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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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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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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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

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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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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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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Strawberry, Banana and Cucumber Smoothie

 

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In good old British tradition, we started off the week with strawberries and cream as temperatures soared and the players retreated to Wimbledon’s new ice baths!

I’ve never been a big fan of the ice treatments some spas offer following a sauna or steam – I prefer my spas to be an enjoyable experience! I did however once try a home-made ice bath after a training run for a marathon a few years ago.  I wasn’t able to stay in it for very long and I’m not sure how much it helped, but Mr Coco&Lentil certainly found it amusing!

So leaving the ice baths to the players, we’re starting day 3 off with a healthy strawberry smoothie instead to keep us nice and refreshed as heatwave continues.

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This recipe makes two large and one mini smoothie (for little Coco!) but you can just increase the ingredients to make more. Smoothies are a great way to get extra fruit and veg into little tummies. Lentil asks for seconds of this one and would never guess there is cucumber in it!

The what:

1 banana, peeled and chopped

6 big / 8 small strawberries, topped and quartered

1/4 cucumber, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp natural yoghurt

The how:

Add the banana, cucumber and strawberries to the blender and blitz until smooth.  Then add the yoghurt and blend until you have a thick, but smooth smoothie.

Pour into a glass and sit back and enjoy as there is more sun and Wimbledon excitement in store today: Djokovic meets Jarkko Nieminen of Finland; GB’s Heather Watson takes on Daniela Hantuchova; and Serena Williams finishes the order of play on Centre Court.  Can’t wait?  Neither can we!

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Chilled Asparagus and Pea Soup

If you’ve read Coco’s weaning diary, you’ll know I love asparagus: green and white. It would be one of my desert island foods!  I do get slightly upset when I have to break off the ends and discard them – it seems like such a waste. If Mr Coco&Lentil gets his hands on the asparagus, half the stalks end up in the bin! I decided to put the woody ends to good use by making a stock for soup before I retire them to the bin.

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The what:

400g asparagus (ends snapped off & set aside & remaining asparagus roughly chopped)

300g fresh or frozen peas

a large handful of fresh mint (about 30 leaves)

2 garlic cloves, one finely chopped

1 small onion, finely chopped

60ml (4 tbsp) cream fraiche

black pepper to season

a squeeze of lime

Tip:

You can retain the asparagus and pea pulp (heaven forbid we through anymore asparagus out!) you get when you pass the soup through a sieve and mix it with some sweet potato and a little milk for babies.  For children over one year you can add some toasted pine nuts (assuming there are no family allergies and you have ground the nuts to avoid any risk of choking) and mix with some spaghetti or other pasta.

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The how:

Add the broken off asparagus ends (retaining the chopped asparagus for later) and one whole garlic clove to a saucepan and cover with 1000ml of water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 minutes.  Drain the asparagus stock and discard the asparagus ends and garlic Set aside.

Meanwhile saute the onion, chopped garlic in the butter until the onions are soft (2-3 minutes).  Add the asparagus stock and bring to the boil.  Next add the chopped asparagus and peas and cook until tender (about 5 minutes).

Remove from the heat and stir in the cream fraiche and mint leaves and season with pepper.  Blend the soup in batches, passing each batch through a sieve into a large bowl as you go.

Chill in the fridge.  Add a squeeze of lime and mix the soup well before serving.

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Beet, Carrot and Barley Salad

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The beetroot of my childhood was the pickled variety out of a jar. I thought that was the only way to eat beetroot and I was not a fan!

Thanks to the superfood revolution, fresh beetroot has become very popular again having found favour with chefs and food writers alike. According to an article by Khaleda Rahman in Mailonline weekly sales of beetroot in the UK now exceed £1 million.

I had a lovely beetroot and lentil salad in Gail’s cafe recently, which prompted me to have a go at creating my own salad with this purple taproot of the beet plant. I’ve never cooked beetroot before so had to refer to my trusty “Vegetable Book” by Grigson to learn how!

