Courgette gratin

Courgette and tomato bake

Gratin is a French term for a dish that is baked and has a browned crust on top. This dish is usually made with aubergines but I think it is also very nice with courgettes and if like us at this time of year you are looking for recipes which use the courgettes and tomatoes from the garden, this dish is perfect.

Courgettes are not very nutrient dense but do contain some immune-boosting vitamin C and blood pressure regulating potassium and of course fibre. Tomatoes contain good amounts of vitamin A for eye health and immunity and lycopene which has cancer-protective properties, as well as fibre. If you are using fresh tomatoes, the nutrient level can be increased by storing them at room temperature rather than in the fridge.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

2 large courgettes, sliced

Butter and olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and sliced thinly

350g/ ¾ lb tomatoes, skinned and chopped

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried basil

sea salt and ground pepper

175g/6 oz cream cheese softened with 2 tablespoons of milk

4 tablespoons grated cheddar

4 tablespoons dried breadcrumbs *

1 tablespoon butter

 

*the breadcrumbs can be made by grinding up a stale piece of bread in the food processor after first cutting the crusts off.

Method:

Heat a little butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan.

Add the courgette slices, enough to cover the bottom of the pan, and fry until browned on both sides.

Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

Fry the rest of the courgette this way, and set them aside on kitchen paper.

In the same pan, fry the onion until golden brown. Stir in the tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Cook gently for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture begins to soften.

Remove from the heat and season to taste.

Take a baking dish and put one third of the courgette and tomato mixture in the bottom.

Spoon half of the cream cheese on top.

Repeat these layers finishing with the cream cheese on top.

Mix the cheese and breadcrumbs together and sprinkle over the top of the dish.

Cook at 180°C for 30 minutes.

This can be served with meat and a potato dish, or on its own with potatoes to make a meal.

Enjoy!

 

 

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Lemon cake

Lemon cake

This is a simple loaf cake, easy to make, lemony and delicious. Perfect for Mother’s Day or any occasion (Saint Patrick’s Day?). There is something spring-like about lemons. They are refreshing and cleansing. They are the colour of daffodils. What’s not to love? I have reduced the sugar a bit in this recipe but it will still taste sweet and you can increase the fibre by using half wholemeal flour. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

8 oz (225g) butter or margarine

6 oz (175g) caster sugar

juice and zest of 1 lemon

3 eggs

8 oz (225g) plain flour (variations: use half wholemeal and half plain for more fibre, or substitute 2 oz, 50g with ground almonds)

3 teaspoons of baking powder

Method:

  1. Line a 8 x 21 cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
  3. Beat together the butter or margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy. This is the most important step.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time and if the mixture curdles add a tablespoon of the flour, with each egg.
  5. Then add the lemon zest and lemon juice and beat again.
  6. Fold in the rest of the flour.
  7. Put the mixture into the loaf tin and spread out with a pallet knife. Sprinkle the top with 2 tablespoons of sugar.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a knife comes out clean from the middle.
  9. Cool in the tin on a wire rack before turning it out.

Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

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Apologies, it has been such a long time since my last blog. It has been a busy time with work, family birthdays, and Christmas preparations, but now it is time to get back on track and time for a new recipe.

This is one that I like to cook on Saturday night as it is quick and easy and comforting. It uses mostly ingredients you have in the store cupboard or freezer, but can be made extra special by the addition of some fresh coriander and fresh lime juice.

I am using brown rice to add extra fibre, because most of us don’t eat enough.

You can also use a mixture of butternut squash and sweet potato or other types of squash.

I have used the coconut cream you buy in a block as this involves less wastage (a little of this goes a long way), and less unwanted chemicals, though you can use the tinned coconut milk if you prefer (use a quarter of a tin). The fat in coconut cream and milk is mostly saturated and government advice is to not have more than 10% of your energy from this or about 20g per day. This recipe will give you roughly 15g saturated fat, so just below this.

