The Spice Trail: your favourite ginger recipes

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Last month’s ginger challenge on The Spice Trail proved to be a real feast for the senses. As the month went on, I found myself in an increasing state of drooliness as your ginger creations piled up in my inbox – each inspiring recipe and stunning photograph had me bookmarking away.

So let’s see how you like to use ginger in your cooking…

Ginger Collage

I love fresh ginger in Asian and Oriental broths and soups, and so my eyes definitely lit up when I saw this stunning entry from Tina at The Spicy Pear –  Chicken in Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce (1). You know it is going to do you good as well as tasting good, and don’t those goji berries provide a stunning burst of colour?

Linsy from Home Cook Food offers us a couple of beautifully spiced dishes, both of course featuring ginger and along with a whole host of other Asian spices including methi or fenugreek leaves. Firstly there’s a Methi Vegetable Malai (2) with mixed vegetables served in a creamy, spiced sauce, and then there’s a boldly flavoured Kala Chana Aur Methi Curry (3). 

Next is my quick and easy Baked Sea Bass with Ginger, Garlic & Chilli and Miso Rice (4) which is ready in less than half an hour but absolutely packed full of big fresh flavours.

Another speedy supper comes in the form of this super tasty Chicken & Veggie Chow Mein (5) from Louisa at Eat Your Veg, which takes just minutes to create and is so much healthier than the takeaway version.

This Lettuce Wrapped Pork (6) from Heidi at Mamacook is a gorgeously fresh and fragrant dish, with ginger, garlic, chilli and lime, and is quite simply my idea of foodie heaven.

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Heidi from Mamacook brings us a second dish in the form of this glorious Carrot, Ginger & Pumpkin Soup (7) which she describes as a “zinger of a soup” as the ginger really packs a punch. I love the sound of that.

These Spicy Chickpeas (8) from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous make for a fabulously aromatic dish and feature, as well as ginger, caraway, mint and garlic to really stir the senses.

A wholesomely tasty soup is up next from Manjiri at Slice Off Me with her Tomato & Lentil Soupy Broth (9) from Slice Off Me. Born and bred in Mumbai and now living in London, Manjiri knows a thing or two about balancing her spices and this vibrant soup is a good example of that skill in the kitchen.

Half Costa Rican,half Irish-American and married to her Hyderabadi love, it is little surprise that the cooking of Emily at Cooking for Kishore has an international, fusion feel. Emily’s Goan Shrimp Curry (10) is a stunning dish of plump shrimps in a rich and creamy coconut curry sauce, and it had to be special as it was served to Kishore for his birthday meal. Bet he loved it!

We have a gorgeously fragrant curry next from Janet at The Taste Space. Her Chickpea & Kabocha Squash Lemongrass Curry (11) features sweet kabocha squash, flavoured with aromatics like cardamom and coriander, tempered by ginger, mustard and chilli and a heavenly coconut-infused broth spiked with lemongrass. It sounds heavenly.

Bintu from Recipes From a Pantry serves up a strikingly vibrant Curried Carrot Soup (12). As with all good things in life, it is a very simple soup made with carrots, coconut milk and curry powder with a little ginger thrown in and takes just 10 minutes of effort. Fragrant, warming, quick and easy – just perfect.

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I was delighted Nasifriet from By The Way took part in The Spice Challenge this month. I hadn’t come across her blog before but I get the feeling I might be spending quite some time there. I do like the look of her Malaysian influenced dishes; my mother is Malaysian but I don’t know the food from the region all that well. Nasifriet’s Steamed Crispy Shanghai Bok Choy in Ginger Garlic Sauce (13) looks so good and just the way I like my green vegetables.

Being an Aga owner, I’m rather a fan of slow cooked meats and this Slow Cooked Pork in Tonkatsu Sauce (Japanese Barbecue Sauce) (14) from Corina at Searching for Spice is one I shall be experimenting with very soon. The pork look so so tender and succulent, while I am intrigued by the sweet and sour Japanese inspired sauce. I think the phrase finger licking good most definitely applies here.

This Lamb Kofta Curry (15) is one of Angela from My Golden Pear’s favourite midweek curries and I really like the fact the kofta mixture is so versatile and can be used as meatballs in an appetiser, served with chutney or a yoghurt dip, or moulded on to skewers and char-grill as a starter, or cooked in this curry sauce for a main meal. Genius.

