Saturday Soup

Every Saturday I’m always surprised that only a couple of hours after consuming their own body weight in syrup laden pancakes the kids are starving hungry. And, whilst I’m usually pretty reliable on the dinner front, what with the meal planner and everything, often I get to Saturday lunch time and think “what the hell do we have to eat?”

But when I think about it a little we normally have the ingredients to throw together some sort of soup and looking out at the frosty grass in the garden it seems that we are firmly entrenched in soup season.

So here are a few soups which I have been making lately and which have really hit the spot:

Rachel Roddy’s Winter minestrone of celery, pumpkin, cavolo nero and white beans

 I’ve been using Rachel Roddy’s recipes since last year when I asked for her book “Five Quarters of Rome” for Christmas, after seeing her at a Guardian Cook event. The recipes are fantastic for getting loads of flavour out of very little ingredients and I seem to have developed a liking for soups with beans in, which is reality turn into more of a broth. This one is a pretty darn good and satisfying soupIMG_0064.JPG

 Serves 6

500g cavolo nero, thick stems removed and chopped, leaves rolled and shredded

1 large onion, diced

3 ribs of celery, with a few leaves, diced

6 tbsp olive oil

Salt and black pepper

400g pumpkin/squash flesh, in 1cm chunks

1 potato, in 1cm chunks

400g cooked white beans

1.5 litres of water or bean broth (or a mix of both)

A parmesan rind (if you have one)

A small sprig of sage

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan and slowly fry the onion, celery and a pinch of salt, until soft, which will take about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the squash and potato to the pan along with the cavolo nero stems and a tiny pinch of salt, stirring to prevent sticking, until each chunk glistens with oil. Add half the cavolo nero leaves, half the beans, the water and the parmesan rind.
  3. Raise the heat so the soup nearly boils, and then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the rest of the cavolo nero and beans. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed then chop the sage and add it. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes, then serve, passing round a bowl of grated parmesan for anyone who wants it.

In reality my version of this was a little different given I didn’t have any squash, sage or a handy parmesan rind. I popped in some sweet potato though and added some cheddar (sorry Italians) at the end as I thought it needed a boost of flavour no doubt caused by my lack of essential ingredients!

Feed the Team’s red pepper and sweet potato soup


 3 sweet potatoes, diced

1 red pepper, diced

1 red onion, chopped

1 litre chicken or veg stock

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

Olive oil

Soften the onion in the olive oil, then add the other veg and cook for a few minutes. Add the stock and spices and simmer until soft. Blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Serve with a little sour cream and extra paprika.

Alternatively, you can roast all of the veg together on a baking tray for about 15-20 minutes and then out in a pan with the stock for 5 minutes to heat through; blend and serve as before.

I find the colour of soup is often the most important thing and my eldest would only eat “orange” soup for quite some time! He has moved on since though and the next recipe is his favourite.

Billy’s favourite leek and potato soup

1 leek, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 potatoes, cubed

1 litre chicken or veg stock

Olive oil

Soften the onion in the olive oil, add the leek and potato and cook for a few minutes. Add the stock and simmer until the potato is soft. Blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Add a bit of cream or milk if you fancy it.

To be honest it doesn’t get much easier or quicker than this and given we’ve got a leek festering in the fridge I think this is the one for today!





Berlin with Kids


It’s taken me a while to get round to this but I thought I’d finally put pen to paper (well the digital version at least) and jot a few notes about our Berlin trip and, most importantly, what we learned about getting around Berlin with kids…

The Airport

First and foremost if I can make anyone’s trip to Berlin with kids easier then I’d love to do so and this would be my number one tip. If you’re arriving into the airport at anything approaching a late hour TAKE A CAB.  It’s expensive, true, which is why we initially decided against it, but just factor it into the travel costs and it will be worth every penny.

We arrived late, having done all of the research about what trains to get, where to get off, how to get to our place etc. and it still went horribly wrong. I’m still not quite sure how it went so horribly wrong but the trains were not running as advised by a million websites and we found ourselves still at the airport at 11pm with a pissed off Airbnb person calling because they were waiting for us and increasingly exhausted children (and a very frazzled mummy).

