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.
The umming and ahhing is over. The decision has been made. Our house is now officially on the market and we’ll soon be leaving the sticks and heading back to the big city. Bristol, to be precise, which isn’t exactly a heaving metropolis and is actually one of the most laid back, greenest and coolest cities I know.
Bristol was home for us until our first daughter was about eight months old, at which point we decided family life meant a bit of the good life, the country life. And while we’ve loved it here and having space and green fields around us, a veg patch and apple trees, foraging in the hedgerows, picnics by the stream and drinking scrumpy at the annual village fete, it’s now time to crank the pace back up again with a bit of inner city living. You can take the girl of out of the city, but you’ll never take the city out of the girl, it would seem.
There are lots of things I’m looking forward to about being back in a city. One of them is not having to drive so much to get, well, anywhere really. I love the idea of being able to walk back home after a night in a restaurant, or at least being able to afford the taxi fare. And one of the restaurants I intend on visiting as soon as we’re in Bristol is Tom Hunt’s Poco on Stokes Croft, with its emphasis on seasonal ingredients, thrifty cuts of meat and sustainably sourced fish, most of which is sourced from within a 50-mile radius, and at the same time producing the minimum of food waste. Continue reading “Grilled salad of courgette, chicory, basil and mozzarella from ‘The Natural Cook’”→
I have been cooking this sauce, or versions of it, since I was weaning my two girls onto solids. They are now five and eight and still enjoy it just as much, although the portion sizes are considerably bigger now. Back in the early days, they would eat the sauce on its own and as they grew older I started stirring it into penne or fusilli to make a delicious pasta sauce. They still love it this way, especially with a huge heap of grated cheese on top, along with a drizzle of olive oil.
It’s one of the easiest sauces in the world to make. All the ingredients are simply roasted in one pan and then blitzed in a food processor with some stock. I don’t even bother to peel the garlic.
It’s extremely adaptable too and you can experiment with whichever vegetables take your fancy – or whichever vegetables you might be trying to sneak past your unsuspecting fussy eater.
I generally cook up a big batch of this sauce and freeze it in individual portions; perfect for a quick tea after school when the kids have clubs to rush off to.
Roast vegetable sauce for pasta
1 butternut squash, chopped into large chunks
1 red pepper, cut into large chunks
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
3 sticks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 courgettes (zucchini), chopped
3 garlic cloves
glug of olive oil
500ml vegetable stock (low salt)
Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.
Place the tomatoes, chopped vegetables and garlic into a large roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and give it all a good mix to make sure everything is thoroughly covered. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and beginning to char a little.
Put the vegetables into a blender with the stock and blitz until smooth. Job done.
Simply stir into cooked pasta for an easy peasy supper.
Freeze the remainder of the sauce in individual portions. You should get around 12 portions out of it.
As this pasta sauce is an ideal way to introduce your children to vegetables and entice them to eat a few they might not be so keen on, I’m entering it into this month’s Family Foodies challenge, where the theme is ‘Hidden Goodies’.
As you may have gathered from recent posts, I’m ever so slightly excited about the very first Wells Food Festival, which takes place this coming Sunday.
One of the many reasons I’m looking forward to this culinary extravaganza is the festival also marks the opening of a brand new foodie establishment in Wells.
Locals might have been wondering what’s been happening to the Sun Inn over the last few weeks. The pub on Union Street has been closed a little while and is currently being refurbished and transformed into a Greek idyll. Just in time for the festival, the pub will reopen as The Greek Taverna at the Sun, and as a big fan of Greek food I for one cannot wait.
I lost no time in catching up with the Sun’s new owner, Olga, who will be running the pub with her brother Yianni, to find out more about their plans.
“It is very much a family business,” Olga explains. “We want our customers to feel like they have just been invited to our house for a meal. Our mother will be the main cook because of course no-one cooks like a Greek mum! We believe that food is not just about what you cook, but that it always tastes better when you can enjoy it in a friendly, relaxed environment.
