The Hungry Catepillar Cake

Coco’s First Birthday Cake – “Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersat”

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I can’t believe it’s just over 400 days since little Coco splashed into our world. It’s such a parent cliche, but time has really flown by and our tiny bundle of joy is now flying around (on all fours), opening everything, pulling down anything she can get her hands on and generally causing chaos!

She is also developing her own sparkling personality and early indicators are that she is very strong-willed and determined (eek!); has no concept of danger or risk whatsoever; is a real extravert; and full of laughs and smiles!  We feel so privileged: seeing our little charges growing up and developing.  Sure it’s tough at times and Mr C & L (who loves his sleep) is still recovering from the first 8 months of Coco’s life when it seemed she would never sleep through the night!  Thankfully, she’s now a much better sleeper, although still a partygirl at heart – I think she’ll cause her Papa to have many more sleepless nights in years to come!

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Naturally, every party girl needs a party cake.  I was quite pleased with Lentil’s first birthday cake, less so with the second……!  I wanted to create a really nice cake for Coco and also quiet my sister (a third child) who constantly waxes lyrical about parents pulling out all the stops for first children and having less enthusiasm or time to do so for subsequent siblings!

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At one, Coco is a little young to be “into” anything in particular, but she does enjoy her bedtime stories (when she can stay away long enough – who would have thought during those first 8 months!) and “The Hungry Catepillar” is a favourite.  We have a bi-lingual household and have this book in both languages.  I did a bit of Pinterest research to get some ideas for Hungry Catepillar cakes – you gotta love Pinterest!

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I made a basic Mary Berry sponge cake and filled it with butter cream and marmelade (I realised the jar of jam I thought I had in the cupboard was actually a jar of cranberry sauce and marmelade seemed a better option!).  In an attempt to avoid any last minute stress, I made the sponge two days early. Butter cream icing and marmelade made up the sandwich filling and I then covered the whole cake with butter cream icing.  A good tip I was given: refridgerate the cake prior to icing so the butter cream is nice and set before you add the fondont icing.

I used ready to roll fondont icing and borrowed an icing smoother from a friend, which saved the day, or rather cake!

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I drew the fruit on carboard to make stensils to cut the icing.  The trick is (as I learnt) to add the decorations to the cake before the icing starts to harden so your decorations doen’t .  This allows you to stick the various elements together and wrap them around the cake without cracking.  Undoubtedly less of an issue with a square cake.  I left the catepillar to dry and harden as it just sits on top of the cake.

Of course, I was also very, very lucky to have Toddler patisserie chef extraodinar, Lentil, to help me.  Naturally, it would have been a disaster without his assistance!!

Coco seemed to enjoy the birthday celebrations and tasted a little cake. Her first taste of refrined sugar so I was hoping you wouldn’t like it too much!

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Although she won’t remember the day or cake, hopefully she can read this post and look at the photos in future and know that she has a family that really love her and wanted to make her day really special. And her mummy definitely put in as much effort and as many hours as she did for her brother’s first birthday cake!

Spiced Apple and Pear Compote

Delicious yoghurt topping

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Coco and Lentil are big yoghurt fans and little tubs of raspberry, strawberry, apricot or peach flavoured yoghurt are a regular after supper dessert.  Generally, Lentil chooses one first and little Coco gets whichever flavour he discards.  I allow Lentil this little concession as I suspect it will quickly come to an end once Coco starts talking!

I like to add a bit of texture and additional flavour to their yoghurts and this little compote is a quick and tasty topping.  It helps with satisfying your little charges’ 5 or 3 (depending on which school of thought you subscribe to!) a day; can be pureed for babies; and is suitable for freezing. It also makes a good combo with creme fraiche, or adds a little healthiness to an ice-cream treat!

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Makes 4 portions.