I’m sure plenty of people will say they made it into town fine and, if it was during the day, I’d still give it a go but if it’s late and you have kids… take a cab.

Where To Stay

We did a bit of digging before we went to Berlin about the best place to stay. Hotels are out if you want to have any kind of conversation in the evenings so as usual we opted for Airbnb and there were loads of fab apartments to choose from for really good prices (although book early for the best as we are disorganized and ended up with our 5th or 6th choice).

Having asked around a bit and done some research on family friendly suburbs we settled on Prenzlauer Berg as the best place to stay and it didn’t disappoint. It was close to the centre of town, had good transport links, plenty of family friendly amenities (there were 2 playgrounds on our street) and is also home to the amazing Mauerpark which turns into a huge, trendy flea market on Sundays which was great for a mooch.  It’s also home to a million lovely bars and restaurants should you be able to make the most of such things!

For the Grown Ups

We spent 3 days in Berlin and so figured that we had plenty of time to see things that we wanted to see as well as keeping the kids happy with sights more tailored to them.

We spent the first day in Central Berlin on Museum Island which is home to five museums including the Pergamon Museum (housing the Pergamon altar), the Bode Museum (Byzantine art), the Neues Museum (Egyptian artefacts), the Alte Nationalgalerie (nineteenth century art) and the Altes Museum (ancient art and sculptures). We actually only went into the Neues Museum and that was to check out the building which was renovated by David Chipperfield after being destroyed in the war (my other half is an Architect) but it was also interesting for the kids as it was full of Egyptian mummy paraphernalia and, of course, a gift shop where Max bought himself a template for writing in hieroglyphics which kept us busy that evening.

We would have liked to also take a trip up the Reichstag building but unfortunately we didn’t book our (free) ticket early enough. We checked the website about 10 days before we left so if you are planning a trip do look it up early as it looks fab.

The final stop on the first day was the Brandenburg Gate and also the nearby Holocaust Memorial, created by Peter Eisenman and Buro Happold in 2004. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what I would make of the memorial, and particularly with 2 small kids in tow who clearly have no concept of the Holocaust and the profundity of its impact but I’m really glad we visited it.  Firstly because it’s an amazing structure, or set of structures, in itself and every turn you take gives you a different view that you just have to photograph.  But secondly because despite feeling a bit of trepidation about how loud they would be in such a potentially solemn place, I looked around me and saw people of all different ages taking it in in very different ways and I found it quite comforting to see that this place where we go to remember can be accessible to all.

Where we were staying in Prenzlauer Berg was also close to a still standing section of the Berlin Wall which I found fascinating – but the kids not quite so much. Try as I might to explain the significant of a wall which stood during my lifetime dividing a city and country, to them it was just a wall, perhaps one to revisit in 10 years!

For the Kids

On our second day we visited the Natural History Museum which was a short tram ride from where we were staying. I was really impressed with the museum which had some pleasingly large dinosaur skeletons but a lot of other displays, including a planetarium type room (although the commentary was of course all in German) and a fascinatingly eerie room of animals in formaldehyde which looked like something out of a horror movie.  And, of course, another gift shop where Max bought some crystals which then cracked by iPhone screen when I confiscated them 10 minutes later for some minor infraction.  FML.

We spent a happy hour or two there on a Sunday morning and it would be a good pitstop to make if the weather was bad.

For Everyone

After the Natural History Museum we visited the huge Mauerpark which was just behind where we were staying so we could see the stalls going up from our window. The place turns into a giant flea market every Sunday with all manner of stalls including vintage clothing, bags and food with amazing looking treats.  Wandering through the park we also stopped to watch a basketball game, several musicians (including a German guy singing Oasis songs) and a guy blowing enormous bubbles.  We also spent some time in the sand-filled playground and visited the small farm where Max fell in love with a goat.

On our final day we visited Berlin Zoo (or Zoological Garden). You might think this one would come under the “For the Kids” section and we did head there thinking that would be the case but the zoo was just so amazing that I think it was just as great for us as it was for them.

