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.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Crunch

Spiced pumpkin seed crunch, how I love to munch you. Let me count the ways…

1. As a fabulous healthy snack. Gobbled by the handful as I walk past your bowl or packaged up for lunch box treats.

2. Scattered over a warm salad. Beetroot and goats cheese anyone? How about roasted squash and chickpea?

3. Sprinkled atop an Autumnal sweet potato, lentil or carrot soup, delicately spiced with cumin, coriander and chilli.

4. Stirred quickly through a light couscous dish, with a pile of fresh coriander.

5. To add crunch to a simple pasta.

Only 5? Well frankly that’s enough to be getting on with for now. Key take out: Versatile. Delicious. Moreish.

As it’s pumpkin season you may well be making these with the seeds from a fresh pumpkin. If you are, then you will need to wash and dry the seeds before tossing with the spices. You will also need to increase the roasting time to 12-15 minutes.

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Crunch

Ingredients

  • About a cup (120g) of pumpkin seeds
  • A generous pinch of sea salt
  • A good grinding of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Option to add a pinch of chilli powder or chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 C / gas 4.
  • Mix together all of your ingredients then spread out on a baking tray.
  • Cook in your preheated oven for 6 – 8 minutes. The seeds will be turning golden.
  • Allow to cool a little before diving in.
  • If you have any left, lucky you, they will keep well in an airtight container for a few days.

Poppy Seed Pizza Dough, for extra crunch

Who doesn’t love pizza eh? So many delicious toppings to choose from and then the array of cheeses to compliment a particular ingredient.  Like a cheeky crumbling of goats cheese with some caramelized onions.  Or occasionally no cheese whatsoever for a classic potato and rosemary combo.

But the base.  Well you can’t really mess with a pizza base too much without accidentally transforming it into something un-pizza-like.

That being said, sometimes I make a wholemeal base and I generally add dried rosemary to my white base. But nothing off the wall crazy you understand.

Yet the other day I veered right off those well trodden pizza tracks.  Oh yes, I added a tablespoon of poppy seeds to my dough.  My thought process was this:  I love a bit of subtle crunch to my pizza so why the heck not? Plus, I’m more than a little partial to poppy seed bread so yeah, I’ll give it a whirl.

The result was an assuredly delicate crunch.  But other than the minor adjustment, this was still 100% a gorgeous pizza.

This is my bread machine pizza dough recipe which means it’s pretty effort free. But if you like to make yours by hand or have a tried and tested pizza dough recipe that you love, just chuck in the seeds when you mix the dough.

Poppy Seed Pizza Dough, for extra crunch

(bread machine method)

Makes 4 – 5 pizza bases

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon yeast
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 350ml water
  • Fine polenta for rolling

Method

  • Put all of the ingredients, except the polenta, in your bread machine. Set for dough and toddle off to do something exciting / relaxing while the machine does its thing.
  • Once it’s ready, tip out onto a clean surface dusted with polenta. Cut the dough into 4 or 5 pieces and roll out to fit your pizza trays.
  • Leave the bases to rest while you get on with the gathering of your chosen toppings.
  • Once your pizzas are ready to bake, I put them in a hot oven preheated to 220 C for 7 – 10 minutes.

A Little Gift to You…

Although this is a pizza dough recipe, I’ll share my simple pizza sauce recipe with you too. I use this every time and it never lets me down.

Just gently fry a thinly sliced clove of garlic in olive oil for a mere minute. Chuck in a can of tomatoes, a pinch each of salt, basil and oregano. Simmer gently for 20 minutes. Leave to cool slightly. I don’t tend to add fresh herbs in my sauce as I like to scatter them directly onto the pizza.

Claire’s Loaded Veggie Breakfast Stack

Thank you scrumptious Claire for tickling my taste buds with this pile of savoury favourites… eggs on halloumi on avocado on chilli jam on focaccia. Be still my beating heart!

After a particularly punishing morning HIIT workout in Claire’s garden, my legs were trembling, my arms were aching, my stomach was rumbling, nay roaring! This hearty stack of deliciousness is what she treated me with.

Digging a little deeper into this plate it turns out it didn’t only bestow pleasure on my taste buds. Each of the ingredients is massively helpful to us after a workout. The protein in the eggs helps to repair and build muscle; the avocado is dense in nutrients and fibre, which is really important for our metabolic health; and of course we needed carbs to replenish all the fuel we’d just burned, hello foccacia.

When you stack these awesome ingredients high it’s quite a challenge to open your jaw wide enough to eat this so Claire helpfully served this in 2 halves, making it less exhausting to devour, especially in polite company.

The focaccia was a herby delight but any bread or toast would be welcome to join this party stack. I’m thinking sourdough, bagels or wholegrain toast.

So get veggie stacking this weekend. Workout optional.

Claire’s Loaded Veggie Breakfast Stack

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 generous slices of focaccia or bread / toast of your choice
  • 1 packet of halloumi, thickly sliced
  • Chilli jam
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 – 4 eggs (depending on how starving you are)
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  • First of all heat your oven to about 120C / gas 1 and slip in an oven tray. This is for keeping the halloumi warm once cooked.
  • Heat a frying pan and once it’s warm cook your halloumi slices. You will not need oil for this. Once the liquid has evaporated and the halloumi is golden flip over and cook the other side, the 2nd side cooks much quicker than the 1st so keep an eye on it. Transfer to the warm oven tray to keep nice and warm.
  • Now add a little oil to your pan and fry your eggs (1 or 2 each).
  • While you’re waiting for the eggs to cook you can spread your chilli jam on your toast / bread and slice your avocado.
  • Arrange the avo on the bread / toast, followed by the halloumi and eggs. Sprinkle over salt and pepper if you like.
  • If you’ve built a stack you can pop the 2nd slice of bread / toast on top or just keep it on your plate to catch the tumbling odds and ends.
  • Loosen up your jaw then sink your teeth into this heavenly manna.