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Sweltering Summers Day Lunch

27 Jun

Salmon with Asparagus and Spinach

In years gone by, the asparagus season would have been long over by now. I am sure that British Asparagus will be running out soon, but I am enjoying it while I am around. I prepared this dish with the assistance of my friend Matt, who conveniently is a chef, and his wife Helen.

This happened to be my birthday lunch, and as I was anticipating a delicious restaurant dinner with my husband, I wanted an easy, quick and healthy lunch.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 fillet of salmon per person
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus per person
  • 1 bag of spinach (will serve 2/3)
  • chopped garlic
  • butter
  • pesto or lemon and mayo to serve

METHOD

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.While it is heating up, place the salmon fillets in a ovenproof dish. You want to poach them, so fill the dish with some water (or white wine if you are feeling extravagant), to about 1 cm depth and cover with foil.Trim the ends from the asparagus, place in a ovenproof dish, drizzle with oil, adding a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper. Leave uncovered.Both dishes will take 8/10 minutes. The trick with salmon is not to overcook it, or it becomes dry. You want the fish to still be slightly pink in the middle. Check after 8 minutes, and if it’s not quite there stick it back in the oven. My advice is to use a timer for those last couple of minutes, as its so easy to be distracted and overcook the fish by accident.

While the fish and asparagus are cooking, grab a jar of good quality mayo, decant some into a dish and mix in the zest of a lemon. Alternatively, put some fresh pesto out to serve on the fish. Melt 50/50 butter and oil (about 1 tbsp) in a pan then add garlic on a gently heat for 1/2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add fresh spinach and allow it to wilt (keep turning). Turn heat off once wilted. If I serve this with lemon mayo, I cut the zested lemon into wedges to serve on the side.

Lay the table and pour yourself a glass of chilled rose (or whatever tipple takes your fancy). By now the fish should be done, so all you need to do, is serve, then relax and enjoy.

Happy Eggs and Fabulous Fishcakes (Day 3 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

20 May

Keeping a close and slightly anxious eye on the challenge budget, last night I decided to bring the bread maker out of retirement, and before I went to bed put in the usual flour, yeast and water and left it to work its magic while I dreamed of a night of unbroken sleep. It was just a dream!  

This morning I descended the stairs, half asleep, nose in the air like the bisto kid,  inhaling the irresistable aroma of freshly baked bread. Every time I use the bread maker I am struck by its genius, and wonder why I don’t use it all the time.  

Breadmaker Bread

 

Dippy Egg and Soldiers

 

LUNCH – Dippy Eggs and Soldiers  

The fresh bread was a helpful head start to our quick and thrifty lunch of ‘dippy eggs’ (soft-boiled eggs to the uninitiated). This is one of my favourite midweek lunches with the children and is on our menu at least twice a week. Quick, easy, nutritious. A sure-fire winner for any busy person.  

The Egg Cooker

 

I am, I confess, a bit of a kitchen gadget collector, but in my defence, I only keep the things I use. One of my favourite and most used pieces of kit is the egg cooker that I bought from Lakeland last year. I am eggstatic about it! While I know that in theory, it doesnt take a genius to boil an egg, I used to always get distracted and get the timings wrong. Since the egg cooker found a home here we always have perfectly cooked eggs.  

Now for a little word about the eggs. For eggs that I am poaching, or soft boiling, or putting in a salad, I favour those from Clarence Court above all others. We usually have their pretty pastel coloured Cotswold Legbar eggs, or alternatively Burford Browns. They are unrivalled by any other brand I have tried. They have the most incredible deep orangey yellow yolk. They tend to induce a fit of nostalgia, reminding me of the eggs my Gran used to serve up in my childhood.  

I prefer to use freshly baked bread (from a bakery or the breadmaker) for the ‘soldiers’. With butter. Lots of butter.  

Smoked Mackerel Fishcakes

 

   

DINNER – Smoked mackerel fishcakes  

My fridge was looking very bare this morning, and I was starting to suffer from ‘almost empty fridge’ anxiety. A quick chat with a good friend, Rita, gave me the inspiration for using up the half  bowl of mash left over from Monday. Smoked mackerel fishcakes. Cheap, tasty, and full of good stuff.  

