31 March 2015

Quinoa patties with avocado dip and crispy kale

Quinoa. I always feel a bit embarrassed saying it (I say "keenwah" by the way - what do you say?), let alone blogging about it. And the fact that my kids love it - genuinely - kind of makes my embarrassment even worse! It's become such a smug middle class ingredient, so symbolic of things that most normal mums find oh so annoying about perfect bloggers and their organically clothed children who feed their kids in Pinterest-worthy kitchens...

Please be very, very aware that I am not one of those people; my life is as far from perfect as it's possible to get! And yet... Quinoa.

I have battled with Quinoa. I want to eat it, despite its irritating connotations. This is because it is UBER healthy - and once you have a batch cooked, it's very handy to have in the house. Eat it cold in salads (like you would cous cous); add milk and maple syrup and warm in a pan for a 'porridge'; or, as here, fried up to make patties. I have tried it a few times before and never been that keen (wah - ha ha!). But I have finally cracked what I was doing wrong, and now I can honestly say the following: I LOVE QUINOA!

Cook it the right way first off: I boiled it with stock, the juice of a lemon and a good pinch of salt until all the water was soaked up (about 30 mins). 390g quinoa / 900ml stock makes a good amount to stash in the fridge.

This amount will yield enough for 2 meals at least. (I used the first lot to make griddled courgettes with quinoa and feta - we had this with roast chicken and maple glazed roots - a great Sunday meal). The second lot sat in the fridge for a week, until I made these. I served them with crispy kale (a total revelation by the way - you actually have to try this for a great healthy snack) and a smooth guacamole type dip. We had this for brunch on Saturday - and the kids really enjoyed it. I called them veggie burgers! Even Bea a who purports to hate avocado ate the dip, which I called "green mayo". She fell for it! Mwah ha haaaa!!

You could adapt the pattie recipe any way you see fit. Next time I might swap the feta for parmesan I think, maybe instead of chives I could go for parsley. Any leftover vegetables, chopped small would be good in there too. Pine nuts would add a lovely crunch.

This would make a great lunch or tea for a bunch of kids - especially if mums are there too. Be brave, do it - they will love it, I promise. And you will be henceforth known as the Quinoa Queen (which is what I now call myself).

Makes: about 12 patties (slider size)
Prop time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

About 340g leftover cooked quinoa (see above)
100g breadcrumbs - about 2/3 slices (I used gluten free wholegrain bread)
100g feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon of chopped chives
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Plus more oil for frying

For the crispy kale: 
1 large bag of kale
Extra virgin olive oil
Generous pinch of salt

For the avocado dip (smooth guacamole):
3 avocados
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Handful of chopped coriander
Juice of 1 lime


  1. Preheat the oven for the crispy kale. About 180 will do. 
  2. Mix all the ingredients for the patties in a bowl with your hands. Mould into pattie shapes and set aside. 
  3. Heat some oil in a pan and when hot, add the patties. Flatten them as they fry. They need about 7 minutes each side. 
  4. Whilst they are frying, make the dip by whizzing all the ingredients. 
  5. Toss the kale in oil and salt and scatter evenly on a large roasting tray or tin (you may need two trays). Roast for about 5-10 minutes, watching it closely as it can burn quickly. Turn the kale once during cooking. 
  6. Serve all together. Be amazed as your kids tuck happily into this healthy feast!

26 March 2015

Coconut dhal with sweet potato and spinach

This was one of my recipes for pressure cooker company Instant Pot, so it was made in a pressure cooker (obvs!). BUT that doesn't mean you can't make it in a normal pan, it just will take a wee while longer. Still, it'll be on the table in less than 30 minutes, I promise! 

You know when you make something very healthy, and it is mind-blowingly delicious, and you feel all happy and glow-y and joyous - that was me yesterday when I ate a big bowl of this for my lunch. 

It is creamy, and flavour-packed - and the crispy onion garnish (is it wrong to call the topping a tarka?) just really hits the spot! It's gorgeous on its own, but it would make a superb addition to a few other curries, or even Tandoori lamb chops (my other half makes the best TLCs - I have got to post them soon - you'll die when you taste them!)

