Sunday, 18 February 2018

Prawn and Chorizo Carbonara

This is so simple it barely counts as a recipe, but it's a satisfyingly delicious meal for mid-week, when time is precious and few. It can be on the table in under 12 minutes which is impressive.

With a smoky, warming flavour from the chorizo plus the comforting pasta stodge, it really does tick all the boxes.

As I'm on what feels like a never-ending 'diet' to shift the remaining baby weight, and Glen is  attempting to shift a few pounds  before holiday season, portion sizes reflect this. You may want to increase for larger appetites.

I've omitted from using any additional olive oil, relying on the oil released from the chorizo instead, to shave off a few extra calories, but you may want to add this if you're not watching your weight.

The below makes enough for two:

Prawn and Chorizo Carbonara

Here's how:

  • x2 chorizo cooking sausages
  • 150g raw prawns
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 40g Grana Padana cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 100g dried pasta (I used penne)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Firstly fill and boil the kettle and then fill a large pot with the water and place on a low heat with the pasta. Place a frying pan on a low heat too.

Finely slice the garlic and chilli, and cut the chorizo sausages into rounds of about the thickness of a £1 coin, and then half them. Add to the frying pan.

Now into a bowl crack the egg and grate in the cheese and season generously with salt and black pepper. Give a good mix.

Two minutes before the pasta timer goes off, add the prawns to the pan, they will cook in no time at all, and you'll know they're cooked through as they will become pink all over.

Before draining the pasta, scoop out a mugful of the pasta water and set aside.

Drain the pasta and add to the chorizo and prawn mix on the heat, mix and then remove from the heat completely.

Now pour over the egg mixture and stir well, the heat from the pasta will cook the egg, as with carbonara, so don't feel tempted to place back on the heat or you'll end up with scrambled egg in your pasta.

Make sure you stir well to ensure all of the pasta gets a good coating and add 1-2 tbsp of the pasta water to loosen up the consistency.

Serve with just a smattering of grated cheese and a final seasoning. Enjoy!

Super Green Pasta Sauce

My kids love anything with pasta, and particularly homemade pesto. They do love their greens, but Bridget, my three year old, can be lazy with chewing and even with using her knife and fork at times.

We regularly make a batch of my Walnut and Basil Pesto, as it always satisfies, but this special green pasta makes use of all the greens hanging around the fridge. This super green sauce can be made in minutes, the below makes a batch big enough for 4-5 portions, it freezes well, is packed with nutrients and goodness and most importantly is very child-friendly. It's a perfect quick fix for those days when real 'cooking' is a little out of reach.

You could use pretty much any green vegetables, but I tend to use broccoli, spinach, kale or cavolo nero and frozen peas, as they all blend well and avoid the bittiness from some vegetables.

Once again, this is a super simple recipe but is one where the little ones can help to assemble. I've used Giant Fusilli in the picture as it's easy for Beatrice to pick up as finger food, but any pasta would work.

Super Green Pasta Sauce

Here's how:

  • 2 heaped tablespoons Walnut and Basil Pesto (or any jarred green pesto if you're in a real rush)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • Handful of green leaves (I use spinach and/or cavolo nero)
  • 3 tbsp frozen peas

Firstly get a large pan of water on to boil, or fill with water from the kettle, and place on a low heat.

Chop the broccoli into florets, and add to the water, This will need about 5 minutes.

After two minutes, add the frozen peas and in the final minute the green leaves.

Then roughly drain off in a colander, and add to a blender or a Nutribullet. Add the Pesto, then the lid and blitz to a smooth consistency.

Super Green Pasta Sauce

Portion up into little tubs or food bags.

If you're using right away, simply cook the pasta to your taste, remove 1 tbsp of the cooking water before draining, then return to the pan after a good shake. Stir through the one portion of the Super Green Pasta Sauce on the heat for 1 minute and then serve with a little grating of Parmesan. Enjoy!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Kid Crepes

Crepes, or rather pancakes, are an absolute staple food in our house when it comes to the kids. I make a vast variety of types and fillings, mostly sweet, and mostly for breakfast or weekend brunching; but these savoury ones are a great favourite for a fast lunch or dinner.

You could use any number of fillings, but for my two the clear winning choice is ham, Cheddar cheese and sweetcorn, very beige basic, and very appealing to the under fives.

This is another simple recipe that is more assembly than anything else, so do recruit your little ones to help you - cooking with children is such an important activity, that can be messy but is mostly fun and will equip your kids with life skills.

I always serve with some vegetables or salad fingers, such as peppers, cucumber, radish etc. to make it feel slightly less 'lazy Mum', but the fact is these are super simple and quick to make, cheap, you're likely to always have the ingredients for them and they're universally popular.

