Roast Aubergine & Tomato Soup

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Will has been really poorly with an ear infection. It’s the first time he has been properly unwell (thankfully) and it has been horrible. He had a fever that wouldn’t come down with painkillers and it worried me a lot. As a pharmacist, I thought I would be calm and controlled when my child was ill but if anything it makes me even more neurotic! I also, despite being surrounded by medicines every day, hate to give him things if I can avoid it, so when he was given antibiotics I was weirdly disappointed – a completely stupid emotion as within two doses he had perked up no end and his temperature was back to normal. There is such negative stigma attached to antibiotics and it’s completely unfounded; of course they should only be used when needed, but when they are needed they are incredible, life saving medicines that we should thank our lucky stars for! Although he has been feeling better, he still hasn’t been his usual bubbly self and its been upsetting to see.

Anyway, as I was feeling hopeless at making my little man feel better I focussed on what I could do, making him some soothing, nutritious food. Soup is my go-to food when anyone is ill. Its quick to make, comforting, healthy and can be eaten at literally any time of day. Soups have always been a regular meal in our house, but even more so since we became parents. I love to batch cook soups and freeze portions to have for lunches or late suppers. Its also great to have something that is quick to reheat and can be eaten with one hand (or put in a mug when you have a cluster feeding newborn)!

This particular soup is a firm favourite in our house. It really showcases summer vegetables so it is perfect for this time of year. The aubergine gives the soup a wonderful creamy texture which works beautifully to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes without having to add sugar. This soup is also able to make even the most tasteless, unripe supermarket tomatoes taste delicious. Although it goes without saying that the better your tomatoes, the better the flavour will be.

Soups are also a marvellous way of sneaking extra vegetables into children or babies. I spoon-feed Will food like this (my kitchen or my type A personality wouldn’t cope if he fed himself soup!) To encourage him to feed himself as well, I give him bread soldiers that have been dunked in the soup for him to chew on. I also added some live natural yoghurt to Will’s to give him back some of the good bacteria the antibiotics may have taken!

Any leftovers can obviously be frozen but this soup also works perfectly as a pasta sauce, two recipes in one!

Ingredients

  • 1 aubergine, chopped into chunks
  • 5 fresh tomatoes
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • pinch of fresh or dried oregano
  • pinch of mixed herbs
  • black pepper to taste
  • olive oil

Method

  • Chop the aubergine and tomatoes and place in an oven tray to roast with the dried herbs and a drizzle of olive oil
  • Roast them at 180C until they are soft and browning
  • Peel and finely slice the red onion and sweat in a saucepan on a  low heat until it is translucent
  • Add the oven roasted tomato and aubergine to the saucepan with the onion, rinse out the oven tray with some water and pour into the saucepan so you lose no flavour
  • Add the tin of tomatoes and a little water
  • Simmer for 15 minutes
  • Season to taste and blend, adding water until you reach your desired consistency.

 

This obviously isn’t an adult bowl of soup, but ours was eaten very late and I was too hungry for the camera!

Feta Filo parcels 

We are going away this weekend to Cardiff; it’s going to be our first trip away with Will. I know people travel with much younger children than this, but for us it’s a first, and I must admit I’m nervous! Nervous of leaving something behind, nervous of  a mid John Lewis meltdown and most of all, nervous that Will’s routine will get completely disrupted. It took 9 and a half months for Will to sleep for longer than 2 hours in a row, and for the last couple of weeks he has been sleeping through the night, it’s been absolute bliss and I would hate to end up back at square one! So this week I’ve been making lists, lists of lists and using up everything in the fridge!

We grow courgettes and this year we are inundated! So they are constantly in my fridge and I’m forever looking for new ways to use them. This recipe is a quicker, modified version of a Jamie Oliver recipe for a filo pie.

Filo makes brilliant crispy carriers for little hands to grip, making these brilliant finger food. I made Will some spring roll shaped versions, while we had rustic parcels. Its also lighter than puff or shortcrust pastry, making these feel almost saintly. This recipe is incredibly simple, and it really showcases the ingredients, so buy the best tomatoes you can. This same advice goes for the feta and the courgettes too but the tomatoes should be lovely and sweet against the salty savouriness of the cheese.

Ingredients 

This would make 5 parcels or 4 parcels and some finger rolls for babies. 

