Courgette and cheese scones

With both of my girls now at school and with me working away from home most of the week, keeping the contents of our lunch boxes vaguely interesting is an ongoing challenge. Normally I go for set staples like rolls, pasta or rice salads, pitta bread and hummus – that kind of thing. From time to time though I do like to bake something a little bit different, but something which isn’t too much of a departure from the norm that the kids leave it untouched.

These courgette and cheese scones fit the bill perfectly. Tasty and moist, they are the ideal finger food and are packed full of goodness. Ideal served cold from a lunch box or warm straight from the oven. And they aren’t too much of a faff to make. A definite winner in my book.

Courgette and cheese scones

Makes 12

225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
45g soft butter
115g Cheddar cheese, grated
1 courgette, grated
1 carrot, grated
2 spring onions, finely chopped
handful of fresh herbs, chopped (I used thyme and oregano)
salt and pepper
2 tbsp creme fraiche
60ml milk

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6 and grease a baking sheet with a little butter.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Rub the butter in the flour until it looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Add the cheese, carrot, courgette, spring onion, herbs, salt and pepper. Combine and form a well in the middle. Pour in the creme fraiche and milk and mix together to create a sticky dough.

Lightly knead the dough on a floured surface and then form into 12 scone shapes and place on the baking sheet.

Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool a little on a wire rack before serving.

These scones can be frozen, or can be kept  in an airtight container for up to five days.

Chicken with cous cous

I’ve been making this simple cous cous dish since my first-born Jessie was about a year old. Based originally on an Annabel Karmel recipe, it’s a perfect dish for little ones who are getting to grips with solid food and new textures; just make sure you cut the meat and vegetables into smallish pieces. As they get older, the pieces can get bigger.

I used to make it just for Jessie until I realised how tasty it was, so I now regularly make it as a speedy supper dish for the whole family. We usually eat this hot but it’s also a great lunchbox filler.

Chicken with cous cous

Serves 4

200g cous cous
450ml hot chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 chicken breast, diced
1 courgette, diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 tomatoes, diced
Handful fresh basil, roughly torn or chopped
Salt and pepper

Put the cous cous in a large bowl, add the hot stock and leave to one side while you get on with the rest of the dish.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently saute the onion until golden. Add the chicken and cook until the meat turns opaque. Then add the courgette and garlic and cook until soft and starting to colour. Check the chicken is cooked through, then throw in the tomato and basil and stir in to heat through.

Fork through the cous cous to break up the grains and then mix in the chicken and vegetables. Season to taste and serve.

Maple syrup and banana cupcakes

My two girls almost ate us out of house and home during the Easter holidays. And now that they are back to school and nursery, they are coming home in the afternoon absolutely ravenous. There’s no way they can keep going until tea time without a quick snack as soon as they get through the front door.

These maple syrup and banana cupcakes are perfect, and they’re also good as a lunch box treat. They contain wholemeal flour and fruit so they’re also vaguely healthy!

Maple syrup and banana cupcakes

Makes 12

150g self-raising flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
50g Demerara sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
1 tsp cinnamon
60g margarine, very soft
2 large ripe bananas
50g sultanas
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbsp maple syrup
4 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6 and line a bun tin with 12 paper cake cases.

Mix together the self-raising and wholemeal flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the soft margarine and mash it into the flour using a fork until well combined.

Mash the bananas using a fork and stir this into the mixture, along with the sultanas.

Add the beaten eggs, maple syrup and milk and beat until the mixture is well combine and dropping consistency.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and sprinkle a little Demerara sugar on top of each one.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Place on a wire rack to cool. Eat them as they come or make into more of a pudding by eating warm drizzled with more maple syrup.


Olive and mozzarella muffins

I seem to be going through a bit of a phase a the moment baking savoury muffins for our lunch boxes, and this is my latest creation.

It actually started life as a pizza muffin. My daughter Jessie loves pizza toppings and asked if we could make a muffin with these same ingredients. So we gave it a go. But despite being very tasty, they just didn’t quite taste like pizza. Which is why we’ve named them olive and mozzarella muffins instead.

Olive and mozzarella muffins

Makes 12

60ml sunflower oil
180g self-raising flour
130g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
½tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp dried oregano
130g black olives, chopped
2 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml plain yoghurt
275ml milk
1 tbsp tomato puree
125g mozzarella, chopped

Preheat oven to 200°C/gas 6. Oil and line a 12-hole muffin tin with baking paper or muffin cases.

Sift the self-raising and wholemeal flour into a large bowl, along with the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Stir in the salt, oregano and black olives.

In another bowl, mix together the eggs, yoghurt, milk and tomato puree. Pour these wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and very gently combine together. Carefully stir in the mozzarella pieces, keeping back a few pieces to place on top.

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and pop some extra bits of mozzarella on top of each one.

Bake the muffins in the oven for around 25 minutes until they well risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Eat warm or cold.

I’ll keep working on the pizza muffins and I’ll let you know when I’ve sussed them!

Hot dog muffins

One of my new year’s resolutions is to try and make the contents of my kids’ lunch boxes a little more interesting.

I often find myself in friends’ kitchens marvelling at the print-outs from websites or articles from magazines stuck to the fridge providing healthy ideas for tasty lunchtime treats for children. And then I find myself feeling guilty.

Now while I love being creative in the kitchen I’m generally thinking about ideas for the main family meal. Not for things my children can take to school.

Look at one of my weekly meal plans and you’ll generally see the uninspired “rolls” listed for weekday lunches. Definitely must-do-better in 2012.

So today my kids took a hot dog muffin each with them to school and nursery. Their lunch boxes were empty this evening so I’ll take that as a good sign. And the youngest asked if they could have another one when they got home, so another good sign.

The muffins are really very simple, combining a strong Cheddar cheese with hot dog sausages, which in my experience all children love.

I’ve adapted the recipe from one I found in Baking With Kids by Linda Collister. When I first tried the recipe I didn’t have in the two main ingredients, chorizo and Emmental, and so I substituted hot dogs and Cheddar. I later baked them again using the correct ingredients but found I preferred my version.

Next time I make them, I’m going to try adding some chopped tomato and sweetcorn…

Hot dog muffins

Makes 12

500g plain flour
2 tsps baking powder
Pinch of salt
Black pepper
230g mature Cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
100g chopped hot dog sausages
2 large eggs
100g butter, melted
350ml milk

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Add the cheese and hot dogs and mix well.

Beat the eggs and pour into a well in the flour mixture, along with the butter and milk. Mix it all together and then spoon into muffin cases in a muffin tray.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.