Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Back to school dinners

It's the time of new pencil sets, endless labelling and in my house a sense of dread about returning to the punishing routine of school and after school activities.  No more lazy brunches or car picnics.  No more fish and chips (gluten free of course) on the beach.

My kids go back tomorrow and in an ideal world I would have a freezer full of food by now but instead this week is going to involve a bit of winging it.  I will be relying on a few family favourites to get us through this week!  

It is also an expensive time of the year in our house as we have just come back from holiday and everyone has had new coats, shoes, bags etc so lots of these dishes can be made at reasonable cost.  Obviously if you can afford organic great, if not then home-made is still miles better than having to pull out a Tesco's pizza.

Here are some of my favourite week night dinners:

Old skool sausage pasta  This is one of my reader's favourites.  It can be made in bulk and frozen and although I advise buying high quality sausages which are more expensive, you can always bulk this out with extra vegetables such as chopped carrot and celery. 

Meatballs (with hidden liver)  The liver is optional so this can just be a simple but tasty meatball recipe. 

Beef casserole  It's only four months to Christmas my kids have told me so although its sunny outside I feel it's okay to put casseroles back on the menu.  They do require some cooking time but can be shoved in the oven or the slow cooker in the morning or made in advance, frozen and just warmed through.  If you are really rushed for time you could add potatoes or other root vegetables to the casserole to minimise cooking on the day.

Spaghetti bolognese (with added veg)  Everyone has a spag bol recipe I'm sure - this is a useful one because the extra vegetables makes one feel virtuous after a summer holiday of sorbets and pub dinners.  It also makes the meat go further.

Shepherds pie (but with a variation on the mash!)  This is made on the stove so can be ready in as little as half an hour and is a world away from the  grey mince nastiness that you get with ready made shepherd's pie which would take just as long in an oven!

Fabulous fish bites  These home-made fish-fingers use almond flour as we are gluten free but if you are ok with wheat you can exchange this for normal breadcrumbs.   

Lamb lollipops (kofta for kids)  I love these because they take no time to prep and can be served with anything - rice, salad, baked beans!  They are also great to make in bulk and then use in packed lunch boxes.  

Cheeky chicken wings  Wings are inexpensive but so tasty with all the goodness of the chicken skin as well!  These can be served as an evening meal with home-made chips, rice, or pasta and are delicious cold for lunch the next day

The 'no it's not soup kids' noodle bowl  This noodle bowl is great as you can use leftover meat from a roast and as there is very little cooking its a very quick meal.  You could also use similar seasoning for a stirfry if you don't have any stock. 

And if you are looking for something that is good for a Saturday when there is a bit more time for slow cooking:

Chicken tagine.  This requires a few more ingredients than the other dishes but after a week of school dinners it feels like a more sophisticated dish that goes well with a bottle of white wine.   

Slow cooked flat ribs  You will only get these ribs from a butcher but this inexpensive cut of meat is worth seeking out.  A great dish to prep and leave in the oven whilst you are out at football / ballet / general taxying of children whilst you wonder where your social life went!

Coming up next on my blog - super sugar free snacks and sweets and ideas for lunch boxes. 

Shepherds pie (but with a variation on the mash!)

I am not quite sure when it became folklore that kids like mash. When my daughter gagged at the sight of mash I thought it was unusual but have since spoken to many parents whose children are the same. Even if you like it, sometimes you feel like a less starchy option or just want a change. 

So this recipe is essentially the meat part of shepherds pie and I freeze it like this to give me the option to choose the topping on the day.   My kids like it with rice, My husband likes it with celeriac gratin. Just because we can never agree on anything in our house my favourite is swede or potato mash (heavily buttered and with tons of pepper).  Cauliflower mash would also work well.   If you are going for some sort of mash you could always add this to the dish before freezing so you have less to do on the day you eat it. 

High quality full fat lamb mince is essential. A glass of red wine adds depth but is not essential. The recipe specifies passata but the resulting dish is not overly tomato tasting. However the passata could swapped either partially or fully for lamb stock if you prefer.  

