Spinach Sweet Potato and Pea Seasonal Supergreen Soup

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I had the perfect excuse to make my favourite soup today, as my organic veg box this week contained leeks, sweet potatoes and spinach.  It’s quite worrying how happy this made me. Anyway, I have to pay homage to baby food guru Annabel Karmel for this recipe, as this in fact started off life as one of her baby food purees. See Annabel Karmel for more inspiration.

This was yet another failed attempt to get The Boy With The Sweet Tooth to eat something nutritious. Predictably, small boy wanted nothing to do with this purée, but it smelt amazing, so I added some seasoning and found I had a pretty life-changing soup on my hands. Thank god one of us liked it!  I can’t say I have ever tried a baby purée before (OK, well, apart from the ones I use to make my Paleo Porridge, obvs)  I find there is something a bit repulsive about blended food, I’m a bit squeamish about anything coming out of a nutribullet, even.  So, I promise you, this had to be something special to get me to try it.

I’ve played around with the original recipe, and as with most of of my recipes it’s all very free and easy so just adjust to how many leeks you need to use up or how many peas are at the bottom of the bag lurking in your freezer. This cries out for thickly buttered fresh brown bread to be dunked into it, but is equally nice as a virtuous snack on its own, or bulked up with some protein on the side. If I have a batch in the fridge I tend to have it as a mid-afternoon snack to keep the 4pm slump away. I always feel wonderfully wholesome after I have eaten this.  And ready to tackle the mayhem of kids teatime and witching hour. Well, maybe…

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RECIPE (serves about 4)

2 large sweet potatoes

large bag of spinach

3 leeks

about 200g frozen peas

water, stock or bone broth (about 200ml depending on how thick you like your soup)

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil

 

METHOD

1. Warm the oil or butter in a heavy based pan with a well fitting lid. Wash leeks well, chop and sweat on a low heat with the lid on for about 4-5 minutes.

2. Peel and chop sweet potatoes into roughly 1 inch chunks. Add to pan and sauté for a further minute or two.

3. Add approx 200ml bone broth/water or stock, I always add less as I like thick soup, and you can always top it up if it needs more when you blend it.  Season well and simmer for 10 mins or until potatoes are lovely and soft.

4. Wash spinach and gently squeeze out excess water, add to pan along with peas and simmer for a further 3 minutes or so.

5. Blend to desired consistency and tuck in!

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This is will keep well in the fridge for about 3 days and also freezes beautifully. You could always even try and give it to your baby (minus the salt), you may have better luck than me!

 

 

Paleo Porridge

 

Oats are supposed to be very good for us, so when I first learned of the Paleo diet I was sceptical about cutting them out of my diet. But I did often feel tired, sluggish and bloated after my morning porridge.  So first of all I made  Chia Porridge which I found left me feeling much less bloated and also fuller for longer. Yippee!! I then decided to see if I could make a porridge that was completely grain-free, and this is the result!

This is my go-to breakfast which I adjust to whatever I have in the cupboard. I make enough for 2-3 breakfasts at a time and keep in the fridge for a super speedy breakfast. I would describe it as a cross between Bircher muesli and porridge and it is DELICIOUS!  My daughter often requests this, she loves it so much, and it’s lovely sending her off to school knowing she has a tummy full of omegas, amino acids and protein to keep her going through the day. 10 reasons to eat chia seeds

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My secret ingredient is…. Baby food! Yep. Toddler apple purée. I buy Hipp or Organix purees in bulk when they are on offer so I can have different flavours and always have them on hand to make this.

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You are only heating this to speed up the soaking of the chia seeds, so leave it on a  low heat whilst you shout at the kids to get dressed/make packed lunches/referee fights, etc.

RECIPE (serves 2-3 depending upon greed levels)

I tend to really just thrown things in the pan when I make this so it is a recipe in the loosest sense. Feel free to adjust accordingly.

