Thursday, 23 February 2017

Globecooking recipe : Cape Town tarts (South Africa)

When I saw a recipe go through on the Food Network website for Cape Town Tarts, I was intrigued and clicked through to find out more. I wasn't expecting the savoury muffin/omelette hybrid that I discovered but it looked like just the sort of thing the Madhouse kids would enjoy scoffing. The original recipe included black olives and blue cheese, but I left those out because the kids would turn their nose up at them.

Cape Town tarts

ingredients :

12 slices of Parma ham
1 onion
1tbsp olive oil
a good handful of cherry tomatoes
50g mild blue cheese (or I used up some red leicester), cut into pieces
75g pitted black olives, chopped (optional - I left them out)
4 tbsp chives, chopped
6 large eggs
225ml milk
Pepper to season
30g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Use a slice of Parma ham to line the bottom and sides of each hole in a silicone muffin tin.

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil. Chop the cherry tomatoes and, if using, olives and mix them all up in a bowl with the onion. Place a spoonful in each muffin hole.

Pop a small chunk of cheese on top.

Using the same (now empty) bowl, beat the eggs and mix in the milk and chives. (I didn't have any chives so I left them out.)

Put the muffin trays on a baking sheet so they are easier to move. Carefully pour the egg mixture into each hole .

Sprinkle on some parmesan then pop them in the oven, at 180°, for 15 minutes until set and puffed up.

As I had some leftover cooked potatoes, I decided to fry them up in slices, along with some mushrooms, with a little bé rouj (red butter) to use it up. (I told you about bé rouj in my fish with bé rouj recipe so click through if you missed that.)

It gave them a wonderful orangey colour.

Leave the Cape Town tarts to cool slightly before popping them out of the moulds. They can be eaten hot or cold, for lunch or breakfast, and they'd make great picnic/packed lunch food.

Fancy trying some other South African recipes? How about :

This used up the end of a block of red leicester cheese, as well as some cooked potatoes and bé rouj as an accompaniment, so I'm adding it to the #KitchenClearout linky.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Get the kids cooking healthy meals, not just baking !

Sainsbury’s Active Kids recently released a report showing some shocking stats about the health and nutrition beliefs of 11-14 year olds. Apparently, over one fifth refer to social media, YouTube stars and bloggers to find information on healthy eating, which can be very hit and miss as they (we) are not qualified nutritionists. 41% of kids believe they should ‘probably do more’ when it comes to exercise and 43% of kids think that cutting out a food group (such as gluten or dairy) will lead to a healthy lifestyle. 

The good news is that most of the children surveyed understood the importance of healthy eating. The most common reasons for wanting to eat well related to health and fitness, with 55% saying that it is important to eat well in order to feel healthy and 36% saying a nutritious diet is important to avoid becoming ill. So what prevents children from actually eating well? Unsurprisingly, healthy food being dull and fast food seen as cheaper were the top reasons, followed by misinformation from social media and parental influence.

Among the 11 to 14 year olds surveyed, most said that parents made their meals, with only a third of the children preparing at least one meal a week. While children do not necessarily need to cook at this age, their future health depends on them developing these skills before they leave home. Unfortunately, the findings reveal limited cooking skills among young people with nearly half of 11-14 year olds (49%) admitting they are not able to cook a simple pasta dish. There is evidence to suggest gender bias in cooking with girls having stronger cooking skills than boys, revealing a particular need to focus on getting more boys into the kitchen at a younger age.

I felt very smug and virtuous as I read this last statement because all three of the Madhouse kids have been helping out in the kitchen from a very young age. It still amazes me when I see how good Pierre is at cracking eggs into a bowl without getting the slightest bit of shell in there !

However, when I really thought about it, most of our family-oriented culinary endeavours are rustling up sweet treats and bakes. The Madhouse kids definitely know how to make muffins, cookies, banana bread, fruit salad and jelly, but what about real food? I decided that this half term would be the ideal time to get them more involved in helping cook main meals, and I was surprised to see just how much they enjoyed it - not just the food prep and cooking but also the eating ! From mixed bean and tuna salad to pasta bake, they rose to the challenge and were so proud to get compliments from the whole family when we sat down to eat.