We have two more dishes from Spicy, Quirky and Serendipitous next. There’s a vibrantly healthy  Broccoli Ginger Stir Fry (16) followed by Mushrooms, Tamarind, Ginger and Spice (18), both beautifully flavoured and full of gorgeous fresh vegetables.

If you’re thinking of trying your hand at homemade sushi, then this recipe for Homemade Pickled Ginger for Sushi (17) from Vohn’s Vittles is one for you. It is a perfect way to use up any excess root ginger and I love Vohn’s tip for peeling ginger with a teaspoon. How did I get to the grand age of 39 and not know you could peel ginger with a spoon?

Louisa at Eat Your Veg is my go to source of inspiration when it comes to tasty, fast food the whole family will love and her Soy & Ginger Glazed Salmon & Courgette Kebabs (19) are a brilliant example of her clever way of combining wholesome ingredients and punchy flavours in a way kids (and grown ups) just adore.

In the words of Aneela from The Odd Pantry, you’d better be “clutching your socks” when you take a look at her recipe for Ginger Chutney (20) as it is sure to knock them off! Aneela says this is an authentic South Indian chutney featuring daal, which she explains is sometimes used as a spice in Indian cooking, particularly the urad daal or black lentil. I never knew lentils could be considered a spice – I love the way I am always learning new things about food from my fellow bloggers.

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Ginger is of course a traditional ingredient in so many baked goodies, featuring in cake and biscuit recipes from around the world. I was delighted with Heidi from Mamacook’s baked offering of Gingerbread Men (21)  Ginger Parkin (22)  Sugar Free Date & Ginger Muffins (23) and Quick Ginger Biscuits (25), which would make a brilliant spread for any tea party.

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to the shop-bought breakfast snack, these Apricot, Ginger & Pecan Breakfast Bars (24) from Jane at The Hedge Combers look ideal, and a very tasty alternative too spiced with gorgeous crystallised ginger. I could eat these any day of the week, although Jane does recommend saving them for high days and holidays.

If you are planning a spot of Easter baking, but don’t fancy a big cake how about trying these dainty Ginger Simnel Cupcakes (26) from Alexandra aka The Lass in the Apron? Just like the traditional Simnel cake, they feature marzipan and lots of dried fruit and spices, and are then dipped in a delicious  orange glaze and decorated with crystallized ginger. They look and sound just lovely.

Despite my personal passion for teacakes, I’ve never thought to make them with one of my favourite ingredients, stem ginger but I certainly will be trying it now after seeing this fantastic recipe for Spiced Teacakes (27) from Sarah at The Garden Deli. Do pop over to her blog to check out her wonderful springtime photos from her garden.

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The sweet, ginger treats continue with these fun Coconut & Ginger Cake Pops (28) from Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog, which she baked using her new Lekue cake pop kit. Her tempting chocolaty treats are made with coconut oil, coconut sugar and a combination of coconut and gluten-free flour, as well as ground ginger and of course the best dark chocolate you can lay your hands on.

These Dutch Ginger Cake Squares (29) from Helen at Family–Friends–Food are an old family recipe, passed on to her mum from an elderly aunt in Australia, which looks deliciously moist and chewy. Plus I love those kind of recipes that come with family stories and memories attached. Helen also brings us some Ginger Cookies (32) which recently got a the seal of approval from her daughter Kipper and her little friends, who polished off a plate of them when their parents weren’t looking!

I’m rather taken by all things speculoos at the moment and so I’ve just got to have a go at this scrummy Speculoos Ice Cream (30) from Mel at Edible Things, made with whole spices echoing those found in traditional speculoos spice mix, and of course plenty of ginger. This might just have to be the first ice cream I make to test out my new ice cream maker.

Sarah at The Fig Tree is up next with her fragrantly delicious Fresh Ginger Cake (31) made from homegrown ginger from her friend’s greenhouse. Doesn’t it look and sound amazing? I wonder if I could try growing my own ginger here in Somerset…

I was hoping someone would bring some drinks to our ginger party and Mel from Edible Things came up trumps with lashings of  Gingerade (33) – a gingery take on classic lemonade. I bet it tastes incredible and it looks perfect for drinking on a hot, sunny day in the garden, which I’m confident we’ll be enjoying lots of this summer. Wish, wish…

Lapin d’Or brings us a rather sophisticated dessert of Ginger Wine Zabaglione with Mango (34), which sounds divinely delicious bringing together warm ginger-sweet custard and soft succulent pieces of fresh mango. Heavenly.