“We will be serving authentic Greek home-cooked food, good wine, cakes, ‘real coffee’, cocktails, and all the drinks you’d expect to find in a pub,” Olga tells me. “The Sun Inn will still be a pub but it will also serve quality home-cooked food. Outside lunch and dinner times, we’ll also offer meze (a selection of small dishes) that people can have with their drink if they don’t wish to have a full meal.”
Olga’s mother had her own restaurant back in Greece for over seven years, while Olga and her brother Yianni have run a small boutique hotel together. They clearly have heaps of experience, but what brings them to Somerset?
“My brother and I have both lived on and off in Wells for some time,” says Olga. “My sister-in-law lives here with her family and this is how we first discovered Wells. We fell in love with the place. It is a very interesting, small city surrounded by amazing nature. What we like most about it is that people are so friendly and make you feel like part of the family. We have been refurbishing the pub for the last three weeks and during this time it is has been amazing how many people have offered to help us.”
How does Olga think Wells will respond to their Greek food? Why is she so keen to share Greek cuisine?
“We love Greek food, not just because we are Greek, but also because we believe it is simple, healthy and delicious,” replies Olga passionately. “We know that British people love Greek food but what they get most of the time in the UK is Greek food cooked in a British way. We will be cooking authentic Greek food using local ingredients; we believe food tastes better if ingredients are sourced locally. Somerset has many farms producing excellent fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy. To give you an example instead of buying sausages imported from Greece, we decided to give our traditional family recipe to one of the local sausage producers who will be making them just for us.
“Also the financial situation in Greece in the last few years has taught us a big lesson: supporting local businesses is the only way to keep the community ‘alive’.”
I asked Olga if she could give us a taste of the kind of food we can expect to find at the new Sun Inn, and she has very kindly provided her recipe for Zimaropitta.
“Because your blog is about lovely, tasty food that doesn’t take long to prepare, I thought we can make an easy pumpkin pie with feta cheese,” says Olga. “Simple, inexpensive ingredients you can mix together in one bowl and cook in the oven is my idea of healthy fast food. This is what this recipe’s all about. We used a marrow bought straight from the producer in Wells Market and local Somerset feta cheese from Queen Street Deli.
“I would serve it with some tzatziki (yoghurt garlic dip) and a green salad. You can replace the flour with any wheat-free variety for a gluten-free version.”
Zimaropitta – feta and pumpkin pie
1kg grated pumpkin (not any of the sweet varieties), marrow or courgette
3 eggs beaten
300g feta cheese, crumbled
250g self-raising flour
150g cornmeal (optional)
salt to taste (if your feta is not salty)
a little water might be needed to bring the dough to a porridge like consistency
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.
The traditional Greek way of grating a pumpkin or a marrow is to cut it in half lengthways and use a spoon to scrape off the soft part little by little. Of course, it might be easier just to cut it to pieces, peel and use a box grater.
Then mix all the ingredients in a bowl and add some water if you think it is needed. It should have a thick, porridge-like consistency before you pour it into a buttered ovenproof dish. Bake in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
“There you go,” says Olga. “A piece of… pie! And a great way to persuade children to eat pumpkin too.”
Thanks so much to Olga for her delicious recipe. I can’t wait to give it a go myself, as I know this is just the kind of thing my family will adore. I wish Olga, Yianni and their mum every success with their new venture and look forward to seeing the newly refurbished pub when I come over for the festival at the weekend. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with what’s happening at the Sun Inn, do visit their Facebook page.
And if you’d like to find out what else is happening this Sunday at the Wells Food Festival, take a look at the website at www.wellsfoodfestival.co.uk.
While it might feature smoked salmon, normally considered a bit of a luxury treat, Blue Kitchen Bakes’ Smoked Salmon, Courgette (Zucchini) & Dill Pastais an economical and satisfying dish, featuring value brand smoked salmon trimmings which totally suit Jen’s student budget.
Another dish to make the most of these supermarket trimmings is this Smoked Salmon and Courgette (Zucchini) Pasta from JibberJabberUK. It’s a lovely light and summery pasta dish and I do like the idea of grating the courgette. Will be trying that tip very soon…
Helen from The Crazy Kitchen created these simply gorgeousSalmon Canneloni, despite not being much of a fan of fish herself. Helen’s husband was rather happy with the choice of ingredients though, and I’d be more than happy if this was served up for me!
