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Fougasse - Fresh From The Oven Challenge

Thursday 29 September 2011
This month’s Fresh from the Oven challenge is to bake Fougasse and was hosted by the lovely Claire at Purely Food who runs the Fresh from the Oven Blog.  Claire left it up to us members to decide which recipe we used.  Therefore I decided to use the recipe from the Hairy Bikers Mums Know Best Cookbook.  It is SO easy, you should give it a go!

For the dough, you will need:

2 Tblsp Olive OIl

450g bread flour

7g Dried Yeast

1 tsp Salt

275ml Warm Water

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl to make a smooth but sticky dough.  Leave it to rise for 30 minutes, then knead for about 10 minutes.
Then roll out the dough into two large ovals and cut several slashes in it with a knife - this makes it easier to tear apart later on.  Leave the dough to rest for at least 45 minutes whilst you make the topping.  Preheat your oven to 200C.
Suggested Topping from the book:
1 x 60g jar of anchovies in oil
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled
10 green olives
2 Tblsp Olive Oil (from the jar of anchovies)
Use a stick blender to mix everything to a smooth paste and then spread the paste over the dough.  It will be a thin paste but you don't need much.  Place the fougasse on a baking tray and bake for 15 - 20 minutes - take care that they don't dry out too much.
Drizzle a littel olive oil over the cooked Fougasse and serve with a glass of chilled wine. Oh yes!!
After discussing the challenge with Aurelie, one of the other Mums at school who is French and hires herself out as a private chef, I used some tomato, anchovy and olive paste that I was sent with other ingredients from the Vaucluse Tourist Board to brush on top of the Fougasse.  (I blogged about the other ingredients I received in this post.)
Here's my Fougasse:

I did enjoy eating some with a chilled glass of wine, as did our neighbours. many thanks to Claire from  Purely Food for hosting the challenge and for all her hard work administering the Fresh from the Oven blog.

Quick Honey Mustard Beef With Seasonal Vegetables

This is a super quick recipe that I know my family will always eat without moaning.  My husband is a big fan of red meat, myself and my daughters - not so much. However this recipe has a good flavour and I make sure there is plenty of rice and vegetables, not just loads of meat.  Give it a go!

1 1/4 cups basmati rice (cook using your prefered method)

3-4 cups chopped vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli – whatever you’ve got)

400g rump steak, cut into short strips

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon butter

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon curry powder

small pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

cooking spray

Preheat the grill. Cook the rice using your usual method.

Cut the cauliflower and broccoli into small florets. You can put a steaming basket over a pot of simmering water, fill with the prepared veg and cover with a tight-fitting lid, then steam the veg until they are 'tender crisp'.  Or do what I do and microwave them. LOL

Heat a frying pan until it's very hot, spray lightly with cooking spray and sear the meat quickly in small batches. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and heat them gently.

Put the meat into a heatproof dish, pour over the sauce and place under the grill.  Turn the meat frequently in the sauce, until cooked to your liking.  Put the vegetables in with the meat and toss so the vegetables are covered in the sauce.  Pile the meat and vegetables on top of the rice and serve on a large platter or on individual plates.

Innocent 140 Lunchbox Tips Booklet

Tuesday 27 September 2011
You may recall on Thursday 1st and Tuesday 13th of September the lovely Maggie from Red Ted Art and Christine from Thinly Spread co-hosted a Twitter Party in association with Innocent Kids Drinks

We all tweeted our fingers down to stumps as we shared lunchbox wisdom and asked any questions regarding packed lunches that we needed answers to.  A HUGE thank you to all of those involved in organising the Twitter Party and those who have compiled the Innocent 140 Lunchbox Tips Booklet.

That's right there is a fab booklet with all of the best ideas and tips, along with a few delicious recipes, in the one place!

What are you waiting for?! Download yourself a copy and have a read whilst enjoying a quiet cuppa.

Whole Grain Flower Pops

I was recently sent some boxes of Nestle cereal and some fun recipe cards for my daughters and I to try out.  The fun recipes are designed to support the Team Whole Grain initiative, which is made up of Zoe Ball, Matt Dawson, Greg Searle and independent nutritionist, Juliette Kellow.  Team Whole Grain are encouraging busy families across the UK to be aware of the benefits of whole grain and to help increase their daily whole grain intake.

All of the recipes use whole grain cereal favourites such as Cheerios, Shredded Wheat, Shreddies and Oats & More, to count towards your 3 whole grains servings a day and are available to download at http://www.wholegrain.co.uk/.

We decided to try the Whole Grain Flower Pops.  They are so easy to make!   The options for decorating the flowers really are endless, sit back and let your children use their imagination.  These would be fab as a kids birthday party activity or task to keep kids amused on a rainy half term holiday afternoon.  

To make 12 flower pops you will need:

200g dark chocolate

And a variety of different whole grain cereals to make your own designs – we used:  Shreddies, Golden Nuggets, Cheerios, and Curiously Cinnamon

12 wooden skewers, remove the sharp ends if you wish

Here's how you make them:

Break the dark chocolate into small pieces, and microwavable on medium in 20 seconds blasts, stirring every time, until melted, but not hot.

Using the teaspoon, make round pools of chocolate on the prepared baking sheet, and place the wooden skewers into the chocolate, at one end, twisting it to coat it and make secure.

While the chocolate is still set, press in your desired cereals to form petals and the flower centres; try to mix up the colours to make pretty coloured flowers.

Chill for 10 minutes, until set.

Peel the cereal flowers off the greaseproof paper.

Push the other end of the skewers into a melon or pineapple to make a pretty display, or you can use a glass or cup as a vase.

We're going to try making sheep out of Cheerios next!

Channel 4 Food Website

Monday 26 September 2011
I cannot believe that I have been featured on the Channel 4 Food Website here.  There are many other, infinitely more fabulous than I,  Family Food Bloggers that I know who are also featured.

Homemade Gnocchi

I regularly use this recipe to make homemade gnocchi out of leftover mashed potato.  My children get sick of vegetable or fish cakes so this makes good use of rather unattractive leftover cold mashed potato.