To close, there’s one final entry from me with a very easy but very tasty Banana, Ginger and Chocolate Cake (35), a great way to use up ripe bananas and perfect for chocoholics big and small.

And the winner is…

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If I could I’d award everyone a prize this month, the quality was just so damn good. But as ever there can only be one winner, and so I’m pleased to announce this month’s Spice Trail winner is Corina from Searching for Spice for her fabulous Slow Cooked Pork in Tonkatsu (Japanese Barbecue) Sauce. So many dishes made my mouth water this month, but probably this one most of all and I can’t wait to try that barbecue sauce.

Huge congratulations to Corina, who wins this lovely set of six ‘pantry design’ spice tins courtesy of Dot Com Gift Shophome to delightfully quirky, often kitsch but always stylish gifts. 

Thank you to everyone who took part in the cooking with ginger challenge. April’s Spice Trail challenge is now open and this month we are cooking our favourite Mexican dishes. I can’t wait to see what you bring to share!

Nettle soup

nettle soup

Usually when I take my children out foraging with me, they like to muck in and tend to eat half our booty before we get anywhere near home.woods

But not this time. No, the idea of harvesting stinging nettles from the woods near our home last weekend really did not appeal to my little ones, who preferred instead to build a den and climb trees. Quite sensible really. So their eccentric mother was left on her own to gather the nettles, protected of course by a pair of thick gloves.

nettles

This was the first time I’ve attempted nettle soup. The idea of making a meal from a free and plentiful plant, almost as abundant in the town as it is in the country and generally considered a weed, has always appealed. And this is the time of year to bag your nettles, early spring. The fresh, young growth is the crop you want. By the end of April, nettles start to get a bit tough and are definitely best eaten before they flower in May. Aim for the young shoots and tips of the plants.

As I was harvesting my nettles, with the welcome and much-needed rays of spring sunshine on my back, I was surprised at just how fragrant the plant is, quite floral and herb-like. If it weren’t for that pesky sting, I’m sure nettles would be insanely popular.

I must admit though, their smell does alter a little on cooking. As I dished up, my husband frowned and sniffed, and asked whether there was anything fishy in the soup. I shook my head and told him he must be imagining things; I didn’t want to put him off more than he already was. But I must admit there was the slightest fishy whiff. Please don’t let that put you off. The soup is delicious, with a deep flavour similar to spinach, but more earthy and greener somehow. And there is not the slightest hint of a sting, I promise. As soon as the spinach hits hot liquid, the sting disappears.

I was pleasantly surprised my lot took to nettle soup so well; definitely one to make again.

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Nettle Soup

half a carrier bag of nettle tops
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed and sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper
yoghurt or double cream to serve

Fill your sink with water and, wearing rubber gloves, thoroughly wash the nettles and get rid of any tougher stalks and unwanted creepy crawlies.

Gently heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, leeks, potato and celery. Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften the vegetables.

Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before pouring in the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the potato is tender.

Add the nettles to the pan and stir into the soup as they wilt. Simmer for a few minutes and then blend in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Season with salt and pepper and serve in bowls topped with a dollop of yoghurt of a drizzle of cream.

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I’m entering my nettle soup into No Croutons Required, the monthly vegetarian soup and salad challenge hosted jointly between Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen.

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And as it’s very much a springtime soup, I’m also entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season challenge, which this month is being guest hosted by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

banana ginger chocolate cake

I realise there’s been a rather manic, end-of-month flurry of activity on the blog but here’s another last minute recipe, which I just had to squeeze in just in time to make the deadline for this month’s Spice Trail challenge.

The theme for March has been ginger and I’ve received a brilliant selection of ginger goodies; the round-up promises to be a real treat.

This last entry from me is a very easy-to-make banana sponge, featuring delightful chunks of chewy, crystallised ginger and dark chocolate chips, lavishly topped with a gorgeously decadent chocolate buttercream. It’s certainly not one for the weight-watchers I’m afraid, but my family made light work of getting through it, and as the cake does contain three bananas there is a little goodness in there as well as the naughty stuff. Life is all about balance, after all.

banana ginger chocolate

Banana, ginger and chocolate cake

Serves 12

120g soft butter, plus a little more for the tins
250g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
160g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk
3 ripe bananas, mashed
75g dark chocolate chips
30 crystallised ginger, chopped into small chunks

For the chocolate buttercream

150g good quality chocolate (dark or milk, you decide)
225g butter, softened
300g icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

I also used Dr Oetker chocolate hearts to decorate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Butter and line a 20cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt and ground ginger into a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, vanilla and milk. Fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture, and then fold in the mashed banana, chocolate chips and crystallised ginger.

