Shredded coriander (cilantro) chicken recipe

I grew up in California, and I’m pretty sure my first solid food was refried beans. My grandma used to joke that my mother’s first meal outside of the home was at their local Mexican restaurant – a mom & pop kind of place. The owner scooped up my infant mom and sat down with my grandparents, ordered her husband to fetch some refried beans and soft tortilla, and let my mom suck the beans off rolled tortilla while they ate. Home-cooked Southern food is in my Texas-born grandfather’s recipes, and Latin food is a staple I’ve grown up with.

This recipe has been adapted for family life, like so many of mine. I desperately try to balance home-cooked goodness for my family and the desire to let someone else cook. As an essentially lazy cook, I’ve ditched the whole chicken version my family used in days gone by. I go for boneless, skinless breasts and thighs … let the butcher do it! I have made this with a whole chicken, when I was away from home and wanted it ‘just like mom’s’, but I spent so much time scooping out bones and yuck that I got a facial. Using the prepared meat allows you to walk away for ages and never steam your glasses.

You can easily and quickly make this recipe with just one breast (of chicken) if you’re only cooking for two, but I tend to go all out so I have plenty of leftovers. I use this in burritos, nachos, salads, sandwiches – it’s incredibly versatile. If you make a large batch, you can freeze a fair bit for an even easier midweek solution. For this recipe, I gave the kids burritos with a little cheese and soft flour tortillas, I had a taco salad with the meat, cheese and salsa as dressing, and my husband opted for corn tacos. Everyone is happy! Hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

You’ll need:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2-4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion (I use frozen)
  • 1 cup chopped red/yellow peppers (I use frozen bell pepper mix with green if tight on time)
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded (about ½ cup if you’re using pre-shredded/julienne)
  • 1 large bunch/2 cups chopped fresh coriander/cilantro (4+ cubes if you’re using frozen)
  • 1 TB minced garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp chili powder for heat (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

For serving:

  • Tortillas, taco shells, salad, bread rolls or corn chips – your choice.
  • Shredded cheese to serve with the above as you see fit. I like Red Leicester or Double Gloucester for creaminess.

The method:

I despise chopping onions, so I’m a big fan of frozen chopped onion I can keep on hand. I’ve also found the onion and three pepper blend from the frozen section really useful for this recipe in particular, but if I can’t find it in the shop, I start with chopping the onion, a red pepper and a yellow pepper. The same goes for the carrot … I’m super lazy and buy pre-shredded, but if you’re cool doing it yourself, I recommend the cheese grater for one medium carrot.

Use a nice, big, deep pot for this one, and start with the oil, onion, peppers and garlic over a medium-high heat.

Toss in the dry spices and mix well. Add the chicken pieces and coat with the mixture before allowing it to sit for a minute and add colour.

You’ll only want to cook the chicken for a minute or two on each side, not nearly cooking through, for colour/flavour only. Once the chicken has a little golden brown on a couple of sides, add the shredded carrot and completely cover the chicken with water. The chicken will boil now until it shreds completely, as the water reduces.

While the water comes to a boil, rinse and roughly chop the cilantro/coriander, including the stalks. The more the better, in my opinion, so feel free to add up to 3 cups if you’ve used a lot of chicken. I prefer to take the time with fresh coriander here, because frozen just doesn’t have the same punch.

Add the chopped coriander to the boiling water and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.Shredded coriander chicken for burritos & more - great Mexican cuising

This is where you can walk away for ages. Occasionally give the mixture a stir to check the chicken is still mostly covered with water. After 30-45 minutes, the chicken should break apart if pressed against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Every once in a while, over the course of the next 30 minutes, use your spoon to encourage the chicken into smaller pieces.

If you’re rushed for time, or just keen to help, keep the temperature a bit higher to keep a rolling boil and use two spoons to break up the chicken. If you’re happy to let the water do the work, you can keep a mild boil ‘stirring’ the meat for you for about an hour. Just be sure to check it’s not sticking on the bottom once in a while.

As the water reduces, step in and break up the meat to expose it all to the sauce before it’s gone completely. I usually find a fork isn’t necessary – just good stabbing, twisting and mashing with the wooden spoon (great for letting off a bit of aggression in a legitimate way).

Once the chicken is nicely broken up, allow the remaining water to boil away, stirring frequently at the end to avoid burring. 