You can flavour the gnocchi any way you like, however I tend to leave mine plain, then use a really rich and flavoursome sauce.  Give them a go, get kids making them too, they love mixing and shaping them.

about 2 cups leftover mashed potatoes

1 large free range egg, lightly beaten

1-2 Tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting 

Put the leftover mashed potato in a bowl and mix in the lightly beaten egg.  Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough.  Tip out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for a couple of minutes.  Don't overwork the dough though, or it'll become tough.

Divide the mixture into four equal portions, and roll each into a sausage shape. Cut each long sausage into pieces about 1 1/4 inch (3cm) long. Use the back of a fork to make a ridged pattern on each piece (sometimes I do and sometimes I can't be bothered).
photo by avlxyz on Flickr

Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes.  When they float gracefully to the surface, they are ready.  Scoop out the cooked gnocchi using a slotted spoon and serve smothered in your favourite sauce.

Lovely Crumpets - A Fab Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Recipe

This is the recipe that I always use to make crumpets. The recipe is so easy to whip up on a weekend morning and never fails to deliver a delicous, wholesome and comforting breakfast.  Sorry for the lack of photos of the cooked crumpets, they were eaten before I remembered to take a photo. LOL

You can find this recipe and other fab Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipes for breakfast treats from an article in the Guardian here.

450g plain white flour

350ml warm milk

350ml warm water (approximately)

5g powdered dried yeast

10g salt

1 tsp baking powder

A little sunflower or vegetable oil

In a bowl, whisk the flour, milk, water and yeast into a rather runny batter the consistency of single cream. Cover with cling-film and leave for an hour until really bubbly.

Heat a heavy-based frying pan or flat griddle over a medium-high heat. Whisk the salt and baking powder into the batter. Lightly grease the crumpet rings and pan. Put one ring in the pan, fill to just below the top – the batter should stay in the ring and lots of holes should appear on the surface after a minute or two. (If it dribbles out underneath, it is too thin, so whisk a little more flour into your batter mix. If lots of holes don't form, it's too thick, so whisk in some water.)

Assuming your test crumpet is OK, after five minutes or so, when the surface is just set, flip it over, ring and all. (If the cooked base seems too dark, turn down the heat.) Cook for two to three minutes, until golden on the other side. Repeat with the remaining batter in batches. Butter and eat at once, or cool on a wire rack for toasting later.

A pikelet variation: If you don't have rings, whisk an extra 50g flour into the batter, to stiffen it, dollop spoonfuls into a greased, warmed pan and cook for a couple of minutes a side.

Shepherds Pie - Courtesy of Netmums

Saturday 24 September 2011
I was asked to select a recipe from the Netmums Website, cook it and blog about it for British Food Week.  I was really rather overexcited as I became a member of Netmums not long after we arrived in the UK five and a half years ago.  It's a great resource for parents, not just Mums, with loads of great articles imparting advice and wisdom to those who seek it.  

Anyway, on with the cooking! The recipe I chose was Shepherds Pie because it is one of my favourite standby recipes and one I know my family, and others, will devour without complaint.

Here's the Netmums version of Shepherds Pie:

(serves 4)

500g lean minced beef or lamb

1 chopped onion

4 carrots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

200ml stock

200g tin of tomatoes

1 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp mixed herbs

750g potatoes

25g butter

Place the meat in a large frying pan and heat gently, stirring frequently, until the meat begins to brown. Drain off any fat that comes out of the meat (if you do this down your sink ensure that you have the hot tap on a the same time to avoid the solidifying fat clogging up your sink drain).

Add the onions carrots and garlic and continue to cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the stock and tomatoes and bring to the boil.

Add the Worcestershire sauce and herbs cover the pan and simmer gently for 25 mins giving it the occasional stir.

Meanwhile cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, then drain and mash, mixing in the butter.

Turn the meat into an ovenproof dish. Add on the mashed potato and smooth over.

Cook in a preheated oven at 200C for about 30 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown.


Add a tin of baked beans to the mixture if you've got extra people staying for supper; it also adds a nice flavour. Use parsnips or mushrooms instead of the carrots. For a vegetarian option, use Quorn or veggie mince and vegetarian Worcester sauce. Don't cook the mince first though - add with the stock and tomatoes. For a tasty, crispy topping add a little grated cheese over the mash potato for the last 10 mins of cooking time.

Here's how I got on:

I made this recipe for a friends family at her house and put then put it in the fridge for her to bake when she and her family got home.  She has recently had a baby and they went off to visit relatives for the day.  I cleaned her house from top to bottom and left her a nice dinner in the fridge, on the condition she took a photo of it before they ate it.

I browned the mince and then sweated off the vegetables.  I then followed the rest of the recipe to prepare the mince mixture.  I had to leave out the tomatoes as her husband has a great aversion to them, so I just used a little more stock instead.

Once the mince was ready I spooned it into a pyrex dish.

Then I topped the mince mixture with mashed potato.

I put it in her fridge and she baked it in the oven when they got home.  Here's her photo of the finished Sheperds Pie before they dished it up and ate it all.

She reported back that it was really tasty and there were no leftovers at all because they all had seconds.  A great result!

Do check out the huge variety of recipes on the Netmums site, there are some others I'm going to try out as well.  Happy cooking!

Versatile Beef Casserole

Friday 23 September 2011
I love casseroles, especially now that Autumn is upon us.  I really love recipes that can be stretched to feed us for a couple of meals AND are easy to prepare because the oven does most of the work whilst I rush about doing loads of other things.  Luckily for me, this recipe fits those criteria perfectly.

This recipe is easily adjusted to feed more or less people and you can also add some fresh or dried herbs to vary the flavour.  It is one of my autumn/winter standby recipes that is great to keep as an emergancy dinner in the freezer.   