The highlights had to be the wolves (Max’s all-time favourite animal) who helpfully put on a display fight while we were watching to his amazement but especially the hippos who live in a huge indoor tank and were being fed when we arrived. I’ve never seen hippos before and to be literally centimetres away from these amazing animals as they swam around and occasionally attempted to climb out of the tank was an unbelievable experience.

On top of that there were probably a dozen animals that I had never seen before so I felt like a 5 year old seeing them for the first time.   We came away very happy and had sausage for tea on the way home.

The Food

It wouldn’t be a Feed the Team post if I didn’t comment on the food although I have to say I unfortunately had a bug when we were there and so couldn’t eat that much, very sad. We were expecting plenty of sausage and there was indeed plenty of sausage (including the very famous Konnopke’s Imbiss under a railway bridge in Prenzlauer Berg) but there was a lot more too.  On our first day we found a very trendy café close to Museum Island which served amazing burgers and after the Natural History Museum we stopped at a café on the junction where the wall divided the city and where the kids split a pasta dish that was big enough to serve 4.

All in all we had a great time in Berlin. Despite the bad airport experience the transport system was very easy to navigate, even with a buggy and 2 small kids, there was plenty to see and do for all of us and the food wasn’t bad either (as long as you like sausage).  City breaks with kids are not exactly the city breaks of old – if you want to get around there is an inevitable amount of carrying to be done – but I remain undeterred and will happily do it all again, I just need a few weeks to rest my back.

Emma xxx

Sunshine blogger award!

It’s always a lovely thing when you get a note to let you know that someone out there is reading what you have to say.  The mum and the foodie community on Instagram and beyond is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives every day and not only do we appreciate so much every reader we have but we also enjoy reading about other people’s lives too – and seeing the outfits, always the outfits.

Thanks to Confessions of a working mum @confession_mum for nominating us for this Sunshine Blogger Award and here’s our answers to your questions!

Why did you start blogging?

We starting blogging because more and more people, mostly friends, were asking about the meal plans that I (Emma) would put together for my young family.  We all love food and so having somewhere to share our ideas and also, importantly, something that we can do together has been a really great experience.
What is your favourite childhood memory?

That’s a toughie.  Mostly because my memory is terrible, I struggle to remember what happened yesterday.  I think I’d say that the memories I have of our holidays when I was a kid, travelling around France in a caravan with all of my brothers and sisters (there are 5 of us) are pretty special.
If you could be any superhero who would it be and why?

Wonder Woman for the outfit.
What colour best describes your personality?

My favourite colour is blue but that would make me sound like a Debbie Downer.  I’d say I’m more of an orange, something that can be both high energy and pretty mellow all at the same time.
What is your favourite book and why?

I have so many, I love to read and studied English Literature at Uni.  If pushed I’d probably say Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy.  It’s the strong female main character, the quiet but enduring love, it’s a perfect story.  But also Little Women.  More strong women and sisters who stick together.
What’s the one piece of advice you are going to make sure you pass onto your children?

If there’s one thing I try to get across to them above all else it’s be kind.  There are so many things that I want for them and so many things that I love about them but it’s when they show real kindness that I’m at my proudest.
What’s the most funny/absurd thing that has happened to you as a parent so far?

Every day you find yourself saying something truly absurd to them which keeps life interesting.  I think it’s the times when things go so unbelievably wrong that are the funniest, like when you find yourself on a 3 hour flight with a sociable toddler who has just done a massive poo.. with no nappies.  Come to think of it, a lot of them are toilet related…
Cats or dogs?

I suppose I should really say cats since we have one…
If you could visit anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

So so many places, I also love to travel and did a round the world trip by myself in my mid-twenties.  I still try to do as much as we can but it has definitely been slightly curtailed by kids.  I would say that in the short term I’d like to take the kids to the US and then when they’re a bit bigger I’d like to see Costa Rica, go on safari and also take my family to Australia where I lived for a year.
What is the best or worst piece of parenting advice you’ve received?