Party nibbles weren’t really something I expected to see this month, but these Smoked Salmon, Raw Courgette (Zucchini) and Spearmint Cannelloni Bites from On Top of Spaghetti were a very welcome surprise entry. They formed part of an amazing birthday party spread prepared by Eleni for the The Mister, and I love the sound of the minty, lemony flavour combination.
Carbonaras are rather popular at Chez Foti. Here at Bangers & Mash, we’re rather partial to Louisa’s sausage and courgette carbonara. For this challenge, Louisa has come up with aSmoked Salmon and Courgette Carbonara, which looks all set to become another family favourite for us too.
Next is this wonderful Warm Pasta Salad with Courgette & Herbsfrom Sarah at The Garden Deli. Now as you probably know, Sarah is vegetarian so salmon isn’t an ideal ingredient for her. So we agreed she could enter her salad featuring the other two ingredients, and I’d have a go at making it to ensure it worked with salmon too. And indeed it did. It’s a great mix of flavours, especially with all those fresh herbs. Above you’ll see Sarah’s version sans salmon, and mine below avec.
I had to play a little with the ingredients for my take on The Garden Deli’s pasta salad, as I’m allergic to avocado and my friend’s son, who was over for lunch, doesn’t like cheese, so I tried disguising it by grating it and letting it melt in, rather than serve as shavings on top. I also left out the chilli as I was cooking for kids, but next time it’s definitely staying in!
This Smoked Salmon & Courgette Orzotto from Claire at Under The Blue Gum Tree really looks as pretty as a picture, and having made several of her dishes in the past, I know it will taste every bit as good as it looks. Risottos are usually fairly time-consuming, with all that stirring required, but Claire has used orzo pasta for a much speedier alternative. A beautifully delicious and healthy dish – I can’t wait to make it for my family.
Here’s another stunning plate, this time from Rich in Flavour with his Salmon and Courgette Ravioli. I’ve never made my own pasta before, but I think dish might just have inspired me. According to Rich, it’s not all that difficult and is really rather satisfying, plus he didn’t need a special pasta maker either – just a rolling pin. With its creamy salmon filling, this is one I’m definitely bookmarking.
Finally, I thought I’d better bring something to the table. So here are mySimple Salmon Croquettes with Courgette & Baby Leek Hollandaise. They really are very easy to make and a great one to get the children involved in making. They love rolling the little fish balls, and their hands are the perfect size. The main ingredient of the balls is tinned salmon, so it’s a fairly cheap and cheerful recipe too.
So who takes the winner’s medal this month? It was no easy task to select a winner this time and as ever I was grateful the decision wasn’t up to me. Tracey and the cookery club at SWALLOW had that unenviable task. So who did they choose…?
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.
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.
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.
Simple salmon croquettes with courgette and baby leek hollandaise
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m still recovering from writing the round-up last night for May’s Recipes for Life, so I’m keeping this post short and sweet.
The three ingredients for June’s Recipes for Life are salmon (fresh, smoked, tinned or cured), pasta (dried, fresh, homemade, shop-bought, you can even use a tin of spaghetti hoops if you’re so inclined!) and courgette – also known as zucchini in certain parts of the world.
So get your culinary thinking caps on! What tasty creations can you come up with featuring salmon, pasta and courgette?
Through the Recipes for Life challenge, we’re looking for easy-to-follow, healthy dishes for members of SWALLOW’s cookery club to recreate in their sessions. Any other ingredients you use should therefore be readily available in most grocers or supermarkets.
SWALLOW is an amazing charity based in Midsomer Norton, which supports adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives.
The Recipes for Life challenge is running for six months and at the end, the best recipes will be included in SWALLOW’s new cookery book to help raise much-needed funds for the charity.