The result is an easy filler for lots of different dishes. Straight from the pot, I load up a flour tortilla with a bit of shredded cheese for my kids and roll it up. They’ve been smelling it and can’t wait!

bitten-burrito

Sparkly Mummy

What to do with those roast dinner leftovers?

I love soup, especially in autumn, and I’m always so excited to have steamy bowls of slurpy goodness. My kids, not as keen, and certainly not as clean, on soup. My go-to solution since they were tiny is to serve soup over rice, like in my albondigas recipe.

Add a little, add a lot – it depends on the consistency and flavor your kid enjoys most. If the soup is liquidy, a couple of teaspoon of cooked rice soaks it up. If it’s a cheesy or creamy soup, just a small amount will add texture and thicken, allowing young diners to use their own spoon. We love encouraging our little ones to feed themselves, freeing our hands for food of our own.

This little tip comes in handy for all sorts. I’ve been known to make an enormous roast dinner with too many leftovers (haven’t we all?).

Warming autumn dishes using whatever ingredients you have in

The method:

  • Cube up some gammon/chicken/beef (or forget the meat!)
  • Warm it in a small shallow pan with a splash of water
  • Take some leftover cauliflower cheese, put it in a deep bowl, add some milk and warm it covered in the microwave for a minute or two
  • Give it a good smash up and it basically becomes soup.
  • You can add a bit more milk if you want to loosen it.
  • Once it’s nice and warm, and considerably smashed, add a little rice, the meat, and any spare veg you have from the roast

It’s a bit like bubble and squeak, but with rice instead of potatoes. Enjoy!

Sparkly Mummy

Chinese take-away pork & green beans recipe

We’re all so temped by take-away food – the ease, convenience and speed, and the taste! Over the years, I’ve lived with people from a lot of different cultural backgrounds. East Asians, Pakistani, Greek, Italian and English tastes have now fused with my own and had a major impact on my cooking.

Anyone that’s been following this recipe blog will remember the Tandoori Chicken and Dahl recipe I shared, fine-tuned with tips from a Pakistani friend of mine. The dish I’m sharing in this post was learned from my wonderful Chinese housemate – and like most of mine, it’s one that you can make your own in no time. The recipe I’m sharing here is one variation, and it can easily incorporate more or different veg, Quorn or ground turkey.

This is a super-fast, kid-friendly meal that’s also gluten free. It can be vegetarian if you prefer to stir-fry tofu or Quorn. My hubby always goes for seconds on this one, and there’s just so much less oil, MSG and other restaurant add-ins. Trust me: try this and you won’t even miss the local Chinese.

You’ll need:

  • 1lb ground pork
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp Chinese five spice (or your own with clove, anise and black pepper at least)
  • 2 cups topped and tailed green beans (fresh is quicker, but frozen is fine)
  • 1-2 tablespoons Oyster sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (we use gluten free)
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp or one cube concentrated chicken stock
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • Optional sweet chilli sauce (for grown-ups and adventurous kids)
  • 1-2 cups white rice (gauge your family’s love of rice)
  • Chicken or veg stock in the rice (optional)
  • 1 tsp of Chinese five spice in the rice (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen peas in the rice (optional)

Chinese stir fry ingredients

The method:

If you’re lucky enough to own a rice cooker, by all means use it, and well done you. I am a sad sap and have no such luxury, so with this recipe I get the rice started first, in a pot, on the stove. I add a bit of chicken (or veg) stock, a dash of Chinese Five Spice and some frozen peas to the water, bring it to the boil and add the rice. Some rice cookers are cool with spices and stock, but if you’re not sure, maybe just make plain white rice, and the stir fry will still be amazing.

Mix the Oyster and Hoisin sauce with the five spice and onion powder and set aside.

If you’re using frozen green beans (they’re already topped/tailed/halved!), I recommend starting with the beans in the wok with the sesame oil. Toss the beans around to lightly coat with the oil, and then turn the heat to high. If the beans are fresh, add them after the meat has begun to brown.

Rice and stir fry on the stoveOn a high heat, keep the beans from sitting in one spot for too long while they thaw a bit. Once they’ve started to soften, they should only take 2-3 minutes.

Add the ground pork and break it up in the wok. Be sure the sesame oil is in the wok if you’ve not added the beans yet.

