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.



Abergavenny Food Festival 2012 : The Food Academy lamb meatballs and pasta recipe

We got back from Abergavenny late on Sunday night and what with loosing my USB camera cable, being 6 months pregnant and recovering from such a wonderful festival, it’s taken a few days to get to this blog post.

We stayed with my lovely friend, Cath Fookes (who is festival co-ordinator) and her family.

I hadn’t been to Wales for years and had forgotten how beautiful the countryside is. This is a view from the Castle Field where we spent most of our weekend.

My daughter’s festival highlight, aside from running around and making new friends, had to be the Food Academy.

The sessions she went to were run by Jethro Carr of Kitchen Academy in Brighton who has an impressive list of clients, from Kids Company, BBC Good Food Show, Soil Association to FareShare, Fair Trade, Womad and Brighton and Hove food and drink festival.

There were more sessions, which we missed, unfortunately, delivered by Alex Mackay, Patron of Kids Cookery School charity (I saw children coming out with delicious looking “Everyway burgers” in baps) and Richard Bertinet of Bertinet Kitchen Bakery in Bath who made  smoked haddock chowder.

There is something that children love about cooking with a chef. I don’t know whether it’s because they associate it with famous TV chefs or because they are so professional (and calm and unflustered) in their whites. But most kids tend to have a bit of reverence for them and listen intently to instructions.

In the Sunday workshop my daughter made …

Lamb meatballs with tomatoes and home made pasta

Once hats were decorated, Jethro gathered mini-chefs at the front and went through the recipe steps, explaining along the way, in particular, safe knife skills: using the claw and bridge. After the briefing a member of Team Food Academy guided the food prep on each table.

Here’s Jethro’s recipe so you can make your own….

This is about enough for 7-10 children’s portions depending on age and appetite. You could either to reduce the amount to suit your needs – or make it in a big batch and freeze what you don’t use.

Once fully briefed, children went back to their tables to grate parmesan …

Pound the garlic…

Then mix all together with torn basil leaves and organic lamb mince…

And roll into small meatballs (followed by a good handwashing)…

Meanwhile on the other (meat-free) side of the table, pasta ingredients were combined…

And kneaded …

While the tomatoes were chopped and deseeded…

Then it was time to roll out the pasta, several times….

Which they loved…

Until it was thin enough to roll into tagliatelle…

While Team Food Academy cooked the meatballs and pasta, kids made their smoothies on the Smoothie Bikes…

Then it was the most important part of the process…

Followed by a delicious smoothie…

All a rather resounding success.

The chefs and all the Abergavenny Food Festival staff worked so hard for two days delivering workshop after workshop, followed by washing up and tidying away ready for the next group of children. Working with children in this way is actually quite tiring so hats off to you all and thank you very much.

Anyone who has cooked with children knows it can have a positive impact on eating habits and openness to trying new foods. Even a one off cooking activity like this can get children trying new foods and instil new food skills.

Summer roasted vegetable lasagne recipe

This is what we had for our Meat Free Monday supper this week. I had been wanting to post this for ages, but had to wait for courgettes to come into season – then forgot all about it until I made it for supper last week.

You will need…
3 peppers (red and yellow – green peppers don’t roast as well, though they can be used too) cut into 1cm squares
2 courgettes sliced, smaller pieces halved, larger pieces quartered
Red onion cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves crushed
Handful of basil leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
50g butter
40g flour
570ml organic semi skimmed milk
60g organic parmesan cheese grated
grated nutmeg
125g organic mozzarella or cheddar cheese grated

How to…
Heat the oven to 220˚C/gas mark 6
Prepare the veg, mix in with the olive oil, crushed garlic, and torn basil leaves, season and put in a roasting tin, making sure that all the veg are touching the tin. Season with black pepper and roast for 15 minutes until roasted – but not overcooked as you don’t want to destroy all vitamin C in the veg.