  • 200g grated courgette
  • 100g fresh tomatoes
  • 150g feta cheese
  • 1 medium egg
  • Small handful of basil
  • A few mint leaves
  • Butter for greasing
  • 5 rectangular filo sheets

Method 

  • Preheat oven to 180c and add place the baking tray in the oven to heat up
  • Remove filo from fridge, it’s easier to work with when it’s room temperature but keep the packet sealed until the last minute. If it dries out it becomes brittle and cracks.
  • Using a course grater, grate your courgette and add to a large bowl
  • De-seed and finely dice the tomatoes and add them to the courgette
  • Crumble in the feta and add the egg, stir to combine
  • Finely chop the mint, shred the basil leaves and add to mixture.
  • Melt a small amount of butter in a dish
  • Remove filo from packet

For the parcel shaped adult versions: 

  • Cut 1 filo sheet in half to make 2 squares.
  • Lay one square in front of you, using a pastry brush, lightly cover it in melted butter, and place the other square on top of it, at an angle (see photo).
  • Spoon roughly two tablespoons of mixture into centre, gather the pastry and scrunch into he centre with a little twist as you go. They are meant to look rustic! Repeat this until you have 4 parcelsimg_5892-1.jpg

For the baby finger food versions:

  • Cut one rectangular sheet into 4 small rectangles.
  • Spoon a line of mixture into the middle of each rectangle
  • Fold the both ends over the line of mixture and then roll up to form a spring roll- like appearance
  • Once you have made your filo shapes, lightly brush them with the melted butter.
  • Remove hot baking tray from the oven, cover in baking paper and add filo parcels and/or rolls
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy (mine caught a little so these photographs aren’t as good as I would have liked, but for me food is about taste, and they tasted lovely!)

These are delicious hot or cold, but the pastry is crisper when warm. We enjoyed ours with some garden-grown salad. Will enjoyed them for a few minutes before throwing them on the floor for the dog!

I’d love to hear from you if you give this a go or if you have any great courgette recipes I could try!

 

Superfood falafel 

I’m writing this at the beach whilst Will has a snooze in his Pram. I have days when I curse that we live in the countryside middle of nowhere. These are usually days when we have run out of chocolate, I can’t find anything to wear in our small selection of clothes shops, or I’m desperate for chain restaurant food (normally Wagamams). I have infinitely more however, when I am so grateful that we live in such a beautiful place. We are so lucky to have the beach on our doorstep and maternity leave has really made me appreciate it.

Maternity leave has also enabled me to enjoy lunchtimes with my husband and Will. This glorious weather has meant we have been eating lots of salads; not so good for a 6-toothed, 10 month old baby. So today I made some falafel for us all to share. We had ours with salad and Will had his with some chopped crudités.

The reason I’ve called them superfood falafel is that I increased their vegetable and nutrient content by incorporating raw spinach into the mixture. I also used both chickpeas and kidney beans to expand our culinary net just a little further!

The recipe is

Ingredients

This serves 2 adults and one greedy baby with a couple left to freeze.

  • 400g tin of chickpeas (240g drained weightimg_5838
  • 400g tin kidney beans (or another tin of chickpeas)
  • Zest of half a lime
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1.5 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 egg
  • Large handful of spinach

 

You could add fresh herbs such as coriander, I haven’t because my husband hates it!

Method

  • Drain the chickpeas and kidney beans, rinse and place in mixing bowl
  • Finely chop spring onions and add to the bowl
  • Add lime zest, cumin, mixed herbs and a large handful of chopped spinach
  • Either mash using a potato masher, or if a finer texture is required blend using a blender. I blend mine in the nutribullet to make sure it’s soft enough for Will to eat.img_5841
  • Once you have the texture you want ,add the egg to the mixture and combine
  • Using damp hands (helps mixture not to stick) roll walnut shaped balls of the mixture and flatten slightly
  • Place on a lined baking tray (choose one that fits in your fridge as these need to cool)
  • Leave in the fridge for 45 minutes or as long as you have
  • When they have cooled drizzle over a little olive oil and bake in a pre heated oven at 180c for 30 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on the baking tray
  • Serve warm or cold

To go with these I made a mint and cucumber yoghurt dip. Falafel can be dry but the spinach and egg in these really prevent that being a problem; the yoghurt is still a delicious accompaniment though.  They are lovely in flat breads or tortilla wraps and keep well in the fridge; perfect for packed lunches. These can also be frozen once cooked, just thaw them and then reheat in the oven.

I hope that everyone is able to enjoy this warm weather we are having. For now, I’m off to get another glass of iced water!