It takes a while to cook the ingredients for this salad, but you can do everything in advance.  The beetroot and carrots are oven baked so once you set the timer you don’t need to watch over them.  Of course, I also think the flavours in this yummy salad are worth the cooking time and I hope you’ll agree.

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The what:

4 beetroot, gently washed (see below)

400g Chantenay carrots, washed

160g Barley (pearl barley is fine, but hulled barley is supposed to retain more nutrients although can be harder to find).

100g Feta cheese

a handful of blanched hazelnuts

a handful of spinach or mixed leaves

squeeze of lemon juice

a handful of mint, finely chopped

for the dressing:

1 tbsp mirin

1 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

1cm ginger, finely sliced

3 tbsp olive oil

pepper to season

Tip: 

I usually make my dressings in an old jam jar so I can close the lid and give it a good shake to mix it well.  Always taste your dressing too with a piece of fruit or veg from the salad before adding to the rest of the salad and adjust, if necessary.

The how:

Gently wash the beetroot to remove any dirt, place in a baking tray and cover with tinfoil.  Bake the beetroot in oven for about 3 -3 1/2 hours at 150 (130 fan).  To test if the beetroot is cooked Grigson suggests wrinkling the skin and if it easily comes away from the root it is cooked.  Leave to cool, peel and chop.

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Meanwhile add the carrots to boiling water and boil for about 10 minutes to soften.  Then drain and place in a baking tray.  Drizzle with some olive oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with the mint.  Cook in the oven for one hour at the same temperature as the beetroot.  Remove and leave to cool.  Remove the ends and chop.

To cook the barley, first rinse it in cold water, place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil, drain, return to the saucepan and cover again with about 300 ml cold water.  Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 1 hour (until tender), stirring occasionally.

To make the dressing add all the ingredients except the olive oil to a jar, close the lid and shake well to combine.  Then add the olive oil, close and shake again.  Test the flavour with a carrot or piece of beetroot.

To construct the salad, arrange the spinach / mixed leaves at the bottom of your bowl.  Place the barley, beetroot and carrots on top.  Then break in the feta cheese and add the hazelnuts.  Drizzle with the dressing or serve on the side.

Enjoy!

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Blueberry and Oat Muffins

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I’ve become quite a fan of the blueberry over the last 18 months, mainly because we have a permanent stash in the fridge: they are one of Lentil’s favourite fruits along with grapes (fresh or dried). I can’t recall how the blueberry craving started. I suspect they appealed as they are small, soft, don’t have any pips or stones, don’t require peeling and are therefore convenient and an unlikely choking hazard!

As one of the original superfoods, blueberries have many additional benefits.  They are a good source of vitamin K, manganese, dietary fibre and vitamin C.  These perennial plants are also recommended for their anti-inflammatory properties and, (believe it or not!), are apparently one of the richest sources of proanthocyanidins, which can decrease free radicals linked to wrinkles!!  So not just good for the kiddies!

If, like me, you were horrified to realise your memory isn’t as good as it used to be post-kids you’ll be delighted to hear that, according to the World’s Healthiest Foods, studies indicate regular blueberry consumption is also great for your memory!

Here is a healthy mini muffin recipe packed full of these little blue berries, or if you prefer to drink your fruit check out our blueberry smoothie recipe here.  xx

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Makes 12 mini muffins

The what:

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100g blueberries

170g wholemeal flour

1 vanilla pod (or you can use 1/2 tsp of vanilla essence)

30g oats (plus a few extra for sprinkling on top)

1 egg

75ml buttermilk

60ml milk

55g unsalted butter

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

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The how:

Preheat oven to 200 (180 fan) and place the cupcake cases in a mini cupcake baking tray

Melt the unsalted butter in a small saute pan and set aside to cool.

Mix the wholemeal flour, bicarbonate of soda, oats and vanilla in a large bowl. Next make a well in the centre of the bowl and add the buttermilk, milk, egg and butter to the well and stir quickly with a fork to combine.  Add the blueberries and fold in the flour mixture, mixing until well combined.

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Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases and bake in the oven for 25 – 30 minutes.  Insert a cocktail stick into the centre to ensure they are cooked.  The cocktail stick should come out clean.