While the veggies are roasting make your béchamel sauce.
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan.
Add the flour and stir into the butter until well mixed.
Allow the flour and butter mixture to cook through for 2 minutes.
Gradually add the milk, mixing in well and keep stirring to prevent sticking and lumps.
Once all the milk is added bring to the boil and allow to simmer on lowest heat for 2 minutes maximum.
Add some grated nutmeg and stir
Take of heat and add 45g parmesan and pour into a measuring jug using a spatular to waste as little as possible.
Take the roasted vegetables out of the oven and put in a bowl.
In an ovenproof dish layer the ingredients.

My daughter delegated the tasks that involved getting mucky hands to me.

First spread quarter of a pint of the sauce on the base of the dish.
Next add about a third of the roasted vegetables followed by third of the grated mozzarella and a layer of lasagne.
And then go through the same process until you have the top layer of lasagne topped with béchamel sauce.
Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese.
Put in the oven and cook at 180˚C/gas mark 4 for 30 minutes.

Serve with a salad.

This dish will is high in calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 – with the salad it also makes up 2 portions of veg. Oh and it’s cheap too – we’ve had it for supper two evenings in a row with tomato and basil salad the first night and wild rocket, tomato and avocado salad the second. All the ingredients were organic (and British – the mozzarella was from Lavestoke Park Farm from grass fed buffalo) apart from the lasagne, red onion and wild rocket. For two night’s dinners it cost £10.50 or £5.25 for each evening meal – not bad.

Chicken Tikka Masala recipe from the Can Cook team in Liverpool

This is a great weekend family dish – its not too hot at all – my 5 year old daughter loves it.

I got this recipe from the Can Cook Healthier recipe book and we’ve made it several times. Can Cook is a innovative social enterprise in Liverpool that employs chefs delivering practical cooking sessions that inspire and impart good cooking skills. I was lucky enough to work with Can Cook when I was at the Centre of Food Policy, City University.

They recently launched their Teaching Liverpool to Cook campaign where chefs will be delivering cooking sessions all over Liverpool to community groups, schools, and businesses.

You will need…

250-300g organic chicken breast cubed*
2 tablespoons olive oil
200ml plain yogurt (I use full fat)
3 cloves garlic crushed
2 teaspoons grated ginger
3 teaspoons paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
Juice from half a lime
400g tinned tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground fenugreek
15g chilled butter
1/2 vinegar
20ml single cream
2 tablespoons fresh coriander chopped

How to…

Mix yoghurt, garlic, ginger, two teaspoons of paprika, ground coriander, ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala and lime juice.
Add the cubed chicken, mix well and leave to marinate for 2 hours in the fridge (but if you have less time don’t worry).
Heat the oil in a large pan and add the chicken and the marinade, cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring until the chicken is tender.
In another pan add the tomatoes and ground fenugreek, then cook for 5 minutes, until some of the liquid has evaporated.
Add the chilled butter, one teaspoon of paprika, half a teaspoon of gram masala, the vinegar and single cream, and cook for an extra minute.
Add the sauce to the chicken, stir in the fresh coriander
Season and serve with brown rice.

*I weighed what I was using on Saturday and it was just over 260 raw – so about 60g for my 5 year old daughter and then about 100g for adults. I had enough for a left over lunch for me today too.

Based on giving a quarter of the amount made here to a 5 year old and using brown rice – this meal will provide high levels of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B3 and B6 and about a half of their recommended iron intake, a third of their recommended intake of vitamin B1 and vitamin B2 and calcium…not bad!

Rhubarb crumble with wholegrain spelt flour

The weather has been so grey and wet for weeks, so really wanted to make a comfort pudding after roast chicken for Sunday Lunch.

Apples are out of season now and of course soft fruits aren’t in yet, so rhubarb fitted the bill. I used spelt flour and oats, to add more fibre and B vitamins. Spelt flour, even though it does contain gluten, can often be tolerated well by people who are wheat intolerant. It adds a lovely nutty flavour to the crumble.

I made mine 1:1 spelt to white spelt flour which makes for a slightly lighter crumble. I have tried it with 100% whole grain spelt flour, which is denser, it worked – and was eaten happily by my daughter and husband without question or comment. I have made crumbles with 100% wholemeal wheat flour which doesn’t work as well as spelt flour which has a lovely nutty flavour.