Serves 8 (or the 5 of us in our household over 2 nights)

1 kg casserole beef, trimmed of fat and sliced 3/4 inch (2cm) thick

2 onions, peeled and diced

4 carrots, peeled and cut into small chunks

2 parsnips, peeled and cut into small chunks

3 tsp minced garlic (I use 3 frozen cubes of crushed garlic)

1 or 2 bay leaves

200ml red or white wine or beef stock

1 tsp paprika

2 Tbsp light soy sauce

300ml tomato juice

3 Tbsp cornflour

2 peppers, diced (any colour will do)

400g packet flaky or puff pastry

Beaten egg or milk to glaze the pastry

Cut the beef into large cubes and season with pepper.  Brown the meat in several batches, using a little oil.  Add a little extra oil if you need to.  Once all the beef has been browned, set it aside. Reduce the heat, stir in all the vegetables and garlic.  Cook everything until it has just lightly browned.

Return the browned beef to the pan with the bay leaf, wine or stock, soy sauce and tomato juice.  Stir everything together and wait until the mixture boils.  Cover and put in the oven at 160°C for 1 – 1¼ hours or until the meat is tender.  Taste and adjust the seasoning if you need to.

Mix the cornflour well with 50ml of cold water and gently stir it into the casserole to thicken it.  Add the chopped peppers and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Serve half of the casserole at this stage with mash and extra vegetables. 

Cool the other half of the casserole well. If you put pastry onto hot meat, the pasty will have a soggy layer underneath when it's been cooked. Eugh!

Either put the cold casserole mixture into a pie dish and cover with rolled pastry, or cut the rolled pastry into large rounds or squares and make individual pies/pasties by placing the casserole meat in the centre and folding the pastry over before sealing the edges.  Remember to cut a coulple of small slits to let any steam escape whilst they are baking.

Brush the pastry with beaten egg or milk to glaze it.  Bake at 200°C for about 25 - 30 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

These are fab to put in lunchboxes, take on picnics, or to enjoy freshly baked and hot for lunch or dinner with vegetables or salad on the side.

Rocket, Sunblushed Tomato and Capricorn Goats Cheese Pizza - Courtesy of Beryl the Goat

Wednesday 21 September 2011
I attended the Tech'n'Taste event last Thursday evening and was given some samples of Capricorn Goats Cheese, along with some other ingredients, and a recipe booklet with ideas to try.  I chose to cook two Rocket, Sunblushed Tomato and Capricorn Goats Cheese Pizzas.  They were delicious!

Here's the recipe for a single 10" pizza:

1 x 100g Capricorn Goats Cheese

1 ready made (or homemade) pizza base

125g tomato passata

1 small red onion sliced into rings

80g sunblushed tomatoes

A large handful of rocket

A handful of pitted black olives (I left these off the ones I made)

Salt & pepper to taste

Cover the pizza base with passata and sprinkle over the rocket.  Then sprinkle over the sunblushed tomatoes and onion rings.

Dice the goats cheese and sprinkle this over the pizza followed by the olives.  Season with salt and pepper if you want.

Place the pizza in the middle of a preheated oven and cook at 180C for 8 - 10 minutes.  Enjoy!

Here's the cooked pizza! It was delicious!
You can check out the Capricorn Goats Cheese website here.  You can also follow Beryl, Ethel and Dot on Twitter.  The goats have a blog too!

Chocolate Weetabix Slice

Monday 19 September 2011
We have had a glut of apples and one of the ways I use up the cooked apple, once we get bored with having crumbles and turnovers, is to make some of this slice. It's fab for lunchboxes and after school snacks. I like to have some with a cuppa mid afternoon, just before the school run.  It's also very easy to make, even my girls have  no trouble whipping some up.  Enjoy!

1 cup apple purée

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup dessicated coconut

4 Weetabix, crushed

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 Tblsp cocoa

1/4 cup chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 180°C.

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together gently until everything has just combined.  Do not over-mix it.  Press evenly into a swiss roll tin.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm.  Cool in the tin, then slice.

Innocent Design A Lunchbox Challenge

Friday 16 September 2011
The lovely people at Innocent Drinks sent us a lunchbox filled with innocent goodies, which my girls loved, and some stickers to customise the lunchbox.   and fill with a typical lunch that my daughters take to school.  My youngest daughter immediately claimed it as hers and loves it.

She decorated it all by herself, including writing her name on it.  Here is her finished masterpiece:

As you can see, she is very proud of it:

Here she is talking about her new lunchbox, please excuse the poor quality sound - it was filmed on my cheap mobile phone:

Here's what was in her lunchbox the next day:

There was an Innocent Squeezie and also some Innocent Juicy Water, a cheese and ham spiral, cucumber, carrots, tomato and a small piece of banana cake.

I've written a post with pearls of wisdom from our household about packed lunches, have a read and feel free to comment with more suggestions and tips.

Here's the recipe for the Cheese and Ham Spirals, you can vary the filling, cheese and vegemite also works rather well:

Cheese and Ham Spirals

chopped or shredded ham

300g (2 cups) self-raising flour, and extra for dusting

50g butter, finely chopped

180ml (3/4 cup) milk

80ml (1/3 cup) tomato chutney or pasta sauce

3/4 cup (90g) grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

Sift flour into a bowl and rub in butter using your fingertips. Add the milk and mix everything to a soft dough.  Knead the dough on floured surface until it's smooth.  Roll out into a 25 x 30cm rectangle.

Spread the chutney (or pasta sauce) over the dough, sprinkle with ham and then cheese.  Roll up starting from a long edge.  Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the roll into 12 slices.  Place the spirals on trays and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.

Cool on a rack then wrap how you like and pack into lunchboxes or freeze for later.

You can find Innocent Drinks on Facebook and Twitter too. They also have a fab You Tube Channel with delicous recipes for your lunchbox on it.  Don't forget to join in with The Big Knit if you are a knitter!

Lightly Spiced Slow Cooker Beef Casserole

Wednesday 14 September 2011
This is a fab, low faff warming stew that is cooked in a slow cooker. It makes enough to serve us 5 generously for 2 nights.  I'm at an event in London tomorrow night (SQUEEEEEEEE!) so my hubby will need something he can reheat and that is guaranteed to be eaten without fuss.  This casserole is perfect for that.  It tastes even better the second night.  Sometimes I freeze the other portion but more often than not I just serve it the next night with different vegetables on the side.

