I’ve been rather silent this week as we are currently in the middle of renovating the barn we are moving into. We only have 4 weeks to finish it so it’s been rather hectic! At the moment it’s seems miles off being finished but I’m assured it will be ready on time! All our spare time has been spent painting, sanding and doing general donkey work to speed the job up. I wouldn’t mind moving into a house that wasn’t finished a few years ago, but now we have Will I am much more anxious that things are finished. Busy baby who is furniture cruising and into everything plus building site- no thank you! In fact, the whole moving with a baby scenario is bonkers. Filling one box takes hours as Will likes to play boo/needs a feed/doesn’t want to pack! Every night I look at the house and wonder what I can actually pack- babies need a lot of things every day, it’s all going to have to be packed at the last minute. I certainly haven’t stopped cooking though! If anything I’m cooking more as I find it a brilliant way to relax.
I have made this particular recipe for years and years, but have avoided sharing it for one reason and one reason alone – the spelling of the word ‘houmous’! There are SO many versions out there and I simply wasn’t sure what to write. Then I made it the other day and Will was such a huge fan of it that I decided to bite the bullet, choose a spelling and share the recipe.
Houmous features in our weekly meals quite often, I find it handy to keep in the fridge to add to sandwiches, salads or as an impromptu snack. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but having healthy snacks to hand really ensures I make better food decisions (most of the time – sometimes I still decide that a ginormous bar of cadburys whole nut is completely necessary)!
While there is very little wrong with some shop bought versions, homemade really does taste better. I use my nutribullet to blitz the ingredients making it both quick and low on washing up (vital in my kitchen). It can also be made from mostly store cupboard ingredients.
Houmous is also an excellent food for babies and children. This version is full of protein and fibre from the chickpeas, and the butternut squash adds a lovely sweetness that children love. They can scoop it with their favourite vegis or breadsticks and it’s completely free of salt, stabilisers, preservatives or other unnecessary ingredients the shop bought offerings include.
I have substituted the squash for carrots or sweet potato in the past, but the squash is my favourite.
400g butternut squash, in cubes
Half a can of chickpeas
2 cloves of garlic, skin on
2 Tbsp tahini
Juice of half a lemon
40ml extra virgin olive oil
Sprinkle of smoked paprika
Peel and cube the butternut squash and roast in in a little olive oil with the garlic cloves until it is soft and browning at the edges (about 30 minutes)
Squeeze the garlic cloves to remove ththe sweet cooked garlic from their skins and place in the blender with the squash
Drain the chickpeas and add them to blender with the lemon juice, tahini and olive oil.
Blend until you have a textured paste
Pop in th fridge to chill completely
To serve I like to drizzle it with some more olive oil and some smoked paprika.
This is perfect with crudités or breadsticks as well as being great in wraps or as an accompaniment to a salad. It keeps in the fridge for 3 days if covered, although it’s normally eaten before this in our house!
Well, that was my little break, now it’s time to choose bathroom tiles!
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!
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
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.
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.
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
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 parcels
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!