This moussaka is one of my family’s favourite dishes. While it should serve six average people or provide tasty leftovers for lunch next day, it never does with my brood, who without fail return for seconds to polish it all off in one sitting. Continue reading “Easy lamb moussaka”
Griddled squash with feta, mint and chilli
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.
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.
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
Preheat the barbecue or griddle to a high heat.
Toss the squash slices in the oil, and cook them for about 2 minutes on each side until golden and tender.
Crumble the feta cheese into a bowl and mix in the chilli, mint and lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper. Pile the end third of each warm squash slice with a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and roll each slice up as you go to form a stuffed bundle.
Place join side down on a plate and finish with a sprinkling of mint.
As this dish proved a great way to make sure my patty pan squash didn’t go to waste, I’m entering it into the No Waste Food Challenge from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary, which this month is being hosted by I’d Much Rather Bake Than…
Squash is very much in season, and so I’m also entering it into Ren Behan‘s Simple and in Season challenge, this month hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.
I’m also entering it into my own Spice Trail challenge as the theme this month is Beach Barbecue.
And finally, despite not using the key ingredient aubergine, I’m also submitting it to Nigella’s Cookalong contest.
Easy aubergine and hummus dips
I reckon we’re pretty good in the Bangers & Mash house when it comes to snacking healthily. Just as I sat down to write this post, my girls came in with their usual mid-afternoon demand: “Mummy, we’re hungry! Can we have a snack?” They are now happily munching their way through a bowlful each of dried apricots.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re not food saints by any stretch of the imagination. We enjoy our potato crisps and chocolate biscuits as much as the next family, but these are clearly seen as occasional treats rather than everyday snacks.
As well as dried apricots, the girls also love their dried apples, which we dry ourselves above the Aga – perfect in late summer when our apple tree is heaving. Dried apple is a perfect ingredient for our fruit & nut balls and granola, both of which make ideal snacks. Cherry tomatoes, chunks of cheese and cucumber, and carrot sticks are also snacktime favourites with my girls.
But probably the snack the kids ask for most are dips and breadsticks. We always have a pot of chunky hummus or some other dip, such as this deliciously smoky aubergine puree, on the go in the fridge. I used to spend a fortune on the shop bought varieties, until I realised just how cheap and easy they are to make at home. And so much tastier too.
Both recipes are based on ones I found in Leon cookbooks, but I’ve tweaked them slightly for my family’s tastes, in particular by increasing the amount of garlic involved in the proceedings.
Use yoghurt instead of the tahini to turn this dip into babaganoush.
3 large aubergines
juice of 3 lemons
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.
Prick the aubergines with a fork and bake in the oven, direct on the rack, for around 20 minutes until the skins have blackened.
Peel off the aubergine skins using a sharp knife while they are still warm.
Whizz up the aubergines in a food processor, together with the tahini, lemon juice and garlic. Taste and season with salt.
Pour into a large bowl to serve, drizzled with olive oil.
1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained
juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 tbsp tahini
70ml extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
½ tsp paprika (optional)
Simply place the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, tahini and olive oil into a food processor and blitz until you reach a good consistency. I like mine fairly chunky but you might prefer yours smoother or looser. If it seems to dry, add a little more olive oil and/or lemon juice.
Season to taste and pour into a bowl to serve. Sprinkle with a little paprika if you like.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. As my children like to say. Both dips are a good accompaniment to crudités, breadsticks or warm pitta bread, or serve as part of a mezze.
I’m entering these dips into April’s Family Foodies challenge, hosted this month by Louisa at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Healthy Snacks. Do pop over there to take a look through the other recipes entered so far – there are some really good ones this month. In particular, I’ve got my eye on the Easy Peasy Mackerel Pate from Casa Costello, which looks delicious and wonderfully simple to make.
Random recipe: bacon kebabs
This was a truly random recipe choice. I counted along my cook books, from left to right, until I reached the magic number 30. The title I landed upon was a tiny little book crammed in between a couple of heavy weights, The Silver Spoon and How to be a Domestic Goddess. My random book was GoodFood: 101 Cheap Eats; not the most exciting or inspiring perhaps of all the books on my shelf, but there you go. That’s the point I guess when it comes to picking a random recipe.
The next direction was to turn to page 30, which I dutifully did. And the recipe in question was for Bacon Kebabs on Mushroom Rice. Not bad, I thought, although my daughter Jessie won’t be thrilled. The face she pulls if you suggest she eats a mushroom couldn’t be worse if you’d suggested she eat something you’d discovered on the bottom of your shoe.
So why the random recipe choice? Many of you will no doubt already be familiar with Dom at Belleau Kitchen’s Random Recipe challenge, which this month celebrates the big three-oh.
I thought it was about time I entered a dish. I’ve meaning to so for about the last year. All too often I’ve got as far as selecting my random recipe and then completely forgetting to make it before I realise the deadline has already been and gone. The story of my life really! But this month I’ve done it. Only just mind – July’s challenge closes in just over an hour. If I type quickly, I think I’ll just make it!
