Tag Archives: Veggies

Greek Stylie Pork & Veggie Kebabs

‘Tis barbie season finally and we’ve been making the most of it this week, partly because of the great weather and partly because we’ve had our seventeen year old nephew James staying with us. I’m not terribly sure how we’re going to cope without his super-nannying skills when he leaves this afternoon (both with kids and dogs!). I’ve mainly been doing a few of my usuals on the barbie, various veggie and meat kebabs, my fat b*****d blue cheese stuffed burgers, chilli pork chops etc, all recipes that I’ll be blogging shortly plus a few exciting newbies on the block.

For today it’s my Greek Stylie Pork and Veggie Kebabs with fresh oregano. I’ve no idea how many times I must have made these last summer. At least twenty times I’m reckoning, and later in the summer using peppers, aubergines, courgettes and onions fresh out of the garden. I can’t wait to be able to do that again, rock on summer! They tend to be more of a side dish rather than a main event for me, but served with hummus and/or tzatziki, a greek salad and pitta bread they make a very substantial main. Great also with chicken instead of pork or without any meat at all (just up the quantity and variety of veggies).

The meat and veggies are best left to marinade for a good few hours, so try to make in advance if you can. And if you’re short on time, as I always am, it’s particularly handy to get all the hard work done in advance anyway, then all you have to do is a bit of skewering up just before barbecuing.


As I grow oregano in abundance I love to use it as generously as possible. It’s the chief flavouring in these kebabs, but if you don’t have a source of fresh oregano you can replace with three teaspoons of dried. I’m entering this post to the Herbs on Saturday blogging challenge held by the lovely Karen at one of my favourite blogs, Lavender & Lovage. I’ve been meaning to take part for quite a while now, but my organisational skills are not the best at times! Have a look at her blog as there’s sure to be plenty of herby and other delights on offer.

Oregano growing in my garden

If you do lots of barbecues I’d think about investing in some metal skewers, they’re so much better than the flimsy easily burnable throw away ones. My Mum and Dad gave me a set years ago that they’d brought back from Istanbul. To be honest they sat at the back of a drawer unused for some time before I got into barbecuing recently, and now they’re used countless times every summer.

Enough for six to eight kebabs:

a medium onion, white or red

a large pepper (any colour)

½ an aubergine or a small courgette or both!

the juice of a lemon

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

a generous pinch of salt

a handful of fresh oregano sprigs, leaves removed and roughly chopped or 3 teaspoons of dried oregano

350g of pork loin pieces

Start with preparing your meat and veggies. They should all be cut to a similar size so everything cooks fairly evenly. Half the onions, then half again then again into eighths. Then roughly separate the layers. Cut the aubergine in quarters lengthways then slice into pieces about 6/7mm thick. If using courgette slice  into 6/7mm thick rounds. Cut the pepper to a similar size. Finally dice the pork the same size as the veggies.

Now put together the marinade ingredients in a large non-metalic bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt & black pepper and oregano leaves.

Tip the pork and veggies into the marinade and give everything a thorough stir. I use my hands. Cover with cling film and leave to marinade away in the fridge for a few hours.

Just before barbecuing, remove from the fridge and skewer up, alternating the veggies, onions and pork. Brush any remaining marinade over the kebabs.

Cook on a hot barbecue, turning every few minutes until they’re evenly browned on all sides and the pork and veggies are thoroughly cooked through.

Great served hot with pitta breads, hummus, tzatziki and a large greek salad on the side (again made with plenty of lemon juice and fresh oregano) or as a side dish to the rest of the barbecue. Any leftovers are fab eaten cold in a pitta sandwich.


Chicken & Apricot Tagine

Toddlers and Young Children, The Whole Family, Just Grown Ups

Another firm family favourite in the Chez Foti household. The addition of dried fruit to tagines, curries or stews always goes down well with my kids and probably with most others too. I remember the first time I made this for Francesca, when she was little over a year old, she wolfed it down like I’d never seen her eat before and devoured a further two bowls. Now anyone who knows Francesca knows this is not normal for her. She’s a painstakingly slow and generally pretty uninterested eater. Although she actually eats most foods she’s definitely not a natural foodie like her little brother. So tagines subsequently feature pretty often in our house.