The what:

2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped into kiddie bite-sized chunks

2 pears, peeled, cored and chopped into kiddie bite-sized chunks

a handful of raisins or other dried fruit

1/4 tsp of mixed spice

60ml water

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The how:

Put all the ingredients into a pan and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly. The compote is ready once the apple and pear are soft but not mushy.  If the compote starts to stick to the bottom of the pan add a little more water.

Then it’s ready to serve: on its own, with yoghurt, creme fraiche or ice-cream!  It is also delicious with porridge or muesli…..endless possibilities!

Enjoy!

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Stuffed Zucchini Rounds

Stuffed Zucchini with butternut squash, peppers and cheddar

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Zucchini or courgettes and olive oil are a simply delicious traditional Italian combination.  Elizabeth David is credited with bringing this vegetable, previously reserved for the aristocracy, into the ordinary English kitchen.  In her book, A Book of Mediterranean Food, published in 1950, she shares a simple courgette recipe, combining the “very young marrow” with butter and tomatoes.

 

 

Taking a cue from the September sunshine over the weekend, we’ve gone for a summer – autumn vegetable flavouring, combining the zucchini with butternut squash.  It’s a light but comforting dish, which we hope you’ll enjoy as much as we have.

 

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This dish is an easy dish that is perfect for getting little hands involved in the kitchen and Lentil had great fun stuffing all the ingredients into the zucchini and sprinkling the cheese on top (a lot of which ended up on the baking tray)!

The what:

3 Round zucchini, topped and flesh removed

1 onion, quartered

1 yellow pepper, topped, de-seeded and quartered

1/2 roasted butternut squash (you can roast the other half too and use it to make our roast Butternut Squash and Courgette Risotto). Continue reading

Tuna Casserole

Tuna Casserole, aka tuna pasta bake

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This dish combines two of Lentil’s favourite foods – fish and pasta. So I was expecting it to pass the Lentil taste test with flying colours – surely?? Well actually, it only got the star sticker of approval second time round.  I made the first dish using Penne pasta.  Fine for adults, but the pasta was just a bit too big for a toddler-sized mouth.  The eating of it made more difficult as said toddler hasn’t quite mastered cutting his food with a knife, yet insists on trying everything himself without any help!!  Suffice to say it was a very long mealtime and require infinite patience!

Lesson learnt I decided to use macaroni on the second attempt.  The result was the same delicious taste, but a toddler-friendly eating experience.  Big sigh of relief all round!

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Green Tea Salmon

Salmon poached in green tea

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When I became pregnant with Lentil I gave up coffee and green tea and anything else with caffeine in it – just like most first time mothers-to-be worried that even a drop could be damaging!  I realised I could survive quite well without coffee.  I actually don’t really like coffee, but had become a daily drinker: fetching a latte was an excuse to escape the relentless stressy office environment for five minutes once or twice a day.  I also hopped the caffeine would actually keep me awake no matter how little sleep I got!

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Beetroot Risotto

Colourful Beetroot Risotto for a veggie meal or side dish

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If you’ve seen my Beet, Carrot and Barley Salad you’ll know that thanks Grigson’s Vegetable Book, my bible for all things vegetable, I now know how to prepare and cook beetroot!  This recipe brings together the heavenly combination of beetroot and goats cheese with risotto.

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Apple, Date and Raisin Compote

A versatile fruity compote – equally delicious served warm or cold

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This quick and tasty little compote is great for jazzing up yoghurts, adding to porridge or muesli, or simply on its own.  It’s also makes a delicious fruity weaning puree if you give it a few pulses with the blender.  Run out of chutney for the cheese board?  It’s a complementary substitute for that too.  I usually make extra and pop little tubs of it in the freezer. You gotta love such simple, versatile food!

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Fish Pie

Comforting fish pie with salmon, white fish, potatoes and cheese

DSC_0130aThe only fish and indeed the only pie I ate as a child was my mother’s fish pie topped with crumbled cheese and onion crisps.  And not just any cheese and onion crisps: a very special brand called Tayto, which are only available in the 4 fair provinces of Ireland.  It was such a special dinner.  As a young girl I wasn’t a great eater and dinnertime was a bit of a chore.  Fish pie day on the other hand was such a joy – who ever heard of having a treat like crisps with dinner??