Pour the cake batter into the tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for a few minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream, melt the chocolate in a microwave on a low setting or in a bowl over a pan of just-simmering water. Leave to cool a little. Beat the butter in another bowl until pale, and then beat in the icing sugar and vanilla. Add the chocolate and mix well.

Spread the chocolate buttercream generously over the cake and, if you like, decorate with chocolate hearts or something similar.

Enjoy!

banana ginger chocolate cake

 

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Tray-baked pork chops with rosemary and pears

pork pear rosemary

I’ve been making this dish for years. It’s a perfect meal for Saturday lunch when you want to get on with the weekend and not spend the day in the kitchen.

I regularly make this on Saturdays once the girls’ ballet lessons are out of the way (why, oh why did I go for dance lessons on a Saturday morning?) and it’s simply a case of throwing everything in a roasting tray, tossing in olive oil and bunging in the oven. Easy as. It doesn’t really warrant a recipe, but I thought I’d write it down anyway. It is actually based loosely on an early Jamie Oliver recipe, from his Naked Chef days, but even easier – if that’s possible.

So, simple and tasty and the kind of food I have to stop my children picking up and eating with their fingers, until I give in and join them.

pork pear rosemary

Tray-baked pork chops with rosemary and pears

Serves 2 adults and 2 children

3 or 4 pork chops – I used to share one between my two kids, but now they’re getting bigger they demand one each
several sprigs of fresh rosemary
6 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped into large chunks or quartered lengthways
3 pears, cored and quartered
4 large potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
6 garlic cloves
salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Arrange the pork chops, rosemary sprigs, carrots, pears, potatoes and garlic in a large roasting tray.

Season well with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to make sure all the ingredients are lightly covered.

Roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until everything is nicely browned and turning the chops and vegetables once or twice during the cooking time. The pears will be squishy and the garlic oozy, while the pork chops will be sticky and the carrots will have that lovely caramelised thing going on. The kitchen will smell incredible.

Serve with a big dollop of mayonnaise, homemade preferably, or the best shop-bought you can afford.

Cooking-with-Herbs

 

As rosemary is used in abundance in this dish, I’m entering it into Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage where the themed herb this month is rosemary.

Sticky toffee pudding

sticky toffee pudding

When I was little, I really enjoyed school dinners. Strange I know, as most people seem to have terrible memories of the stuff dished up in the school canteen. In particular, I enjoyed the puddings, with the exception of school rice pudding which was truly ghastly and has succeeded in putting me off for life. But I did love the old fashioned sponge puddings, served up with thick custard, especially when it was the pink variety.

My children go to a small village school where they only have hot school dinners twice a week as they have to be brought in from a neighbouring school. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I find myself interrogating the kids to find out what they ate that day and am always very jealous when I hear they had a hot pudding with custard.

We didn’t really eat those kinds of puddings at home when I was a child, although occasionally I’d be treated to one of those sponge puddings that came in a large tin. That’s why I really appreciated visits to my grandparents in Lancashire, as my Nana Barbara makes the best puddings ever.

When Nana came down to visit at Christmas, she brought some of her wonderful sticky toffee pudding with her, and I was in seventh heaven. Nana presented me with a large tray of the dark brown sponge cake to go in the freezer, with a jar full of toffee sauce. It’s been such a treat to be able to warm some up in the microwave at the end of a busy day at work and enjoy a bowl of blissful, homemade sticky stodginess.

Nana was kind enough to let me have her recipe, and because I’m a generous soul, I’d like to share it with you too. Enjoy!

sticky toffee pudding

Sticky toffee pudding

Feeds 8

200g dried dates, stoned and chopped
300ml water
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
175g dark brown sugar
80g butter, softened
2 large eggs
vanilla extract
175g self raising flour

For the toffee sauce

150g butter
220ml double cream
150g dark brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.

Put the chopped dates and water into a saucepan and simmer over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until gorgeously thick and sticky. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda and leave to cool.

Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl and cream together until pale and fluffy. Break in the eggs and add a few drops of vanilla extract, and beat it all together well. Carefully fold in the flour, followed by the gooey dates.

Grease a baking tin (20cm square) and line with greaseproof paper. Spoon in the mixture and bake for around 40 minutes until the sponge is firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a board and slice into 8 portions.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat and then stir in the cream and sugar. Cook gently until the sauce has thickened and turned a glossy, dark caramel colour.

