School Lunchbox Menu: Spiced carrot and lentil soup, hummous and Arabic bread

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Some mornings, I play a game with myself, pretending to be in Chopped or Masterchef – limited time, but with a whole menu to produce + breakfast, (pathetic, I know… but it does inject a sense of excitement to my mornings…) This was one of those mornings. I woke-up at 5.45 am, and by the time I got myself to the kitchen, it was 6 am. There was bread to be made from scratch, soup to prepare, hummous and breakfast items as well. Took a deep breath prepared stuff in order of time needed – bread has to rise first, so I mixed the dough in the mixer and left it to be kneaded. Boiled lentils with vegetable stock, prepared carrots etc. Put dough to rest. Prepared hummous. Made breakfast and soup at the same time. Set table. Whizzed soup in blender. Rolled out dough (it had only 40 minutes to rise this morning…sigh) Grilled bread. Served breakfast, packed lunch. Done – hands up in the air! 60 minutes up!

OK, presentation could have been better for the hummous, however the soup is the nicest soup I have ever tasted. The creaminess from the lentils marry well with the sweetness of the carrots, cumin just enhances the richness of the mixture and the pinch of chilli flakes gives a little tingle on the tongue – not much.. just a teeny, tiny heat that announces its presence. Try making this soup – I highly recommend it. Dear son and hubby each had a big bowl for breakfast – the aroma is just irresistable.

Spiced Carrot and Lentil Soup (adapted from BBC Good Food)

Ready for blender

Ready for the blender

  • 2 tsp cumin
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 600 gms carrots – grated and chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 liter stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1/2 cup milk

Method:

  1. Dry fry cumin to release its flavours
  2. Place lentils and vegetable stock in a pot, boil till softened (about 20 minutes)
  3. Add chopped carrots, 1/2 of cumin, chilli flakes, olive oil, milk – cook till carrots are tender.
  4. Blend fine – add milk if too thick, sprinkle leftover cumin on top of soup prior to serving.

Hummous (Adapted from Arabicbites)

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  • 1 can (410 gms) chickpeas
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • pinch of salt

Put all items in food processor and whizz till smooth.

Arabic Bread (flat bread) from Arabicbites

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  1. Put all ingredients in a mixer bowl. Let mixer knead dough for 10 minutes.
  2. Let dough rise in warm place between 50 – 90 minutes.
  3. Gently punch dough, divide into 16 balls. Roll out in circles.
  4. Heat grill pan – grill bread 1 minute per side.

Busy week so far…

Pardon me for the tardiness in updating this blog. Wait.. wait.. there is a really great excuse for this, we have a visitor at home. My darling sister in law came to town on a break this week, so I have been enjoying the fact that there is another woman-person at home to talk to and spend time with. So much so that this blog has had to suffer for it, oops! However, lunchboxes continue to be packed, and have also had a little motivation to try out new recipes, e.g. chocolate macarons with salted caramel filling (ooooh, mama!) and baked coffee cheesecake, not to mention our little stash of cookies around my finally completed “hospitality corner.”

So what did I pack for my dear boy’s lunchbox this week? OK, here goes:

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Monday:

  • Roasted butternut, carrots and chicken sausage soup
  • Cheese scones
  • Steamed vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower)

Tuesday:

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  • Rice noodles
  • Chicken and vegetable broth

I separated all items – rice noodles is blanched in hot water and kept separate from the broth so that it won’t get soggy. The broth is kept hot in the thermos along with the chicken pieces, vegetables are also placed separately from the broth, otherwise there will not be enough broth for the noodles.

Wednesday:

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  • Lamb Souvlaki
  • Tzatziki
  • Home-made pita bread

I will fill in the recipes below each of the heading above later when time permits, but for now, I hope the pictures will help with some packing ideas.