The below makes a batter for about six pancakes, and 1 per child is more than sufficient, but the batter keeps well overnight in the fridge (win, win).

Kids Crepes

Here's how:

  • Drizzle vegetable or rapeseed oikd
  • 125g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml milk (full fat is always best for pancakes)
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 slices ham
  • 2 tbsp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 tbsp sweetcorn kernels

Make the batter by mixing the flour, milk and the eggs with a fork or whisk.

Add the oil to a frying pan on a low to medium heat and in the meantime chop the ham and grate the cheese.

Now use a ladle to pour in the amount needed for x1 pancake into the pan. Allow it cook for 30-seconds to one minute until it has gone from a liquid batter to s solidified pancake, now use a fish slice to slowly ease it off the pan, all the way round the edge, then flip it over to do the other side.

On one half of the pancake, scatter over the ham, cheese and sweetcorn and after about 1 minute, flip the empty half of the pancake, over the filled side and cook for another 30 seconds, press down with the fish slice. Now flip again, and cook for 30 seconds to a minute more to allow the cheese to melt a little.

Kids Crepes

Remove from the pan, and repeat the process.

Slice into fingers and serve with your selection of veggies. Enjoy!

Here are a mixture of other sweet and savoury pancakes that might appeal:
Classic British Pancakes
Berry and Yoghurt Pancakes
Salmon and Dill Potato Pancakes
Banana and Oat Pancakes
Courgette and Corn Pancakes

Simple and Skinny Butternut Squash Soup

This soup recipe is so easy, but yields such a delicious couple of bowl fulls, and is very low calorie, if you're watching your calorific intake - the below comes in at 276 calories, and is enough for two portions.

It's completely devoid of any meat or meat products, so counts if you're adopting a vegetarian or even vegan diet, and is surprisingly satisfying.

Simple and Skinny Butternut Squash Soup

Here's how:

  • 260g butternut squash, roasted
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Fresh ginger root (about two cm)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Knorr Vegetable Stock Pot made up with 600ml water

Firstly take a small butternut squash and roast whole for 30 minutes. Then cut straight down the middle and remove all the flesh, and set aside for the moment.

Drizzle the olive oil into a pan and place on a low heat.

Peel and dice the onion and crush the garlic and add to the pan to saute.

In the meantime, peel and slice the ginger and make up the stock.

Once the onion and garlic has softened, add the butternut squash, the ginger and the cayenne pepper and pour over the stock.

You can salt here, but the stock should provide that for you.

Cook for fifteen to twenty minutes, and then blitz. (If using a Nutribullet like I do to blitz the soup, make sure you allow the soup to cool a little first).

Return to the heat to warm up then serve. Enjoy!

Here are some other vegetarian soup options:

Winter Vegetable
Curried Parsnip and Spinach Soup
Red Pepper Soup
Roasted Tomato & Basil Soup
Creamy Mushroom Soup without Cream
Restorative Green Soup
Leek, Potato and Cauliflower Soup
Mexican Mushroom Soup

Turkey Meatball Bake

This is a lovely family recipe for all the family getting stuck into one central dish. It's also a recipe that lends itself well to 'cooking with children' which is an absolute passion here, and my Bridget who's 3 and a half, loves nothing better than putting her apron on and helping in the kitchen.

I served here with a Mediterranean loaf (Tesco bakery, thank you very much), but any fresh bread would work, as would fresh pasta or even rice or couscous. There's just something more fun about dipping in the bread and mopping up all of the sauce.

I use turkey as it's incredibly lean, but you could any minced meat here, and the herbs I've included were as I had them in stock, again you can experiment or use dried if you prefer. It really is worth making your own meatballs, you don't need to pad them out with breadcrumbs or egg or anything, they're just pure meat and seasonings - no nasties.

The below serves us four (two adults, and two under 3's).

Turkey Meatball Bake

Here's how:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 celery sticks
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 jar passata
  • 1 tin cannellini beans
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 3 bayleafs
  • Handful basil leafs

For the meatballs:

  • 450g turkey mince
  • 3 spring onions
  • Drizzle of garlic oil
  • Handful each of: parsley, tarragon, chives

For the bake:

  • 1 ball of half fat mozzarella

Firstly make the tomato sauce. Start by pouring in the olive oil to a saucepan and placing on a low heat.

Peel and dice the onion and crush the garlic and add to the pan. Finely slice the celery sticks and add to the pan.

Once they're all softened, add the passata, red wine, bayleafs and oregano as well as seasoning generously with sea salt and black pepper.

Grate the carrot and add to the sauce, and finally add the cannellini beans then give a good stir through and allow to cook for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and throw a few basil leaves in, give a good stir then set aside.

The tomato sauce with beans

In the meantime, make the meatballs. Place the mince into a bowl.

