Excite all your child’s senses this spring with fresh tasty food that is appetising to look at, smells delicious, and is fun to eat! I love spring, it is a great time of year for all the wonderful seasonal foods we can grow here. While the kids are on their holidays, why not get them to find out what local seasonal foods you have around you, and get them to help you make something with these finds. Easter is also a fantastic time to get the kids cooking in the kitchen with you.
PASTA SHELLS WITH BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND TOMATO SAUCE
Suitable from 8 months | Suitable for Freezing | MAKES 2 PORTIONS
This fresh tomato sauce is very tasty and because it has vegetables and cheese blended into it, it is more nutritious than an ordinary tomato sauce.
• 150g butternut squash peeled and chopped
• 3 medium tomatoes, skinned, de seeded and chopped
• 15g butter
• 30g Cheddar cheese, grated
• 2 tbsp mini shell pasta
• Steam the butternut squash for 10 minutes or until tender. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
• Meanwhile skin the tomatoes. Cut a cross in the base of the tomatoes using a sharp knife. Put them in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
• Leave for one minute.
• Drain and rinse in cold water.
• The skin should peel off easily.
• Cut the tomatoes into quarters and de seed. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and sauté until mushy. Stir in the cheese until melted.
• Blend the butternut squash with the tomato and cheese sauce. Drain the pasta and stir into the sauce.
TOASTED CHICKEN TORTILLA
Makes 4 portions
• 180g chicken breast, skinned and sliced into thin strips
• 1 tsp runny honey
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 3 spring onions, finely sliced
• 25g Grated Cheddar
• 3 tbsp tinned sweetcorn
• 2 tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped
• 4 tbsp light mayonnaise
• 4 tortilla wraps
• Put the chicken into a bowl. Drizzle over the honey and season. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan. Fry the chicken for 4 to 6 minutes until cooked, set aside.
• Measure the spring onions, basil, sweetcorn, mayonnaise and seasoning into a small bowl. Slice the chicken into small pieces, then add to the mixture and mix together.
• Heat a griddle pan until hot. Put the tortillas in the pan and gently warm through so the tortillas are easier to roll. Place one on a work surface. Put a quarter of the mixture on one side, roll up making sure the end is underneath. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.
• Brush both sides with a little oil. Add cheese then fry on both sides until chargrilled, the filling is warm and the cheese is starting to melt.
EASTER SIMNEL CAKE
Serves 10 or more
A Simnel cake is a light fruit cake, similar to a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan. A layer of marzipan or almond paste is also baked into the middle of the cake. On the top of the cake, around the edge, are eleven marzipan balls to represent the true apostles of Jesus; Judas is omitted. In some variations Christ is also represented by a ball placed at the centre.
There needs to be eleven balls on top of the cake.
• 200g (7oz) caster sugar
• 200g (7oz) butter, softened
• 250g (9oz) self raising flour
• 4 large eggs
• Zest of one orange
• 1 tbsp mixed spice
• 250g (9oz) sultanas
• 150g (5oz) ready to eat dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
• 50g (2oz) stem ginger, finely chopped
• 2 tbsp apricot jam
• 450g (1lb) golden marzipan
• Preheat the oven to 150ºC fan / Gas 3. You will need a 9” round springform tin. Line the base and grease the sides well.
• Mix the caster sugar, butter, flour, eggs, zest and spice together in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add the prepared fruit and mix well. Spoon half of the cake mixture into the base of the tin. Roll one third (150g) of the marzipan out to a 9” circle and place on top of the mixture. Spoon the remaining cake mixture on top and level. Bake in the oven for about one hour 45 minutes to 2 hours or until golden brown and firm to the touch.
• Remove from the tin and leave to become cold. Meanwhile, roll another third (150g) of the marzipan out to a 9” circle. Melt the jam in a small pan, then brush the top of the cake with the jam and place the marzipan circle on top. Divide the remaining third of the marzipan into 11 pieces and shape into little balls by rolling between your palms. Position these around the edge of the cake. Arrange fresh flowers or flowers made of icing in the middle of the cake and decorate to serve.
CHOCOLATE NEST CUPCAKES
Spring has sprung and nests are full of eggs – in this case yummy chocolate ones.
• 30g (1oz) cocoa powder
• 120ml (41/2 fl oz) boiling water (from a kettle)
• 55g (2oz) butter, room temperature
• 100g (31/2 oz) caster sugar
• 1 egg
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 85g (3oz) self-raising flour
• 1/4 tsp salt
Icing and decoration
• 55g (2oz) plain chocolate, chopped or chips
• 110g (4oz) butter, room temperature
• 110g (4oz) icing sugar
• Chocolate sprinkles or roughly crumbled Flake chocolate bars
• 30 Mini chocolate eggs (e.g. Cadbury’s Mini Eggs)
• 10 Mini chicks (optional, remove before eating)
Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4/Fan 160. Line a muffin tin with 10 paper cases.
Put the cocoa in a heatproof jug and add the boiling water. Stir until all of the cocoa has dissolved then leave to cool.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla then trickle in the cooled cocoa, beating constantly. Sift over the flour and salt and fold in.
Divide the batter between the paper cases (they should be half full) and bake for 15-17 minutes, until risen and firm to the touch. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then carefully transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and cool completely.
To make the icing, put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and suspend over, but not in, a saucepan of hot water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth then remove the bowl from the pan and leave the chocolate to cool slightly. You can also microwave the chocolate in 2-3 15-second bursts, stirring well between each burst, until the chocolate has just melted.
Beat the butter until pale then beat in the cooled chocolate. Beat in the icing sugar, a little at a time until you have a thick icing. If the icing is very soft then refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Transfer roughly three quarters of the icing to a piping bag with a medium-small star nozzle and spread the remaining icing over the cupcakes. Pipe rings of icing around the edge of each cupcake, to a depth of around 1/2 cm (if the nozzle is small then you may need to pipe one circle on top of the other). Carefully scatter the sprinkles or Flake on the piped edge, to make the twigs of a nest (you may find it easier to pile the sprinkles on a plate and roll the edge of the iced cupcake in the sprinkles). Sit 3 chocolate eggs in the centre of each nest and add a chick, if using.
Party planning – the cupcakes can be made up to 1 month in advance and frozen (un-iced) in plastic boxes. Defrost for approximately 2 hours at room temperature. The icing can be made 1 week in advance and refrigerated.
Bring to room temperature before using.