Baked Fruit and Oatmeal

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealOatmeal is not something I enjoyed as a child. My memories of porridge is that it was quite thin and watery and not very tasty at all – which is quite at odds with the delicious food I grew up with. When I began baking in my teens, I found that oatmeal was brilliant to make chewy chocolate chip cookies with.  I also discovered those packets of flavoured instant oats which bolstered me up during what felt like endless sessions of binge revision. As a mother of a school age child, I knew how nutritious and sustaining porridge is for those dark, cold, wintery school mornings and set about making it delicious as well. I don’t know if this is how you make it but I put a cup of oats in a pan and toast them slightly, I then add 2 cups of milk and one of water and stir over a medium low heat until thick and creamy. I ladle a portion into a shallow rimmed bowl, shake over some cinnamon and sprinkle it with 1 dessert spoonful of Demerara  sugar which goes syrupy. I peel a tangerine or a clementine and arrange the segments around the lip of the bowl like chubby rays of sunshine. Sometimes, I add some frozen blueberries to the bottom of bowl before ladling in the porridge. By the time my son gets to the table, dressed for school, the porridge has cooled down sufficiently to not delay him and I am quietly smug in the knowledge that he’s not going to be experiencing that mid morning sugar crash AND that I’ve managed to get 1 or 2 portions of fruit in him already. At the weekends, breakfasts are a more leisurely affair; eggs and sausages or french toast or pancakes but oatmeal doesn’t figure.

Until now, that is. I saw a photo for Oatmeal Casserole (which sounds a little grim, don’t you think?) on Pinterest and then surfed through several recipes for Baked Oatmeal, many of which included chocolate. This is my version which is full of healthy ingredients and tastes absolutely delicious. It’s warm, fruity, nutty and chewy. It takes about 15 minutes to put together and needs half an hour in the oven, filling the kitchen with gorgeous aromas as it bakes. It is ideal for a weekend breakfast. Left overs can be taken into to work or frozen in portions and warmed up in the microwave. You can chop and change the fruit and nuts to suit your palate or take into account what is in your cupboards. This is also something that you could bake in the evening during the week, to effortlessly have ready for the following morning.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealPlace the oats, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, walnuts, dried fruit and half the blueberries in a large bowl.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealGrate in the orange zest and mix thoroughly.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealSlice one banana and arrange on the bottom of the oven safe dish. Cover with the dried mixed ingredients (which I forgot to photograph!)

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealJuice the orange.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealWhisk the wet ingredients together in the same mixing bowl you used for the dry ingredients. (If you want to substitute honey or agave syrup for the sugar, add it now, to the wet ingredients.) I find that it is best to “temper” melted butter by slowly whisking in a little cold milk into it and then adding it to everything else. Otherwise, the melted butter just solidifies into fat globules that float on top.

IMG_6150Slowly and gently, pour the wet mixture over the oatmeal mix.

Baked-fruit-and-oatmealScatter over the remaining blueberries and the coconut flakes. (If you wish to use desiccated coconut instead, mix it in with the dry ingredients.) Slice the second banana and arrange over the top and bake for half an hour. (A scattering of pumpkin or sunflower seeds would be nice too.)

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Baked-fruit-and-oatmealServe warm with a dollop of yoghurt.

I have included some vegan options for the dairy and egg but these are untested by me. Thanks to Susan Edelman of watchhatchfly for the information!

Baked Fruit and Oatmeal

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups oats (anything but instant or quick cook)
  • 1/4 cup muscavodo (or brown) sugar plus enough for a sprinkle later
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • zest of 1 orange
  • ½ cup walnut pieces – broken up to make them smaller
  • ½ cup dried mixed fruit like cranberries and cherries or apricots and raisins or dates
  • 1 cup of blueberries divided into two portions
  • 2 large ripe bananas
  • 3tbsp/45g  melted butter (or vegan soy spread/coconut oil)
  • 2 cups milk ( or soy milk/almond milk/rice milk)
  • 1 large egg ( or applesauce/mashed banana/vegan egg replacer/ground chia and flax seeds)
  • Juice of one orange
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup coconut flakes
  • yoghurt to serve (or coconut milk or soy milk yoghurt)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F.
  2. Butter or oil an oven safe dish (mine is 28 x 20cm/11″x 8″).
  3. Thoroughly mix the first 9 ingredients (using only half the blueberries)  in a large bowl to distribute everything evenly.
  4. Slice one banana and arrange on the bottom of the dish.
  5. Cover with the dry mixed ingredients.
  6. In the same bowl that you used for the dry ingredients, lightly whisk the egg.
  7. Slowly whisk a a cup of milk into the cooled butter to amalgamate it and pour it and the second cup of milk onto the whisked egg together with the vanilla and the orange juice and whisk again.
  8. Slowly and evenly pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients.
  9. Scatter over the remaining portion of blueberries and the coconut flakes (some seeds would be nice too).
  10. Top with the slices from the second banana.
  11. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until bubbling and golden brown.
  12. Sprinkle a little more brown sugar over the top and leave to cool a little.
  13. Serve warm with yoghurt.

Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Rosemary

chicken-mac-n-cheeseI suffered with fairly severe eczema and asthma as a child and of course, it was ALL triggered by food. The list of foods I could not eat included ice-cream (the cold set off my wheezing – imagine living in Nairobi and not being able to enjoy the icy creations from  Snow Queen!), cold drinks, fish, shellfish, oranges and passion fruit. I am not sure how scientific any of this was but it was what my mother and I felt set off a bout of up-all-night-wheezing or scratching. While she sat up with me holding my hand through another breathless night, we would discuss what I had eaten that could have triggered it off.  The list grew quite lengthy. For some reason, left-overs were deemed to be a culprit too, so all my food was freshly prepared.

Today, left-overs are something that I practically plan for – they speed up after-work cooking and stretch the food budget without any hint of parsimony. My favourite is left-over roast chicken. No matter how I have cooked it, I always strip what is left on the carcass while it is still warm as this yields the most flesh. I also break up the bones for a simple stock that I start for an hour or two on the Sunday evening or pop the bones into a freezer bag for another time. And I save all the cooking juices, gravy and vegetables. Favourite left-over chicken meals include risotto with any left-overs being made into oven baked  arancini the following day which we have with a spicy tomato sauce and a rocket salad; there are pot pies in the winter and pasta salads in the summer, also soups, green curries and stir fries. Left over roast chicken is one of my favourite ingredients!!  (And just in case you are wondering – when we moved to Winnipeg all my allergies disappeared completely, only to return when I moved to London. Today if anything flares up it is usually due to stress or damp.)

chicken-mac-n-cheese

At the weekend I made my version of this braised spatchcock chicken which left me with a lot of gorgeous pan  juices as well as about half a chicken. For quite some time, I have been meaning to try  this chicken lasagne recipe. But when I read it through again, it seemed very heavy on the cheese and in any case, I didn’t have any lasagne sheets but I did have a packet of macaroni pasta. So my Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese evolved and I have to say that it was absolutely lovely; total comfort food with not too much fuss.

chicken-mac-n-cheese

If you are starting from scratch, without any pre-cooked chicken or pan juices, I would suggest braise roasting  3 or 4 chicken thighs while you make the béchamel. All instructions below.

chicken-mac-n-cheese

Chicken Mac 'n' Cheese with Rosemary

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

For the braise roasted chicken:

  • 3 or 4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
  • 2 banana shallots
  • 4 whole peeled garlic cloves
  • 4 anchovy fillets
  • ¼ c of  black olives – I leave the pits in and warn everyone
  • 150ml of a dry white wine
  • 250ml stock or water with a stock cube mixed in (vegetable or chicken)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper

Or if you are using left-overs:

  • 250 g cooked and shredded chicken
  • 200 ml of pan juices  

Plus:

  • 1 cup of frozen peas
  • 1 cup of frozen spinach, thawed
  • 250 g macaroni or elbow pasta
  • 20g grated parmesan cheese.

For the Béchamel Sauce:

  • 60g butter
  • 60 g flour
  • 700ml/3 cups milk
  • ⅓ of a nutmeg
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 heaped Tbsp finely chopped rosemary needles
  • 200g grated cheddar cheese separated into 150g and 50g – just eyeball it!
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard

Instructions

Pre-heat oven to 200C/400F.

MAKE THE BRAISE ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS

  1. Slice shallots into long half moons and sauté gently in a pan with a little olive oil for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the whole garlic cloves, the chicken thighs, the anchovies and the olives; stir it around, letting it all get a little caramelised – about 7 or 8 minutes. The anchovies will dissolve and add a deep savoury note to the pan juices. Remove the chicken to a plate. Deglaze pan with the wine, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom.
  2. Place rosemary stalks in a snug fitting roasting dish and scrape in the savoury shallot/garlic/anchovy/olive mix over them. Nestle the chicken thighs on top and squeeze over the lemon juice and pour round the chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Pop in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Remove rosemary stalks and discard. Remove chicken from the pan juices and leave on plate until cool enough to handle; shred the meat and mix it back into the pan juices.

MAKE THE BÉCHAMEL SAUCE

  1. Make béchamel by melting the butter over a medium heat. Sprinkle over the chopped rosemary and the flour and cook, stirring madly for about 5 minutes.
  2. Take off the heat and slowly add in the first cup of milk, stirring all the time to avoid lumps and then add the other two cups, stirring well after each one. Pop in the bay leaf and grate in the nutmeg.
  3. Let this just come to the boil (scald) and then turn down the heat and keep it on a low flame, to thicken which should take about 5-10 minutes. You will have to keep stirring to stop the bottom from catching.
  4. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, stir in 150g of the cheddar cheese and the mustard.
  5. Take it off the heat and set aside to cool a little, stirring occasionally to stop a skin from forming – it will thicken even more as it cools.

