Cooking With Elfie: Cottage Pie

Elfie cooking

Elfie is the epitome of a little darling these days. She’s sweet to adults, kind to her brother and friends, has wonderful manners and the loveliest sense of humour. If someone had asked me when I was pregnant to describe what sort of daughter I wished for I would have described 4 year old Elfie to a tee.

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IMG_2165It’s no secret that we’ve struggled with our relationship in the past – we’re just too similar and end up butting heads sometimes – but since starting school we have become a lot closer. She tests boundaries a lot more, something I actually enjoy as I think it’s important my children discover where the line is and when they can cross it, but she also has learned a lot about respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!

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IMG_2170The upshot of this is that we now get on fabulously, so much so that Elfie’s favourite time of day (and one of mine!) is the ten minutes solo time we get to spend together after Huxley goes to bed at 7. We chat about the day, watch Frozen, do some online shopping and she whispers to me “Mummy, I love you all the way to the moon and back!” It is just AWESOME.

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IMG_2172In certain situations Elfie seems to think the sun shines out of my bum. She told her Grannie that she needed a new car, and not to worry, Mummy would buy her one because she works very hard. And if you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she will tell you ‘Mummy’s Helper’. As I’m going to wait until she’s at least ten to make her come into work with me and help by getting her to write KPI reports, for now she is ‘Mummy’s Helper’ when I’m cooking. So when OXO invited us to spend some time in the kitchen together recently to test their new Herbs & More range we were delighted to get to it! They sent us a goodie box full of Herbs & More pots as well as aprons for both E and I and a ‘Kitchen Magician’s Wand’ which I haven’t been allowed to touch since.

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IMG_2183OXO Herbs & More pots are perfect for a busy cook like me, adding a hefty punch of flavour into your dishes quickly and easily. Small pots of flavourings and seasonings, you simply add them to your recipes as you go along. They come in five variants: lemon & thyme, roast garlic & parsley, rosemary & red wine, rosemary & thyme and tarragon & chive. For this challenge OXO sent us some recipe cards to utilise our Herbs & More pots and Elfie decided we should give the Cottage Pie a go, so the Rosemary & Thyme pot was for us.

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IMG_2189We had a fantastic time cooking together – I did all chopping and hot duties and Elfie took care of the stirring and measuring. And mess making, obviously. Despite the flour-covered kitchen I think these little moments are so important and we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves – me as the Kitchen Magician and she as the Kitchen Magician’s assistant!

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I did feel a bit sorry for poor old Hux, though. He doesn’t really enjoy cooking and so went rogue on us and spent an hour drawing on himself. He had a ball.

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I’ve included the recipe here as it really was a doddle to follow plus it tasted spectacular. Usually for a dish like this I’d fanny around with seasonings (rosemary from next door’s garden, garlic, red wine, blah blah) but I decided to follow the instructions and let the Herbs & More pots speak for themselves. Because we are rebels we not only added the Rosemary & Thyme pot to the sauce but we also chucked a Roast Garlic & Parsley one into the mash – and I was so glad I did. It was delicious. I’ve already used one of the Rosemary & Red Wine pots in a Shepherd’s Pie (we like pie) and I look forward to using the others in all sorts of dishes.

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And the kids’ verdict on flavour? Hux ate his WHOLE dish of Cottage Pie which literally never happens, and Elfie asked for seconds. I took mine into work and had lots of compliments on the way it made the kitchen smell. JOB DONE.

