What’s for lunch: celery and tomato soup




This is a recipe from Rose Elliot’s New Complete vegetarian cookbook. I was kindly given permission to include it in the blog.

It’s the first recipe I made from the book and I remember being struck by how such a simple dish could be so delicious.

I was going to post it last September but then celery went out of season (its usually in season from June through to October) and I only really use fruit and veg that’s grown in the UK when it’s in season.

It’s part of my What’s for lunch series of recipes: ideas for simple meals to share with your baby and/or toddler. I would make this on a day when they were going to have a main meal at tea time that includes high quality protein (lean meat, fish, eggs, pulses and/or beans) or serve it alongside something that includes high quality protein like sardines on toast.

When I gave it to my then 10 month old baby I gave it to her alongside a small leftover portion of meatballs and pasta as I wasn’t sure if she would like the soup (she did). I just wanted to give her some because I was eating it so it would encourage her to try it.

I made this again recently and my eldest daughter didn’t like it – well she didn’t once she knew it had celery in it! She eats celery usually in soups or sauces but probably doesn’t realise. So I guess the moral of the story is fairly obvious – if you want your child to eat/accept a food make it part of their diet from a young age.

You will need…

3 onions chopped(though I have made it with 2)

The outside stalks of a head of celery, chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

400g carton of chopped tomatoes or 440g fresh chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

575ml of low salt vegetable stock

Half a lemon


How to…

Fry the onion and celery in a heavy bottomed pan until translucent for between 5-10 minutes, make sure they don’t brown. Add the garlic, tomatoes and water or stock.
Simmer for about 30 minutes or until the celery is very tender.
Add a squeeze of lemon and serve.
Make sure it’s cooled down before giving it to your little one.



Greengage sorbet

Taking a break from blackberry recipes, We’re lucky to have a greengage tree in the garden. They’re another taste that’s taken me right back to childhood. So it’s been lovely to show my youngest daughter how she can just pick them from the tree and wash them under the outside tap. The only downside being that she no keeps picking them, whether they are ripe or not!




This recipe relies on the natural sugars from the greengages and maple syrup so has no added, processed sugar. A teaspoon of maple syrup contains about half a teaspoon of sugar, so while 5 tablespoons sounds like a lot, it’s actually about half that amount. It’s also dairy free. Amounts used in the ingredients can vary, for this recipe it’s just based on what I had to use. This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from a Sarah Raven’s Garden cook book.

You will need…

600g greengages
5 tablespoons maple syrup

How to…

First pre-heat oven to 190˚C (170˚C fan oven) / gas mark 5 / 375˚F.
Wash the greengages, cutting off any bits where the skin’s been broken.
Put in an ovenproof glass or ceramic dish and cover with lid, foil or parchment paper.
Cook for about 15-20 minutes until soft.
Take all the stones out and put in a food processor or use a hand blender to blend until smooth.
Add 3 tablespoons of maple syrup and mix well.
Test to see if it’s sweet enough.
If not add another tablespoon or two.
It’s always going to have a sharp flavour – and you’re not looking to loose that completely otherwise it would become too sweet.
Blend again.
Put in an airtight container in the freezer and beat after about an hour to get some air into it.
Then beat 4 hours and 8 hours later.
You will need to let it thaw a little before serving with blackberries or other berries.

Greengage sorbet

Just to show that despite it’s sharp flavour it went down well. My daughters latest thing is waving goodbye to food as she finishes eating it (see photo below).



Blackberries 3 ways

What do you do with your blackberries? I’m asking as I don’t think we’ve really eaten any of the ones I’ve picked on their own, raw and am just interested to know what other people do with theirs.

So far I’ve made 3 batches of blackberry crumble muffins, 3 jars of blackberry and bramley jam)I haven’t had time to research and develop a sugar-free version yet but am in the early stages of that at the moment)  and the easy dishes I’ve made below…

Blackberry smoothie lollies

My daughter made these and it took at least 4 hours for the lollies to freeze. If you want to use less blackberries and/or have smaller lolly moulds use 100g blackberries and 100ml apple juice

You will need…

200g blackberries
1 ripe banana

200ml apple juice (I had to use my juicer as we didn’t have any apple juice in 1 apple produces about 100ml apple juice)

How to…

Just whizz them up in your food processor or handheld blender

Whizzing blackberries


This gave us enough for 4 large smoothie lollies and left some over for us to drink as mini-smoothies.



I think our lollies took about 4-6 hours to freeze.


Blackberry compote

Try making this by just stewing the fruit in a little water for about 5 minutes.

