Making sushi like child’s play

Making my own sushi has been on my list of things to try for years now, but I’m not known for my tidy, careful ways in the kitchen and I always assumed my clumsy fat fingers would be something of a hindrance in the delicate art of sushi.

So when the team at Yutaka got in touch to see if my kids might be up for having a go at rolling their own sushi, I had to volunteer them. If Yutaka reckon children can make sushi, then surely I can have a go too? Continue reading “Making sushi like child’s play”

Hot & sour soup with king prawns and salmon

Hot and sour soup

This is the kind of food I crave if I’m feeling under the weather, suffering after a few too many red wines the night before, or simply have a dose of the blues. It’s clean and soothing, yet at the same time refreshing and a rip-roaring riot of flavour. With each slurpy spoonful you feel your physical and psychological health being reassuringly restored.

The broth has at its base chicken stock and tom yam (or yum) paste. Tom yam soup originates from Thailand and is popular across South East Asia, and the paste is made from galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chilli. It has an irresistibly spiky, spicy, sour flavour, that wakes up your tastebuds and shakes them out of their doldrums. You can of course make up your own paste but I like to make life as easy as possible and generally have a pot of ready-made paste in the fridge. You can pick some up easily in most supermarkets and Asian groceries.

You can make your hot and sour soup simply with vegetables, or throw in some seafood and fish minutes minutes before serving, or a couple of handfuls of shredded roast chicken. I generally make both a fishy and a chicken version in our house as my husband doesn’t really eat fish, although he does cope with the fish sauce.

And I like to throw sliced chillies, seeds and all, in at the very last moment (after I’ve served the kids’ helpings). I adore that fantastically fiery hit of chilli to really clear the system. Tissues at the ready! You may like to add yours earlier to mellow their impact a tad, or leave them out altogether as the tom yam paste already has quite a kick to it.

Hot and sour soup

Hot and sour soup with king prawns and salmon

1.5 litres chicken stock
1 tbsp tom yam paste
1 stick lemongrass, hard outer leaves removed, finely chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
200g green leafy vegetables, roughly chopped (I used Swiss chard)
1 salmon steak, cut into bitesize chunks
500g shelled raw king prawns
7 spring onions, sliced
3 red bird’s eye chillies, finely sliced
large handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Heat the chicken stock in a large saucepan and stir in the tom yam paste, followed by the lemongrass, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar.

Bring to the boil and simmer gently for a couple of minutes before adding the green vegetable. Cook for a few more minutes then add the chunks of salmon, king prawns and spring onion. Cook for a few more minutes until the salmon and prawns are just cooked through.

Stir in the sliced chillies and serve, sprinkled with the fresh coriander, and revive those senses.

I’m entering my hot and sour soup into the following challenges:

spice trail badge square cooking with herbs Extra-Veg-Badge-003

The Spice Trail (Temple Food) – Bangers & Mash
Cooking with HerbsLavender & Lovage
Extra VegKerry CooksUtterly Scrummy and Fuss Free Flavours

Quick salmon salad for lunch on the go

salmon salad3 text

As a working mother, it can be difficult to get the balance right between family life and work life. I can’t say I always get it 100% right. All too often when I’m with the kids, for example, I’ll be thinking about work stuff, and I constantly find myself worrying about the house or the family when my head should really be in work mode.

I’ve got pretty good, I think, at making sure the family eats well. Meal planning, combined with cooking way more than we need at weekends to stock the freezer with homemade ready meals, has been my saving grace. However I’m not always so great at feeding myself on the days when I’m in the office. I am making a conscious effort to put that right though. Continue reading “Quick salmon salad for lunch on the go”

Norwegian gravlaks and a simple beetroot pickle

gravlaks with beetroot pickle and dill mustard sauce 3 text

Normally I have the family in mind when I post recipes on my blog, but on this occasion this dish is all about me, me, me!

I adore fish and seafood you see, but I don’t get to eat or cook with it as much as I might like. My husband is sadly unable to eat most fish and seafood and I don’t really like cooking separate meals for different family members if I can avoid it. That’s why you don’t generally see that many fish recipes here. Continue reading “Norwegian gravlaks and a simple beetroot pickle”

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.

