Tag Archives: The Happy Foodie

Tea’s on the table

It’s not often that I get so engrossed in a new cookbook that I end up pretty much cooking every recipe from cover to cover.  However, the latest offering from Ebury Publishing to land on the doormat was something rather special.  If you are a mother (or father – let’s not have any gender stereotyping here, dear Reader) and you love cooking, this is the book for you.  It’s a wonderful example of how family cookbooks should be – completely unpatronising and all about cooking dishes that the whole family can enjoy together.  Dear Reader, I give you The 5 o’clock Apron: Proper Food for Modern Families by Claire Thomson, mother of 3, chef, restaurant owner and all round fab foodie (in no particular order).

The 5 o'clock Apron2

With poor old Poppy ill for the last month with tonsillitis and then various mystery bugs, the book could not have been more timely.  Tempting her to eat has been pretty tricky so I was exceptionally grateful for some new culinary delights to cajole her back into nosh.  Easy Peasy Rose ice cream was a godsend and easily whipped up in minutes for a little one who could not eat much.  I tested it out on some grown ups too at a dinner party and they’ve been clamouring for the recipe ever since.  Just for the record, I am NOT sharing this one – it’s too good to share.

Trying new things is what this book is all about.  With that in mind, I had a go at making some Labneh – a recipe that was completely new on me.  This yoghurt based soft cheese is so easy to do and tastes wonderful in both savoury and sweet variations – it has been a revelation to be honest.  Who would have thought that with almost no kit and just some salt and yoghurt, that you could knock up a delicious cheese overnight?  Genius.  I shall be making this with the girls over and over again.

Labneh

Perhaps the reason I loved Claire’s book so much is that I could really relate to the reasons she decided to pen these recipes.  I often find myself cooking meals for the children and then something else for Jerry and me and the time it takes to cook more than just one meal is time I could be doing other things…….(daily mantra: get that piece of writing finished, Margot).  I think that we all make the mistake of thinking that children can’t cope with gutsy flavours or aren’t interested in trying new things.  Well with most, that simply couldn’t be further from the truth.  Certainly when it came to testing out Claire’s new recipes on Poppy and Primrose, moving away from our boring midweek staples of lasagne and chicken risotto made the food much more exciting!  As Claire writes in her book, “Make food interesting”.

Delicious Chard Borek - a great handheld after school supper.

Delicious Chard Borek – great handheld after school fodder.

Honestly dear  Reader, there is not a dud recipe in this cookbook.  So I urge you to step away from Wednesday night’s spag bol rut and liven up the supper table with recipes such as Chicken Shawarma and hummus, Cassoulet or Sweet and Sour Chicken Wings with ‘slaw.  Why not have Snail bread for breakfast or Ginger Beer scones for afternoon tea?  It’s not about making mealtimes more time-consuming or complicated.  Believe me – this book will SAVE you time!  Make The 5 O’clock Apron the family cookbook you buy this year.  You won’t regret it.

chicken wingsHave a look at some of Claire’s fab recipes from The 5 O’clock Apron on The Happy Foodie site too.

Take Five

Getting enough fruit and veg into my lovely lot is never far from my thoughts at mealtimes here at Margot and Jerry HQ, not least because now we have begun to grow our own in the kitchen garden too.  I say, kitchen garden, dear Reader…..  I think that a more adequate description at present would be – 1 raised bed with a handful of rather battered seedlings which have been gobbled at by fat pigeons with a voracious appetite for brassicas.  It would be safe to say that the kitchen garden definitely needs work.  However, just in the nick of time, a rather lovely box of gleamingly healthy vegetables appeared by the back door, courtesy of Abel and Cole, – something to save us from the great kitchen garden famine of 2015.  Abel and Cole

With it, came the arrival of a new cookbook from Ebury Publishing – Rachel de Thample’s Five: 150 effortless ways to eat 5+ fruit and veg a day.  The perfect combination for my latest #Happyfoodie challenge, dear Reader – 5 new recipes in 5 days.FIVE cookbook

Rachel’s book is not just for vegetarians (there’s something for meat eaters too) but there is an emphasis on eating ‘less meat, more veg’.  With plenty of portable snacks, quick lunches and feast menus on offer, there’s certainly food for thought between the pages with a large helping of fruit and veg!  Some lovely ideas for foraging for ingredients too.  Changing habits is never easy and although I am known for my ninja style hidden vegetables in dishes, the book armed me with plenty of new ideas of how to introduce more fruit and veg into our diets without any extra fuss or each meal becoming completely vegetarian.