Serve the warm sponge cake in bowls and pour over the toffee sauce. It’s very good as it is but, if you want to push the boat out, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or perhaps a drizzle of cream.

This article was first published in the Wells Journal on 20 March 2014.

Roast garlic and butter bean soup

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Working as I do in an office with others, I wonder sometimes whether I should eat as much garlic as I do. Don’t get me wrong. Nobody’s actually said, or hinted at, anything to do with garlicky aromas. Not unless their hints have been far too subtle for me to pick up.

But, considering the amount of garlic I cook with and eat, some scent of last night’s dinner must surely remain the next morning? A friend told me a while back not to worry about it. Her theory was that if you eat garlic all the time, your body is accustomed to it and so then you won’t smell of it. If you don’t eat it all that often though, on the occasions when you do, the scent tends to linger.

I have no idea if that theory is true or not but I was happy to go with it until a friend told me this week of her personal concerns about eating garlic. The other kids at school wouldn’t sit next to her, you see, because she smelled of garlic, and yet her mum apparently cooked with garlic all the time.

Perhaps it was simply because garlic was so much more unusual back then? Everyone cooks with garlic today, don’t they? And so here we all are, happily munching on garlic and smelling of garlic together, while the exceptions among us are much too polite to mention the stench.

Even if someone did say something though, I’m not sure I could ever give up my garlic habit. That would mean no more roasted garlic, a staple whenever we make a roast dinner, and also the star of this fantastically simple soup.

Made in a matter of minutes and with just a handful of ingredients, the garlic shines through as the star of the show and, because it is roasted, the garlic is much less pungent and instead takes on a much milder and beautifully sweet and earthy flavour.

garlic butterbean soup

Roast garlic and butter bean soup

Serves 6

1 head of garlic
olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 x 400g tins of butter beans, drained
1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 / 200° Celsius.

Place the garlic head on a large piece of tin foil and drizzle with a little olive oil. Wrap loosely and place on a tray in the oven. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the garlic cloves are squishy. Allow to cool a little.

In a large saucepan, heat a little more olive oil over a gentle heat and fry the onion until soft and translucent.

Simply add the butter beans and stock. Squeeze the gorgeously gooey garlic from the skins into the pan and puree it all into a soup with a hand blender or in a processor. Taste and season with salt and pepper if required.

That’s all there is to it. Serve with fresh bread and cheese or cold meats for a super easy lunch or light supper. And maybe take a packet of mints out with you tomorrow.

But if you’re like me, I really wouldn’t worry about it.

This article was first published in the Wells Journal on 13 March 2014.

Chicken soup with rice

I started writing this post about a week ago. Then it got put on hold as life, or rather death, got in the way.

Normally I wouldn’t write about very personal things on this blog; it’s a food blog after all, and people come here for food. But it just felt wrong to publish a new post without marking or acknowledging in some way the passing of my mother-in-law Judith who taught me so much about food.

Judith died last Wednesday and will leave a huge hole in our family in so many ways. She’s the one who taught me the trick to Aga rice, and showed me how easy it is to make soup – I recall the revelatory feeling when during one of our family holidays in France she took one look at what I thought was a sad collection of leftover vegetables and transformed them, with the ease which comes from family cooking for many years, into a truly delicious soup. So this is what proper cooking is really about, I remember thinking.

After my first Sunday lunch at Judith’s house, meat and two veg were never the same again. It is from eating well at Judith’s table that my own values around food developed – the importance of eating as a family, buying the best ingredients you can afford and eating seasonal and locally produced or reared produce whenever you can.

The last time I saw Judith in hospital I told her about having just seen Claudia Roden at the Bath Literature Festival. I was as excited as a school girl. Of course, it turned out that Judith and her husband Tom are actually old friends of hers. I wasn’t surprised.

There is so much more to tell you about Judith. Her family, her career, her art, her love of the countryside and of walking. But this isn’t the right place for a eulogy, people come here to hear about food. So here is the post I started last week.

* * *

chicken soup with rice

There’s been a fair bit of illness in our house in recent months. The girls still have stubborn coughs they can’t shake off. It’s easy to tell when my daughters are genuinely unwell, as they normally have such insatiable appetites, my oldest daughter Jessie in particular. When they say they’re not hungry, you know something’s wrong.