A trip to Cordoba for Cheryl’s paella

cordoba Collage

It seems like a while ago already, but a couple of weeks back my daughters and I spent half term in Spain visiting my mother, Cheryl, who is lucky enough to live in the beautiful city Cordoba in Andalucia.

We left Bristol Airport amid severe winds and rain and arrived in Spain delighted to find ourselves in glorious sunshine. It felt like an Indian summer to us, so we found it quite amusing that the Spanish were all complaining about how chilly it was getting.

My mum works as an art teacher in the British School of Cordoba, where unfortunately they don’t get half-term breaks, although the fabulously long summer holiday more than makes up for this. When mum went off to school in the mornings, the girls and I would have a lazy breakfast in her apartment before idling around the city. A favourite spot to while away the hours was the courtyard outside the city’s famous Mezquita, a stunning mosque converted into a Catholic cathedral in the 13th century.

mezquita

Despite the throngs of tourists, this is a truly magical and serene spot, where we’d enjoy our lunch sat on the stone steps, and then I’d simply sit back and watch the children play together in the shade of the orange trees.

Then we’d make sure we were back to the apartment in time for when my mum got back from school so we could spend the rest of our afternoons together. The girls always nag their Nana to take them to La Ciudad de los Niños – the City of Children. It’s their favourite place whenever we visit. It is one of the most incredible play parks I have ever been to, and the children could spend hours, if not days, here. If you ever visit Cordoba with children, you must pay it a visit.

ciuidad de los ninos ?????????? ??????????

Then we’d spend our evenings trying out different restaurants and tapas bars, and there are lots to choose from in Cordoba. Jess and Mia found it enormously exciting they were allowed to stay out late. Most places only starting service at 9pm, yet they’d still be full of families. It’s just something you don’t see when you go out at night here.

We enjoyed lots of wonderful tapas and seafood eating out in Cordoba, but to be honest my culinary highlight has to be the fantastic paella cooked at home by my mum. It’s a brilliant one-pot wonder and mum adds a little red chilli to her version, which I reckon is a marvellous addition. Mum’s like me – she says chilli improves pretty much any dish. I clearly inherited my love of chilli from her.

cheryl's paella

I got my mum to write down her recipe, and here it is:

Cheryl’s paella with chicken and prawns

Serves 6

pinch of saffron
1 tsp paella spice mix (or a combination of paprika, onion and garlic powder and cayenne)
2 litres hot chicken stock
1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli, finely chopped
6 skinless chicken thighs (with bones), quartered
500g paella rice
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 large tomato, diced
salt and pepper
10 king prawns

Dry fry the saffron in a hot pan and then place in a measuring jug with the paella spice mix, hot stock and a squeeze of lemon juice.

In a large, deep pan heat the olive oil and fry the onion, garlic and chilli until soft.

Add the chicken pieces and brown, before stirring in the rice. When the rice is well coated in the oil, add half the parsley and diced tomato. Stir well and then pour over the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, give it all another stir and cover with a lid.

Gently simmer for around 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the rice is almost cooked, lie the prawn on top, replace the lid and cook until the prawns turn pink.

Serve garnished with the rest of the chopped parsley and a wedge of lemon.

Bueno appetite!

cheryls paellaAs my mum’s paella features chilli, I’m entering it into The Spice Trail, my new blog challenge, which this month has chilli as its theme.

spice trail badge square

As it’s also a wonderful one-pot wonder, this paella is also perfect for November’s Four Season’s Food, hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux.

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And finally as chilli is the theme for this month’s Taste of the Tropics at Chef Mireille’s Global Creations, I simply have to enter it into that challenge too!