I used about 300g of fruit. Take about a third to a half of the fruit out and blend it a little and then add back in.

Or mash it if you don’t have a blender.

Try it and if it’s sweet enough then keep it as it is.

But if it needs a little sweetening then add a tablespoonful or two of maple syrup.

I had mine with greek yogurt and home made granola which was very moreish.

Compote w yogurt and granola

It’s yummy with home made pancakes and also as a pudding with yogurt or ice-cream.


You can freeze what you don’t need in ice cube trays.


Blackberry and Bramley spelt crumble

Blackberries are quite sweet which is why this works really well with Bramley (cooking apples) because of their tartness.

This is an updated version of a crumble recipe I posted a couple of years ago. I bake the crumble mixture separately to the fruit mixture because I like to keep the crumble mixture dry.

Blackberry crumble

You will need….

…for the crumble

200g spelt flour
40g hazelnuts
30g oats
70g brown sugar
100g unsalted butter cut into cubes

… for the filling

200g blackberries
2 medium sized bramley apples
Juice of half a lemon
2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup or brown sugar

How to…

First pre-heat oven to 190˚C (170˚C fan oven) / gas mark 5 / 375˚F.

If you have a food processor whizz all the crumble ingredients together until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs.

It’s easy enough to do by hand and doesn’t take long.

In a bowl, rub together flour, sugar and butter with fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Shake the bowl to get big lumps to the top and rub these in to get an even texture.

Chop the nuts so they are in quarters or smaller. Or you could make an envelope with parchment paper and put the nuts in the middle, fold it over at the edges and then bash the nuts with a rolling pin. Letting out any pent up aggression from the day!

Mix in the oats and chopped nuts.

Put on a big baking tray.

Wash the blackberries through well, checking for any signs of life.

Wash, peel, core and cut the apple into cubes and put in an ovenproof dish .

Cover and mix through the lemon juice to stop the apples from going brown.

Spoon over and mix through the maple syrup.

Cover with foil or lid.

Put the apple mixture and the baking tray of crumble in the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Take the crumble out and mix through and put back in so it is all evenly browned.

Take the apple mixture out of the oven, add the blackberries, mix well and put back in.

Bake for a further 10-15 minutes.

Take out of the oven and serve with ice cream or home-made custard.


Blackberry crumble muffins

blackberry crumble muffins

I seem to have a bit of a blackberry picking addiction at the moment. Finding excuses to go foraging on a daily basis. Trips down the lane with the toddler on her trike or in the sling telling me she either wants to get down, wants to get out of the trike or get up are held off with a “just a minute darling I just need to get this one last one”.

So one of the recipes I’ve tried in the last week is a version of the blueberry muffin recipe I borrowed and adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi cookbook. Just replacing blueberries with blackberries worked well. You need to use quite firm blackberries so that they will be less likely to burst in the baking process.

Allergen free

It’s possible to make these with gluten free wheat flour and gluten free flour which both work well. I’ve also recently made them with spelt flour (lower in gluten than usual wheat flour) which was a little heavier – though the muffins were still as popular. I used Koko coconut milk when I made them today and you could use vegan spread instead of butter to make them dairy free. And I have heard you can use milled chia seeds or flaxseeds as an  egg alternative

For 12 muffins you will need…

100g Blackberries (plus enough to put a few on the top of each muffin)

210g Plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 medium egg
70g butter
150ml milk or coconut drinking milk
Half an apple (eat the other half!)
Grated zest of half a lemon
110g caster sugar

For the crumble mixture

I make this up and keep some frozen*. For this recipe you need about a dessert spoon of mixture per muffin.

300g spelt flour (or plain white if you don’t have spelt)
100g caster sugar
200g cold unsalted butter cut into cubes.

How to…

… Make your crumble

  1. First, make the crumble mixture by putting all the ingredients into a bowl and rubbing them through your fingers to make the crumble mixture.
  2. (If you have a food processor, just put all the ingredients in and give them a whizz until they resemble breadcrumbs.)
  3. Give the bowl a little shake and the bigger lumps will come to the top, rub these through so that you have a consistent crumble mixture.
  4. The crumble mixture keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days but you might as well freeze what you don’t use as it takes very little time to defrost and will keep in the freezer for months.

…Make your muffins

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 170˚C / gas mark 3 / 325˚F.
  2. Line your muffin tray with cases.
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder and put to one side.
  4. Whisk lightly the egg, add the sugar and melted butter (making sure its not too hot) and keep whisking lightly.
  5. Whisk in the lemon zest and milk to the wet mixture.
  6. Add the blackberries and grated apple to the liquid mixture.
  7. Add the liquid mixture to the dry mixture and stir in, not too much – just enough to combine – allowing there to be lumps.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the cases, sprinkle a dessert spoon of crumble mixture on top with a few blueberries
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
  10. You can check whether the muffins are cooked through with a skewer – if it comes out wet then they need a few minutes longer, if it comes out with no mixture on it then they are ready.