COOK THE PASTA

  1. Cook the macaroni pasta in lots of boiling salted water for 4 minutes. It will carry on cooking in the sauce in the oven so resist the urge to cook it any further otherwise you will end up with pasta the texture of baby food in the finished dish.

ASSEMBLE THE DISH

  1. Place the cooked chicken, the pan juices, including the shallots, garlic and olives; the spinach and peas in a mixing bowl (or even the dish you are going to bake this in) and mix well to combine. Check on the seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, ladle the pasta and some of the water that will be clinging to it, into the chicken mix. Stir in just over half the béchamel and mix well. It will be quite sloppy which is what you need to finish cooking the pasta. Check on the seasoning and adjust.
  3. Spread the pasta mixture out evenly in your baking dish.
  4. Using a tablespoon, dot the remaining béchamel evenly over the pasta mix and smooth out.
  5. Scatter over the grated cheddar and  parmesan and bake in the oven for about 30 – 40 min. It should be bubbly and golden when it is ready.
  6. Leave it to rest and settle for about 10minutes before digging in.

Perfect with a salad.

Courgette, Feta and Thyme Bake

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Pinterest is the rabbit hole of the internet for me. It has led me to many a new discovery; from art to icons, amazing interiors and gardens and food of course. If there is one thing that can be said about Pinterest is that it is absolutely bursting at the seams with food pictures from pinners all over the world.

We have had an amazing summer this year and the courgettes have been absolutely delicious. Whilst I love them raw, shredded and dressed with lemon, olive oil with shavings of parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh mint or griddlled and added to a couscous, I am always on the lookout for new recipes. So when I came across this pin which led me to this recipe, I knew that it would become a summer regular at my table. It is light and lemony with depth from the golden onions, salty with feta and with a wonderful herbal note from the thyme. It is absolutely delicious!

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You gently sauté an onion until it is golden, stir in some minced garlic and thyme leaves then sauté courgette slices until they have just started to soften and are coated in the delicious flavoured oil.

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You take a couple of eggs; and these are some of the most delicious eggs I have ever eaten, from a biodynamic farm in Sussex that I get from our local Farmers Market.

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Whisk them lightly, then stir in lemon juice, sour cream, grated parmesan and feta cheese.

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Layer a scant half of the courgettes in the bottom of a well buttered baking dish

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and cover with a really scant half of the egg mixture, spreading it as necessary to cover the courgettes.

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Then do the same again, finishing with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes.

After baking, let it cool down a little to have warm with some seared salmon or roast chicken or have as a lovely light lunch with a salad. It would also be terrific to take on a picnic.

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I had half a pack of feta left over which I find always goes off before I can use it. So this time I cubed and packed it into a tiny little jar with thyme and covered the cubes with olive oil and popped it in the fridge.  Use in salads or when roasting red peppers…

Courgette, Feta and Thyme Bake

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 4 medium courgettes
  • 1-2 Tbsp worth of fresh thyme leaves depending on how much you like thyme
  • 1 Tbsp mild olive oil (don’t waste extra virgin on frying)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g sour cream which is half a tub
  • 100g feta cubed or crumbled
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan which you can judge by eyeballing the pile
  • 1/2 a lemon
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
  2. Start by warming the olive oil in the pan on a medium heat. Peel, halve and slice the onion into half moons and tip into pan, sprinkling with a little salt to help release the water in the onions. Wash the courgettes and slice into rounds that are about as thick a pound coin. Keep an eye on the onions, stirring from time to time so that they don’t catch and burn. Stir in the garlic and the thyme leaves. I added a splash of water to help keep everything going at this point. Then tip in the sliced courgettes and sauté for about 4 or 5 minutes – long enough to only just soften them and coat them in the lovely oil. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Lightly whisk the eggs then stir in the sour cream, parmesan, feta, the juice from squeezing that lemon half and some cracked black pepper. It will feel thick and look a little curdled from the lemon juice. The cheeses are both quite salty so you shouldn’t need any additional salt.
  4. In a well buttered ovenproof dish, layer a scant half of the courgettes and cover with a very scant half of the egg mix. Repeat, finishing with a scattering of the halved cherry tomatoes.
  5. Bake for 25- 30 minutes. The original recipe call for 40 minutes but that is much too long in my oven that seems super hot. I checked after 20 minutes and it was almost done so I took it out after 30 minutes.
  6. Let it cool a little before serving warm.

Serves 6 as side dish or 4 as a light lunch with salad

© Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Selma Jeevanjee and Selma’s Table with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.