This chicken soup with rice though was one of the few things that did go down well with both girls. My aunt shared some of her tips with me for feeding poorly babies over on Facebook and her suggestion of adding soy sauce and fish sauce to a simple chicken broth provided just the savoury combination of flavours to appeal to wonky tastebuds.

It might also have helped that Jessie has been on at me for ages to make chicken soup with rice. One of our favourite albums to play on car journeys is Really Rosie, Carole King’s brilliant soundtrack from 1975 for an animated short film based on stories by Maurice Sendak, including the fantastic The Sign on Rosie’s Door. There are so many great tracks on this album from the alphabet song Alligators All Around and the counting tune One Was Johnny to the deliciously comical cautionary tale of Pierre, a little boy who finally learns to care when he is eaten by a lion.

Not surprisingly, with our family fascination with food, Chicken Soup with Rice, a song to teach the months of the year, is the one we all love most.

Catchy, hey?

Ideal for using up Sunday lunch leftovers, this simple soup can be made in a matter of minutes from cold roast chicken and homemade stock. And if you don’t have homemade stock, use a really good quality chicken stock cube.

chicken soup with rice

Chicken soup with rice

Serves 4

1 tbsp sunflower oil
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
150g basmati rice
1.5 litres chicken stock
½ tbsp light soy sauce
½ tbsp fish sauce
120g cooked chicken, shredded
2 handfuls frozen peas

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the spring onions for a couple of minutes to soften.

Stir in the rice and cover with the chicken stock. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and shredded chicken and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes until the rice is soft.

Add the frozen peas, bring back to a simmer and cook for a couple more minutes. Serve with love.

chicken soup with rice

This is such a quick and easy dish to prepare, I’m entering it into this month’s Family Foodies challenge which I host with Louisa at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Fab Fast Food.

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A store cupboard supper: baked rice with spinach, cannellini beans and eggs

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We all have times when we need to rustle up an easy dinner using basic, store cupboard ingredients.

You’ve been up against it at work and haven’t had time to get to the shops. It’s the end of the month and money is tight. Whatever the reason, it’s useful to have a go-to dish or two up your sleeve.

My usual store cupboard recipes tend to feature cheap ingredients like pasta, beans, pulses and whatever I find in the freezer. I make sure I always have a few bags of vegetables in the freezer for times like these. Frozen veg is just as good as the fresh stuff in certain dishes, and cheap as chips too.

Rice makes a regular appearance too. I ate a lot of rice as a little girl. For a while my mother only worked part-time while she also studied for her MA, and there wasn’t a lot to spend on food. So rice became a staple, mainly due perhaps to my mum’s Chinese roots, quite often served with just soy sauce or, if we were lucky, some stir-fried vegetables on the side.

You’d think that might put me off rice but instead it is one of my favourite foods. When I am feeling low or poorly, there’s nothing I appreciate more than a simple bowl of rice with soy sauce or perhaps some chicken stock to make a very simple rice broth.

This baked rice recipe is ever so slightly more elaborate but a real winner when it comes to store cupboard cookery. The addition of eggs turns it into a proper comfort dish.Anything topped by an egg with a runny yolk gets my vote.

baked rice with eggs

It’s a very versatile and forgiving dish too. That’s the whole point of store cupboard recipes. Instead of spinach, why not throw in a few handfuls of frozen peas or sweetcorn? Instead of cannellini beans, try kidney beans or maybe a tin of tuna.

Baked rice with spinach, cannellini beans and eggs

Feeds 4

1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
200g basmati rice
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock
1 x 400g can cannellini beans
100g frozen spinach
salt and pepper
4 large free range eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized heavy bottomed casserole and gently cook the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, before adding the rice. Stir it all together and cook gently for another minute.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes, stock, cannellini beans and a little salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir and then place chunks of frozen spinach, nestling it in amongst the rice and beans.

Cover the casserole with a lid and bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the rice is tender. Remove the lid and, using the back of spoon, make four slight dips in the rice. Break the eggs into these wells and return the oven for another five minutes or so, until the whites are cooked but the yolks are beautifully runny.

Serve at once.

This recipe was first published in my Eat the Season column in the Wells Journal on 6 March 2014.

baked rice2 web

family-foodiesAs my baked rice is very easy to make and cooks in around half an hour, I’m entering it into this month’s Fab Fast Food challenge for Family Foodies, an event I run with Louisa at Eat Your Veg and it just happens to be my turn to host.

speedy-suppers-veg-impI am also sharing this dish with Speedy Suppers, a new blog event for 30 minute meals launched by Sarah at Dinner With Crayons and Katie at Feeding Boys. I’m really rather excited about this new challenge – I just know it’s going to prove such a useful resource.