I have slightly adjusted this recipe to suit younger children – by reducing the sugar content and portion size. So each cake has a teaspoon of added sugar, the rest of the sugar content (about 5g) is from the fruit. Fat and saturated fat content are low in these cakes too). Each cake provides about 170 calories which is just over 10% of the recommended calorie intake for a child aged between 4-6 years of age. Each muffin contains about 10% recommended calcium intake, just under 10% recommended iron intake and about 20% recommended Vitamin A intake for a child in this age group.

*Having frozen crumble mixture in the freezer is a great fall back for midweek or Sunday lunch fruit crumbles as it takes very little time to defrost.

Chicken kebabs with jewelled cous cous

This is a version of a recipe I cut out of a magazine years ago, and I can’t remember what the magazine was so can’t credit it (am very honest about where my recipes come from – I always credit the source and link to original recipe – unless have devised it myself).

bedjewelled cous cous

I’ve made this meal a couple of times in the last few weeks and it goes down really well. For my youngest daughter I take the chicken off the kebab as, even if I cut off the pointy end of the skewer, accidents are still likely to happen.

In the last week my 7 year old has decided she’d prefer plain cous cous.  It’s easy enough to put some to one side when you’re making it to keep it plain.

This cous cous salad is great for bbq’s, picnics, goes well with home made burgers or you could add cubes of feta cheese and serve with corn on the cob for a vegetarian option. 

To make chicken kebabs you will need…

400g organic free range chicken breasts cut into cubes*
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 skewers soaked in water for 10 minutes or so

How to…

Cut the chicken breasts into cubes about 2cm cubed and put in a bowl
Mix together the olive oil and lemon juice.
Add the marinade to the bowl and stir the chicken so it’s all covered.
Cover and put in the fridge for at least half an hour to 2 hours (but don’t worry if you don’t have time!)
Take out of the fridge and put on skewers.
Grill on a medium to hot heat for about 10 minutes, turning so that the chicken is cooked through.
If it’s cooked on the outside and still pink in the middle turn down the heat a little and continue to cook for a few minutes until ready.

To make the cous cous you will need…

200g cous cous (wholegrain is best)
300ml water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
6 organic dried apricots**
50g pinenuts
40 raisins or sultanas (I use raisins as they’re high in iron)
handful (about 15g) of mint chopped
2-3 spring onions sliced

How to…

Put the cous cous in a bowl.
Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together and stir through the cous cous along with the water.
Leave to stand for 15 minutes.
Toast the pine nuts either in a grill or in the bottom of a saucepan – keep an eye on them as they start to brown very quickly.
As soon as they’ve toasted put them in a bowl as otherwise they’ll continue to cook in the pan/baking try.
Chop the sun dried tomatoes and dried apricots and add to the pine nuts along with the sultanas/raisins.
Add the mint and onions.
Now with a fork fluff up the cous cous then add all the ingredients and mix well.

Serve with a green salad (don’t dress the salad keep the dressing in a bowl so people can have it they want to). For this salad I just did a simple olive oil balsamic vinegar one (3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil to about 2 tablespoons of balsamic mixed with a fork).

We had courgettes and courgette flowers shallow fried in olive oil with a squeeze of lemon judge along with steamed green beans (all from the garden) along with a rocket, tomato and avocado salad.

Chicken kebabs and cous cous


*400g is about enough for a child between 1-4 years, another between 5-11 years and two adults (with a little left over). This is based on portion size guidance from First Steps Nutrition which is based on guideline recommended intakes of protein.

So before you cook the chicken (as this results in weight/water loss) weigh what you need based on:

65g uncooked chicken for children aged between 1-4 years
75g uncooked chicken for children aged between 5-11 years
About 120g chicken for adults

**Organic apricots do not have sulphur added (which some children can have an adverse reaction to) which is why they are brown rather than orange.





More than tea and toast…

There is nothing quite like the tea and toast the midwife brings you after you’ve had a baby. It marks a pause between birth and parenthood, a comforting, gentle return to reality – well a new reality at least. And it feels especially well-deserved after what you’ve just been through.

With my second I had thought I would be at home drinking champagne to celebrate the birth. But actually tea and toast does very nicely as a celebration.