Place on a rack to cool and then let the kids tuck in!

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Aubergine, goat’s cheese & squash salad

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Despite rather cloudy, overcast days, the sun has been making a consistent appearance in the evenings of late providing a great opportunity for some al fresco evening dining!  I’ve been experimenting with a few different salads to have on their own or as an accompaniment to a barbecue.  Here is the recipe for one that passed the Lentil and Papa Lentil test (after a few goes at the dressing!).

Brown, green or puy lentils are usually best for salads as they retain their shape and texture after cooking.  However, I had run out of all of the above and only had split-red left in the cupboard.  The colour actually works well with the butternut squash!  Although they do go a little mushy when cooked: good for Coco and her three front teeth!

The What:

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1 aubergine, chopped into chunks

1/2 butternut squash, seeds removed

40g lentils (brown, green or puy – see above)

100g hard goat’s cheese (or you can use feta as an alternative)

1 red onion, sliced

a knob of unsalted butter

Olive oil for drizzling

Some spinach leaves (optional)

For the dressing:

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp honey

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

5 tbsp olive oil

a little black pepper

Tip: I usually make my dressings in an old jam jar so I can close the lid and give it a good shake to mix it well.

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The how:

Preheat the oven to 200 (180 fan).

Place the butternut squash on a baking tray and brush with the melted unsalted butter.  Bake in the oven for 10 minutes initially.

Meanwhile, place the aubergine chunks on another baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.  When the butternut squash has cooked for 10 minutes, add the aubergine to the oven and cook both for a further 25 minutes.

Rinse the lentils and then put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes (until soft).

Heat a little olive oil in a saute pan and cook the onion on medium heat until caramelised.  Set aside to cool.

Once the butternut squash is cooked, chop into chunks and place in a salad bowl along with the aubergine, lentils, onions and spinach leaves (if using). Break up the goat’s cheese and place on top.

For the dressing add the balsamic vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and pepper to the jar (or a bowl) and mix well.  Next add the olive oil, close and shake well to fully combine. Drizzle the salad with the dressing or serve on the side.

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For the adults a chilled glass of fruity white wine is a good accompaniment to this salad!

Wedding photos - Carlo Gorgio 582

xx

Couscous muffins and quinoa “cakes”

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Whilst browsing my Twitter feed this week, I came across an interesting little recipe for quinoa bites from Organix and thought I’d give it a go. You’ll find the recipe at https://www.organix.com/food-planner-recipes/recipes/quinoa-bites.  Despite the growing popularity for this pseudocereal (particularly as a low gulten, wheat-free alternative), it isn’t something I’ve ever used before myself, although I have eaten it.  This made me even more curious to try out these little bites.

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They were quite easy to make and have passed the Lentil test, although we’ve renamed them “quinoa cakes”.  We’ve had a few birthdays recently, which Lentil now “gets” and as a result anything with “cake” in the name seems to go down a treat! A collective of birthdays has also meant listening to Lentil sing “happy birthday” at least four times a day such that I can’t get the tune out of my head…..

I’ve also been meaning to create a healthy little snack with couscous for a while.  I thought a cheesy couscous ball would pass the Lentil taste test.  But my couscous balls have become mini muffins as despite going into the oven as perfect almost equally sized spheres they came out anything but perfectly rounded!

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Makes 30 mini muffins, so good for parties or you can freeze some.

The what:

160g couscous

4 medium eggs, lightly beaten

1 large onion, finely chopped

70g Parmesan, grated

30g mozzarella, grated

2 tsp sage, finely chopped

large handful (approx 1tbsp) parsley, finely chopped

The how:

Pre-heat oven to 200 (180 fan).

For the couscous follow instructions on the pack.  Generally, this involves putting the couscous into a large bowl, adding about 200ml boiling water, mixing and covering for 5 minutes).  Then leave it to cool.

Add all the other ingredients to the cooled couscous and mix well.  Cover a baking tray with parchment/baking paper, mold your couscous balls / muffins and place on the paper.  Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!