Espresso mushrooms with tagliatelle (3 portions of veg per serving) – an odd pairing of coffee and mushrooms you might think but surprisingly delicious.  The coffee takes a backseat on the tastebuds but it really makes the mushroom sing with its earthy flavours.  I had spaghetti to hand in the larder rather than tagliatelle but Rachel’s little notes that accompany the recipe give plenty of alternatives if you don’t have the exact ingredients to hand or need to swap them for any reason.  This dish won Jerry over straight away so definitely one to commit to culinary memory.  A delicious Monday meat free supper which can be whipped up in 20 minutes.

Espresso mushroom tagliatelle

Tuesday and Chloe Chickpeas with Spiced Lamb Skewers and Herb Yogurt (4 portions of veg per serving).  With snow on the ground at home, this was a wonderfully  warming North African number with a gentle chilli and cinnamon spicing in the chickpeas.  The best bit of the dish has to have been the  lamb and aubergine skewers marinated in yoghurt and Rachel’s recipe for homemade garam marsala.  I had no idea garam marsala was so easy to make so I will adding this to my list of homemade ingredients from now on.

Chloe chickpeas and lamb skewers

Wednesday’s #fivechallenge saw the most delicious recipe so far.  A cosy supper for Jerry and I of French Puy and Green Beans with Chicken and Mustard Crème Fraiche (3 portions per serving).  Heaven on a plate and lots of healthy veggies to boot!

French puy and green bean

Time for a change to my normal coffee fuelled Thursday morning.  Rachel’s recipe for Grapefruit and Ginger teaa sheer delight and so simple to make.  Zingy, cosy, a great way to detox or swap your usual caffeine and with 1 portion of fruit in the pot, another easy way to get that #fiveaday.

Grapefruit and ginger tea

The last of the five?  Rosy Pomegranate Panna Cotta (1 portion per serving)a great dinner party pud made in 10 minutes and set in just an hour.  Dusky pink and pillow soft set in a little coffee cup, served with some poached rhubarb in rose water.

Rosy pomegranate panna cotta

Achieving 5 a day have never seemed so easy and Rachel’s book is filled with recipes for breakfast, fruit shakes, lunch, supper, health giving stews (Greek Penicillin) and tea time treats such as Apple Peanut Butter muffins.  Think my Saturday might have to include the Spanakopita Toastie.  If getting your five a day is as tasty as this, then I think that I could get used to more of it, dear Reader!

Do pop over to The Happy Foodie to take a look at all the #FIVEchallenges

Slow Cooked

The cold has finally set in here at the cottage.  With a couple of radiators refusing to do their job properly, we’ve taken to living in the kitchen again until the plumber can fit us in.  To be honest, I love the warmth of the kitchen and couldn’t live without our Everhot – its glow of soothing, hospitable snugness the perfect antidote to November wind and rain.  Everyone in the countryside needs something to warm bottoms, damp socks and trousers after long muddy walks yelling after a purposefully deaf spaniel who has strayed into the next county.  Time to rustle up some central heating of my own.

The perfect culinary cosiness arrived in the form of a lovely parcel from The Happy Foodie and Ebury Publishing, a new cookbook entitled Slow Cooked.  Written by Miss South, the girlie half of North South Food and presented with fresh and bright photography from her equally talented and foodie brother, Mister North, this is a cookbook determined to reinvent the slow cooker for a new generation of cooks.  A self-taught cook who hails from Belfast but now lives in SW London (Mister North is unsurprisingly living….up North), Miss South has featured in Observer Food Monthly, BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme and was a winner of the Young British Foodies Fresh Voices in Food Writing Award 2013.

Slow Cooked Flat book

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Cooking full circle

Time for a spot of cooking!  It seems ages since I last shared a recipe over here so when The Happy Foodie asked me to take a little culinary challenge, well I simply couldn’t resist, dear Reader!

As anyone who knows me well knows, new cookbooks are pure heaven to me. I simply can’t resist flicking through tantalising recipes, thinking of occasions that I might try one out – some of them are even to be found on the bedside table for just before bed reading! So when I came across Rosie Ramsden’s new cookbook, The Recipe Wheel, I was intrigued to find something rather more exciting than a collection of delicious treats to cook and serve up.

