Snacks and light bites

THREE SUMMERY DIPS FOR BABIES AND EVERYONE ELSE

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I have never been short of a recipe for a dip or two. As much as I like buying a tub of soured and cream and chive from Waitrose to attack on a Friday night, I love to make my own as you get so much more for your money, plus you know exactly what is in it. With a baby or kids in tow, it is even more useful to be able to make your own as you can tailor it to your own tastes and nutritional requirements.

Here are my current top three (and NO houmous in sight..!):

Note – all three can be made in a food processor or with a hand blender.

SPINACH AND AVOCADO

  1. Defrost 200g frozen spinach in the microwave. Drain well, rinse under cold water and squeeze out the moisture into the sink so you are left with a nice dry little pile of greens.
  2. Plop into a food processor along with two ripe avocados, the juice of half a lemon, half a clove grated garlic, a squeeze of full fat mayo and 50g full fat Greek yogurt.
  3. Blitz and add seasoning if you want to. Tweak the lemon and garlic if needed.

 

STORECUPBOARD ROMESCO (roasted pepper and almond)

  1. Throw into a food processor: 50g blanched almonds, 100g grilled peppers in oil (Sacla are good, so are Aldi), 100g stale white bread ripped into chunks, two medium tomatoes, 1 clove garlic and 25ml sherry vinegar (or just use wine vinegar)
  2. Get your processor going and slowly add 75ml olive oil through the funnel. If using a hand blender just slowly add it as you blitz. Keep it going for longer than you might feel necessary, those almonds are tough little buggers but they will break down. Have a look at your sauce, it should be the consistency of pesto. If it is a little thick, add trickles of warm water to loosen. If too thin, add some more bread and adjust the other seasonings to taste.

 

MEXICAN CHARRED CORN, SOURED CREAM AND CHEDDAR

  1. Heat a dry frying pan and add 200g frozen sweetcorn. Toast it in the pan, shaking regularly to get it nice and charred with little burnt bits on it. Remove from pan and let it cool down for a mo.
  2. Chuck corn into processor along with 200g soured cream or crème fraiche (full fat is a MUST here), a grated garlic clove, 1tsp mild chilli powder, 2tsp chopped coriander (I use those handy frozen sachets), 30g grated mature cheddar and a squidge of mayo.
  3. Blitz to a bumpy mayonnaise consistency. This will probably not need extra seasoning as it has a lot of cheese but you could always add some extra chilli powder or some chopped spring onions to add a bit more fire.

 

 

IBERICO, PEA AND SPINACH SOUFFLE BITES

 

I have been making these in various guises for years. They are a fab nibble for parties or with drinks, and you can alternate the filling with anything you have in the fridge. You can also make it in one large pan (as long as it’s ovenproof) so will save on washing up!) Key is to make sure the mixture cools enough so as not to scramble the eggs, and also be gentle with mixing the egg whites as they will soon lose their airiness.

Ingredients:

Handful Iberico ham (any ham or bacon will do, or just leave out altogether), cut into small pieces

Handful frozen peas

Large handful baby spinach, shredded

2 spring onions, chopped finely

Half a clove garlic, crushed

2 eggs

Olive oil

25g strong cheddar, grated

1tbsp Philadelphia

Dash whole milk

Oven 180 degrees. Grease a 12 hold muffin tin.

  1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Add ham/bacon and fry until crispy. Add onion and garlic just before the ham is completely crisp cook for a couple more minutes, then turn heat down and add the peas. Cook whole lot for 3-4 minutes until peas are cooked and nice and sweet then allow to cool.
  2. Meanwhile separate the eggs. Plop the yolks in a measuring jug and whisk with the Philly, milk and cheese. Put the egg whiles in a super clean glass bowl and whisk to stiff peaks.
  3. Mix the pea and ham mixture into the egg yolks, add spinach. Stand for a few minutes.
  4. Carefully fold the yolk mixture into the whites with a metal spoon, taking care not to lose air in the egg whites.
  5. Quickly pour mixture into the greased muffin tin. There should be enough for all 12 holes. Bake for ten minutes until puffed up.

These WILL sink when they come out of the oven. This does not make you a bad cook, your baby will not judge you.

I love these sprinkled with sea salt and eaten with cold beer. Baby will eat with anything I give him. They will keep for a couple of days in the fridge and can also be frozen.

 

HOMEMADE 15 MINUTE BAKED BEANS

I love a Heinz baked bean. But the reality is, as someone who likes to cook, I often feel a bit cheated just eating beans on toast so this is a quick alternative which has the added bonus of allowing you to adjust the flavours and make them salt free. Serve on toast with lots of grated cheese!

