Need to feed a family with differing dietary requirements? Here are some flexible ideas | The Canberra Times

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It’s a fact that most parents these days cook multiple meals at meal time, due to a rise in dietary requirements. It might be down to gluten and dairy intolerances; it could be for moral or environmental reasons, not to mention people just wanting to be more healthy and reduce the amount of meat, sugar or saturated fat they eat. Jo Pratt is a busy food writer, cook, food stylist and presenter, as well as a mother of two children, and she knows what it’s like to feed a busy family with different needs. The Flexible Family Cookbook is full of simple and delicious recipes to keep the whole family happy, each with suggestions for flexible adaptations for each recipe to account for allergies, intolerances and lifestyle choices. Traybakes and one-pot roasts make for easy and convenient timesavers, whilst scrumptious puds and simple bakes help get smaller hands involved in the cooking. Covering everything from gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free cooking and veganism, to suggestions for flavour and spice adjustments for younger or fussier palettes, this book will be a lifesaver in the kitchen and a crowd-pleaser at the table. If you like the idea of very little washing-up, you’re going to love this. It’s a complete meal cooked all together in the oven, in individual parcels. The best thing to do is to prepare ahead and keep it in the fridge to cook later on in the evening. From a flexibility point of view, you can swap and change a few of the ingredients according to personal tastes too. Do make sure you label whose is whose though, to avoid any unwanted surprises! Ingredients 2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained small handful stoned black olives handful dried apricots, chopped 1 carrot, grated 2 tsp harissa paste 2 roasted red peppers (from a jar), sliced or chopped 2 large handfuls baby spinach leaves handful chopped coriander 4 fish fillets, such as cod, pollock, haddock or salmon extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper couscous or flatbreads, to serve Method 1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan forced and put a large baking tray in the oven to heat up. 2. Tear four large pieces of baking parchment and scrunch up to a tight ball. This helps make it more pliable. Open the paper out and sit each one in a bowl making a well in the middle. As an alternative to baking parchment you can use foil, or you can even buy individual cellophane roasting bags, which work a treat. 3. Divide the tomatoes between the parcels, then do the same with the chickpeas, olives, apricots, carrot, harissa, red pepper, spinach and coriander. Season and gently stir to mix. 4. Sit the fish fillets on top, season and drizzle with olive oil. Pull up the sides of each parcel and tie each one tightly with a piece of string. If you are using foil, scrunch together tightly, making sure you leave space in the top to allow steam to circulate. 5. The parcels can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for a good few hours before cooking at this stage. 6. Put the parcels on the hot baking tray and bake for 20 minutes until the fish is cooked through. When cooked, split open the parcels into bowls and serve hot with couscous or flatbreads. Flexible Flavour swap: if you fancy using some chicken for a change, add one small-ish chicken breast, cut into four to five slim pieces, to the bag and bake for 25 minutes. Vegetarian: switching the fish for a 100-150g wedge of feta cheese is absolutely delicious and well worth a try. Upgrade: make this look super-fancy by scattering over some chopped pistachios or flaked toasted almonds, chopped preserved lemons and fresh coriander sprigs too. Serves 4. These Mexican-inspired tortilla wraps will please anyone who is handed one. Often on a weekend I’ll make these when we’re all heading to various sporting or social activities, though each will vary slightly – one without cheese, one extra spicy, one with beans rather than chorizo (see “flexible” tip below) and one loaded with everything. The preparation workload is the same, everyone is happy, feeling full and ready to tackle the day ahead. Ingredients 1 tbsp olive oil 200g cooking chorizo, thickly sliced 4 corn or wheat tortillas knob of butter 6-8 spring onions, chopped 6-8 eggs, lightly beaten 1 tbsp chopped coriander pinch of flaked sea salt 100g Cheddar cheese 75g sweetcorn 1 large ripe avocado, diced hot chipotle sauce or chilli flakes (optional) Method 1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chorizo and cook for about three to four minutes until the slices are cooked through and are becoming golden. 2. Heat the tortillas over a gas flame, in a hot dry frying pan or hot griddle until they are lightly charred, and keep warm. In a separate non-stick pan, melt the butter over a medium heat and add the spring onion. Cook for two minutes until softened. Add the beaten eggs, coriander and season with salt. Stir around in the pan until the egg is softly scrambled. Stir through the Cheddar until it’s starting to melt then add the sweetcorn. 