1kg beef braising/stewing steak cut into chunks

1 Tblsp flour

1 tsp ground ginger

1 onion, sliced

1 stick of celery, finely sliced

1 or 2 400g cans of chopped tomatoes

400g can kidney beans, drained and well rinsed

2 peppers, roughly diced (any colour will do)

3 carrots, peeled and chopped into chunks

2 bay leaves

2 Tblsp brown sugar

2 Tblsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp crushed garlic

2 Tblsp Worcestershire sauce

Trim excess fat from steak and chop in chunks. Toss meat in flour, salt and pepper, and ginger.

Fry in a non-stick pan until meat is evenly browned. Use a little oil if necessary.

Place everything in your slow cooker. Stir well to combine and cook for 7-8 hours on a low setting, or 4 hours on high. Taste at the end of the cooking time and season if necessary.   I'll be serving ours with with sweet potato mash and steamed greens tonight, and with potato mash, asparagus and runner beans tomorrow night.

Vegetable Pie

Monday 12 September 2011
I love making this for dinner, it's quick, easy and filling. Just what you need for a stormy Monday evening. You can use whatever vegetables that you have available, even leftovers work well.  The cheese sauce is quick to make and you cover everything with tasty mash. A complete dinner in one dish. My daughters love this meal and asked for me to cook it for dinner tonight.  Since we have all the ingredients, it shall be done. 

Creamy Sauce

50g butter

2 tsp mustard powder

50g flour

600ml milk

200g grated mature cheddar

Vegetables, use what you have available

2 carrots, peeled and chopped thinly

1 cauliflower, cut into fairly small florets

1 head of broccoli, cut into fairly small florets

200g fresh or frozen peas

small bunch of chives, finely chopped

2 - 3 large potatoes or sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the flour and mustard powder and cook for 1 min. Gradually stir in the milk until smooth with no lumps, then keep stirring until the mixture begins to bubble and thickens to a creamy sauce. Remove from the heat, then stir in the grated cheese, leaving some aside to sprinkle on the top.

Heat your oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7 and bring a large pan of water to the boil. Cook the carrots for around 5 minutes then add the broccoli and cauliflower and boil for another 3 mins.  Finally add the peas for 1 last minute of cooking.  Drain all the vegetables well.  Add the cooked vegetables to the creamy sauce with the chives. Cook and mash the sweet potatoes or potatoes and season to taste as this will cover the top of the finished pie.

Tip the mixed vegetables and sauce into a deep ovenproof dish, carefully cover with the mash and then sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Bake for 20-25 mins until the topping is golden and the cheese is bubbling, then serve.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam - Breakfast Club

Saturday 10 September 2011

I came across the Breakfast Club on Fuss Free Flavours.   This month Breakfast Club is hosted by Sonia’s Kitchen.

The theme this month is conserves.  To take part, simply make a breakfast using conserves, or make some jam, jelly, marmalade or nut butter.  Go on, give it a whirl!

Here's my entry:
 Strawberry and Rhubarb Jam

For every 500g of strawberries you have, add 250g of rhubarb and 125g of sugar.  Cut the rhubarb to roughly the same size as the strawberries and cover all of the fruit with half of the sugar and leave it overnight.  I just put mine in a very large plastic cake box-type container and rested a lid on top without clipping it down. 

By leaving the fruit and sugar overnight you draw the liquid out of the strawberries and help dissolve the sugar.  This saves time the next day, and I'm all for making things a little easier!

The next day, add the rest of the sugar to the mixture and then heat, stirring until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Make sure the mixture doesn't boil until all of the sugar has dissolved.  Once it has, bring everything to the boil and don't stir it.

Boil your jam for 10 minutes, before even thinking about checking the set.  It may be necessary to boil it for another 5 - 10 minutes.  If you can't be bothered skimming the scum off the top, wait until your jam is cooked and off the heat, then stir in a knob of butter - the foam will disappear. A BIG thank you to one of our elderly church members for that very helpful tip.

To test the set of your jam use a sugar thermometer (jams usually set around 105C), or by putting a little onto a chilled saucer.  Leave to cool in the fridge for a minute or two and then push your finger through it.  If the jam wrinkles, it's ready, so take it off the heat.

I taste the jam on the saucer at this point to check the flavour.  If it's too sweet then I add a squeeze of lemon juice to lessen the sweetness.  Don't add too much as you don't want it to taste of lemon.

Pour your jam into sterilised jars, seal them up and store them in a cool dark place.

This is my finished jam, it's a bit chunky, but tastes fab with a rich flavour.  I think next time I might cut the strawberries and rhubarb smaller so that it's a bit less chunky.  It would make a great accompanyment to pancakes and waffles, filling for small tarts or delicious pasrty turnovers though! You could even stir some through plain yoghurt or even rice pudding.  Now there's a yummy thought . . .

Hungry? - Innocent Cookbook

Friday 9 September 2011

The Innocent family recipe book is a guide to healthy, tasty, no fuss food that the whole family can enjoy, and that doesn’t take ages to make.  Basically perfect for me and the readers of my blog!  It has a mix of classic family favourites, quick ideas for when you’re in a hurry, posher stuff for when you’re not, as well as loads of stuff for kids to do, make and help out with.

Here are three video clips of easy recipes from the book that kids can help you make.  The recipes really are this easy to make, and they taste delicious!

Veggie Burgers

Fruit Mess

Chop Chop Salad

I received a free copy of the Hungry? cookbook from Innocent. I was rather chuffed as I had seen the book and considered buying a copy before I was offered a free copy. Take a look at a copy if you get the chance, I hope you like it and find it as useful as I have.

Packed Lunches - Wisdom from our household

Thursday 8 September 2011
I know that there have been loads of blog posts about packed lunches lately but I decided to publish mine anyway.  I hope that you find these ideas, tips and pearls of wisdom useful.  Please feel free to add any others that you find useful in the comments section below this post.

First and foremost relax! After having 3 children I tend to try and take a relaxed approach and not stress too much about school lunches. To stop it becoming a major battle of the wills issue I use an 80/20 rule. If my girls are eating well 80% of the time, I don't worry quite so much about the other 20%.

