Cheap, quick and simple vegetarian courgette lasagne

Much quicker than the usual bechamel/white sauce version, this is a good week-night lasagne. Flavour comes from the garlicky, herby tomato sauce and the cheeses; it’s a rich but healthy dinner which is popular with children and a handy fallback for a meat-free night. To make this more seasonal in the winter months, try leaving…

How to persuade fussy eaters to eat healthily

Some people are born with the genetic inclination to like certain foods, healthy or sugary. This might give a small advantage or disadvantage in learning to enjoy eating healthily, but the way we teach ourselves to eat (and it is teaching and learning) counts for much more. Apart from anything, having a child who is…

Brandy Mincemeat

It’s beginning to smell a lot like Christmas…Quite simply, it doesn’t matter how many taste test competitions magazines run (spoiler: Lidl or Aldi always win), there is no mince pie like a homemade mince pie. Commercial pastry is too sweet, and even just spooning supermarket mincemeat into homemade pastry makes all the difference. I’ve never…

Ginger spiced parsnip and apple soup

Rain scatterguns the windows; it’s pitch dark by 5pm. The waves are a constant thunder, provoked by Storm Angus out of yesterday’s flat calm. A night like this calls for a soup like this, flickering with ginger warmth and Christmas nutmeg spice: decorate it with savoury treats and serve with hot buttered toast. Serves 6 Ingredients…

Roast squash, goats cheese and walnut filo parcels

Satisfying, crunchy parcels that you can eat with your hands if you want – they’re best hot and crisp out of the oven, but would make good picnic food too. These can, of course, be adapted to hold so many things – whatever cheese, veg, herbs and nuts you have around, and would also be…

Breaded hake with green sauce, pak choi and lentils

This works with any meaty white fish: pollock/coley, rock turbot, cod, haddock (and monkfish, but please only as a very occasional treat, there are question marks over its sustainability). Pak choi can be substituted for mushrooms or most greens: kale, spinach, spring greens and broccoli all work (though I clearly forgot to add any of…

Chai, date and honey loaf cake

This is entirely because my much loved pot of chai spice mix suggests adding it to cakes. Tremendous idea. This low-sugar loaf cake is light as air; quick and simple to make; wonderful with a cup of tea and its grown-up flavour still passed the toddler test. Freezes well, cuts into 10-12 slices Ingredients 3 tablespoons honey 200g unsalted butter…

Sweet potato and mackerel bites

Mackerel is one of those relatively strong flavours that I’m surprised how readily babies and small children take to – mackerel pate has been a favourite food of my daughter’s since she weaned. She’s always been a fan of various versions of these, but they’re definitely not ‘just’ for children; they make just as good a…

Learn to Cook: apple crumble

Serves 6 Ingredients 800g apples (about 5) of any variety about 60g brown sugar: demerara, soft brown or golden caster are all fine (use less sugar if your apples are already sweet) juice of 1/2 lemon For the crumble: 350g plain flour 100g brown sugar 250g cold butter To finish: 1 tablespoon brown sugar 2 tablespoons…

Elderberry and coconut lemon drizzle polenta cake

As a fairweather forager, elderberries are one of the few things I can pick each year that I’m confident won’t kill anyone. Even then, the stems are toxic, thus making the hours it takes to get rid of as many of the tiny stalks as possible a necessity. Use a fork to strip off the berries, and…

Thai-meets-Scottish crab cakes to celebrate Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight

The approaching end of Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight prompted me to devise this recipe showcasing one of my favourite local ingredients – crab. Our house in East Lothian almost dips its toes into the North Sea, and fishing boats are a common sight from our windows. Though there’s little white fish left, mackerel, langoustine and crab remain plentiful, the…