Cottage Pie
 
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 400g lean mince beef
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 sticks celery (we substituted a courgette)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Rosemary & Thyme Herbs & More
  • 100g grated cheese (I use Gruyere as I'm a posh bugger)
Instructions
  1. Peel your onion, carrots and potatoes and pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Brown the mince in a non-stick pan.
  2. Dice the onion, carrots and celery and add to the pan. Fry for 2 minutes then add the tomato puree and flour and cook for a further minute.
  3. Add the Worcestershire sauce and 400ml of boiling water. Stir and simmer for 20 mins.
  4. Chop the potatoes and boil for 20 mins, then mash with a tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp milk (I use cream as I'm a greedy bugger)
  5. Add the Herbs & More pot into the saucy beef mixture and transfer to an ovenproof dish.
  6. Spread the mash over the mixture and sprinkle your cheese on top.
  7. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Big thank-yous to Britmums and OXO Herbs & More for collaborating with us on this post. We had a great time! 

MTT: Easy Lemon Drizzle Cake

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I’m going to blame you lot on Twitter for what happened to me this week.

There I was on my day off, quietly minding my own business when suddenly all I can think about is cake. Cake cake cake cake. And there it is: 80% of my timeline tweeting about the Great British Sodding Bake-Off. You’ve been quietly brainwashing me to MAKE AND EAT THE CAKE .

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So off I trot to my kitchen cupboards to check I have the basics (and this cake really does only require the basics. The basics and a lemon). Luckily I have this idea that if I make a cake in less than ten minutes I can pretend it’s still paleo.

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My logic is faultless; I ate four slices, I’m not one pound heavier and I fully blame Twitter.

This cake might not be pretty but it is bloody quick and very tasty. I use an approximation of Delia’s all-in-one sponge and then slap a lemon/sugar syrup on the top. It’s fluffy, it’s crunchy, it’s sweet, it’s delicious.

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And when you eat four slices you too can blame Twitter.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Easy Lemon Drizzle Cake
 
You could make this more lemon-y by grating the rind of a lemon into the cake mix but as I am lazy I don't bother ;)
Ingredients
  • 4oz flour
  • 4oz caster sugar (plus about 2 tbsp for the drizzle)
  • 4oz room temperature butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or essence)
  • Juice of a lemon
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees C.
  2. Sieve the flour into a bowl (though again, I can rarely be arsed and my cakes are always fine...) and add the caster sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder and vanilla paste.
  3. Mix well with some sort of electric mixer until you have a batter that falls off a spoon easily. Add a little milk (or water) if it's too thick.
  4. Tip into a greased tin and bake for 25-30 mins, until golden on top.
  5. Make your sugar syrup by juicing a lemon and adding enough sugar to create a thick paste that you can pour on top of the cake.
  6. Leave the cake to cool for ten minutes and drizzle with the sugar syrup. i tend to chuck mine on and spread it with the back of a spoon.
  7. Leave to cool further and eat with a lovely cup of tea.

 

 

MTT: Kid-Friendly Spanish Paella Recipe

 

Kid-friendly Paella Recipe

I try to get my kids to eat as much multicultural food as possible. They both adore curries (especially poppadoms for breakfast the day after a takeaway… #supermum), we recently had a proper American feast of pulled pork and cornbread and traditional carbonara is one of their favoruites. Ditto American maple pancakes for breakfast!

Because cooking is such a love of mine I really enjoy teaching them the origins of where our food comes from and talk about how this differs from country to country – sometimes we get the atlas out and it turns into a lovely little geography lesson.

Kid-friendly Paella Recipe

One of our favourite cuisines to delve into is Spanish. I’ve been to both Madrid and Barcelona and just love the Spanish tapas style of eating; lots of nibbly bits of cheese, meats and fried stuff with copious amounts of Estrella, natch. HEAVEN. The children have an Auntie living in Madrid and with a new cousin en España I see it as my parenting duty to eat loads of chorizo ;)

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MTT: Roast Aubergine and Courgette Salad With Pomegranate

Aubergine, courgette and pomegranate salad

Despite staying 80% faithful to my Paleo diet (I’m a big believer in the 80/20 rule) there are some exceptions I have come to accept. In my opinion the beauty of Paleo is that it can be what you make of it: I began with the very bare bones of the diet but have included a couple of food groups to fit my lifestyle. Dairy is one of these. It’s not something I eat to excess – a splash of milk in tea, some goats cheese on my salad – but eating it doesn’t effect me negatively, so why would I stop?

