Slow cooked stuffed marrows

It’s been a long time since I blogged a recipe, and a slow cooked one at that. It’s not that we haven’t been eating slow cooked meals, in fact it’s been a good thing to have on during the day in the warmer weather so I don’t have to slave over a hot stove (so to speak) in the evening, but I’ve just been sticking to our favourites rather than thinking of new things. I’ve also had plenty of nappy stuff and editing work to be getting on with, so something has to give.

A work colleague of Tom’s offered him some marrows this week, and,  after consulting me, he accepted them. I remember having marrows stuffed with minced meat and vegetables in France when I lived there for a few months, so I thought that this would be a good thing to try in the slow cooker. I wanted to make it veggie (rather than using minced turkey – I wouldn’t use minced beef anyway), so opted for a butter bean filling with other veg and herbs to add flavour.

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It turned out very well. Tom and Joel wolfed it down, Andrew was less keen, but we know he’s not a big fan of courgettes so was not impressed by the size of courgette that I put on his plate! He ate the filling at least. We have another marrow, and I think I’ll make some soup with that. Here’s the recipe for stuffing, if you fancy having a go…

Ingredients – serves 2 adults and 2 toddlers

  • 1 marrow
  • 1 tin butter beans, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 4 mushrooms
  • 1 beef tomato
  • fresh herbs
  • 100g grated mature cheddar


  1. Cut the marrow into lengths that will fit into your slow cooker (ours has a divider in the middle so I cut it into shorter bits than I would need to for a non-divided slow cooker).
  2. Half the pieces down the centre lengthways, and cut out the seeded bit in the middle.
  3. Chop the onion, mushroom and tomato into small cubes, and chop the garlic cloves finely.
  4. Roughly mash the butter beans in a large bowl, then add the chopped up other veg and stir until well combined.
  5. Fill the centre of the marrows with this filling and place in the slow cooker pot.
  6. Cook on low for 8 hours, then serve with the cheddar sprinkled on top and some fresh crusty bread on the side: delicious!

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Pink pasta – #slowcookersunday

Another week, another recipe with beetroot! As you can probably guess if you’ve read my previous posts recently, we had beetroots in the veg box again this week. I love beetroot, so this isn’t a problem, I just don’t know many recipes that use them, so we often eat them roasted as a side veg. Having already made chocolate beetroot cake and savoury beetroot crumble, I had a brainwave for this week’s beetroot: red + white = pink! I knew that Andrew would love pasta (his favourite food) even more if it was brightly coloured, so I thought why not cook the red beetroot in a milky sauce and add pasta to make a pink dish. The addition of red kidney beans as well as the deep red/purple of the beetroot chunks complimented the pink colour very nicely.

Pink pasta

I’ve not done much pasta cooking in the slow cooker because I’ve heard that it can be very difficult to get it just right in texture between being crunchy and mushy, but I was impressed by how good Aly’s macaroni cheese recipe over at Plus 2.4 turned out when I made it, so was motivated to try one myself. The pasta turned out quite well, though on the mushier end of normal for someone who usually likes quite al dente pasta – next time I would have the pasta in for a little less time. But it was perfect for Joel to try sone, so I wasn’t disappointed. Andrew was very impressed with his pink pasta – he even managed to eat some beetroot, which hasn’t always been his favourite vegetable. So an all round good family meal. If Andrew was into a certain pig called Peppa, I might have called it Peppa Pig pasta! Maybe worth a try if you have a Peppa Pig fan who is a fussy eater?

Here’s the recipe – it did us two meals


  • About 400g beetroots
  • 200ml boiling water
  • 450g pasta shapes – we had shells
  • 500ml milk
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 tin red kidney beans
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (optional – we like spicy food)
  • 100g soft cheese


  1. Chop the beetroots into chunks (I left them fairly large) and place in the slow cooker pot with the boiling water. Cook for 2 hours on high.
  2. After the 2 hours, add the rest of the ingredients except the soft cheese and stir well.
  3. Cook on high for a further 2 1/2 hours (more like 2 hours if you want firmer pasta).
  4. When it’s cooked, stir in the soft cheese and serve immediately.

Linking up with Slow Cooker Sunday

Slow cooked beany chilli with chocolate

beany chilli 2A couple of weeks ago I saw a recipe for chilli with chocolate by Chrissie aka Slow Cooker Queen as part of the Slow Cooker Sunday linky. I’ve been meaning to make a chilli with chocolate for a while. We have chilli quite often, and there’s always chocolate in the fridge, so I don’t know why I haven’t done it before now – maybe because on the surface it seems like an odd combination so I don’t automatically think about reaching for a bar of chocolate when making chilli. As we currently have even more chocolate to get through than before Easter, I thought this would be a good time to use some in cooking as well as eating on its own.