A quick dash up to Sainsburys after lunch found me in possession of 252g of mackerel for only £1.87. Could I be any more thrifty?!!  

I can honestly say I have never made these before. I had gained a rough idea of the framework for Rita’s recipe, then adapted that to suit the fridge contents. It took about 10 minutes in total to make them, then probably another 10 minutes or so to fry them in the pan.  

INGREDIENTS  

Fishcake Ingredients

 

  • 560g cooked mash
  • 250g smoked mackerel
  • 10g wilting chopped parsley (the fresh unwilting kind will do just as well!)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 dessert spoons chopped chives
  • 2 dessert spoons crème fraîche
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • breadcrumbs (from freezer). If you don’t have any, or are short of time, you can miss these out
  • 1 egg, beaten with a dash of milk
  • I almost forgot. I had half a cooked salmon fillet from yesterday left over so I added that in too)

METHOD  

I get the kids to wash their hands while I am gathering the ingredients together. They take a while and it gives me a chance to get everything out before they start bickering!  

The mix

 

  1. Take skin off fish, and using fingers check for bones. Then rub the fish between your fingers until it flakes.
  2. Put fish in large bowl with mash (or split between 2 bowls if you have 2 kids to save arguments)
  3. Mix the mustard with the crème fraîche, then add and mix to the potato/fish mixture
  4. Combine all the additional ingredients, tasting as you go
  5. Shape into patties, then dip in egg and coat with breadcrumbs
  6. Fry in a little oil and butter on a gentle/medium heat for 5 mins each side.

This made 11 medium-sized patties. Enough to fill a few hungry stomachs.  

I served this with broccoli and cucumber for the kids. Mr Mummyinahurry and I ate ours with the remains of the spinach and beans from Monday, some beetroot (the vacuum packed kind) , a couple of lemon wedges and a generous dollop of mayo.  These freeze well so you can always make a double batch and freeze them ready for a quick supper another day.  

Fishcakes, bean salad and beetroot

 

The children loved making these, and despite my reservations about the overly fishy taste, they literally licked their bowls clean when we had finished the prep, then ate all their dinner and asked for seconds.  

So, day 3, a great success. But the kitty is not looking so good, and I am wondering if I can really do this….  

  

 

Poached Salmon and Soba Noodles with a Ginger Broth (Day 2 of The spendthrift’s challenge)

19 May

Pea and Mint Soup

LUNCH

Pea and Mint Soup

My plans for soup from the freezer had to be shelved when I discovered a bag of peas defrosted in the fridge. I have no idea if I put them there in a tired moment (which isn’t inconceivable given that I have found shower gel in the freezer and deodorant in the fridge in the past month!), or if my children helpfully made the transfer for me.

I have been using frozen peas to make a quick soup for many years. The preparation is minimal and the result is a fresh and light soup with a light green colour (as long as you do not overcook it – in which case you will be faced with a tasty but unattractive, muddy looking, olive-green coloured soup). Even though the result is bright green, my vegetable averse children love it.

INGREDIENTS LIST

Peas and shallots in the pan

  • 1 Dessert spoon Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots (from freezer)
  • 340g peas
  • 500ml Vegetable stock (I use Vegetable bouillon powder to make this . If you have yet to try it, do so now. You will never again have your head swayed by a stock cube)
  • 2 large serving spoons full of home-made mash (I had some left over from last night) or 2 large baking potatoes cooked (zap them in the microwave if you have none cooked)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
METHOD
  1. Put pan on a low heat.

    Add some mash. Really!

  2. Add oil and shallots for a minute or two.
  3. Boil kettle and make stock
  4. Add peas to pan
  5. Add stock
  6. Add potatoes
  7. Cook for 5 minutes
  8. Add dried mint
  9. Blend in liquidiser
  10. TA DA! Lunch is ready!

DINNER

Poached Salmon and Soba Noodles with a Ginger Broth

Dinner is served

Today I sought inspiration from the queen of fast and fabulous, Donna Hay. I have had a packet of Soba Noodles lingering in the back of my cupboard for about a year. I think I bought them when we returned from our foodie heaven holiday to Australia and in a fit of cooking optimism, I bought a wide selection of food that I don’t usually cook with. There is still quite a bit of it in the cupboard.