Interestingly the reason I came to make it for her in the first place was due to the daily report cards issued to parents, from her nursery at the time, reporting that she was eating two ‘large’ portions of tagine whenever it was served, be it lamb, chicken or veggie based. The food they gave the kids was usually amazing and inspirational.

You can make this in all in one go, but it’s best planned ahead and the chicken left to marinade overnight the day before. Feel free to substitute any of the veggies, I tend to use whatever I happen to have in. Squash, pumpkin, aubergines, courgettes, turnips, swede or parsnips all work equally as well as my choices of peppers, sweet potato and carrots.

This is a fab dish for all the family and can fed to real littlies too, once they’re eating proteins. Babies love the sweetness of the apricots. Either blend a little with a stick blender or cut finely and/or mash with the back of a fork.

Serve with couscous, again a very firm favourite grain in our house.

Enough for 4, or a family of 4 with a few leftovers:

4 whole free range chicken legs, skin removed

the juice of 2 lemons

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a teaspoon of ground cumin

1 ½ teaspoons of turmeric

a teaspoon of ras-el-hanout, or mild curry powder

a teaspoon of cinnamon

a tablespoon of olive oil

1 onion, large dice

2 carrots, sliced

a small sweet potato, large dice

a red pepper, large dice

85g of dried apricots, each chopped into 8 to 10 pieces

4 sprigs of fresh thyme

600ml of chicken stock

Place the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, turmeric, ras-el-hanout (or curry powder) and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir around a bit and add the chicken. Ensure the chicken is well coated, cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least a few hours but preferably overnight.

The next day remove the chicken from the marinade, retaining the lovely marinade. Heat the oil in large casserole dish on a medium heat and fry the chicken for a couple of minutes on all sides. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions, carrots, sweet potato and pepper to the same pan, or whichever veggies you’ve chosen. Place back on a medium heat and cook for ten minutes. If the pan’s a little dry add a splash more olive oil or a little water.

Place the chicken back in the pan along with the rest of the marinade, the thyme, chopped apricots and stock. Give everything a good stir around.

Bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and leave to bubble away on the lowest heat setting you have for an hour. Alternatively you could put the casserole dish (or tagine if you’re lucky enough to have one) in a pre-heated to 200ºC oven for an hour and a half. Check every now and again throughout the cooking process and if things start to dry out add a little water.

Have a taste check adding a little salt and pepper to suit (no salt for littlies). Serve hot with couscous.


A Trio of Dips for Babies, Toddlers & Big People!

6-8 month +, Toddlers and Young Children, Finger Foods, Grown Ups too!

Dips are a great way to encourage babies and toddlers to feed themselves and are a fab early ‘finger food’. Even from a very young age babies can co-ordinate themselves to do a dip, even if it’s just dipping their fingers in. And they nearly all love the intensely satisfying experience, albeit a sometimes very messy one for mums and dads!

Dips also encourage wee ones to eat a greater variety of veggies. My kids will rarely eat a stick of raw carrot or pepper on it’s own but will gladly gnaw away if it’s got something yummy on the end. Try offering dips with a selection of finely sliced sticks of raw carrots, cucumbers, peppers, firm avocados or celery as well as breadsticks and slices of wholemeal pitta bread. For babies and littlies offer sticks or pieces of cooked veggies like carrots, courgettes, broccoli florets or even chunks of roasted squash or sweet potato. You might be surprised how much of the good stuff they consume when left to their own devices!

Homemade Hummus

Don’t be daunted by making your own hummus,  it’s remarkably easy and quick and so much better than anything shop bought. From my experience most babies and small children love it, and obviously big children and grown ups too! Rarely a week goes by without me making a batch of hummus. As well as being a great dip it can be tasty snack spread on wholemeal toast or pitta bread, or combined with a little grated carrot or cheese (or both) in a sandwich.

This makes enough for several children but stores well in the fridge for 5 days. I normally make at least double quantity and use exactly the same recipe for the whole family to enjoy.