Now that she's at secondary school, and school is literally just across the road, Juliette comes home for lunch rather than going to the canteen. A few times a week, she is left to fend for herself and, although she's allowed to use the microwave, kettle and optigrill, the oven and hob are out of bounds (in case she forgets to turn them off and burns the house down !). As I was busy doing the washing up, I asked her if she'd like to make a start on cooking her favourite creamy prawn dish and she acted as if she'd been doing it forever, turning on the gas and stir-frying the mushrooms and prawns ...

Then seasoning to taste and squeezing in the crème fraîche. It's not the most complicated of dishes but she got a real sense of achievement out of making it from start to finish and I was very impressed at how confident and competent she was.

This made me realise that, now that she's turned 12, she is surely old enough to be allowed to be a bit more adventurous and have more free reign in the kitchen. I think that from now on, she'll be allowed to use the oven and hob too ... but I might phone her at the end of my lunch break at school to check she's turned everything off properly for a while longer !

Even though he's only 7, Pierre wanted in on the action so, watching him like a hawk and repeatedly telling him to watch his fingers, I gave him permission to stirfry some veggies.

He did a great job, helping to create our gumbo-style meal right through to the end. (Click through for the recipe.) He took it really seriously and had a real sense of achievement when it was ready to serve.

So there you have it ! It's not just a case of teaching the kids how to cook. It's also a case of teaching myself to cut them some slack and trust them a bit more in the kitchen so that they can learn these vital life skills and not just know how to take part in the Great British Bake Off !

Disclosure : Sainsbury's sent me a copy of their Active Kids Report and a shopping voucher to encourage me to get involved in cooking healthy meals with the Madhouse kids.

#readcookeat recipe : Gumbo-inspired one pot wonder (Jack and Jill)

I recently raced through James Patterson's Jack and Jill, which was the first novel that I'd read starring Alex Cross - there are currently twenty five in the series! You can click through to read my review. It was a cracking, fast-paced crime novel but, as is often the case in this genre, there weren't a great deal of foodie mentions. I did find one though :

p399 "I'll help with the grub," George offered, which was rare. She wished that he could be like this more often and that it didn't take a national tragedy to get him in touch with his emotions. Well, a lot of men were like that, she knew. There were worse things in a marriage. They made a vegetarian gumbo together and opened a bottle of Chardonnay. They had barely finished supper in front of the TV when the front doorbell rang. It was a little before nine, and they weren't expecting anyone, but sometimes neighbours dropped in.

Unfortunately for George, it wasn't a neighbour and he'd be shot to death before he ever got to eat his gumbo ! Don't worry though George, I like the sound of it so I'll eat it for you !

I knew that gumbo was a typical dish from the American South and the name instantly brought to mind images of Louisiana, catfish and steamboats. I had an idea that it would be a bit like paella, with a Deep South twist, but I wasn't sure what exactly went into it. After investigating several recipes, I realised that you can put in pretty much whatever you like, but the traditional ingredients include the holy trinity of onion, celery and peppers, as well as prawns (or shrimp as the Americans call them), andouillette sausage and chicken. Many people add a tin of gumbo soup or use gumbo filé seasoning and create the traditional brown roux, as well as adding okra, which gives it a thicker texture. The gumbo in the book was a vegetarian one, and I checked out some recipes for that, including this one at Spicy Southern Kitchen. I fancied trying a meaty version though, using up some leftover prawns and roast chicken, as well as some smoky, spicy chorizo that was in the fridge. I couldn't get my hands on okra or filé spice, and I bypassed the whole process of making a roux, so this isn't an authentic gumbo recipe at all. It was very tasty though and gave a definite nod to the soul food flavours of the Deep South.

Gumbo-inspired one pot wonder

ingredients :

a drizzle of olive oil
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1/2 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
1 cup cooked prawns
1 cup leftover roast chicken
1 chorizo
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tin red kidney beans
200g okra, thinly sliced (I left this out)
1tsp smoked paprika
salt, pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions, garlic and peppers (and celery, if using) for five minutes.

Toss in the prawns.

Then add the chicken and chorizo. Oh wait a minute, what are those hot dog sausages doing in there?!

Pierre was helping out and he decided that, as there were already loads of different kinds of meat in there, adding his favourite to the mix wouldn't make much difference !

Pour in the tinned tomatoes. And the sliced okra, if using. (You may well need to add extra stock if using okra.)

