Light & Lemony Beetroot Soup

I’ve been feeling a little under the weather this week. So for lunch yesterday my body was calling out for a big bowl of nourishing soup. A little rummage in the fridge and a couple of moments later I was armed with a beautiful bunch of beetroot and a few other select ingredients to chuck in the soup pan.

By absolute coincidence pretty much everything in this nourishing soup is helpful if you are in need of a health boost: beetroot is packed with antioxidants and great for nurturing our immunity; garlic is well known for its antibiotic properties, which are invaluable in fighting colds and coughs; and of course lemons are bursting with Vitamin C. I could go on by mentioning the antibacterial properties of onions etc but you get the picture, this soup is really good for you. Really really good for you.

But the crucial thing here is that this lemony beetroot soup is also seriously delicious. Everyone scraped their bowls clean.

Beetroot soup is so velvety smooth, like a soft cosy blanket, that I’d usually categorise it as Winter comfort food. But adding the lemon brings a subtle citrus zing to the party, which makes this soup ideal during these warmer months.

Whether you are feeling a tad low or on top of the world one thing’s for sure, you will feel all the better for eating a bowl of this alluring deep purple soup.

Lemony Beetroot Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 500g raw beetroot, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 potato, roughly chopped
  • 1 litre beef stock (use veg or chicken if you prefer)
  • Juice of half a lemon

Method

  • Put all of the ingredients, except the lemon, into a large pan and bring to the boil.
  • Turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until the veg is nice and tender.
  • Blend the soup until it is velvety smooth. Stir in the lemon juice.
  • Serve with your favourite bread or crackers, we had brioche rolls with Dijon mustard and cheddar cheese.

Garden Berry Waffles

Waffles truly are waffley versatile. They’re delicious sweet or savoury with a delectable array of tempting toppings and and accompaniments.

This is my new favourite way to munch sweet waffles. The combination of juicy berries, crunchy nuts and sweet syrup with the warm, fluffy waffles is pretty much perfection on a plate.

Of course you do need a waffle machine to make the actual waffles at home (I picked up mine from a well known discount supermarket some years ago). But if you don’t have one fear not, this would be just as fabulous with a stack of hot pancakes. And let’s be honest this would be ready in mere minutes if you decided to opt for shop bought waffles. There’s no shame in keeping it real.

And if you do want to try this with pancakes I use the exact same ingredients for pancakes as I do for the waffles and just cook them in a standard non stick pan.

Garden Berry Waffles

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • A big rounded tablespoon of butter
  • 300ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1 level teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Berries
  • Pecans
  • Maple syrup
  • Peanut or almond butter (optional)

Method

  • Melt your butter in a pan then leave it to cool slightly while you get on with your measuring and weighing.
  • Mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla, whisk.
  • Now add the flour, baking powder and sugar. Whisk again.
  • Pour in the melted butter and whisk for the final time.
  • Cook your waffles in your machine. Keeping them warm in a low oven as you go.
  • To assemble, pop a couple of waffles onto each plate, strew with berries and nuts and drizzle generously with maple syrup.
  • If you fancy, dollop over a little peanut or almond butter.

Peanut Butter Granola

I was making a batch of granola the other day when a tasty thought came to me, I thought I’d go a bit nuts, shake things up a bit.

I went rogue and added a couple of spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter. Yep that’s how crazy I am. I kept the rest of the ingredients pretty simple to really let the earthy peanut flavour shine through.

To be completely honest the first attempt didn’t truly live up to my expectations. It just wasn’t peanut buttery enough. So this revised recipe I share with you my dears has double the peanut butter from the original recipe. It is, as Goldilocks declared, just right.

I enjoyed this with fresh blackberries and plums from the garden. However, if I was nipping to the shops for berries I’d go for raspberries or strawberries – think peanut butter and jelly, classic.

Peanut Butter Granola

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 250g oats
  • 40g pumpkin seeds
  • 40g sunflower seeds
  • 150g pecans or almonds
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 4 tablespoons peanut butter

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 150C / gas 2. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  • In a pan gently heat your peanut butter with the maple syrup and oil. This just softens the peanut butter, making it easier to stir through the dry ingredients. If your peanut butter is already quite runny you dont need to bother with this step.
  • Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl then stir in the peanut butter mixture until everything is thoroughly combined.
  • Tip onto your prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Give it a stir once or, preferably, twice during this cooking time to ensure an even bake throughout.

To serve

I just love granola with Greek yoghurt, fresh fruit and sometimes some chopped dried fruit too.

You can try this even more simply with some nice cold milk.

A little scattering over a warm bowl of porridge with a fruit compote is definitely worth a try as Autumn approaches.

Spiced Roasted Chickpea & Veggie Wraps

I love chickpeas roasted in the oven. They’re a lovely little snack. They also add a stunning crunch atop a bowl of simple homemade soup. Now I can attest to spiced roasted chickpeas to be the most delicious filling for a tortilla wrap. Just add a bit of crunchy veg and you’re good to go. Wrap them tightly and take them on a picnic or make this at home when the chickpeas are just out of the oven and still warm.

Another thing I’m rather partial to is garlic. So I made a really simple garlic yoghurt spread for this. You can spread what you like on your tortilla: mayo, cream cheese, aoili, chilli sauce or, for a double chickpea whammy, try hummus.