½ a 400g/14oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ a clove of garlic, finely chopped

juice of ½ a lemon

a desertspoon of Tahini

1.5 tbsps of olive oil

a tiny pinch of salt (no salt if you’re making for babies)

a pinch of black pepper

Throw all the ingredients in a food processor and blend for a few moments, or place in a high sided bowl and whiz with a stick blender. The latter being my preference as it’s less washing up!. Once whizzed check the flavour and add more lemon juice, pepper or salt to taste.

Guacamole

My kids also go crazy for homemade guacamole which again is ridiculously quick and easy to make and beats anything shop bought  hands down.  I use a little fresh coriander in my guacamole as I believe it’s important to get kids into eating strong and interesting flavours from a young age. I also sometimes add a touch of chilli, particularly if I’m making for grown ups too, and the kids like it equally. In fact the first time Francesca ever ate guacamole it was some I’d made for friends that had quite a substantial chilli kick and she loved it! And she was only about 8 months old.

a very ripe avocado

2 teaspoons of fresh lime juice

½ a tomato

a dessertspoon of chopped fresh coriander (optional)

the merest pinch of crushed dried chilli flakes or very finely chopped fresh chilli (optional)

tiny pinches of salt & pepper (no salt if you’re making for babies)

Remove the stone and skin from the avocado, roughly chop and place in a bowl. Mash finely with the back of the fork.

Very finely chop the tomato and stir into the avocado along with the lime  juice, coriander (if using), chilli (if using) and a little salt & pepper.

Tuna & Cream Cheese

The last of my trio happens to be yet another of my kids favourites and is even easier to make than the others. It’s simply tuna mashed up with a little cream cheese. As well as a dip this makes a fab mayo-free sandwich or jacket potato filling. For a very tasty ‘grown up’ version, that kids will also equally enjoy, simply add a little lemon zest, a few finely chopped capers and a grinding of black pepper.

a heaped tablespoon of drained tinned tuna (preferably tuna tinned in spring water)

a heaped tablespoon of full fat cream cheese

Simply mash the two together. Done!.

Here’s Francesca & Jacques enjoying their favourite dippy trio outside in the sunshine:

You might also like: Hummus Hedgehogs, A Trio of Banana Purees, Two Baby Pasta & Puree Recipes, Sweet Potato Daal for Babies.


Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

Ever wanted some inspiration of what to do with all those Sunday dinner leftovers? How about throwing them all together, forming into little patties, coating with egg and breadcrumbs and frying them up? And then serving with any leftover gravy. I would love to take the credit for these tasty cakes of loveliness but I can’t, they were thought up by the ingenious husband of a friend of mine. You know who you are and I thank you! We’ve made them on many a Monday, and I’d go as far to say my kids actually prefer them to their Sunday dinners.

This recipe uses leftovers from a roast pork Sunday lunch and combines diced roast pork (obviously!), apple sauce, mashed potatoes and lots of veggie leftovers (I used carrots, peas and courgettes). They’re equally, if not more delish made with leftover roast beef and a desertspoon of creamed horseradish, or lamb and a little mint sauce…. just throw in whatever you have leftovers off…they’ll undoubtedly be good.

For the coating I used Panko for the first ever time. They’re Japanese breadcrumbs that are particularly light and crispy and make for a wonderfully crunchy coating, available at most Asian stores and bigger supermarkets. If you can’t source use ordinary breadcrumbs (either packet or homemade) or polenta or a 50/50 mixture of the two.

This recipe makes 8 cakes, but make as many as you have leftovers for. They freeze well.

Enough for a family of four:

140g cold roast pork, finely diced

120g cold leftover veggies, finely diced

320g cold leftover potato mash

a tablespoon of apple purée or sauce

black pepper

a heaped tablespoon of plain flour

2 eggs, beaten

4 heaped tablespoons of Panko, breadcrumbs or polenta (or a combination of any of these)

sunflower oil for frying

leftover gravy and apple sauce to serve

Place the diced pork, veggies, mashed potato, apple purée and a grinding of black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Combine thoroughly with a spoon. Divide into 8 equal pieces and shape each into a flattened round patty.