Another project I had been working on is my abovementioned hospitality corner. One of the final purchases I made in Riyadh was the much wanted Cuisinart coffee maker with burr grinder attached. The machine grinds coffee beans fresh each time, and as the freshly made coffee is stored in a thermal carafe, there is no need for a hotplate to keep the pot of coffee warm either, so goodbye burnt tasting and smelling coffee! (Yes, yes, I did count the number of times I used the word coffee in the previous sentence!) Anyhoo.. it would be nice to have a corner where one can make coffee or tea and have some nibbles (cookies/biscuits and other lovely nibblets) – so, with all the hardware in place, it was time to bake. The result is a small jar of granola, and 2 glass jars containing oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip with malt cookies, to go along with the coffee and tea corner. Ahh… Now that is in place, I am a satisfied woman.

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To round this update up, I decided to make chocolate macarons with salted caramel filling because my son thought macaroons and macarons are one and the same… so he had to be educated, so there! (Yes, yes, and the education ended with all the said macarons being consumed the same night, sigh with nary a picture to take.)

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Finally, I made a baked coffee cheesecake for sister in law (and me,) to have with our coffee as we inaugurated the hospitality corner in my cute little house πŸ™‚ Hmm, we are running a little low in the cookie department, but no worries, I still have the dough all rolled up in the freezer, ready to be sliced and baked pronto when the last cookie is consumed πŸ™‚

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School Lunchbox: Broccoli and Cheese Soup, Baba Ganoush, Arabic Bread

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Well, yesterday’s soup was a success, and as it was red, I thought today, we would make a green one – I had been meaning to treat him to a cheesy soup, so broccoli and cheese was the perfect choice. It, however, took me quite a while to think up the accompaniment and after a few hours of heeing and hawing, the fridge provided me with the answer – 6 eggplants sitting forlornly forgotten at the back of the crisper. “Cook us…” it appeared to implore, so Baba Ganoush it was – egg plant and tahini dip. The Arabic bread was a doozy, seeing that I had the dough resting in the freezer already (an industrious streak saw me experimenting with a few bread doughs one afternoon, so the freezer is stocked with different types, calling to be defrosted and used.)

So, this morning while I was fighting with the skins of the eggplants, burning my fingers in the process (whatever happened to my asbestos fingers??) and muttering various unrepeatables under my breath, in sauntered the son who proceeded to down a whole bowl of the soup, voicing his approval happily oblivious to the fact that the kitchen was a right old mess. I had got more flour on the floor than on the bread, 1 bread was already burnt, another was on the way to being cremated, and there were at least a hundred items in the sink and on the workspace to be washed. Hubby wandered in then to get his vitamins – again… oblivious. I wonder if men are created to not notice messes? I was so frustrated by the state of the kitchen that it was all I could do to not scream at that point. Anyway… both were shooed out, had their breakfast while the lunchbox was prepped and photographed. It took a good hour of cleaning to get the kitchen spic and span again and I am thinking that perhaps, if I were more organized, such catastrophic messes can be avoided. How does Giada do it? Ina never seems to break a sweat and their kitchen is always shiny clean. Makes me wonder if they actually cook at all if the cameras are not on… sigh. On to the recipes:

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Broccoli and Cheese Soup

  • 2 heads of broccoli (medium) – cut into florets
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I mix cheddar and emmental – love the nutty flavour from the latter)
  • a little salt, some freshly ground pepper, and 2 tablespoons butter

– heat butter, sautee onion, garlic and thyme for a few minutes till onion turns translucent.

– Add flour and stir for 2 minutes (gentle fire) – add milk, whisking quickly so as to avoid lumps. Add chicken stock, let mix come to a boil and thicken slightly.

– Add broccoli florets and simmer till soft. Once broccoli is soft, switch off heat. Add cheese. Let it cool slightly. Blend till smooth and return to pot.

– If soup is too thick, add more milk, re-heat, careful not to allow to boil. Taste before seasoning, add salt and pepper and taste again.

