Summer Pea, Spring Onion & Mint Soup

Ok so it might not be summer… but everyone has a bag of frozen peas in the freezer no matter what time of year!

Super easy, green and healthy, this soup will pick you up on these ever increasingly cold days. And with the recipe making enough for 6, you can freeze some to save for another day. This is from Mary Berry’s Cook Now Eat Later – a really handy book to have around this time of year if you’re hosting parties and need to be super organised!

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Plus when cooking for one and waiting for pay day, recipes like this really see you through! It’s also been a nice change to include more vegetarian meals in my diet recently. Although i’m sure I’ll make up for that once the festive season really kicks in!

Cheese & Wine Party

Create the wow factor!

Or at least that’s what I try to do. Each year it has to be bigger and better than the previous… so it probably helps that I have acquired more serving vessels!

This year I added a couple of new dishes to the pile – an apple, sumac, red onion & pomegranate salad, some mustard & parmesan cheese straws, and some peppadew & chèvre crostini. Courtesy of some lovely new books I was given for my birthday.

 

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Apple, Sumac, Red Onion & Pomegranate Salad

If you want to start thinking festive then this salad will definitely look the part! With gorgeous reds from the pomegranate and sumac you will draw the eye in a heartbeat. And it tastes delicious. By adding the lemon juice it preserves the apple so you can happily have the leftovers the next day too… if you have any! Dead easy to prepare with just a matter of chopping and mixing. Yet to all your guests it really does look special. You can find this recipe in Sirocco – Fabulous flavours from the East by Sabrina Ghayour.

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Mustard & Parmesan Cheese Straws

Again, so simple! I made 40 of these… and they were polished off in one evening! The mustard really does give the pastry a great dark colour, which, when you watch them rise and turn in the oven is so satisfying. The only issue you can face with these is the pastry becoming too warm and stretchy. Although you make them so quickly it’s not a big problem. They were a particular favourite for dipping in the camembert! You can find these, and the following recipe in Mary Berry’s Cook Now Eat Later.

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Peppadew & Chèvre Crostini

Mixing goats cheese with double cream is divine! It’s so smooth and creamy you’ll want to eat spoonfuls of the stuff… but try to resist as these little crostini are a wonderful addition to the table. I would advise to be generous with the goats cheese so that it doesn’t dry out under the grill. And they are even nice cold – a somewhat sophisticated mini pizza!

Plate these up with the gourmet sausage rolls and the smoked salmon, horseradish and cress toasts from last year… with all your lovely cheese and crackers, decorated with grapes and other berries, and you’ll be on to a winner. A night to remember… depending on how much wine you have!

Warm Griddled Vegetables

So after a very unhealthy Birthday week, here are some much needed vegetables!

Another simple recipe from The Hairy Dieters that can be made as a side dish or a main meal. I decided to add halloumi for a slightly more bulked out dinner.

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Ok so I may not have had a red onion so I had to make do with white, but it still worked! You can’t go wrong with a coriander and chilli dressing – it brought everything together and the powerful flavour of the red wine vinegar packed in that little punch. Although, they suggest if you don’t fancy the chilli dressing, you can always use a good balsamic vinegar instead.

Cooking the veg on the griddle made the whole meal look so much more visually exciting. I have invested in a Hairy Bikers griddle pan as it’s the perfect size for me. However it is quite a pain to clean!

After a few drinks last night the salty halloumi went down a treat. And with those colourful peppers and courgette I felt I gave my body that little thanks for putting up with all the pizza I seem to have eaten lately!

Charred Avo & Eggs

Super quick and super healthy.

We often treat ourselves to a nice breakfast either Saturday or Sunday, but usually struggle to find something new that we’ll all like. Plus it usually ends up being brunch anyway!

So we came across this brilliant Jamie Oliver dish that takes only 25minutes to cook! And he is true to his word – it really does only take 25minutes.

All it takes is a bit of chopping and peeling and you’re pretty much there. We actually used a whole avocado as we felt it would go to waste if we left half of it. I feel like it’s the first time i’ve cooked avocado like this, and I was surprised how it stayed together. I was expecting a bit of a mush to be honest! The ribbons of sweet potato is a great idea, and they cook so quickly. We used mint, parsley and coriander to garnish with which we thought really brought everything together. As for the cottage cheese – it’s great to find a new recipe to use it in!

Definitely going to make this again. Makes a nice change from the Mexican breakfast we often have, and takes a fraction of the time!

Extra thin & crispy goat’s cheese tart with spinach & thyme pesto

A real favourite of mine when it comes to vegetarian meals.

This is quite a thrifty little meal from Lorraine Pascale! It always goes so much further than you expect. In fact – I have some packed up for my lunch tomorrow!

I would definitely recommend making your own pesto – you can really taste the difference. It’s so much fresher, thicker and has a more vibrant colour to it. Saying that, we have made this with bought pesto too, and even red pesto to change it up. So if you’re strapped for time it is always an option.

We have never managed to make this with just one large tomato… let’s just say Lorraine must chop hers extremely thin! So buy a couple, or a pack… and for a laugh see how far you can get one to go!

Served with a salad made from the left over spinach and pine nuts with a drizzle of balsamic glaze, this is a tasty little dish which goes a very long way. Dead easy to make with shop bought filo pastry (and pesto if you really want), plus kind to your wallet – you really can’t go wrong!

Mexican Tomato Soup

My oh my… the boys have not only agreed on something vegetarian, but one of them suggested it!

Of all the vegetarian suggestions we have put out there in the past, I am extremely shocked that a vegetarian SOUP had been chosen at will. I’m not one to knock veggie food – I actively eat it for lunch, but soup… of all things?

So this is a Jamie 15 minute meal which you can find the video for here. Whilst it’s bubbling away, the room will fill with really warming smells, but with a cheeky note of coriander which I love! It’s packed full of flavour with a bit of a kick from that jalapeño and yogurt dressing!

Using rice in replacement of cream is ingenious. It gives it that silky thick consistency without worrying about ruining your fresh, healthy soup.

The idea of serving with the avocado, feta, fresh baby tomatoes, chilli and coriander brings the soup to life. There’s nothing better than everyone digging in and making the final dish their own. I’d advise leaving out the chilli if you’re not a huge fan of heat as there’s definitely enough in the rest of the elements. The jalapeño and yogurt dressing is gentle with mint flavours which catches you off guard for the back of the throat kick which follows!

The tortilla crisps (which you can get gluten free versions of) help to bulk the meal up too, whilst adding a sense of fun. All in all this meal goes from lunch to dinner with the help of a few toppings and a side of nachos!

Sesame Chicken Salad & Cucumber Noodles

Mix in a packet of rice noodles to serve this warm for the winter.

Hemsley & Hemsley have created a refreshing, Asian flavoured salad which is just perfect to knock up when you’re a bit short on time (or really hungry!)

This is a favourite of my housemates’, but overused last year we haven’t brought it out for a while. We’ve also changed things up a bit… by adding more lime juice and replacing honey with soy sauce. And by replacing one cucumber with rice noodles it warms the salad through which makes it a lot more acceptable for these cold nights! We also used this as a bit of a ‘what things do we need to use up’ dish, so the lettuce was replaced with mange tout. Note we would rarely have leftover chicken in our ‘family’! We chopped up some chicken breasts and fried in the pan with the toasted sesame seeds instead.

Although it could easily be a vegetarian dish! How versatile…

So we may have altered the recipe slightly, but it’s good to experiment with favourites. Especially if it turns out as zingy, warm and tasty as this did!