloggers and share in such a diverse and exciting collection of recipes. Before I go any further I must say a massive thank you to Karen at Lavender & Lovage for entrusting her Herbs on Saturday challenge to me for the month of July!

I have to admit I was a little worried I wouldn’t receive any entries during my ‘term in office’ but can you believe there were actually 30 entries to Herbs on Saturday this month. Thank you each and every one of you for your entries, each dish a glorious celebration of cooking with herbs. So let’s take a look at each of those dishes…

First up is this tasty sausage plait from Mamacook, which I can’t wait to try out on my own family – we love both puff pastry and sausages in our house! And I love the fact there are sneaky hidden vegetables in there too.

Sausage plait from Mamacook

Doesn’t this Pan Bagnat from Lavender & Lovage look incredible? A gorgeous French picnic sandwich that just cries out for a day spent lazing on a rug in a summer meadow with some good friends, a bottle of cold white wine or perhaps some Pimms, and maybe a game or two of French cricket or Pooh sticks…

Pan bagnat from Lavender & Lovage

I love the fact that Cooking Around the World’s Mediterranean Feta and Tomato Bake comes complete with its own fairy story! It looks such a fresh and simple dish, perfect for mopping up with a great hunk of crusty bread. Definitely my kind of food!

Mediterranean Feta and Tomato Bake from Cooking Around the World

Try it, like it, love it are the instructions accompanying this simply delicious spaghettis aux herbes et ail from Simple Quiet Modern, and I have no doubt that anyone who tastes it will instantly fall in love with it. I adore simple pasta dishes, with a glug of good olive oil and some lovely fresh herbs, and this bowl of spaghetti looks incredible.

Les spaghettis aux herbes et ail from Simple Quiet Modern

Next up is my chicken and noodle salad with coriander and mint, a fresh, zingy summer salad. My family weren’t quite sure what to make of it when I first served it. Cold noodles! Are you mad?! But after a couple of bites, they were persuaded…

Chicken and noodle salad with coriander and mint from Bangers & Mash

Another simple pasta dish now; this time a quick and satisfying Pepper and Mushroom Pappardelle  from Tinned Tomatoes, who knows a thing or two about good vegetarian family food. I do love a creamy pasta sauce and was interested to see this recipe features goat’s yoghurt as well as cream. I must give it a try!

Pepper and Mushroom Pappardelle from Tinned Tomatoes

If you happen to have a glut of gooseberries or have over-indulged at a pick-your-own farm, then this Devilled Gooseberry Sauce and Tarragon Vinegar from As Strong As Soup should have you pricking up your ears. It sounds absolutely delicious and easy to make, and apparently is good with oily fish like mackerel, as well as chicken, duck and pork.

Devilled Gooseberry Sauce and Tarragon Vinegar from As Strong As Soup

I think cheese scones with salad are perfect for a light lunch, providing a tasty alternative to bread, and it would seem Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen agrees. Take a look at her scrummy Cheese and Herb Scone, featuring chives, rosemary and thyme.

Cheese and Herb Scone from Farmersgirl Kitchen

These Turkish Zucchini Fritters from Tinned Tomatoes look incredibly tasty and very, very versatile. I know my two girls are going to love trying these with their favourite hummus and soured cream dips, and I think they’ll work well in their lunch boxes when school starts again.

Turkish Zucchini Fritters from Tinned Tomatoes

I have never tried Involtini di melanzane before but after seeing this beautiful entry from Leeks & Limoni I really must put that right and make it soon. Aubergine is a favourite ingredient of mine and I do like the sound of these rolls with cheese, pinenuts, passata, mint and oregano.

Involtini di melanzane from Leeks & Limoni

Food and childhood are inextricably linked and in her beautiful entry white asparagus tips with tarragon sauce, Helene at French Foodie Baby recalls memories of Sunday lunches eating white asparagus as a child in her mother’s apartment. Here she adapts her mother’s recipe for her own son Pablo.

White asparagus tips with tarragon sauce from French Foodie Baby

Pablo is one very lucky boy! Helene at French Foodie Baby created this heavenly Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream for him as his first ever taste of ice cream. I have never tried the herb shiso before but I really must track some down now!

Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream from French Foodie Baby

Next French Foodie Baby brings us her take on a French classic, Salmon with sorrel. This is an incredibly simple and delicious dish, which she’s created as a puree for her young son and is ideal for anyone looking for new ideas for little ones moving onto solids.

Salmon with sorrel from French Foodie Baby

Back to me again for penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli, a very quick and easy pasta dish using lots of one of my favourite herbs, fresh tarragon, as well as purple sprouting broccoli which I just can’t get enough of!

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli from Bangers & Mash

Mich from Piece of Cake brings us this tempting Rosemary Foccacia next. I just wanted to reach into my computer screen and grab a slice when I saw it! I’m rather partial to a good foccacia and this looks very, very good.