I am not generally a fan on mushed vegetables but in this recipe using a food processor to get a very finely chopped vegetables does work well. It also makes it easy to disguise the vegetables from picky eaters (I am not just talking about kids here, I know if wives who hide vegetables in their husband's dinners too!) You could even add more carrots or other vegetables such as mushroom or red carrot if you need to up the vegetsble quota. 

(I don't bother getting the special grater attachment out for magimix) I just use normal large blade).

I make at least triple the amounts below in one go and fill the freezer.   


500g lamb mince 
1 large onion
1 large carrot 
2 sticks celery 
2 cloves of garlic 
1/3 bottle of passata (approximately 250ml)
1/2 tsp dried or fresh chopped rosemary 
Ghee or olive oil for cooking 


-Peel the carrots, garlic and onion and wash the celery 
-Chop the vegetables in half then process until finely chopped. 
-Add enough ghee or olive oil to cover the base of the pan and on a medium heat cook the vegetables for about ten minutes until softened 
-Add in the mince and stir round, till all the meat is browned 
-Add the rosemary, passata and seasoning 
-Turn down and simmer for half an hour (this develops the taste but you can miss this step out if in a rush and it will still be good) 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Pizza (gluten free, grain free, can be dairy free too!)

It's funny how there are things you can happily live without until someone forbids them.  This was the case with pizza. When we started eating clean and gluten free suddenly my husband became obsessed with finding a pizza base recipe despite the fact he would never have chosen to buy it in the supermarket!

It took us a while to work out a recipe that we all liked.  Lots of the recipes out there use almond flour but I think the sweetness of almond flour is just wrong.  Or there are pure cauliflower pizzas which are healthy but are not a quick option.

The answer for us is buckwheat and  We adapted this recipe from one on the fab blog - The Nourished Kitchen. It gives a lovely thin crispy base.  The dough can also be made in advance and frozen which means you can whip up a pizza in no time.

The amounts below are for four adult sized pizzas so multiply as required. 


550g  buckwheat flour
70g tapioca flour (can replace with extra buckwheat flour)
50g rice flour (can replace with buckwheat or tapioca)
470ml warm water 
120ml  olive oil 
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp  of garlic powder 
1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda (optional) 


Preheat the oven to 160c fan / 180c
Mix all the dry ingredients together in a blender or a bowl 
Add in the water slowly until you have a dough consistency
Bake in the oven for ten minutes then check. We like to turn ours over and give it another 5 minutes to make it extra crispy.
Add toppings and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes until the top is piping hot 

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Luscious liver pate

Let's make one thing clear - I am generally not a fan of liver.  Indeed organs in general are a problem for me, despite lots of people telling me how marvellous they are for me I can't get past the texture or the smell.

However I love this liver pate!  It's smooth, delicious and versatile - working with almond crackers, sourdough or oatcakes.

It's also very easy to make.  I had the fear with this dish for quite a while as my husband had always prepared liver in our house.  Now I quite enjoy making it in the evenings when the children are in bed and I can watch something on Netflix whilst I cook!

Liver is a fantastic source of nutrients such as iron, folate and B vitamins (especially B12).  It is also high in Vitamin A.  In theory our bodies can make vitamin A from plant sources by converting beta carotene but in practice our bodies are often very poor at this (especially if you have any digestive issues) so it's good to eat foods that are a direct source.

This recipe will make enough pate for 1 large or 4 small terrines.  I tend to go for small and then I can freeze three, thus having enough pate for around a month.  Or a standby starter dish if I decide to have some friends round to eat!

