Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Chowders are like the posh cousins of the soup family. A good fish chowder feels a bit grander than, say, a classic tomato soup or a chicken broth. To me, it’s a bit of an indulgence. I dare say a proper restaurant chowder would indeed be somewhat of a treat with lashings of cream and butter. This version, while tasting divine is, brilliantly, rather good for you. A definitively lighter rendition – posh and saintly.

Made mostly with chicken stock, it finds its delicate creaminess from a good glug of milk added near the end of the cooking. I tend to use full fat milk for this but I can’t imagine semi skimmed would taste noticeably inferior. I wouldn’t advise skimmed milk though, unless you want the creaminess in colour only. But then, why bother?

If you want to boost your veg intake, add sweetcorn, peas or chopped spinach. And finally, don’t scrimp on the bread. Big hunks of wholemeal or granary are spot on with a fish chowder.

Super Simple Salmon Chowder

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, diced quite finely
700ml chicken stock
300ml whole milk

1 pack of smoked salmon, chopped
1 lemon – zest of whole lemon and a squeeze of juice to taste
A handful of parsley, chopped
A few sprigs of dill, chopped (optional)

Method

Pop your potatoes, onion and hot stock in a pan and simmer for about 15 minutes with the lid on.

Once the potatoes are tender add the milk, heat through over a low heat then add the smoked salmon and lemon zest. Gently simmer for a couple of minutes.

Turn off the heat and add a spritz of lemon juice and the herbs. If you can wait, leave the chowder to sit for a few minutes so that all the flavours can merrily mingle.

Serve with an extra scattering of herbs and more lemon juice if you like.

Fabulous Filo Leftover Pie

This is more of a suggestion than a recipe, because you could use any leftovers you want to make this pie. As long as you have a few sheets of filo kicking about the kitchen you’re onto a winner.

I had made way too much curry on Friday night and I was all set to do my usual and turn it into soup. But as I opened the fridge I spotted 3 sheets of filo pastry. I’d used the rest of the pack to make samosas and just couldn’t decide what to do with the rest.

And so this happy collision of leftovers was born. I added a couple of handfuls of couscous to my leftover curry just to make sure this was a hearty enough pie for us hungry lot.

My curry was sweet potato and chicken, but like I say, you could use whatever curry you have leftover, or use up bolognese or bean stew or a creamy fish dish or a fiery chilli. You get the idea, just experiment with what you have. I don’t often have leftovers as we are a hungry household. But this is so good, with a satisfying crunch and a flavour packed filling I’d be tempted to make extra curry just so I know I’ll have enough leftover for this easy pie.

Fabulous Filo Leftover Pie

Ingredients

  • Leftover curry (or chilli or bolognese or stew)
  • A couple of handfuls of couscous (if you want to bulk up your sauce a bit)
  • A few sheets of filo pastry (enough to scrunch up over you dish), I used 3
  • A little oil or melted butter
  • Sesame seeds

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 160 C / gas 3.
  • Reheat your curry and chuck in the couscous, if you’re using it. You could also add a couple of handfuls of frozen peas, chopped spinach or some canned sweetcorn.
  • Pour the sauce into a heat proof dish.
  • Brush your filo sheets with a little oil or melted butter then scrunch up and pop atop the curry.
  • Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 30 minutes. When it’s cooked the pastry will be crisp and lightly golden brown.

Easy Breezy Salsa Verde

I’ve always relished a bit of Salsa Verde on a nice piece of grilled fish, especially fresh tuna or a perfectly cooked chunky white fish. Salsa Verde is outrageously flavoursome and has the added bonus of being a raw sauce / dressing, which means it’s quick and easy to prepare. You can even make this in advance of the meal you’re planning to serve it with to remove a little meal assembly stress.

This can easily become vegetarian by omitting the anchovies, but you’ll probably want to add in a pinch of sea salt to pack in the salty punch the anchovies usually bring to the party.

I have recently discovered that the anchovy-free version is rather delicious with scrambled eggs. I don’t know about you but I can sometimes tire of my usual brekky repertoire so a little va va voom from this saucy accompaniment was a welcome change.

Now you can of course pop all of the ingredients in a mini processor and whizz this up in a mere moment. But there are times when I’m right up for a bit of manual labour and at those times I like to plonk the herbs, capers, garlic and anchovies on a board, grab a sharp knife and chop chop chop until I have a chunky green salsa which can easily be mixed in a bowl with the oil and lemon juice.

