Despite careful menu planning, we always seem to have something lurking in the back of the fridge which is just about at the end of its life. On this occasion, half a bag of spinach was watching me woefully from behind the tomatoes every time I went to make a cup of tea. A little wilted but still edible, it had no place in the rest of our meals for the week – but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away perfectly good greens.
Here’s a secret: I’m a restless soul and haven’t the patience for bread-making. Our airing cupboard is for drying the laundry, not proofing a loaf – and I suspect I’d come back to find the dough littered with child-sized fingerprints and full of lego pieces if I tried.
Soda bread, however, is right up my street. No labourious kneading (just a quick once-over to knock it into shape) and no tapping of feet while waiting for the dough to rise. Fresh-baked bread with a minimum of preparation? Yes, please.
This soup was an experiment in recreating a meal we ate in a wonderful vegetarian cafe in Manchester. I remembered the parsnip and pear soup so fondly that I’ve been meaning to try it for a few weeks, and some parsnips left over from last weekend’s roast gave the perfect opportunity.
There’s probably a golden ratio when it comes to soup making, but as a home cook I often abide by the “chuck it all in a big pot and blend” school. It generally works out with some degree of success. Lately though, I’ve been forcing myself to combine flavours more intentionally in my soups – so they are less about using up the veg languishing at the back of the fridge and more of a meal in their own right. While “mystery vegetable soup” will almost certainly remain on rotation out of necessity, this dish confirms why deliberate combinations are so much more rewarding.
If there’s a breakfast food which is requested with astonishing regularity in our household, it’s pancakes. Most Saturdays, before I’m even fully awake, a small person (and sometimes a larger person too!) has placed an order for their favourite start to the weekend.
And how can I argue when they’re so simple to make? Usually I prefer to add ingredients by weight (a throwback to school home economy lessons) but this is a recipe where the measuring cup really makes sense. Bleary eyed and pre-coffee, it’s far easier to dig a cup into the bag of flour than it is to ferret around in the cupboards for the scales. And if you use a quarter-cup measure to add the flour and milk, it’s also the perfect size to portion out the batter in equal sized dollops.
Quick, simple and guaranteed to be enjoyed even by our super-picky child, pasta is a regular visitor to our dining table. We tend to make sauces from scratch as it’s healthier, more satisfying and a way to sneak extra vegetables in – not to mention it takes barely any more time and is usually just as cheap as buying ready-made.
That said, the one sauce I’d never attempted to make was… pesto. Fresh herbs can be pricy (unless you grow your own), pine nuts and parmesan even more so.
“It’ll be so expensive”, I told myself, “and won’t be worth the effort it’ll surely be to make it”
Christmas just isn’t quite right without a slab of dark, boozy, fruit-laden Christmas cake. But anyone who knows our family will tell you that organisation is not our strong point.
With a three-year-old creator of chaos and a fixer-upper house, we’re just not going to manage the patience and preparation that a proper Christmas cake involves. But all is not lost for us procrastinating types! There is still an option for those of us who decide (cough – as late as Christmas Eve – cough.) that we just can’t do without: the emergency boiled fruit cake.