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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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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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.

 

Smoked Trout Paté with Carrot Salad & Pitta Chips

smoked-trout-pate-7

This recipe is from one of my favourite cookbooks called The Diet for Food Lovers by Jennifer Irvine – it is a beautiful book of healthy, delicious recipes (and the pictures are beautiful too!). This particular recipe looks like there is a lot to it but it is actually very simple and easy – perfect with a glass of wine or as a starter if you were having anyone for dinner. The paté takes just 5 mins to make, the carrot salad,  10 mins and the pitta ‘chips’ take 5 mins to prepare and about 15 mins to bake in the oven.  Instead of making the pitta chips you could have some toasted wholemeal or rye bread or even some melba toast with the paté. The pitta chips are worth trying though as they are surprisingly tasty (and a healthy alternative to tortilla chips) and take only minutes to make – my daughter loves them and took them in her lunchbox when I made them recently. And who would ever have thought of a carrot salad? It looks beautiful and the dressing really turns it into something special. Continue reading

Salmon & Asparagus Terrine

Salmon & Asparagus Terrine 3

Impress your friends with this beautiful and delicious terrine, perfect as a starter or for a light lunch with a glass of wine. What’s more you can make it in advance so it’s hassle-free, just have it chilling in the fridge until you are ready. This is a Mary Berry recipe, she is one person I so admire and whose recipes I totally trust i.e. they always work!  I made this for a dinner party recently and it went down a treat.  Continue reading

Bacon & Asparagus Frittata

Bacon & Asparagus Frittata

You know when you come home, hungry (in my case usually ‘hangry’!) and need food fast, well instead of dialling your local takeaway this is the perfect answer and will be on your table even faster.  Tasty, quick, healthy and satisfying.  I made this one with asparagus, bacon pieces and finished it with some rocket but once you have eggs in stock you can just use whatever ingredients you have e.g. chorizo, cheddar, parma ham, sausage etc etc.   It is a great way to use up leftovers too.

Make sure you use a non-stick pan  – I always keep one purely for omelettes, pancakes etc. Otherwise you may be scraping your dinner out of the pan!

Serves 2

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
250g or 1 bundle of asparagus tips
75g of bacon pieces
4 large eggs
50g parmesan cheese, grated
2 tbsp chopped chives
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Cook the asparagus in a pan of simmering salted water or steam over boiling water
  • Remove after 5 mins (they need to be tender and still bright green)
  • Drain, run under a cold tap and cut into pieces (approx. 1 inch)
  • Heat the frying pan and cook the bacon pieces for 3 to 4 minutes (no additional oil may be needed)
  • Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl, add the asparagus, parmesan and chives, stirring well.
  • Season with salt & pepper
  • Pour the egg mixture into the pan and cook gently for 3 minutes, drawing back the edges with a wooden spatula and tipping the runny egg over the edge to help it set.
  • Cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes and then place under a pre-heated grill, cooking for 2 minutes or until the top is set and lightly golden.
  • Remove and serve. Enjoy!