Rosemary Foccacia from Piece of Cake

These blackberry lavender popsicles from girlichef look so enticingly juicy and refreshing. As Heather herself describes them – berrylicious! The pairing of blackberry with lavender really appeals to me. We have lots of lavender in the garden so I can’t wait for the blackberries to ripen so I can make my own…

Blackberry Lavender Popsicles from girlichef

Heather from girlichef brings us another refreshing recipe for hot sunny days with her sensational Herbal Lemonade - inspired by the novel Thank You for Flying Air Zoe via a band called The Flip-Flops which made her think of summertime. Love it!

Herbal Lemonade from girlichef

I defy anyone to be able to look at this piece of toast and not instantly crave strawberry jam! Sarah from The Garden Deli brings us this gorgeous strawberry and basil jam, which she describes as not so sweet as your usual strawberry jam, but still with that fresh taste a good strawberry jam should have. I want some now!

Strawberry and basil jam from The Garden Deli

For me, this Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta from Chez Foti is summertime on a plate. I always enjoy reading about Lou’s adventures in her veggie patch, or rather potager, over in France. This summer she has a large glut of courgettes and therefore a steady stream of clever and creative courgette recipes on her blog. This bruschetta looks so tasty and I look forward to recreating, along with her yummy courgette cake…

Courgette, Feta & Basil Bruschetta from Chez Foti

I’ve developed a bit of a passion for beetroot in the last year, probably as a result of our weekly veg box, and so this Beetroot with Chorizo, Feta and Mint from Farmersgirl Kitchen is right up my street. The combination of sweet beetroot with the spicy, smokey chorizo, salty cheese and punchy mint definitely appeals.

Beetroot with Chorizo, Feta and Mint from Farmersgirl Kitchen

Next up is A Gratin of Tomatoes from how to cook good food and as soon as Laura mentioned she made this dish in minutes, she’d got my full attention. It’s the school holidays and with two young daughters I’m constantly on the look-out for quick and easy food to make the family, and this tasty gratin looks just the ticket.

A Gratin of Tomatoes from how to cook good food

Karen from Lavender & Lovage offers us a second dish with her glorious Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats. I really like the idea of using oats to make the meat go further, which means it’s both a frugal and tasty family dish.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats from Lavender & Lovage

French Foodie Baby offers us more stunning photography and another incredible yet simple dish with her Artichoke bottoms with green sauce. You could serve just about anything alongside a soft-boiled egg and I’m there, but this dish really does beg to be made. I’ve said it before, but little Pablo really is a very lucky boy!

Artichoke bottoms with green sauce from French Foodie Baby

Herby Roast Chicken from A Trifle Rushed is our next entry – now doesn’t that look so good? You can almost smell the roast chicken from here – yum! Another dish which shows that good food doesn’t need to be complicated; it’s all down to seasonal, local ingredients cooked simply and well.

Herby Roast Chicken from A Trifle Rushed

This Pesto Linguine is a favourite dish of Jacqueline over at How to be a Gourmand - a quick mid-week meal when she needs an easy, fuss-free dinner. It’s a classic dish elevated to a whole new level through Jacqueline’s beautiful photography.

Pesto Linguine from How to be a Gourmand

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo is my final entry into this month’s challenge. I don’t own an ice-cream maker so semifreddo is my homemade ice-cream of choice. This version is even easier as it uses condensed milk instead of eggs. Don’t you think it looks pretty?

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo from Bangers & Mash

Linzi at Lancashire Food says her Grilled halloumi and herb salad will transport you to the Mediterranean in moments and I absolutely believe her. I love using heaps of fresh herbs in salads, as an ingredient in their own right, rather than just a flavouring, and Linzi’s salad looks the perfect accompaniment to her paprika-dusted grilled halloumi. I’m beginning to drool a little thinking about it…

Grilled halloumi and herb salad by Lancashire Food

Tomato and basil are a match made in heaven, and they certainly look good together in this Tomato and basil tart by Blue Kitchen Bakes. As I’m not a natural-born pastry chef myself, I particularly enjoyed Jen’s descriptions of her escapades while making the pastry for this tart!

Tomato and basil tart by Blue Kitchen Bakes

Lou at Chez Foti continues her love affair with courgettes with her 70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow – an overgrown courgette in other words. This looks so much better than the flabby stuffed marrows I remember from my childhood and I love the combination of pork in the stuffing with sage and apple. If the courgettes in my veg patch ever get going, I’ll be leaving one of them to grow and grow just so I can make this dish.

70s Flashback Stuffed Marrow by Chez Foti

And finally we have a Tomato and Herb Foccacia from Working London Mummy, who uses slow roasted tomatoes and fresh oregano to top her sumptuous olive oil rich bread. Regular readers of my blog will know how much I adore slow roasted tomatoes, so this recipe’s going straight to the top of my ‘to do’ list!