While the Bacon Kebabs might not have been the classiest or most challenging of dishes, they did give us a good plate of decent grub which went down very well with all the family – with certain members avoiding coming into close proximity with anything remotely resembling a fungus, obviously. It’s not a recipe I’d necessarily have picked out myself to make, but it’s a simple one I can see myself doing time and time again, and one I might possibly prepare the night before for a lazy Sunday brunch when we’ve got people staying the weekend.
2 medium leeks, washed, trimmed and each cut into 4
4 flat mushrooms (I used 3 flat mushrooms and half an aubergine)
14 rashers rindless streaky bacon, halved (I used 8 rashers smoked back bacon, cut into strips)
4 herby sausages, halved vertically and then again horizontally
300g long grain rice
50g melted butter
1 tsp dried thyme
squeeze of lemon juice
200ml creme fraiche
Blanch the leeks in boiling water for 4 minutes.
Finely chop one of the mushrooms and the stems of the others and keep to one side to add to the rice later. (As my oldest despises mushrooms, I chopped up half an aubergine instead.)
Cut the remaining mushrooms into quarters.
Stretch out the bacon with the back of a knife and wrap around each piece of leek, mushroom and sausage. Carefully thread onto skewers. I made sure, of course, that a few of the skewers were free of the “evil” mushroom.
Cook the rice according to the packet instructions.
Melt half the butter with half the dried thyme and lemon juice, and then brush over the kebabs. Grill under a high heat for around 15 to 20 minutes, turning regularly until cooked.
Melt the rest of the butter in a pan and cooked the chopped mushroom (or in my case, chopped aubergine) with the remaining thyme until softened. Add the creme fraiche, season and stir well.
Drain the rice and stir into the sauce.
Stir the kebab pan juices into the rice and serve immediately.
And as this is such a cheap and cheerful dish, I’m also entering these yummy Bacon Kebabs into July’s Credit Crunch Munch from Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All, which is being brilliantly hosted this month by Sian at Fishfingers For Tea.
Fruit smoothies, lemon cupcakes and sunny bank holiday antics
What a difference the sunshine makes. For the first time I can remember in a very long time, we got to enjoy fine weather on a bank holiday weekend. We spent as much time as we could outdoors and it felt like we were on a mini holiday. The whole of nature seemed to have jumped into action with the trees, hedgerows and fields bursting into spring flower.
For our breakfasts we’ve been enjoying homemade fruit smoothies. My husband Jason concocted indulgent blueberry smoothies with vanilla ice cream and sprinkles on top…
… while I got the children making slightly healthier smoothies with mango, passion fruit and apple, along with some special edition mango and passion fruit flavoured Actimel we were kindly sent to try out. A deliciously fruity start to the day.
On Saturday my parents came to stay. They arrived just in time for lunch and we tucked into spring lamb that had been slow roasting in the Aga all morning, served with homegrown purple sprouting broccoli and an Ottonlenghi-inspired aubergine and courgette risotto (a recipe I’m going to be making again and again), all washed down with a light, sunshiny rosé.
To walk off lunch we took a leisurely stroll around the tranquil Bishop’s Palace Gardens in nearby Wells. I’m working at the moment in Wells so it makes a lovely change to visit the city as a tourist. The children loved dressing up as bishops (perhaps by the time they’re grown up the Church of England will actually allow women bishops?), climbing trees, playing Pooh Sticks with Grandad in the palace moat and trying to wake the sleeping willow dragon. I was rather taken with the community gardens – what a wonderful place to have an allotment.
On Sunday we took Nana and Grandad for a walk across the fields behind our house, carefully skirting around the protective cows and their calves, to go and feed the two local nanny goats. One of the goats was so heavily pregnant she could barely walk; it made me wince to look at her. We also visited the field of sheep and their dainty lambs, whereupon Mia decided we should buy ourselves a pet sheep and lamb and keep them in the garden so that Daddy doesn’t have to mow the lawn anymore. Grandad tried to teach Mia to make duck noises by blowing on grass (unsuccessfully) and we foraged for wild garlic in the hedgerows (successfully).
On Sunday afternoon, possibly the warmest day of the year so far, I decided to do some baking. Crazy I know! I rustled up some zingy lemon mascarpone cupcakes and we decorated them with these pretty wafer butterflies from Dr Oetker. Perfect for an impromptu garden party underneath our apple tree that’s just beginning to bud – hopefully we’ll actually get apples this year. Jessie normally hates butter icing as it’s so rich, but loved this mascarpone topping because “It’s lovely and lemony!”