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Fruit and Oat Bars

These crumbly, crunchy bars are just divine!  Mix up supermarket snacks with some home-baked treats.

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Everyone needs snacks and our family is no different!  Whenever Lentil asks for a rice cake or cereal bar I think I really need to come up with some healthy, tasty alternatives to supermarket bought treats that his Papa will also like! That’s not to say that supermarket-bought snacks don’t have their place – of course they do!  Some of the big brands now make healthy, organic snacks, which are super convenient.  I’d be kidding myself if I thought I could bake all my kids snacks, but I like to try when I can.

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Homemade Gnocchi with Butter and Sage

Quick and Easy Potato Gnocchi

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This is an old recipe that has been handed down from grandmother to mother to granddaughter and I’m feeling very privileged that it’s now been passed to me by my fairy godmother!  The recipe was hand-written on a piece of paper and included just the raw ingredients, no measurements. So we’ve been eating a lot of gnocchi recently (not that we’re complaining!) in the trial and error process of finding the perfect balance.  And we think we’ve cracked it!

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Parmigiana

Parmigiana with a pinch of healthiness.  A great vegetarian option on its own or as a side dish

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The origins of this traditional dish are disputed. Jamie Oliver refers to it as a “classic northern Italian recipe” and is in good company: Antonio Carluccio confesses “I’ve never known whether this dish is called ‘parmigiana’ because it comes from Parma, or because it’s made with Parmesan cheese”. But  although the name may be claimed by the north, Carluccio concedes that the recipe stems from Sicily in the South.

My own Parmigiana story has less exotic origins! Continue reading

Bircher Muesli

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Simply known as Müesli in Switzerland and southern Baden-Württemberg, Bircher muesli was developed by Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner at the turn of the twentieth century.  A similar dish had been a staple in the diet of the Alpine shepherds for over a hundred years before Bircher was introduced to it by an Alpine dairymaid whilst hiking in the Swiss Alps. Bircher named his dish Apfeldiätspeise (the apple diet dish).

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Quinoa stir-fry

I really like this healthy, but tasty stir-fry and better still it’s quick and easy to make.  We hope you love it too!

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I’ve become a big fan of quinoa recently and luckily the kids seem to like it too.  It’s a great source of protein and really easy to cook.  As such a small grain it’s also great to use in weaning recipes, particularly if little ones have few teeth and are only getting used to managing solids!

Makes 2 large portions and 1 small portion

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The what:

120g quinoa

100g Edamme beans

a bunch of spring onions

1cm ginger

handful of coriander

2 baby pak choi

5 baby corn

juice of 1/2 lime

small handful sesame seeds

1/2 tbsp sunflower oil

For the sauce:

1 tbsp sesame oil

1/2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp Oyster sauce

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The how:

Cook the quinoa according to instructions on the packet.

To make the sauce mix together all the ingredients.

Heat the sunflower oil in a large saute pan and saute the onions, garlic and ginger.  Remove and set aside.  Add all the other vegetables to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the sauce and cook for a further 2-3 depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables.  Stir in the onions, garlic, ginger and quinoa.  Sprinkle over the sesame seeds and coriander and serve.

 

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Cucumber and Pineapple Smoothie

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I love this flavour combination, which I happened upon accidentally while creating Riata for my chickpea and sweet potato curry (click here in case you missed it!).  I don’t know why I never thought of cucumber and pineapple before, but I’m sure glad I’ve found it now!!

Lentil loves smoothies and now regularly asks for them, so I’m constantly on the lookout for new concoctions and this one definitely seems to be a winner. Smoothies are also a great way to use up that leftover bit of cucumber in the fridge that would otherwise end up in the bin.