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Baba Ganoush

  • 6 small eggplants
  • 1 garlic – chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • some salt to taste

– After washing, char the skins of the eggplants on the stove top. (This is not to cook the eggplants, but to impart the charred flavour.) Once the eggplant skin is blackened a little, put the eggplants on a baking sheet. Roast in 220 degree celcius oven for 20 minutes (or until cooked.) Remove from oven, put into a bowl and cover for 5 minutes. Let it steam – this will make skin removal easier. Remove the skin, and place the soft insides in the food processor.

– add all other ingredients and whizz…. taste seasoning. Adjust. Drizzle top with olive oil. Done.

** if you don’t own a food processor, you can chop the eggplants fine, and mash the garlic with some salt till very, very fine before mixing with the rest of the ingredients by hand.

School Lunchbox menu: Swedish meatballs, steamed veggies with cheese sauce and apple crumble

Lunchbox - Friday, Jan 11

Lunchbox – Friday, Jan 11

Another rainy morning. Ashraf has been asking for something cheesy. He loves cheese. He could eat something with cheese for all his meals and be perfectly happy. I thought about making broccoli and cauliflower gratin, but was worried about overcooking the veggies. So, I settled for lightly steaming his favourite veggies, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. The cheese sauce can either be poured on top of the veggies or, he could dip them. Just as I was packing his lunch away, he came into the kitchen and polished off the leftover veggies in the steamer, dipping them into whatever cheese sauce that was left in the pot. Hmmh. Hungry boy. Poor thing!

The apple crumble is just because it’s a rainy Friday πŸ™‚

So, here are the recipes for the meatballs, cheese sauce and the apple crumble:

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Swedish Meatballs (Recipe from Linda Holst – thank you Linda!)

250 gms fillet of beef, finely minced (any lean cut will do)

half an onion – chopped, sauteed in a little oil till translucent (Linda would just grate the onion into the meat mix.)

half of a beaten egg

1/4 cup freshly made breadcrumbs (I used the leftover garlic roll from yesterday)

1/4 cup milk

Salt and Pepper

Method:

– mix breadcrumbs with beaten egg and milk, leave for a few minutes for the breadcrumbs to soak up the milk.

– Add the sauteed onions and the breadcrumb mixture into the meat. Add salt and pepper.

– Make into little balls, put in the fridge for 20 mins (I didn’t have the time this morning) before frying.

– Heat a tiny amount of oil with an equally tiny amount of butter in a non-stick pan. Ensure that the pan is not too hot. Add as many meatballs in one layer. as you want. Gently cook and flip when done on one side. Make sure that the middle of the meatballs is cooked before removing from the heat.

** I usually serve the meatballs with some cherry tomatoes or fresh juice as the vitamin c helps with digestion of iron.

Cheese Sauce:

1 tablespoon of butter

1 tablespoon of flour

1 cup of milk

1/2 cup of grated cheese (I use vintage cheddar and emmental)

a pinch of salt, pepper, a pinch of fresh grated nutmeg, some paprika.

Method:

– Heat butter in a pan till melted (slow fire), add flour and keep stirring for a about 2 minutes until the flour is cooked (careful not to burn).

– Add milk bit by bit, whisking to avoid lumps. When the sauce is a little thick, add the cheese. Stir till all is incorporated. If too thick, add more milk.

– Taste the sauce, if not salty, add a bit of salt, then add freshly ground black pepper, grated nutmeg and paprika. Taste again. Adjust seasoning.

Crumble mix and apple filling

Crumble mix and apple filling

Apple Crumble (makes 3 rectangular foil muffin tins 4″)

Filling:

2 granny smith apples – peel, core and chop

1 small cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon brown sugar

– Put apples in a non-stick pan, add a little water to cover the bottom of the pan, add the cinnamon stick. Simmer covered until the apples are ready to fall apart (about 10 minutes)

– Once the apples are soft, add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar. Remove the cinnamon. Cool.