And then on Bank Holiday Monday, along with seemingly half of Somerset, we climbed up Glastonbury Tor to enjoy what are arguably the finest views in the Westcountry. The girls had great fun pretending to be the tor monsters when we reached the top. We really should have taken a picnic with us, but instead found ourselves in the fabulous Hundred Monkeys bistro in Glastonbury afterwards for a well-earned late lunch of deliciously meaty burgers served in artisan bread rolls, local Somerset cider, ice cream coke floats and ever so tempting homemade cakes. If you’re ever in Glastonbury, I heartily recommend it. While we were waiting for our food, the children invented a new game of napkin dot-to-dot; I rather like our arty creations…
So that was how we spent our bank holiday. What did you get up to this weekend?
Disclosure: I was sent samples of the new limited edition Mango & Passionfruit Actimel to try out, along with fresh fruit and a smoothie maker. I also received samples of Dr Oetker’s Wafer Butterflies to see what I thought. No money exchanged hands and the views expressed here, as they are throughout my blog, are completely my own.
I’m linking this post up with this week’s Kids in the Kitchen hosted by Look What Mom Found – it’s a great way to share ideas and recipes for involving this little ones in the kitchen.
Afghan-style aubergine and yoghurt
As soon as I came across this recipe for Afghan-style aubergine and yoghurt in a recent edition of Delicious magazine, I knew I had to make it. I adore aubergine dishes and the Middle Eastern flavours in this one simply called out to me.
The recipe comes from Sally Butcher, a British-born cook who married into an Iranian family, and it is taken from Veggiestan: a Vegetable Lover’s Tour of the Middle East. I don’t own this book yet but I plan to get hold of a copy very soon.
It’s an incredible dish. The herbs and spices, lemon, garlic and chilli give it a beautifully fragrant zinginess, which works so well with the creaminess of the Greek yoghurt and the soft, sumptuous texture of the smoky aubergine.
I did worry it might be a little grown up for the children and so I made a version without the chilli for them. Miss Bangers, the four-year-old, did have to be persuaded a little to get through it. But Miss Mash, the seven-year-old, wolfed it down happily.
Afghan-style aubergine and yoghurt (burani bonjon)
3 large aubergines
1 onion, peeled and chopped
4 green chillies, chopped (optional)
1 tsp ground turmeric
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
For the yoghurt
450ml Greek yoghurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
handful of fresh mint, chopped, plus extra sprigs for the garnish
salt and pepper
Cut the aubergine into half centimetre slices and sprinkle salt on both sides. Leave for half an hour, then rinse in cold water and dry with kitchen towel.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion and chillies (if using) until soft. Remove and keep to one side.
Add some more oil to the pan and fry the aubergine in batches until slightly browned on each side. Sprinkle the aubergine with a little turmeric and return the slices to the pan with the chopped tomato, coriander, onion and chillies. Pour in enough water to just cover the ingredients, cover with a lid, turn down the heat and simmer gently for about half an hour. Add a little more liquid if it starts to look too dry.
While this is cooking, prepare the yoghurt. Simply mix the yoghurt and lemon juice in a bowl, stir in the crushed garlic and mint, and season to taste. Place in the fridge.
When the aubergine mixture is ready, spread half the yoghurt across a large serving plate, and then place half the aubergine on top. Cover with more yoghurt, the remaining aubergine and finishing with a last dollop of yoghurt and a sprig or two of mint.
Serve straight away with warm pitta or flatbread. Heavenly.
As this dish features lots of tasty mint and coriander, I’m entering it into October’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage. If you enjoy cooking with herbs, do head over there and take a look at the other recipes submitted as you’re sure to find plenty of new inspiration.
Along with my tasty chicken rice, this easy ratatouille is my go-to meal when I’m stocking the freezer with quick weekday meals for the kids.
Now that I’m working over in Wells four days a week, ratatouille appears regularly on my meal plans. It’s particularly good for those days when I’m not back home til late and my husband has little time to get the girls back from school and fed before taking them off out again to their various clubs and activities.
My girls have been eating ratatouille since they were very little, when I’d mash it up for them a bit. They still love it today, served either on its own with a hunk of bread to mop up the juices, with rice, pasta or a baked potato and sprinkled with cheese, or as a veggie accompaniment to sausages or chops.
This is one of those recipes you can play around with. If you’ve got herbs to hand, throw in some of those. If you don’t like cumin, leave that out. The quantities of aubergine, courgette and pepper vary each time I make it, but this should give you the general idea.
Makes 8-10 servings
2tbsp olive oil
½tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
3 courgettes, chopped
2 aubergines, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6.
Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish and fry the cumin seeds for a minute or so.
Add the onions and fry gently until golden, then add the garlic and fry for another minute before throwing in the red and yellow peppers.
Saute the peppers until they have slightly softened and then add the courgettes. Continue to saute for a couple of minutes and then add the aubergine. You may need to add a little more oil to the pan at this stage. Keep stirring the vegetables until they’ve started to colour, and then add the bay leaf, tomatoes and season to taste.
Put the lid on your pan and pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes. If it’s a little too liquid for your liking, remove the lid and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Leave to cool before dividing into freezer bags.