Yogurt is an ingredient that I use a lot more in cooking than I did before. I always buy the plain low-fat variant (as well as the fromage frais version which are always pink and Peppa Pig themed) so find it to be a great base for salad dressings, puddings, breakfasts and meal accompaniments, my favourite being raita with shedloads of garlic and cucumber. The plain yog, not the Peppa Pig one obviously. Yummo.

We have the first ever yogurt week coming up (put it in your diaries! 19-25 May!) and to celebrate all things white and creamy the people at the Yogurt Council have asked me to share one of my favourite recipes using this magic ingredient. It’s a fabulous addition to a healthy diet like Paleo: yogurt contains a range of nutrients important to a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle. For further information visit  loveyogurt.org and follow loveyogurtuk on Facebook and Twitter.

Aubergine, courgette and pomegranate salad

One of my all-time loveliest staple dishes is this Ottolenghi-inspired Aubergine and Courgette salad with Pomegranate and a yogurt dressing. It’s so easy to throw together and does me on its own for lunch, or with a protein if I’m having it for dinner (I love it with my easy lamb koftes, without the wraps these days of course. Sadface… though look! Tzatziki! More lovely yogurt!).

I love the crunch of the salad with the soft veggies, the pairing of the slightly smoky dressing and sweet pomegranate seeds and the aromatic handful of herbs on top. It’s a salad of queens, this one!

Aubergine, courgette and pomegranate salad

Here’s how you can use your yogurt to turn your Aubergine into something worthy of KMiddy. You can thank me later, after yogurt week:

Roast Aubergine and Courgette Salad With Pomegranate
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 aubergine
  • 1 courgette
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large handful mixed salad leaves
  • 1 dessert spoon full pomegranate seeds
  • 2 tbsp plain yoghurt
  • pinch smoked paprika
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp honey
  • small handful each of parsley and mint, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade.
  2. Slice up your aubergine and courgette as uniformly as you can and mix in a large bowl with the olive oil until coated.
  3. Spread on a large baking tray, trying not to overlap too much. Season with salt.
  4. Roast on the top shelf for 20 - 30 mins until golden brown.
  5. Meanwhile mix the yogurt, paprika, honey and lemon juice together in a bowl and season to taste.
  6. Spread your salad leaves on your plate and when out the oven top with your roasted veg.
  7. Drizzle the yogurt dressing over and add the pomegranate seeds. Garnish with your herbs.

Thank  you to the Yogurt Council for sponsoring More Than Toast and making it possible for me to buy fancy ingredients like Pomegranate seeds :)

MTT: Espresso Martinis

There’s something you should know about me; in case we haven’t met before, if you haven’t read my blog or followed my Twitter/Instagram, I’m going to tell you something: I like cocktails. Perhaps more now than before I had kids because these days cocktail hour is such a very special time. It’s oh so easy to slug a bit of wine into a glass when you’re sitting down to watch Breaking Bad in the evening but the times you get to enjoy half an hour with a good dirty martini, now they are rare.

I used to be partial to a good Cosmopolitan (Sex and the City were accountable for a lot of vodka headaches during my early twenties) before I switched allegiance to the French Martini. But these days, now my tastes have matured, I love a damn good margarita. Or a dirty martini (preferably with Grey Goose, or Ciroc if they have it) with three olives. In Amsterdam the onion martini was invented – no olives left? Add pickled onions and a splash of their vinegar. No kidding, it’s delicious.

But one of my most consistently loved cocktails over the years has got to be the Espresso Martini. Discovered in the hallowed bar of Shoreditch House at the age of 23, it’s been a staple part of my drinking culture ever since. Just try not to have more than three, you WILL go a bit crazy.

