Firstly let me apologise for there being no pictures in this post – not great for a foodie post, but it was so yummy that I totally forgot to take pics before we devoured it 😉
It’s been a while since I wrote up a slow cooker recipe. It’s not that I haven’t been slow cooking, but more that I haven’t found the time to write about it as well as all the other things I’m doing, and recently I have been sticking with recipes I’ve done before rather than experimenting with new things. But this week we had a celeriac in the veg box, and I haven’t had one for quite a while, so this got me thinking about how I could slow cook it.
I remember I enjoyed a dish once (I can’t actually remember where or when!) that was a bit like a celeriac dauphinoise, with a creamy cheesy sauce around slices of the root vegetable. So this hazy memory formed the basis of my slow cooker creation. I made a simple creamy sauce out of milk, soft cheese and a small amount of flour. The celeriac formed the main bulk of the solid part of the dish, though I added a bunch of purple kale that was in the box, as well as a tin of pink salmon for more protein beyond the dairy ingredients.
It turned out very well, and generally the boys were impressed, although Andrew wasn’t too keen on the taste of the celeriac – I think it’s quite an acquired taste and I’m not sure when he last had it. We served it with rice because the boys had eaten quite a lot of pasta in the days before we ate this, but pasta would work well with it too I think.
Here’s the recipe, which is very simple but give very yummy results!
1 pint milk
200g tub soft cheese with herbs/onion/garlic
2 tbsp plain flour
1 tin salmon
1 bunch purple kale
rice or pasta to serve
Cut the stalks of the kale off and chop the leaves into smaller pieces.
Peel the celeriac and cut into slices about 1cm thick, and then each big slice into smaller pieces.
Place the slices in layers in the slow cooker pot, sandwiching some purple kale between each layer of celeriac.
Mix the milk, soft cheese and flour in a jug, then pour the mixture into the pot – it should just come up to the top layer.
Cook on high for 5 hours.
About an hour before the end of the cooking time, drain the tin of salmon and flake the fish, then add it on top of the celeriac in the pot.
About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, cook some rice or pasta to serve it with.
If you didn’t know already by reading this blog, I love cooking and baking, and then writing up here the new things that I’ve tried. Most of the time I just make make it up as I go along, rarely following recipes, and instead taking inspiration from dishes I’ve tasted or smelled or just heard of. There are some evenings though, when we’re all tired and hungry, that I lack inspiration or the ability to remember previous inspirational moments.
So when I saw that BritMums were offering some Schwartz 2-in-1 sachets to review as part of the “Tell us what’s for dinner tonight” challenge (I’m entering this post with a chance to win a prize) I thought I’d give them a go. As BritMums write: sometimes you need a little inspiration to make your meals even better. And that’s just what these Schwartz sachets are here to help with.
Schwartz describe their new 2-in-1 range as “easy to use recipe mix sachets in one handy pack: one sachet flavours the main dish whilst the other contains ? seasoning for a complementary side dish or topping. With 5 different varieties to choose from, and an easy recipe on the back of each pack, it’s a great way to try out new dishes or transform an existing family favourite.” You can see all the different flavours here, and I was sent two of these sachets to try:
Mediterranean Chicken Pasta and Cheesy Crumb Topping: A blend of herbs and spices for chicken pasta with a cheesy topping
Garlic & Thyme Roast Chicken and Crispy Roast Potatoes: Roast chicken seasoning, with garlic and thyme, accompanied by a special seasoning to create perfect Crispy Roast Potatoes
For us, the sachet for the pasta bake is an example of a way to transform an existing family favourite, as we quite often cook a tomato-based pasta bake with veg and tuna in and cheese on the top as a quick and easy midweek meal. The recipe on the sachet suggests that you make it with chicken and peppers, but as we don’t cook meat very often, I decided to adapt it to what we had in the cupboard and veg box that week. So we had tuna, carrots and courgette instead (the “hint and tips” section on the sachet suggests that you could replace the chicken and peppers with tuna and sweetcorn, and gives you instructions for when to add these at different stages fro, the original recipe). I’m planning on using the roast chicken and potatoes mix to bake some white fish with potatoes one day, but I’m still looking out for when the fish is on the reduced shelf when we go shopping so I can grab us a bargain meal.
How easy was it?
The evening that I cooked the pasta bake was a classic for our family. We usually eat together around 6.30pm, but I’m never too sure how much I’ll be required for feeding Joel around that time. These days it’s not that much, but I can be called away at quite short notice. This is why I’m into slow cooking, it’s ready for 6.30pm having done all the prep earlier. But I digress. I started off chopping the veg, weighing out the pasta and grating the cheese, whilst Daddy and the boys were otherwise entertaining themselves. But then a tired Joel got very grizzly, so Daddy and I swapped and he carried on doing the cooking. We make a good team, and often end up cooking half a meal each. This usually involves me shouting instructions at him from the sofa, but with the recipe on the Schwartz 2-in-1 sachet, he was pleased that he could follow it himself with a couple of verbal notes from me about how I was adapting it. I too found the instructions easy to follow and adapt.
I liked the fact that the ingredients were all things that we had in the cupboard or fridge, and we could just decide at short notice that this is what we’d have for dinner, open tins and cartons, do some chopping and grating, fling it all together and that was it. No tricky steps or fancy equipment required. The larger part of the sachet contained a mix of herbs to add to the tomatoes to form a sauce, which then got mixed with the pasta, tuna and veg, and the smaller part of the sachet contained a crispy herby topping to mix with grated cheese and sprinkle them on top.
The taste test
Whilst it was cooking, both the sauce in the pan and the completed bake under the grill smelled delicious, so we were waiting with watering mouths for what was to come on our plates. We were not disappointed, the flavour did live up to the deliciousness that the smell had promised. The boys absolutely loved it – pasta is their favourite for dinner, so to get approval from them means it met their high standards. Andrew decided to call it ‘special pasta’, I’m not quite sure why, maybe he could tell that it was better than the usual pasta bakes that I whip up without the sachet! Joel expressed his opinion by making loud lip snacking noises as he shovelled fistfuls into his mouth. Us adults were also pleased with a meal that was high in taste factor but low in effort factor – the sachet really did transform what could have otherwise been a fairly ordinary pasta bake.
Just one problem that we found was the salt content: my little boys have good appetites, so the portion they ate of the pasta bake contains all the salt in their guideline daily amount as an under 1 and an under 3. I suspect a fair amount of this also comes from the cheese as well as the flavouring. They don’t have much other salt in the day as I don’t add it to anything (including the bread we make in the bread maker), so I don’t mind them eating something like this occasionally, but I wouldn’t want them to eat it every day unless the salt content was reduced. I find this a general problem with sachet or jar sauces, so we don’t often eat them, but they are handy to have in for the odd day here and there.
Overall we were very impressed by the sachet. It was easy to cook and had a yummy result. I would buy it again to have in the cupboard, though as I said it would only be for occasional use with two little ones due to the salt content. It made an ordinary meal ‘special’ for us.
This post is an entry for BritMums ‘What’s for Dinner Tonight?’ sponsored by Schwartz. Find out more about the new 2in1 mixes here
Disclaimer: I was sent the sachets free of charge for the purpose of this review, but all opinions expressed are honest and my own, based on our experience of cooking with one of them.
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.
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
1 tbsp cornflour
1 tin red kidney beans
1 tsp chilli powder (optional – we like spicy food)
100g soft cheese
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.
After the 2 hours, add the rest of the ingredients except the soft cheese and stir well.
Cook on high for a further 2 1/2 hours (more like 2 hours if you want firmer pasta).
When it’s cooked, stir in the soft cheese and serve immediately.