3. Divide the chorizo and cheesy scrambled eggs between the centre of each tortilla. Top with some avocado and add some chipotle or chilli flakes if using. Fold the top and bottom sides of the tortilla over the filling, then roll up to seal and hold in the filling. If you are planning on eating these on the go, wrap in foil or paper and twist the ends to secure. Cut in half and eat whilst hot. Flexible Vegetarian: for every portion of a chorizo-free burrito, melt a knob of butter in a frying pan. Add a big pinch of hot or sweet smoked paprika and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Sizzle for a few seconds before adding around 75g canned black beans or kidney beans. Toss to coat in the butter, heat through and season. Alternatively, you can heat up some canned baked beans with a pinch of smoked paprika stirred through. Gluten-free: opt for gluten-free tortilla bread. Make sure you check the chorizo is gluten-free too. Serves 4. Rather than racing to the shops for a last-minute “panic” pudding, take a look around your kitchen and you’ll probably be able to whip up this tasty dessert with just a few basic baking ingredients and some long-life fruit. I use tinned peaches and frozen raspberries but you can play around with any fruit combinations. This tastes great served warm, but is also good at room temperature. Serve with cream, ice cream, custard or yoghurt. Leftovers can keep for a couple of days in an airtight container. Ingredients 250g caster sugar 200g butter, at room temperature 3 eggs 125g plain flour 125g ground almonds 11/2 tsp baking powder 125g frozen raspberries (fresh can also be used) 240g tinned sliced peaches, drained Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan forced. 2. Lightly oil or grease a 1.5 litre ovenproof baking dish. 3. Beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy in consistency. Gradually beat in the eggs, until fully mixed in. The mixture may appear curdled but it will be fine. 4. Add the flour, almonds and baking powder and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth batter. 5. Transfer to the baking dish and level off the surface with the back of your spoon. 6. Arrange or scatter the peaches and raspberries on top. They will start to sink into the batter, but don’t worry they will rise again when cooking. Bake for one hour or until the top is golden and the centre of the cake is just firm. 7. Remove from the oven and serve hot or at room temperature. Flexible Nut-free: use desiccated coconut. Gluten-free: use gluten-free plain flour. Dairy-free/vegan: use a dairy-free butter alternative that is suitable for baking. Switch the fruits: try different fruit combinations with tinned and frozen fruits, such as blackberry and pear, pineapple and blueberry, or cherry (tinned or frozen) or even use some tinned fruit cocktail. Switch the nuts: if you’ve not any ground almonds, you can use any nut and blitz them in a food processor until ground. Serves 8-10. Take yourselves off to the streets of Greece and serve up this juicy marinated chicken cooked either on a griddle pan, or if the weather allows outdoors, on a barbecue. Eat it the authentic way, stuffed into warmed pitta and topped with tzatziki. You can throw in a few extras as well, such as lettuce, tomatoes, olives or even some hummus, for added goodness. Ingredients For the souvlaki: 400g chicken breast or thigh fillets, skinless 1 tbsp dried oregano 1 tbsp dried mint 1 tsp paprika 2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed juice of 1 lemon 75ml extra virgin olive oil flaked sea salt For the tzatziki: 1/2 cucumber, coarsely grated 1 tsp flaked sea salt 1 small clove garlic, grated or crushed 1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint or 1 tsp dried mint 200g Greek yoghurt To serve: 4-6 pitta bread, warmed little gem lettuce 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced kalamata olives, stoned red onion, thinly sliced Method 1. Cut the chicken into 2cm chunks. Put in a bowl with the rest of the souvlaki ingredients and add a good pinch of salt. Mix everything together, cover and put into the fridge for 30 minutes, or longer if you want the flavours to get a bit more intense. Overnight would be absolutely fine. 2. To cook the souvlaki, the chicken will need skewers. Metal ones are ideal, but if using wooden skewers, cut eight to fit your griddle pan and soak them in a tray of water for 30 minutes or so to stop them burning during cooking. 3. To make the tzatziki, sit the cucumber in a sieve, mix in the salt with your hands and squeeze out as much water as you can. Put the cucumber in a bowl and mix with the garlic, vinegar, mint and yoghurt. Season to taste and set aside. 4. Preheat a griddle pan or grill on a high heat. Thread the skewers through the marinated chicken pieces, leaving little spaces between them so that the heat cooks everything evenly. Cook the kebabs on the hot griddle or grill for about eight to 10 minutes, turning occasionally, until deep golden on all sides. 5. Serve the souvlaki chicken stuffed inside warmed pitta bread with some lettuce, tomato, olives and red onion. Top with dollops of tzatziki and grab a napkin to wipe up any dripping juices. Flexible Gluten-free: if you can replace the pitta bread with a gluten-free variety or even some form of flat bread that’s great. If not, lettuce leaves are a simple alternative. Serve with some sautéed potatoes or chips on the side. Vegetarian: halloumi is the perfect alternative to chicken. Marinate as you would the chicken and grill for a few minutes, turning occasionally, until golden. Meat-lovers: don’t just stick to chicken – pork fillet, lamb neck or turkey breast are fantastic alternatives to marinate. Pescatarian: if you’re a seafood lover, try swapping the chicken for pieces of squid or prawns. You’ll only need to marinate them for around 30 minutes and they will cook in minutes on a hot grill pan. Chunks of monkfish also work very well as its meaty texture won’t fall apart when cooking. Serves 4-6.

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