This recipe is quite different from Chrissie’s, mainly because I made it veggie, and used my usual ingredients for a veggie chilli. I don’t eat any red meat, I just don’t like it; I will eat chicken and turkey if cooked for me, but in the last year or so I haven’t cooked any meat myself. We eat fish or pulses instead.beany chilli

Despite the perhaps odd combination, it actually works really well. The chocolate flavour is subtle but there, and adds something to my usual simple chilli recipe. It’s a great way to get toddlers to eat vegetables too. I’d definitely recommend giving it a go…..

Ingredients – serves 6 (3 of us ate it and half went in our freezer for another day)

  • 1 onion
  • 1 tin kidney beans
  • 1 tin borlotti beans
  • 1 tin sweetcorn
  • 1 carton chopped tomatoes (approx. 400g)
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 50g chocolate
  • 250ml hot stock (I use low salt)


  1. Chop the onion into small pieces, and chop the chocolate into small chunks.
  2. Drain all the tins of vegetables.
  3. Put all the ingredients into the slow cooker and cook for 6 hours.
  4. Put some rice on to boil 10 minutes before it’s ready.
  5. Serve the chilli and rice together, with a dollop of soured cream if you like the spice toned down a bit.

Slow cooked pearl barley veggie risotto

Although I knew you could put pearly barley in soups and stews to give a thicker texture, I’d never thought of making a meal in which pearl barley was the main ingredient, used like rice to make a risotto, until I saw it used like this in a recipe in my slow cooker cookbook from which I’ve taken inspiration for various recipes that I’ve come up with. The barley gives it a slightly different taste and texture compared to ordinary risotto with rice, and I like having this for a change. Plus barley is supposed to be good for breast milk production.

The recipe for pearl barley risotto in my book isn’t really my cup of tea because it contains blue cheese, which I don’t like. So I’ve changed all the ingredients except the pearl barley and created a risotto that’s more to my taste. I included a tin of chopped tomatoes because, for risottos in general, I’m into using chopped tomatoes as part of the liquid for cooking the rice – it gives it a good flavour without having to use as much stock, which is great in terms of salt reduction for little ones, and Andrew isn’t too keen on raw tomatoes but will happily eat cooked ones from a tin in sauces on pasta and rice like this. The vegetables in this risotto were those which came in our veg box this week – all our meals these days are planned around what veg we get, and I like this because it makes me think of new things rather than always buying the same kinds of veg week in week out. I also chucked in a tin of canellini beans as the protein in our meal. The final touch was a sprinkling of grated mature cheddar to give an extra boost of flavour.

My boys approved, and Andrew even asked for seconds of ‘zotto’, so it must have gone down well. This recipe was enough for 2 meals for us, so that’s 2 evenings of not having to cook just at the time when we’re all tired and irritable. Result!


  • 230g pearl barley
  • half a large savoy cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1 medium leek, finely chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 900ml vegetable stock (I use low-salt for toddler)
  • 400g tin canellini beans, drained
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano
  • 50g mature cheddar, grated


  1. Put all the ingredients except the cheddar into the slow cooker pot and stir to mix them together.
  2. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  3. Stir well before serving with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.


Traffic lights tart with home-made rocket pesto

Here’s a quick Saturday night tea that I made last weekend. Partly inspired by pizza, which I can’t currently eat due to my bread fast for Lent, and partly inspired by my love of pesto, which is pretty high in salt when you buy it from the shops, but if you make it yourself you can reduce or leave out the cheese which usually makes it so salty. Using rocket for the pesto gives it a really strong flavour so the salt is less necessary for flavouring purposes. If you haven’t guessed from the picture already, I called it ‘Traffic lights’ because it has red, yellow and green things on it!


  • 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry (you can make it yourself if you have time, but I’ve had bad experiences with pastry before so I only make it when I know I’m not in a hurry – which is hardly ever these days. A decent food processor would help me too)
  • 1 bag of fresh rocket
  • olive oil
  • 1 tin of pinto beans
  • half a tin of sweetcorn
  • 1 large tomato (I wanted to use sundried tomatoes, but when I opened the pot that had been in the fridge, I discovered it had gone mouldy! It hadn’t even been opened long. I’m considering taking it back if I have time.)


  1. Roll out the pastry onto a lined baking sheet. Prick it with a fork several times all over the rectangle of pastry, leaving a border of about 2cm around all the edges.
  2. To make the pesto, whizz up the rocket with a decent glug of olive oil in a blender until you get a smooth paste.
  3. Spread the pesto over the pastry, leaving that 2cm border.
  4. Spread a mixture of sweetcorn and pinto beans all over the pesto until it is almost covered with a few green patches poking through.
  5. Cut the tomato into slices and add to the topping.
  6. Finish the topping by pouring a splash of olive oil over the top to keep it moist and brown the beans.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200°c for about 20-25 minutes, until the border is puffed and golden.
My boys loved is Andrew tucking into his
My boys loved is Tom coming back for thirds to finish it off!