Taste of the Tropics Logo.jpg

Simple salmon croquettes with courgette and baby leek hollandaise

salmon croquettes

This is a pretty quick and easy meal to rustle up, particularly if you’ve got little children whose hands are the perfect size for rolling the little croquettes – a posh name for fish balls basically.

salmon croquettes

It’s also quick and easy if, like me, you cheat and buy a ready-made hollandaise sauce, rather than making your own from scratch. Clearly homemade hollandaise is what we should all aspire to, but when you’re working full-time like I am at the moment, it’s just not always possible. And there are some rather nice shop-bought ones around.

courgettes and baby leeks

I served my croquettes with pasta and the hollandaise sauce combined with courgette and baby leek. Or you could simply serve the baked balls with dips as an appetizer, or perhaps with salad as an alternative to falafel for a tasty pitta bread filling.

salmon croquettes

Simple salmon croquettes with courgette and baby leek hollandaise

Serves 4

1 tin salmon (around 200g)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp cream cheese
juice of half a lemon
large pinch of dried dill weed
½ tsp dried tarragon
salt and pepper
1 baby leek, finely sliced
1 courgette, quartered lengthways and sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
200g ready-made hollandaise sauce (I bought a Tesco own brand variety)
handful of fresh chives, snipped

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

Drain the tinned salmon and flake into a mixing bowl. Combine with the spring onions, cream cheese, lemon juice, herbs and salt and pepper to taste.

Using your hands shape the mixture into small balls and place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until slightly browned.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by gently frying the leek and courgette in the olive oil. When tender simply combine with the hollandaise sauce and heat through.

Serve with your favourite pasta. You can either mix the croquettes into the sauce (being careful so as not to break them) or pop the croquettes onto your pasta and pour over the sauce. Finally garnish with some snipped chives.

As this dish is so easy and uses the three key ingredients of salmon, courgette and pasta, I’m entering it into this month’s Recipes for Life challenge, which – as I’m sure you’ve gathered by now – I’m hosting on behalf of the incredibly fantastic charity SWALLOW.

recipes for life

My take on The Garden Deli’s warm pasta salad

warm pasta and salmon salad

You may have heard the three ingredients for this month’s Recipes for Life challenge are salmon, courgette (zucchini) and pasta.

Sarah from The Garden Deli has been an active supporter of the Recipes for Life challenge since it started back in February. Only problem is, sometimes the trio of ingredients include meat or, as is the case this month, fish. And as Sarah is a vegetarian that’s presented a slight problem. But because both SWALLOW and Bangers are inclusive types, and because Sarah asked so nicely, we’re happy to let her enter a vegetarian dish on the proviso that I test it out to see if it works with said meaty/fishy ingredient.

So that’s what I bring you here – Sarah’s Warm Pasta Salad with Courgette & Herbs, but with my addition of some oven-baked Scottish salmon.

SalmonCollage

I topped a couple of Scottish salmon steaks with lemon slices and a grind of black pepper and then wrapped them loosely in foil. I then baked them in a fairly hot oven for around 15 minutes until just cooked through, when the bright pink turned pale pink. At the final stage of assembling the salad, I flaked chunks of the salmon into the dish.

Unfortunately I’m allergic to avocado so I had to adjust Sarah’s recipe a little more by boosting the amount of courgette and adding half a green pepper to the recipe too. Because I was cooking it for friends and their children as well as our own, I decided to omit the chilli as I wasn’t sure if their kids would be able to handle it. I only had cherry tomatoes rather than plum, and I grated the parmesan rather than slicing it as I knew one of my friend’s children wasn’t too keen on cheese so I attempted to disguise it by mixing it in before serving. Oh, and the fresh herbs I chose to use were oregano as we have so much in the garden right now.

But other than those little divergences, I stuck to Sarah’s recipe, and very good it was too. We enjoyed it for lunch today, and I’ll be having the leftovers for supper once I’ve got this blog post out the way.

warm pasta and salmon salad

I would definitely recommend giving Sarah’s recipe a go. Next time I make it I will definitely add chilli. It was fine without but I think it would be all the better for that little chilli kick. Chilli and lime are a match made in heaven, as they say.

I’m hosting the Recipes for Life challenge on behalf of the charity SWALLOW. Based in Midsomer Norton in the South West of England, this incredible charity works hard to support adults with learning disabilities live life to the full. One of their popular activities is the weekly cookery club and this challenge aims to find simple, tasty and wholesome dishes SWALLOW users can recreate in their cookery classes. The best of these will appear in a new cookbook SWALLOW is planning publish later this year to help raise much-needed funds for the charity.

If you’d like to enter this month’s challenge, you’d better get your skates on as the closing date is 25 June – only two days away.

recipes for life