Tomato and Herb Foccacia from Working London Mummy

So there you have it – all 30 entries for July’s Herbs on Saturday challenge. I’m sure you’ll agree, they make a very fine recipe collection.

But of course there can only be one winner. And this month the winner receives a copy of The Best-Ever Easy-to-Use Herb Cookbook, edited by Joanna Farrow. Helen from Fuss Free Flavours is July’s mystery judge and she has chosen as the winning post… drum roll please!… Nectarine Shiso Ice Cream from French Foodie Baby.

Helen said of the winning post:

Lovely recipe.  Really like the use of herbs in a sweet dish, and the flavour pairing intrigues me. I imagine the slight sharpness of the shiso combined with the concentrated sweetness of the roasted nectarines is quite amazing and adds so much to the ice cream.

So huge congratulations go to Helene at French Foodie Baby - the cookbook will be in the post to you very soon.

And congratulations also to girlichef as Helen at Fuss Free Flavours was keen to single out your Blackberry Lavender Popsicles for a special mention.

Thank you so much to everyone for sharing their fabulous food and for making Herbs on Saturday such a pleasure to host this month.

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo

Semifreddo is a wonderfully easy ice-cream to make for anyone who, like me, doesn’t own an ice-cream maker. Usually it is made from eggs and whipped cream but this version uses condensed milk instead of eggs, making it even more of a doddle. It looks really rather impressive though, so no-one would ever guess it only took 10 minutes to make!

I got the idea for a semifreddo made from condensed milk from Kavey Eats. The theme for her Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge this month you see just happens to be condensed milk, and I was intrigued.

The recipe I’ve come up with to enter the challenge is a light and summery combination of perfumey raspberries with zingy lemon, lifted further still by the addition of chopped fresh mint. It’s loosely based on a recipe I saw on the Carnation website.

And as the recipe also features lots of lovely mint, I’m also entering this semifreddo into Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday challenge.

Raspberry, lemon and mint semifreddo

1 can (405g) sweetened condensed milk
juice of 3 lemons
grated zest of 1 lemon
300ml whipping cream
200g fresh raspberries
large handful fresh mint, finely chopped

In a large bowl, mix together the condensed milk, lemon juice, zest and whipping cream. Whisk until you have soft peaks.

Carefully fold in the raspberries and fresh mint.

Spoon the mixture into a 2 litre loaf tin lined with clingfilm, covering the top with more clingfilm. Freeze for at least four hours or preferably overnight.

Simply slice and serve.

Destination New York for Burgers and Pickles

The six-week school holidays have started, and so has my family’s Around the World In Six Suppers adventure. Because this summer it looks like we’re not going to get away for a proper holiday, I’ve decided that the world will instead come to us in the form of six dishes from some of my favourite holiday destinations from bygone years. You’ll find the full itinerary for our culinary world tour here.

So our first stop is the Big Apple – New York!

I have only been to New York once and that was back when I was just 12-years-old. I’ve just realised that’s a quarter of a century ago. I really don’t feel old enough to be able to say that! The city made a big impression on me – I guess it probably does to everyone that visits – and I long to return one day. As a youngster discovering the thrills of the cinema, arriving in New York felt to me like walking onto a colossal movie set. I loved the size, the pace, the colour, the noise, the energy. I walked through the streets, trailing behind my mum, with eyes to the sky and jaw to the sidewalk.

As well as the sights, the shops, the people, the music, the galleries, the parks, the subway, the taxis - the other thing that left a big impression was the food. I can’t say it was the finest culinary experience of my life but as a child-almost-teen I was like a pig in muck. Fast food and soda and candies everywhere; everything bright and garish and so, so tempting. And yes, it’s probably a bit of a cliché, but the food I’ve picked to transport me back to New York is the ubiquitous and oh so American hamburger and fries.

Throughout my subsequent teens I enjoyed a love affair with all things Americana. I adored hanging out in Ed’s Diner in Leicester Square with my friends, where we’d sit for hours at the counter savouring our malted milkshakes and using up all our pocket-money in the mini jukeboxes. I listened to the soundtrack to American Graffiti endlessly. My favourite movies were Grease, Cry Baby, The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing and Back to the Future. And so, consequently, I’ve eaten a lot of burgers in my time.

I can’t lay any claim to these particular burgers being an authentic American recipe. In fact it’s hardly a recipe at all. It’s essentially meat shaped into a patty and fried. I like my burgers simple – good meat, cooked rare. I’m more than happy to dress them up with pickles and cheese, sauces and salad. But I don’t like to do too much to the burger itself.

Before we get to the burger though, here’s a very simple recipe for quick pickled cucumbers. In my eyes, a burger has to be served with pickles and these are perfect – not slimy like the ones you might get slopped onto your burger in a high street joint. Even my husband, who doesn’t normally eat pickles, admitted to liking these.

