Category Archives: Dinner Time

Easy Peasy Turkey Burgers

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These turkey burgers are a big hit with my children and very easy to put together. They are also much healthier than beef, and I think equally tasty. I usually serve them with brown rolls and homemade fries, or just with a salad, but this week we broke our own rules and indulged in soft white rolls and oven chips, with a green salad on the side.

Ingredients
400g minced turkey
1 onion finely diced
2 garlic cloves finely diced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon extra fine Matzo meal

Add the minced turkey meat to a large mixing bowl and stir in the above ingredients. Make sure that the onion is very finely diced, ideally using an electric chopper. The same goes for the garlic – ideally use a garlic crusher and then finely chop anything remaining that you can’t squeeze through. If you have fresh herbs then these can also be used, but again they require very fine slicing. I find that the dried herbs mix in better and aren’t picked out by the children, as they are less identifiable! The fine matzo meal isn’t essential, but it helps to hold the burger patties together. It is essentially just crushed up crackers, and can be found in most supermarkets.

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Once the ingredients are mixed together, pick out small balls and flatten them into small burger-shaped patties. You can make them as big or as small as you like, but if they are too thick then it’s hard to cook them through. I cheated this time and pan fried them in rapeseed oil, but with the matzo meal they will hold together well enough to be put on the barbecue.

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Springtime Feta, Pesto and Red pepper Tart

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With the sunshine making a more regular appearance we’ve been enjoying lots of picnic lunches in our garden. I made this tart the other weekend, as it’s so easy to make with the kids and is perfect for an alfresco lunch. The kids even nibbled a bit of it too and enjoyed the cooked feta cheese.

Chop up one large red pepper, a red onion and a handful of cherry tomatoes and put them in the oven to roast, along with a dash of olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. You can also use a mix of yellow peppers and courgettes. In the meantime roll out the pastry onto a piece of baking parchment, although I am a super cheat and buy ready rolled puff pastry. Then use a pasty brush to coat the pasty with pesto, and then crumble a block of feta cheese all over. Once the vegetables are partly roasted (approximately 30 minutes at 180 degrees), spread them on top and put the tart in the oven to cook. Remove once the pastry is crispy and golden, then serve in the garden with a cucumber and tomato salad, and relax!

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Funky Fish Fingers

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Fish fingers are often a sure-fire way to introduce some fish into your kids diet if they turn their noses up at fish that actually looks like fish! This recipe is a healthier and tastier twist on the supermarket varieties. I found the recipe in the free Tesco family food magazine, which has a special section devoted to cooking with kids. The photography is often inspiring and it has lots of ideas for easy weekday meals. The recipes are simple enough for kids to follow and are often a new take on old favourites, like this one.

The Tesco Website is also a great resource (http://realfood.tesco.com/cooking-with-kids.html), although the website publishes different recipes to the magazine, so it’s definitely worth picking up a copy if you are ever in the store.

Here is the basic fish finger recipe:

2 x 400g white fish fillets, skinned de-boned and cut into fish finger chunks
2 medium eggs lightly beaten
100g Panko breadcrumbs (available in most major supermarkets)
1 unwaxed lemon, zested (or 3 tsps of bottled lemon juice)
2 tbsp Parsley, finely chopped (Freeze dried worked just as well)
3 tbsp Parmesan, grated (I used a tub of dried parmesan and it worked just as well)
2 tbsp Plain flour

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Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl and add the Parmesan, parsley and lemon zest (or a teaspoon of juice from a bottle). Add the beaten eggs to one bowl, flour to another and the breadcrumb mixture to a third bowl or plate. Then begin coating the fish by first dipping the fillets in the flour, then the egg and finally the breadcrumb mixture, moving them around until fully coated. My children managed to share the process of dipping and dunking in the different bowls. It was a messy business, but seemed to work well without causing any arguments!

Finally, you can either place the fillets on a non-stick baking tray and oven bake for around 20 minutes, or fry them in Rapeseed oil. If you fry, then remove excess oil using kitchen roll after frying. Serve with potato wedges and peas.