My final note on this is that you’d normally see an astonishing volume of oil in a salse verde recipe, anything from 100ml upwards. My recipe, on the other hand, uses as little as I can get away with. For me that’s usually a good glug, or between 1 – 2 tablespoons. I advise starting with a glug or 2 then drizzling more in a little at a time until you have the right consistency for you.

If you have any left you can store it, covered, in the fridge.

Easy Breezy Salsa Verde

Ingredients

  • A small bunch of parsley, leaves picked
  • A few sprigs of fresh mint (about a tablespoon)
  • A couple of tablespoons of capers, drained
  • 1 plump clove of garlic
  • 4 anchovy fillets in oil, drained (leave these out for a veggie version)
  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Olive oil, depending how oily you like things use anything from 2 tablespoons to 100ml+

Method

  • On a decent sized chopping board, chop the herbs, capers, garlic and anchovies until you have a coarsely textured pile
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice, mustard and olive oil

OR

  • Blitz everything in a food processor

Marvellous Ways With Salsa Verde

  • Spooned over cooked fish
  • Spread generously in a tasty sandwich or wrap
  • Drizzled over scrambled eggs or a nice cheesy omelette
  • Swirled with a flourish through soup
  • Also divine with a simple roasted chicken breast but I’d go for the anchovy free version here

Quick & Easy Ramen

My eldest had suggested we make ramen at home a couple of times. Usually I’ll jump all over a good food suggestion but for various reasons that just hadn’t happened with this noodley dish: Not enough eggs or no noodles – pretty fundamental stuff in the realm of ramen making.

Jump to Sunday lunchtime. His brothers were at football and rugby training. Eldest decides he’s making ramen for us all. Joy!

In our usual house style this ramen contained just what we happened to have nestling in the fridge so if I made it again I might well use different veg, or add chicken etc etc.

One thing I absolute would have added is dried seaweed. I was sure we had some sushi nori sheets but alas that cupboard was bare, so for this dish we had to do without.

Despite the sad absence of seaweed this is a bowl of delicious ramen on no small scale, packing a punch of savoury flavour. If you’re an umami addict, this will dance a jolly jig on your tastebuds. Its slurping sensational.

The eggs are dreamily soft in texture and oh so delicate in flavour floating in their full flavoured broth.

Regretfully these photos of mine really do not do my son’s fantastic ramen justice. Just as he was arranging the eggs I had the bright idea to include this in my blog. By this point his brothers were back from training, my husband was freezing from spectating hours of junior sports. Everyone was frankly getting hangry! So this was the best I could manage before the bowls were snatched away with tuts and evil glares.

Ramen

Serves 4-5

Ingredients

  • 250g noodles
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • A pinch of chilli powder
  • 1 chilli, finely chopped (if you’re not a fan of chilli heat just leave this out)
  • A bunch of spring onions, chopped
  • 1 litre of hot chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon of miso paste
  • A couple of large handfuls of edamame beans
  • A couple of handfuls of chopped spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • A packet of ready to eat quorn chicken slices, chopped or use cooked chicken
  • A couple of sheets of seaweed, torn or chopped
  • 4 hard boiled eggs, sliced
  • 4 teaspoons of sesame seeds
  • Soy sauce

Method

  • Cook your noodles according to the packet directions. Once cooked drain and keep warm in the pan.
  • Meanwhile put all of the ingredients up to and including the seaweed into a large pot and simmer for about 10 minutes. You just want a nice gentle bubble.
  • To serve divide the noodles between your bowls and pour over the broth. Artfully arrange your boiled eggs and scatter over the sesame seeds.
  • I just plonked the soy sauce on the table for everyone to serve themselves. You might also opt to serve with lime wedges and / or extra chilli.

Heart Warming Lentil Soup with Filini Pasta

As my lovely mom would say with a smirk “the nights are fair drawing in”. Well this is the perfect bowl of warming, wholesome soul filling food we could all do with at this time of year.

This soup wins gold medals in so many categories: wholesome, nutritious, warming, moreish, satisfying, simple to make and blooming delicious.

When I was in the supermarket I came across pasta called Filini from a brand called Lubella and this became the inspiration for this soup. I discovered that ‘filini’ means little threads. To my mind it resembles short pieces if vermicelli.

I’ve no idea if this is a readily available pasta, which is why I’ve suggested broken up vermicelli as an alternative for this recipe. By the same token, I have noticed over recent months that smaller local shops rarely stock vermicelli and if that’s the case for you just use noodles. The key thing here is to have some soulful, tender carbs in among this soupy beaut.

