Beetroot, orange, carrot and ginger juice

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My health kick continues to go well. As well as feeling so much better in myself, I’m thrilled to report that I’m finally back to my pre-children weight and dress-size – my oldest is nearly 10, so it’s been some time coming. This feeling is really rather addictive and I can see how the changes I’m making to my lifestyle and eating habits will stay with me for the long-term.

In addition to doing the 5:2 diet and generally eating more healthily, I’ve also set myself targets of walking 10,000 steps a day, getting a good night’s sleep every night (I’m aiming for at least seven hours), and fitting in a short workout most days (even if it’s only 10 minutes of Pilates or cross-training), plus a least one run a week.

And I am really feeling the benefits. I have so much more energy, my brain feels more focussed and productive, my clothes fit well (the muffin top has been banished!) and I just feel good in my own skin. Continue reading “Beetroot, orange, carrot and ginger juice”

Kale and cauliflower samosas

Samosa Collage

One of the ways I am trying to feed my family more healthily is to increase our intake of seasonal vegetables while reducing the amount of red meat we eat. Normally I love my samosas filled with spicy minced lamb but this version with kale and cauliflower is every bit as tasty and much, much better for you.

I wasn’t 100% certain my children would be so taken by them though, so I was extremely pleased when they gave them their seal of approval, with Jessie, my oldest, happily tucking in to seconds and then thirds. Continue reading “Kale and cauliflower samosas”

Brussels sprout and red cabbage slaw

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People are often taken aback when I tell them my children enjoy Brussels sprouts. A few months ago I was invited on BBC Radio Bristol as a parenting expert (me, a parenting expert!) to talk about fussy eaters, and when I mentioned both my girls like sprouts the presenter was flabbergasted.

Perhaps it’s because we eat them all year round and not just at Christmas. Or maybe it’s because I don’t overcook them until they turn to soggy green mush. Of course, there are plenty of other foods they’ll turn their noses up at, but their love of sprouts does make me a teeny bit proud.

If your kids don’t like cooked sprouts, they might possibly prefer them raw, as in this simple slaw. Here’s they’re chopped up fairly finely, along with red cabbage, dried cranberries and a few nuts and seeds. It’s a great way to use up all those extra sprouts you always seem to end up with in the fridge at Christmas time. Continue reading “Brussels sprout and red cabbage slaw”

Roast beetroot with labneh, nectarine and cumin

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There is nothing that shouts out autumn to me more than beetroot. You might have gathered by now I’m ever so slightly addicted to this perfectly purple vegetable and I reckon the best way to eat it is simply roasted, when it goes all sticky and sweetly caramelised. Just delicious.

Roast beetroot is the predominant ingredient in this gloriously robust salad. It is inspired in part by a recipe by Tom Hunt’s from his brilliant cookbook The Natural Cook and also by a Riverford recipe which partners the roast beetroot with slices of nectarine, which is just the most brilliant pairing. Continue reading “Roast beetroot with labneh, nectarine and cumin”

Mango and chilli chutney

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One of the things I like most about an Indian meal is all the condiments that come with it. And one of my all-time favourites is mango chutney. There happened to be an offer on mangoes at the supermarket and, rather than turning them into smoothies for the girls, the thought occurred to me to have a go at making my own mango chutney.

The end result was really very good, even if I do say so myself. I made it when Mum was staying with us the other weekend and she took a jar back home to Spain and has been raving about it, so you see, it’s not just me that thinks so.

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It packs a punch, flavoured with a whole bunch of aromatic spices and a healthy hit of fresh chilli, partnered with the sweet red onion and the even sweeter, sticky, gooey mango. With a big pile of poppadoms in front of me, I could probably work my way through an entire jar in one sitting. Easily. It’s possibly a little too fiery for the children, although our nine-year-old might be brave enough to give it a go. But I rather hope she’s not too keen. All the more for me then.

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Mango and chilli chutney

Makes 3 jars

1 cinnamon stick or a few pieces of cassia bark
1 whole nutmeg
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp whole cloves
½ tsp white peppercorns
1 Indonesian long peppercorn (optional)
3 large mangoes (slightly under-ripe are best)
juice of 1 orange, plus the rind of 1 quarter, finely chopped
2 red onions, finely chopped
250ml white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 red chillies, finely chopped (I kept the seeds but you might want to remove these)
450g demerara sugar

Place all the spices in a piece of muslin and tie with string to form a little spice bag.

Peel, stone and chop your mangoes – keep half of the flesh big and chunky, and cut the other half into smaller pieces. We all have different approaches to cutting mangoes and I generally end up hacking mine to pieces. But for more professional tips, check out a YouTube video – there are videos on YouTube for absolutely everything, aren’t there?

Reserving the sugar and larger mango pieces until later, put the rest of the ingredients, including the spice bag, in a really large stainless steel pan. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes until the mango and onions are soft.

Throw in the rest of the mango and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Then increase the heat and boil until the mixture becomes thick and jam-like, stirring every now and then.