Try to set a good example with your own lunches and remember that lunch is only one of three meals a day, plus snacks. That means there's still plenty of opportunities to get them to eat a wide variety of foods that you would prefer they consume. Try to get them to eat a healthy breakfast, after school snack and dinner if it seems like your best efforts at providing a healthy and appetising lunchbox are going to waste.

Some kids love variety, and others will happily eat the same lunch every day for a whole term! The important thing is that you are providing, and hopefully they are eating, a balanced lunch. If you are blessed with a less than adventurous eater, don't worry too much about bombarding them with variety as long as they are eating a balanced lunch. Try new foods at home first, before sending them to school in the lunch box.

If you are having trouble getting lunches eaten, use peer pressure to your advantage. Find out what other kids have packed in their lunchboxes and use that for inspiration. Not only does it give you some good ideas for the lunchboxes you are packing, but it may encourage your child to try new and unfamiliar foods. This only works if their friends have balanced lunchboxes and not ones full of highly processed not-so-goodies.

Keep an ideas list handy on the fridge or pantry door. Sort it into a table format by sandwich fillings, sweet treats, savoury treats, and fruit. This is an easy way of keeping track of who likes what, especially if you have several children all with different likes and dislikes. Use pictures for younger children who aren't yet able to read.

Get your children to help prepare their lunch if time allows and if they're keen. They can plan their own menu from the options you provide. It's a good opportunity to talk about which are healthier food choices and why moderation is important.

Image from: good.net.nz
Practical Tips

Preparing healthy school lunches requires some forethought and planning. Children like lunch box choices that are quick to eat and not messy. A whole piece of fruit will be most likely be returned uneaten if it is bruised or battered. Put bite-sized fruit into small containers, peel satsumas, cut kiwifuit in half and don't forget to include a spoon.

Presentation goes a long way with kids. Healthy lunch box food is not expensive, but making it appetising to kids bombarded with advertising promoting the rustle of cellophane wrapped lunch box snacks, takes a little creativity and persuasion. Personalise their lunch and lunchbox. Use stickers to hold together the paper lunchwrap, or write little notes to include in the lunchbox as a neat lunchtime surprise for your child. Use stickers or fabric paint pens to decorate the outside of the lunchbox too.

Pack school lunches the night before and refrigerate overnight which saves a mad rush in the mornings. The food will stay cooler longer, especially if you're using an insulated lunchbox. Alternatively use a small frozen ice pack to keep the food chilled or freeze half a drink bottle of water and top it up with cold water in the morning. Add it to the lunchbox to help keep food cool.

Don't forget to buy some disposable plastic forks and spoons to save your kitchen cutlery going walkabout.

Sandwiches and Fruit

I vary the selection of sandwich based lunches by using rolls, pita, wraps, crackers and even savoury scones. I tend to keep the fillings fairly simple. I often find my girls don’t like sandwiches stuffed with salad but will eat a fairly simple sandwich and then eat carrot sticks, cucumber sticks and some cherry tomatoes. It makes the lunch seem more interesting to them if there are lots of small bits and pieces.

If your child doesn't like wraps or rolls, you can make plain bread seem more interesting by using shaped cookie cutters. Either cut the whole sandwich into a shape or cut a shape into the top slice of bread to make a window. Use the shape you have cut out to put on another sandwich and "glue" it on with whatever filling is inside the sandwich.

You can also make club sandwiches by using 3 slices of bread and layering them. Using a couple of different types of bread looks fab, layering white bread and wholemeal.

Make pinwheel sandwiches our of bread or wraps – roll up long wise and slice like sushi – wrap them tightly in cling film or greaseproof paper to stop them from unravelling.

Fruit doesn't always have to be fresh, you can use canned or dried fruits as well. Just put the canned or dried fruit into containers or use store bought individual fruit pots.

Beyond fruit and sandwiches - Other lunch ideas

Rice paper parcels – filled with thin carrot strips, tahini, cucumber strips and noodles.

Falafels – use homemade falafels with hummus dip, or put them in pitas with hummus.

Mini cheesy vegetable frittatas – use sweetcorn, pre-cooked potato cubes, pre-cooked vegetables and cheese.

Risotto cakes – use leftover risotto rolled into balls. Put a little piece of ham or cube of cheese in the middle.

Pasta Salad or Rice salad – use a combination of basmati and brown rice or wholemeal pasta. Make up the salad using vegetables and dressings according to your tastes.

Snack Ideas

Popcorn mixed with dried fruit and seeds (Scroggin)

Homemade pikelets or pancakes with jam or Nutella in between as a sandwich, or pancakes rolled up.

Homemade pita, bagel or tortilla crisps with hummus or other dips

Creamed rice in small pots (store bought or homemade)

Chunky cereal like Cheerios

Boiled egg - keep it in the shell to stop it smashing in your lunchbox.

Either cheese from a block cut into small shapes (using cookie/playdough cutters), or ready packaged pieces like Babybel.

Yoghurt in pots, pouches or tubes. You can put plain yohgurt in a container with berries, or a small spoonful of jam to flavour it if you prefer not to use kids yoghurts which can be high in added sugar.

Sweet or savoury muffins - banana and/or mixed berries ones are a big hit my girls lunchboxes.

Why aren't they eating their lunch?!

Lots of children bring their largely uneaten lunch home with them at the end of the day, which can be really frustrating. There may be a variety of reasons why your child does not eat some/all the food in their lunch box. With three daughters and many years of school lunch making, I've come across the following reasons:

The lunch box style – your child may have an issue with their lunch container. They might prefer a brown paper bag or want the latest fashion in lunch boxes to be like the other kids. It may be difficult for them to open.

Boredom or totally overwhelmed – try to pack a different lunch every day so kids don't get bored. However, resist the urge to put everything apart from the kitchen sink in their lunch. Too many choices or too much food can be overwhelming and daunting. For younger children, cut the sandwiches in different ways or shapes to add interest (see tips above). If your child's appetite seems small, offer smaller servings. Half a sandwich might be more appropriate than a whole one.