One thing, in my last post I kind of said I was on a low FODMAP diet (to soothe my IBS like symptoms). Yeah, well, lentils (and onions and sweet potatoes) are on the high FODMAP list - unfortunately lots of healthy foods are high in FODMAPS. This nearly made me cry when I realised yesterday; I decided to enjoy it anyway. I am still laying off gluten and mammoth amounts of cows' milk (only drinking small amounts in tea) and that alone is still helping stave off any major symptoms. I just wanted to say that, yes, I fell off the wagon - so shoot me! Back on it today. Well, mostly...

Serves: 6
Prep time: 5 minutes 
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 thumb’s worth of ginger, peeled and diced finely
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
2 x 400g cans of coconut milk
350g red lentils
750ml vegetable stock (or water)
125g spinach
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of salt

For the garnish:
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
2 small onions, cut in half then sliced thinly
1 heaped teaspoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon of mustard seeds
½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar

To serve:
Fresh coriander
Fresh chillies, chopped

  1. Heat some coconut or vegetable oil in a pan and fry the onion, garlic, ginger (and 1 or 2 chopped chillies if you want some heat) off for about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add the coriander, turmeric, cumin and cook out for a few minutes until aromatic. 
  3. Tip in the sweet potato, and the lentils. 
  4. Pour in stock and 1 can of the coconut milk. Set the other one aside. 
  5. Cook the dhal until the lentils and vegetables are soft and the whole thing is silky. It should take about 20 or so minutes. 
  6. Add the spinach at the end, once the dhal is cooked, with a squeeze of lime and plenty of seasoning to taste. At this point you may wish to make it lighter, creamier and more viscous with some more coconut milk. (I reheated mine the next day and added the second can to loosen it as dhal does thicken on cooling.)
  7. To make the garnish, simply fry the coriander, mustard seeds and chilli flakes (leave these out if feeding kids) for a few minutes in oil. Then add the onions, salt and sugar. Fry until crispy. 
If making in a pressure cooker simply cook the dhal the same way, but for 5 minutes, adding the spinach just the same as above. 

24 March 2015

Rhubarb, strawberry and blueberry crumble (gluten free)

This past weekend I went on a food photography course at The Artisan School of Food. The course itself was great (recommend it if you are food blogger looking to sharpen up your skills) but it was the little added extras that you can't predict that really made it for me. The people were so lovely (so many different reasons for attending), the Wellbeck estate that the school is on was stunning, the lunch was delicious. As a mum it was just really nice to have some 'me time' and focus on something creative for a whole day.

The course was taken by Joan Ransley, who is a food writer and photographer. She also has this blog, Cooking for the Sensitive Gut, and is soon to publish a book on this subject. I don't talk about my dodgy gut here... (it's not a very appetising subject really is it?) but, yes, I do have tummy troubles - they tend to come and go in flare ups. Certain foods definitely seem to make my symptoms worse. I have tended to just live with is as it is so very inconvenient for a food blogger to have to avoid certain things!

Over lunch Joan mentioned the blog and her book. I was intrigued - a sensitive gut, that sounds familiar! I have suffered on and off with IBS type symptoms since I was diagnosed and (successfully) treated for ulcerative proctitis last year. But I have just been sweeping my symptoms under the carpet. At home I had a look at Joan's blog and decided to address my tummy troubles. Since then I have been avoiding all high FODMAP foods - these are types of foods that can aggravate a sensitive gut like mine. Do you know what? I have been considerably less symptomatic since I started on Sunday, four days ago. I don't know if I will do this forever, but for now, it's working great.

It has prompted me to make an appointment at the doctors and address my issues properly. If you are suffering from IBS type symptoms I recommend looking at this so called FODMAP diet - you may find, like me, that it really makes a difference. Here is a list of high and low FODMAP foods.

This crumble recipe is adapted from Joan's gluten free Rhubarb crumble recipe on her blog. I have added gut friendly strawberries (I know, they aren't in season but I have started buying them as my kids love them) and blueberries (same). I tossed in some desiccated coconut into the topping to give it added coconut flavour. It was divine - my son and I went crazy for it. I am gluten free at the moment but if you want, just use spelt or plain flour. This is a great way to use coconut oil in baking too - give it a go, even if you have a nice, normal gut (lucky you!)...