Veg-wise, I enjoyed this with grated carrot and rocket. Use whatever you have in the fridge. Cherry tomatoes, cucumber, beetroot, spinach… the choices are endless.

Feeling cheesy? You could also add feta, goats cheese, grilled halloumi or even mozzarella. My son had a simple scattering of grated cheddar to finish his off very nicely.

If you have the time and inclination you could roll this, squash down slightly and then grill or heat in a hot dry pan to get an extra layer of crispiness.

Spiced Roasted Chickpea & Veggie Wraps

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and turmeric
  • A teaspoon of oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 wholemeal tortilla wraps
  • 4 tablespoons of full fat Greek yoghurt
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • A few chives, chopped (optional)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 4 handfuls of rocket
  • Cheese of any kind you fancy (very much optional)

Method

  • First thing’s first, get those chickpeas in the oven: preheat your oven to 180C / gas 4. Mix together the chickpeas, spices, a teeny bit of salt and pepper and the teaspoon of oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until they are crisp at the edges.
  • Next get the the garlic yoghurt spread sorted (if you’re not using this just skip to the next step). Simply mix together the yoghurt, garlic and the chives, if using. Sprinkle in a small pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Now lay out your tortillas and spread with your garlic yoghurt or whatever spread you’re going for today.
  • Scatter over the chickpeas then the rest of the ingredients.
  • Fold and munch, maybe dipping and scooping up any leftover garlicky yoghurt if the fancy takes you.

Saturday Night Pasta

If I’m not quick in deciding what’s for dinner on a Saturday evening this is what the kids demand. They call it Butter Pasta, but the name doesn’t do it justice. It’s quick, it’s filling, it’s brimming with flavour. One thing is for sure this is super easy to throw together. There are no vegetables in this, which delights the kids but throws me into a health freak panic. I just serve a big salad at the table with this and everyone (especially me) is happy.

In the most basic iteration of this dish you are boiling a pan of pasta, and serving with butter and Parmesan, which melts gloriously as you stir through the hot pasta. But really there are so many little things you can add to spruce this up. In this, my most complex version, which isn’t very complicated at all, I’m suggesting garlic, dried chilli flakes and a little chicken stock along with the standard issue butter and parmesan. Oh and who wouldn’t want a generous grinding of fresh black pepper over this?

We’ve eaten this with every pasta shape imaginable (except macaroni, which I can’t help but reserve exclusively for Macaroni Cheese). I think my favourite is cavatappi (the kind of corkscrew shaped pasta you can see in the picture above) or fusilli. The kids love spaghetti, of course.

Use what ever pasta you have in the cupboard and make this as simple, or elaborate as you fancy. Here are some of the additions I’ve tried, and loved, so far: lemon zest; fresh red chilli fried with the garlic; sun dried tomatoes; fresh herbs, especially basil, oregano or thyme. As I write this I’m thinking truffle oil in place of the butter would be heavenly. Let your taste buds be your guide.

Ingredients

Serves 4 – 5

  • 500g bag of pasta
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • A small splash of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (more if you fancy a spicy pasta)
  • 1/2 stock cube (chicken stock is lovely here but veg is also fine)
  • A rounded tablespoon of butter (more if you like a slicker pasta)
  • A generous grating of Parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper

Method

  • Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions, or for slightly less time than the packet suggests if, like me, you prefer al dente pasta.
  • Meanwhile gently fry your garlic in the olive oil for a minute, add the dried chilli and stir.
  • Crumble in the 1/2 stock cube and add about 100ml of hot water. Stir, simmer for a couple of minutes then turn out the heat.
  • Once your pasta is cooked to perfection, drain and return to the pan, pour and scrape in the garlicky stock and stir.
  • Now plop in the butter and stir again, add more butter if you feel this quantity isn’t enough for you, just don’t go crazy or this could very quickly account for a full day’s worth of calories!
  • Scatter in your Parmesan cheese and stir again.
  • Serve with a good grinding of black pepper and little more grated Parmesan.

Express Iced Coffee

Hands down this is one of the best things I’ve discovered this Summer. I love iced coffee but I never seem to plan ahead adequately to brew a pot of coffee and leave it to cool so that I can sip this when I fancy it.

The other thing I used to find a tad irksome is that once you add ice to cool your coffee right on down, it ends up too watery. Disappointing, especially after all the forward planning.

My son suggested brewing the coffee then freezing it in ice cube trays. Simple. Ingenious. And it works a treat, any time I need a caffeine boost on a warm day I can pop a couple of frozen coffee cubes into a glass and top up with milk.

For a sweeter finish on occassion I’ve dribbled in a little maple syrup. You could use your favourite coffee syrup or even whisk in a spoonful of instant hot chocolate powder.

To be honest this isn’t really a recipe, more a guide to your own homemade iced latte. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s express iced coffee any time you fancy.

Express Iced Coffee

  • Brew a pot of coffee or make a couple of espressos. You want your coffee nice and strong.
  • Cool, then pour into ice cube trays and freeze.
  • Once the coffee cubes are frozen I recommend you pop them out and transfer them to a tub with a tight fitting lid or a freezer bag. This way your coffee stays fresher for longer in the freezer.
  • When you’re in the mood for a cool brew just put a couple of coffee cubes in a tall glass, add any syrups or sweeteners you like and top up with cold milk.
  • Stir and sip.