1 100g tub fruit purée (my fave is Hipp Apple and Pear)

About 2/3 mug full almond milk/water

About 1/4 mug full chia seeds

V. small handful raisins/chopped dates/apricots

2 tsps cinnamon

1 large or 2 small apples, grated

pinch salt

2 tbsp (ish) ground almonds

Ground flaxseed/pumpkin seeds/chopped walnuts

METHOD

1. Warm first 5 ingredients in pan for 5-10 minutes until chia seeds soak up liquid and produce a frog-spawn like texture 😂  The heat speeds up the soaking of the chia seeds. Alternatively, you can soak them for an hour or overnight and skip straight to next step. If soaking rather than cooking, you can have this like a Bircher muesli and don’t need to heat it at all. Add splash more milk or water if texture too thick.

2. Grate your apple and mix with pinch salt. I don’t know why but I just think it tastes nicer this way.

3. Take pan off heat and stir in ground almonds, this instantly thickens the texture. Add grated apole and stir well.

4. Stir through 1 tbsp flax/ handful seeds/chopped nuts if using and top with raw honey or almond butter.  It is AMAZING with almond butter.

OPTIONS:

If I have no apples or I am in a real rush, I make this with 2 tubs baby purée and skip the grated Apple.  Just add a few more chia seeds/ground almonds to thicken it up if necessary. This option is particularly DELICIOUS with the almond butter stirred through as it gives it some texture.

This is gorgeous with Apple and Raspberry or Apple and Mango purees too, swap the cinnamon for some vanilla essence or some desiccated coconut and add extra fresh raspberries or mango on top. YUM!

Let me know any other combinations that work for you, too.

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Lamb Kleftiko

We LOVE this in our house! We first had Kleftiko on a trip to Kefalonia many moons ago and as soon as we got home I set about working on my own version.  Kleftiko is a traditional Greek lamb dish, slow cooked with herbs, tomatoes and potatoes.  It is garlicky, tangy, rich heaven on a plate.  Every restaurant we have been to on various trips to Greece seems to have their own version of this.  And the more I googled it, the more variations I found.  So this is my very own hybrid, slightly quicker and easier version. In my humble opinion, it’s the coating of the lamb with the garlic that really makes this amazing, so don’t forget that part whatever you do!  It does contain feta cheese, so is not lactose free as such, but many lactose-phobes like myself can tolerate sheep’s or goat’s milk cheeses as they don’t contain Casein, also known as A1 protein, which is found in cow’s milk.  Casein is the guilty party that can make cow’s milk hard to digest.

This Kleftiko can also be made in individual baking paper parcels for a twist on the presentation, or if you want to make it in smaller quantities for 1 or 2 rather than making a big pot.  It can be made more traditionally with a whole shoulder of lamb. Mmmm…. And if you want a lighter midweek or paleo meal, I often omit the potatoes and use an extra courgette.  I’m sure you could also easily make this in a slow cooker, just omit the stock.

 

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

4 shoulder or lamb leg steaks (ideally organic)

4 large carrots

2-3 large waxy potatoes

1 red onion

2 courgettes

1 tin tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp mint

100ml stock/bone broth/water

extra Virgin olive oil

1/2 pack feta cheese

 

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 180C.  Rub your lamb steaks with crushed garlic and set aside.

2. Oil casserole dish. Slice potatoes thinly and layer half at bottom of dish. Season with salt and pepper.  Slice carrots and place half quantity on top of potatoes. Slice onion into thin rings and place on top.

3. Place garlicky lamb on top of onions, add half of herbs and cinnamon and season.

4. Cover lamb with rest of carrots and then potatoes. Add sliced courgette on top.

5.  Pour over tinned tomatoes and stock. Season with salt and pepper again. Crumble over 3/4 of feta and rest of herbs and spice. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and bake, covered, for about 1 hour until vegetables are tender.  The longer you cook it, the tastier it will be. I often turn the oven down to 140 and cook for an extra hour with the lid off so the sauce thickens up.

Serve with green or roast vegetables, and sprinkle the remainder of the feta on top for extra tang and presentation brownie points.  Drink lots of red wine alongside.

 

 

 

 

 

Pee Surprise

It was an uneventful school pickup. We made it home unscathed, no tales of best friend woes, no trips or falls and no tantrums from small boy wanting to escape the buggy. We successfully ran the gauntlet of the ice cream van who shamelessly loiters by school and we even spent an enjoyable half an hour in the park en route home. So far, so good.