Prawn and butternut squash red thai-style curry

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2/3rd of a mug of brown rice (dried)

boiling water

olive oil

½ onion, finely chopped

250g butternut squash, deseeded, peeled and cut into cubes

1 red pepper, washed, deseeded and cut into medium-sized chunks

a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

pinch of chilli flakes

2 teaspoons curry spices such as garam masala

cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of tomato puree

1/8 of a block of coconut cream

1 tsp of mango chutney or ½ teaspoon of sugar

200g frozen prawns

squeeze of lemon or lime juice

salt to taste

Method:

  1. Prepare the ingredients as above. Put the prawns in a bowl of cold water to defrost them a bit.
  2. Wash the rice in boiling water. Then add double the volume of water so for 2/3rd of a mug of rice add 1 1/3 mugs of boiling water. Put in a saucepan with a lid on a very low heat and leave for 20-25 mins. When cooked all the water should have disappeared, if it is too dry add more water.
  3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion for a minute, then add the red pepper, ginger, garlic, curry powder, chilli flakes and cayenne and stir fry for a few minutes.
  4. Add 250ml boiling water and crumble in the coconut cream, mango chutney and tomato puree.
  5. Stir well and bring to the boil, then add the butternut squash and simmer covered for 15 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender.
  6. Drain the prawns and run them under the cold tap to remove the excess ice. Then add them to the pan and bring back to the boil. Add the lime or lemon juice and cook for a few minutes to ensure the prawns are heated through. Taste it and add salt to taste.
  7. Serve on warmed plates sprinkled with chopped coriander and with the rice.

Pan-fried seabass with parsley potatoes, carrots and green beans

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This sea bass dish incorporates healthy fats within a balanced meal. It is quick and easy to make so is the perfect mid-week dinner. It also works well with other types of fish such as trout, mackerel or salmon (though you may need to adjust the cooking time).

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 seabass fillets (approximately 200g)

1xtablespoons of olive oil

Slice of lemon

Salt and pepper, freshly ground

6-8 new potatoes

butter

2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, washed and chopped

2 carrots

2 handfuls of green beans

  1. Wash the potatoes and add to a pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes or until they are soft.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the other vegetables. Peel and chop the carrots. Wash and slice the beans.
  3. Place them in a pan of water and bring to the boil. Simmer with the lid on for 8 minutes.
  4. Lastly prepare the fish. Season it with freshly ground salt and pepper.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan to a medium heat.
  6. Fry the fish for about 4 minutes each side.
  7. Turn off the heat and squeeze the lemon over the top.
  8. Drain the potatoes. Add a couple of knobs of butter and the chopped parsley. Toss the potatoes around in the butter and parsley to cover them.
  9. Drain the beans and carrots.
  10. Serve on warmed plates.

Beetroot and tomato salad

Beetroot and tomato salad

Around this time of year our fridge is full of beetroot, courtesy of my Dad’s allotment. If you don’t grow it yourself, beetroot is available pre-cooked in supermarkets and now is a great time to eat it. Often called a superfood, beetroot is rich in nutrients including calcium, B-carotene (which is converted into vitamin A), folate (naturally occurring folic acid) as well as some vitamin C, iron and zinc and several other nutrients. It is fairly high in sugars giving it a sweet taste but it also contains a good amount of fibre.

Eating beetroot has been associated with many health benefits such as antioxidant and immune-boosting properties, helping to maintain a healthy gut, supporting the liver and helping to reducing blood pressure.

As far as taste goes, beetroot tends to be a bit like marmite, you either love it or hate it, but given that it is packed full of nutrients and it grows well in this country, it is well worth adding it to your diet in the summer.

Excellent in salads (but best kept in a separate pot if you are taking a salad to work as it will turn everything pink!), it also works well in chocolate cake and brownies. The leaves are nutritious and can be used in salads.

Beetroot goes really well with tomato which is what goes into this really simple salad.

Ingredients:

One medium beetroot per person

2-3 tomatoes per person

Handful of fresh parsley (optional)

Olive oil

White wine vinegar

Method:

Slice the beetroot.

Slice the tomato.

Arrange on a plate.

Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar (to taste).

Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve with some protein and some carbs, such as bread and cheese, grilled mackerel and boiled new potatoes, or grilled chicken and jacket potato.

Strawberry cupcakes and picnics

 

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Now we are firmly in summer there is more opportunity for eating outside and even picnicking. Even the Queen recently celebrated her 90th birthday with a picnic-hamper lunch, so what better time to explore options for outdoor eating.

Strawberries go very well with outdoor eating, or if you are feeling adventurous try this strawberry cupcake recipe (see below). I have reduced the sugar, replaced some of the flour with wholemeal flour, and replaced the icing with cream for better nutritional value.

Besides cakes there are lots of options for summer picnics, and they usually involve lots of plastic boxes (with well-fitting lids!). Rice, cous-cous or potato salad are all easily transportable. It is best to keep salad item
s separate to avoid leakage. Tomatoes, radishes, chunks of cucumber (sliced thickly), radishes, and green salad are all excellent at picnics. Wholemeal rolls with butter and cheeses such as cheddar, or brie go well. Chicken portions, quiche, or even Spanish tortilla (the latter two can both be made vegetarian) also work well outdoors. For pudding fruit such as strawberries or other berries are good  and cakes which can be easily transported, such as these strawberry cakes (with or without the cream).

Strawberry Cupcakes

Makes 18-20 small cakes.

5oz (140g) caster sugar

3oz (80g) plain flour

4oz (110g) spelt or wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking powder

4oz (110g) strawberries

7oz (170g) butter

4 eggs

To serve:

double cream, whipped,

strawberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan)/180°C /gas mark 4 and line two 12-whole muffin trays with cupcake cases.
  2. Put the sugar and butter in a food processor and mix until light and fluffy, or beat with a hand whisk. Gradually add the eggs, one at a time. Beat until smooth.
  3. Next slice the strawberries and beat these in for a few seconds.
  4. Next add the flours and baking powder and fold it in, or use the pulse setting, until all the flour is combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cup cake cases until they are about two-thirds full.
  6. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they are firm when pressed.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes and then place on a wire rack.
  8. Whip the cream, wash the strawberries and serve with these, or take these separately to serve on your picnic. They can also be eaten plain, as they are.

Enjoy!

 

 

What inspires you to cook?

Fish pie 003

Fish pie

A few weeks ago the BBC announced that it was closing the BBC Food website in order to save money. This prompted massive protest and a petition signed by 90,000 people.

Chefs including Nigella Lawson, the Hairy Bikers and James Martin contribute to the site. Thankfully the BBC announced that it will move as many recipes to the BBC Good Food website.

I am a big fan of BBC Good Food. It has thousands of recipes which are easily searchable. It is a good resource to find recipes from food programmes that are on the BBC, without having to buy the whole book.

This week I have picked out some recipes from BBC Food that have inspired me. It is worth having a look at the website before it is lost.

I tried these breakfast bars by Nigella, but I substituted some of the exotic ingredients for bog-standard ones such as raisins (instead of cranberries) and sunflower seeds (instead of chia seeds). It worked just as well,or you can go exotic if you have the time and the budget!

I made this fish bake inspired by Jamie Oliver’s recipe. Jamie uses ½ pint of cream in his recipe, which serves 4. If you are uncomfortable with using cream, you can make a roux sauce with flour and milk.

There has been some talk in the press about the low-fat high carb diet being bad advice for those wanting to lose weight and I would agree with this to a certain extent. If you eat more fat, you will be more satisfied by your meals. Eating carbs without any fat leads to hunger soon after a meal . Fat slows down the absorption of carbs into the blood, meaning you are less drawn to sugary, fatty (unhealthy) snacks in between meals.

The recipes and link to the BBC article are below.

Let me know which recipes you try.

Happy Cooking!

 

Nigella’s breakfast bars:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/breakfast_bars_20_09760

Jamie’s Tasty Fish Bake

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/tastyfishbake_73312

BBC article about closure of BBC Good Food: BBC unveils shake-up of online services including recipes, 17 May 2016, BBC News website

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36308976

Or search BBC Food for your own recipes, before it goes!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/