A small aside to anyone feeding younger children, huddle in now this is our little secret: if I add noodles or pasta to any soup it’s an instant hit with kids. That means they eat their veg without complaint. Sneaky.

Slice up plenty of fresh crusty bread and you’re onto a winner of a dinner.

Heart Warming Lentil Soup with Filini

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons of butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1.5 teaspoons of turmeric
  • 200g mung dal lentils or red lentils
  • 2 litres of hot stock (veg, chicken or beef would all work)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 100g Cavolo Nero or kale, tough middle rib removed and chopped into fairly small bits
  • 100g filini (or vermicelli, broken into smaller pieces about 4cm long)
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander
  • Salt and pepper

Method

  • In a large pan melt the butter over a medium heat. Fry the onions for about 8 minutes until soft and starting to turn golden.
  • Stir in the garlic and turmeric and cook for a further minute or so.
  • Now tip in the lentils and pour over the stock.
  • Once the stock is simmering away nicely pop a lid on your pan and just let everything bubble gently for 10 minutes.
  • At this point you can tip in the chickpeas, cavolo nero and broken up vermicelli, stir and then simmer for another 10 minutes or until the lentils and vermicelli are tender.
  • Turn out the heat and just before serving add the chopped coriander. Check the seasoning and add a little salt if you think it needs it. I’d recommend a lovely big grinding of black pepper.
  • Serve generously in your favourite bowls and feel your heart, tummy and soul light up with gratitude.

Joyful Veggie Lasagne

During these strange times I have been taking my joy where I can find it: a quiet cup of coffee with my husband in the morning, a spritz of my favourite perfume, a good box set on TV. The simplest pleasures really are bringing a little glee to my day.

Top of the list, however, for daily delectation is food. Of course.

The simple pleasure we are all exalting over this week is veggie lasagne. It’s always been a favourite in our house. There’s an almost palpable euphoria when my family come down for dinner and this little beauty is on the table.

I often make this with quorn mince as it’s the kids’ favourite. But I also love veggie lasagne made with lentils or even a couple of cans of tuna. I must admit that I have never made a meat lasagne. The veggie version is jam packed with so much flavour that even my Dad, a life long meat lover, devours this with gusto.

Veggie Lasagne

Serves 4 – 6 depending on appetite

Ingredients

For the veggie sauce

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 bag of quorn mince or about 100g lentils
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • A teaspoon of marmite (or 1/2 a veg stock cube)
  • 1 teaspoon each of sage, oregano and basil
  • A couple of large handfuls of spinach, chopped

  • About 12 – 16 lasagne sheets (I use the dried ones)

For the white sauce

  • 1.5 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • About 1 litre of milk
  • About 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • A couple of big handfuls of grated cheddar
  • A good grating of parmesan to finish off

Method

  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan and gently fry your onion and carrots for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and stir.
  • Tip in the quorn or lentils and stir to allow all the flavours to mingle.
  • Pour over the tomatoes and sprinkle in the herbs and marmite. Give it all a big stir then leave to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  • When the tomato sauce is just about ready, stir through the chopped spinach then turn out the heat.
  • Meanwhile preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4 before you get on with your white sauce.
  • In a small saucepan mix your cornflour with about a tablespoon of milk. Once there are no lumps add the rest of the milk. Place your pan over a medium heat and stir, stir, stir until the sauce thickens. If you don’t keep stirring you risk a lumpy sauce.
  • Once the white sauce is thick enough, remove from the heat and add 1 handful of cheddar and a good pinch of salt. Stir.
  • Now to the assembly: pour a layer of tomato sauce into your lasagne dish followed by a little drizzle of white sauce. Then cover with a single layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat with a layer of tomato sauce, a drizzle of white sauce and a single layer of lasagne sheets until you have used up your tomato sauce.
  • Once you’ve used all of the tomato sauce place a final layer of lasagne sheets on top of everything then pour over the rest of the white sauce. Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar and grate over as much parmesan as you fancy.
  • Pop this dish of delights into the oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.
  • You know your lasagne is ready when it’s golden and bubbling, but to be absolutely certain you can pierce with a sharp knife to check the lasagne is cooked through.
  • I like to leave it to stand for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting. This is the most difficult thing I will likely do all day as I will be desperate to dive in. Allowing your lasagne to stand makes it easier to cut into portions and also reduces the risk of you burning your mouth on the molten hot sauce. So a little restraint pays off.