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The what:

a think slice of pineapple, peeled and chopped

1/3 cucumber, peeled and sliced

handful fresh mint

4 tbsp natural yoghurt

1 tsp honey

The how:

Blend the pineapple, cucumber and mint in a food processor, then add the yoghurt and honey and blend until well combined.  You can either serve as a textured smoothie, or pass through a sieve if you prefer a drinkable smoothie without any “bits”.  Personally, I prefer the former, but some kids might be put off by the “bits”.

Have a smoooooothie day!

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Glazed Salmon with Carrot and Courgette Ribbons

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Once Coco and Lentil got used to the early weaning vegetable purees I made, I was keen to introduce fish.  I wasn’t a great fish eater as a child: I only ate my mother’s fish pie which she topped with crumbled crisps and even then, I ate more of the potato and crisps than the fish! Thankfully, Coco and Lentil aren’t yet showing any signs of my fish pickiness. Salmon was the first fish they tried and one I come back to regularly.  As an anadromous fish it’s great brain food, a good source of vitamin D, and, of course, it’s omega-3 properties are well publicised.  It is also very versatile and can be baked, cured, eaten raw, grilled, poached, sautéed or smoked.  This recipe calls for a saute pan and a little glaze.  It’s yummy and healthy!

You can check out our other fish recipes here.

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Makes 2 adult and 2 child portions

The what:

3 salmon fillets, skinned

1 courgette, topped & tailed

1 carrot, peeled, topped & tailed

1 cm ginger, finely sliced

1/2 celeraic, outer skin peeled

1/2 tbsp olive oil

for the sauce:

1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1 tsp reduced salt soy

2 tsp honey

The how:

Slice the carrot, celeraic and courgette into thin vertical strips using a potato peeler, or alternatively if you have a spiralizer, slice into ribbons.  You can prepare the vegetables in advance – just place in a bowl with water and refrigerate.  Drain and pat dry with some kitchen towel when needed.

To make the glaze mix all the ingredients together in a shallow bowl and marinade the salmon fillets for 2 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile heat the olive oil in a large non-stick pan for the vegetables.  Heat another dry pan for the salmon.  Remove the salmon from glaze (but retain the glaze for later) and add to the dry, hot pan. Cook for 2 minutes, then turn, pour over the glaze and cook for further 2 minutes.  Add the spiralized vegetables to the oiled pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.

To serve, arrange the vegetables on a plate and place the salmon on top. Drizzle over the remaining glaze from the hot pan.

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Mayo-less Potato Salad

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As a child I hated potato salad.  I don’t know if it was the dry, floury potatoes or the combination of cold potatoes, raw onion and mayonnaise that put me off, but nothing would entice me to eat it! Today I still approach potato salad with a certain degree of trepidation and have yet to find a traditional potato salad recipe that I love.  When spending some time in Germany as a teenager a fairy godmother (and fabulous domestic cook) thought me to make a potato salad that doesn’t require any mayonnaise at all.  This is my version of that salad: it’s my desert island salad!  It’s one that Lentil loves too (even if he picks out a few of the gherkins) and so hopefully he won’t grow up with my potato salad phobia!

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The what:

330g baby new / Charlotte potatoes

2 slices bacon

4 spring onions, sliced

10 mini gherkins, topped and sliced

For the dressing:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 1/2 tbsp of the pickled juice from the gherkin jar

pinch of ground black pepper

Tip: When serving salads, I normally wait until shortly before serving to add the dressing so they don’t become soggy.  However, this salad tastes best if the potatoes are left to soak in the dressing for a while.

The how:

Put the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil.  Then simmer for about 15-20 minutes until cooked.  Remove from the heat, drain and leave to cool.

Meanwhile saute the spring onions in a little olive oil, remove, add the bacon to the saute-pan and cook, turning over half way through.  Once cooked, remove any rind from the bacon and dice.

Once the potatoes have cooled a little, slice and add to your salad bowl.  Toss in the spring onions, bacon and gherkins.

