Pack a punch pesto

This bright and bold pesto is the most versatile thing to come out of our kitchen. I’ve been making it for years and always have a few small pots in the freezer. They’re portioned up, ready to pull out for emergency planning shortages or last minute guests.

It is garlicky, earthy and incredibly moreish. It brings to life almost anything you throw at it including oven roast mushrooms, grilled goats cheese, pasta, roast chicken and fresh fish.

Pack a punch pesto

How to make:

I rarely use ‘cups’ and ‘handfuls’ as a way to measure a recipe, but this pesto really calls for it. It’s a good recipe to make your own, tweaking the ingredients as you taste.  Every time you make it you can throw a few different greens in or try a little more or less oil. You literally cannot go wrong on this one.

If you follow the guide below you will create a rich and thick pesto which is great as a dip or a marinade. From there you can thin it out with oil to make a lovely sauce to cover roast vegetables, pasta or to drizzle on salads.

  • 1/2 mug of toasted pine nuts
  • 1 mug of freshly grated Parmesan
  • 4 handfuls of kale, cavelo nero or spinach, roughly chopped, woody stems removed
  • A few generous glugs of olive oil
  • A few pinches of sea salt
  • About 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, chopped (I love garlic so use less if you’re not a big fan)

Simply blitz all the dry ingredients and then add the oil to the food processor. Taste, then tweak the flavours or add more oil to your own preference.

A couple of ideas of how to serve:

Pan fried salmon served with warm pesto and an avocado, grape and seedy salad:

Salmon and pesto

Rocket and spinach leaves, balsamic roasted olives and vegetables with pan seared tuna:

Tuna and pesto

If you’re interested in moving to a a cleaner way of eating, moving the shop bought condiments to the bin is a good place to start. They are high in sugars and salts and usually have added preservatives too. Getting to grips with a few simple recipes like this one, gives you your own healthier options for sauces to accompany your proteins. See my Romesco-ish recipe for another simple and easy to make sauce.

Enjoy x

Salmon, date and almond tapas

We had an overnight visit to Tarifa at the weekend. It’s a small bohemian town in the province of Cadiz, on the southernmost coast of Spain. It literally sits at the very bottom corner of Europe where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. It’s a great place. The kite surfing and water sports attracts a really laid back crowd and an easy atmosphere.

Today’s post has been inspired by the fabulous fish and fresh tapas we sampled on our visit. I have brought together 3 simple ingredients that together make a knock out tapas plate.

The sweetness of the date works beautifully with the fish and the creamy crunchy almond gives the little nibbles some extra texture.

4 (2)

For each piece you will need:

  • A strip of approximately 25g smoked salmon
  • 1 date
  • 1 almond

(Each piece contains around 70 calories)

To make:

  1. Pop an almond inside the date.
  2. Wrap the salmon around so that it just covers the date. Keep the strips the same if not a tiny bit wider than the date so that no date peaks out.
  3. Pierce through with a cocktail stick (don’t try pierce the nut just work to the side).
  4. Grind on a little black pepper and squeeze on some lime.
  5. Put in the oven at 150 degrees Celsius for about 5 minutes and serve immediately.

And because I LOVE a good salad…

Another serving option is to slice up 4 single pieces once cooked through and serve with lightly dressed leaves and coriander.

2

Enjoy x

Turkey and spinach mini burgers

I’m currently trying out various new ideas and recipes on the whole family. The objective is to find some new ‘dinner winners’. Tasty and healthy food that we can all enjoy. The top recipes will be rolled into our family favourites and called upon when we need a trusted result.

Like a lot of families, we can be really fragmented in terms of the food and times that we eat. It’s not unusual during the week for us to have three different meals at three different times. I appreciate we can’t completely change that. However I am on a mini mission with my Project Dinner Winner to increase the common ground. The key things:

  1. The meals all have to be healthy and nutritious, made from unprocessed foods
  2. They have to be easy to make and ideally freezable too
  3. They have to taste great

So first up, these flavoursome little mini burgers. They’re incredibly tasty, jam packed with goodness and very simple to make.

