Leek, potato & spinach soup with chorizo

This is what you and your family need right now on these cold, wintery days. Warm, nutritious and comforting and really easy to make. Adding spinach to the soup has two purposes – it adds nutrients and it also gives the soup a lovely green colour. The fried chorizo cubes lift this ordinary soup into something special –  I adore chorizo but you could also use fried bacon pieces or if you want to make it fully vegetarian or vegan just leave these out and use water or vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock.

Preparation: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 30/40 minutes

Ingredients

4 large leeks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped small
50g butter
850ml chicken stock (or water for vegetarian / vegan option)
150ml milk
Couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves (washed and trimmed of any tough stalks)
Chorizo – cut into cubes (or bacon pieces if you prefer – leave out for vegetarian / vegan option)

How to make it:

  • Trim off the tops and roots of the leeks, discarding the tough outer layer
  • Prepare the leeks by splitting them in half lengthways and slice them up quite finely, then rinse and drain them
  • In a large thick-based saucepan melt the butter on a low heat then add the leeks, potatoes and onion, stirring them with a wooden spoon so they get a nice coating of butter
  • Season with salt & pepper
  • Cover and let the vegetables sweat over a very low heat for about 10/15 minutes – key a very close eye on them so they don’t burn or stick to the bottom (this has happened to me in the past I have to admit!)
  • Add the stock and bring to a simmer, put the lid back on and simmer gently for approx. 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add the milk and the spinach leaves and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  • Liquidise the soup using a blender.

To serve:

Heat the chorizo in a dry non-stick pan for 2/3 minutes (it won’t need any oil as it will release it’s own) until it is nice and crispy to serve. Enjoy!

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Casserole Roast Chicken

Roast chicken with roast potatoes, stuffing and gravy is without doubt one of the most popular dinners in our house. Cooking roast chicken used to freak me out a bit, I don’t know why but I always thought of it as a complicated dinner. Then I came across this simple and foolproof one-pot method which absolutely rocks. I discovered it when I was in Ballymaloe House (on a 2-day course which I was so lucky to win as a prize!) a few years ago. So no roasting tray, racks, cooking bags etc – it just cooks in the one pot in which all the juices collect and from which you can make your gravy.  So no need to fear cooking roast chicken any more – if you haven’t done it before give this a try and you won’t look back.   Continue reading

Halloumi salad with avocado salsa

This  isn’t technically a recipe as it really just a matter of combining the ingredients. No cooking skills required and no need to stick rigidly to the quantities specified as any combination of these ingredients will result in a delicious end result. How good is that! And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s made in minutes, i.e. real ‘fast food’. Halloumi is unlike any other cheese as it holds its shape and doesn’t melt when heated. It has a delicious salty flavour and it makes for a very quick, healthy and filling snack or lunch  – it has a reasonable shelf life so it is great to have it on standby in the fridge for those days when you are starving or short of time or both (happens regularly to me). It goes very well also with fresh beetroot which you can get in vacuum packs and which is another great standby to have in the fridge as it lasts for weeks in the fridge.

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter

Time to prepare: approx. 10/15 mins.

Ingredients

Avocado Salsa

1 ripe avocado
2/3 tomatoes
1 fresh lime
Fresh coriander leaves chopped

Halloumi Cheese (1 packet)

To serve: Salad leaves & dressing

How to make it:

  • Cut the tomatoes* into halves and then into quarters. Remove the seeds and chop the flesh into small pieces. *If you have time remove the skin by placing the tomatoes into boiling water for approx. 30 secs at which stage the skin will just peel off.
  • Cut the avocado in half, remove the skin and the stone and cut the flesh into cubes.
  • Place the tomato, avocado and coriander in a small bowl, add a good squeeze of lime and toss gently.
  • Cut the halloumi into slices and heat a non-stick pan (no oil needed).
  • Place the cheese slices onto the hot pan and fry until a nice golden colour on each side.
  • Put the salad together by placing some dressed salad leaves on a plate.
  • Place the avocado salsa in the centre and arrange the warm cheese slices around it.
  • Bon appétit!

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‘Good for You’ Chocolate Mousse

Ok guys, no excuses not to make this easy-peasy dessert with just 3 ingredients – chocolate, cream and eggs and a measly 207 calories per portion!  Not only is it simple but it makes it into my ‘healthy eating’ category because there is no added sugar. If the fact that it is super delicious, easy to make and low in calories isn’t enough to convince you to make it then the fact that dark chocolate is also good for your heart, circulation and brain should be the deal clincher! The other bonus is that this is ready after just 2 hours in the fridge.

The only sugar in this recipe is whatever is contained in the dark chocolate itself. I  used chocolate with 74% cocoa solids (from Lidl).

The recipe is adapted from a recipe contained in Rachel Allen’s book Rachel’s Favourite Foods.

