I am a big believer in using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. It is something that I try to do at home and is also something I look for when I am eating out at a restaurant. Not only does buying local ingredients support local businesses, the quality of the produce is so much better than buying processed and manufactured alternatives. The meats are fresher and the fruit and vegetables are in season and taste so much better.
I am lucky in terms of the location where I live. I live in a semi-rural village in Lancashire, just across from the coastal towns of Fleetwood and Morecambe and at a mid-point between Blackpool and Lancaster. This means my village is surrounded on one side by the sea and on the other side by farmland. Both are fantastic sources of delicious ingredients.
The coastal location means there is a fresh supply of fish and seafood available and I usually shop at a seafood shop on the docks at Fleetwood.
Two of the best cheese manufacturers in the company are located within driving distance of my home; Dewlay and Butler’s. They both produce delicious ranges of cheese from their farm factories. These are sold directly from their own shops, local farm shops and many other retailers locally. My personal favourite is Lancashire crumbly.
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Pork, beef, chicken and lamb are all available from local sources and sold in local butchers. There is also one of the biggest game hatcheries in the country, Hi-Fly, just one mile from my house and there are even ostrich farms in the surrounding area.
The area in which I live is fantastic for anyone who enjoys farmers markets as these are held regularly in many locations in the local area. Not only are these a good place to buy the produce that is raised and grown locally, it is also a great place to sample foods created using locally sourced produce. This includes everything from pies to chutneys. Similarly, there are amazing farm shops in Lancashire and there are events that cater to food lovers throughout the year.
I am a big fan of spice and Indian dishes are my favorite type of cuisine. Occasionally, I also enjoy eating vegetarian food. Therefore, it makes sense that saag aloo is one of my top Indian vegetarian dishes to make. This spinach and potato based dish is meat-free, budget-friendly, packed full of flavour and easy to make. My family either enjoy it as a main dish served with rice or as an accompaniment to a curry. Here is a quick and simple recipe for how to make saag aloo.
Ingredients for Saag Aloo
- 3tbsps ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed.
- 1 red and 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 1 level teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 level teaspoon turmeric
- 500g potatoes cut into chunks
- 250g bag washed spinach leaves
- black pepper
How to Make Saag Aloo
- Put the chopped potatoes into a pan of salted water and bring to the boil.
- Meanwhile, chop the onions, chillies, ginger, and garlic.
- Drain the potatoes as soon as the water begins to boil.
- Heat the oil in a pan over a medium-high heat.
- Add the onions, chillies, garlic, and ginger to the frying pan.
- When the onions have turned golden and softened, add the turmeric and cumin.
- Next, add the par-boiled potatoes.
- Roughly chop the spinach leaves and add to the pan.
- As the spinach begins to wilt, stir in the mixture.
- Cook for a further five minutes on a medium heat to allow the flavor of the spices to infuse the potatoes and the spinach.
- Serve with rice or naan bread.
- Meat lovers– you can easily adapt this to a meat dish by adding chicken, beef or lamb.
- Different textures– you can leave the spinach leaves, whole, roughly chop them or finely chop them.
- Spice levels– you can experiment with different levels of spice to suit your taste by adding more or less of ingredients including garlic, chillies, ginger, turmeric, and cumin.
This vegetarian dish is delicious as a meal on its own or as a vegetable accompaniment to meat. It is quick and simple to make as it just involves cooking broccoli and cauliflower and then adding a cheese sauce. I use double the amount of the basic cheese sauce recipe when I am making this and add some mustard for extra flavour. I also switch the white pepper to black. Here is how to make a delicious broccoli and cauliflower gratin.
Ingredients for Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin
- 1 head of broccoli
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 2 oz/ 50 g butter
- 2 oz/ 50 g plain flour
- 6 oz/ 160 g cheese for the sauce
- 3 oz/ 80 g cheese for topping
- 2 slices of stale bread, crumbed
- 2 tbsp English mustard
- 1200 ml/ 2-pint milk
- Black pepper and salt
How to Make Broccoli and Cauliflower Gratin
- Measure your ingredients first.
- Remove the leaves and main stem from the cauliflower and broccoli, then break into florets.
- Add cauliflower and broccoli to a pan of salted boiling water.
- While the broccoli and cauliflower are cooking, start the cheese sauce.
- Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat.
- Sieve the flour into the melted butter and stir.
- Cook for two minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk a little at a time continuously stirring until you have created a smooth sauce.
- Season with the salt and black pepper and add the mustard.
- Simmer gently over a low heat for approximately eight minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.
- Drain the broccoli and cauliflower before adding to a large, oven-proof dish. Any excess water will cause the sauce to split, so dabbing with kitchen paper can help to make sure the broccoli and cauliflower are thoroughly dry.
- Pour over the cheese sauce so it is evenly distributed.
- Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top of the dish and then add breadcrumbs.
- Cook on a high heat in the oven for 15 minutes or until the top of the dish is golden brown.
Meat lovers– If you do not enjoy vegetarian meals, this is delicious if you add your leftover ham.
Spinach is a delicious ingredient that is packed with nutrients, meaning that including spinach in your diet will give you a variety of the vitamins and minerals you need to maintain good health. However, it is one of those ingredients with which people are often unsure of what they can do. There is a surprising number of ways to use this ingredient. Here are ten ways you can use spinach in your cooking.
- Spinach and potato soup– Spinach adds a delicious flavour to any soup but works particularly well with potatoes as it adds a rich flavour. Sautee the potatoes in butter before just covering with water until potatoes are cooked. Add the spinach and season with salt and black pepper. Blend to the consistency you prefer.