Add your pre-mixed sauces and spices (Oyster, Hoisin, five spice and onion powder). Mix it into the meat as you’re breaking up the mince. The benefit of pre-mixing the sauces and dry spice is these can all be added in one swift motion, allowing you to continue stirring and breaking up the meat.

Once the mince is broken into nice small bits and all coated with the sauce, stop stirring for about a minute or two (phew!) to allow some colour to brown onto the meat. It won’t take long, maybe five minutes, to partially brown the meat.

Pork and beans in the wokIf you’ve chosen fresh beans, now’s the time to toss those beauties in. Stir them frequently for about 3 minutes.

The liquid that’s created from the beans and meat is now perfect for mixing the chicken stock concentrate into. I use a liquid concentrate, and it mixes right in. If you prefer to use dry stock, I suggest you crush it and add a splash of water to dissolve it first.

Allow the mixture to reduce slightly for about 3-5 minutes, and check that your beans are soft enough for the kids. Total time from turning on the wok shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes.

The rice should be ready now (either method usually takes about 20 minutes) so give it a little fluff.

Serve your pork and green beans over rice and enjoy! I love adding sweet chilli sauce (or just chilli flake if I’m watching my sugar) to this dish to add a bit of fire.

Go on, give your Chinese Five Spice an adventure outside of the cupboard, try cooking with Oyster sauce if you haven’t, and for sure add the Sweet Chilli sauce if you want to liven it up. The Hoisin sauce adds a sweetness kids love, and the addition of peas and five spice to the rice makes the whole meal feel exotic and special.

Best of all, it’s delicious and healthy!

Kids portions of minced pork and green bean stir-fry

Sparkly Mummy

A day of easy meals for busy days with the kids

Ok, these aren’t recipes, so much as assembly instructions, so I’ve decided to do a whole days worth of meal ideas. My husband travels a lot for work, so I’m a part-time lone parent, and therefore the only chef. Some days I need quick, but healthy meals that require little-to-no brain power. Here’s what a day after my husband has been gone for a week or two looks like in my house.

Breakfast: porridge (Americans call it oatmeal)

You’ll need:

  • 1 or 2 packets of plain/original/no flavour instant microwave porridge/oatmeal
  • 1 banana
  • 1 level tsp brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 6-10 fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 to 2 cups milk

Method:

Some people are against microwaves; I’m not one of them. Instant oats are awesome and can be made so many ways. I go for original so I can control the sugar. You can also use apple sauce instead of the banana, cinnamon apple sauce if the kids like it, and even jam or raisins. I don’t use the blueberries if I don’t have them on hand, but the banana is omnipresent.

Use a microwave-safe bowl that’s nice and deep, and depending on if you’re using 1 or 2 packets of oatmeal, use half or the whole banana.

Smash the banana with a fork until mostly smooth. Sprinkle or pour in the sugar or syrup and give it a quick stir.

Add in the dry oats and cover with cold milk.

Drop in fresh or frozen blueberries (or raisins), but a few will go far.

Give it all a final stir and cover with kitchen roll/paper towel in the microwave.

Cook on high for 1.5 min and then stir the mixture. If it’s already getting dry, add another splash of milk or water. Stick it back in the microwave for 1-2 minutes more, depending on whether you’ve used fresh or frozen berries.

oatmeal
Ok, so this isn’t exactly a food porn pic. It’s just oatmeal – but I promise it’s tasty.

Give the mixture a stir and try to squish a berry on the side of the bowl. It should explode easily and mix in pretty purple swirls. Let it rest for about 5 minutes.

Check the temperature; if it’s still too hot, feel free to add another slash of cold milk to cool it if the kids can’t wait.

If I use 2 packets, this will feed all three of us, easily. It’s an easy way to add fibre and potassium, vitamins and calcium to a one-bowl breakfast. And it’s something you can experiment with – use fruit you love!

Lunch: quesadilla and grapes

You’ll need:

  • 4 or 6 flour tortillas
  • 4 cups Red Leicester or Double Gloucester cheese, grated
  • Two handfuls of seedless grapes

Method:

Some people go for grilled/toasted cheese and soup as a lunchtime comfort meal. I grew up with quesadilla and grapes. The tortillas are lighter than bread, and you don’t need butter to toast it up. I lived in England long enough to know that Red Leicester and Double Gloucester cheeses are the creamier, less oil-producing cheeses perfect for this job. Trust me: ditch the cheddar just this once. And who doesn’t like cheese and grapes? The red seedless are my kids absolute favourite.