Finely slice the spring onions, and chop the herbs and add to the bowl with the garlic oil and give a good mix. There's only hands to be used here, a spoon won't cut it. Mix really well, trying to get the herbs distributed well throughout the meat, but be careful not to overwork the meat.

Now pull off a small piece, about 1 tbsp of the meat, and roll around in your hands to make a meatball then set aside. Repeat until all of the meat has been transformed into rounds.

Turkey Meatballs

Now remove the bayleafs from the tomato sauce and pour into an oven-proof dish. Place each meatball into the sauce, with a little space in between.

Finally tear the mozzarella up into slithers and place all around the top of the dish, so to evenly distribute the cheese.

Give one final seasoning over the top of the dish and it's ready to go into the oven.

Cook in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through, and the cheese is melted and gooey all over the top. Serve with your choice of accompaniments. Enjoy!

Here are some other makeover recipes I make using turkey mince:
Turkey and Hidden Vegetable Bolognese
Turkey and Vegetable Parsnip Topped Pie
Turkey and Charred Vegetable Ragu Pasta Bake

Pizza Pilgrims, Soho

One Sunday in January I headed to the London Cookery School with my Dad and my brother Dean, for a fun course in some classic dim sum dumplings.

Beforehand, we headed into Soho for a bite to eat, and I finally got to try the Pizza Pilgrims' Dean Street restaurant.

Having worked in Soho frequently over the last few years, I'd tried the Berwick Street Market outpost a few years back and had followed the Pizza Pilgrims successful journey online, but had never ventured into one of their restaurants.

Laid back and informal, with just a hint of cool is how I'd describe the interior. Stripped back but with fantastic Italian posters from yesteryear, as well as photos of the Elliot brothers, the faces behind the Pizza Pilgrims brand, but with chintzy Italian-inspired green and white gingham tablecloths. We were in the downstairs dining area, but upstairs you have the open plan kitchen area, including the wood fired pizza oven, which is an impressive piece.

We had some mozzarella and tomato to start - which was incredibly simple, yet delicious. The mozzarella is reportedly flown in from Italy, and I can well believe it given the creamy quality.

I chose the Nduja, which is a Margarita base with Nduja, or spicy Italian sausage slathered around, and it was an absolute triumph. I'm pretty partial to anything with Nduja, but this really was good. A super thin base with a superbly crisp and flavourful crust, and with the toppings to boot. You're invited to order the various dips for the crusts, and we had a garlic butter and a spicier one, and both were great, but the crust was quite edible without any dip.

The Nduja Pizza, Pizza Pilgrims

My brother enjoyed the simple Margarita, which was of course, beautiful and my Dad chose a different tack, the Portobello and Truffle on a bianca or white base of mozzarella which was particularly good.

The Portobello and Truffle Pizza, Pizza Pilgrims

The portion size is generous and I couldn't quite finish mine, although both my Dad and Dean did.

The pricing is really fair, nothing is more than £11, which considering the quality I though was reasonable, and we enjoyed a couple of Birra Moretti's each and our whole meal was around the £50 mark, well worth the money.

Pizza Pilgrims brings a small slice of Italy to London and has absolutely nailed the Italian way of making something fantastic with just a few simple ingredients. I'll be sure to return.

Creamy Chocolate and Nut Porridge

This seems like an apt post for a Saturday morning, it has an indulgent feel to it from the chocolate and yoghurt that make it super creamy; but it is still packed with goodness, from the fibrous slow-release energy from the porridge oats, to the good fats and numerous health qualities of pecans. I add just a little dark chocolate to each portion to make it feel like a real luxurious treat, but you can always omit that.

This is a crowd-pleaser in my house, and if you've been training hard all week, I can assure it feels like such a reward breakfast. The below makes enough for x5-6 portions.

Creamy Chocolate and Nut Porridge

Here's how:

  • 200g porridge oats (I use the Lidl Simply range)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150ml milk (I use semi-skimmed)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder (Green & Black's or the Cadbury's Bournville one are great quality)
  • 2 tbsp fat free natural yoghurt
  • 80g pecan nuts
  • 2 squares of dark chocolate per portion

First pour the porridge oats into a heavy-bottomed pan, and pour on the milk. Place on a low heat and stir with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook at a low heat for three to four minutes, until the oats absorb the milk well.

In the meantime, take half of the pecans, and roughly chop and set aside.

Now remove the porridge from the heat and add the yoghurt and stir well. The porridge should take on a creamy texture now, and be cooled enough for little ones to eat right away.

Divide into bowls and scatter over the chopped nuts, and a few halved pecans.

Finally add the chocolate into the middle and allow each recipient to stir the chocolate through their bowl of porridge to add that final flourish of luxury. Enjoy!