I had half a can of red kidney beans in the fridge so I decided to throw those in there too.

Time to add the seasoning - some smoked paprika, salt and pepper should do it. 

Pour in some cooked basmati rice - the microwavable pouches are ideal for this kind of dish.

Give it all a final stir and take the dish straight to the table so that everyone can dig in.

Adding to the #readcookeat linky over at Chez Maximka.

Fancy trying some other US-inspired dishes? How about :

This is the ultimate throw-it-all-in recipe so it's perfect for #KitchenClearout. I used up some cooked prawns and roast chicken, and also tossed in some leftover Moroccan chicken in a tomato/courgette sauce. Oh and half a can of red kidney beans. Whatever was in the fridge basically !

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Book review : Emoji Puzzles - 350 Enigmas For You To Solve

Half-term holidays are often synonymous with parental battles trying to get kids away from their screens for a while. Well, Carlton Books have a brilliant compromise - how about prising their mobile phones and tablets out of their sticky fingers and giving them a book based on their devices and social media life instead ?! I knew that this would appeal to teens Sophie and Juliette, but I wasn't expecting 8-year-old Pierre to be equally fascinated. I have to admit that I keep flicking through trying to work out the puzzles too, even if I'm so past it that I made Sophie laugh her socks off by saying smileys and emoticons before finding the word emojis !

The hardbacked book is great as a coffee table book that the whole family can dip into, challenging each other to find the really tricky ones. Some are super simple - Pierre excitedly squealed "Looooook, it's Finding Nemo !" when he saw a magnifying glass next to a clown fish on a Name The Movie page - but others will have you scratching your heads for ages.

Living with a family of One Direction fans, I found the top one on this page instantly and Five Seconds of Summer was just as simple. Some of the riddles target the older generation, such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers, but to be honest, if you're convincing enough, you can make emojis fit in with whatever you want ! Is that Police and The Beach Boys or am I showing my age ?! (Nope, I was right, I've since discovered that there are pages dealing with 60's, 70's and 80's/90's pop culture, so you can even have fun trying to get your grandparents in on the emoji trend when you need help with some of the older references !)

As well as music and films, the book will have you puzzling over sports, books and TV.

There's even a section on historic events which made me smile.

It's great fun, multi-generational and even has a section at the end explaining the history of emojis and what your favourite emoji says about you.

You may also like The Ultimate Emoji Sticker Activity Book from Carlton Kids that I reviewed last year.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £9.99 (currently £7.99)
144 pages
172 x 148mm
Published Oct 2016
ISBN 9781853759680

Disclosure : We received the product in order to write an honest review.

Madhouse recipe : Medjool Date Truffles

Did you have a date for Valentine's Day this year? Well, thanks to Forest Feast, I had a whole box load of them ! They sent through a lovely kit for making heart-shaped date truffles, which were as tasty as they were simple to make.

Dates are now classed as a superfood (as well as an aphrodisiac apparently !) and Medjool dates are the best of the best, partly because they are so hard to grow so they are considered luxurious and partly due to their soft, sticky, caramel quality. I was amazed at how big and plump they were when I poured them out of the bag.

 I was also amazed when Juliette, who doesn't normally like dates, turned up in the kitchen and wolfed down the remaining truffle mix in the bowl. She convinced Pierre, also not a huge fan of dates, to try one of the finished truffles and he loved them too, so this is a great way of getting your kids to eat dried fruit and nuts if they're not usually keen.

Medjool Date Truffles

ingredients :

7 Forest Feast Medjool dates, pitted
65g pecan nuts (or any nuts can be used - I used almonds)
85g ground almonds
30g cocoa powder (and more for dusting)
1/2tsp vanilla
pinch of sea salt (add to taste) 

Soak the dates in hot water for a few minutes to soften. Meanwhile, blitz the nuts, ground almonds and cocoa powder in a food processor.

Remove the dates from the water, squeeze out any excess and take out the stones. Add to the food processor , along with the vanilla and salt.

Pulse until a sticky ball forms. Taste and add extra salt if needed. 

Take small balls and press into a silicone mould. Pop into the freezer for a few hours to firm up.

Gently press out of the mould and roll in cocoa powder.

 This used up half a bag of almonds and half a bag of ground almonds that were at the back of the cupboard so I'm adding it to this month's #KitchenClearout linky.