I love eating food, I love cooking food, I love reading about food and I love looking at food. But can I be the only person who thinks there are far too many photos of chia pudding on Instagram? There – I’ve said it. That statement may make me wildly unpopular but frankly I’m becoming bored of the endless stream of ‘photogenic food’. Yes, food should look appetising, and yes, I applaud those who can take fantastic photographs (a skill I would love to learn one day as my camera is a total mystery to me!) But I don’t think how food looks should be anywhere near as important as how it tastes! I must declare a strong dislike for chia seeds and so they have taken the brunt of my rant – but really I am using chia pudding as an example for a whole range of ‘pretty but tasteless’ food.
This seems to form part of a growing trend for ‘clean’ food and in some ways I think this is excellent – knowing what we are putting in our bodies is hugely important to me and I am very passionate about the provenance of my ingredients. However, replacing all known foods with ‘clean’ alternatives I find concerning, especially when children’s diets are involved. We have no allergies or intolerances in our family so we eat a balance of all food groups including whole grains, dairy and meat. When I replace an ingredient it isn’t to make my food ‘clean’ as if it was somehow ‘dirty’ before – its merely to try something new and provide my family with nutritious and varied meals.
This tart is made with a sweet potato crust instead of pastry. This does make it lower in fat and calories, as well as increasing the vegetable content of the meal, but more than this, its delicious! The sweetness of sweet potatoes works beautifully with the salmon and spinach in this tart and is a lovely alternative to pastry. I have tried sweet potato bases with various quiche and tart recipes but this has been my favourite so far. It is such a summery meal, perfect on warm evenings with a large salad. It also makes a brilliant baby-led weaning meal as it contains oily fish, green vegetables and dairy; in my experience often the hardest foods to get babies to eat! It can be eaten hot or cold, so it also works well for packed lunches.
The recipe method looks a little long but if you are short on time I recommend making the tart case in advance. I normally make this in the morning, blind bake it and then keep it in the fridge until I need it later that day.
This makes enough to serve 4 adults as part of a main meal.
3 medium sweet potatoes
2 fillets of salmon
1 bag of raw spinach (enough to make 3 cooked handfuls)
100ml creme fraiche
Tsp dijon mustard
Zest of half a lemon
Sweet potato tart case:
Peel and grate the sweet potatoes using a coarse grater
Highly grease your tart case and pour the grated potato in
Using your hands or a spoon push the grated potato into the tart case, covering the base and sides. This can be a little fiddly, I find the best way is to use my hands and knuckles!
Blind bake this a preheated oven at 180C for about 15 minutes until the edges are starting brown.
Crack one of the eggs and put the yolk to the side. Using the egg white, brush the tart case to create and pop it back in the oven for 5 minutes. This creates a waterproof layer ensuring your salmon filling will not leak through. You cannot see or taste the egg white.
For the filling:
Place the salmon fillets in a microwaveable dish with a little water and cook them for about 3 minutes, until they are cooked through.
Flake the salmon into large chunks and put to one side
Cook your spinach, drain it and squeeze out any excess moisture and chop up.
Add the salmon, spinach, creme fraiche and mustard to a bowl and stir.
Add the egg yolk and the remaining egg to the mixture and combine
Season with salt and pepper (no salt if cooking it for children)
Spoon the mixture into the tart case and put in the oven for 15 minutes
Optional: add slices of tomato to the top of the tart
The filling should be set and golden brown
We enjoyed this warm last night with some new potatoes from our garden and a green salad with a citrus dressing to mirror the lemon in the tart. Will had his at lunch time cold and he ate it all (happy Mummy!) Despite the poorly taken photographs and the slightly browned black edges of the sweet potato case, this meal was made with love for my family and it tasted fantastic!
I’d love to hear from you if you try any of my recipes, or if there are any people who have a recipe for chia seeds that may change my mind about them!
Its nearly the end of June, it’s raining, its foggy and we all have colds. All in all its a grumpy house this week. Will is frustrated if we stay in all day but gets too tired and overwhelmed if we are out for too long, which is making it hard to know what to do with him! This morning we went to a soft play centre which he enjoyed for about half a hour before turning back into to a little cuddly, grizzly boy. I’m not complaining though, having a cold is horrid and he is never normally cuddly so in some ways it’s nice (for me). His body is obviously fighting hard to get him better as he is also napping a lot! He has currently been asleep for over an hour which is unheard of in the afternoon for him!
As I wrote that previous sentence he woke up, when will I ever learn!? DON’T MENTION GOOD NAPS!
Anyway, my point was that both the weather and everyone being under the weather, meant comfort food was definitely in order for supper! Comfort food for me is bowl food – the kind of thing you can eat with just a fork. Risotto is perfect comfort food, and this salmon and leek version manages to feel both warm and cosy, as well as light and summery. It’s not hard to make either, but as with all risotto it does take some serene stirring.
To make it baby friendly there are a few sacrifices compromises. They aren’t actually sacrifices, as it’s delicious and full-flavoured without them. There is no white wine added, although the lightness of the salmon and leek come through more as a result. It really isn’t missed in this particular recipe. There is also a lack of salt so it can feel under seasoned, but I have a trick for this which will become clear in the recipe method!
This is enough for 2 adults and 1 baby portion.
