Marinated Mozzarella Ottolenghi Style

Just a quick post today. With a simple little salad or side-dish, whichever you wish it to be.

One evening when my brother-in-law was over for dinner I decided just to make a help-yourself sort of meal. A large bowl of lovely dressed mixed salad, a bowl of homemade potato and dill salad, a small bowl of homemade hummus, crusty bread, marinated mozzarella, pizza, a small bowl of beetroot and one of sweetcorn. It was wonderful. I should really do this more often. My mum, Graham and I then enjoyed leftovers the next day for lunch.

The marinated mozzarella recipe came out of a fabulous book by Yotam Ottolenghi called Plenty.

The marinade was made up of fennel seeds, oregano (fresh was called for, but I just used a little dried oregano), basil, garlic, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, salt and pepper.

The marinade is poured over the torn mozzarella and left for half an hour for the flavours to develop. Ottolenghi served his mozzarella with tomato wedges drizzled with olive oil, but as I was serving mine alongside a mixed salad, I didn't bother.

The flavours were good, but subtle, I think I would add more fennel next time and perhaps experiment with other spices. I did really enjoy it alongside all the other dishes.

On another note, please vote for your favourite soup or salad in this month's No Croutons Required. The chance to vote is drawing to a close and the winner will be announced tomorrow.

A Quick Supper for Toddlers

Cooper loves veggie sausages or veggie burgers with beans. He doesn't have it often, but it is sometimes a nice change for him. I was looking at some falafel in the supermarket and thought, "oh, he might like that too!". He doesn't mind eating spicy food and falafels are quite gently spicy. I bought him Cauldron Falafel, which are quite low in salt and lovely they are too.

And so I concocted this storecupboard supper, which he gobbled up. He just loves it! Of course I had a wee try and you may want to try it, it's tasty stuff.

Falafel, Peas & Beans

6 falafels, baked according to the packet instructions (or homemade if you have time)
1 x 400g tin baked beans (low sugar & low salt)
½ x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed well
½ cup frozen peas
4 tbsp water
2 tsp tomato puree

Simply warm up all the peas and beans with the water and tomato puree and serve with the falafel.

Makes 3-4 toddler portions

Such an easy but nutritious dish. The falafel are packed with protein, complex carbohydrates & fibre. There is calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin B, and folate from the chickpeas. Protein, fibre, iron, calcium, low GI carbohydrates and lycopene from the baked beans and protein, folate, iron, manganese, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and thiamin from the peas.

Herby Quinoa Salad with Mushrooms

This is my lunch today.

I was going to make this with couscous, but goodness knows what I have done with it and I am quite glad I couldn't find it now, as the nuttiness of the quinoa really well in this salad.

This recipe is simplicity itself, just adjust the quantities and additional ingredients to suit yourself.

Herby Quinoa Salad with Mushrooms



150g quinoa
300g/1½ cups boiling water


2 good handfuls of mixed fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley, chives and a little mint)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ clove garlic
freshly ground black pepper


½ tbsp olive oil
2 large flat mushrooms, chopped
freshly ground black pepper


a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
a sprinkling of roasted and salted cashew nuts


  1. Rinse the quinoa well, then add to a pot with the boiling water. Bring back to the boil and then simmer until all the water has evaporated and the quinoa is cooked. The quinoa should be nutty, but a little soft. Add more water if you think it needs it. Set aside.
  2. Rinse your herbs and whizz in a food processor with the garlic, olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. I have a mini food processor that is just wonderful for jobs like this.
  3. Saute the chopped mushrooms in a little olive oil until the mushrooms are soft, then season with black pepper.
  4. Mix the herby oil and the mushrooms through the quinoa, reserving some mushrooms to finish the dish.
  5. When serving, top the quinoa with a few mushroom pieces, a handful of nuts and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  6. This salad is lovely served warm rather than hot, but good cold too.

1 adult serving and 3 toddler servings
2 adult servings and 1 toddler servings
5 toddler servings

I lightly cooked some frozen peas and add these to the servings for Cooper, but you could add anything you liked really. Cooper loves couscous, so I am hoping he will enjoy this too. I was careful not too put too much garlic in.


Strawberry & Banana Muffins

I had to make these muffins as soon as I saw them over at For The Love of Cooking. Aren't they gorgeous?

Right away I thought they would make a lovely healthy snack for Cooper. He did enjoy them. I did too! They are slightly dense, as banana muffins often are, but the lovely little bites of fresh strawberries are wonderful. Although my friend Andrew wouldn't agree. He hates strawberries. Strange boy!

I won't publish the recipe as I haven't asked for permission, but you can find the recipe here.

