Although I am not a vegan, I am a fan of eating plenty of fruit and vegetables in my diet and trying new things. I also make a couple of meals per week that are plant-based meals and am always on the lookout for new ideas. Today, I came across this interesting video of food hacks for vegans. I thought it may interest not only vegans but also people who enjoy vegetarian food and those who are trying to reduce the amount of meat they include in their diet.
A few months ago, I wrote about starting a small herb garden in my garden and attempting to grow a few fruit and vegetables, too. I only wish that I had some before photographs to show you of how my back garden looked before. It was all concreted over with a few overgrown shrubs in the borders. There wasn’t a proper area to play for my children and it generally looked unkempt. My amazing partner has completely transformed the space.
He removed all the overgrown shrubs and created proper borders with raised wooden areas in one corner and around the tree. He then added canes and built boxes in which I could grow herbs. I have parsley, coriander, mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, strawberries, peas, and tomatoes growing at the moment. I have used all of these in my cooking.
He created a play area for the children by designing and building a climbing frame with a den and monkey bars. Below this, he added astroturf and rubber matting for safety. There is even a ramp from the decking to the play area for them to play on their scooters, bikes, and skateboards. They play on it every single night after school and all day at the weekends.
So that we could all eat outside together as a family, he created a small decking area with a fence and dining set just out from our conservatory. We have already eaten in this space many times as there has been fantastic weather in the UK in recent months. As a freelance writer who works from home, I have also started using this as what I call my ‘afternoon office’, which means I take my laptop outside with me to work.
The garden is a practical space for my partner and my eldest son, too. Nathan, my eldest son, is a bicycle, car, and motorcycle fanatic and loves to tinker with parts while my partner does odd jobs for people and enjoy building things out of wooden pallets. He has made two separate sheds for each of their hobbies and built a small playhouse for my younger boys from the side of one shed.
The photos show the amazing work he has done and they do not do justice to how hard he has worked or the fantastic transformation he has made of such a small space. Thank you Mike x.
When I cook a ham joint, I make a joint large enough to last for two meals. I use the leftover ham in lots of different ways and this week, I created a new dish that I have mot made for my family before. It was a hit with everyone and my teenager even described it as restaurant quality. Therefore, it is a dish that I will make again and wanted to share on my blog. It is a ham, mushroom, cheese and leek pie. This might start a bit of a debate about what constitutes a pie; whether it should be completely encased in pastry or just have a pastry lid. Strictly speaking, I would argue that the former is true, but this recipe just has a pastry lid as it is quicker to make and I am a busy working mum. However, you can adapt this recipe by making more pastry and creating a pie that encompasses the filling with the pastry. Here is my simple recipe for how to make ham, mushroom, cheese, and leek pie.
Recipe for Shortcrust Pastry
- 8 oz plain flour
- 4 oz lard
- 4 oz butter
- 1 beaten egg for glaze
Recipe for Ham, Mushroom, Cheese, and Leek Pie Filling
- Leftover ham- approximately three slices, shredded
- 10 button mushrooms, quartered or sliced
- I leek, finely sliced
- 4 oz cheese, grated
- 1 x 400g tin of condensed mushroom soup
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 1 oz butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Black pepper to season
How to Make Ham, Mushroom, Cheese, and Leek Pie
- Prepare the pastry using this recipe (see here) and then keep in the fridge until ready to roll.
- Preheat the over to 180/ gas mark 4.
- Add the butter and olive oil to a large pan and put over a medium heat.
- Add the sliced leeks and mushrooms to the pan and cook until softened.
- Add the condensed soup and milk and bring to the simmer.
- Add the shredded ham, parsley, cheese, and black pepper.
- Cook for a further five minutes.
- Transfer the mixture to a large oven dish.
- Roll out the pastry and then cover the dish.
- Use a pastry brush to glaze the pastry with the beaten egg.
- Transfer the pie to the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.
- Serve with your choice of potatoes and veg.
I served this with princess potatoes, broccoli and carrots.
Mashed potatoes are one of the simplest side dishes to make. It is a fantastic accompaniment to both meat and fish dishes and is a popular dinnertime choice in many homes. Not only do most people know how to make mashed potatoes, it is a good choice for people who have a limited budget. However, most people do not want to eat the same things over and over again, so it makes sense to change the way that you serve up this accompaniment if you can. Here are some ideas for elevating mashed potatoes.