First things first, you can buy pre-shredded cheese, or grate your own, but be sure to grate straight from the fridge so it doesn’t smudge all over the grater.

Put a griddle or wide pan on to warm on a medium-low heat. No butter or oil necessary.

Put one tortilla onto the flat surface and pile shredded cheese onto the center.

Lightly spread the cheese towards the edges but don’t worry too much, it’ll spread as it melts.

cooking quesadillaTop it with a second tortilla and let it be for about a minute. Squish the top onto the bottom by pressing with your hand or a spatula, and then bravely flip the lot. It sounds scary, but using your hands isn’t crazy, because you can pinch the edges together and quickly flip the whole thing before it’s too hot. I pull it up, slide it towards me and then over backwards, reaching to the far side of the pan in a sort of wrist motion.

The cheese will start to melt nicely and the top tortilla can be pushed a bit to spread it, if you like. All in all, it shouldn’t take more than 3 or 4 minutes to have crispy outside and gooey inside.

Remove the quesadilla onto a cutting board and start again at the griddle for 1 or 2 more. Once slightly cooled, cut like a pizza into triangles and serve.

Give your grapes a wash and pat dry and serve along with the quesadilla. Serve with pressed juice watered down, and guacamole (if I can be bothered). I’ve also been known to spread a thin layer of refried beans onto the bottom tortilla; it adds protein and fibre, and helps the cheese stick for the first flip. I tend to keep a tin in the cupboard, and literally pop it open, stir a bit with a butter knife, and spread on like peanut butter. It may not look appetising, but it’ll add flavour and a bit of veg. You can use the rest of the tin to make chilli or burritos (watch this space for those recipes)! Quesadillas

Dinner: fish fillets, beans and mash

You’ll need:

  • 3-6 frozen fish fillets (fish fingers just don’t have enough fish for my liking – these still have crunch but more of the good stuff)
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • Knob of butter
  • Heaping tsp of soured cream
  • Tin of baked beans
  • Salt and pepper

Method

My kids routinely eat every morsel of sweet potato mash, but leave white mash on the plate. This ‘recipe’ is a great introduction to how naturally sweet these beauties can be.

Preheat the oven to the temperature recommended on the packet of fish (usually around 200c/390f).

Rinse your sweet potato and poke it in a few places, then put it in the microwave for about 3 minutes. You don’t want to cook it through – just get it started.

Spread your fish fillets onto the baking tray and into the oven once heated to temp.

Place a piece of aluminium foil onto the oven rack and the potato onto that. This will finish the sweet potato in time with the fish, and allows natural sugars to caramelise.

While the fish and potato bake, get your baked beans going on the stove (or microwave with a cover), to warm through. I used to add a tiny bit of brown sugar or maple syrup to baked beans in the UK, because I’m used to southern style beans, but use whatever tastes good to you.

Once you’ve removed the fish as per their instructions, check if the sweet potato is leaking juices – good stuff! The foil now comes in handy to save your oven from juices, and to help your oven mitt as you grab it out.

Let the fish cool and slice open the potato. Scoop it out of the skin and into a deep cereal bowl.

Add the butter and stir to smooth big lumps out of the potato.

Add the soured cream and stir well. You can add a splash of milk if you want a creamier mash; it usually depends on the potato itself.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Plate up the baked beans, cut the fish into bite-size pieces, add a scoop of mash, and Bob’s your uncle!

Mash is great ‘glue’ for beginner eaters. And the virtuous sweet potato has more vitamins and fewer carbs than white potato. Something we can all enjoy!

fish dinner

I’m not saying it’s the most creative menu, but it’s full of little cheats that keep me away from fast food. There’s a way to moderate the sugar and salt, get some nutrients into them, and it’s food I know they’ll eat. Sometimes that enough! 

Sparkly Mummy

Tandoori Chicken and Coconut Lentils

Try this instead of a take-away. Great for kids too!