I tapped in ‘Soba Noodles’ in to the search facility on Donnas site and Poached Salmon and Soba Noodles with a Ginger Broth was the result. Perfect, as I had some Salmon fillets in the freezer. I was lacking the fresh and pickled ginger. So I spent a princely 52p on a large chunk of ginger and decided we could do without the pickled variety. As this is Donnas recipe, not mine, I have recited the ingredients below, and have included a link back to her site for full recipe and instructions.

Uncooked Soba Noodles

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  • 45g ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 270g soba noodles
  • 2 x 200g salmon fillets, skin removed, sliced
  • 2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and sliced
  • pickled ginger and coriander

This was simple to cook and used only one pan. The resulting dish was flavourful and light, and satisfying without feeling ‘heavy’.  I will be definite trying this out again especially once we have moved and are dishwasher-less. As I wasnt sure if the children would try the noodles, I gave them mash instead. A sure fire way to get them to try something is to make them think its special. Annabel flatly rejected her mash, and demanded some of mummy’s spaghetti!

DESSERT

Poached Pears with Vanilla Ice Cream

Poached Pear with Vanilla Ice Cream

I am down to my last bar of chocolate, which has me a bit concerned given the current budgetary constraints. I did however notice that I still had 12 VERY HARD pears in the fruit bowl. I am skilfully adept at missing the moment of perfect ripeness when the juice surges out from the fruit as you take your first bite. Instead I am gifted at selecting the type of pear that changes overnight from rock hard to slightly shrivelled, woolly and tasteless!

To keep the children happy with the promise of dessert I decided to poach some of the pears. In theory this should be a thrifty dish. Save for the fact that almost every recipe that you come across for poached pears suggests that you use a bottle of wine, or some vanilla pods or both. All very well, but it tends to increase the cost of the dish by at least £5. So, for a thrifty midweek dessert, I find a light syrup, flavoured with some lemon and vanilla extract will leave you feeling both satisfied, and solvent. The only truly laborious part of this exercise was the peeling of the pears. If you have a good grips peeler, it will take all of 5 minutes. And after leaving the mixture to quietly simmer on the stove top for 45 minutes, infusing the air with the homely scent of pears and vanilla, you will have dessert for today, and if you are not too greedy, some for tomorrow too.

INGREDIENTS
  • 6 dessert pears, peeled
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 litre water
  • peel and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Mix water, sugar, lemon juice and peel and vanilla extract, in a medium-sized pan. Add pears. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes (if the pears are ripe, maybe 10 minutes less). If you are not sure if they are cooked try one with a knife. You are looking for texture that is firm, but will yield with a little pressure from a knife.

Serve warm, with a little of the juice, and some ice-cream. Or mascarpone. Or some dark chocolate, melted then drizzled over the pear….

Day 2 Summary

Total spend for the week so far £16.60. Remaining budget, £18.40. 5 days to go and counting.

Lazy laid-back lunch

14 May

Two of my favourite foods are now in season. British asparagus and Jersey Royals.  Add some steamed salmon and preserved lemon mayo, and you have a no fuss easy to make lunch that cannot fail to please.

Salmon, Roasted Asparagus and Preserved Lemon Mayo

I was lucky enough to have a lunchtime visit from one of my former housemates today. We don’t get to see each other anywhere nearly often enough, so when we do, the last thing I want to be doing is fussing with food in the kitchen.  As usual we had to fit it in around the demands of school runs (mine and hers), and me trying to restore some sort of order to our out of control washing mountain.

This lunch was assembled in moments, and the preparation time was perhaps as long as it takes to boil the kettle and make a couple of tea.  You need to allow about half an hour for the total cooking time, but there is no real supervision required.

INGREDIENTS (feeds two)

2 fresh salmon fillets

handful of jersey royals per person

bunch of asparagus

preserved lemons (if you don’t have these try the zest of a lemon instead)

good quality shop bought mayo

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees

First I rinsed the potatoes then put them on to steam (about 20 mins once it comes to the boil). Once cooked, place in a bowl with a few dots of butter and some chives and cover to keep warm.

Season the fish. Make a foil package and just douse with a little oil and a sprinkle of whatever herbs you have to hand – I used garlic and chives from the freezer). Seal the salmon in the package.

