The summer weather may be a little inconsistent this year but one thing that never changes is the fact we have to eat every day. So lets use this to our advantage because cooking provides a wonderful fun activity for all the family to get involved in. With the kids stuck indoors a lot of the time with the weather get them into the kitchen for some chopping, cubing and dicing.
Today I am going to share three summer recipes that the kids can lend a hand with the preparation. The first is a ‘Water Melon and Feta Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds.
You can make little fruit pots from the water melon and this is lovely light salad to enjoy. Get the kids helping with the prep of the water melon and getting the feta cheese cut into cubes.
For the main course we have a beautiful Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne with Mozzarella. The Mozzarella for this comes from Macroom in County Cork and it is a great ingredient to get the kids preparing and sprinkling over the lasagne. This is a very easy quick recipe and again great to get the kids hands messy.
For dessert we have a lovely Ice Berries with White Chocoloate Sauce. This recipes is using frozen berries or you can go and get your berries yourself and then freeze them seeing as we are in season. Making a trip to the shops with the kids is a great activity. Not only is it fun but it also teaches kids about the wonderful healthy food that is produced here in Ireland. I would suggest getting some really nice quality chocolate and you will taste the difference.
Watermelon and Feta Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp green peppercorns, rinsed
and drained if in brine
1kg (2¼lb) watermelon
120g (4½oz) feta cheese
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
small handfull of fresh mint leaves
finely grated rind and juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp olive oil
This recipe also works well with Galia or Honeydew melon if watermelon is not in season. You can pare it down to the essential contrasts and serve no more than a plate of chunky watermelon sprinkled with feta and toasted pumpkin seeds that gets drizzled with lime juice at the last minute. Once made, I promise you that it will become a regular favourite on your summer table.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/gas mark 4). Toast the pumpkin seeds in a small baking dish for 5–6 minutes, until lightly coloured. Crack the peppercorns gently between your fingers or with the flat of a knife.
Deseed the watermelon and cut the flesh into medium-sized chunks (discard the rind). Chop the feta into small cubes and place in a bowl with the watermelon, herbs and the pumpkin seeds. Add the lime rind and juice with the olive oil and toss gently to combine.
Pile a mound of the watermelon and feta salad onto plates. Scatter over the green peppercorns and serve chilled or at room temperature.
Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne with Mozzarella
4 x 300g (11oz) packets of fresh
spinach and ricotta ravioli
12 slices prosciutto
2 x 120g (4½oz) balls of buffalo mozzarella, sliced
25g (1oz) freshly grated Parmesan
lightly dressed mixed salad,
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 x 400g (14oz) cans Italian plum tomatoes
good pinch of sugar
handful of fresh basil leaves, plus extra sprigs to garnish
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
This is a fantastic lasagne that you can have on the table in no time at all. Choose the largest shop-bought ravioli you can find, as they will be easy to work with. It’s also worth paying a little extra for the best cans of Italian plum tomatoes you can find. There really is a world of difference in the taste, and the richness of their flavour means you don’t even need to use tomato purée. I promise you’ll never look back.
Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas mark 6). To make the tomato sauce, heat the oil in a wide pan over a medium heat and gently sauté the onion for a couple of minutes, until softened but not coloured. Tip in the tomatoes, then add the sugar and season to taste. Mash down with a potato masher, then bring to the boil and boil fast for about 5 minutes to reduce and thicken.
Add the basil leaves, then blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Cook the ravioli for 2–3 minutes in a large pan of boiling salted water or according to the packet instructions, then drain well.
Arrange half of the ravioli in the bottom of a 2.5 litre (4½ pint) capacity ovenproof dish and cover with half of the tomato sauce. Add a layer of prosciutto slices and then repeat with the remaining ravioli, tomato sauce and prosciutto. Cover with the mozzarella and sprinkle the Parmesan on top.
Bake the lasagne in the oven for 15 minutes, then quickly flash under the grill until the mozzarella and Parmesan are bubbling and golden. Garnish with a few basil sprigs and serve straight to the table with a separate bowl of salad.
Iced Berries with White Chocolate Sauce
Use any selection of frozen berries you fancy for this recipe, such as raspberries, blueberries and small strawberries. This looks amazing and very stylish served in pretty dessert glasses, but any regular bowl will do the trick – it will still taste just as delicious.
350g mixed frozen
200g good-quality white
Pile the mixed berries into pretty glasses and leave to thaw at room temperature for about 10 minutes. The idea is that the berries are iced but not frozen solid.
Meanwhile, break the white chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl with the cream. Set over a saucepan of simmering water and leave to melt, stirring occasionally, until you have achieved a smooth chocolate sauce. Pour the warm white chocolate sauce over the iced berries to serve.