You will need for 6 people…


100g organic spelt wholegrain flour
100g organic spelt white flour
25g oats
70g rapadura* sugar or other unrefined sugar
100g unsalted butter

Filling …
500g rhubarb washed, topped and tailed and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons of maple syrup

How to…

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

Rub together the 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. Add in the oats and stir through.

Mix the rhubarb with the maple syrup so that its evenly coated. Put in a shallow ovenproof dish.Pour the crumble mixture on top and put in the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with custard or vanilla ice cream.

And after lunch…the sun came out for what seemed like the first time in weeks.

My blueberry plants are in bloom and attracting bees. Who’d have known they would be such a pretty addition to the garden…as well as, hopefully giving me my first crop of blueberries.

The bees had gone by the time I took these pictures, but they are so lovely I had to share them.


*Rapadura sugar is unrefined cane sugar. Because it is unrefined it still has some of the vitamins and minerals from the whole cane present – including iron and vitamin C. In fact a teaspoon contains 11% of your recommended daily intake of iron. Though of course it’s still sugar, it’s worth noting that white processed sugar contains no vitamins or minerals at all just sugar – empty calories.

Apple crumble and custard tarts

I came up with this recipe to use some left over crumble and custard. Cox apples work well as they are small and fit well into the tarts.

I am making sure all sweet recipes on the blog are small portion sizes for children. We’ve got so used to having big portions and its unsurprising that there’s a link between rising obesity rates and the trend in bigger portion sizes. I am not puritanical about cakes and desserts and think small and fruity is best!



60g plain white flour
20g caster sugar
40g unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon


110g plain white flour
30g caster sugar
60g cold unsalted butter
1 medium free range egg yolk
1 dessert spoon of ice cold water


120g custard
2 dessert spoons of maple syrup
3 apples (English of course)

You will also need some greaseproof paper, baking beans, pastry cutter (size), yorkshire pudding tin

How to…

… make the pastry

Rub together the butter flour and sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs. Using a food processor makes it slightly quicker though it doesn’t take too long by hand.

Add the egg yolk and the iced water and mix in well.

Turn into a bowl and clump together with your hands. Put in a sealed container in the fridge for half an hour to chill.

… make the crumble

While the pastry is chilling, make the crumble mixture by putting all the ingredients in a bowl and rubbing the mixture until it becomes the consistency of bread crumbs. If you have a food processor, all the better, though again, it doesn’t take long by hand.

…then back to the tarts

Preheat the oven to 200/400F/Gas 6. Put the ball of pastry on a floured surface and roll out quite thinly. Use a round cutter to cut out the shape.

Put the pastry in the yorkshire pudding wells and use a small cup or egg cup to gently push it in.

Once you’ve done all of the tarts – you will need to roll the pastry into a ball and roll out a couple more times to use all the pastry up.

Then on a corner of the greaseproof paper use the bottom of a cup of egg cup or use a round pastry cutter and draw round the bottom of it, it needs to fit snugly into the bottom of the tart.

Then fold over the greaseproof paper 3 times along the width of the paper.

Fold it over lengthways 4 times and then cut round the circle shape and you should have 12 circles.

Put the greaseproof paper circles into each tartlet and put baking beans on top to weigh the greaseproof paper down.

Bake so they are just light brown.

…now for the filling

Once the tartlets are out and you’ve removed the greaseproof paper and beans and they have cooled slightly you’re ready to fill them.

Spoon about a dessert spoon of custard in each tartlet. Then you need to core and peel the apples. The best way I’ve found once the apple is peeled and cored is to cut the apple into thirds downwards from top to bottom and then slice across.

Put all the apple pieces in a bowl and add 2 dessert spoons of maple syrup and coat the apple slices with this.

Then put the apple pieces on top of the custard.

Use a pastry cutters and hold it over each tart while you sprinkle the crumble mixture in.

Bake in the oven at 200/400F/Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Serve while still warm.

They’ll keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, you can warm through before serving.

Nutrition bits

Each tart is just over 150 kcals which is just under 10% of a 5 year olds recommended calorie intake