I even have pictoral evidence of the first time I had one, post a Sam Sparro gig at the Bloomsbury Ballrooms when I was feeling high on life (and coffee):

249_57714645205_9379_nWith my gorgeous cousin Harriet. Hi, Harriet!!

I’ve even attempted making them at home, with varying levels of success. I’ve found the easiest and most reliable way to make a decent Espresso Martini at home is with a ‘pod’ coffee machine: it’s well worth owning one for this purpose! And today I’m here to tell you about new Nespresso Compatible pods from 100 year old Italian coffee company, Caffe Cagliari. The qualitative and sensory standards of their Espresso have been certified by the Italian Espresso National Institute (I.N.E.I), which protects and promotes Italian Espresso. So you know you’re gonna get a damn great cocktail using one of these bad boys.

I’ve taken the time to give you my recipe below… trust me when I say it’s rocket fuel.

Espresso Martini
25ml Kahlua
25ml Espresso
50ml Vodka

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a big handful of ice. Shake vigorously. 

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy. 

Guess where I’m going tomorrow? Shoreditch House. Guess what I’m going to be drinking? YEP.

Go here to find out where you can buy these magical pods and start enjoying Espresso Martinis of your own!

This was a post in partnership with Caffe Cagliari. I promise to spend my entire fee on Espresso Martinis. For more information on my disclosure policy please go here

 

 

MTT: Paleo Pancakes

Before I talk about my pancakes today I’m going to beg you for something: nominations have just opened for the MAD awards and you know what? This year I would LOVE to attend the fancy pants dinner in London as a – *crosses fingers* – nominee. And not just because the wine is free. If you like reading my blog I would implore you to take a wander over here to nominate and I’d like to suggest the Most Entertaining Blog category or maybe Best Blog Writer? It’s a good thing I have a big ego.  THANK YOU, and now back to our usual programming…

Paleo Pancakes

Things are still looking pretty Paleo around here. When we were all ill a couple of weeks I let a bit of bread creep back into the diet – tummy bugs want nothing more than marmite on toast, am I right? – but now that’s over the 80/20 rule is back in play. It was amazing to see how rubbish I felt after re-introducing a bit of wheat and I’m still a bit in awe of how this diet has changed me completely beyond expectations; I started eating this way hoping so much fresh fruit and veg would give me a bit of a kick in the morning while Elfie was waking so early – mission accomplished! – but it’s also given me skin that’s clearer than I’ve ever had, a flat tummy and a real sense of well-being. I haven’t felt this healthy in as long as I can remember and have a total sense of contentment. Thanks, fruit and veg!

Paleo pancake ingredients Paleo pancakes Paleo pancakes

Like I’ve said before, my diet and gym-going hasn’t been about losing weight. It’s about re-gaining control of my body, feeling happy with who I am and knowing I’m doing everything I can to be in the best shape I can be in, for me and for the children. Looking back over the last four years it’s actually quite surprising to realise my body has not been my own for a while. It’s performed the miracle of growing and nurturing two little lives, but it’s time to re-discover how to take care of my body and use it to its full potential. I’m all about the self-love these days (not in that way, you perv) and I’m really committed to looking after myself as much as I can, Gwyneth-style.

Paleo pancakes Paleo pancakes

But sometimes when I’m trying to come up with things to eat – especially at breakfast time – I can get stuck. Which is why these Paleo Pancakes are a total lifesaver. They’re my go-to thing to eat if I’m not chugging on a green juice and are really delicious with berries. They even masquerade pretty well as a pudding, and you can add a sprinkling of cinnamon or a drop of vanilla to make things a bit more interesting.

Paleo pancakes and berries Paleo pancakes and berries

5.0 from 1 reviews
Paleo Pancakes
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon of butter
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter over a medium heat.
  2. Mash a banana into a whisked egg and pour into the melted butter.
  3. Cook gently until the egg has solidified, quarter the pancake and flip.
  4. Cook until brown on the other side