I haven’t written up a food post for a while. It’s partly because our oven has been broken for a few weeks – I know, shocking, I’m not sure how I’ve coped without baking therapy; well actually I do, it’s been sewing therapy instead, making some funky wet bags for the boys’ nappies! And it’s partly because I’ve been busy writing breastfeeding posts and doing stuff for the Nappyness Cloth Nappy LIbrary. The oven is now fixed so hopefully I can do some more baking next weekend.
With a broken oven, I’ve been so glad that we have a slow cooker. Last week we had an aubergine in the veg box, and as I was thinking about what I could do with it, moussaka sprang to mind. I think traditionally this is done with lamb, but as I can’t stand lamb, I went for turkey instead, as that’s the meat that I often substitute when a recipe calls for minced beef or lamb (I also make a turkey shepherd’s pie for example). I had a quick google and the first hit for slow cooked moussaka was another blog with a recipe that seemed to fit the bill. So, as usual, I adapted it to what we had in and my own tastes, and this is what I came up with….
The verdict from my boys was very positive, so much so that Tom suggested I cook it again when the younger boys’ Godmum came round for lunch on Sunday.
3 cloves garlic
1 tin tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato purée
handful of herbs (I had fresh sage in the tubs)
400g turkey mince
1 pack feta
Slice the aubergine and courgette into fairly thin rounds.
Chop the onion and garlic, and heat in a frying pan with some olive oil, until they start to brown.
Add the minced turkey and cook until just grey.
Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and herbs, and stir well.
Put about one third of the turkey mixture in the bottom of the slow cooker pot.
On top of this, place a layer of sliced aubergine and courgette.
Put about another third of the turkey mixture on top, then another aubergine/courgette layer, and repeat with the last third of the turkey mixture and the last of the veg.
Cook on low for about 7-8 hours.
In the last hour of cooking, add the feta to the top and replace the lid.
Serve with rice, and freeze any that you don’t eat – it defrosts to make a yummy meal later in the week 🙂
In general, Joel seems to be loving food, there’s not much he hasn’t eaten when we’ve given it to him. I’m sure he’ll get fussier as he gets older, but hopefully he’ll be similar to Andrew and like most things despite the odd fuss here and there. One thing in particular that both boys like is extra mature cheddar cheese – Joel would eat loads of this if I let him (I’m watching the salt), and Andrew would polish off the rest! And a couple of things that Andrew is less good at (unless they are cooked in something) and I hadn’t tried Joel with are spinach and tomatoes.
So I decided to make some savoury mini muffins packed with cheese, spinach and tomatoes. Having been searching for a while for a cheap silicone mini muffin mould, I eventually found one last week at a homeware store that opened a while ago near our local supermarket but I’d never heard of the brand and assumed it was an expensive one (we live in Cambridge, this is the norm). But as I walked past it the other day, I took a closer look and realised it was in fact a Wilkinsons-style shop – ever since we moved here 7 years ago I’ve missed having a Wilkos to get bits and bobs from.
This recipe would also work in a fairy cake tin (mine have seen better days, hence my search for a new silicone mould) or a normal-sized muffin tin. I just like the mini-ness of them for little fingers to grasp. And these muffins were very much devoured by the little mouths on the receiving end of the little fingers’ grip.
This recipe made 24 mini muffins, some of which we ate fresh and some of which we froze for later to keep them fresh.
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
100g extra mature cheddar cheese (or you could use any strength you like)
100g fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped
about a dozen cherry tomatoes, chopped into quarters
50ml olive oil
Put the flour, baking powder, cheese, spinach and tomatoes in a bowl and mix until roughly distributed.
Mix the milk, eggs and oil in a bowl until the egg is broken up – don’t over beat, you don’t want to end up with mayonnaise!
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones along with a good grind of black pepper and stir until well combined.
Spoon the mixture into the mini muffin mould so each hole is full.
Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes at 180ºC (fan).
Remove from the oven and allow to cool only as much as you need to in order to eat them!
Freeze any that are not eaten within a day or so to keep them fresh.
Wow a meaty recipe, can you believe your eyes?! It is true that I don’t cook or eat a lot of meat (and when I do it’s only chicken or turkey), but as Joel is starting solids, I want to give him the opportunity to taste meat along with all the other foods he is trying as part of a very varied introduction to food. So I bought some turkey last weekend and cooked a dish in the slow cooker that was suitable for him to eat with us – most of what we eat is baby-friendly anyway.
The turkey went lovely and tender as it was slow cooked, so this was perfect for him who has no teeth quite yet. The vegetables were some of those that we got in our box that week. The ‘crunchy crust’ is a basic suet pastry that I baked separately in the oven as pastry doesn’t work in the slow cooker – it’s not hot enough to get it crunchy rather than soggy. I assembled the turkey and leeks with the crust on our individual dishes when serving the meal. Joel enjoyed munching on some turkey, mushroom and pastry (which went soggy after he gummed it for a while), though he wasn’t sure about the leeks – they are a bit weird to it without teeth I think.
Here’s the recipe, which was a bit more time-consuming than some of my ‘chuck it in the slow cooker’ recipes, but still only took about 20 minutes to prep then 7 hours to cook in the slow cooker plus a quick shove of a baking tray into the oven half an hour before it was ready.
Ingredients – serves 4
3 small leeks
3 large mushrooms
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
400ml hot stock (I use low salt)
120g self-raising flour
60g vegetable suet
Fry turkey for a few minutes in olive oil to seal it.
Chop the leeks and mushrooms and put in the slow cooker pot.
Crush the garlic cloves and add to the pot.
Add the tomatoes and stock.
When the turkey is sealed put it into the pot and stir.
Cook on low for 7 hours.
Mix the flour, suet and herbs together, and add just enough water to form a dough.
Roll it out on a lightly floured surface and cut out four large squares.
Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and chill until about half an hour before the turkey mix is cooked, then put it in the oven at 180ºC and bake for 20-30 minutes until it is crisp and lightly golden.
Assemble the pies individually in bowls by spooning the turkey mix in and placing the pastry on top.
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
Put all the ingredients except the cheddar into the slow cooker pot and stir to mix them together.
Cook on low for 8 hours.
Stir well before serving with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.