Easy Roast Tomato and Basil Soup

I know I harp on about it, but I hate food waste. So when I found some discounted tomatoes in the supermarket that were too soft for salads I decided to make soup.

Tomatoes are roasted with some onion in the oven to bring out their flavour. I always try to cook more than one thing at a time so using the oven is more cost effective, so it’s the perfect excuse to whip up a cake too if feeling like it (I always feel ready for cake)

For the best lunch ever, team it up with a grilled cheese sandwich

Ingredients

500 Grams tomatoes

2 onion (cut into quarters)

2-3 Cloves of garlic

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Vegetable stock (I used a stock cube dissolved in 500ml of boiling water)

1-2 Tbsp Basil leaves

1 tsp Cider vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  • Add the tomatoes, oil, and onion to an oven proof dish and roast for 30-40 minutes or until the tomatoes have blistered. Remove and discard the skin from the garlic
  • Add all the ingredients to a blender and pulse until smooth. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Orzo with Chorizo and Spinach

Quick tasty one pot meals are the holy grail for busy cooks. If you haven’t used orzo before, it’s a type of pasta that looks like fat grains of rice, if you don’t have this you can use any other types of pasta you have in the cupboard.

This a really tasty and cheap meal that’s great for a quick midweek dinner or I often makes it and use it for work lunches.

I’ve used fresh spinach because I had some that needed to be used up, but frozen spinach works just as well. You can also bulk this out with other frozen vegetables like sweetcorn.

Serves 4

Ingredients

200 Grams Orzo pasta (dry weight)

100 Grams Chorizo (cut into half centimetres slices)

200 Grams Spinach

1 Vegetable stock cube (crumbled)

1 Onion (finely sliced)

1 Red pepper (cut into fine strips)

2 Cloves of garlic (finely sliced)

1 Chilli pepper (finely sliced) or else a teaspoon of chilli powder)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

1 x 400ml Tin of chopped tomatoes

Method

  • 1. Add the chorizo to a large flat bottom pan and fry on both sides until starts to release its oil
  • 2. Lift the chorizo out of the pan and set to one side. Add the onion and pepper to the pan to cook in oil from the chorizo for 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent
  • 3. Add all the ingredients except the spinach to the pan. Top up with enough water cover the contents of the pan and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid before reducing the heat to a simmer
  • 4. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, add more water if you think t needs it. Add the spinach to the pan and cook for a future 5 minutes. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Homemade Rosemary Focaccia

Nothing smells better than freshly baked bread straight out of the oven. Making your own focaccia also costs about a third of the price of buying one from a fancy bakery or deli.

Like most people I don’t bake my own bread everyday. At the weekend when you have a little more time its nice to shake off the stresses of the week and kneading bread is a great way to work off any residual tension. Although this bread only needs 5 minutes kneading and you’re rewarded with amazingly tasty bread that can be sliced in half for sandwiches or is a delicious side dish served along side soups, stews, or pasta.

I’ve used a traditional salt and rosemary topping, but caramelised onion or olives are also brilliant alternatives. This also freezes really well.

Ready for the oven

Ingredients

500 Grams Strong white flour

7 Grams Dried yeast

1 Tsp Salt

300-400 Mil Luke warm water

4-5 Tbsp Olive oil

2-3 Sprigs Rosemary

Method

  • 1. Mix your yeast with 300ml of luke warm water and set to one side while you measure out the flour and add it to a large bowl
  • 2. Add a teaspoon of salt to one side of the (this will stop it coming into direct contact with the yeast and killing it). Make a well in the centre of the flour, add two tablespoons of olive oil and the water and yeast mix.
  • 3. Mix well, you may need to add more water, your dough should be quite soft and sticky, but not super wet
  • 4. Turn your dough onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes (or until the urge to punch someone has passed, if I haven’t mentioned it before I sometimes “rage bake”)
  • 5. Clean the bowl you were using, (I always give the bowl a quick wipe with a little oil to stop your dough sticking). Put your dough back in the bowl and cover with a tea towel and prove for one hour
  • 6. Grease an 8 x 12 inch tin with some olive oil and transfer the dough from the bowl to the tin. Stretch the dough out to fill the tin. Cover with a tea towel again and prove for 45 minutes
  • 7. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degree (Celsius). Remove the tea towel from your baking tin, and with your finger tips press little dimples into the dough
  • 8. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of olive oil across the top of the dough. Pluck leaves of rosemary and poke them into the dough (it will just sit on top and then fall off if you don’t). Sprinkle a teaspoon is salt across the top of the dough (sea salt is best if you have it, but just use a little less ordinary salt if you don’t)
  • 9. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes

Vegetable (Vegan) Pot Sticker Dumplings

I love any type of dumpling, but have been over indulging lately, so needed something that tasted great but needed to be good for me. These are so delicious you won’t even like you’re being healthy.

