Exciting things are afoot on the blog; it is being redesigned *as we speak* which means that pretty soon I will be unveiling the new look for Spring/Summer 2015 on The One-Handed Cook website. Woo hoo.
In other news, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been and gone, which means that Christmas is practically upon us. I’ve made a list, I’m checking it twice, and yes, I still need to buy about 800 presents. I have started an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the gifts, which feels a bit too organised, even for me.
What else is new? Well, my son is obsessed with Match Attax trading cards, my daughter with her Tiny Tears doll and my husband with his new KitchenAid, which he was given for his birthday. A beautiful red KitchenAid just for me him.
In the meantime, here’s something for you: a soup recipe to help chase away the November blues. It’s a recipe my grandma – a wonderful home cook – used to make, and my mum has passed it on to me. Like all my soup recipes, it’s dead easy to make, and completely delicious. You can make it in stages – make the soup and liquidise it later, if needs be. It also freezes really well, so make double if you have the energy – and freeze half for later. Steaming hot, silky smooth, deliciously fragrant Carrot and Tarragon Soup on a cold winter’s day; what could be nicer?
Carrot and Tarragon Soup
A delicious soup for the whole family. Omit the salt – and go easy on the pepper – if serving to babies and toddlers. If serving to grown-ups, the soup looks good served with a swirl of cream and a bit of chopped parsley on top. It will keep in the fridge for several days and freezes well in an air-tight container.
Makes 8–10 portions
You will need
2tbsp light olive oil
1kg carrots, chopped into chunks
1 large onion, chopped
2 largeish potatoes, peeled and cut into eight
1.5 litres (approx) vegetable stock (I use Marigold bouillon)
1tsp freeze-dried tarragon flakes, or 1tbsp fresh tarragon, washed and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
What to do
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan (I use a Le Creuset), add the onions and cook gently for a few minutes.
- Add the carrots, stir well with the onions and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes or so.
- Add the stock, the potatoes and the tarragon. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20-30 mins. Check that the carrots are cooked.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Liquidise in a blender, keeping an eye on the thickness of the soup. (Sometimes you have too much liquid and other times you may have to add a bit of water.)
- Season to taste. Reheat the quantity you need and pour into bowls.
‘If you have lentils in your kitchen, you have dinner. Time and time again I turn to this quick-cooking, richly flavoured legume when I’m in a quandary as to what to make…’
Wise words from food writer and author Martha Rose Shulman, a chef who excels particularly when it comes to healthy, vegetarian meals. She has a passion for Mediterranean food, and her Mediterranean Harvest cookbook is one I come back to again and again.
Like Martha, I love lentils. They are just so brilliantly versatile and easy to use – I love making dal with red lentils, and salads using French Puy lentils, for instance. I particularly love using them in soups – they are the perfect thing to sling in to add substance and bite.
A 500g packet of red lentils costs about £1 from Sainsburys, so they are a good cheap staple to have in your store cupboard. They are a good source of protein and B vitamins, are low in calories and are a good source of fibre – so they are an excellent staple in a child’s diet. My two love it, and the 7-year-old always gives it 9/10 – no word of a lie!
Personally, I find making soup very calming – it’s almost like therapy, as, having peeled and chopped my ingredients, I stand stirring, one-handed, with my wooden spoon, and the wonderful savoury smell of the soup fills the air. I think it is something to do with pausing after a busy morning, or a busy day, and making something to nourish us all. As I taste, and stir again, I look forward to sharing the soup with my husband and the children round the kitchen table. It’s the simple things in life that are sometimes the best.
Provençal Lentil and Tomato Soup
This tasty soup doesn’t require any complicated ingredients and is dead easy to make. I have adapted Martha Rose Shulman’s original recipe to make it even more straightforward, and I promise you it is completely delicious. It keeps well in the fridge, and tastes even better the next day. It is rich, flavoursome and a firm family favourite here at One-Handed HQ.
You will need:
175g red lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 litre water
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced (optional)
1 jar organic passata
1 sprig fresh thyme
Handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
What to do:
- Place the lentils in a saucepan with one of the garlic cloves and the bay leaf. Add 4/5 of the water (800ml) and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Drain the lentils through sieve placed over a bowl (i.e. reserve the cooking liquid), then rinse the lentils with cold water and set aside. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
- Mash the cooked garlic clove with the remaining two cloves in a pestle and mortar. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large Le Creuset casserole, or similar heavy-bottomed pan, add the onion and celery (if using). Cook for 5–10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the passata, mashed garlic and lentils, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Then add the cooking water from the lentils, the remaining 200ml water, the thyme, the basil and season to taste.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and then simmer gently for 30 minutes over a low heat. The lentils should be tender but intact, the broth fragrant. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Serve as is, or with some grated Parmesan on top, with crusty bread.
What a week. I’ve been poorly, both kids have been poorly. Work has been missed. School has been missed. Appetites have been lost. It’s all been a bit topsy turvy, so it was a relief to get back to normal this weekend and do some cooking and baking. Lovely husband bought me Annie Bell’s Baking Bible – woah, now there’s a baking book and a half. I loved it from the moment I saw it, and chose to make Blueberry and Orange Muffins, which were delish, and look, I even managed to find the recipe for you here. I have long been a fan of Annie Bell and this is a super book for the home baker.
Today we caught up with old friends who live out in the countryside, which was lovely. It’s always nice to have a breather from London. Seeing our five (between us) children playing and growing up together is a joy. Seeing my friend’s large and well-stocked larder, however, is not a joy as I am proper jealous.
Macaroni Cheese with Chicken and Rosemary
One of the things busy parents are always on the lookout for are simple pasta dishes for a family meal. We are all huge fans of macaroni cheese, but I started thinking about how it could be tweaked, plus made a bit simpler without having to make a white sauce each time, which can be a faff if you’re just trying to get Dinner On The Table. This recipe just uses crème fraîche – use half-fat if you like – and works a treat.