Too dry or too wet – if kids say sandwiches are too dry, try varying the fillings and leaving the sandwich uncut or package it differently. Some fillings like dips or peanut butter may stay fresher this way. Soggy sandwiches are dire! If you are using tomato, put it inbetween other fillings or skin and deseed it to prevent soggy sandwiches.

Too fiddly and/or too sticky – make sure the foods are manageable and easy to eat. Some children are put off by fiddly packaging or don’t like getting sticky hands. Make sure any containers you use can easily be opened by your children.  Fruit can be made easier to eat. See tips above.

Super Quick Chicken and Vegetable Chow Mein

This is one of my favourite quick dinners that I know will be eaten without complaint.  It takes no time at all and can be easily doubled or halved depending on how many hungry mouths you are feeding.

300g dried noodles

1 teaspoon sesame oil

60ml (1/4) cup salt-reduced chicken stock

2 Tblsp Chinese rice wine or white wine vinegar

1 1/2 Tblsp hoisin sauce

500g skinless chicken breast fillets, thinly sliced

1 tsp Chinese five spice

2 tsp grated fresh ginger or 1 tsp ground ginger

1 carrot, cut into matchsticks

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

4 spring onions, thinly sliced 

2 cups (about 3 handfuls) shredded cabbage

Cook the noodles following the instrucitons on the packet.   Drain and rinse if necessary.  Toss with some sesame oil to stop them sticking together.  Then set them aside whilst you make the rest of the Chow Mein.

To make the sauce, combine the stock, rice wine or vinegar and hoisin sauce in a small bowl. Mix together well and then set aside so the flavour can develop.

Sprinkle the sliced chicken breast with the five spice powder.  Heat a large wok or deep sided frying pan over a high heat. Spray with a little oil.  Stir-fry the sliced chicken in batches for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove each batch and set aside on a plate covered with foil to keep it warm.

Return the wok to a high heat. Spray with a little more oil.  Add the fresh ginger and carrot matchsticks.  Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped pepper, onions and cabbage. Stir-fry for approx 2 minutes.

Add the prepared noodles, cooked chicken and sauce to the wok.  Toss everything well to combine.  Cook for 2 - 3 minutes or until well heated through.

Hearty Sausage Casserole

Wednesday 7 September 2011
I recently discovered The Recipe Shed on The Reluctant Housedad's blog.  Go and visit as it's a fab and well written blog .  Anyway, the recipe for this weeks linky is one using sausages.  This is one of my favourite casserole recipes that easily feeds 6 people.  Instead of the crumb topping you could use mash or a cobbler topping.  Give it a whirl!

1 Tblsp olive oil

8 (750g) thick pork sausages

4 bacon rashers, remove the rind and thinly slice them

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 large pepper (any colour) thinly sliced

1 large leek, washed and trimmed then cut in half and thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 large courgettes, thickly sliced

125ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine

400g can diced tomatoes

250ml (1 cup) chicken stock

3 fresh thyme sprigs

400g can butter beans, drained and well rinsed

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (grate frozen slices of bread to make breadcrumbs)

1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

50g butter, melted

Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Heat the oil in a deep, 2.5 litre capacity, flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Add the sausages and then cook them, turning occasionally to brown them all over, for 4 to 5 minutes. Take the sausages out of the hot pan and cut each one into 3 pieces.  

Add the bacon to the casserole dish on the heat and cook, stirring so that it doesn't stick for 3 to 4 minutes or until it's crisp.  Add the carrots, onion, pepper, leek and garlic to the pan and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes, keep stirring them about, until they're soft.  Add the courgette and cook it for a couple of minutes until it has lightly browned. Pour in the wine and bring the casserole to the boil.  At this point add the tomatoes, stock, thyme, beans and sausages.  Stir everything together until it's well mixed, put the lid on the caserole, and bring everything back to the boil.  Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake it for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley and butter in a bowl.  Take the casserole out of the oven.  Remove the lid and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture over the casserole.  Return to oven and cook it uncovered for another 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden and crispy.  Serve with steamed greens.

Random Bakes of Kindness

Tuesday 6 September 2011

The fabulous Vanessa Kimbell came up with the idea of Random Bakes of Kindness.  To take part all you had to do was decide who to give your random bake to,  blog about the bake, the person who you gave the bake to, and write up why you choose them.  Simple!

So I decided to bake for the office staff and teachers at my daughters Primary School on the first day of the new term.  Despite being enthusiastic and all psyched up for the new year, the first day is always rather nerve-wracking and trying for everyone on the staff.  I thought some freshly baked cakes would go down well.

I made three cakes whilst having a total of 7 children in my house, and got them all to help.  Clearly I am slightly insane. It all worked out well though and I dutifully hauled all the baking to the school staffroom this morning.  I sneaked in just after drop off time so the goodies would be a welcome surprise for the staff at morning tea time. It's OK, I'm Chair of Governors at my daughters school so I'm allowed in the staffroom. LOL 

Here are the three recipes:

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

This cake is SO easy to mix! A great one for kids as even littlies can stir the mixture easily. Tastes fab too.

Zest of 2 unwaxed and thoroughly washed lemons

1 cup of oil

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups sugar

1 cup plain yoghurt

3 Tblsp lemon juice

2 cups self raising flour

Put the lemon zest, oil, eggs and sugar into a bowl  Mix toghether thoroughly until it's thick and well blended. You can do this with a hand powered roatry beater or electric beaters.  Add the yoghurt, and lemon juice and briefly beat it again until well combined.  Fold in the flour.

Pour the cake mixture into an 8 cup capacity cake tin lined with non stick baking paper.  Bake at 180C for 30 mins then check a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before you turn it out onto a wire rack.

You can serve the cake dusted with icing sugar but I decided to glaze whilst it was still warm in the tin.  I used the leftover juice from the zested lemons and enough icing sugar to make a thin icing that didn't taste too zingy.  The glaze soaked into the cake and it was lovely, moist and lemony.

Easy Tea Cake/Bread

This is a fab recipe if you feel like cake but have run out of eggs.  It keeps well in a tin and is great warm straight from the oven with custard. Not that I'm admitting to anything.