Speedy Salmon Pasta

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This is my kind of fast food, as it’s super quick but still quite healthy. As you will see from previous posts, I’m rather a fiend for broccoli as it’s my favourite vegetable – it’s a real super food if you steam it, and it teams well with most dishes. I’ve given it to my children so often that it’s the one vegetable they will eat without question. I always have at least a few broccoli florets in the fridge and frozen salmon fillets in the freezer for emergencies, as they cook so quickly. However, if you don’t have fresh broccoli then frozen peas will work just as well.

Ingredients:
Penne pasta – 1-2 handfuls per child, 3 handfuls per adult
Broccoli – 3 large florets per person, 2 per child
Mascarpone cream cheese or fresh cream – 1 dessert spoon per adult
Parmesan cheese – 1 dessert spoon of either freshly grated or dried parmesan per adult
Salmon – Half a fillet per person
Pine Nuts – Toasted in a frying pan until lightly brown using a drizzle of rapeseed oil
The amounts are a rough guide as you can add more or less according to appetites, or what is left in your fridge!

Put the frozen salmon fillet straight into the oven with a little butter and pepper, and cook for about 20 minutes at 180 degrees. Then cook the pasta and steam the broccoli. If you don’t have a steamer then the broccoli can be cooked over the pasta pan using a stainless steel steaming basket (£4.99 from Amazon UK) or microwave in a covered pyrex bowl with added water. Steam the broccoli until it is soft but still has a bit of a bite to it; if it’s overcooked until mushy then it will have lost some of the nutrients.

Drain the pasta and mix with the broccoli or peas, then stir through the mascarpone cream cheese while the pasta is still hot, along with two dessert spoons of Parmesan cheese (I keep a tub of dried parmesan in the cupboard as a substitute for fresh if I haven’t had time to plan ahead, but it’s also cheaper). Finally, flake the cooked salmon on top. I season with lots of pepper for myself, but leave it without for the children, as the cheese seems to do the trick.

If you are feeling indulgent then the salmon fillet can be substituted for a few slices of smoked salmon, which is delicious pan-fried and broken up into tiny flakes. You can get away with much less as it is quite salty. I also add toasted pine nuts for myself if I have some in the cupboard, but the children tend to pick them out!

Cheat’s Fish Pie!

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I was visiting a friend recently and found her in the kitchen practically mopping her brow from sweat as she finished off making a huge batch preparation of fish pie for her kids. As she removed a large pot of mashed potato, I mucked in to help portion it out on top of the twenty or so ramekins she had already filled with her delectable fish pie mix. Each one was then covered in silver foil, dated with a sticker and put in the freezer. This was real Super Mum behaviour and I suddenly felt very inferior knowing there were no ramekins gracing my own freezer shelves!

So, I went home that evening determined to do the same, but I knew that if I was going to freeze 20 portions of anything it would have to be something my kids would love – a tasty meal that could be whipped out of the freezer to save the day! I looked up a lot of fish pie recipes, many of which suggest adding in extra things such as cooked eggs and even tomatoes, dill and fresh parsley, but I wasn’t convinced that any of these would be the life-saver I was looking for. I also wanted to emanate my friend, but didn’t want to spend a day in the kitchen and use all my kitchen utensils in the process. So I came up with a version that I call ‘cheat’s fish pie’ as I take a terribly lazy approach to this recipe, but feel it is definitely all the better for it.

I don’t source the different cuts of fish separately, but instead buy several packets of the fish pie mix that you can find in the large supermarkets. The big cheat is that I don’t spend hours making mashed potato either – I buy good quality ready mashed potato, which has no added salt, just cream and butter. This is the big time-saver and it’s also far more creamy and delicious than any mash I can make and easy to portion out.

Ingredients:
3 x 400g packets of fish pie mix (cod, salmon and smoked haddock)
2 x 400g packets of ready mashed potato (no added salt)
150g Frozen peas
Grated cheddar cheese
50g plain flour
50g butter
600ml milk
Ground nutmeg
Dried parsley

Heat a tablespoon of rapeseed oil in a large saucepan and add the fish to cook. After about 5 minutes you can throw in the frozen peas too. After another 5 minutes, drain the juices from the pan and set the fish aside. In a separate saucepan make the white sauce. Melt 50g of butter and cream together with 50g of plain flour, taking it off the heat briefly to do so. Then set on a high heat and rapidly stir in the milk, adding only a little at a time to avoid lumps and stirring all the while. Add a teaspoon of ground nutmeg and two teaspoons of dried parsley. Although fresh parsley could be nice I have just found that the children pick it out, but dried parsley does improve the flavour but goes unnoticed. You can now add this to the fish and peas and portion out.