Quick pickled cucumbers

150ml cider vinegar
75ml water
1½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp white mustard seed
½ tsp black mustard seed
½ tsp dill seed
1 tsp peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cucumber, sliced

In a saucepan, mix the cider vinegar with the water, salt, mustard seed, dill seed, peppercorns and garlic and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Put the cucumber slices into a sterilised glass jar and pour over the boiling vinegar mixture, making sure the cucumber is completely covered. If not, add some more water. Screw on the lid and place in the fridge for at least an hour. Job done. The pickles will keep for a couple of weeks.

And moving on to the main event…

Simple hamburgers

Makes four burgers

450g minced beef – not too lean and the best quality you can afford
salt and pepper
large knob of butter
1 tbsp vegetable oil
4 slices of mature Cheddar cheese
4 ciabatta rolls
2 tomatoes, sliced
quick pickled cucumbers
tomato sauce
mustard
skinny oven chips – cooked according to packet instructions

In a large bowl, grind salt and pepper into the minced beef and mix well. Using your hands shape the meat into four large patties.

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan until the butter starts to foam a little. Add the burgers and fry until browned on the outside but still a little pink on the inside. For me this took around four minutes on each side, but it all depends on how fat you make your burgers. If in doubt, cut one open to check whether it’s cooked to your liking. When you’ve flipped your burgers the first time, lay a slice of cheese on each one so that it melts while the other side is cooking.

While the burgers are frying, slice open your ciabatta rolls and toast. Serve your burgers in the toasted rolls with slices of tomato, pickled cucumber and a squeeze of tomato sauce and that bright yellow mustard they love in the States, with a pile of skinny fries on the side.

Enjoy. Preferably with Green Onions playing in the background.

My family loved their hamburgers and we topped off our New York diner experience with a big fat slice of American-style baked cheesecake. Gorgeous.

Cheryl’s Hokkien Mee for the Care to Cook Challenge

My mum with her siblings and cousins in Penang in the fifties

I love the way a certain food or meal can instantly transport you back to your childhood. Food is so evocative and nostalgic. When I was growing up, I had such a strong impression of Penang from the tales my mum would tell me about the different foods she ate there as a child, and from the yearning in her voice I almost felt like I missed them as much as she did.

One of the foods that takes her back to being a teenager in Penang is Hokkien Mee. My mum has sent me her recipe for this dish as her entry into the Care to Cook challenge, which is a celebration of good family food. If you’d like to enter a dish, you still have time – the closing date is 12 August. And there’s a copy of the Care to Cook recipe book signed by Lorriane Pascale for the winner.

So, I hand you over to my mum, Cheryl…

This is my recipe for Penang’s Hokkien Mee. It’s different from how they do it in Singapore or anywhere else in Malaysia,  and it’s so delicious!

We used to eat it at our favourite haunt, a coffee shop with a juke box near Cantonment Road where we lived. The Kopi Tiam or coffee shop had lots of different food stalls around it where you could order food. We would eat the noodles with our ice coffee or kopi-o-peng and meet the Thai boys (who came to study in Penang) and listen to music.

Photo: VKEONG.COM

Penang Hokkien Mee

Serves 10

Chilli paste:

10 tbsp chilli boh (about 35 deseeded, soaked dried chilies – blended in 3-4 tbsp water)
15 shallots (minced)
6 cloves garlic (minced)

Stock:

2kg pork bones
2-3kg prawn shells (chopped)
2 pieces rock sugar (golf ball size)

500g pork
1kg prawns
6 eggs (hard boiled)
300g bean sprouts
Fried shallots
5-6 stalks of morning glory (kangkung or green veg from Chinese supermarket)
300g pork ribs
1kg yellow noodles (chow mein)
1 packet rice vermicelli (bee hoon)

water
salt
pepper
rock sugar
soy sauce
vegetable oil

Wash all the bones clean with salt and put them in a big pot of boiling water. Lower the heat, close the pot with a lid and simmer for about two hours. Remove all the bones and you should get about 15 cups of stock.

Heat about 7-8 tablespoons of oil in a wok and fry the garlic and shallots (leave 1 tbsp of shallots for the cooking of stock) for about five minutes on a low heat. Add in the chilli boh and fry until fragrant. Add a pinch of salt. Scoop out and put to one side the chilli paste, leaving about half a tablespoon in the wok.

Heat up the wok again with another tablespoon of oil and throw in all the prawns. Stir fry until all the prawns curl up. Scoop out the prawns and leave to one side.

Add some more oil to the wok. Put in the chopped prawn shells – drain the shells as much as possible and keep the remaining juice for the stock. Fry the shells until you get that thick aromatic prawn smell. By then, the shells will be a bright orange colour. Pour in the remaining juice from earlier plus another 3-4 cups of water. Let it simmer on a low heat for about two hours.