I make a big batch of these and freeze them, as they make a really quick week night dinner, they’re also much nicer and cheaper that the frozen ones you can buy. You can use any dipping sauce you like (I just used a bottle of sweet chilli sauce I had in a cupboard).

Like most batch cooking if you can rope in friends or some child labour (kids love making these) it gives you a chance to kick back and give orders. Chop the vegetables fairly finely, as it will be easy to stuff the dumplings.

I came up with these mainly to use up vegetables that had been hanging about my fridge and a packet of wonton wrappers that had been in my freezer since my last visit to the Asian supper market. Traditional pot sticker dumplings are usually made with a dough, so these are a bit of a cheat, I think they work well and saves you time.

Ingredients

1/2 Small head of cabbage (finely chopped)

1 Red pepper (finely chopped)

200 Grams Mushrooms (finely chopped)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

3-4 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Garlic (minced/crushed)

1 Tbsp Ginger (grated or finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tsp Chilli flakes, or 1 fresh chilli (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 -2 Tbsp Sunflower oil (plus extra to fry the dumplings)

1 Pack Wonton wrappers

Method

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of sunflower oil to a large frying pan and add the chopped vegetables, chilli garlic and ginger, cook for about 5 minutes, there should still be a bit of bite, but the onion should be cooked through.
  2. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil and allow to cool completely
  3. Set up a little work station for yourself, you should have your bowl of the dumpling filling, a small bowl of water to wet the edges of the dumplings and if you are making some to freeze you should have a tray lined with foil that has had a small about of oil rubbed across it so the dumpling don’t stick to it while they’re in the freezer
  4. Open your packet of wonton wrappers and wrap in a slightly damp tea towel to stop then drying out as you work
  5. Lift a wonton wrapper and put a teaspoon of the filling in the centre. Wet your finger and wet all the edges of the wrapper and take one corner to meet the opposite corner to make a triangle. Make sure that the edges of the dumpling is properly sealed. Set on your tray and move onto make the next dumpling, keep going until you have run out of filling or wrappers.
  6. If you’re freezing some of the dumplings, freeze them on a tray and then transfer into freezer bags
  7. When you’re ready to eat the dumplings, spray a small amount of oil in a non stick frying pan (you’ll need a lid or some way to cover the pan) and heat over a high heat. Boil the kettle.
  8. Place your dumplings in the pan (don’t try to squeeze too many in the pan at once). Cook for 2 minutes or until the bottoms have started to brown, then add a couple of tablespoons of boiling water (the pan shouldn’t be swimming in water), and cover with a lid and cook for a further 1-2 minutes until the water has been absorbed
  9. Serve with your favourite dipping sauce (they’re also amazing washed down with a cold beer)

Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Lasagne

Traditional lasagne is pretty epic, but it does no harm try new versions of things and this is pretty amazing. This was a giant lasagna, but you can reduce the recipe if you need to make a smaller one.

Ingredients

Serves 8

1Kg Chicken Breast (cut into 2-3cm chunks)

500 Grams Mushrooms (roughly chopped)

50 Grams Dried Mushrooms

200 Grams Spinach

750 Mil Milk

75 Grams Butter

75 Grams Plain flour

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Black Pepper

2 Tbsp Oil

250 Grams Cheese (grated, I used a mix of mozzarella and Cheddar)

1 Tbsp Rosemary (chopped)

4-5 Cloves of garlic (crushed or finely chopped)

12 – 14 Lasagna dried sheets (the type that don’t need pre-cooked)

Method

  1. Before doing anything else, place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with 350 mil of warm water
  2. Add 1 table spoon of oil to a large high sided pan and heat over a medium heat. Add the chopped chicken and colour on all sides before removing from the heat and setting to one side
  3. Add a second table spoon of oil to the pan and add the roughly chopped mushrooms, cook for around 10 minutes (don’t stir too often or they will start to release water)
  4. Drain the dried mushrooms (keep the water they were soaked into one side as it will go into your sauce later)
  5. Stir in the dried mushrooms and spinach to the pan with mushrooms (it will look like it won’t fit, but it quickly wilts down
  6. To make the sauce, melt the butter, and add the crushed garlic to let it infuse and flavour the butter. Add the flour and stir well to make a loose paste
  7. Over a medium heat, gradually whisk in the milk and a water the dried mushrooms were soaked in as this will be packed with flavour.
  8. As the sauce starts to thicken, stir in the rosemary and salt and pepper (you can adjust the seasoning to your own taste). Cook the sauce out for a further 10 minutes, stir regularly until the sauce no longer tastes floury. The sauce should not be especially thick, so add more milk if you think it needs it.
  9. Pre-heat you over to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  10. In a lasagna dish, ladle in enough sauce to cover the bottom of the dish add about a third of the chicken and mushroom mix before topping with lasgna sheets. Repeat this on two more layers, making sure you ladle in liberal amounts of the sauce over the lasagna sheets
  11. Top with grated cheese and bake for 45 minutes until deep golden brown Enjoy with salad and garlic bread