This rather moreish pasta dish, which you could also make using penne, rigatoni (or whatever really) is a great dish for a Monday night after a roast chicken on a Sunday, because you can use leftover cooked chicken. Which we like.
Note that stages 1 and 2 could be done in advance and left to rest (refrigerate the chicken once it’s cool if necessary) until you are ready to make the whole dish. I’m a big fan of stage-by-stage cooking, and using the windows of time available while the children are occupied, as you know!
What you need
300g macaroni (which you can cook in advance)
Approx 150g leftover roast chicken, or two medium-sized chicken breasts
400ml crème fraîche
½ clove of garlic, crushed
A sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
2 handfuls of grated cheese – Monterey Jack, strong Cheddar, Gruyère all good
Salt and freshly ground pepper
What to do
- Cook the macaroni or other pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, if you need to cook the meat from scratch, slice each chicken breast into smallish pieces (bite-size for kids), heat a griddle pan or frying pan, add a dash of olive oil and sauté until cooked through. Set aside.
- Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/180˚C (Fan)/gas 6
- Put the crème fraîche into a non-stick saucepan and set over a gentle heat. Add the rosemary and garlic, stir, and bring to a simmer.
- Add the cooked chicken and the cheese and season (go gently if serving to toddlers). Remove the pan from the heat and add the cooked pasta, stirring it together well.
- Pour into an ovenproof dish, top with a bit more grated cheese (you could also add some ready-made breadcrumbs if you have some, or scatter on a bit more chopped rosemary) and bake for 18-20 minutes until golden and bubbling. Nice served with green beans.
A steaming hot bowl of soup is, for me, the culinary equivalent of a big hug from someone wearing a Nordic Sarah-Lund-style jumper. Cosy. I love the ritual of making it – sautéing the onion, adding the vegetables, the stock, seasoning, simmering, stirring, ladling it into pre-warmed bowls (if I’m organised), and finally dipping my spoon in and devouring it, preferably with toast slathered in butter on the side.
Luckily for me my family shares my love of soup, so Saturday lunch is more often than not soup for all; even when I was weaning the little ones, I’d just omit the salt and liquidize the soup in batches, leaving some as thicker purée, perfect for babies and toddlers.
This soup is really easy, and a brilliant one to make in stages as there is a bit of prep involved (although you could always cheat and buy ready-prepared butternut squash – who’ll know?). Roasting the vegetables first is a bit different, but gives them a sweet, almost caramelized flavour, and the sweet potato gives the soup a silky smooth texture.
Perfect for a chilly November or December day, and the sweetish flavour usually goes down very well with babies, toddlers and older children. It also freezes beautifully – hurrah. Why not make double?
Roast Butternut Squash, Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
1 butternut squash peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped and cut into chunks
3 or 4 carrots, peeled, chopped and cut into smaller chunks (they take longer to roast)
Sprig of rosemary
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
Knob of butter
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (I like Kallo chicken stock or Marigold veg stock)
What to do
Peel and chop the squash, sweet potato and carrots when you have a 10-minute window of time, such as when baby is happily sitting in her bouncy chair, or having a nap. You can then put your pre-prepared veg in a container in the fridge, or on the side until you are ready to make your soup. If children happily occupied, carry on to the next stage.
Stage 2 (another self-contained step)
- Pre-heat your oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/400°F
- Line a decent-sized baking tray with foil (to save scrubbing it later – yay!) and add your pre-cut vegetables, then drizzle with olive oil and season. Add the rosemary, and toss the vegetables with your fingers.
- Roast the vegetables in the hot oven for around 30 mins, turning halfway. You want them to be soft. Remove from the oven, remove the rosemary sprig and set aside.
Again, if at this stage you need to pause, you can. It doesn’t matter if the roasted veg go cold as you just reheat the soup at the end.
Stage 3 (to be done while the veg are roasting, or as a separate stage)
- Heat a dash of oil and a knob of butter in a heavy-based pan (I use a Le Creuset), and add the onion. Sauté over a medium to low heat for a good 10 minutes; you want the onion to be nice and soft. Stir occasionally.
- Blend your roasted vegetables, softened onion and stock together in a liquidizer. Reheat in the saucepan and serve.
I have been making this recipe for years – it is so simple and so tasty that you can’t really go wrong. If you’ve never tried it on your children, I urge you to – in my experience, adults and children alike love it, and what’s more, it’s good for you – mackerel is an oily fish full of VIP Omega 3. Some recipes over-complicate mackerel pate, I think all you really need is mackerel, soft cheese and lemon juice. It really is that easy.
You’ll find smoked mackerel in shrink-wrapped packs in the chiller in the supermarket; I opt for the non-peppered one as it can be a bit strong, and the children prefer it without peppercorns. Once you’ve skinned the mackerel, this can be made pretty much one-handed as you just stick everything in the food processor. Which then goes in the dishwasher. Joy. The other great thing is that it freezes beautifully, so you could make double and keep some for next time. More joy.
Mackerel pate is great served on toast for lunch or a snacky tea, but it also works brilliantly as a dip; children (and dinosaurs) love dunking carrot batons, red pepper strips, cucumber sticks, breadsticks, strips of pitta bread and Kettle chips into it, too.
200g smoked mackerel
100g light cream cheese
Juice of half a lemon
Twist of black pepper (but not if you chose the peppered smoked mackerel)
What to do
1. Remove the skin and put the mackerel fillet in a food processor with the cream cheese and the lemon juice and a twist of black pepper.
2. Blitz until combined and taste; if you feel it needs a bit more lemon juice add another squeeze.
3. Serve as suggested (dinosaur optional).