While waiting for the prawn stock to cook, heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot and fry the reserved tablespoon of shallots for about a minute. Add half to one tablespoon of the cooked chilli paste. Mix well and add in the bone stock. Bring to a boil and add in the pork pieces and ribs. Lower heat to a simmer further.

When the prawn stock is ready, slowly and carefully sieve (leaving out all the shells) into the pork stock pot. Bring to boil while adding in 2-3 tablespoons of soy sauce, rock sugar, and pepper and salt to taste. Remove the foam on the surface while retaining some of the floating oil.

Lower the heat and check if the pork is tender. Scoop up in separate bowls. Sliced the meat thinly. Leave all aside for garnishing later.

Cut the hard boiled eggs into halves, quarters or rings to your liking.

Heat up a wok of water and blanch the bean sprouts and morning glory. Make sure you drain the excess water well. Set both aside.

Soak the rice vermicelli (bee hoon) for about half an hour (or according to the directions on the pack). Drain well. Do the same for the yellow noodles.

To serve, place some bean sprouts and morning glory at the base of a deep bowl. Add your noodles then top with some prawns, sliced meat, pork ribs and egg. Pour some boiling soup over the noodles and garnish with some fried shallots and chilli paste.

Highs and lows in the Bangers & Mash kitchen – part 6

So far July has been an interesting month for me as a food blogger. For the first time, I’ve stepped up into the exciting world of hosting blog challenges. It is so lovely to see such a wide range of dishes being entered and getting to meet a whole host of new food bloggers.

Food writer and blogger supremo Karen Burns-Booth from Lavender & Lovage kindly let me loose on her popular Herbs on Saturday challenge this month. Herbs on Saturday is a lovely way for bloggers to share their dishes that celebrate cooking with herbs and we’ve received lots of wonderfully tempting recipes.

My second blog challenge hopes to raise awareness of a fantastic family cookbook produced by a charity called TACT, which is the UK’s largest fostering and adoption charity. I’ve worked with the Bristol and South West branch of TACT for the last four years or so, and I am constantly amazed and inspired by the incredible support they provide to many of our most vulnerable children and young people.

The Care to Cook recipe challenge is calling on people to submit their recipes for food they’d cook to welcome someone into their family. We’ve only had a handful of entries so far, but I’m hoping the prize of a copy of the Care to Cook recipe book signed by TV chef Lorraine Pascale (who happens to be TACT’s celebrity patron) might encourage a few more. If you have not entered yet, please do! The closing date is 12 August.

In the kitchen, it’s been rather exciting too. Writing this food blog has pushed me to be so much more creative and adventurous as a cook. And luckily most of my experiments seem to be working out well and the family is enjoying the food. Of course, there are plenty of safe, easy, every day meals in the mix, as you’ll see from the meal plans below. As a mum and a freelancer, I just don’t have time to spend hours in the kitchen every day. But when I can, I do like to have a go at something a little bit different.

Recent successes include…

Roast duck and rhubarb compote

Chicken and noodle salad with coriander and mint

Homemade hummus and aubergine dip with olives, salad and pitta bread

Caribbean pot roast chicken

Courgette, carrot and cheese scones

Butternut squash and bacon chowder

Bean casserole

Pork escalopes in balsamic vinegar

As well as some tasty food, I’ve had two other reasons to make me smile recently. The first was when one of the other mums at school came up to me to tell me she’d cooked my chicken and noodle salad after seeing it on the blog, and how much she’d enjoyed it. It’s always lovely to receive positive comments on the blog, but it’s something very special to have someone tell you in person they like your food. That really made my day that did.

And then the other thing that made me chuckle lots was when my daughter Jessie insisted on photographing her dinner plate before she would start eating! She’s just begun work on her very own blog Jessie’s Art and she plans on putting her photo up there sometime soon. Like mother, like daughter it seems.

In case you need any ideas, here are my meal plans for the last few weeks…

Monday 25 June
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: stir-fried Swiss chard with ginger and noodles

Tuesday 26 June
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: lamb casserole (F)

Wednesday 27 June
Lunch: rice salad with broad beans
Dinner: ham, egg and chips

Thursday 28 June
Lunch: tuna mayonnaise rolls
Dinner: salad wraps and homemade hummus

Friday 29 June
Lunch:  garlic mushrooms and salad
Dinner: chicken noodle salad with mint and coriander

Saturday 30 June
Lunch: aubergine dip, hummus, pitta bread, olives and salad
Dinner: fish cakes, new potatoes and vegetables

Sunday 1 July
Lunch: Caribbean pot roast chicken 
Dinner: bread and cheese

Monday 2 July
Lunch: beans on toast
Dinner: cheese and onion quiche, new potatoes and salad

Tuesday 3 July
Lunch: cheese and chutney rolls
Dinner: noodle soup with dumplings