Baked sea bass with ginger, garlic & chilli and miso rice

sea bass

When you read my blog posts, it’s probably easy to assume I spend most of my life in the kitchen. While it’s true that at the weekend I can generally be found at the stove and do make a bit more of an effort with our meals, most of my family’s food is a pretty speedy, simple affair.

I am a working mum and most days I don’t have time to cook anything too complicated, so I am trying to build up a trusty list of staples I can rustle up in half an hour.

I realise Jamie Oliver can cook up a meal in just 15 minutes but, unless it’s beans on toast or pesto from a jar stirred into pasta (and there is nothing wrong with either of those), I find it practically impossible to cook anything quite that quickly.

Although that’s probably because, unlike Jamie, it’s impossible for me to give the dinner my undivided attention. There’s usually one of the children asking for help with their homework, or the cat demanding to be fed, or my husband wanting to know if I’ve seen his glasses/wallet/keys (delete as appropriate). You get the picture.

sea bass

This is one of those meals I can cook up in about 30 minutes. Baking fish in foil makes for an incredibly quick dinner and, by throwing in heaps of garlic, ginger and seasonings, it’s incredibly tasty too. Sea bass is perfect with these strong Oriental flavours.

What’s more, the foil parcels allow me to cater for different family tastes. My youngest daughter is only five and isn’t keen on chilli, so I wrap her fillet separately and leave out the chilli. My husband can’t actually eat fish, so I wrap a chicken breast instead for him, although I do have to cook it for an extra five minutes.

Cooked in instant miso soup, the rice has a wonderfully savoury, umami flavour and I could happily eat bowlfuls of this rice on its own.

sea bass

Baked sea bass with ginger, garlic & chilli and miso rice

Serves 4

2 tsp sesame oil
4 sea bass fillets
fat, thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, finely sliced
4 radishes, trimmed and finely sliced
5 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
2 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped (leaves and stalks), plus extra for garnish
miso soup paste
250g Basmati rice

Preheat oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Tear off sheets of foil, large enough to encase your fillets. You can bake them altogether in one parcel or individually, depending on whether everyone is happy with all the ingredients – I’m thinking mainly about children and chillies here.

Drizzle a little sesame oil onto the foil before placing the fish on it, skin side down.

Pull up the sides of the foil around the fish and toss in the ginger, garlic, chilli, radish and spring onion. Pour in the fish sauce, lime juice, soy sauce and finally sprinkle with the fresh coriander.

Close up the foil parcel tightly and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Cook your rice in your usual way, but instead of using plain water, make up a cup of miso soup according to the packet instructions, and cook the rice in this.

Serve the fish on the rice and don’t forget to pour over all that lovely sauce left behind in the foil. Garnish with more chopped coriander.

sea bass in foil

badge CollageFab Fast Food is the theme for Family Foodies in March. Family Foodies is a challenge I co-host with Louisa at Eat Your Veg and this month it is my turn to host. This baked sea bass is one of my favourites for a speedy supper, but I’m keen to see your ideas so I can have a few more tried-and-tested dishes up my sleeve.

The theme for Four Seasons Food this month, hosted by Louisa at Eat Your Veg and Anneli at Delicieux, is Something Fishy, and so I’m entering my baked sea bass into that challenge too, and as sea bass is in season right now I’ve just got to enter it into Ren Behan‘s Simple and in Season food blog event.

Finally, as this dish features a good amount of fresh ginger I’m also entering it into The Spice Trail, hosted by me, as the spice in question this month just happens to be ginger.

The Spice Trail: your caraway recipes

carway Collage

We always receive such a diverse array of entries for The Spice Trail, and this month’s caraway challenge has been no exception.

Caraway is certainly one of the less commonly used spices used in our kitchens and this is reflected in the lower number of entries this month. But even so, I have been enormously impressed by all the delicious, and sometimes surprising, caraway dishes entered. Each and everyone is a winner in my eyes, although there can only be one winner – more on that later. For now it’s time to take a look through your caraway recipes…

caraway pretzels

Caraway Pretzels from GoodFoodSeeking

Jacqui from GoodFoodSeeking is working her way through a 1948 Good Housekeeping cookbook she inherited and is blogging as she goes. After seeing pretzels being made in the Great British Bake Off she rather fancied trying some herself and was delighted to come across a recipe in the Good Housekeeping cookbook as a German bake in the ‘world’ chapter. I think they look absolutely wonderful, especially with that sprinkling of caraway seeds on top.

heart shortbread

Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt & Caraway Shortbread Hearts from Tales from the Kitchen Shed

These shortbread hearts from Sarah at Tales from the Kitchen Shed are a perfect Valentine bake and look absolutely divine. I’ve never combined caraway with chocolate but it sounds like a wonderful match and, as I’m a sucker for salty-sweet foods, it’s a recipe I plan to try out very soon.