And maybe it’s a good thing that you forget, or if it’s your first time, don’t know yet, quite how much tea and toast you might be eating in the coming weeks, grabbed between feeds, naps and nappy changes.

With my first baby I couldn’t understand why she spent so long feeding. My mum told me that her babies fed for about 20 minutes at a time. But I think she must have forgotten the early days (you do tend to block it out), as it is so normal for babies nurse long stretches at a time, between short naps. It helps to increase milk supply. Worth remembering too that with a stomach the size of a walnut babies seem to constantly needs filling.

And so do you – or that’s how it feels. People talk about “eating for two” when you’re pregnant but initially at least it’s more fitting for nursing mums, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you can need up to an extra 300 kcals a day.*

A few tips

With your body producing milk you will be thirstier, if you don’t already have a jug or bottle, get one so you can have it by your chair and/or bed and drink as you need it.

Follow your body’s thirst and hunger cues. Don’t worry in the early days about loosing weight, just try and eat well and give your body time to recover from pregnancy and birth. In the long term, breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in BMI.

Below are some ideas that might give you a bit of inspiration.


It doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but you’re not really looking for culinary adventures. Leftovers in the fridge can help you get through the day. Cook an extra portion or 2 of the evening meal so you have ready made lunch the next day. Soups and stews are particularly good. You can freeze the extra portion if need be for another day.

Cook and freeze

Classic advice for pregnant women is to cook and freeze meals in the lead up to their due date. Also for friends and family to bring home cooked meals round when they visit.


Whatever is easy to grab in your fridge or your cupboard will be eaten, so make sure you have fruit (if you’ve got pineapple or melons and cut them up in one go and put what you’re not ready to eat in a container in fridge) and vegetables that can be eaten raw like carrot and celery. Yogurts are good too – I buy Greek organic because although it’s higher in fat it has a higher protein content and organic standards stipulate that organic cows have to be pasture fed. Milk from pasture fed cows (organic) has a healthier saturated fat profile compared to cows that are grain fed. Keep pitta breads, wraps and rye bread in the freezer so you always have something in the kitchen as a basis for lunch. Nuts and seeds keep well and are good snacks and can be added to yogurts along with fruit.

5 x 5 minute meals

There is nothing amazing about these meals, except I was able to cobble them together from what was in my kitchen. So they are quick to make, nutritious and can be eaten with one hand. Even if you don’t make the these meals, they might give you some inspiration to come up with ideas for your own. Also they can be adapted depending on what you’ve got at home and how much time you have.

  1. Hummus and seasonal vegetablesI know this doesn’t look like much, but I think looking back I tended to eat little and often, so lunch was small and sometimes elevenses and late lunch. If you want to make this more substantial add pitta bread.


  2. Veggie omelette 

    I think I made this one with 2 large eggs. Eggs make a great, quick and nutritious lunch anyway. First I fried red pepper and mushrooms in a frying pan with some olive oil until soft then I added the beaten eggs. After turning over the omlette (you could grill the topside if you don’t want to try turning the omlette) grating some parmesan cheese on top and adding some rocket and tomatoes to the middle before folding over. Not beautiful but tasty, healthy and eaten with one hand (with a fork of course). DSCN3398

  3. Salmon and salad in seeded tortilla bread
    I found these seeded tortilla’s in my local supermarket. The salmon was leftover from the night before. I just put put it in a wrap along with rocket, tomato, cucumber and a little mayonnaise mixed with horseradish (optional but nice for flavour). Hummus with grated carrot and peppers works well in these too. Or leftover chicken with salad. You can freeze tortillas – so they don’t go off. I usually put parchment paper between each tortilla so they don’t stick together.DSCN4363
  4. Tinned sardines, avocado, rocket and tomato on toasted rye breadToasted rye bread is delicious and you can add just sliced avocado and/or tomato and/or tinned sardines or fresh mackerel or salmon with salad leaves on top.
  5. Falafels in pitta bread with saladToast the pitta bread and fill with the falafels, sliced tomatoes and salad leaves. Am sure you could think of other good fillings for these.

Grabable  is key, you need to make sure a lot of the food that’s to hand is healthy – but if you aren’t able to eat as healthily as you’d would like to, don’t stress about it, just do your best, as your body is will still make good quality milk for your baby.

*This is based on latest evidence based guidance from SACN which was published in 2011.

Post note This post has been sat in my drafts folder for months. I’ve just been prompted to publish it as the subject has come up in a conversation on Facebook. Also, First Steps Nutrition are soon to publish their guidance for parents of newborns, which I will review on the blog when it’s published, so I thought I should get this in quick before their report is published instead of letting it languish in the ether.