Remove ends from asparagus. Place on foil (to save washing up) and drizzle with a little olive oil and crushed salt.

Put the salmon in the oven on a baking tray. After 5 minutes add the asparagus and cook both for a further ten minutes.

Put a generous ‘dollop’ (a very technical term, in this case meaning 2 dessert spoons full) of mayo in a bowl. Finely chop the rind of 3 small preserved lemons. Mix. If you have yet to discover preserved lemons then I would really recommend them. They are the laid back relative of fresh lemons, with a gentler, less tart flavour than fresh lemons. Still lemony, but with a delicious, salty, mellow taste, and the marriage with the creamy mayonnaise is just heavenly.

Serve.

Jersey Royals with chives and butter

This can be served ‘hot’ fresh from the oven, or warm, and still tastes delicious.  I quite often cook fish this way and at the same time cook an extra fillet or two, as a get-ahead shortcut to the preparation of another meal.

If you are too pressed for time to try this, then nip down to M&S, and treat yourself to their unrivalled dine in for £10 offer, which is on until Tuesday. And this month they have included my favourite the crème brûlée in the dessert list. I may just be tempted!

Haddock with a herb and parmesan crust

12 May

This dish is one that satisfies both fussy children and demanding adults, and is a perfect way to engage the children in a little activity on a cold or rainy afternoon.

My inspiration for this recipe comes from Donna Hay, who sets the standard when it comes to the preparation of fresh, flavourful meals that are simple to prepare, and don’t leave you spending hours in the kitchen. And thanks to the fantastic offer at the fish counter at Sainsburys today, which allowed me to buy a very large (over 500g) haddock fillet for £2.58, this is a great choice if you are keeping an eye on the family food budget too.

First of all a few words about the buying of the fish. Sadly I don’t have a local fishmonger, as he has gone out of business. I have, however, been making use of the fish counter in the supermarket which has been the best alternative I can find at the moment.

Take a close look at the choices on offer. Often (as I did today) you can save yourself quite a bit of money just by choosing an alternative cut and asking the ‘fishmonger’ (?) to do the work for you. Today I had the following choice. Skinless haddock loin, boned, £14.99 a kilo. Haddock fillet £4.99 a kilo (it was on special). So, I chose the latter, and asked the friendly assistant to skin and pin-bone it for me, which he did without a second glance. Result, I saved £5 on the total spend, and bought myself strawberries and chocolate for dessert.

INGREDIENTS (SERVES 2 BIG PEOPLE AND 2 LITTLE PEOPLE)

All this fish for only £2.58!

500g approx haddock, or any firm white fish

200g fresh breadcrumbs

70g Parmesan, grated

10g chopped fresh parsley

1 or 2 dessert spoons chopped chives (to taste)

zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

2 dessert spoons plain flour, lightly seasoned with a sprinkle of salt and pepper

1 egg, beaten

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees (180 for a fan oven)

Herb and Parmesan breadcrumb mixture

Mix the breadcrumbs, herbs, lemon zest and parmesan together. Set aside half the mixture into a freezer bag and pop it in the freezer for another day.

With the remaining mixture, add the oil and mix so that the breadcrumbs are thoroughly coated.

Set up a conveyor belt type operation with 3 bowls in a row. The first with the

The conveyer belt

seasoned flour, the second with the egg and the last with the breadcrumbs.

Chop the fish into desired sizes. I used the thin end for the children’s chunks and fingers, and left two large fillets for me and Mr Mummyinahurry.

Fish fingers and fillets

Get the children to dip the pieces, first in the flour (dusting off any large clumps), then into the egg, then into the breadcrumb mixture, pushing the mixture gently onto the fillets. Follow the same process for the larger fillets.

Kids at work

Place on a baking tray. and cook for 15 minutes, turning once. (This cooking time holds good for the adult portions, in case you are cooking them separately)

Serve

The finished product

I often cook the childrens serving first, reserving the adult portions for a later evening meal. This a a great dish if your other half is working late, as you can leave theirs in the fridge, uncooked and covered in cling film ready for a late supper.