Get three flat bottomed bowls. Place the flour in the first, the beaten eggs in the second and the Panko, breadcrumbs or polenta in the third. Now cover each patty first with the flour, then with the egg and finally with the Panko, ensuring that each are evenly coated in them all. This is quite a delicate operation so be gentle or they’ll easily fall apart.

Place in the fridge until you’re ready to use, ideally for at least 30 minutes to give them a chance to firm up a little more.

When you’re ready to cook them pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to cover it’s base and heat for a few minutes on a medium heat. Carefully place the patties in the pan and fry until golden brown. Turn over and fry the other sides until golden too. This should only take about 5 minutes in total. You may need to do a couple of batches.

Serve immediately with re-heated leftover gravy and some more apple sauce/puree. The wee ones like theirs with baked beans, peas or sweetcorn. Grown ups with a salad.


Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice

My version of Chicken Fried Rice contains eggs and lots of veggies and is a very firm favourite in our house, especially with the wee ones. It’s definitely Jacques’ absolute toptastic favourite dinner, he rarely misses out on a third helping! In fact the first time I made it for him when he was just under a year old I wasn’t sure he was ever going to stop eating. Feel free to omit the chicken and turn this into a tasty veggie dinner, just up the eggs and veggies.

The classic recipe for CFR only includes rice, chicken, egg, onions and peas, but like most things I substantially veg mine up adding pretty much anything that I happen to have in. Today I used half a red pepper, a carrot, a handful of green beans from the freezer and a quarter of a head of broccoli. Peas, courgette, leek, squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, sweetcorn, beansproats, mushrooms, spinach, chard and cabbage all work really well too. Cut your veggies to a size appropriate to the smallest eater. I tend to dice mine fairly small as my children are still pretty little, and a small dice also has the added benefit of a perfect disguise for fussy eaters (as my daughter most definitely can be at times!). If you’re cooking for adults or older children cut everything to a much larger grown up size and cook for a few minutes longer.

Classic recipes also only include the flavour addition of soy sauce, but I like to add a little less soy and a large piece of grated ginger and a teaspoon of Chinese five spice (one of my favourite flavours ever). It’s always good to get your kids used to eating different flavours from a young age, I’m sure it helps to make them less fussy later on.

January 2013: This post is part of the #FaveFamilyRecipes Competition with BritMums and Tilda Rice. Every pack sold will provide a meal to an expectant mum in need in support of the World Food Programme’s Mothers Helping Mothers initiative in Bangladesh. Please check out all the other wonderful entries on the BritMums blog. Although I wrote this post over ten months ago it’s still my two little monsters’ absolute  favourite dinner guaranteed to be gobbled up!

Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice

Enough for a hungry family of 4:


220g white rice, preferably jasmine
2 tablespoons of groundnut or sunflower oil
a thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
a small onion, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
a carrot, diced
1/4 broccoli, cut into small florets (and any larger stem sections diced)
a handful of green beans, sliced
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
a little water
2 free range chicken breasts, cut to a small dice
a teaspoon of Chinese five spice
a teaspoon of sunflower oil
2 eggs
salt & pepper

Start with cooking your rice, cook to packet instructions. Once cooked drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a wok or a large deep sided frying pan. Add the onion, garlic and carrot (and any other root or slow to cook veggies that you may be using). Cook for 5 minutes on a very high heat, stirring and turning continuously.

Now add the broccoli, beans, pepper and other veggies that you’ve chosen to use. Also stir in the soy sauce and a couple of tablespoons of water. Continue to cook on a high heat for a further five minutes. Keep adding a splash of water when the the liquid evaporates.

Finally add the diced chicken and a teaspoon of Chinese five spice. Stir and cook for a final 5 minutes.

While the chicken’s cooking make your omelette. Heat a teaspoon of sunflower oil in another frying pan. Whisk up the eggs and season with a little salt and pepper. When the pan is hot pour in the eggs, stir a little then leave to firm up on a medium heat. Once the egg is fully cooked through remove the omelette from the pan and cut into small bite sized strips.