- Spinach and ricotta cannelloni– Add a mixture of ricotta and spinach to partially-cooked cannelloni tubes. Cover with grated cheese and bake in the oven.
- Spinach pasta– If you make your own pasta dough, you can add spinach to the mix. Not only will this turn your pasta green, thus making it more colourful, it will also add a little more taste.
- Spinach and mushroom ravioli– Fill ravioli parcels with a mixture of butter, chopped mushrooms, and butter. Serve with a sauce of your choice. I like a cream and mushroom sauce.
- Spinach and cream cheese stuffed chicken– Add a mixture of cream cheese and spinach to the centre of a chicken breast.
- Saag aloo– This is an Indian dish that combines spinach, potatoes, and spices. It can be eating as a vegetarian main or as a side dish.
- Eggs Florentine– Eggs Florentine is a simple dish for breakfast, brunch or lunch. It is a toasted muffin topped with sautéed spinach and a poached egg. Delicious and really easy to make.
- Super spinach salad– Spinach is just as tasty raw as it is cooked. Add spinach leaves to other salad leaves, sliced red onions, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumber and a dressing of your choice.
- Sweet potato and spinach curry– Sweet potatoes are a great ingredient to use in vegetarian dishes as they have an amazing flavour and are filling. Create a curry with sweet potatoes, spinach and the herbs and spices of your choice.
- Lamb and spinach curry– spinach and lamb work well together, so adding some spinach to a lamb curry is the perfect combination.
Although I love meat, I also enjoy the occasional vegetarian dish too. This courgette and tomato bake is really quick and easy to make. It is something I sometimes make myself for lunch as there is enough for two days. I also make it as an accompaniment to meat as a family meal. There is an ingredient that some people think is rather unusual (yes, it does say ready salted crisps on the ingredients list), but this is a delicious topping. This dish will serve two people as a main meal or four to six as a side dish. Here are the recipe and some tips for adapting this recipe to your own tastes.
- 3 courgettes (zucchini)
- 8 cherry tomatoes
- 6oz/ 170g crumbly cheese
- 2oz/ 60g butter
- 2 packets ready salted crisps (potato chips)
- Salt and black pepper
- Pre-heat the oven to the highest setting.
- Thinly slice the courgettes and halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes.
- Cover the bottom of an oven-proof dish with a layer of the courgettes.
- Add all the tomatoes to the next layer.
- Continue adding layers with the remaining courgettes.
- Season the dish with salt and black pepper.
- Chop the butter into small cubes and place them across the top of the courgettes.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the courgettes have softened.
- Remove from the oven and crumble the cheese evenly over the dish.
- Open your bags of crisps and crush the crisps by squeezing the packet until they become crumbs. Sprinkle the crisps crumbs over the top of the cheese.
- Return the dish to the oven and bake until the topping has turned a golden brown. This should take around ten minutes.
Meat lovers– if you are not a fan of vegetarian food, then simply add some ham or crispy bacon to the dish. Alternatively, serve it as an accompaniment to grilled or roast meats.
Fish lovers– courgettes and tomatoes work well with most fish, so this recipe is a great side dish to serve with your favourite fish.
Switch the cheese- I use Lancashire crumbly cheese and this is produced locally in the area in which I live. However, any crumbly cheese will achieve the same results. If you prefer a cheese with a different consistency, switch to using cheddar, Mozzarella, or any other cheese of your choice.
Adding flavours- I like this dish just as it is. However, there are plenty of other flavours you can add. Try adding garlic or herbs to give this a different twist.
On a diet- You can reduce the fat content of this dish by sprinkling the vegetables with water rather than adding butter before cooking. Using a low-fat cheese is another way to reduce the fat content. Rather than using ready salted crisps for the crunchy topping, opt for wholegrain breadcrumbs, instead.
Vegetables are an essential part of a varied, healthy and balanced diet. It is important that your child eats vegetables daily so that they remain healthy and develop normally. One of the biggest challenges parents face is getting their children to eat vegetables. This is sometimes because they don’t like the taste, texture, or color and occasionally because they have choked on a particular food when they were younger and this has developed into a phobia. Here are some tips on how you can get your children to eat vegetables.
Start As You Mean To Go On
It is important to introduce a wide range of vegetables from the start. This can be done even in the early stages of weaning your child as vegetables are ideal for mashing pureeing. They are also fantastic finger foods when your child moves to the next stage.
Set an Example
Children mimic their parent’s behaviour If they see you eating a variety of vegetables daily, then they will see this as being the norm and follow your lead. If they only see you eating junk food, then vegetables will become an alien concept that they be unwilling to eat.
Make It Fun and Involve Them
Making mealtimes and the food that is served can help the meal to seem more appealing. One way of doing this is to turn the food into pictures. For example, top a pizza with cherry tomatoes and slices of pepper arranged into the design of a face. Children also like to be involved in the cooking process and if they have made the food their selves or helped to prepare it, it can make the vegetables served more appealing.
Grow Your Own
Seeing the whole process of the creation of vegetables, from seed to serving on a plate, can make the food seem interesting. If they get involved in this process, they will feel pride in what they have achieved. It is also a great way to educate children about how plants grow and the sources of different food types.
Disguise the Vegetables
If you are really struggling to get your child to eat vegetables and want them to benefit from the nutrients, then you can disguise the vegetables. One way is to dice them up very finely in foods like casseroles, chilli con carne or spaghetti bolognese. Soups are also a great way to disguise the vegetable content as they are usually pureed. Similarly, making homemade pasta sauces with ingredients such as tomatoes, peppers and onions is a good way of disguising what their meal contains.