The ‘big people’ version served with garlic roasted cauliflower, broccoli and chickpea:

Mini burger 2

The ‘little people’ version served with melted cheese and smiley face vegetables:

Mini burger 3

To make around 20 mini burgers (each around 75 calories) you will need:

  • 2 tablespoons of oil plus a little to brush before cooking
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 400g turkey
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 200g spinach
  • 120 g of gluten free/regular oats (or 100g breadcrumbs)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic

And here’s how:

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil till translucent and soft.
  2. Add the vegetables, balsamic and oregano and reduce on the heat till the spinach has completed wilted down and most of the liquid has evaporated (this is important for the consistency of the burgers).
  3. Once cool use a hand blender or food mixed to blitz up the mixture so that there are no big chunks left.
  4. Then in a separate bowl mix together the oats, turkey, eggs.
  5. Combine both sets of ingredients in the mixing bowl with a spoon. The mixture will be pretty moist, not as firm as a classic burger, but stable enough to shape.
  6. Make individual balls (each approximately 25/30g) and gently pat into neat dinky burgers. You can make all the burgers and fridge/freeze the ones you don’t need at this stage, or just freeze the mixture you don’t need.
  7. Brush the ones you’re making with oil on both sides and gently fry until golden brown. Don’t blast them on too high a heat or they’ll char pretty quickly.
  8. Once browned, pop them in an oven at around 180 degrees c for about 15 further minutes.
  9. You can then add cheese and grill, or serve up with salad and roasted vegetables. Try adding some crunch to the plate as the burgers are soft in their texture.

The vegetables shown here were easy to make. Just chop cauliflower and broccoli into small florets and a garlic clove into slivers. Lay on a tray with a handful of chickpeas. Brush them all with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast till they start to change colour and the garlic has gone crispy. They add some good texture and a nice punch of garlic to the plate too. I’d definitely recommend having a go.

Mini burger 4

The tough critics here gave these mini burgers a clean plate thumbs up. I hope these work out well for others too.

A very guest friendly ginger cake

I think there is a fine line between capturing a moment and killing it. It goes something like this:

“Beautiful laughter kids, can you just tickle her again now I’ve got the lens cap off?”

“Erm, can we re-hide the Easter Eggs so I can take pictures now the sun is out?”

“Sorry I know the food is going cold, I just need to find the best light for a blog shot.”

My parents have been over from England this Easter. It’s been a brilliant few days  and we’ve enjoyed some stunning food. We’ve made some moreish salads, clean eating dressings, pestos, mayos and chutneys. But I didn’t forget to turn out the classic Easter indulgences, not withstanding this Easter cake and some Easter egg action.

We also sampled some absolute delights out and about. I was lucky enough to order the most amazing prawn carpaccio and devour the freshest tuna tartare of my life. We’ve savoured some lively young white wines and the olds ordered some sensational looking deserts.

I wanted to pause some moments. I wanted everyone to poise perfectly or better still, shuffle away from their plates so I could grab the magic snap. As food left our kitchen I wanted to pull it back and pretend it wasn’t quite ready. But I didn’t. I let go. I enjoyed the moment with my own senses – not the image we’d be left with afterwards.

On that note, I didn’t get a picture of this cake in action. Once the tea was poured, the plates were out and the knife went in, there was no serene Homes and Garden snap to be had. There was some table wobbling, a jostle for the eggs on the top and a some fingers and thumbs in the buttercream.

ginger cake_1

I’m trusting the feedback I’ve had on this beautifully moist, crowd pleaser. It’s a doddle to make and it actually gets better if you make in advance and leave it for a few days. This means its perfect to make ahead of guests coming and will serve well over 2 or 3 days of their visit. I have made this countless times and always had a positive response from adults and children alike.

It’s taken from a James Martin Parkin recipe on the BBC website. I tend to increase the ginger to 2 or 3 teaspoons and I also like to swap out some of the syrup for blackstrap molasses. It makes it a darker and richer cake.

Here is what you will need:

  • 225g / 8oz self raising flour
  • 110g / 4oz caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (I use 2 – 3)
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 200ml / 7fl oz milk
  • 55g /2oz butter
  • 110g /4oz golden syrup (I swap out up to half of this and mix in blackstrap molasses)

It’s so easy to make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2. Line or grease a 22cm/8in round tin.
  2. Sieve the flour, sugar, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl.
  3. In a small pan gently heat the butter and syrup until melted.
  4. Beat the egg into the milk.
  5. Gradually pour the butter and syrup into the flour and stir. The mixture will be thick.
  6. Pour in the egg and milk and stir until smooth and pour into the lined tin.
  7. Bake for about an hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  8. Once cool ice with buttercream – be as frugal or generous as you feel. The buttercream is made from an equal measure of icing sugar to butter. Using and electric whisk whip up till soft and fluffy.
  9. OR Wrap in foil or clingfilm and keep for a few days before icing. No eggs needed on top, other than for Easter of course.

So Easter is over for another year.  We caught some of our magic moments on film. But as always in life, for the main part we can’t snap all our our triumphs, joy or moments of madness. We need to learn how to capture these moments in our hearts where we keep them safe and unspoiled forever.