Makes 6 small (50ml) glasses

Ingredients

120g (4½ oz) dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa solids)
120ml (4fl oz) cream
2 eggs, separated

How to make it

  • Break up the chocolate into small pieces.
  • In a saucepan, bring the cream up to the boil then turn off the heat.
  • Add the chocolate to the cream and stir until the chocolate is melted.
  • In a separate large clean & dry bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff
  • Stir a quarter of the egg white into the chocolate mixture
  • Gently fold in the rest of the egg white, being careful not to knock all the air out.
  • Spoon into little glasses or cups
  • Leave for an hour or two in the fridge to set
  • Decorate / serve as you like, with a raspberry on the top, blob of whipped cream or a little gold dust.

My advice then is to hide and keep it all for yourself!

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Summer (overnight) oats

Kickstart your day with this super breakfast, a perfect combination of goodness and taste which will keep you going right through until lunchtime. When my daughter was doing her Leaving Cert recently she often asked me to make this for her particularly on days where she had 2 exams.  Now the exams are over and I have shown her how to make it she could not believe how simple it was. It is made the night before so the oats have time to steep in the milk, use a bowl if you are going to eat it at home the next morning or use a portable container to ‘grab & go’ if you want to bring it with you say going to work the next day.  Traditional hot porridge is just not appealing during the Summer – this version is so much nicer. When I make it I don’t actually measure anything anymore and sometimes I use blueberries instead of raspberries or use a mixture of both. The ‘recipe’  (if you could call it that!)is adapted from one I saw originally in Derval O’Rourke’s book  ‘The Fit Foodie’. Continue reading

Minestrone Soup (dinner in a bowl!)

 

You have probably guessed already that food is an obsession of mine and plays a kinda big role in my life i.e. if I am not eating it, I am thinking about it!  Apart from needing it to stay alive, food can be important to people for many different reasons. For example in our house at the moment it seems that there is a never-ending conveyor belt of different meals required and it is quite the full-time job trying to think of what to feed everyone and keeping the fridge stocked (there is only 4 of us!!). Darling daughter (DD) is in study mode for the Leaving Cert so as well as needing food to keep her fit and healthy, food is a real source of comfort in a gruelling schedule and can often be the highlight of her day. Darling son (DS) plays Senior Football(Gaelic) for which he trains 6 or 7 times a week, needs large amounts of carbs and protein for energy, strength and recovery – he seems to be always foraging in the fridge!  This ‘soup’ which is a meal in itself  keeps everyone happy whether it is for lunch, pre or post training or for supper. My daughter adores it as do I, it tastes great and takes just 2 minutes to re-heat in the microwave. Perfect for taking to school or work and really easy to make.

 
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 40 mins

4-6 Servings

Ingredients

150g (5oz) tinned haricot beans, drained & rinsed in cold water.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 leeks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks, diced
75g pancetta / smoked bacon pieces
1 litre (1½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock
1½ tablespoons tomato purée
1 bay leaf
75g (3oz) tiny pasta shapes
Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
Grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano or Gran Padano) to serve

How to make it!

  • Chop / cut the pancetta into small pieces (approx. 2cm) –  a scissors works best for this.
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan
  • Add the chopped onion, garlic, diced leeks, carrots & celery and the bacon pieces.
  • Cook for 10 minutes over a low heat without colouring, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the drained & rinsed haricot beans to the pan.
  • Add the stock and tomato purée and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 15/20 minutes until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
  • Stir the pasta into the soup and simmer for another 10 minutes until tender, stirring frequently.
  • Season to taste
  • Serve with parmesan cheese grated over the top.

Sunshine vegetable stew

 

sunshine-veg-stew

You have only to look at the colours in this dish to get a nice warm feeling and that it would fit the bill perfectly for lunch on a cold Winter’s day. I made this dish to bring to work for my lunch and I got two of these containers so 2 days’  lunches were sorted. I really like to try and bring my own food to work for at least 2/3 days a week from a healthy eating point of view and also from the cost point of view – I can easily spend €50 a week on good coffee and bad sandwiches! An added bonus is that the ingredients (apart from the fresh coriander) are either store cupboard ingredients i.e. coconut milk, tinned chickpeas or vegetables that have a good shelf life i.e. sweet potato, butternut squash, onion, garlic. These are ingredients that I would always have in the press because they are so versatile and can be used in lots of dishes.  This stew is vegetarian and vegan so can go towards one of your weekly meat-free meals.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 10/15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 mins

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp curry powder
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
½ butternut squash, skin / seeds removed and diced
400ml vegetable stock
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Large handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Place a large pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil.
  • Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and sauté gently for 6-8 minutes until tender.
  • Add the garlic, turmeric and curry powder and cook for a further 2 minutes
  • Add the sweet potato and butternut squash chunks and stir until coated in the spices
  • Pour in the vegetable stock, coconut milk and chickpeas
  • Bring back to a steady simmer and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender.
  • Check the seasoning, stir through the coriander *and serve ( could also be served with rice to make a larger meal of it)

*If you are making this like I was to bring to work don’t stir in the coriander until you are re-heating it.