After a decade in England, I feel like Indian cuisine is a staple in my home. Since we don’t have our local delivery any more, I’ve taken to making my own favourite dishes, getting closer and closer to a curry house flavour. Luckily, my kids were very young when they were first introduced to tandoori and dahl (lentils), one of my preferred mild dishes too, so making it at home is very familiar and comforting to us all.

I usually make this when it’s a good day to grill. The chicken can be done in the oven (200C/450F for 20 minutes), but it tastes amazing if it’s been fired up. If you’re super organised, you can put together the chicken and yogurt to marinate all day or overnight, but giving it a good thirty minutes is still fine. I let the chicken tenderise in the yogurt for at least as long as it takes to finish the lentils and rice, so it’s nice and hot of the grill for serving. The lentils will just get better the longer they simmer, and you can top it up with a bit of water all day long.

Tandoori chicken on the grill.jpg

Now, it’s worth noting that in the UK, you’re more likely to find Tandoori Masala pre-mixed, but it can be achieved in the States, or you could make your own mix. Local Indian groceries are always well stocked with spices, ghee, rice and lentils at fabulous prices. They usually even have the coconut milk priced more competitively, and certainly bulk buying rice and lentils is an economic no-brainer. I found a brilliant little shop right here in my own Seattle suburb, so try a visit to the little guy and you may be pleasantly surprised at their selection and prices. Most pre-mix Tandoori will be mostly E-numbers to achieve that Tandoori orange, so feel free to simply mix dry spices (see below) for the same, additive-free, flavour.

You’ll need:

Chicken

  • 3 large boneless chicken breasts (or on the bone if you have more time to grill)
  • 3-4 TB Greek yogurt
  • 1 heaped TB Tandoori Masala or a dry mix of turmeric, coriander, ginger, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, salt and chili powder (a good shake of each into a small bowl usually does the trick and allows you to add more of the flavours you enjoy most)

Tandoori chicken ingredients

Dahl

  • 1 cup chopped white onion (frozen is fine) / 1 medium onion
  • 5 cups/800g red lentils/masoor dahl
  • 1 cup shredded or julienned carrot (approx. 1 medium carrot)
  • 1 heaped tsp minced/grated garlic (I buy large jars of minced garlic)
  • 1 heaped tsp minced/grated ginger (this really is best freshly grated)
  • 1 heaped TB Tandoori Masala or mix as above
  • 2 TB ghee (clarified butter) or 1 TB vegetable oil
  • 1 cube dry chicken stock or 1 tsp concentrated stock
  • 400 ml tin of unsweetened, first-pressed coconut milk (don’t bother with low fat versions, you want the cream)
  • 1 tsp brown or muscovado sugar
  • 2-4 cups water

Dahl ingredients

Rice

  • 2 cups/400g jasmine rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock (1 cube dry stock in 4 cups water)
  • 1 cup frozen peas (optional)

First things first, you can slice the chicken into large cubes, or buy chicken tenders to save time, but be sure the pieces won’t fall through the grill (if you’re using a bbq).

Mix the yogurt and dry spice together well in a large mixing bowl before adding the raw chicken. Give it a good mix to really coat the chicken, and then cover the bowl with cling film/plastic wrap and find a space in the fridge.

The longer the chicken has a chance to canoodle with the yogurt, the better. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look bright orange, you don’t need that much ‘stuff’ in your dinner.

Once your chicken is set aside, give your lentils a really good rinse. This is not a step to be missed, because the lentils will be ‘dusty’, and they will produce a bubbly foam when boiling if you don’t. (I usually use a small strainer inside a larger bowl to submerge the lentils and shake ‘em up under water 4 or 5 times, until the water I’m draining is clear.)

Next step, start your onions in the ghee or oil over a med-high heat. I suggest using a wide based pot or pan so you get more browning and less stewing. (I wouldn’t suggest trying to use normal butter if you can’t find ghee, it’s just going to burn.)

As the onions just begin to sizzle, add the garlic, ginger and dry spices and stir it pretty continuously to avoid the dry spices burning.

Add the lentils, carrots and dry or concentrated chicken stock and coat everything with the onion/spice mixture before adding about 1.5 cup of water and reducing the heat to med-low.

Coconut milkOpen the tin of coconut milk and, if you’re lucky, the cream will be separated from the water. Put a small whole on one side and larger whole on the other to drain just the water, holding your spoon in the way to keep back the cream. If it hasn’t separated, it’s no biggy, just add the whole can. If it has, keep the near solid cream for adding at the end.