Cherry Clafoutis

This is one of the quintessential French desserts and it’s actually quite easy to make.  It’s basically a baked custard/batter with fruit.

Cherries are a traditional, but you can use other fruit like blueberries or apricots.

Straight from the oven, dust with a little icing sugar before serving.

I use frozen cherries that I allowed to thaw. This is mainly because fresh cherries here in Ireland are really expensive, and because the frozen type usually have the stones removed. Purists argue that the cherry stones add an almond flavour, but I think this is nonsense.

Ready for the oven.

If you have a blender you can make the batter in this or just use a bowl and whisk if you don’t. This should normally be cooked in a round pie dish and served in wedges. I didn’t have one, so my clafoutis is was probably a little deeper than the regular type. It also looks prettier cooked in a round dish but ho hum, you use what you have.

It’s usually served just warm or at room temperature. It’s traditionally served with whipped cream, but ice cream is also delicious.

Ingredients

For the fruit

450 Grams Cherries (fresh or frozen)

3 Tbsp Caster sugar

For the batter

100 Grams Caster sugar (plus a little extra to coat the baking dish)

4 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

200 Mil Milk

150 Grams Plain flour

30 Grams Butter (melted and allowed to cool slightly, plus extra for greasing the dish)

Method

  1. Cover the cherries with 3 Tbsp of sugar and allow to macerate for an hour
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  3. Add the milk, salt, vanilla extract, and eggs to a blender and give a quick blitz
  4. Add the flour to the blender and whizz for 1 minute, before adding the cooled melted butter. Whiz for another 30 seconds
  5. Rub a knob of butter along the inside of your baking dish, and a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the dish and shake this around the dish so that it sticks to the butter. Discard any sugar that hasn’t stuck to the butter
  6. Spread your fruit across the base of the dish, and then gently pour over the custard
  7. Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. To check if the clafoutis is cooked, stick a knife in the centre of the dish and if it comes out clean the clafoutis is cooked. If it doesn’t give it another 5 minutes and check again

The “Friends” (Jennifer Aniston) Salad

Sometimes random things pop up on your social media feed and this was the “Friends” salad, apparently the female cast members all ate the same thing every day for lunch for 10 years.

I followed the recipe provided by icecreamandneondreams.com and I have to say it’s very tasty (maybe not eating it every day for 10 years), but definitely worth including in your salad or lunch dish rotation.

Needless to say its very healthy with plenty of fibre and protein and full of lovely flavours that compliment each other. Like any salad you can play with the ratio of ingredients depending on your taste

The original salad doesn’t have any dressing, but you can also add some olive oil and lemon juice if you think it needs it.

Ingredients

250 Grams Bulgar Wheat (dry weight cook according the instructions on the packet)

1 Large or 2 small Cucumbers

400 Gram Tin of Chick Peas

1 Small red onion (finely sliced)

200 Grams Feta Cheese (crumbled)

50 Grams Shelled Pistachios

2 Tbsp. Fresh mint (chopped), or 2 tsp dried mint

2 Tbsp. Parsley (chopped)

Method

  1. Cook the bulgar wheat according to the instructions on the packet and allow to cool
  2. Cut the cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out and discard the watery seeds on the middle. Cut each half in half again and slice into 1 cm slices (you can make them chunkier if you prefer)
  3. Drain the chick peas and add to a large bowl along with all the other ingredients and mix well. Have a taste and add some salt and pepper if you the salad needs it

Healthy Mexican Breakfast

I love a hearty breakfast, and this is quick enough for a weekday breakfast but you might prefer to save it for the weekend as it makes a great brunch/lunch dish.