1 cup sultanas or raisins

1 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

25g butter

1 cup hot strong tea (without milk)

1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed

2 or 2 1/4 cups self raising flour

Measure the sultanas, mixed spice, cinnamon and butter in to a medium sized bowl. Pour hot recently made tea over them and leave them to stand until the mixture is cold.  It may look as attractive as a mud pie the kids make in the garden, but rest assured it smells much better than that, and will taste fab when it's cooked.

When the mixture is cold, add the brown sugar and self raising flour. If you use 2 cups of flour the tea bread will be more cake-like, whereas if you use 2 1/4 cups of flour the tea bread will be more bread like. Mix gently until just combined, don't overmix or the tea bread will be tough.

Line a 20cm cake tin, or a 23cm x 12cm loaf tin with baking paper and pour the mixture evenly in to it. Bake at 180C for 35-45 minutes in the cake tin, or 1 hour in the loaf tin, until a skewer pushed in to the middle comes out clean.

When cold store in an airtight container. It's best left for 24 hours, wrapped in clingfilm, before cutting and eating it but that hardly ever happens in our house.

Rich Chocolate Cake

Sift into a large bowl:

1 3/4 cups self rising flour

small pinch of salt (1/4 tsp)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup cocoa

1 1/2 cups caster sugar

To the dry ingredients, listed above, add:

115g melted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

2/3 cup milk

Beat everything altogether with a mixer on a low speed for about 3 minutes.  The mixture may be quite runny, do not be alarmed.  Bake at 180C for 25 minutes. Turn the oven off but leave the cake in the oven for a further 25 minutes.

Once the cake has  cooled completely, smother it with rich chocolate icing.

Spicy Vegetable Soup

Sunday 4 September 2011
We had this lovely soup for lunch today, was just the thing for a wet autumnal day.  I served it with homemade wholemeal crusty bread rolls.  It freezes well and is fab for a lunchtime treat if you take it to work in a flask or heat it up in the staff room microwave.  Use less harissa if you prefer your soup to have a milder flavour.

2 tsp olive oil

1 large red onion, finely chopped

1 Tblsp harissa

1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 pepper (red, orange or yellow), finely chopped

200g cauliflower, cut into small florets

2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes

200g thin green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1/2 inch (1cm) lengths

2 Tblsp couscous

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the finely chopped onion and cook it for 5 - 7 minutes, stirring it about until it softens.  Add the harissa to the softened onion and stir it about for 1 minute or so until it's fragrant.

Add the finely chopped carrot, pepper, small cauliflower florets, tins of tomatoes and 375 ml (1 1/2 cups) of cold water to the saucepan.  I just fill up one of the empty tins of tomatoes with cold water and pour it in to the saucepan, it's about right volume wise and you also get to rinse out the tin so you use all the tomatoes.  Cover the saucepan and bring everything to the boil.  Reduce the heat to medium. Remove the lid and then simmer the soup uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes or until all of the vegetables are tender and the soup has reduced and thickened slightly.

Stir in the green beans and couscous.  Cook the soup for another 3 to 5 minutes or until the green beans are tender. I always serve this soup with crusty bread.

Lamb and Apple Casserole

Saturday 3 September 2011
We're lucky enough to have some apple trees in our garden and I also have some fresh oregano and other herbs growing happily too.  I decided to make this dish for our dinner this evening as, after a long week, I wanted the oven to do all the work for me tonight.  You could use lamb neck chops, leg chops or shanks in the recipe.  There was enough to give some to our neighbours as well so it would serve about 6 people generously.

8 large meaty lamb shoulder chops, well trimmed

2 large onions, peeled and quartered

2 leeks - trimmed, washed and sliced thickly

2 green apples, cored and sliced thickly

3 large carrots, sliced

1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 2 tablespoons fresh oregano)

2 cups vegetable stock (or water)

2 tablespoons cornflour

1 tablespoon golden syrup

Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan and brown the lamb chops well and then tranfer them to an oven-proof casserole dish that has a lid. Add a litle more oil to the pan and brown the onions, leek and apple slices. Scatter the carrots and oregano over the lamb chops. Pour the stock or water over the top of everything in the pot. Cover and cook at 160°C for 1¼ - 1½ hours or until the lamb chops and vegetables are tender.

Carefully pour the cooking juices into a saucepan, leaving the chops and vegetables in the dish. Mix the cornflour with enough water to make a smooth paste. Stir into the cooking juices. Cook, stirring over a moderate heat until thickened.  Add the golden syrup and pour back over the chops and vegetables in the casserole dish.  Mix well. Serve with plenty of mashed potatoes and some steamed greens.

Weetabix Slice

I made some of this quick tummy filling snack today as my daughters seem to be hungry all the time at the moment.  It is useful in school luncboxes too or as an after school snack.  You can use whatever dried fruit, nuts or seeds that you have in your cupboards.  You can leave out the nuts if you wish, sometimes I substitute 1/4 cup of chocolate chips instead of seeds or nuts as a surprise treat.

2 crushed Weetabix

½ cup brown sugar

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup wholemeal flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

250ml 1 cup milk

1 cup dried fruit, e.g. raisins, roughly chopped dried apricots

1 cup seeds or chopped nuts, e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, walnuts

Mix all the ingredients together until well combined.  Press into a 18x28cm swiss roll tin. Bake at 180ºC for 25-30 minutes or until it's firm to the touch.  Remove from  the oven and leave to cool in the tin.  Cut into squares when cold.  Makes 24 pieces.

Lunchbox Recipes - For Kids and Grown-ups

Thursday 1 September 2011
There has been loads of discussion between us Mums and Dads on Twitter about school lunches.  So I thought, since my girls go back to school this coming week, I would blog a few recipes that my children and husband like to have in their packed lunches. 

Easy Falafels

I was given this recipe by one of the of the Mums at school and it's now a firm favourite in our house. The falafel can me eaten as a lunch in a wrap with salad, taken on a picnic or served as a weeknight dinner with couscous and salad leaves. The falafels are also freezable for up to 6 months in an airtight container. Great for make-ahead lunchbox treats or emergency dinners.