I tend to serve this with one of my favourtie sides, fresh spinach with garlic. A bit more salt and pepper to season the adult portions, some lemon wedges on the side (from the lemon I zested) and a dollop of good quality mayonnaise. Yum!

Feeding time for mummyinahurry

TIPS

The Breadcrumbs

I make these myself. Shop bought are generally overly dry and extortinately priced They are so quick and easy to make, and you can freeze them in small portions. If you are watching the pennies, then just pick up a fresh baked loaf at the supermarket when its reduced to clear, let it dry out a little for a day or two, then tear into chunks and blitz in the processor or liquidizer until you have breadcrumbs. If you dont have stale bread, cut the bread into thick slices and place in a low oven for about 15 minutes to dry it out.

Fresh spinach with garlic

This is sooo easy and sooo good. Rinse spinach. Heat frying pan and on a low heat soften 1 dessertspoon of chopped garlic (I used the ready chopped frozen variety). This will take a minute or two. Turn up heat, add spinach, and turn regularly for a minute or two, until it is wilted. Strain. Add a little butter, and salt and pepper. Serve.

All in all, the activity time of this with the children was about 10 minutes. It was a bit more mess than if I had done it alone, but they loved it, and they ate all their dinner too. For the adult meal, while the fish is cooking, lay the table, and pour a glass of wine. Relax for 10 minutes. Take fish out and leave to rest for 5 minute. Plates can go in oven to warm while you make the spinach. Thats it. And having made an extra serving of breadcrumbs ready for the freezer, you can make some more soon, in even less time.

Speedy Smoked Salmon Fishcakes

20 Apr

Can I just first set the record straight, before you get the idea that I am living some ridiculously luxe lifestyle eating smoked salmon and drinking pink champagne (if only…)I am not in the habit of feeding smoked salmon to the toddlers.

My inspiration for this particular ‘recipe’ came quite by chance. On this particular occasion last year we had stayed late at the park and suddenly realising that it was way past tea time, and that the fridge was almost bare, I stopped in the small local supermarket on the way hoping for something halfway healthy that could be served up in under 15 minutes.

I had a vague recollection of some leftover mash back in the fridge and set out on the hunt for some half decent sausages. Always popular with the toddlers, (and Mr Mummyinahurry come to that). It was at that moment that the smoked salmon leapt (metaphorically of course) from the shelf. The fact that the smoked salmon ‘trimmings’ were on offer and less than a quid had absolutely no bearing on my decision. Really.

Back home a further rummage in the fridge revealed a ‘not long for this world’ lemon, and some spring onions that had seen better days. The joy of a packet of smoked salmon trimmings (other than the price of course) is that you don’t even have to do any chopping. So a quick mix around in a bowl, a few minutes in the frying pan, and dinner on the table before the complaints got too loud. I was quite astonished that my little fussy eaters wolfed the lot down. My son thinks that the smoked salmon is just another form of salami.I have yet to put him right on that one.

That was several months ago. Now these little money-saving beauties have become a regular feature of our mealtimes, for all the family, so only one meal to cook for all of us. Result.

I have more recently been known to turn the making of them into a home ‘we can cook’ * episode for Annabel and David. They love it, and I tend to find that they actually eat their dinner having made it themselves. The other hidden bonus of this recipe, is that they freeze really well, so I tend to make a larger batch and have a few tucked away in the freezer for those days when there really is no time to cook.

METHOD

The way that I make these varies every time, depending on what is left in the fridge, but here is a rough guide.

500g cooked mash

100g smoked salmon trimmings

rind and juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon

spring onions chopped (usually with scissors by me), or pre chopped shallots or chives that I tend to buy ready prepared and frozen

parsley (if i have it) chopped (or more likely, scissored) into the mix

an egg (to bind, but not essential)

Mix together.Form into patties. Fry on a medium heat for 3/4 mins each side.

I have from time to time coated these in breadcrumbs. In my opinion it helps to keep them together when frying but it’s not essential. If you chill the patties before cooking that also helps them to stay in one piece too.

*for those of you unfamiliar with cbeebies , ‘we can cook’ is a programme of great educational importance for young children under 5, keeping them informed and up to date with the latest developments in diet and nutrition, allowing Mummy to get on with very important ‘work’ like updating her Facebook page.

Smoked Salmon Fishcakes