How to Make Mashed Potatoes
Although I am sure that most people already know how to make mashed potatoes, I am just adding brief instructions for the benefit of those who don’t.
- Wash and peel potatoes then cut into quarters.
- Put in a pan and cover with water, add a little salt.
- Bring to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.
- Cook until potatoes are soft enough to easily push fork prongs into.
- Drain potatoes thoroughly before returning to a pan and putting over a low heat.
- Add a large knob of butter, a dash of milk, and season with pepper.
- Use a potato masher to make the mashed potatoes.
- For really creamy and smooth potatoes, you can then whisk with a whisk or a fork if you wish.
Cheesy mash– This is something my children love and is really easy to make just by adding grated cheese and stirring through.
Horseradish mash– This variation works best with dishes such as steak, roast beef dinners, or steak pie. Just add a few heaped tablespoons of horseradish to the mashed potatoes and stir through.
Mustard mash– There are several variations of this depending on which type of mustard you use. Just add three to four teaspoons of wither English, French, wholegrain, or Dijon mustard. This works well with both beef and ham dishes.
Herby mash– Add two teaspoons of dried mixed herbs or a herb that complements the rest of the meal, i.e. rosemary goes well with lamb, parsley is great with fish dishes etc.
Garlic mash– This works well with most meals but don’t just add raw garlic to the mash. Instead of adding a knob of butter to the mashed potatoes, melt it in a pan over a medium heat with a drizzle of olive oil to prevent the butter from burning and then add crushed garlic. Cook for a few minutes before transferring the garlic butter to the mashed potatoes and stirring through.
Onion mash- Similarly, you can add finely chopped onion or spring onions (scallions) to mash if you cook them in the butter first and then transfer.
Other Things to Make with Mashed Potatoes
Princess potatoes- Make the mashed potatoes and then use a piping bag to create swirls of mashed potato on a greased or lined baking tray. Cook in the oven on a high heat until the edges of the potatoes are turning golden and crispy.
Tuna fishcakes– see the recipe.
Bubble and squeak– see the recipe.
Corned beef fritters– see the recipe.
These are just some ideas for completely transforming mashed potatoes into a new dish with different flavors. If you have any other ways of adding flavor to your mashed potatoes or ways of creating a dish with them, then feel free to add your ideas into the comments box below.
The other day I posted a recipe for loaded potato skins and mentioned ways that you can then use up the leftover potato. Next, I posted a recipe for tuna fishcakes that I made using my own leftover potatoes. I planned to write a few more recipes for ways to use up leftovers, including one for bubble and squeak. It is like the people over at the Daily Post read my mind with today’s prompt which is ‘bubble‘.
Bubble and squeak is a British dish that is traditionally made using leftover mashed potatoes and cabbage. However, you can make it using any leftover vegetables and will taste different depending on which vegetables you use. I have written this differently to my other recipes in the sense that it does not have specific quantities, it is just what you have leftover. It is really easy to make and ideal for those on a budget. It is also suitable for vegetarians. Here is a recipe for bubble and squeak.
Ingredients for Bubble and Squeak
- Leftover mashed potatoes
- Leftover cabbage and any other leftover vegetables
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and black pepper
How to Make Bubble and Squeak
- Combine the mashed potatoes and leftover vegetables in a mixing bowl.
- Season with salt and black pepper.
- Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
- Fry the onions for five minutes until softened.
- Spoon the onions from the pan into the mixing bowl with the vegetables and stir in well.
- Transfer the mixture to the frying pan and press down with the back of a spoon.
- Cook for 7-10 minutes until the bubble and squeak is golden brown and crispy.
- Flip it over in the pan using a flatfish lift and repeat so both sides are golden.
- Transfer to a plate and cut into slices to serve.
This is one of my children’s favourite meals, so it is something I make fairly often. Yesterday, I posted a recipe for loaded potato skins and I wrote a note that you shouldn’t waste the insides of the potatoes as you can use them for many other dishes. I used mine to create the fishcakes that are photographed here. However, I have written the recipe in the way I make the fishcakes when I do not have leftover potato flesh making mashed potatoes from scratch. If you are using leftovers, then simply skip that part of the recipe and move straight on to the stage where you are combining the potatoes with the other ingredients. These fishcakes are good for those on a budget and really simple to make. However, it can get a little messy assembling them, but this is why my kids love cooking these with me. You can serve them one fishcake each for a starter or two for a main course. Here is an easy recipe for tuna fishcakes with lightly spiced mayonnaise. This makes enough for eight fishcakes.
