Sunday, May 12, 2013

LEON - Family & Friends Cookbook # 4

The first Leon restaurant, in London’s Carnaby Street, opened its doors in 2004 built on the promise of serving good fast food that does you good. Now, 13 restaurants later, Leon serves over 70,000 devoted fans a week.
We visit each time we are lucky enough to be in London.

Leon Family & Friends is their fourth cookbook, created by Leon co-founder John Vincent and cookery writer and broadcaster Kay Plunkett-Hogge.

At the heart of happy family life are meals spent together – sharing flavourful, nutritious food around the kitchen table and swapping stories of the day. 

Many of us feel we don’t have the time to cater for our families in the way that we’d like but Leon Family & Friends shows you how to make the most of the time available to feed your family fabulous food. 
For Leon, family is not just our relatives; it’s also the extended community of friends, neighbours and colleagues. 
This wonderful book celebrates the power of food to bring people together. It’s divided into three sections: Today, including great breakfasts, brunch ideas and post-school teas, Tomorrow, for those occasions where some planning is involved – picnics, weekend lunches, birthday parties and Christmas – and Yesterday, a culinary celebration of nostalgic family food memories. 
With more than 200 recipes, there are dishes to keep everyone happy, from snacks for children in Crunch! Squish! Slurp! to super-quick supper recipes for parents in After Lights Out, and no teenager should fly the nest without 10 Things You Should Know How to Cook Before You Leave Home. 

A new Leon cookbook is always something to celebrate and this is ceratin to become a much-loved classic on the kitchen shelf.
This is such a happy book, I smiled all the way through it. Friendly and happy and a joy to use. Highly recommended. A couple of excerpts follow to give you a taste.

Cooking With Kids
Learning to cook is an essential part of growing up, so these are our top tips for getting your youngsters interested in cooking.
     Role models: As you know, kids like to copy adults and older kids. So the more they see you or their brothers and sisters or cousins cook when they are toddlers, the more they will want to get involved.
     Cooking judo: As soon as they show the first signs of interest, go with it. Don’t try and force them to cook what you want them to cook. Usually it is a cake that first interests them. Make it ‘their thing’. Natasha has made gluten-free pancakes her thing, and Eleanor bakes a cake that is basically a sponge cake … that is pink. And it is ‘her recipe’. Last week she announced she was ‘presenting it’ for this cook book.
     Weighing with numbers: In our experience kids like the process of weighing. Butter. Flour. Digital scales are easy and fun for them to use. A sponge cake where you have the same amount of butter and flour means they don’t have to remember too many numbers.
     Break it down: Teach them order from the beginning. It will help give them confidence and help them manage themselves as they get older. For example, lay out all the ingredients before you start cooking rather than rushing back and forth to the fridge.
     The whole routine: Cooking, in the mind of a child, is the whole process from soup to nuts. It includes the talking about what food to make, shopping, peeling, licking the bowl, washing up, and sitting down to eat it. So let them enjoy each phase and celebrate with them as their dish is served out to everyone.
     Special occasions: If you have a family gathering, let them make something that is their contribution for it. Maybe they can cook the little sausages at Christmas.
     Peeling can be fun: You may be pleasantly surprised at how kids enjoy the things that you find dull. Eleanor, from the age of two, has really enjoyed peeling carrots and potatoes. It may take 20 minutes to do just a couple, but it is wonderful to watch.
     Find the magic: The most fascinating dishes for kids are those that undergo the most magical transformations. Meringue. Or even popcorn.
     It’s a gift: Kids get most excited when what they are cooking becomes a present for a friend or member of the family.
Food is relationships: It’s not really about the food is it? It is about the time you are spending with them. So make it fun. Be nice. And create some happy memories.

Katie’s Sprout & Caramelized Onion Soup

Katie says: ‘I love making soups. They’re generally easy, and yet everyone thinks you’re terribly clever. This one was the result of over-enthusiastic sprout-buying last Christmas: it was so popular it even made it on to the official Derham Boxing Day menu this year – and believe me, that hasn’t changed for about three generations.’
450g onions, sliced
50g butter
1 tablespoon sugar
a handful of fresh thyme, leaves picked
450g Brussels sprouts, tidied up and halved
1 litre chicken stock
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the onions in the butter. By this I mean don’t brown them, just put them on the lowest possible heat in a heavy-based pan with the lid on and let them go transparent for about 40 minutes. (I found that heating them up, then putting them into the warming oven of the Aga was perfect: a low-temperature conventional oven would work, too.)
When they’re really floppy, put them on the hob, turn the heat up a bit and add the sugar. Let them caramelize by cooking them for 5–10 minutes, stirring regularly, until they’ve started to colour a bit.
Stir in the thyme (strip the leaves off about 4 sprigs) and the sprouts, mix it all together, add a bit of salt and pepper, then add the chicken stock. (Stock cubes are naturally fine for this, though if you happen to have proper stock already made or sitting in the fridge, it will make the finished soup a notch superior.)
Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sprouts are tender. Whizz in a food processor or blender, taking care as the soup will be very hot. If you think it’s looking a little thick, add a splash more stock to loosen the texture. Serve with a swirl of cream if you’re feeling fancy.

Note at foot of page with the above recipe:
Katie is my wife and a very tremendous one. After we first met, I explained to her that she was going to marry me, and eventually the penny dropped and she did. OK, so there are some stories in between those two things, but I can tell you that in my view she would make a very good Queen of a small country. She is, in my view, pretty, interesting, interested, smart, great company, caring, a lovely Mum, good on the TV, sociable, a great team player, kind, has good posture, and I love her very much.


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