The reason I try to keep the cream until the end, it doesn’t need to reduce with the rest of the water, and adds a smoothness to the dahl. Let me stress, though, that this isn’t a necessary step, just a texture enhancer.

Once you’ve added the coconut water, reduce and cover for about ten minutes.

Now is the perfect time to start your rice. I just make a standard pot of rice, but use chicken stock instead of water. This adds flavour, salt and fat in one step, instead of using butter, salt and water. I’ve also been known to add about a cup of frozen peas to rice from the beginning, as well as a pinch of cardamom powder, but these are optional. I try to use veg anywhere I can, and even the smallest bit of flavour cooked into the rice is very kid-friendly.

Stir your dahl occasionally to be sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom, adding a bit of water to keep it from getting too dry if needed. Once the lentils and carrots are nice and soft, taste test to add any salt and a teaspoon or so of the brown sugar. Allow the mixture to bubble a bit longer and then add the coconut cream if you’ve held it back. Mix in thoroughly and then turn the heat to the lowest heat, just to maintain the warmth. The dahl will stay liquid as long as the lid is kept on while you grill the chicken, but the moisture will escape and dry it out if you leave it uncovered for long.

Dahl in the pan.jpgTurn off your rice when it’s tender, but leave it covered until time to serve.

On a high grill flame, place the chicken pieces nicely spread apart onto a greased grill (I usually use a bit of veg oil on a paper towel/kitchen roll and wipe the grill before I turn it on). Keep the lid closed for about 5-7 minutes and then turn the chicken over and repeat. The less you move the pieces, the better you’ll be at getting crispy bits and a bit of yogurt char. Yum.

Depending on the size of the pieces, 10-15 minutes should be plenty, with one roll over in the middle and keeping the lid closed. Be careful not to overcook the chicken in pursuit of char, it’s better to have moist chicken. If in doubt, always cut open your biggest piece first to check it’s cooked through.

My kids can’t get enough of the coconut dahl served over rice, and I cut up a piece of the chicken into tiny pieces mixed in if they’re interested. I don’t worry if they aren’t up for the chicken, though, because lentils have protein and are super healthy. And filling! Our whole family love this meal, and it all makes for great leftovers. I love to nibble the cold chicken bites (if any are left) the next day, and a scoop of rice and dahl in the microwave makes for a two minute lunch/dinner!

Tandoori chicken and coconut lentils

Mummy in a Tutu

Spag-Bol with hidden veg in 27 minutes

A classic recipe with extra veg and secret tricks for speediness

The Mum Reviews says:

The email with my mate’s recipe here came in literally as I was sitting down to eat a spag bol made by mixing browned mince with a shop-bought jar of sauce. It was pretty good and tasty, tbh, but I can’t wait to try this recipe, which sounds just as fast and (almost) as easy. I love that it has spinach in it for extra hidden veg.

Ok, so I timed myself for this one, because I know there are days when even a 30-minute meal seems like too long. But this one is totally worth it, and should feed a family of 4 for two days! I use frozen veg where possible, so 30 minutes is plenty of time because you don’t need to spend time chopping. If you prefer to use fresh veg, you could also speed things up by using a food processor to chop the veg.

I find a lot of spaghetti sauces too sweet and have too much tomato, so this is a really light alternative with a lot of flavour.

 TOP TIP: If you use angel hair pasta (this is like thinner spaghetti, called spaghettini or capellini in the UK), you can use a much smaller pot and less water, which is much quicker to boil. You can break the pasta in half and add in two or three handfuls to the water, there’s plenty of room, and it only takes 3-5 minutes to finish! I usually use half a box at a time.

You’ll need:

  • 500g/1lb mince/ground beef OR (for a richer flavour) ground sausage/sausage meat
  • 1 cube beef or chicken stock as per beef or sausage, or 1 tsp concentrated stock (without the water!)
  • 1 cup/130g chopped white onion, or about 1 medium onion (Frozen is quickest)
  • 2 tsp green/basil pesto
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried mixed Italian spices (that’s rosemary, thyme & basil if you want to mix your own)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic OR one clove (buy it in a jar, tube or dried to save time)
  • One medium carrot OR 1/2c./60g pre-shredded carrot
  • 2 tins chopped tomato (in the US that’s petite diced or crushed)
  • 1/2 cup / 60g frozen chopped spinach (or 1 small bag fresh baby spinach)
  • 1 tsp tomato paste (optional)
  • fresh basil (optional)
  • salt and pepper
  • 225g dry pasta

The Method

I usually get the frozen onions into the pan while it heats up to high temperature, then fill the little pot with water for the pasta and turn that on high to start boiling. If you live in the UK, you will obvs boil your water in the kettle before putting it in the pan.