Crumble Topping

– 1/4 cup whole meal flour (you can use white flour if you like)

– 2 tablespoons cold butter

– 2 tablespoons rolled oats

– 1 tablespoon almond nibs or flakes

– 1 tablespoon brown sugar and a little more for sprinkling (optional)

Method:

– Rub butter into flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add sugar, oats and almonds. Mix to form a crumble mixture.

– To assemble, place 2 tablespoons of the filling at the bottom of the muffin foil. Sprinkle the top with crumble topping and add a bit of sugar on top (optional) for crunch.

– Bake in 170 celcius oven for 10 minutes or until the topping turns golden.

School Lunchbox menu: Roasted carrots and cauliflower soup, garlic fan rolls and crudites

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It rained, I overslept – woke up at 5.30 am and knew that this morning was going to be a tough one. It will be a full day for Ashraf, swimming session in school this morning, and later on, another 2 hour swim training session in the evening. He needs fuel, and it’s miserable outside. It’s a day for warm, substantial and flavourful soup, packed with vitamins. To go along with that, pillow-soft, fragrant garlic bread to dip in, with some extra to make cheese and veggie sandwiches with.

I did think that today, my timing was off, and Ashraf would end up taking soup with plain buttered wholemeal bread, which would have been fine. But I cut short on some of the dough proofing time and managed to get everything done. My boys got to taste the garlic rolls and soup before they left too πŸ™‚

So, all in all, the whole thing took me 90 minutes to prepare (I took out some time which was spent making breakfast,) and the result is well worth it. The smile on Ashraf’s face as he bit into the garlic rolls was priceless – and he got to take some extra rolls to share with his friends after swimming πŸ™‚

Here are the recipes:

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Garlic Butter Fan Rolls (adapted from dailydelicious – the original recipe makes 16 rolls, I halved all the ingredients)

115 ml milk – scalded and cool to blood temperature, throw away skin

3 gm instant yeast

1 tsp honey

225 gm bread flour + 1 tsp salt

15 gm margarine

halfΒ  of a beaten egg

25 gm salted butter, softened

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Method:

1) Add honey and yeast to cooled milk – leave to proof till bubbly

2) Mix salt with flour, rub in margarine. Once yeast is bubbly stir it in, add half of 1 beaten egg. Knead for 10 minutes (by hand) or 6 minutes with mixer – I used my hands – it’s therapeutic.

3) Once the dough is silky and non-sticky – oil a bowl, rub the dough with a bit of the oil and cover with cling film. Leave to double in size (about 45 minutes – but I cheated and put the bowl on a ceramic plate on top of the oven as it was roasting the veggies for soup)

4) Mix butter with crushed garlic and add the dried oregano (the original recipe calls for fresh parsley, I haven’t got any!)

5) Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, roll it out thin into a rectangle. Spread the garlic butter on the dough.

6) With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 6 long strips – stack the strips on top of one another. Cut the stack into 8 squares. Place the squares into buttered muffin tins (I haven’t found my muffin tins yet, so I used disposable foil muffin cups.

7) Leave to raise in cups for 30 mins, (I did not have time, I left it for 15 minutes only.)

7) Bake in 190 celcius oven for 10 mins.

Roasted Carrots, Cauliflower and Ginger Soup (Adapted from flavourfiesta.com)

3 large carrots, scraped and chopped

1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and cut into florets

1 red pepper cut into pieces

1 red onion chopped roughly

4 garlic peeled

Toss all of the above in olive oil, place in roasting pan, sprinkle some sea salt and roast in 200 degree oven for 45 minutes, turning halfway.

Method:

Heat 3 cups chicken stock, once boiling, add roasted veggies and onions. Simmer for 7 minutes. Place all in a blender and blend fine.

Put mixture back into pot on low heat, Add 1/2 cup of milk, stir. Add salt and pepper, a squeeze of lime juice. Taste, and adjust seasoning.

Mum's lunch

Mum’s lunch