Recipes for Life: how to enter
Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above and available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by everyday items.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know I’ve only discovered my cooking mojo in the last few years. I spent a long time feeling out-0f-place in the kitchen. But I do believe I’ve arrived and earned my right to wear a pinny (although I generally forget to until it’s too late). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never be a great cook and I won’t be entering Masterchef anytime soon, but I think I might be turning into a good cook. Indeed, in a restaurant the other evening, my husband told me he thought my cooking was better. I was ever so slightly on the chuffed side.
Omelettes were always one of those dishes I had trouble with. Well, rather I assumed I would if I actually plucked up the courage to try making one. Yes I know they’re quick and simple, but only if you’re a proper cook. Or so I thought. In recent months, I’ve made myself learn how to make a good omelette because I realise they are the ultimate fast food. After one or two duds along the way, I’ve worked out they’re not all that difficult after all. It’s all about trial and error and not being afraid to make a few mistakes. If you don’t make mistakes, how can you find out what works and what doesn’t?
We now eat a fair few omelettes in our house. Our life can get pretty manic, what with school and work and all the various out-of-school clubs and activities, not to mention some attempt at a social life; so it’s good to have a speedy and adaptable supper up your sleeve. They also make the perfect brunch dish, when you fancy something warm and tasty but don’t want to go to too much effort.
Now that I’m turning into a bit of an omelette fanatic, I was rather pleased when Littlewoods sent me a set of Russell Hobbs pans to test out – a frying pan and an omelette pan*. After many years, the non-stick coating on our old pan had given up the ghost, and omelettes aren’t so great when you don’t have a non-stick pan. At just £27 for the pair, they do seem a bit of a bargain. At first, when the pans arrived, I thought they were a little on the lightweight side, but having used them a few times now, I can confirm they are pretty decent pans. How long they’ll remain non-stick with the amount of wear and tear they’ll get in my kitchen remains to be seen, but for now they certainly turn out a good omelette.
I enjoy trying out new fillings for my omelettes. This latest concoction was simply a way of using up a few bits and bobs in the fridge. It worked out rather well so I think I’ll be adding it to my tried-and-test list.
Courgette and mushroom omelette with garlic and parsley
olive oil, a couple of glugs
1 courgette, halved lengthways and sliced
handful of chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
knob of butter
4 eggs, lightly beaten and seasoned with pepper
Heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and gently fry the courgette until softened. Throw in the mushrooms and soften these too before adding in the garlic and parsley. When the garlic is golden, take off the heat and keep warm to one side.
In your omelette pan, heat another glug of olive oil with the knob of butter over a fairly high heat. Pour in the beaten egg and leave for a few seconds to give it time to ‘catch’.
Then using an implement that won’t scratch your lovely non-stick pan (my weapon of choice is a rubber spatula!), start dragging the edges of the eggy mixture into the middle, going round and round, and letting the runny egg fill in the gaps you are leaving. As the omelette starts to firm up, tilt the pan to encourage the uncooked egg to flow into the spaces.
When the only runny egg left is on the surface, leave it for 30 seconds or so to continue cooking, and then it’s time to add your filling.
Pour the mushroom and courgette mixture over one half of the omelette and carefully fold over the other half. Cut in half and slide out onto warmed plates. Enjoy!
As a good omelette is a perfect lazy brunch dish, I’m entering this recipe into December’s Breakfast Club, a blogger challenge created by Fuss Free Flavours and which this month is being hosted by – oh yes, it’s me! If you’d like to enter a dish you can find out more here.
I am handing over the Bangers & Mash reigns today to my good friend Trish Tucker-May, who runs an awesome juice bar company called Passion 4 Juice, which you may well have come across at one of this summer’s festivals.
I first met Trish a decade or so ago, when we were both pre-kids. I was in the throes of launching my own PR business and she was just setting up Passion 4 Juice. In fact she was one of my first clients. Trish was a real inspiration. I haven’t met many people with the same level of energy and zest for life as her, and it is quite infectious. So while I’ve never invited someone to do a guest post on here before, with Trish I know you will be in safe hands. And so without further ado, here is the lovely Trish and her extremely clever recipe for Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise…
How to make a guilt free and tasty pudding
Hi, I am Trish Tucker-May, an Aussie from Forster. You can’t get much more Aussie than that!