In a wide pan or pot, brown together the meat, stock, onion, oregano, spices, garlic and pesto. You don’t need to add extra oil as this will come from the pesto. Mix the ingredients together but then only stir occasionally to deeply brown.

Spag Bol cookingTo the browned meat, add the tins of tomato, 1 tin of water, carrot, spinach and tomato paste. Allow the sauce to reduce at a med/low temperature, the lid slightly askew to stop splatters but still allow the reduction.

At this point, the water should have come to the boil and you may have added your pasta. While the sauce reduces by about a third, stir and drain your pasta; the thin stuff only takes 3-5 minutes, so don’t let it get over done. Rinse and drain the pasta while the sauce bubbles off a bit more water, and now you may want to roughly chop a bit of fresh basil.

Be sure to taste test your sauce and add salt, pepper and a handful of roughly chopped basil, to taste.

Reduce heat and allow to simmer until the sauce is your desired consistency. We usually use gluten free pasta, so the taste of the pasta is improved if I add it to the sauce whilst it’s still a bit watery.

Once you’ve drained your chosen pasta (my kids just love angel hair and it’s easy to cut into tiny bits for little ones!), I always find it’s best to toss the pasta into the sauce before serving, but either way, it’s delicious! They never even notice all the veg!

TOP TIP: For younger children, allow the sauce to simmer longer to soften the carrots, and try crushed tomato to avoid ‘bits’. I’ve also been known to add a pinch of caster sugar to reduce the acidity of the tomato for youngsters who like it sweet.

Easy Cottage Pie (with a twist) Recipe

Great for kids and busy mums

The Mum Reviews says:

It looks like a lot of ingredients but many are optional and you can just throw everything in! You don’t even need to put it in the oven if you’re short on time. I love the funky mash with added sour cream and cheese.

What you need

  • 6 white potatoes (Maris Piper is good if you’re in the UK)
  • 1 sweet potato (optional)
  • Approx 500g / 1-1.5lb mince (that’s ground beef in the USA)
  • 1 cup onion, chopped (or 1 medium onion)
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped (about 1 medium carrot)
  • Oregano & Thyme (or mixed Italian Seasoning)
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Beef stock
  • Garlic, fresh, dried or minced (optional)
  • 1 tsp tomato paste (optional)
  • 1/4 cup (85g) butter
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) sour cream
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) milk or cream (half & half is also an option in the USA)
  • Corn starch
  • Salt & pepper

Method

SpicesPreheat the oven to 375F/180C (however as you’ll see later, using the oven is optional! You could also just use the grill to crisp up the top).

Bring a big pot of water to boil and peel and cube 6 white potatoes for mash. I sometimes add one sweet potato to the mash, but cook it whole in the
microwave for 4 minutes or so rather than boil.

You can save time and peel only spotty bits of skin for a rustic mash too. Or, for a real shortcut, you can use ready mash; some chiller section mash only has milk, butter, cream and potatoes, so isn’t too guilt ridden.

While the potatoes boil, start browning the ground/minced beef. I use higher fat beef to avoid the need to add extra Cottage Pie filling on the hoboil.

Add the chopped onion (you can buy frozen pre-chopped onion for convenience). You can also replace some of the chopped onions with a handful of pearl onions, which sweeten up nicely.

Add healthy dashes of pepper, salt, oregano and thyme (or Italian seasoning), Worcestershire sauce and beef stock (I use 1 cube or 1 tsp of the jar of concentrated stock). You should add as much or as little as you like to taste, but I do use a lot of dry spice to flavour the meat while frying it off. You can also add about 1 clove of garlic or 1 tsp of dried/ready minced garlic (to taste) at this point too.

I try not to stir too much so the meat browns nicely, but if the dry spice starts to burn, add a touch more Worcestershire or water.