Ingredients:

1 can butter/cannellini/haricot beans

1 can chopped tomatoes

Half an onion, finely chopped

Half a clove garlic, crushed

Half tsp sweet paprika

Half tsp cinnamon

2 sundried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped

1 tbsp full fat Philadelphia

Half tbsp cornflour

Olive oil

Maple syrup to taste

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a deep frying pan. Add garlic and onions, saute for a couple of mins until just starting to soften
  2. Add tomatoes, spices and sundried tomatoes and simmer with the lid off for 10 minutes until reduced and rich-looking. Reduce the heat to low.
  3. Mix the cornflour with a little cold water and add to the pan, stirring until the mixture has thickened. If liked at this stage you can blend the sauce with a stick blender to achieve the Heinz-kinda-look
  4. Add the beans and Philly. Cook for a further 5 mins then add maple syrup to taste.

Make sure you allow this to cool before serving to babies. Those beans are hot little mistresses!

I would add salt to my portion as a personal preference, but the sundried tomatoes do add a little tang to the sauce so you might not feel this is necessary.

These will keep in the fridge for a few days and can also freeze for quick dinners!

 

TWO SUMMERY SOUPS 

I must admit I am not a regular soup person. The only soup I will make a beeline for in restaurants is French onion, and this is more because of the massive cheesy croutons and the boozy taste! However, I do make an exception for good homemade soups. My mum is an amazing soup maker and both these recipes are inspired by ones I have been made by her.

COURGETTE AND CHEESE

INGREDIENTS

2 large courgettes, grated

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

50g cheese (I love brie but strong cheddar also good)

250ml whole milk

1 very low salt stock cube

Juice half a lemon

Olive oil

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Cook slowly for 5 mins until softened but not brown.
  2. Add the courgette and cook for ten minutes until reduced down and starting to caramelise.
  3. Meanwhile pour 250ml boiling water in a measuring jug. Dissolve the stock cube then add another 250ml cold milk so you have 500ml liquid overall. Add to the reduced courgettes
  4. Let the soup cook for ten minutes then remove from heat and stir in the cheese so it melts.
  5. Puree with a hand blender and add lemon juice. Season to taste.

 

SWEET POTATO AND ROASTED PEPPER

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INGREDIENTS

4 medium sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into large chunks

2 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1 large onion, unpeeled and quartered

500ml chicken stock

1tsp paprika

Half a jar roasted peppers in oil, drained

Dash maple syrup (optional)

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

  1. Put the sweet potato, onion and garlic on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and bake in oven for 40 mins-ish until everything is soft and slightly blackened.
  2. The onions should be easily removed from their skins. Remove the skin then put them, along with the unpeeled sweet potato into a large saucepan. Squeeze the flesh out of the garlic and add this to the pan.
  3. Add the stock, paprika and peppers to the pan. It will all look a complete mess at this point. Bring to a gentle bubble, then remove from the heat and blend with a hand blender. Add maple syrup if desired, and seasoning.

 

 

PANE CON TOMATE

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A perfect summer recipe when the tomatoes are at their best. Some people shy away from giving babies raw garlic but I am all up for it, and A loves it. This is barely a recipe and more of an assembly job using the five most basic ingredients. The key is to make sure each ingredient is the best quality you can get.

Baby led and trational weaners alike – this works for everyone as it is based around a delicious tomato smush.

Nice for a baby lunch or brekkie – and also nice for everyone else. We had this in Spain with Iberico ham, but you can dress this up and down as much as you want.

INGREDIENTS:

2 perfect medium sized tomatoes quartered

2 slices good bread or baguette

Garlic -1 clove, unpeeled

Olive oil

Sea salt

  1. Grate the tomatoes using a box grater into a bowl, leaving the skin behind. Alternatively do what I do and just blitz the whole lot using a handheld blender and a measuring jug being careful not to make it too liquid. You want a nice spooning consistency.
  2. Mix in as much olive oil and sea salt as you fancy. This will depend on personal taste and who you are feeding it to
  3. Lightly toast the bread. Rub a cut clove of garlic on the bread – again as much as you fancy.
  4. Spoon over the tomatoes in a thin later. Finished. Apply to face and be happy.

 

MOCK MASHED POTATO AND ROMAN GNOCCHI

 

It’s another double recipe!