1 salmon fillet, deskinned
75g smoked salmon
200g arborio rice
Low salt vegetable stock cube
3 tablespoons of peas
Small bunch of dill
Zest of 1 lemon
knob of unsalted butter
Finely slice the leek, leaving the top 2 inches of green leek for later
De-skin and chop the fresh salmon fillet
Add leek to a large sauté pan with half of the butter and soften (don’t let them colour)
Add the rice to the leeks and stir to coat in the butter
Add the stock cube to a saucepan of hot water and bring to simmer (roughly a litre of water should be fine but if you run out just add more water to your saucepan)
Add a couple of ladles of the stock, the fresh salmon and stir
Keep adding more stock as the rice absorbs whats in the pan, stirring periodically to prevent it sticking. I like to use a wooden fork for stirring as it prevents the rice from breaking down.
When the rice is soft but still too hard to eat (after roughly 15 minutes) add the peas and the lemon zest
Finely chop the dill
Slice the smoked salmon into thin strips
Finely slice lengths of the green leek top
Once the rice is cooked and the liquid absorbed (20-30 minutes), turn the heat off, add the remaining butter, the dill and roughly two thirds of the smoked salmon, and stir to combine.
Remove the baby portion
For the adult portions, I add the rest of the smoked salmon on top, with some of the green leek and a generous crack of black pepper.
Adding the rest of the smoked salmon to the adult portions ensures that the baby portion isn’t too salty, and the adult portions’ become adequately seasoned. I like to add the raw leek as it provides a fresh taste as well as a contrasting texture from the smooth creaminess of the risotto.
Risotto is excellent baby food as it is so versatile: you can feed it in a variety of ways. For baby led weaning you could simply squash the peas and pop this, once cooled a little on a plate/highchair tray (messy but effective). You can also wait for the risotto to cool, mash the peas and roll it into balls the size of a walnut. These can be coated in parmesan and bread crumbs and lightly fried to create finger food. Finally you can pop it all in a blender and puree to you required consistency. This is what I have done today as when Will isn’t well he prefers to be fed by me.
What are your favourite comfort foods? I’d love to know!
I continually ask my husband if he is bored of the meals we eat; I fear that we may get stuck in a food rut, a nightmare to a greedy person like me! I love food and I love my meals to be exciting and varied. When My little boy was first born ( in August.. where has the time gone?) we were definitely in a food rut. I had frozen an eye-watering 75 meals beforehand as I knew I would have no time to cook. This was an absolute life saver in the early days when my evenings were spent mainly on the sofa trying to feed and/or comfort an often inconsolable baby. It was however, rather boring and repetitive. Meal times began to feel like just another task; an interruption to looking after William. I will admit I found this really sad; meal times were my favourite time of day and I longed for the picture-perfect image of us all sitting at our table together sharing a meal. It was feeling like this that made me determined that William would be able to share our meals.
Fast forward a few months and obviously this doesn’t always work. My husband is a farmer and some days he can be home at 4pm, on other days I don’t see him until the middle of the night. William is not a flexible baby (he likes routine, just like me) so we don’t always get to have supper together even if we have managed breakfast and lunch. That being said, I still try to ensure he eats the same supper as us, even if it has been blended or altered slightly.
These fishcakes are something I made long before I was a Mum and are a perfect example of a meal that can be altered slightly to suit grown-ups and little ones. They have always been a staple in our house as they freeze brilliantly meaning I can make a large batch and then have them stored away for busy days. I’ve called them cod fishcakes but actually I have made them with a variety of white fish, today they are haddock, in the past I have made them with pollock, red snapper and even monkfish. William often requires some persuasion to eat fish but he adores sweet potato so these tend to be received well, I try not to take it too personally when my food gets thrown on the floor in temper!
The quantities I’ve outlined below make 6 large fishcakes and 6 mini ones.
200g white fish (cod, haddock and pollock all work brilliantly)
4 medium sweet potatoes
3 spring onions
zest of half a lemon
Handful of fresh herbs (basil, mint, coriander or parsley all work well, use whatever you have)
Oil for frying fishcakes
Polenta or plain flour for dusting
Optional extras for grown-up versions
Half a chilli, chopped finely
25g Chorizo, fried until crispy
Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees, place fish on a baking tray and pop in the oven for approximately 15 minutes.
Peel and chop sweet potatoes and boil until soft
Finely slice the spring onions remembering to ensure they are small enough for your little one to manage and place in a large mixing bowl
Zest half a lemon and add to the mixing bowl
Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them well and leave to cool a little
Add potatoes to mixing bowl and mash roughly with a fork
Once your fish is cooked (15 minutes approximately but depends on the thickness of the fillet) place it on a plate and flake it, checking for bones as you go
Add the flaked fish to to the mixing bowl and fork it through the sweet potato mixture
Once the mixture is cool enough to touch, shape your mini fishcakes and place on a plate
Add any extras to the remaining mixture and stir through
Shape your large fishcakes and place on a plate
Place fishcakes in the fridge to cool down as this ensures they hold their shape when cooked
Dust the fishcakes in flour our polenta. I love the texture that polenta gives them and it makes the easier for small hands to grab (at this stage they can be frozen and then cooked in the oven from frozen)
Shallow fry in the oil of your choice (I use cold-pressed rapeseed oil as it has a high smoking point) for a couple of minutes a side until they are crispy and golden. Make sure you give them long enough on each side to form a crust or they won’t flip easily.
Tonight we are having these with some grilled asparagus. Although we also have them with salads, mushy peas or tenderstem brocolli.
The key with these is really to add herbs and flavours that you like to them. I love the salty spice of chorizo with the sweetness of the potato and the white fish. They can also take on an asian twist if you add lime zest instead of lemon, with chilli and coriander. Its a brilliant base-recipe that you can tweak to make your meals more exciting, avoiding the infamous ‘food rut’!
I’d love to hear if you try making these, happy cooking!