Ingredients for Tuna Fishcakes
- 6 large white potatoes
- 2 tins of tuna
- 1 200g tin sweetcorn
- 2 eggs
- 5 tbsp plain flour
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients for Lightly Spiced Mayonnaise
- 8 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
How to Make Tuna Fishcakes and Lightly Spiced Mayonnaise
- Peel the potatoes and quarter them.
- Add to a pan of salted boiling water and cook for 15-20 minutes or until soft.
- Drain the potatoes and return to the pan but not over the heat.
- Mash the potatoes with either a masher or a fork.
- Put the mashed potatoes in a mixing bowl and leave to cool for ten minutes.
- Drain the tins of tuna and sweetcorn thoroughly.
- Add both the tuna and the sweetcorn to the potato.
- Using a fork, work the potato, tuna, and sweetcorn together.
- Beat one of the eggs in a cup or bowl and then add to the tuna and potato mix.
- Stir the beaten the mixture as this will help to bind the ingredients together.
- Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir through again.
- Divide the mixture into eight balls and press into patties on your work surface.
- Put them on a baking tray and transfer to the refrigerator for ten minutes. This will prevent them from falling apart when you are adding the coating.
- While the fishcakes are in the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4.
- Beat the second egg in a small bowl.
- Add the flour to a side plate and season with black pepper.
- Crush the packets of ready salted crisps and then put half of them onto a side plate.
- Remove your fishcakes from the refrigerator.
- One at a time, dip them on both sides in the seasoned flour first, then into the beaten egg, and finally pat them onto the crushed crisps.
- As each one is coated, put it back on the baking tray.
- Repeat this until all the fishcakes are coated. When you have run out of crisps, simply add the other two bags fo crushed crisps to the plate. If you have crisps leftover in the bowl, pat the crumbs into the top of the fishcakes.
- Put the baking tray in the oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the top of the fishcakes are turning golden.
- Remove from the oven and turn the fishcakes over using a flatfish lift.
- Return to the oven for a further ten minutes, or until the fishcakes are golden and crunchy on both sides.
- While the fishcakes are cooking, spoon the mayonnaise into a bowl.
- Add the chilli powder and smoked paprika. Stir in well.
- Serve the fishcakes with a side salad and a generous dollop of lightly spiced mayonnaise.
Pre-recipe warning, this one is not good for the waistline. However, it is absolutely delicious! This is the sort of comfort food that you can serve at any time of the year and as either a starter or a main meal, depending on the size of the portion. Here is an easy recipe for loaded potato skins that makes 24 skins.
Ingredients for Loaded Potato Skins
- 6 large white potatoes
- 250g hard cheese, such as Cheddar, grated
- 6 rashers of bacon
- To serve- soured cream and chives
How to Make Loaded Potato Skins
- Preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4.
- Wash and dry the potatoes and put on a baking tray.
- Put the tray in the oven and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the skins are beginning to brown and the potatoes feel soft when you squeeze them (using an oven glove).
- 10 minutes before the potatoes are cooked, add the rashers of bacon to another baking tray and put in the oven so they are cooked and ready to remove at the same time as the potatoes.Turn off the oven.
- Leave the potatoes on the side to cool and break your bacon into small pieces.
- When the potatoes are cooled, cut in half.
- Scoop out most of the soft potato flesh to leave hollow skins with just a thin layer of potato. (See tip for ways to use the leftover potato).
- Turn on your deep fat fryer and set to around 180C.
- While this is heating, cut the potatoes lengthways so that each potato skin is a quarter of a potato.
- Fry the potato skins in batches for five minutes until browned and crispy and then transfer onto the baking tray.
- Sprinkle over the cheese and pieces of bacon.
- Turn on the grill and place the loaded potato skins under for long enough to melt the cheese.
- Serve the skins with a dollop of soured cream sprinkled with chopped chives.
Don’t waste the potato filling! There are plenty of things you can do with it. Since cooking the loaded potato skins yesterday, I have made crunchy tuna fishcakes for tea tonight. You can also mash it up to serve with meat or as a topping for a fish pie or cottage pie.