Remove from the heat and take out the spice bag. Leave to cool for 20 minutes, which gives you enough time to sterilise your jam jars. Wash them in soapy water, rinse clean and dry. Then pop the jars in the bottom oven of the Aga or a conventional oven preheated to 110°C / gas mark ¼ for 20 minutes.

Pour the chutney into the hot, sterilised jars and seal.

As well as being a traditional accompaniment to Indian food, mango chutney is delicious with cold meats and very good in a Cheddar cheese sandwich.

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I’m entering my mango and chilli chutney into the Spice Trail challenge, a monthly food bloggers event which I host and is this month celebrating spiced preserves and pickles.

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Green goo iced buns for Halloween

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I always say this, but when I cook with my children, I have to be in just the right mood. A laid-back, chilled-out, hey-it’s-fine-to-wreck-the-kitchen kind of mood. Because cooking should be fun, right? For all of us, kids and parents alike. Which also means I won’t be too precious about what the end result actually looks like.

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Take these Halloween iced buns for example. Who in their right mind wants to eat something smothered in black icing? Well, my daughters it would seem. Especially when covered in hundreds-and-thousands and oozing with green jam – or green snot as my two like to call it. Delightful pair. Continue reading “Green goo iced buns for Halloween”

A right pair of raitas

raita

Whenever we eat curry, we always have raita on the side. It’s quite simply a match made in heaven. I’ve never actually followed a raita recipe though, generally just making it up as I go along, chucking together some yoghurt, mint, cucumber and perhaps a pinch of spice or squeeze of lime, depending on my mood.

But the other day when I made Madhur Jaffrey’s wonderful chicken tikka kebabs from her Ultimate Curry Bible, I came across a couple of her raita recipes and thought I’d give them a go. And they are ever so good. Continue reading “A right pair of raitas”

Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken tikka kebabs with spiced vegetables

chicken tikka kebabs

There are times when you try out a new recipe and you know the very instant it touches your tongue you’ve got yourself a keeper; that this dish is set to become a firm family favourite, an easy regular for the weekly meal plans.

And so it was with these chicken tikka kebabs from Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible. I thought it was about time I cooked a dish to enter into my own Indian-themed Spice Trail challenge, and this felt like a good excuse to try another recipe from Jaffrey’s classic curry tome. Continue reading “Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken tikka kebabs with spiced vegetables”

Spiced plum and apple compote

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It’s that time of year when fresh fruit and vegetables are in glorious abundance. I really should be pickling and preserving, and I fully intend to soon, but for the moment most of our fruit seems to be making its way into compotes of one kind or another.

spiced plum and apple compote

Fruit compotes are such an easy way to transform a huge pile of fresh fruit into a luscious bowlful of sweet, saucy pleasure. Make lots, as it keeps in the fridge for a few days. Simply tuck into your compote just as it comes or serve with creme fraiche or yoghurt for a delicious and healthy desert. My family’s favourite way to eat it is layered with thick, creamy Greek yoghurt and homemade granola for a light yet satisfying breakfast.

We’re enjoying vast volumes of plum and apple compote, making the most of fruit from our own and friends’ trees. Plums and apples both work terribly well combined with strong spice flavours; in this recipe, I’ve used star anise, cinnamon and vanilla. It really is heavenly. You’ll frequently find me surreptitiously tucking into it straight from the bowl in the fridge when no-one else is looking.

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Spiced plum and apple compote

400g plums, stoned and roughly chopped
2 or 3 eating apples, peeled, cored and chopped
juice of 1 orange
½ tsp cinnamon
1 star anise
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
4 tbsp demerara sugar

Place the ingredients in a medium saucepan, give it all a good stir and bring to a gentle simmer over a medium heat. Cook for around 10 to 15 minutes until the fruit is soft and just beginning to break up. Leave to cool and remove the star anise before serving.

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This compote is my entry into the #AgaInspiredRecipes challenge hosted by Rix Petroleum. The theme this month is cooking with plums.

Griddled squash with feta, mint and chilli

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This is such a beautifully simple dish, inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe from Nigella Summer. As Nigella says herself, it’s really more of an assembly job than cooking.

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The star of the original recipe is griddled aubergine but because we currently have a glut of yellow, patty pan squash in the garden, I thought I’d experiment by swapping the aubergine for squash. And I’m pleased to report it wasn’t a complete disaster. The griddled squash didn’t hold together quite as well as aubergine would have done, and so the end result probably wasn’t quite as pretty as it should have been, but it was stonkingly tasty nonetheless.

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The creamy filling of lemon-soaked feta partnered with chilli and mint is gloriously fresh and zingy, making this an incredibly moreish dish while being really rather healthy at the same time; a very good combination, if you ask me.

Griddled squash with feta, mint and chilli

1 large patty pan squash (or 2 large aubergines (thinly sliced lengthwise)
4 tbsp olive oil
250g feta cheese
1 large red or green chilli (finely chopped & deseeded)
1 bunch fresh mint (finely chopped – with extra for sprinkling)
juice of 1 lemon
black pepper