I have shown quantities per person, so just up the amounts based on how many people you’re cooking for. I know we don’t usually use herbs at breakfast time, but the coriander and mint really make this delicious (I love picking this from my window box). This meal has plenty of fibre and protein and will fuel you for a good part of the day. If you are gluten free, you can swap the wholemeal tortilla for corn tortilla (just make sure to check the label, to ensure they are GF)

Ingredients (per person)

1 Wholemeal torilla

2 eggs

1/2 Avocado (diced)

6 Cherry tomatoes (halved)

1 Spring onion/scallion (finely sliced)

1 Tbsp Mint (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Coriander (finely chopped)

100 Grams Canned black beans

Chilli powder – according to taste

1 Tsp Oil

Method

  1. Heat oil in a small pan, crack both eggs into the pan (I like to add a little water and cover with a lid so they steam fry, but feel free to cook the eggs your preferred way)
  2. While your eggs are cooking, slice the vegetables and herbs. Place the tortilla on a plate
  3. Place your eggs on top of the tortilla, and use the same pan to warm through the black beans
  4. Scatter the vegetables, herbs and heated black beans, across the tortilla and eggs and sprinkle with chilli powder (or sliced fresh chillies if you prefer) according to how spicy you like your food.

Pissaladiere

This dish is from the south of France, and is like a cross between a tart and a pizza.

Just warning you from the outset, this is what I would call a weekend recipe.    Some elements can take a while.  None of it is difficult but things like caramelising the onions, or proving the dough can take a while.  So I usually make this at weekends when I’m pottering around and can do things like laundry while the dough proves.

https://sunnysidefoodtravel.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/img_20210329_1911347856694583709994229.jpg?w=768

If you see anchovies and immediately say no way, I would recommend giving this a chance.  The sweetness of the onions, definitely tempers the fishiness of the anchovies and the combination works nicely.

If you really are anchovy phobic you can swap it for roasted red pepper, this also allows vegans and vegetarians to enjoy it (just remember to swap out the butter for olive oil if cooking for vegans or people who are dairy free).

This can also be eaten hot of cold, I love it with a cold beer or glass of wine.

For the dough

2 Tsp Dried yeast

250 Grams Plain flour

3 Tbsp Olive oil

1/2 Tsp Salt

For the topping

40 Grams Butter

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1.5 Kg Onions (Finely Sliced)

1 Tbsp Dried thyme

24 Black olives

16 Anchovy Fillets (or slices of roast pepper if you don’t like anchovies

Method

  • To make the dough, mix the dried yeast with 120 ml of warm water (not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast), leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until a froth appears on top of the mixture.
  • Sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt, olive oil and yeast mixture. Mix until the dough forms a ball. Turn out onto to a floured surface, and knead for 10 minutes (or use a mixer with a dough hook, but personally I like to do it by hand its very therapeutic if you’ve had a stressful week)
  • Rub a bowl with olive oil, put your kneaded bowl of dough in the bowl and cover lightly with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel (or I always use the little disposable shower caps you get into hotels), leave in a warm space for 1-2 hours
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and knock the air out of the dough with a light punch (like OI said this can be very therapeutic). Knead for a couple of minutes and then cover again and leave in a warm place until the dough doubles in size
  • For the topping, melt the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onions and half the thyme and cook over a gentle for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are dark and caramelised
  • Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius), and grease a 34 cm x 26 cm baking tray. Roll your dough out thinly to fit the baking tray and transfer the dough to the baking tray and brush lightly with oil
  • Spread the cooled onion mixture evenly across the dough
  • Lay the anchovies on top of the onion mixture in a rough lattice pattern, and the olives should go in between the diamonds created in the lattice. It’s a rustic dish, so don’t panic if doesn’t look entirely uniform
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes

Spicy (Vegan) Dauphinoise Potatoes

Classic dauphinoise potatoes are loaded with cream and sometimes cheese, and are one of my favourite things to eat.

The first time I made this I had spuds but no cream, so these were basically an experiment. But it was a really yummy one. It’s also nice to mess with the classics sometimes.

I could eat a massive bowl of this on its own, but it’s works really well as a side dish to marinated tempeh or chicken or fish if you’re a carnivore. This is full of creamy, garlicy, chilli gorgeousness.

Left overs are also great heated up with a fried egg on top.

1Kg Potatoes

400ml Tin of Coconut mik

3-4 Cloves of Garlic (minced)

1Tsp Chilli flakes

1 Tsp Ground ginger

1Tsp Tumeric

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Peel and slice your potatoes as finely possible. Some people use a mandolin, but I’ve never been able to use one without cutting myself, I just use a kitchen knife
  3. Add the coconut milk, garlic and spices to a saucepan and heat over a gentle heat, add the sliced potatoes and simmer very gently for 10 minutes
  4. Line a baking dish with parchment paper (you don’t have to this, but it does make it easier to clean the dish afterwards)
  5. Add the potatoes to the dish and spread evenly before putting in oven for 40-45 minutes. Test with a fork to make sure the potatoes are soft