I had a flash of inspiration when looking through the freezer yesterday. I had a little pot of Bolognese sauce ready for A’s dinner but it was a hot day and I did not fancy having a pan of boiling water on the hob for ten minutes to cook pasta.

I remembered that Nigella had a recipe for this fake mashed potato stuff that cooked in less than 10 minutes and I happened to have a bag of semolina handy (we use it on roast potatoes). This recipe uses very few ingredients and can be knocked up super quickly which is perfect when you cannot be bothered to cook potatoes or pasta.

The magic happened! I know many will reel at the idea of semolina after school dinner nightmares, but seriously this is REALLY good. What you are going to get is a creamy cheesy mass of buttery mash stuff which is amazing with meat dishes or veggie sauces. The leftovers are then cooled and shaped into authentic Roman gnocchi (this is NOT like usual gnocchi) – which is baked in the oven with more cheese on top and can be devoured the next day or frozen.

Two meals for the effort of one meal? Yes please sir!

INGREDIENTS

500ml full fat milk

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Sea salt flakes

125g semolina

35g grated parmesan

Ground nutmeg

  1. Heat the milk in a pan along with the butter, salt (obviously use less for babies) and nutmeg.
  2. Just as the milk gets to boiling point, take off the heat and add the semolina in a fine steady stream. Whisk all the time you are adding it – I use a handheld electric beater and just keep it in the pan as I add in the semolina
  3. Keep beating like mad and put back on the heat. Don’t stop until you start seeing it bubble  – around 3 minutes. Add more milk if it seems a little solid – you want a nice gooey sloppy consistency:
  4. Mix in the cheese and some more butter if you fancy. The semolina ‘mash’ is now ready to serve.
  5. Any leftovers can be spread on parchment on a baking sheet. Spread out into one later around half an inch thick. Leave to cool for a few hours or overnight.
  6. Stamp out small circles of mixture and layer in a baking dish, overlapping slightly. Sprinkle on some more Parmesan and a little melted butter:
  7. Baked in a preheated oven for 15 mins or so until the top is crunchy and bubbling

 

 

 

 

 

 

CAULIFLOWER CHEESE AND POTATOES TWO WAYS – HOTCAKES AND JACKET POTATO SKINS

Oh you lucky people – this is two recipes in one. The potato skins can be made in half an hour flat and you can make the hotcakes with the remaining mixture and have them boxed up ready to freeze for another occasion before dinner is ready. Two meals from a few very humble ingredients and no waste!

I based the recipe on Holly Willoughby’s cauliflower cheese on toast (from Truly Scrumptious Baby) but wanted to use something different to bread. These worked really well – all you need to go with them is some low salt ketchup for little ones, or some sea salt and chilli sauce for grown ups. Feel free to add herbs, mustard, bacon etc to the mixture – it’s all good.

Sorry there is no photo of the potato skins in all their glory. There WAS a photo of them but I accidentally deleted it. Still, you can just about see them in the right hand picture before they were devoured with a few bits of avocado.

INGREDIENTS

50g cauliflower – about 3 medium sized florets

50g strong cheddar cheese (you could also use feta or any other strong tasting cheese)

2 eggs

Splash whole milk or cream

1 medium sized potato, regular or sweet

1tbsp plain flour

Butter for frying

Preheat oven to 200 degrees

  1. Prick the potato and microwave for 7 minutes, or until soft. Remove and leave to cool
  2. While the potato is doing its thing in the microwave, get two bowls ready. In each bowl add half the cheese, one egg and half the milk or cream
  3. Chop the cauliflower finely on a chopping board and divide between your two bowls
  4. Once the potato has cooled slightly slice it in half. With a spoon carefully scoop out the flesh on the inside and pop it into one of the bowls. Mix both bowls well so everything is combined in each one.
  5. Carefully spoon the mixture NOT containing potato into the skins. Add a little extra grated cheese if you like and pop in the oven for 15 mins, or until the tops are nice and bubbly and golden. Remove and cool.
  6. While the skins are in the oven finish the hotcakes. Add the flour to the mixture and give it a good stir. You want a nice thick batter – like the texture of whipped cream. You can keep adding splashes of milk or spoonfuls of flour until you get the right consistency. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes while you clear up and heat up the frying pan.
  7. Heat the butter in the pan so it’s foaming. Carefully drop spoonfuls of the batter into the pan and cook for a couple of minutes on each side, pressing lightly with a spatula to make sure they cook in the middle. They are ready when golden and firm  – have a taste to check they are done.
  8. Cool the hotcakes and store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. They can be quickly defrosted in the microwave or a warm frying pan.