Daughter hurtled inside, shouting “I need a wee!” She HATES the school toilets so tries not to use them.  They are pretty rank: picture the worst public loos you can, then just imagine small children using them largely unsupervised all day. Exactly. Daughter tells me they are smelly, nobody ever flushes and there is never any toilet roll.  You can see her point. So, the poor soul will often go all day without weeing.

Now, our downstairs bathroom has a lock on the outside, a relic from when it was in fact the understairs cupboard, before becoming a state-of-the-art teeny tiny saniflo.

Daughter is unable to open the door in time.

She pees all over the floor.

I do what any loving and understanding mother would do, which is to scream  “STOP WEEING! JUST! STOP! WEEING! Why can’t you STOP WEEING!!!”

We look at each other in horror as it cascades down her legs, hitting the  expensive wooden floor laminate in thunderous torrents.  She wees for what feels like forever. How can a seven year old child contain so much wee? Does she have a pelvic floor of steel? A bladder the size of a football? I stand watching helplessly, wondering when on earth it will stop.  A small lake is shimmering on the hall floor.

Small boy, meanwhile, runs to see what all the commotion is about.  In perfect slow motion, he glides through the enormous puddle of still steaming pee. He flails and crashes down on his back.  He is soaked, even his hair is dripping. FML, is this really happening?!!!!

By now, both kids are crying. I mop up the wee with about 26 kitchen rolls. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT IS STILL WARM. Is this superhuman wee?  I must tell her never to wee in a wetsuit, she may boil herself alive.

Both children were immediately thrown into the bath and I toyed with the idea of   pretending it was in fact bed time. There will be no cooking tonight

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Sugar Free Buckwheat Banana Muffins

These muffins are genuinely sugar free. Not sugar free but actually contain half a bottle of maple syrup or a cup of honey, or 1kg of dried dates, but genuinely 100% bona fide no added sweeteners. They are also wheat, gluten and lactose free. Hurrah! And… my kids actually even eat them. Can you believe it?!

I love adding fruit purée to my baking, it’s such an easy way to increase fibre and nutrients, but also makes everything more moist and full of flavour. What’s not to like? Use as ripe-as-possible bananas for this. This recipe also makes a great banana loaf, just bake in a lined tin for 45-50 minutes.

P.S. Don’t be put off by the vinegar, you can’t taste it, it’s there as a raising agent. Promise.

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RECIPE (makes 10 cupcake size)

4 ripe bananas (medium or thereabouts)

3 eggs

4 tbsps melted coconut oil

2 tsps vanilla extract

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup buckwheat flour

1/2 cup ground almonds

2 tsps cinnamon

2 tsps mixed spice

1/2 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsps baking powder

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Optional – 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans/walnuts/pumpkin seeds

Optional – 1/4 cup chopped dates

METHOD

1. Preheat oven to 170C (fan oven)

2. Whisk together wet ingredients.

3. Mash bananas into wet mixture.

4. Sift in buckwheat flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and add almonds. Fold in gently, ensuring all ingredients are well incorporated.

5. If using, stir through nuts and dates. As a yummy and very pretty alternative, you can add the nut and date mixture to the top of the cake mixture after you have put it into the tin, see picture of loaf I made below. To prevent it browning too quickly, mix with a little melted coconut oil to coat, and scatter over the mixture before baking.

6. Bake for about 15-18 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean (longer for larger cupcake cases and 45-50 mins for a loaf. The loaf may need foil on top for the last few minutes if you use the nut topping and it starts to brown too quickly).

Enjoy warm with a mug of tea!

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Why am I so intolerant?

