This is more of an idea than a recipe. It’s a great idea though. If it becomes routine, it will change the way you clear out all your leftover veggies, as well as help you fill those occasional creative spaces for mid week mealtimes.
The idea is to use up all your vegetables in a simple rustic sauce, which can be used as the basis or accompaniment to lots of weekday meals. There are two tricks to this:
- Halve the end product – keep one half as a brilliant ratatouille and pulse the other to make a smooth ragu. Children LOVE this. It is jam packed with vegetables but with no evidence of ‘bits’. I have fooled my children with this one for some time now.
- Make more, way more than you need for one sitting. Portion up into freezer bags and label clearly. You can pull out as and when you need.
Here are some of the ways you can use the sauces:
- For the kids I use the ragu on its own as a sauce for gluten free pasta. You can finish it with crumbled soft cheese or grated parmesan.
- Most commonly for the kids I use the smooth sauce to accompany meatballs or minced beef. Simply brown meatballs or mince and then add the ragu, simmering the sauce until the meat is tender. My children prefer both the texture and taste of this over any other sauce I make.
- Liven up leftovers by pouring the sauce over shredded roast chicken. Serve with rice and corn on the cob.
- The chunkier ratatouille is superb served really hot with a simple bowl of brown rice, yoghurt and a generous handful of chopped fresh herbs.
- The ratatouille is also fantastic with fish. Place two piece of white fish in foil, sprinkle some halved olives and a squeeze of lemon, then cover in a generous helping of the ratatouille. Oven roast for 20 minutes and enjoy a fab meal for two.
- Try a few spoonfuls on top of steamed asparagus. Sprinkle the dish with parmesan, grill for 2 minutes and serve with rocket leaves.
To make this batch I used:
- A tablespoon of coconut (or olive oil)
- 4 garlic cloves
- A large white onion
- 3 red peppers
- 1 large aubergine
- 1 large courgette
- A handful of small tomatoes
- 3 large carrots
- 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
- 2 tablespoons of good quality balsamic vinegar
- a teaspoon of oregano
- 400ml of passata or chopped tomatoes
- Low salt vegetable stock cube
- Salt and pepper to season
- Chop the vegetables neatly into cubes.
- Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until soft before adding all the remaining vegetables.
- Add the herbs, puree, balsamic, passata and stock cube.
- Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down, pop on a lid and leave to simmer for a good 45 minutes or so. The dish is ready when the vegetables are soft and tender. Add more water if needed, gauge the liquid based on how thick you want the ratatouille.
- Blitz up half, then store what you need in airtight jars and freeze the rest in bags.
Versatile and very scrummy veggies.
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:
- The meals all have to be healthy and nutritious, made from unprocessed foods
- They have to be easy to make and ideally freezable too
- 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:
The ‘little people’ version served with melted cheese and smiley face vegetables:
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:
- Fry the onion and garlic in the oil till translucent and soft.
- 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).
- Once cool use a hand blender or food mixed to blitz up the mixture so that there are no big chunks left.
- Then in a separate bowl mix together the oats, turkey, eggs.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once browned, pop them in an oven at around 180 degrees c for about 15 further minutes.
- 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.
The tough critics here gave these mini burgers a clean plate thumbs up. I hope these work out well for others too.
I think ginger is such a special soulful ingredient. This slightly spicy cake loaf smells amazing and because of the moisture in the apples and the sticky molasses, it’s got a lovely rich texture. It’s a bit like parkin that’s been left to develop for a couple of days. Of course this is also even better when it’s been left for a day or so, but chances are it won’t make it in time. My boys like this with custard on, but it looks great naked as a nice slice to go with a cup of tea.
- 100g unsalted butter
- 100g light brown sugar
- 50g molasses (or black treacle if you don’t have)
- 50g golden syrup
- zest 1 lime
- 1 carrot, grated
- Half an apple grated
- Tablespoon of raw grated ginger
- 175g self-raising flour
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 2 eggs
To make this:
- Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees celsius (fan oven, 180 degrees C for others)
- Grease a 900g loaf tin
- Melt the butter in a pan and add everything except the flour, bicarbonate and eggs
- Once melted in remove from the heat, add the flour and then the eggs (it’s best not to add the eggs on the heat as they may scramble, not good!)
- Bake for 40 minutes – until a skewer comes out dry
You can sprinkle with a little icing sugar to make it look really pretty.
I hope you enjoy.