My Neighbour Totoro Treats

A couple of weekends ago Cooper was invited to his wee friend Juno's 2nd birthday party. When her mum, Megan handed over the invite she asked if I had seen the movie - My Neighbour Totoro. I hadn't so she said I should try to watch it before I went to the party or nothing would make sense and it would all be a bit bizarre.

Luckily the library had a copy, so we settled down to watch it. Cooper loved it, but had to go to bed before it was finished. Graham enjoyed it up until he fell asleep and started giving it big Z's. So I was left watching it alone. It was really good. After I watched it, I realised I have had two bento boxes for years with the main character Totoro on them and just never realised who he was. I choose the boxes for cute factor.

Just in case you haven't seen the movie, I will give a wee blurb about it. My Neighbour Totoro (pronounced toe-toe-ro), is a Japanese animated movie about two young girls who move to rural Japan with their professor father, to be near their mother who is convalescing from some un-named illness.

They move into their home and find it is filled with soot sprites, some little black creatures and in the nearby wood they befriend the Totoro, a huge magical creature. The story is of their adventures together and you haven't seen anything until you have seen the cat bus.

So, with the theme in mind, I wondered what I could make to take to the party. I usually take a cake or cookies. I didn't think I was up to producing a Totoro shaped cake, although I am sure Johanna could have given me some tips, if I had decided to (she is a dab hand at making shaped party cakes). I had a wee browse through the characters and decided I could probably come up with something for the soot sprites. So what I did was make chocolate orange truffles and then I used fondant for the eyes.

Before I give you the recipe, I must tell you a bit about the party. Unfortunately, I don't have many photos to share as the camera lost it's charge after a couple of photos. Darn thing!

So we arrive at the door to a huge building, an old Victorian, converted hospital. A beautiful building with a grand entrance, although a bit of a maze inside. I don't think we would ever have found the right apartment if didn't have some help.

A wee knitted Totoro was standing at the main entrance holding a sign asking us to follow the trail and inside there was a trail of the cutest wee knitted acorns. It was very helpful, although we did lose the trail at one point and ended up on the wrong floor, but we doubled back and found it again. Cooper thought is was terrific fun climbing all the stairs and following acorns.

When we got to the door, there was a bus stop outside to let us know we had arrived at the party. Inside Megan and her husband had made a giant cat bus out of cardboard for the children to play in and there were various other things related to the movie scattered around.

When Cooper arrived, he was given a leaf hat with cat ears to wear. Needless to say that was instantly whipped off. The children enjoyed a few games of pass the parcel and musical statues as well as pulling the ribbons on a Totora pinata, which took a bit of force to break open. Cooper was pretty shy at first, even though he knows the other children, but he relaxed more as the party went on and was completely mesmerised by Megan's husband playing his Ukulele.

Soot Sprite Truffles

1 x 500g packet of Digestive Biscuits
1 x 397g tin condensed milk
4 tbsp margarine
12 tbsp desiccated coconut
5 tbsp drinking chocolate
5 tbsp cocoa powder
10 tbsp orange juice
grated rind of 2 oranges

topping: chocolate vermicelli or strands
eyes: fondant
detail: edible black marker pen
glue: peanut butter

In a large bowl, bash the digestive biscuits with a rolling pin until the crumbs are quite fine. (it's great for stress relief and very satisfying).

Melt the margarine.

In a large bowl mix together the melted margarine, condensed milk, crushed biscuits, coconut, drinking chocolate, cocoa powder and orange juice.

Once the mixture is well combined, place in the fridge for half an hour, to firm up.

Remove the mixture from the fridge and roll into balls.

Roll the truffles in chocolate vermicelli and set aside.

Make little eyes out of fondant, by rolling into little balls, pressing to flatten slightly. Then, glue the eyes onto the truffles with a small dab of peanut butter. When the eyes are stuck on you can draw the pupils with the marker pen.

Makes loads!

Sounds like a fun day, doesn't it? Well, the fun didn't finish there. In the evening we took Cooper out for a bit of culture.

Our good friends David & Tanita, who live in Glasgow, were performing Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle with their choir in Perth Concert Hall. Well, we couldn't miss the opportunity to hear them and we thought it only fair that Cooper came too. He did really well. He sat and listened to the singing and took in everything around him for a good half hour before he started to get fidgety. Graham kindly took him out into the foyer to play, while I enjoyed the rest of the performance.

It was a bit of a rush after the performance, but we managed to catch up with David for a few minutes before he had to dive back on the bus. Of course, we had to pass on a few soot sprites, didn't we? I don't know if they have seen the movie, so they may just have thought "what the heck are they?", but I am reliably informed that they enjoyed them on the journey home.
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