40 breadless days, here I come…. but first some pancakes

When I announced to Tom this evening that I’m giving up bread for Lent, his reaction was ‘What??!! Are you mad??!!’…. to which my reply was ‘No, not mad Dear (well no more mad than usual), just wanted to do something really challenging this Lent.’ You see he knows how much I love bread and any bread products; I can’t usually go a day without something along those lines. Since we got a bread-maker, which I still maintain was one of my all-time best Christmas presents, I’ve been slightly obsessed with having fresh bread as often as possible. A few years ago my GP thought I might be gluten/wheat intolerant with the symptoms I was presenting. After 2 weeks of going gluten-free I’m sure I was more happy about the fact that I felt no better than having to carry on life without bread. (In the end it cleared up on its own and was put down to bouts of IBS.) It was a HARD 2 weeks; pasta I could cope without, and wheat cereals like Shreddies and bran flakes just about, but not bread, that was the hard part.

So when a friend at work today mentioned another friend had given up bread for Lent last year, that gave me a great idea. I was thinking of giving up chocolate, as that too would be challenging, but then I thought I’d just eat other things like cake, biscuits and sweets in its place. Having a blanket ban on sweet snacks wouldn’t do me much good either, as I find I need lots of energy during the day, with all the walking, cycling, swimming and of course breastfeeding that I’m doing. So bread was the answer to my search for a Lenten challenge: I would certainly miss it, and it’s not really replaceable with anything similar.

But why bother to give up anything at all for Lent? The tradition, as far as I was taught as a child, comes from the fact that the 40 days before Easter, or the period we call Lent, is a time when Christians take time to reflect on and contemplate quietly what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross. Traditionally they used to fast completely; this helped focus their mind on this reflection and contemplation, and it would certainly make them appreciate God’s provision in all the things they missed whilst fasting. More recently the tradtion became giving up just one thing, maybe a food or maybe something else like buying magazines, watching TV or biting finger nails. The point is that it’s something you find hard. However, some people might not find it particularly helpful to give something up to focus more on God. When I was a student, one of the leaders of our church student group once said that actually doing something new/different every day instead might help some people focus on God, for example making an effort to pray for longer or serve others by helping out with a charity. For me this year, as I give up something I know I love to eat, I will try to spend more time focused on God, and every time that I crave some bread, I know it will remind me to do so.

And finally the pancake bit. Along with the tradition of fasting in Lent was the tradition of using up all the fatty food that was in the larder beforehand, so the temptation wasn’t there to eat it. What better way to use up eggs, milk and flour than to make pancakes! This day, always a Tuesday (because Easter is always a Sunday and it’s 40 days before that), became known as Shrove Tuesday (to shrove means to ‘make merry’). In more recent years this has become Pancake Day thanks to the yummy things we eat in this 24-hour period.

This year I decided to make some pancakes for dinner, some with a savoury bean filling, and some with a sweet filling for afters. My pancake recipe was following the legendary Delia (I usually look up basic classic things like this on her website), and the fillings were my own. The bean filling was what has affectionately become known in our home as ‘Beanie thing’. Basically it’s what we have when we want a meal that’s more than just a snack but isn’t too heavy either. It turns out differntly every time because I vary the ingrediens slightly depending on what we have in the cupboard and what we fancy in particular. So I can’t really write an ingredients list, but here’s an idea about how to make it.

  • Chop and onion and a garlic clove. In a saucepan, fry in a little olive oil until golden and softened.
  • Add a tin of beans (drained first) such as cannellini, borlotti, black-eye, kidney, haricot etc. or even chick peas or lentils.
  • Add some other veg like sweetcorn/peas/grated carrots/diced pepper/mushrooms.
  • Add a tin of chopped tomatoes. Stir well to mix up all the ingredients.
  • Add some herbs like dried mixed herbs or indiviual things like oregano/cumin/parsley (anything you like really). Even add a dash of Tobasco if you’re feeling like a bit of a kick to it.
  • Mix up a couple of tablespoons of cornflour with a little cold water, to form a thin paste. Add this to the bean mixture and stir well. Keep on the heat until it’s thickened up as much as you’d like.
  • Serve with fresh bread (or, if you’re giving it up for Lent, some alternative….need to think about that….), or pancakes on Shrove Tuesday.

After we’d finished our savoury pancakes with beans, there were sweet ones filled with white chocolate buttons, which melted and oozed out as the pancake was still hot 🙂 Andrew only had a small taster of mine as I didn’t want to risk a sugar high that close to bedtime (as it turns out he’s shattered after a busy day with Granny and Grandad and went straight off to sleep!) What did you fill your pancakes with? Any unusual toppings that you’ve come up with or heard of? Happy Shrove Tuesday everyone, have a flipping good time 🙂