Serves: 8 people (simply halve proportions is you want a smaller crumble)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes

500g rhubarb, cut into 2cm chunks
400g strawberries, hulled and big ones cut in 2
125g blueberries
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the topping:
8 tablespoons of porridge oats
2 tablespoons of gluten free flour
4 tablespoons of brown sugar
3 tablespoons coconut oil (solid)
2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut
1 pinch salt


  1. Preheat oven to 180C. I used a large pie dish to make mine in (about 24cm).
  2. Mix the fruit and squeeze over lemon, add ginger and vanilla and mix. 
  3. Mix the dry ingredients: flour, salt, sugar, oats, coconut - and rub in the coconut oil as you would if it were butter. 
  4. Top the fruit with this mixture and bake for 30 minutes. 
  5. I allowed myself a very small serving of cream (it is high FODMAP) as I just can't eat crumble without it!

19 March 2015

Salmon, potato and broccoli traybake with gribiche sauce

I am obsessed with traybakes. I love thinking up combinations of things that can be roasted together to make a tasty and wholesome - and most importantly, easy - dinner that everyone will (hopefully) eat. My traybakes always have new potatoes at their base, as the size and waxiness of them makes them perfect for roasting like this. Then I add a veggie, here I chose roasted tenderstem broccoli (normal is fine too). This time I wanted to create a fish traybake, so I went for salmon fillets - we're eating them a lot at the minute as both kids enjoy them so much and they are just so easy and quick to cook. To bring it all together I made a gribiche-style dressing (I know, very fancy!) which I then tossed the veggies in once cooked and dribbled on top of the fish too.

Obviously the key to a traybake is making sure all things are cooked well - it's ideal if you can wang the lot in and forget about it for half an hour, but in this instance these ingredients don't all cook at the same rate. All that means is that you have to add the potatoes, then the broccoli and finally the salmon. You could end there and have a rather lovely supper. But I boiled some eggs whilst the vegetables roasted and used the hard boiled yolk of one to make this delicious, mayonnaise-like sauce. It sounds really faffy but a gribiche sauce is actually really simple and easy. And it is so, so tasty - the kids love it.

We had this as a midweek supper, but for many of you I know this would be too much work for a Wednesday, so maybe try it at the weekend? It'd be a lovely simple Sunday lunch. Once last thing about the salmon - feel free to remove the skin (it comes away very easily after roasting, or of course you could use skinless) but actually it crisps up really nicely in the oven so we like to leave ours on.

Check out my Cod, broccoli and chorizo traybake here, my Italian chicken with peppers traybake here, and my Spanish chicken and chorizo traybake! I told you I liked traybakes!

Serves: 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes

750g new potatoes
200g broccoli
4 salmon fillets
4 eggs (or more if you like!)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the gribiche sauce:
1 hard boiled egg yolk
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Handful of fresh chives, chopped quite finely (use fresh parsley if you can't get fresh chives)
Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C. 
  2. Halve your new potatoes and toss them in olive oil, season well and roast for about 20 minutes.
  3. Now for the eggs and the gribiche sauce... Whilst the potatoes are roasting, boil your eggs for 7 minutes. Once 7 minutes is up, run the cold tap on the pan to stop them cooking. Peel and set them aside, apart from one. Halve and scoop out the yolk. Mash the yolk (using a fork or a pestle and mortar) with a little oil to make a smooth paste. Then very slowly, drizzle in about 4 tablespoons of oil. Whisk so you have a smooth emulsion, adding the mustard and vinegar. Now make the sauce a little thinner by adding two more tablespoons of oil. And finally season and add the herbs. Taste and adjust accordingly if you like. 
  4. At about 20 minutes, when they are not far off, add the broccoli. Drizzle oil on the broccoli too. Roast for about 10 minutes - keep an eye on them so check they're not burning as the florets are very delicate. Turn your oven down if they are roasting too aggressively!
  5. Once the broccoli and potatoes are pretty much done, pop your salmon fillets on top and roast for 10 minutes.
  6. When the salmon is cooked, take out the traybake and remove them from the pan. Toss the vegetables in most of the sauce along with the rest of the quartered eggs, and then top with the salmon again. Dribble the remaining sauce over the salmon and sprinkle more herbs on top. 