I have a pretty crazy life that some people dream about and others may think is just way too hard and crazy. I spend half the year working at summer festivals in the UK and half the year at festivals in Australia. I love travelling and the great outdoors and am passionate about bringing fresh juice and good health to people.
In 2003 I founded Passion 4 Juice Ltd an award winning juice bar company. I have written a small book about redesigning your life to live your passion and I have also self-published a recipe book called ‘Juice and Smoothie Recipes From Around the World’. Currently I am studying a Diploma in Nutritional Healing – and loving it! I am married to a professional clown and mum to 4-year-old Jack-Patrick (AKA Jackpot) and 2-year-old Roary.
I became a little concerned this week when I thought back over the last three suppers and realised that perhaps they weren’t as nutritious as they should be for my developing 2 and 4-year-old boys. Okay, lasagne is good wholesome food and so is spaghetti bolognaise, especially when I sneak in a handful of peas, grated carrots and whatever other veg I can put my hands on at the time.
I know these easy Italian favourites are perfect for my boys. But given my slight aversion (rather than intolerance) to wheat, dairy and meat, I was left craving something green, fresh, and raw. It was while I was pondering this dilemma that I came up with a fantastic idea. What if I could make something that satisfied my boy’s desire for sweet gooey pudding while also giving myself a treat packed with nutritional goodness? The Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise was born.
Firstly I put 2½ cups of nuts in the blender. I mixed what I had which was almonds, brazils and cashews – so that was 2½ cups in total, not of each nut. I blended until all the ingredients crumbled. Next I added ¾ cup of pitted dates and a pinch of salt. That was the base done.
Next came the slightly sneaky bit. My son Jackpot is very used to me sneaking all sorts of weird and wonderful ingredients into my super green smoothies in the morning so I had to be careful not to be too obvious or I would get the “Mum it’s a bit too green for me, no thanks” treatment.
I peeled and cut a courgette, placed it in the blender with an avocado, a handful of mung bean sprouts, a handful of cashews, a splash of yoghurt , a cup of frozen passionfruit puree and a tablespoon of agave syrup. I love making raw food so I have all these ingredients to hand. If you don’t have agave syrup, honey will work just as well.
Blend until smooth and pour into the tin.
Next step is to decorate with whatever you have to hand. In this case I used kiwi and blueberries. The kiwi worked well so I called it Kiwi Blueberry Surprise. It seemed to go well with the green colour. Now the kids didn’t think it was green because of some crazy green vegetables.
Did I successfully satisfy both camps? We ate over half immediately and the boys were delighted. I was truly satisfied with the knowledge of raw sprouts, courgette and avocado for pudding. The following day my husband was home after working away. I served it with a question – “Bet you can’t guess what is in this?” He is accustomed to me making weird and wonderful creations out of fruit and veg so he had a head start. He got the avocado right but that was all.
I have since shared this idea with a few contacts on a Facebook juice group. They have taken the idea to inspiring new heights and added variations such as chocolate, strawberries, lemon juice, cacao powder, vanilla bean paste, a handful of cashews, flaked almonds, shredded coconut and cacao nibs. To be honest I think my first attempt needed a little extra something and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it – I think a squeeze of fresh lemon and an extra handful of cashews would have done the trick.
So if you are tempted to try this one at home, be daring and always taste as you go. Make sure it has just the right level of sweet, sour, salty or bitter to suit your taste buds. This is a truly guilt free tasty pudding that satisfies the entire family.
Kiwi and Blueberry Surprise
Blend the following and press into a flan tin and store in the fridge while mixing the filling:
2½ cups mixed nuts, such as almonds, cashews, brazils
¾ cup dates
pinch of salt
Blend the following and pour onto base:
1 peeled raw courgette
1 handful of raw cashews
1 handful of mung bean sprouts
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
¾ cup frozen passionfruit puree
2 tbsp raw agave syrup or honey
optional extra ingredients to taste
cashews, lemon juice, shredded coconut, raw cacao
Your choice of fresh fruit – I used sliced kiwi fruit and blueberries.
So what do you think? If you try this out on your family, we’d love to hear how it went down.