Thoroughly mix the chicken and veggies, rice and eggy strips together and serve immediately. Grown up folk might like to add a little extra soy sauce. I’ve served mine today in my gorgeous Oogaa bowls. Oogaa design and sell fabulous and safe feeding products for babies and young children in fun designs and colours. For more information check out the Oogaa website, www.oogaa.com.

How about trying some of my other child friendly recipes? Kid’s Bolognese, Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara, Salmon Fishcakes, Potato, Cauliflower & Pumpkin Curry or Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese?


Kid’s Bolognese

I make a bolognese pasta sauce especially for my children throwing in a whole heap of veggies to bulk out the meat. Not only does this make your bolognese a good deal healthier for little tums, but also a good deal cheaper, making a little meat go a long way. It seems that however much other goodness you add the sauce still retains the lovely meaty bolognesy flavour which kids adore. And obviously it doesn’t have to be just for the wee ones, it really is very yummy for big people too!.

You really can throw in a huge variety of veggies to this. In addition to the onions and carrots I added about 300g of finely diced pumpkin, 75g of carrots, and 125g of french beans from my freezer. You could use mushrooms, parsnips, squash, swede, sweet potato, peas, spinach, sweetcorn, celery, peppers, aubergine…the list goes on!. I’ve even added potatoes and chick peas in the past, and both work extremely well. Be brave, chuck it in!.

Try to only use good quality mince, that’s preferably been minced by the butcher in front of you. I tend to add lots of fresh thyme to my bolognese as it grows in abundance here, but if you don’t have any to hand I wouldn’t go to the trouble and expense of buying it especially.

I tend to make the sauce in pretty large batches so I can freeze the leftovers in tupperware portions to bring out for a quick no brainer dinner when I’m short on time.

Enough for 10 to 12 little kids portions:

2 tbsps of olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

500g mixed veggies, cut into a small dice

400g good quality minced beef

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

1 dessertspoon of tomato puree

a few sprigs of thyme (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp of worcester sauce

black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened, stirring regularly.

Now add the veggies that you’ve selected. If you’re using peas, spinach, sweetcorn or any other easily cooked veggie leave out until nearer the end of the cooking process. Cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring regularly.

Add the minced beef and cook until browned.

Throw in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaves, thyme (if using), worcester sauce and a little freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour. If your using veggies that take less time to cook don’t forget to add them a few minutes before the end of the cooking time.

And it’s easy as that!. One large vat of healthy and delicious bolognese sauce to fill those little tums done!

Serve on the pasta of your children’s choice with a generous sprinkling of cheese….my kids love to do the ‘sprinkles’ themselves!

Like my bowls and spoons, they’re lovely aren’t they? They’re from Oogaa who design and sell fabulous and safe feeding products for babies and young children, in gorgeous and fun designs and colours. For more information check out the Oogaa website, www.oogaa.com.

Have you tried any of my other kids dinners? How about my Simple Chicken Stew, Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese, Fish & Chips, Cottage Pie , Kids Fish Pie , Kid’s 5-a-day pasta sauce or Salmon Fishcakes recipes?


A Simple Chicken Stew

Hoping you all had a wonderful christmas with lots of tasty fodder, and wishing a very happy and prosperous 2012!. My apologies for over three weeks absence from the blog, but Chez Foti all went to England for Christmas and although it was my best of intentions to continue blogging, time was most definitely short….and the laptop I intended to use was festively soaked in rather too much vin rouge (luckily it’s now made a full and dried out recovery).

To kick off the New Year I’m blogging my very simple, and not to mention very healthy, Chicken Stew recipe. I tend to make this with the kids in mind, though more often than not it’s our family supper too. Any leftovers get put into small portion sized tupperware pots and frozen for a later convenience dinner for the wee ones.

You can add lots of different veggies to the stew, depending on what’s in season or what you have lurking. Today I used cauliflower, carrots, some pumpkin and a few green beans from the freezer. Peppers, squash, mushrooms, swede, parsnips, sweet potato, cabbage, peas, spinach etc are all great additions. This stew’s a lovely way to fill up those wee little tummies with an abundance of good veg.