Eat-Your-Veg-Kale-Caraway-Crisps

Kale & Caraway Crisps from Eat Your Veg

Lou from Eat Your Veg brings us these creative Kale and Caraway Crisps next. She says she often sautees kale or other greens as a side dish for Sunday lunch and throws in a generous pinch of caraway at the end. So when Lou was considering how to flavour her first ever batch of kale crisps, caraway was the obvious choice. “By heck they were good,” is Lou’s brilliant response to these surprisingly moreish, healthier-choice crisps.

pumpernickel tuile

Pumpernickel Tuiles from The Lass in the Apron

Although Alexandra from The Lass in the Apron disliked caraway as a youngster, it is one of those flavours that she has grown into over the years. After she graduated from pastry school, Alexandra worked in a German bakery where she  found herself eating lots of the stuff. Alexandra was keen to make something Scandinavian for this month’s Spice Trail and has adapted a havreflarn recipe, a sort of oat tuile, using caraway as well as cocoa and orange.  Don’t they look simply incredible?

spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese from Bangers & Mash

I don’t always include caraway in my Bolognese. In fact every time I make spag bol the ingredients are different, all depending on my mood and what we have in the house. But caraway is a surprisingly good addition, and adds a beautifully intense and slightly sweet flavour to the sauce.

cauliflower cheese pasta bake
Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake from Spurs Cook

Martin from Spurs Cook has also used caraway to flavour a pasta dish, this time an ingenious hybrid of two classic comfort foods – pasta bake and cauliflower cheese. Also featuring leeks, red onion, garlic and bacon, I think this could rapidly turn into a family favourite in the Bangers & Mash household.

caraway and linseed bread
Caraway & Linseed Bread Bangers & Mash

I really should have baked rye bread for this month’s challenge, as it is of course the loaf synonymous with caraway, but I’m not sure I’d have persuaded the rest of my brood to eat rye bread just yet. I’ll be working on them. In the meantime, this caraway and linseed bread did go down very well, which is absolutely delicious served with soup or cold cuts and spread thickly with good, salty butter.

polish sausage sauerkraut
Polish Sausage & Sauerkraut Casserole with Beer from Lavender & Lovage

I find it impossible to look at this photograph from Karen at Lavender & Lovage of her Polish Sausage & Sauerkraut Casserole with Beer without drooling. This is my perfect kind of meal and I am just so thrilled Karen entered it into this month’s Spice Trail, as we really couldn’t have a caraway challenge without some sauerkraut in there. She made hers in the slow cooker but I know it will work just as well in my Aga or any conventional oven whacked right down low.

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash
Braised Pig Cheeks from Bangers & Mash

Finally, I couldn’t run a caraway challenge without sharing (again) my Braised Pig Cheeks cooked slowly in red wine and vegetables and flavoured of course with caraway. It really is so good and is what I consider to be the ultimate in classy comfort food.

So there you have February’s fantastic recipe round-up. Huge thanks to everyone who entered their recipes; I have been genuinely inspired by your creativity with caraway!

And the winner is…

But who will take the crown as our caraway king or queen? That decision was made by Lara Light-McKelvaney from Bart Ingredients who are providing this month’s prize, a wonderful gift bag containing fabulous Bart’s goodies.

And Lara’s decision? It just had to go to Jacqui Gourlay from GoodFoodSeeking for her brilliant Caraway Pretzels, which Lara says look incredible. Congratulations to Jacqui – a very worthy winner, don’t you agree? A Bart Ingredients gift bag will be on its way to you very soon – enjoy!

bart spices

If you’d like to find out more about Bart Ingredients and shop online, do check out their new Bart Market, where all their products are now available, showcasing an impressive array of spice blends from around the world, spice infusions, individual herbs and spices and other associated cooking products. I feel like a child in a sweet shop whenever I’m on there!

Thanks again to everyone who got involved this month. March’s Spice Trail challenge will be announced very soon…