To make the dressing, add the mustard, gherkin juice to a jar, close the lid and shake well.  Then add the olive oil and pepper and shake well again.  Taste test with a potato slice.  Pour over the salad, mix and leave to soak a little before serving (see tip above).

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Fruity Coconut Porridge

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Porridge is a great breakfast to start off the day, especially for growing children and Lentil and Coco eat it most mornings.   It’s so simple and quick too. We usually add raisins, maybe some cinnamon, or other fruit. They don’t seem to tire of it, but I do!  So every so often, I try out a few new flavours. Coconut is a current favourite. I’ve used banana, strawberries and blueberries here, but you can add any fruit, whatever will get you going on a Monday morning!

Makes 1 adult and 1 child portion (about 4tbsp for an adult and 2 tbsp for a child portion).  Just multiply accordingly for the rest of the family.

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The what:

6 tbsp organic porridge oats

350ml milk

2 heaped tbsp coconut flakes plus extra for sprinkling on top

1 banana, sliced

handful of strawberries, topped and sliced

handful of blueberries

The how:

Add the porridge oats and milk to a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Add the coconut flakes and simmer for about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve with your favourite fruit (or whatever is leftover in the fruit bowl!) piled high and sprinkle some coconut flakes on top.

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Enjoy!

Courgetti and Strawberry Salad

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Since starting my blogging journey, I’ve been inspired by (and in awe of!) the many fabulous health food bloggers out there, creating amazing recipes with deliciously fresh ingredients, and sharing drool-inducing photos of their creations.  It was while perusing some of these awesome foodies’ websites and salivating over their culinary endeavours that I came across spiralizing. Clearly, I am way behind the times – how have I missed all the hype about fruit and veggie ribbons and spaghetti styled courgettes??  I wondered if the spiralizer was just the latest kitchen gadget: something I would use once and then retire to the cupboard over the fridge, which is rarely opened: I need a stool to reach it!

I reasoned that I use my mandolin regularly and love Japanese food.  Surely something food-related originating in Japan can’t be bad?  So after a little research on the various brands and models I purchased a spiralizer online and eagerly awaited its arrival!

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I’m certainly not giving up on my yummy homemade pasta (mon Dieu!) or carbs altogether.  I think they are an important part of a balanced diet, especially for children.  However, I am bursting with ideas for new recipes using my spiralizer and it is a fun way to introduce kids to new ways of eating fruit and veg.

So here is the first of my spiralizer creations……[drum roll!]

I’ve made this salad both with and without chicken and it’s as tasty either way so if you’re vegetarian just simply leave out the chicken.

Serves 2 adult & 1 child portion.

The what:

2 large (3 smaller) chicken fillets, diced

handful of spinach leaves, stems removed

12g flaked almonds

150g strawberries, topped and quartered

2 courgettes, topped and tailed

3 tbsp natural yoghurt

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For the dressing:

juice from 1/2 an orange

juice from 1/2 lime

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

a pinch of ground black pepper

Tip: If you don’t have a spiralizer, a mandolin or julienne peeler are just as good for thinly slicing the courgette. If using a julienne peeler, you may find it easier to slice the courgette length-ways.

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The how:

Marinade the chicken in the yoghurt for a couple of hours / overnight.

You can also prepare the dressing in advance: just give it a good shake / stir again before using as the oil will have settled on top.  Add all the ingredients to a jar and shake well.  Taste test with a spinach leaf.

Pre-heat the oven to 220 (200 fan) and back for about 8 minutes and then flip the chicken pieces over, draining off any excess liquid and bake for a further 8 minutes.  Be careful not to let the chicken dry out.

Meanwhile slice the courgettes, either using a using a spiralizer to make courgetti, a mandolin or a julienne peeler (see tip above).  Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the courgette on medium heat for a couple of minutes to soften.  If you have used a mandolin and have very thin courgette slices, cook on a lower heat and stir and toss continuously in the pan to avoid too much browning, or burning.  Take of the heat and set aside.

toast the almonds in a dry saute pan on medium heat for about 1 minute, tossing regularly, and again being careful not to burn!