Wednesday 4 July
Lunch: ham salad rolls
Dinner: spaghetti Bolognese

Thursday 5 July
Lunch: hummus salad rolls
Dinner: ratatouille and pasta

Friday 6 July
Lunch: rice salad with grilled chicken and artichoke hearts
Dinner: bangers and mash

Saturday 7 July
Lunch: roast duck with rhubarb compote, rice, broad bean and parsley salad
Dinner: bread and cheese

Sunday 8 July
Lunch: butternut squash soup
Dinner: Chinese chicken and rice

Monday 9 July
Lunch: Marmite and cucumber rolls
Dinner: egg fried rice with courgette and peppers

Tuesday 10 July
Lunch: garlic mushrooms and salad
Dinner: warm new potato and sausage salad

Wednesday 11 July
Lunch: potato and sausage salad
Dinner: bean casserole

Thursday 12 July
Lunch: pasta salad
Dinner: butternut squash and bacon chowder

Friday 13 July
Lunch: courgette, carrot and cheese scones
Dinner: pasta with bacon and tomato sauce

Saturday 14 July
Lunch: sausage and cabbage bake
Dinner: bread and cheese

Sunday 15 July
Lunch: pork escalopes in balsamic vinegar, new potatoes, beetroot and nectarine salad
Dinner: salad wraps

F = from freezer

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

Tarragon is one of my favourite herbs, especially when paired with chicken. Its unique flavour lifts simple dishes to new heights.

I first got excited about tarragon many years ago when my father-in-law cooked us Elizabeth David’s sumptuous poulet et l’estragon one summer holiday in France. It was incredible and my husband and I have recreated it many times since and it always takes us back to those long hot days in the Dordogne.

But that is really one to save for special occasions (my husband last cooked it for me on my birthday), while this pasta dish is much more of a quick, every day family favourite. Nonetheless it tastes fantastic and all because of that lovely fresh tarragon.

Penne with chicken, tarragon and broccoli

400g dried penne pasta
250g purple sprouting broccoli, cut into manageable chunks
1 large leek, washed and finely sliced
2 skinless chicken breasts, cut into bitesize pieces
2 tbsp vegetable oil
70ml chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped
100g cream cheese
salt and pepper

Cook the penne in a large pan of salted water following the packet timings. About five minutes from the end of the cooking time, add the broccoli to the pasta water and cook until both pasta and broccoli are tender. Drain.

While the pasta (and broccoli) are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the leeks and sweat gently for a couple of minutes. Add the chicken pieces and cook for about five minutes until there is no sign of any pink inside.

Pour the stock into the pan, stir well and cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the tarragon and cream cheese. Season to taste. Mix in the pasta and broccoli and serve.

I’m entering this dish into July’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, set up by Lavender & Lovage and hosted this month by me! If you have a herby recipe you’d like to enter, you can find out all the details here.

Peanut butter and jelly super smoothie

I adore smoothies. They’re so easy to make and, for me, they constitute the perfect breakfast on those days when I don’t really fancy eating all that much. They’re great for kids when they’re feeling poorly and off their food. And this particular super smoothie, with the addition of oats, is an ideal post-run drink to give me a much-needed energy boost when I’m absolutely exhausted.

Peanut butter and jelly (jam to us Brits) is the most wonderful combination. I think I could probably live on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches if I could get away with it. It also works really well in this super smoothie. With the oats and banana it makes for quite a substantial smoothie; pretty much a meal in a glass.

While I’d usually use milk and yoghurt in my smoothies, I’ve come up with this recipe for Blue Diamond using their unsweetened Almond Breeze almond milk. It’s free of sugars and has less than half the calories of skimmed dairy milk and half the calories of soya milk, which makes it a great alternative for those wanting to avoid dairy and/or live a healthier lifestyle.

Peanut butter and jelly super smoothies

Makes two glasses

1 banana, peeled and roughly chopped
200g strawberries, hulled
60g rolled oats
3tbsp peanut butter
3tbsp strawberry jam
275ml Almond Breeze almond milk

Simply place all the ingredients in a liquidiser or smoothie maker and blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses and enjoy as a super healthy start to your day.

Disclosure: I was provided with a free sample of Almond Breeze so that I could develop a recipe for their competition.

The Care to Cook Recipe Challenge, plus Bernadette’s Caribbean Pot Roast Chicken

What dish would you cook to welcome someone into your family home? Share your favourite recipes and you could win a copy of TACT’s cookery book, signed by the charity’s patron Lorraine Pascale, who has personal experience of both the care system and adoption.

For the last few years I’ve been working with a wonderful charity called TACT, which provides fostering and adoption services to help some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK. Their aim is to help these youngsters find loving homes and a fresh new start in life.

In this time I’ve had the privilege to meet many amazing carers, adopters and staff who are making an incredible difference to the lives of the young people they work with.