I was actually thinking about this earlier today!  When you’re in the throes of the newborn days you have so many people telling you to make the most of it when, if you’re anything like me, you feel shellshocked, exhausted and terrified and making the most of it feels far from your mind.  But then again you get to where I am now (a 5 and nearly 3 year old) and you yearn for the newborn smell and wish that you really had made the most of it!  I think if I could give the same advice I’d tell people in the same breath to enjoy it as often as you can and also that it’s going to get better.  There’s too much pressure in the early days to feel like you’re having the best time ever and that’s a tough thing for women to live up to in my experience.

Thanks so much for the questions it was fun to think about my answers!

I’ll nominate:

  • Manc Mamas
  • Rainy City Kids
  • Teashop Diaries

And here are the questions…

  1. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
  2. If you could have anything for Christmas what would it be?
  3. How would you describe the first week of being a mother?
  4. Favourite book?
  5. What’s the best baby name you never got to use?
  6. What would you choose for your last meal?
  7. And what’s the one thing you can’t stand to eat?
  8. What’s your guilty pleasure?
  9. Your favourite holiday destination?
  10. Jamie or Nigella?

Let me know if you get round to posting so I can read the results!



Meal Planner (Archive)

Week commencing 14th November


How’s about my new pens then? I’m feeling pretty professional right now… Chalkboard could still do with a bit of sprucing up but funnily enough it’s not something I seem to be finding the time for…

Trying a few new recipes this week just because on Friday, when I write my meal planner for the week, I envisage lots of interesting meals where we all eat and enjoy a bit of debate together, whereas, in reality, by Wednesday, it’s more of a “what have I done???” mood and the urge to switch to beans is strong.

Nevertheless starting tonight with pasta night and something a little different – using crayfish. This is partly because there was an offer on Ocado and partly just because they are bloody delicious. No prep needed this morning as I’m just going to fry them off in a little butter, garlic and a squeeze of lemon and then serve with pasta and lots of parmesan. I’m just sort of hoping the kids think they’re funny looking prawns so they don’t question it too much…

Tomorrow is a bit more of a straight forward one as they are very used to veggie stir fry and noodles but I’m substituting soba noodles for a bit of a difference. Let’s see how that goes!

Wednesday I’m not too fretful about as we’re going to have good old fish fingers and spaghetti hoops (looking forward to Wednesday) and then on Thursday I’m going to attempt to be organised in the morning and get a beef stew in the slow cooker in the morning.

It’s getting to that time of year again when the slow cooker starts to come into it’s own and there are lots of great recipes out there (more detailed post to follow). I do a very simple beef stew which involves frying off some onion and garlic and then browning the braising steak. I then throw into the slow cooker along with some cubed, raw root veg (carrot seems to turn into less of a mush than some others) plus enough stock to just cover the meat (as not much will evaporate), a tablespoon of tomato puree, a couple of bay leaves and a squirt or two of lea and perrins. It’s straight forward but pretty delicious to come home to at the end of the day, especially if you knock up some Yorkshires at the last minute and serve with some winter greens.

On Saturday I’m trying a sausage cannelloni which is in this month’s edition of BBC Good Food. The recipe is below although I would recommend investing in this edition as it’s the Christmas one and therefore a goodie!

And finally, finishing the week putting my life into my own hands by trying them on a different soup. I usually stick to soups of the orange variety i.e. either homemade butternut squash types or else Heinz tomato from a can. However, I’m trying this new one, again from this month’s BBC Good Food which I’m hoping may pass as it’s got chorizo in it.

We’re also planning a post with some more soup ideas to keep you warm so keep a look out for that.

Have a great week!
Emma xx

FTT’s Stir Up Sunday

Traditionally this takes place 5 weeks before Christmas (the last Sunday before advent..which makes me panic a bit).  I don’t always manage it but often it’s a good nudge to actually get things done in time.  Only 1 of my 3 really likes fruit cake (though another likes the marzipan) but they love a good stir so they’ll join in.  I love the smell of slow-baking fruit cake filling the house all day (is that a Nigella thing to say?!) and I like to make a cake, a pudding (and some mincemeat, as well as a little Spanish number.  The piles of dried fruit in my supermarket basket make me feel a little crazy but I’m always glad once I’ve done it.  A rainy afternoon helps the process, so fingers crossed (and we are in Manchester).