When the meat is brown and the onions are soft, add about ½ cup water and about 1 cup chopped carrots (I get the julienned carrots Shredded carrotsand chop them a little smaller, but you could leave them big if you prefer).

Add the frozen peas (you can add extra if they like peas – go for it!) and tomato paste (optional). Stir well and allow peas to thaw completely. Add a bit more water if the mixture is dry, but no more than ¼ cup.

Adding frozen peas to cottage pieAdd 1 or 2 tsp corn starch a little at a time, using a fork to mix it in; try shaking it in off the fork to avoid too much clumping.

Cover and reduce heat to simmer until the gravy thickens a bit. Add a dash of salt or more Worcestershire sauce to taste.

Your potatoes should be done by now (cubed ones take about 15 minutes). Drain potatoes and add ¼ cup butter (or olive oil if you prefer) to the pot and dump the potatoes back in. Add ¼ cup (or more) sour cream and smash it all together. Add milk (or cream/half  & half if you’re feeling indulgent) as you mix (up to 1/2 cup), until you’ve reached your desired thickness. Salt and pepper to taste.

For extra flavour, add a bit of shredded cheese to the mash.

Pour the meat mixture into a baking pan. Cover with mash, sprinkle with more shredded cheese for extra texture, and bake for 15-20 minutes to crisp up the top.

It’s advisable to put the pie onto another baking tray to catch any bubbly juices. Yum!

A few other tips…

In the pictures, I’ve made a two “grown up” or four toddler portion pie. I save the meat mixture to have over jacket/baked potatoes with salad in the summer if I don’t want to have the oven on too long. You can also avoid using the oven altogether if you want to simply layer the mash onto the meat in the pan and allow the sauce to simmer beneath it for a few minutes. Fast family favourites aren’t always about presentation! When my kids were younger, I made sure to make the carrots nice and small, and usually skinned the potatoes properly, but now that they’re older, it’s not necessary. There are a lot of ‘to taste’ measures here, so don’t be afraid to just toss a dash of this and that in – it’ll be a dish you make your own in no time.

Petite Pudding

Introducing The Mum Recipes

Fast, family-friendly food

The Mum Reviews says:

I’m not the best cook, and when I do make an effort, my kids are usually not impressed. So when my best friend suggested she might join me in the blogosphere, I bit her hand off. Because she CAN cook. Her kids even eat it. And it’s got vegetables! So she needs to share her secrets with the rest of us. In this post she introduces herself. Head on over to our About page for more about us, and watch this space for The Mum Recipes first recipe, Easy Cottage Pie.

Like a lot of mums these days, I try to balance my desire to feed my children healthy foods and my often overwhelming ennui. I make the effort to cook at least three times a week, and by cook, I mean something more challenging than hot dogs, baked beans and sweet potato mash. Perhaps it’s because I truly love to cook, but I suspect a lot of it is I find it a legitimate reason to tell my children to “get out of the kitchen!” for a much needed moment by the end of the day. It’s because I’m sometimes horrified when I have the spare moment to inspect an ingredients label on pre-made ready-meals, and realise my kids don’t actually like them when I’ve tried in a moment of weakness. What I’ve learned is to find a balance between the convenience foods available and making healthy meals.

I thought it might make cooking easier for some of the time-strapped mums out there that have all the best intentions, really want their children to prefer home-cooked meals to take-aways, but haven’t had the time to experiment like I have. I’m a stay-at-home mum with two small children (5 and 3) and a gluten-intolerant husband, so I’m no stranger to catering specialty meals. I did, however, make a rule a long time ago that my children were going to eat grown-up food. Nothing too spicy, no chillies just yet, but plenty of spice is a must. I used a food processor to liquefy spag-bol, lentils with rice, cottage pie, etc. As a result, my kids are pretty accustomed to garlic, onion and dry spices in most dishes. They don’t, however, realise just how many vegetables end up in their favourites.

In this blog, I’d like to introduce some tried and tested recipes, not just by my family, but recipes I’ve been asked again and again to share. I use frozen veg when I need to, I don’t mess around with name brands when generic will do, and I’m always looking for the easiest, quickest result for dinner time chaos. I hope you find the tips and recipes I’ll share here help ease the stress of cooking healthy, yummy meals.