The concept of family is very important to TACT; providing a safe, stable and caring home environment is so crucial and it makes a massive difference in supporting children and young people who find themselves in the care system for all kinds of reasons. Young people need to feel valued, made to feel special and loved, and need to be listened to when they are ready to share. That is what family is there for.

One of the simplest ways to bring family together and welcome new people into our home is through food. Family meals all too often are something children in care have missed out on. Because the family meal is so important, TACT has launched its very own cook book called Care to Cook, packed full of delicious starters, mains and desserts kindly donated by TACT’s adopters, supporters and staff.

The cost of the book is £3 and all proceeds directly benefit adopted children and their new families.

To help raise awareness of Care to Cook, Bangers & Mash is calling on food bloggers and food lovers to submit their own favourite family recipes, and one lucky person will receive a copy of the cook book signed by TACT’s new celebrity patron, TV chef and best selling cookery writer Lorraine Pascale.

Lorraine Pascale, patron of TACT, TV chef and cookery writer

How to submit your recipe

  • If you are a blogger and would like to enter the Care to Cook Challenge, simply post a recipe on your blog with links to both this page and the Care to Cook page on the TACT website and include the Care to Cook Challenge logo somewhere in your post.
  • The recipe can either be one of your own or somebody else’s but do remember to clearly credit your sources. You can republish an old blog post but please include information about the Care to Cook Challenge.
  • Your post can also be entered into other blogging challenges, so long as this complies with their rules.
  • If you mention your post on Twitter please mention @BangerMashChat and @TACTCare and use the #CareToCook hashtag. We will retweet all we see.
  • Please also email a link to your entry to vanesther@reescommunications.co.uk.
  • If you aren’t a blogger, don’t worry – you are still welcome to enter. Simply email your recipe (and a photo if you have one) to the above address and I’ll upload it to the Bangers & Mash blog for others to see.
  • The closing date for entries is Sunday 12 August 2012, and a round-up of all recipes submitted will feature here on Bangers & Mash and on TACT’s website the following week.
  • The winning entry will be chosen by one of TACT’s looked after children in the Bristol and South West region.

We can’t wait to see your family favourite recipes and please feel free to enter the challenge as many times as you like. Thanks for your support!

To get things started, here’s a fantastic recipe for Caribbean-style Pot Roast Chicken taken from Care to Cook. I tried it out on my own family last weekend and it is extremely yummy and very, very moreish. My daughters loved it – they asked for seconds and then thirds!

As my husband was tucking in to his, he asked where I got the recipe and I explained it had been donated by a TACT adopter for their cookery book. In between mouthfuls, Jason nodded and said: “Whoever Bernadette has adopted is very, very lucky. Her food is great!”

Pot Roast Chicken – Caribbean Style
By Bernadette Biscette, TACT Adopter

Serves 6

1 whole medium free range chicken, cut in half
½ medium onion, peeled and chopped
1½ tbsp all purpose seasoning
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp mild bajan or jerk seasoning
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar

For the gravy

Cup of hot water
1 tsp cassareep or molasses
1 tbsp tomato puree
½ medium onion, peeled and chopped
½ tsp all purpose seasoning

Preheat the oven to 150°C/gas mark 2.

Place the two halves of chicken in a large bowl and add the onion, all purpose seasoning, mixed herbs, paprika and bajan or jerk seasoning. Rub the seasoning into the chicken with your hands making sure it is well covered.

Pour the olive oil and brown sugar into a large iron or Dutch pot and heat until the sugar starts to brown. Place the two halves of chicken in the pot and slowly brown the surface by turning in the oil for around 15-20 minutes. (I had to do the two halves separately as I don’t have a pan large enough.)

When the chicken is well glazed, let them simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the pot and place in a deep roasting pan and set aside.

Add a cup of hot water to the juices in the pot and all the ingredients for the gravy. Stir over a medium heat for 5 minutes and then pour over the chicken, cover with foil and cook for 2 hours in the oven, removing the foil for the last half hour. The chicken should be tender and well cooked.

Serve with salad and boiled rice for a hearty meal.

And now it’s your turn – what would you cook?

The Entries

  1. Homemade Fillet O’ Fish and “Chips” from Under The Blue Gum Tree
  2. French Madeleines from Crêpes Suzettes
  3. Peanut Butter and Salted Caramel Chocolate Cheesecake from Reluctant Housedad
  4. Penang Hokkien Mee from Cheryl Leembruggen
  5. Stuffed Tomatoes with Herbs and Oats from Lavender & Lovage
  6. Nonya Chicken Curry from Elly Rowe
  7. Pasta and Pesto Sauce from A Trifle Rushed
  8. Boeuf en Daube from Chez Foti
  9. Yorkshire Season Pudding with Herbs from Lavender & Lovage
  10. Spinach and Bacon Macaroni Cheese from Fishfingers for Tea
  11. Courgette Bake followed by Vanilla Cream Terrine from Barbara Hamer
  12. Chicken Basquaise from French Foodie Baby
  13. Strawberries and Cream Birthday Cake from Sue Hamer
  14. Hainanese Chicken Rice from Bangers & Mash

Chicken and noodle salad with coriander and mint

“Cold noodles? Really? Are you sure?”

