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Leftover chicken soup (family recipe)

Do you ever roast a chicken, then the next day you scratch your head wondering what you can do with the leftovers apart from chicken sandwiches? Well here’s something filling and warming to try, that will feed the whole family. It would also work really well with leftover turkey.

I used onion, carrot, courgette/zucchini and peas in my soup, but you could easily put in other vegetables (it’s actually a great way to use up those last few vegetables that you’re not sure what to do with at the end of the week). And remember, taking a little bit more time to chop the vegetables into smaller pieces, will shorten the cooking time.

leftover chicken soup

If serving to a baby, don’t season after pureeing. You can either serve them just the pureed vegetable soup, or add some chicken and peas to their portion and puree again.

Nicholas likes searching for the chicken and peas in this soup, and I’ll often add some cooked pasta just to his for him to discover. Adding pasta is also a way to make the soup last for a couple of meals.

If you have a toddler who’s fussy about eating vegetables, puree the vegetables they’re less keen on and keep the ones they do like whole. Or you can puree all of it to hide lots of vegetables!

LEFTOVER CHICKEN SOUP

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Serves 4 adults
Freezable

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly diced
2 large carrots, chopped
1 large courgette/zucchini, chopped
1 tbsp dried sage
1 litre chicken stock
200g leftover chicken, skin removed and diced
150g frozen peas
salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large pot over a med heat. Add the onions and cook for about 5 mins until they’re starting to soften.

Add the carrots, courgette, sage and stock. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer for 10-15 mins until the carrots are cooked.

Remove from the heat and puree the soup until smooth. Season to taste.

Put the soup back on the heat, and add the chicken and peas. Simmer for 5 mins and serve.

Variations:

  • add some cooked pasta to make the soup more filling and to go further
  • use leftover turkey instead of chicken
  • use other vegetables such as potato, leek, butternut squash, frozen corn, etc.

Mini vegetable pakoras

Pakoras were my inspiration for these golden vegetable nuggets. You can use almost any vegetable you like and make them as mild or as spicy as you like. See if you or your little ones can resist them!

My recipe is over at Mindful Mum.

Minty pea soup

Nicholas is going through another of his phases where he can be fussy about eating vegetables. If I serve him protein and vegetables on the same plate, he’ll devour the meat or fish first and then just pick at the vegetables. We’ve been known to resort to bribing him with meat, along the lines of ‘If you eat another two spoonfuls of broccoli, you can have some meat.’ It works, but I don’t like doing it.

I was starting to rethink his meals, thinking about getting him to start with vegetables first before having protein, but without having to dish up the various components separately. A vegetable soup starter was looking like a good option. Then I read Helene’s post over at French Food Baby explaining the typical four-course French meal and I was sold.

What Helene does is have a vegetable starter before the main course, the logic being that you fill up on the vegetables when you’re at your hungriest, most likely eating a smaller portion of protein for the main. This doesn’t just sound good for little ones!

Helene suggests having a vegetable soup or vegetable finger food (cooked or raw) for the first course. I like the idea of offering a vegetable tasting plate to give your child a feeling of independence as they decide what to eat, and, as Helene does, you can have a couple of days’ worth of vegetables prepared in the fridge ready to go. Now I just need to get my act together and do this!

Soup, on the other hand, I’ve tried and so far it’s worked. A small bowl of soup as a starter at dinner and then I don’t worry so much about how many other vegetables Nicholas is eating off his main course plate (and meal times are less stressful). And you can find lots of soup recipes that don’t take much time at all to prepare (in fact you don’t want to be cooking the vegetables very long that their nutrients boil away). Keep it in the fridge for a couple of days and then freeze any leftovers for days when you don’t have much time (or desire) to cook.

I’ve been mainly doing root vegetable and lentil combinations, like carrot and lentil, but then saw this soup recipe on the BBC Good Food site and could immediately taste the sweetness of the peas and the freshness of the mint. I made a simpler version using frozen peas, omitted the garlic, sugar, lemon juice and buttermilk, reduced the mint slightly and used shallots instead of spring onions. I liked the taste of the soup without adding any dairy to it (I think it would lose some of its freshness), but I did add some small dollops of yogurt for colour on top.

This soup would make a great starter for adults at a dinner party or other occasion when you’re having a few courses as it’s not heavy on your stomach. It would also work as a cold soup.

You can , of course, use stock made from a stock cube (use the low-salt kind if making it for little ones), but because of the limited ingredients, it will taste much better if you use a good quality stock.

MINTY PEA SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 4 adult servings
Freezable (without adding the yogurt)

3 shallots, roughly chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
850ml chicken or vegetable stock
250g frozen peas
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
Salt and pepper
Yogurt to serve

Put the shallots, potato and stock into a large pot and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to low and simmer for 10-15 mins until the potato is cooked.

Add the frozen peas and simmer for another 5 mins.

Take off the heat and add the mint. Blend with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth. Taste, and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve hot or cold with a dollop of yogurt.

Variations:

  • use onion or spring onions instead of the shallots

What other ways do you use to get your munchkins to eat more vegetables?