Enough for 8 children’s portions or a family of 4:

3 whole chicken legs, skin removed

olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, sliced

2 sticks of celery, sliced

500g of other veggies, cut into appropriate sized pieces

a large glass of white wine (optional)

a heaped tbsp of tomato puree

3 bay leaves

2 sprigs of thyme (optional)

500ml of chicken stock

black pepper

Add a good glug of olive oil to a large saucepan or casserole and place on the heat. Add the chicken legs and fry on  both sides until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and fry for a few minutes until softened, adding a little extra olive oil if necessary. Now add the carrots and celery and all the other veggies, though if you’re using less robust veggies like cabbage, spinach or peas add these towards the end of the cooking process. Cook all the veggies for a few minutes, stirring regularly.

Return the chicken to the pan, along with the white wine if using, the tomato puree, the bay leaves and thyme (if using). Pour in the chicken stock and add a good grind of black pepper.

Bring to the boil and cover and simmer gently for one hour, until the chicken is falling off the bone and the veggies are very tender.

Remove the chicken from the bone and return the meat to the stew.

Serve with a big pile of fluffy buttery mash.


Sausage & Bean Stew

It’s been a bit cold here as winter finally settles in, and I’ve had my usual annual hankering for warming stews and casseroles. With only a few sausages in the fridge a couple of days ago and fancying something substantial and flavoursome I put together this sausage and bean stew, and it really was lovely. In fact one of the tastiest dinners I’ve had in a while! And so very easy and quick to put together. Fresh rosemary aside (though I’m lucky enough to have it growing in abundance at Chez Foti), it’s made from standard store cupboard ingredients. You could obviously use dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked for an hour and a half, but as this was a fairly last minute dinner I used a few trusty tins.

A hearty and on the whole pretty healthy dinner for the whole family, but if your wee ones don’t like any heat omit the chilli flakes.

Enough for 4 hungry grown ups:

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 celery stalks, finely diced

a pinch of dried chilli flakes

6 – 8 Toulouse Sausages, each cut into 4 pieces

4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

3 x 400g tins of Cannellini beans, drained

2 very large handfuls of spinach/chard/savoy cabbage, washed and finely shredded

salt & pepper

Heat a glug of olive oil in casserole or very large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until softened a little. Add the chilli flakes, sausages and rosemary and continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and a little seasoning. Bring to a simmer and gently cook for 20 minutes. Now add the beans and spinach/chard/cabbage to the party and cook for a further 20 minutes with the lid on.

Adjust the seasoning to suit. And it really is as easy as that! Serve in a bowl with a large hunk of bread.


Roasted Veggie Lasagne

Everyone loves lasagne don’t they?  Even the most dedicated of meat eaters might just tuck into a vegetarian dinner if it happened to be lasagne?.  I make this quite often as the kids like it about as much as we do, and it’s much quicker to put together than a bolognese one.  Plus it’s a fab way to use up the excess veggies that always seem to be lingering.  You can add pretty much any veggies you want; once they’re roasted and covered in cheesy pasta layers they all taste pretty damned fab (and I’m sure your kids will agree).  I used in mine a possibly odd combination of red peppers, mushrooms, celery, french beans, aubergine, baby beetroot, carrots and a little swiss chard (the latter I added raw, finely chopped), but it worked very nicely!  A handful or two of cherry tomatoes work particularly well if you have them, as do courgettes, squash, pumpkin, mushrooms, spinach (no need to roast)…..the list could go on and on, but just chuck it in!

I tend to add quite a few fresh herbs to my lasagne as I grow them in abundance.  If you don’t have them to hand, don’t go to the trouble and expense of buying any especially to make this as it can manage without.  I either roast my veggies with lots of fresh thyme, or as I did today added a large handful of chopped parsley and basil to the veggies once they were roasted. I also used Grana Padano rather than it’s more expensive cousin Parmesan.  When making cheese sauces I always add a little english mustard. It somehow managed to eek out a stronger cheesier flavour, but it’s not essential and again if you don’t have it to hand don’t worry.