First, the pudding.  I like this one because it has 2 lovely ingredients, prunes and rum.  It’s boozy, fruity, dark and delicious.  It takes 4 1/2 hours to cook so bear this in mind when you start! You’ll need a 1.2 litre pudding basin, greased and the base lined.


Boozy Plum Pudding:

200g mixed dried fruit

500g soft prunes

150 ml dark rum

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

100ml apple juice

75g veg suet

75g dark brown sugar

75g plain flour

2tsp mixed spice

2 tsp cinnamon

50g white breadcrumbs

50g mixed chopped nuts

1 large egg

Heat the dried fruit and half of the prunes in a pan with the rum for 5 mins, then cool.

Blitz up the remaining prunes with the apple juice.  Add the remaining dried fruit and all the other ingredients.  Stir well and spoon into the basin.  Cover with a large circle of greased baking paper and a large circle of foil over that; tie tighly around the rim to stop moisture getting in during cooking.

Cook by placing the basin on an upturned saucer in a large pan.  Fill half way with boiling water.  Boil and then simmer for 4 1/2 hours, topping up with water when necessary.  cool completely, then wrap well and store in a cool, dry place.


Time for the cake! There are lots of great cake recipes around, I just like this one (can’t even remember where it’s from!) because it’s usually moist and not too crumbly.  I may not be a great judge because I’m pretty much happy with anything but I do present it to others on Christmas day and they don’t complain! I’ve also had a little competitive decorating thing going on with my brother (yes people, there are brothers who bake in this here outfit-but not in our team…yet).  I’m often a little hassled around this time (my excuse is that I have 1 more child than him) so unfortunately he usually wins.

Christmas Cake:

775g mixed dried fruit

110g chopped candied peel

110g glacé cherries

zest and juice 1 orange and 1 lemon

5 tbsp brandy

225g butter

225g plain flour

100g ground almonds

1 1/2 tsp mixed spice

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

225g light brown muscovado sugar

5 large eggs, beaten

Soak all of the fruit, including the zest, in the brandy overnight.  Heat the oven to 150ºc.  Grease a 25cm cake tin and triple line it with parchment (this will protect it as it slow bakes).  Stir together the flour, almonds, spices and a pinch of salt.  In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar together and then beat in the eggs a little at a time.  Fold in the dry ingredients.  Spoon into the tin and bake for 1hr, then reduce the temp to 100ºc and bake for a further 1hr, checking with a skewer and covering with foil if it seems to be browning too quickly.

Cool on a rack and then wrap in paper and foil; store in a cool, dry place and ‘feed’ every now and then with a couple of spoonfuls of brandy.


An easy (honestly) way to make a useful Christmas gift and also to be well-stocked for the festive period is to stir up a batch of mincemeat.  You need to sterilise your jars by putting them in a hot oven for 20 mins and then cooling.  If you’re very ‘crafty’ you can make little fabric lids for the jars or you can get the kids to decorate them with glass pens (I got some from Baker Ross) and ribbon.


500g dried fruit

3 dessert apples, peeled and diced

1/2 tsp cloves

1/2 tsp nutmeg

3/4 tsp cinnamon

150g dark brown sugar

125ml brandy or rum

75g suet (I use Atora veg suet)

Mix all the ingredients together (kids can do this!) and pack tightly into the clean, sterilised jars, up to 2cm from the top. Finish decorating and store/use!


Lastly, I like to include something Spanish in the mix because of my time there and also because this is just too good not to.  It’s a kind of sweetmeat/panforte; it’s quite rich and can be served with coffee or wine when people come round unexpectedly over the holiday.  It keeps very well (for a team least 2 weeks) and also makes great presents when cut into wedges and presented in little bags with ribbon (love a Lakeland bag).  This recipe is from one of my favourite Spanish cookbooks, Movida (Frank Camorra and Richard Cornish).  It’s called ‘Pan de Higos’, literally ‘Fig Bread’.  I have to put up with a lot of mocking for my love of all things nutty and dried fruity, as if I’m some kind of woodland creature but I don’t care, this is worth making…

120g dark chocolate

145g caster sugar

350g honey

500g blanched almonds

165g plain flour

4 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp cinnamon

Grease a 2lb loaf tin.  Melt chocolate and set aside.  Melt honey and sugar together until sugar dissolves.  Combine all of the other ingredients in a bowl, then pour in the choc and the honey/sugar mix.  It will be very stiff and sticky.  Spoon into the tin and dampen your hands to smooth it over.  Bake for 25/30 mins until dry but still yielding to the touch a little.  Cool in the tin for 5 mins before turning out onto a wire rack and cooling completely.  Wrap well to store in a cool, dry place (after eating some!!).