To assemble the salad, add the courgetti / courgette slices to your salad bowl.  Place the spinach leave on top and then add the chicken and strawberries. Sprinkle the almonds over the salad and pour the dressing on top.

Enjoy!

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Chickpea, Orka and Sweet Potato Curry

IMG_5552bWe got a little peckish while at Kew Gardens (so beautiful!) recently and headed to the Pavilion expecting to tuck into one of their summer favourites from the grill and barbecue.  But despite the warm English sunshine there was sadly no barbecue.  We didn’t go hungry though: Peyton and Byrne’s indoor restaurant was serving.  I went for the Indian veggie curry, which was really quite delicious and inspired me to try out my own.  My version has more of a Thai than Indian influence, but its quick and easy to make.  I’ll have to go back for the Full of Spice festival for further inspiration!

As well as being beautiful and great for picnics in this weather, there is also lots of fun for the kids.  Following lunch we wandered along the Xstrata Treetop Walkway to view all the trees from above.  A small warning: the walkway does sway quite a bit in the breeze so probably best avoided by those with Acrophobia!  Next we headed to the Treehouse Towers playground: Lentil had a swell time climbing, sliding, walking ropes and of course getting very dirty in the process.  Thank goodness for washing machines!

Anyway, back to the curry……here is my veggie version:

 

The what:

400g chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

80g peas

80g okra

4 shallots, peeled and sliced

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

400ml coconut milk

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp turmeric

1cm ginger, finely chopped

200ml stock

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For the Riata:

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 slice pineapple, chopped

4 tbsp natural / greek style yoghurt

1/4 tsp of ground cumin (optional)

a handful of mint, finely chopped

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The how:

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan and saute the cumin seeds, onion and garlic for a minute.  Then add the remaining spices except the turmeric and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk, turmeric and sweet potato, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the sweet potato is cooked.  Add the chickpeas, peas and okra and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are cooked, but still have a bite to them.

To make the Riata:

Put the cucumber, pineapple and mint in a food processor and pulse a couple of times so you have small chunks.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in the yoghurt and cumin.

Serve the curry and Riata with some rice.  I used brown basmati and wild rice, which works well, but any rice will do.

Enjoy!

 

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Strawberry Goodness Dessert Pot

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“More strawberries?” I hear you say.  But it’s summer and they are just soooooo delicious! I just can’t get enough of these scarlet berries at the moment.  Plus I’m getting all caught up in Wimbledon fever, especially with this fantastic weather.  And heaven forbid we waste any strawberries!  So here is a little dessert I created earlier this week.  It went down such a treat with Lentil and Mr C&L that we’re having it again this evening. You can use whatever fruit you like: it’s a great way of using up any leftovers while they are still fresh.  And it’s so quick and easy, just an assembly job really, which leaves more time to focus on the main course. Just as well as I have no clue what we’re having yet! Hoping to get a little inspiration when I head to the fishmongers later. As delicious as this pot of goodness it, I’m not sure Mr C&L would want to forego a main dish for it……

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Makes one Papa-sized sharing pot and one smaller pot with two kiddie portions.

The what:

6 large strawberries, stem removed and quartered

75g blueberries

5 tbsp natural yoghurt

1 tbsp honey

large handful of granola

some orange zest for sprinkling on top

The how:

Mix the yoghurt and honey together.  If making in one large bowl, layer the bottom of your bowl/jar with half the quartered strawberries.  Dollop 4 tbsp of the honey yoghurt on top.  Next add the granola and layer the blueberries on top of that.  Add the remaining strawberries and 1 tbsp of honey yoghurt.  Finally sprinkle a little orange zest on top.  Be sure to just use the outer zest as if you go too close to the orange flesh it will be bitter.

Then grab a spoon and tuck into to this pot of deliciousness!

Would love to hear any other ideas you have for fruits to use.  xx

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