Serves 4 – 6

olive oil

a red onion, roughly diced

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

750 g of mixed veg, cut into a rough 1cm dice

a handful of black olives – roughly chopped (omit if you’re cooking for kids who really don’t like them)

a handful each of fresh parsley and basil – roughly chopped (optional)

salt & pepper

50g butter

40g plain flour

500ml milk

50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, plus extra for the topping

½ tsp of english mustard (optional)

220g dried lasagne sheets – normal or green

2 balls of Mozzarella, thinly sliced

Preheat your oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7.  Place your veggies, onion and garlic on a large baking sheet or tray, and combine with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a generous grinding of black pepper and a little salt. Roast in the oven for about 25 minutes (turning at least once) until the veggies are all cooked through and starting to brown a little.  Once roasted turn down the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Meanwhile make your sauce. Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat over a very gentle heat until melted.  With the pan still on a little heat add the flour and stir quickly and vigorously with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk until combined.  Add a little milk and continue to stir or whisk vigorously, continue to add the milk in this way until you have incorporated it all.  Don’t worry if you have a few lumps at this stage, they’ll eventually go. Continue to stir or whisk the sauce constantly over a gentle heat until it is fully thickened and starting to simmer, this will take a few minutes. When simmering, take the pan off the heat and stir in the mustard (if using) and Parmesan or Grana Padano.

Now you’re all ready to assemble.  Into a large ovenproof dish add about a third of your veggies and about a third of the olives and a generous sprinkling of basil and parsley (if you’re using). Layer the lasagne sheets on top and spread a third of the cheese sauce over plus a third of the Mozzarella slices.

Continue with another couple of these layers until you’ve used all your ingredients up, and you’ve finished with a thick layer of cheese sauce and plenty of Mozzarella.  Now add a fine layer of grated Parmesan to finish.

Place the dish in your preheated oven for about 30 to 40 minutes until the lasagne is cooked through and the cheesy layer on the top is nicely browned.


Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce

6-8 months +, Toddlers & Young Children

This is a great pasta sauce for babies, toddlers & kids.  It’s quick and easy to make, healthy, tasty and hides an umteen amount of veggies which has got to be good!  I literally throw in any veggies that happen to be lurking and handily clear out my fridge in doing so,  and as they’re all whizzed up with tomato and creme fraiche, they’ll never ever know exactly what you’ve put in it. Excellent if you have difficulty getting your kids to eat their veggies.

I tend to make my sauce in quite large quantities so that I can freeze all the leftovers (in tupperware portions that can be pulled out and made into almost instant dinners).

If making for young babies serve the sauce with an appropriate sized pasta, teeny weeny pasta stars are perfect for weening babies onto lumps in their food. Increase the size of the pasta as they get more accomplished and by the time they’re toddling around they should be eating grown up pasta sizes and shapes.

In this particular sauce I used a courgette, half an aubergine, a handful of french beans and surprise surprise a large slice of pumpkin (yep it really does go into anything and everything these days!).  You really can add a whole multitude of veg, peppers, carrots, squash, peas, celery, broccoli and mushrooms all work really well too.

Enough for several children’s meals
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
600g mixed veggies (see above list)
1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
a bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp of tomato puree
100 ml water
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche

Add the oil, onion and garlic to a high sided saucepan and saute for a few minutes, until the onion is soft.  Meanwhile roughly chop your veggie selection into smallish chunks – don’t worry about them all being uniform and neat as you’re going to blitz the mixture later anyway.

Add the veggies to the onion for about 5 minutes, stirring at regular intervals.  If they appear to be catching on the bottom add a splash of water to the pan.  After 5 minutes, stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, 100 ml of water, bay leaf, oregano, pinch of sugar and maybe a little salt and pepper (if your child is very young then obviously don’t add any salt).

Cook the sauce for a further 15 to 20 minutes until all the veggies are soft and fully cooked through.  Take out your bay leaf, add the creme fraiche and blitz the sauce until smooth (and all veggies fully unidentifiable!) either with a stick blender in the saucepan or in a food processor.  Job done!  One huge pan of yummy pasta sauce.

Serve with whatever pasta your precious monsters like most and a sprinkling of cheese on the top.  And I promise you they’ll never guess what’s in it!


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