2 (400g) tins of chick peas

1 large onion, very finely chopped or grated

3 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp ground cumin

4-6 Tblsp plain flour

Salt and pepper

Oil for frying

Put the chickpeas in a bowl with the very finely chopped onion, crushed garlic gloves, cumin, ground coriander, salt and pepper. Use a potato masher or pestle and mortar to lightly mash the mixture until it begins to stick together. You can quickly pulse it in a food processor but don't be too over enthusiastic, you don't want a mushy puree.

Take walnut-sized blobs of mixture and and shape them into small flat rounds about 1/2 and inch thick. Roll the falafel in the flour ensuring they are well coated. Chill them for 15-30 minutes, this makes them much easier to work with. Heat some oil, about 1 inch deep, in a frying pan. When it's hot add a few falafels and cook over a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, turning them frequently. Carefully take them out of the oil and drain well on kitchen paper.

To use the falafels from frozen: Put them on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and warm in the oven at 180°C/(350°F)/Gas Mark 4 for about 10 minutes or until piping hot.

Serve with a dip and crudités, in a wrap with salad leaves, or as a dinner/lunch with couscous salad.

Yoghurt Dip with Mint and Cucumber

150ml natural yoghurt

2 Tblsp mayonnaise

Juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon

1 small or 1/2 a large cucumber, thickly grated then drained on kitchen roll

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 Tblsp chopped fresh mint leaves

Pinch of salt

Put the yoghurt, mayonnaise and lime/lemon juice in a bowl and whisk together well with a fork. Add the drained cucumber, garlic and chopped fresh mint leaves. Mix together well and, if you think it needs it, add a pinch of salt.

Cover the dip with clingfilm and leave in it the fridge for at least 1 hour to allow the flavours to mingle before you serve it.

Other recipes that are fab for lunchboxes include:

Super Quick Couscous and Chickpea Salad

Mini Meatloaf Savouries

Here's another couple of recipes that I use often:

Easy Banana Muffins

1 3/4 cups self-raising flour

1/2 cup caster sugar

1 cup natural yoghurt

1 egg

2/3 cup vegetable oil

2 large ripe bananas, mashed

Preheat oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 12-hole, 1/3 cup-capacity muffin pan. Sift flour and sugar into a bowl.

Combine yoghurt, egg, oil and 1 cup mashed banana in a large bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.

Spoon mixture into muffin holes. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Stand muffins in pan for 5 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve warm or cold.


You can use whatever filling you like with this versatile bread parcel, just make sure the filling isn't too wet.  Leftover bolognese or stew from dinner also works well if the sauce is nice and thick. 

8g sachet instant dried yeast

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar

3/4 cup warm water

2 cups plain flour

2 tsp dried mixed herbs (optional)

2 1/2 Tblsp olive oil

250g thinly-sliced ham

200g mushrooms, sliced

100g cheddar cheese, grated

1 small bunch spinach, shredded

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons salt

Combine yeast, salt, sugar and warm water in a jug.  Stir with a fork to mix it well. Cover with clingfilm and set it aside in a warm place for 5 minutes or until bubbles form on surface.  Sift flour into a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture, the dried mixed herbs and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix it all together to form a soft dough.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.  Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover it with clingfilm.  Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size. 

I do the mixing, kneading and proving in my stand mixer.  It's loads quicker and I can get on with other things whilst it does the job for me.

Preheat your oven to 220°C.  Brush a large baking tray with the remaining oil.  Knock the dough back and  then knead it gently on a lightly floured surface.  Cut the dough into 4 pieces. Knead each piece into a ball and then roll out each ball into a 10 inch (25cm diameter) circle.

Arrange a quarter of the ham, mushroom, cheese and spinach over half of each round, leaving a 1 inch (2.5cm) border around the edge. Brush the edge with water.  Fold dough over to enclose filling and firmly press the edges together to seal each round.

Put the calzones on the oiled baking tray. Brush the tops with egg which gives them a nice glazed top. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper if you want to.  Bake the calzone for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden and crisp.  Serve hot or cold.

Vege Parcels

These are fab to keep in the freezer for weekend lunches, or after school snacks as well as lunchbox fillers.  You can cary the fillings or use pumpkin instead of  the sweet potato.  I have been known to add some curry powder to the mashed sweet potato for an extra kick, or pesto mixed in to the mashed sweet potato works well too.

1 small sweet potato (kumara), peeled and roughly diced

1 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 potato (Maris Piper is a good type to use), peeled and finely chopped

1 handful of frozen peas

1 small can of sweetcorn, rinsed and drained

1 handful of grated Cheddar cheese

2 eggs, lightly whisked

3 sheets ready-rolled frozen shortcrust pastry, just thawed

Preheat oven to 220°C. Line an oven tray with non-stick baking paper.  Cook the sweet potato in a medium saucepan of boiling water for 10 minutes or until tender and then drain it well.  Transfer it to a heatproof bowl and use a fork to mash it smooth.  Set it aside to cool in the bowl.

Meanwhile, cook the carrot and potato in a saucepan of boiling water for around 5 minutes or until they're tender.  Make sure you drain them well and then set aside for 5 minutes to cool slightly.

Add the cooked potato and carrots, peas, corn, cheese and 1 egg to the mashed sweet potato and stir everything to combine it well.  Season with salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Use a 12cm diameter pastry cutter to cut 12 circles from the pastry sheets.  Spoon the vegetable mixture evenly amongst the circles of pastry.  Brush the edges of the pastry circles lightly with the remaining egg.

Fold the pastry circles in half to enclose the filling and use your fingertips to gently press and crimp the edges together to seal them.  Put the parcels on the lined baking tray and lightly brush them with the remaining egg.  

Bake the parcels in the oven for 15 minutes or until they're golden brown and cooked through.  Remove them from the oven and set them aside to cool.  Once they're completely cool, wrap them and put them in lunch boxes.

As an  added bonus you can freeze these parcels unbaked.  Just before you bake them, put in an airtight container in the freezer. When you're ready to defrost them, put them in the fridge for around 4 hours to defrost and then bake them for 15 - 20 minutes at 220°C.

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