It might be too onerous to do all of this so just select your fave and give it a go.  You’ll definitely feel smug come December 25th!





Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 7th November


So after 3 weekends away we’re back and we’re staying put, until Christmas at least.  It feels good except that we had such a good time this weekend it also feels a bit sad.  We’ll have to make do with our own company for a few days…

It does, however, mean that we are going to be able to get back to a bit more like normal on the meals front.  We’re starting off tomorrow with prawny pasta, which is my own concoction of old.  I fry off some onions and a vegetable (used to be mushrooms, but now that’s more than my life’s worth) and then when they’re softening, add some king prawns and either cook or warm through (depending on if you’ve bought the cooked variety or not).  Turn off the heat and add a tablespoon or two of creme fraiche to the pan then serve with your pasta and plenty of parmesan.  Done in 10 minutes flat.

On Tuesday, our busiest day of the week, we’re doing quesadillas.  I’ve stocked up on flour tortillas, parmesan, cheddar, chorizo and peppers.  It’s really just a matter of assembling a combination of the aforementioned and pressing into a pan for a few minutes.  Hey presto (as Peppa would say).

Wednesday is squash soup again.  As with last time I’ll roast off the diced squash in the morning to save time then when I’m home I’ll soften an onion, some garlic and some peppers before adding the roasted squash and a litre or so of chicken stock and then whizzing up the whole thing and serving with garlic bread.  Always garlic bread.

On Thursday its going to be chilli and rice and then Friday another comfort food special, sausage and mash for which I might go crazy and knock up some onion gravy despite the fact that the kids hate onion.  Inspired by a lovely meal that we had in the Lakes this weekend when the kids were given onion gravy which they were totally unappreciative of whilst I looked on licking my lips…

On Saturday I’m going to attempt a Nasi Goreng which is something I’ve never actually made despite eating it almost constantly when living in Australia so it’s time to remedy that.  I haven’t decided what recipe to use as yet but looks like this could be a good starting point (perhaps minus the birds eye chillies…)

Have a good week!

Emma xx

Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 31st October


It is my hope that you are, like us, starting the week eating nothing but sweets. It’s just that I would feel better if your children’s teeth have been impacted by Halloween to the same degree so it all evens itself out.

I did, however, attempt to get some green into them before we headed out into the night. What is now becoming Pasta Monday turned into pasta and slime (aka pesto) principally because it’s probably the only thing that they’re still guaranteed to eat when they know that there is a smorgasbord of sugar ahead.

Tomorrow, a day which is quickly becoming known as “No Time Tuesday” (not sure that one’s going to catch on), we’re keeping it real with jackets and cheese (I won’t bother you with the recipe for that one) and then back to actual cooking on Wednesday with these really tasty salmon burgers and veg. It’s a BBC Good Food recipe (they don’t sponsor us or anything we are just a bit obsessed) and you can find it here:

On Thursday I’m also sticking with the Good Food site and going for a chicken biryani with naan bread. I made a veggie biryani from the Jamie Oliver app a few weeks back and it was a bit of a surprise hit with the kids so going to see if I can go on a bit of a biryani run (if there is such a thing). If you’re interested you can find that recipe here:

On Friday we are off on our travels yet again. Three weekends in a row away from home is making for lots of fun but also lots of tiredness hence the title. Nevertheless looking forward to a couple of days in the Lakes with some old friends and their kids and as little cooking as possible.

If I’m feeling up to it I’ll finish up the week with a cottage pie as I think by that stage it’s going to feel like comfort food is the only option.

Have a great week!

Emma xx