I would go for the very best livers you can find.  It cost me around £5 for the organic liver needed to make this recipe so it goes quite a long way.  (I bought mine from Graig Farm)


450-500g organic chicken livers (rinsed and chopped in half)
160g of butter 
1 onion 
1 clove of garlic 
1 medium chilli 
Salt and pepper to taste
Bay leaves and peppercorns to garnish


- Add 2/3 of the butter to a large frying pan and gently fry the onions in the butter until they are translucent 
- Add in the chicken livers, garlic and chilli and fry until cooked through - should take around 10-15 minutes 
- Blend the mixture in a food processor and then spoon into containers leaving at least 1cm clear 
on the top. Press down with the back if the spoon to get a flattish surface 
- In a clean pan melt the remaining butter then pour it over the pate (I find this easiest to do it with a large dessert spoon)
- Garnish (if you care to!) with bay leaves and peppercorns
- Leave to cool and then cover and keep in the fridge

Friday, 26 June 2015

Video - Why we should buy free-range meat

So MRSA has been discovered in supermarket pork.  Is anyone really that surprised?  How long was it going to be before we had a problem with superbugs given that these animals are routinely given antibiotics as a preventive measure - in the cramped conditions they are reared disease could kill a whole herd (and a whole lot of profit) very quickly.

It looks as if this will be the tip of the iceberg - other countries such as Denmark and China have been grappling with this issue for years but ultimately whilst the demand for cheap pork continues we will not get rid of the problem.

What is the alternative?  It's pretty simple.  We stop buying imported pork from supermarkets and start buying home-grown free-range pork. The pigs from farms like this are exposed to no or minimal antibiotics as Paul White, from one such farm explains in this clip.

Watch this short video Why we should eat free-range to find out the other reasons why I choose free-range meat for my family and to find out where you can buy it from.    

Monday, 22 June 2015

Lamb lollipops (kofta for kids)

One of my most popular recipes ever!

We eat a lot of organic mince in our house as it is versatile and relatively inexpensive.  Having recently decided to clear the freezer (for its once a decade defrost) we have all seen enough of spaghetti bolognese, meatballs and cottage pie and I needed to do something a bit different with the kilo of mince that was hanging around.  I am also on a mission to get my youngest to try some more spicy food.  So I was inspired by the koftas in my local butchers and thought I would try and make my own.

These are so easy to make.  They really don't take any longer than burgers but the fact you  eat them off a stick somehow makes them about fifty times more attractive to the children!

They taste good cold as well so they are great if the family can't all eat together.  I served them to the kids with rice, green veg and a garnish of onion, cucumber and mint.  My husband and I had them later with a salad and some hot chilli sauce - recipe coming soon!  

These would also be delicious with some finely chopped onion added to the mix.


500g lamb mince
1 egg  (beaten)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp of ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste 


  • Preheat the oven to 200c fan / 220
  • Soak some small wooden skewers.  They will be ready by the time you have seasoned the meat
  • Mix together the egg, mince, herbs and seasoning. I like to do this by hand.  
  • Take golf ball size chunks of the mixture and shape into a sausage (I find it easiest to make a ball in-between my palms and then squash it down by rolling hands over it)
  • Insert the skewer though the middle 
  • Place the skewers onto a roasting dish (you can put them on top of a wire tray if you want the fat to drip through)
  • Cook for approximately 20 minutes, dependent on the size of your kofta.  I like mine to have a good colour on the outside and can be slightly pink on the outside 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

MRSA found in pork. Should my family stop eating it?

A Guardian investigation has found a strain of MRSA in pork sold at various supermarkets.  Click here  to read the articles.  

It's concerning especially as the problem is widespread in Denmark which supplies a lot of pork to Britain.  There are bound to be lots of parents who will now worry about buying pork. 

The reality is that this is a problem stemming from excessive antibiotic use within intensive farming (geared to supply supermarkets) and not all pork. 

I headed to East Lancashire yesterday to interview Paul White from Roaming Roosters who supply free range pork to find out more about the difference between intensive and outdoor reared meat - video coming very soon.  

I saw where the pigs breed, live and are butchered.  This kind of access would be unthinkable in intensive farming. There are farms like Roaming Roosters all over the country and and they often have online shops making higher welfare meat more accessible even if you don't live locally.

I am happy to continue buying my bacon and sausages from farms like these and hope that the MRSA scare encourages more shoppers to stop buying meat from supermarkets and source it instead from smaller, more responsible suppliers.