Using these amounts I usually have enough for one sizeable family (of 4) fish pie to eat the same day and then about 8 ramekins to freeze. Add a generous portion of grated cheddar on top of the mashed potato if you are cooking on the same day, and cook for 30 minutes at 180 degrees (Fan oven) until bubbling and the cheese is melted and slightly browned. If the kids are in the kitchen, then this is the stage at which they can help, assuming the fish pie mix isn’t still piping hot. They can be great mashed potato divider uppers and cheese sprinklers! This recipe has been such a success. The only problem is that the kids usually want seconds, so I have had to find larger ramekins!

Tip: Once you have frozen with the mashed potato on top, then you can cook directly from frozen, in about 40 minutes, but remove after 15 minutes and add the cheese. If you are short of mashed potato then you can freeze without mash, cook from frozen for 15 minutes, then take out from the oven and then add both the mash and the cheese. I serve with steamed broccoli on the side.

Mighty Meatballs

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My daughter actually requested this for dinner tonight when we were walking around the supermarket. These meatballs are astonishingly easy to make and seem to be a real winner with both of my children.

Find good quality minced turkey (500g). This is a much healthier option than beef and actually just as tasty. In a large bowl combine it with half an onion that has been finely diced, a large clove of garlic and a handful of each of the following fresh herbs (or a teaspoon of the dried versions): Basil, thyme, parsley, sage. If they are fresh, then they should be finely chopped first. Mix well with the turkey and add a little pinch of sea salt and some pepper to season, but not a lot as they don’t need it with the herbs. Take small pinches of the mixture and form it into small balls. Heat a few good lugs of Rapeseed oil (see Product highlight for more details) in a non-stick frying pan and then drop the meatballs into this. Turn the meatballs once they have started to brown on one side and cook for several more minutes. Once cooked, remove and drain the oil off by blotting onto some kitchen paper. Serve with spaghetti just as they are (my daughter’s preference) or with a chunky tomato sauce, such as the Tideford Organic Tomato and Basil sauce, which I can highly recommend, and parmesan cheese if you are feeling indulgent.

White fish with tapendae, grated cheese and creamy mash

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Having failed to meal plan and to do my online food shop (too much time trying to get this blog set up!) and not having made it to the supermarket in the daytime, it was a case of cooking something from my staples in the fridge/freezer. Luckily I had a huge bag of fresh potatoes – the crop from a friend’s allotment.  As they are an Indian family and were about to celebrate Diwali, she was offloading potatoes as and when she could, so I had taken them gratefully.

The potatoes are what the Irish would call laughing potatoes, which means that once boiled the skin splits and can be easily peeled off.  These ones laughed so much that the skins practically peeled off themselves, so I threw in some double cream, a blob of butter and got my two year old son to mash them to his heart’s content, a task he seemed to relish.

In the meantime I found some white fish filets in the freezer, and it was my daughter’s task to help flavour these (straight from the freezer, no need to defrost). We dug out a jar of olive and sundried tomato tapendae, then grated some cheddar cheese, and made breadcrumbs from the end of a wholemeal loaf, then mixed the two together. My daughter was very methodical in layering the tapenade, and then the cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Although she does eat olives, she can be a little fussy when it comes to anything with tomatoes, so we decided to coat one of the filets with just cheese and breadcrumbs for her and her brother, in case they didn’t like it. We cooked the fish for 25 minutes in the oven and then dished up.

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The result:  A surprising success! My son began by eating the mashed potato, followed by the broccolli, definitely suspicious of the fish, but eventually I asked him just to try it, and then he couldn’t get enough. My daughter took the same approach, leaving the fish until last, but spurred on by my quip that “fish can make you clever” she took a few bites and was also hooked. It was only afterwards I realised I had accidentally given them one with the tapenade!