Mini lamb and mint burgers with cheesy polenta

I love a lamb burger. Moist and still a little pink, it needs little else to flavour it. But just like the perfect pairing of roast lamb and mint sauce, throwing some fresh mint into the lamb mince adds a sweet zing.

I love the colour of polenta, but personally I don’t like it. Never have and don’t understand why people make such a big deal about it. HOWEVER, I mustn’t push my preferences onto Nicholas! I do think though, that cheese makes pretty much everything taste better (honestly I could live off cheese and bread, with the odd steak and potato thrown in every now and then). And with “cheeeeese” being one of Nicholas’ favourite foods (or “maggio” if he’s talking to Papà), I just had to add it to the polenta.

These are mini lamb burgers for little pudgy fingers to pick up and devour, but just make them bigger and cook them a little longer for bigger people.

Polenta, cheesy or plain, is a great meal for babies. You can leave out the salt and oil at the start of the recipe, and not add the butter after it’s cooked. They can have the polenta on its own while the rest of the family also have the burgers, so you just have to cook one meal.

Put any leftover polenta into a cake or loaf baking tin and leave it in the fridge. Once it’s cold, cut it into fingers, brush or spray with a little oil and fry for a couple of minutes on each side until crisp on the outside. Eat on their own or dip into a homemade tomato sauce.

MINI LAMB AND MINT BURGERS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 18 mini burgers
Freezable

250g minced lamb
1 shallot, finely diced
1 egg yolk
1-2 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
salt and pepper (optional)
Drizzle of olive oil

Mix the lamb, shallot, egg yolk and mint in a bowl with 1 tbsp of breadcrumbs. Season if using. Add another tablespoon of breadcrumbs if the mixture is too wet to mould into small balls.

Heat the olive oil over a med-low heat in a large frying pan.

Shape the mixture into small balls, flattening them when you place them in the pan. Cook for a few minutes both sides until just cooked through.

CHEESY POLENTA

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 2 adult and 1 toddler serving

500ml (2 cups) water
125ml (1/2 cup) milk
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup polenta or cornmeal
1/3 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
30g unsalted butter, chopped

Put the water and milk (and salt, if using) into a saucepan and bring it to a light boil. Turn down the heat to low and add the oil.

With a whisk, start stirring as you very slowly add the polenta. Be careful not to add too much at a time as it easily creates lumps which are then very difficult to get rid of.

Continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon every so often until it thickens and starts to come away from the side of the saucepan (about 20 mins).

Remove from heat. Add the cheese and butter and stir until melted. If the polenta is too thick, add a dash of milk. Add more seasoning to the adult servings.

Other uses:

  • Serve the cheesy polenta with a chunky tomato or vegetable sauce, or sautéed mushrooms instead of the lamb burgers.
  • Chill the polenta in a baking tin and cut into fingers; lightly oil and fry until crispy.

Spider web carrot and lentil soup

Growing up in Australia, I never remember doing anything for Halloween and it still surprises me how much of a deal it has become here in the UK. But it is a great excuse to let your imagination run free and add some fun to your meals, something that Nicholas is appreciating more and more.

I saw the idea for the olive spiders on Pinterest quite a while ago and loved how simple yet effective they are (I so adore Pinterest for getting the creative juices flowing!). And where there are spiders, there has to be spider webs, and ‘drawing’ a yogurt web on a bowl of soup is super easy.

I was originally thinking of making a butternut squash soup I regularly make in the colder months, but then I came across the lovely Blue’s recipe for a wonderfully thick and lightly spiced carrot and red lentil soup. It’s the perfect soup to continue my ‘crusade’ to add some spice to Nicholas’ palate!

I usually use homemade stock for soups, but if you use the freshest ingredients, you can actually get away with just using water instead of stock (add a bit more seasoning though).

SPIDER WEB CARROT AND LENTIL SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Makes 4 servings

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
A pinch of chilli flakes
600g carrots, washed but not peeled, coarsely grated
1 onion, roughly chopped
140g red lentils
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
125ml milk
Salt and pepper
Plain yoghurt to serve
Black kalamata olives to decorate

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the cumin, coriander and chilli flakes. After a minute or so, when you can smell the spices, add the chopped onion and carrot. Season to taste. Stir and let fry gently for a couple of minutes.

Add the hot stock, lentils and milk. Bring almost to the boil then drop the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and cooked. Check if you need to add more seasoning.

Puree the soup until smooth.

To serve, use a spoon to make a spiral of yogurt on top of each bowl of soup (or use a piping bag if you want to be more precise). Then make more yogurt lines starting in the centre and lightly dragging them to the edge to create a web-like pattern.

Decorate with olive spiders by using half an olive for the body and slices of the other olive half for legs.

How are you letting your creativity shine for Halloween?

Vegetable Korma

I’ve talked before about not being very adventurous with spice in Nicholas’ food, but I’ve been trying to extend his tastebuds by adding different spicy flavours. Last week we went to our local pub for dinner and chose a mild chicken curry off their good children’s menu. When I tasted it I was surprised by the level of spiciness (closer to medium than mild), so was very curious to see Nicholas’ reaction. He loved it! Here’s to more spice then.