That was my husband’s reaction the other day when I told him we were having this chicken and noodle salad.

“But Mum! Noodles should be hot!” was Jessie’s response.

Mia took a mouthful of noodles and promptly spat them out.

Not the best of starts. But after a little cajoling and a bit of encouragement, things did get better.

“Actually, this isn’t bad,” Jason conceded in between mouthfuls.

Once Mia got used to the texture of the noodles, she was tucking in wholeheartedly. And Jessie polished hers off without any further fuss. “Yum,” she declared on finishing.

It can be so easy to serve up the same kinds of foods day in and day out but I’m one of those annoying mothers who likes to challenge her family’s taste buds. And it does pay off. Now they’ve got their heads around cold noodles in a salad, I think we’ll be coming back to this quite a lot.

It’s a beautifully freshy, zingy dish – perfect for summer, or at least helping to give the impression of a summer. The chicken thighs are poached so they are lovely and moist and the fresh coriander and mint, along with the lemon, ginger and garlic in the dressing, pack it full of flavour.

I also added some scrummy broad beans from the veg box; the ones in the garden aren’t ready yet. Shelling broad beans has to be one of my favourite jobs in the kitchen. It makes me feel like a 1950s mother for some reason.

If you were making an authentic South East Asian noodle salad, you probably should also use chilli and fish sauce in the dressing. I left these out because a) chilli would be a step too far for little Mia and b) my husband can’t eat fish – I know! How inconsiderate is that?! But if these sound good to you, go ahead.

Chicken noodle salad with coriander and mint

4 skinless chicken thighs
½ onion, peeled and chopped
5 kaffir lime leaves
small handful black peppercorns
200g vermicelli noodles
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 carrot, grated
½ yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced
large handful shelled broad  beans
large handful fresh coriander, chopped
large handful fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp sesame seeds
6 lettuce leaves, shredded

For the dressing

3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 kaffir lime leaves

Place the chicken thighs into a pan with the onion, 5 kaffir lime leaves and peppercorns and cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Allow the chicken to cool in the liquid.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain and run under cold water to refresh.

Dry fry the sesame seeds for a couple of minutes until golden. Remove to cool on a plate.

Place all the dressing ingredients in a saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Sieve into a jug and leave to cool.

Into a large salad bowl place the noodles, spring onions, carrot, yellow pepper, broad beans, coriander, mint, sesame seeds and lettuce. Pour over the dressing and mix well to ensure everything is well covered. I like to use my hands for this bit.

Slice the cooled chicken thighs, arrange on top of the salad and serve.

I’m entering this recipe into Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, which this month is being hosted by me! Find out which other entries have been entered and perhaps submit one of your own?

American-style baked cheesecake

Happy Fourth of July! Yes, it’s American Independence Day and so in honour of our cousins over the pond, here is my recipe for a baked American-style cheesecake.

I adore baked cheesecakes – the way the top is all cakey, soft and crumbly while the inside is sumptuously creamy and quite decadent. Matched with the crunchy biscuit base and sweet fruit on the side, what more could you ask for in a pud?

American-style baked cheesecake

Serves 6-8

For the biscuit base

75g digestive biscuits, crushed
40g butter, melted
35g Demerara sugar

For the cheesecake

45g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
400g cream cheese
20g corn flour
Pinch of salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
130ml double cream, lightly whipped

Fresh berries to serve

Preheat oven to 160°C/gas mark 3.

Lightly grease a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

Put the crushed biscuits, butter and Demerara sugar into a bowl and mix well. Spread over the base of the tin and press down well. Place in the fridge for half an hour to set.

Into a large bowl measure the butter, caster sugar, cream cheese, corn flour, salt, lemon zest, vanilla extract and egg yolks and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Then fold in the lightly whipped cream.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff and then carefully fold into the cheesy mixture using a large metal spoon.

Pour the cheese mixture onto the chilled biscuit base.

Bake in the oven for about an hour until set. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in there for another hour to cool.

If like me you have an Aga, then bake in the roasting oven on the shelf on the floor with the cold plain shelf on the second set of runners. Bake for 20 minutes until the top is pale golden. Transfer the cold plain shelf to the middle of the simmering oven and place the cheesecake on this. Bake for another 20-30 minutes. Thanks to Mary Berry for the Aga baking advice!

Remove the cheesecake from the oven and cool in the tin. Carefully run a knife around the edge, lift out from the tin and remove the greaseproof paper.

Serve with your favourite berries – I went for strawberries – I am eating it in Britain after all!