18 March 2015

Giant cous cous with spiced squash and feta

Can you feel it? Spring is almost, just about, kind of in the air - at last! This healthy and colourful dish (which went down a storm at home, even with the kids) is the perfect, lighter, brighter dish. Just the thing I feel like eating when the sun starts to peek out. I served crispy skinned salmon fillets alongside, but you could just as well serve this as a standalone dish. In fact, me and the girl had it for lunch the next day - it keeps really well in the fridge (it'd be great packed up in a tupperware box for a picnic). 

I developed the recipe for Instant Pot, which is my choice of pressure cooker. I love it as it's electronic, so it's safe to leave plugged in if I need to dash out to pick one of the kids up or something. In this instance it cooked the squash in just a few minutes. Compare that to 15-20 minutes in a normal pan (instructions for normal pan and also the IP below). It's my belief that pressure cookers are set to become the next big thing - they are a total no brainer for mums. Slow cooking - but in a matter of minutes. (You can also slow cook in them too though, like for hours and hours if like as they are controllable.) If you like the sound of an Instant Pot, check out a few other recipes in my pressure cooker recipes category. 

Even if you don't have one, you can make this simple, easy side dish or salad in about 30 minutes. Next time I might toast some pine nuts and sprinkle them on top as well for added crunch. 

Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 4 minutes (plus 10 minutes to come to pressure) - with no pressure cooker this will be about 15-20 minutes
Total time: 24 minutes (no IP - 44 minutes)


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 thumbs’ worth of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite size chunks
425ml (3/4 pint) vegetable stock
300g (11oz) giant cous cous
Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Juice of lime, squeezed in to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
100g (3.5oz) feta, crumbled on top to serve
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Pressure cooker (Instant Pot) instructions:
  1. Set the IP to Sauté, heat a glug of oil, and cook the onion, ginger and garlic, softening for a few minutes.
  2. Add the spices, tomato puree and the cubed squash. Let it cook together with the spices for a minute or two, stirring.
  3. Pour the stock in. Bring to boil and then select Cancel
  4. Close and cook on high pressure, the valve set to Sealing, for 5 minutes on Manual.
  5. Fast release and tip in the giant cous cous. Pop the lid back on and let the steam and residual heat cook it for about 10-12 minutes.
  6. Remove lid, stir gently so as not to mush up the squash. Empty the contents of the IP into a large, cold bowl. Squeeze in the lime juice, season generously with pepper and a glug of extra virgin olive oil. Let it cool down.
  7. Once cool, add the chopped, fresh coriander and crumble the feta cheese on top, along with a drizzle of oil to finish.
Normal instructions: 
  1. Heat a glug of oil, and cook the onion, ginger and garlic, softening for a few minutes.
  2. Add the spices, tomato puree and the cubed squash. Let it cook together with the spices for a minute or two, stirring.
  3. Pour the stock in. Bring to boil and simmer until the squash is cooked through. It should take about 15 minutes or so. 
  4. Tip in the giant cous cous. Pop the lid back on and let the steam and residual heat cook it for about 10-12 minutes. Check and see if it's done. You may need a splash more stock that when using the pressure cooker, so just see and add a splash if required then replace the lid and let it steam / soak in. 
  5. Remove lid, stir gently so as not to mush up the squash. Empty the contents of the pan into a large, cold bowl. Squeeze in the lime juice, season generously with pepper and a glug of extra virgin olive oil. Let it cool down.
  6. Once cool, add the chopped, fresh coriander and crumble the feta cheese on top, along with a drizzle of oil to finish.
Disclaimer: I do recipe development for Instant Pot, but I was not paid to write this post. I genuinely love my IP! However, the link is still nofollow, as per Google guidelines.