You can find some interesting and easy Indian-inspired baby and toddler recipes on the Homemade Baby Food Recipes site. My vegetable korma is a very slight adaptation of one they say you can give babies from 7 or 8 months (please use your discretion and your expert knowledge of your baby to decide when to introduce some aromatic spices to their food, and it’s always best to only introduce one new spice or food at a time).

This has a mild level of spiciness, more warming than hot, so perfect for even young tastebuds. Next time I’ll double the quantities of spice (so 1/4 tsp of each) and add some chopped or crushed garlic at the start for some more oomph.

You can really use any vegetables you have on hand for this korma. Sweet potato, green beans, bell peppers (capsicum), mushrooms and broccoli would all work well. Don’t worry too much about measuring exact quantities; trust your instinct to add more or less of each vegetable. It takes a bit more time, but cutting the vegetables into quite small pieces means they cook quicker and keep more of their nutrients.

Toddlers can eat the korma as is with some rice. For babies, blend the vegetables after it’s cooked or, if your munchkin is fine with some lumps, roughly mash it with a fork or potato masher.

VEGETABLE KORMA

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 25 mins
Makes 3-4 toddler portions
Freezable

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1/2 cup cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup peas
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 tbsp unsweetened dessicated coconut
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 cup water
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) ground ginger
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) cumin
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) turmeric
1/8 tsp (or a large pinch) ground coriander
Salt to taste (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook for a few minutes until the onion is translucent and the carrot is starting to become softer.

Add the tomato puree and spices. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously.

Add the remaining vegetables, coconut and water (and salt, if using). Stir, turn up the heat to medium-high and bring it to the boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked.

If serving to a baby, either blend the mixture until a smooth puree, or roughly mash with a fork or potato masher for a lumpier puree.

For a toddler, serve with cooked rice.

Variations:

  • Use different vegetables such as sweet potato, broccoli, bell peppers (capsicum), green beans or mushrooms.
  • Add chopped or crushed garlic to the onion and carrot.
  • Add grated fresh ginger to the onion and carrot.
  • Add a spoonful of coconut cream at the end.

Have you introduced spice to your little one’s food? Do they like it?

Fish fingers with wedges and mushy peas

After a week of cupcakes, it’s definitely time to return to healthier meals!

Nicholas has been at the stage where he wants to eat what we’re eating for a while now. Most of the time that’s fine, and it makes my job easier only having to prepare one meal each time instead of two. But sometimes he doesn’t like what we eat or I want him to eat a more balanced meal than we’re having.

I’ve started taking more care in how I present food to him, trying to include different colours of foods, making cute patterns, building towers of food (cheese works well!) or just putting it on colourful plates. This has really worked and has stopped him throwing tantrums when he wants to eat our dinner instead of his own.


Giving him a few different choices on the same plate also works. His developing independence means he’s happier when he’s choosing what goes into his mouth. It means meal times are longer as he decides what he should try next, but everyone is more relaxed.

My fish fingers and wedges are baked rather than fried to be healthier. The fish takes only a few minutes to cook so the breadcrumbs don’t turn that brown; you could add some turmeric to the breadcrumbs for a more golden colour.

FISH FINGERS WITH WEDGES AND MUSHY PEAS

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 25-30 mins
Makes 1 toddler serving

1 medium potato, unpeeled
Drizzle of olive oil or cooking spray
1/2 skinless fillet of white fish (haddock, cod, plaice, etc.)
3-4 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
3-4 tbsp breadcrumbs
4 tbsp frozen peas
Small sprig of mint, finely chopped
Small piece of butter
Salt and pepper (optional)

Heat the oven to 200C and line an oven tray with foil.

Scrub the potato clean and pat it dry. Without peeling it, cut it into wedge shapes. Put them into a small saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Boil for about 5 mins until they start getting softer.

Either drizzle a little olive oil on the lined oven tray or spray with cooking spray. Place the partly cooked wedges on the tray, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper if using. Cook  for about 20 -25 mins, turning them about halfway through, until crisp and brown on the outside.

Put your frozen peas into a small microwave-safe bowl and add 1/2 tsp water and the chopped mint. Cover and cook on medium for 1 min. Stir and cook for another 30 secs on medium. Drain any excess water, add a little butter and roughly mash for a fork. Cover and keep warm.

Cut the fish into thin strips, checking for any bones. Lightly season if you wish.

Prepare your three bowls for coating the fish: one bowl with flour, one with the beaten egg and the other with the breadcrumbs. Dip the fish strips into the flour shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg and let the excess drip off before dipping into the breadcrumbs to coat.

Put the fish onto the same oven tray as the cooking wedges. The fish fingers will only take a few minutes to cook, but the time will depend on the size you cut them. Take one out after 3 or 4 mins to check, remembering they will keep cooking for a little bit after you take them out of the oven.

Once the fish fingers and wedges are cooked, serve them with the mushy peas and some creme fraiche or yogurt for dipping (or ketchup if you really have to!).

Variations:

  • add some grated parmesan to the breadcrumbs for a cheesy coating
  • add a pinch of turmeric to the breadcrumbs for a more golden colour

Tip: to make your own breadcrumbs from leftover bread look at my previous tip.