It probably means different things to different people, but, to me, it means I don’t feel great if I eat it. It manifests itself in different ways, it might be tiredness, headache, skin breakouts or bloating. To put it another way, when I avoid these triggers I feel pretty good, and when I have wheat or dairy I tend to feel run down, achey and bloated. But what it also means is I’m very lucky that I’m not allergic. If I fancy a cake or bread every so often I will try to make it organic and unprocessed and I go for it, and I really enjoy it! I find if I avoid lactose and gluten 90% of the time, then I seem to get away with the odd indulgence. Hurrah!  Picture below not organic or unprocessed, but seriously tasty.image

Tantrums and Tagines

 

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As part of my ongoing quest to get small boy to eat anything new (anything at all some days) I decided, in my innate wisdom, to cook a tagine this week. Bear with me here, there was some rationale. He likes dried apricots. So perhaps if I bunged them in with some chicken and spices he might be coerced into eating the chicken?? I was feeling desperate, OK.

So off I set, chopping and frying and simmering for over an hour. Meanwhile, the kids did some colouring and painting at the kitchen table. So far, so good. I had high hopes for this dinner. This was going to be The One Where He Ate The Chicken. The kitchen smelt amazing and I finally dished it up with some couscous and stood back, awaiting the praise and demands for second helpings.

Epic failure. Even my dustbin daughter who will have a go at most things said “how many spoonfuls do I have to eat?” Small boy took a spoonful, proclaimed “yuck!” And literally scooped it back out of his mouth and threw it back into his bowl in disgust.

He then, and this is the bit that pains me most, turned and chugged back the water they had been using to paint with.  HE DRANK PAINT WATER.

BROWN MURKY PAINT WATER.

HE DIDNT EVEN FLINCH.

This boy will drink painty water but will not eat blueberries, or apples, or most vegetables. And certainly not chicken and apricot tagine.

Needless to say, I will not bother with a photo or recipe on this occasion  *carries on drinking wine.

 

Watermelon Ice lollies

I LOVE these ice lollies, they couldn’t be easier, or healthier!  Plus, I think they look really pretty too.  Push a lolly stick into a slice of watermelon, and freeze.  Ta da!  My daughter and her friends loved them.  Predictably, small boy took a few bites and then asked for a “choc lolly”… Cunningly, I melted some chocolate and drizzled it on top of the frozen watermelon.  He licked it off and dropped the watermelon on the floor. Gah! I give up!!

If you’re a watermelon fan you should try this smoothie, too         I carried a watermelon…

A little bit of Spain…. In Surrey

A few weeks ago we started getting an organic fruit and veg box delivery from Riverford Farms.  I love it!  Each Tuesday, I am quite worryingly excited to see what goodies it contains. Last week one of our little treasures was a big bag of padron peppers. They are lovely, tasty little green peppers fried and served as tapas in Spain.  So, feeling inspired, and with an autumnal nip in the air, we decided to make our favourite Spanish pork stew.  This recipe is from Jose Pizarro, and is one of our all time favourites.  We buy a big shoulder of pork and cut it into chunks, which is really economical.

Delicious with paprika roasted sweet potatoes and green beans, courgetti or just some good bread or toast for dipping.  Small boy turned his nose up at all vegetable accompaniments, as usual,🙄 but did eat it mixed into pasta. Result. I had it the next day for lunch with some grated raw courgette and carrot (it was a lazy day, spiralizing felt like way too much hard work).

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PADRON PEPPERS

Heat olive oil in a frying pan until shimmering. Throw in peppers and cook on high moving occasionally until skin is blistered and blackened in places.  Serve sprinkled with plenty of coarse salt for flavour and crunch.

Jose Pizarro’s Braised Iberico Pork with Tomatoes, Chorizo, Black Olives and Thyme

You can swap the 2tsps of sugar for maple syrup if you are going to be really fussy about it.

Brilliant Bone Broth

So I keep reading about the benefits of bone broth.  We often have a roast chicken and I always have odds and ends of veg languishing in the bottom of my fridge, so I figured I have nothing to lose in making some. My writing is so inspiring, I know! Anyway, I think it’s fairly well established that chicken soup is ‘nature’s penicillin’, so I think there has to be some merit in the claims of bone broth. It differs from ordinary stock in that you boil it for much longer (24 hours), until the bones crumble.  This releases gelatin and collagen, which are good for your joints, skin and gut health.  Why is bone broth so amazing?

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