Rosie Ramsden's fab new book, The Recipe Wheel

Rosie Ramsden’s fab new book, The Recipe Wheel

The concept is simple but innovative at the same time. There are series of mind maps – one basic recipe at the centre of the wheel which can be adapted to suit any occasion, mood or variety of ingredients: Cooking for Friends, something for a Night In, creating a dish to Impress, hassle-free No Frills recipes and even ideas for what to do with those Leftovers. The core of one recipe ‘mind map’ could be Roast Chicken and then with Rosie’s creative recipe wheel, this basic recipe is translated into a Chicken and Mango curry for a Night In or a delicious dish to Impress like Chicken salad with Blood Orange. No hard and fast rules which allows the cook to mix and match ingredients and be creative with a dish. Sounds brilliant, doesn’t it? Perhaps one of the best things about the recipe wheel is that it gives great ideas for leftovers too.

Inspired by Rosie’s recipe wheel idea, I wondered if I could have a go at creating my own wheel using an ingredient at the centre of the wheel rather than a dish. Take the humble courgette – there always seems to be one or two lingering at the bottom of the vegetable drawer in our fridge and I’m always trying to think of new ways to jazz up the way I use it. You know that this Margot loves all things foodie, dear Reader! The garden is certainly showing signs of there being tons of them in our little veg patch before long and so Rosie’s recipe wheel revelation couldn’t have come sooner! With a little bit of thought and to kick off Margot’s new Kitchen blog post page where I’ll be featuring recipes of all sorts, I created my own wheel with a little illustrative help from Primrose (aged 5, she draws courgettes and everything else so much better than I do):

My very own courgette wheel!

My very own courgette wheel!

All of my recipes are courgette based, some using a little to add background flavour, some where it is the star of the show and some fancier than others but, just like Rosie’s fab recipe wheel idea, each dish suits a particular mood or occasion. Jerry certainly hasn’t complained about my 5 new ways with courgettes and he’s a self-certified carnivore.

Friends: Courgette and feta fritters with lemon and mint dipping sauce

Night in: Almost Ratatouille (my very own take on that fab Provençal number)

Impress: Courgette, sorrel and pea risotto served with zucchini fritti and basil oil

Leftovers: Arancini with roasted tomato sauce

Bitten by the bug, I’ve been thinking of recipe wheel ideas ever since and have already tried quite a few dishes from The Recipe Wheel. It’s amazing that no one has thought to put together a recipe book like this before. No more endless thumbing to the index to work out recipes using up the ingredients in the fridge, no more wondering about how you can elevate a recipe you’ve been churning out for years – Rosie’s done that all for you! She’s certainly given me lots of new ideas.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourites from this week – Get Creative: Smoked salmon bruschetta with sweet courgette relish. A perfect dinner party starter that allows you to spend your time with a chilled glass of rosé rather than slaving over the stove when your guests arrive.

Sweet courgette relish (makes enough for a dinner party starter for 4)

1/2 courgette, grated

1 spring onion, chopped finely

1 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard

1 tsp runny honey

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or apple balsamic vinegar

black pepper and salt

a good handful of fresh dill

Couldn’t be easier…..  Into a mixing bowl, grate the courgette and add the finely chopped spring onion.  To this, add mustard, cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper.  Using a little whisk, whisk the wet ingredients into the courgette and spring onion and taste.  Now add a handful of chopped fresh dill and leave for 1 hour in the fridge in a jam jar for the flavours to infuse.

Bruschetta part: Make some rough croutons using French bread sliced on the diagonal, drizzle over some olive oil and bake in a hot oven (180 degrees centigrade/350F/gas mark 4) until golden.  Leave to cool.

To 2 heaped tbsp of crème fraiche, add 1 tsp of horseradish, a squeeze of lemon and a tiny pinch of salt – mix well.  Using a teaspoon, place a small amount of the flavoured creme fraiche onto your toasted croutons, add a piece of smoked salmon to finish.  Garnish with more fresh dill and serve with the sweet courgette relish on the side.

Now all you need is someone to pour you a drink – summery heaven!  Long may this glorious sunshine last!

Get Creative: Smoked salmon bruschetta with sweet courgette relish

Get Creative: Smoked salmon bruschetta with sweet courgette relish