Monday 20 January 2020

Recipes: Brenda Costigan with tasty pittas and bagels, chunky soup, or chickpea and chorizo salad

When you're hit by hunger pangs between meals, there's nothing more satisfying than a hearty snack, whipped up in your own kitchen, says Brenda Costigan, so get ready for tasty pittas and bagels, chunky soup, or chickpea and chorizo salad

There are many times when we fall in the door, starving, in need of something substantial -- fast! With some forward planning, the store cupboard should contain plenty of snack-making ingredients. I'm an inveterate nibbler, but I've now resolved to only eat when I'm sitting down, not standing at the counter.

When hunger hits, a decent snack helps prevent nibbling and gives us sufficent fuel to go on. Suitable for anytime, the following recipes include a selection of hot and cold snacks, salad and soup.



Bagels have a wonderful chewy quality, and are ideal for a snack. Spread with a flavoured cream cheese and fill with sliced ham. Use fresh olives rather than tinned or ones from a jar. A little tomato relish adds extra flavour. Serves 1.

You will need:

1 bagel

1-2 tablespoons of flavoured cream cheese (eg herb and garlic)

1 slice of ham

3-5 stuffed olives, left whole or chopped

1-2 teaspoons tomato relish (optional)

Rocket, to garnish

Slit the bagel in two, horizontally, and spread both pieces generously with the flavoured cream cheese. Arrange the ham in the centre of the bottom half of the bagel and sprinkle with the whole or chopped stuffed olives. Add some tomato relish, if you are using it. Sandwich the bagel halves together and serve on a plate, garnished with some rocket.


A familiar combination that never fails to please. Serves 1, increase the quantities as required.

You will need:

1 slice of cooked ham

1 slice of buttered toast

A little mustard, French or English (optional)

1 pineapple ring

25g (1oz) mature Cheddar, grated

Place the slice of cooked ham on the buttered toast. Spread a hint of the French or English mustard on it, whichever you are using, if you are using it. Place the pineapple ring on top. Cover the toast generously and evenly with the grated mature Cheddar -- go right out to the edge to prevent the crusts scorching under the grill. Place under a hot grill until the cheese has melted and turned a delicious golden colour. Serve hot, with a knife and fork if required.


There is a great combination of flavours and textures in this hearty, simple-to-prepare salad, which can also be served cold. The onions are fried until they are soft and flavoured with a little balsamic vinegar -- this is a bit like a quick onion jam. Raw chorizo sausages can be used if you like, as they are fried in this recipe. If raw chorizo is not available, use the salami-style chorizo. This is inspired by one of Antony Worrall Thompson's recipes. Serve warm or cold -- not chilled. Serves 4.

You will need:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 red chillies, seeded and thinly sliced (see note)

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped

3 red onions, thinly sliced

2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

175-225g (6-8oz) chorizo, chopped or sliced

2 x 400g (14oz) cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

200g (7oz) feta, chopped in chunks

8 spring onions, thinly sliced

1-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


Use the slightly larger, not-so-hot chillies.

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a pan and add the seeded and thinly sliced red chillies, the chopped garlic and the thinly sliced red onions. Cook over a high heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from sticking. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and cook gently to partly evaporate it. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and leave it to sit for about 10 minutes to mellow.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in the pan and fry the chopped or sliced chorizo for a few minutes to release the fat (and to cook it if it is raw). Add the drained, rinsed chickpeas to the pan and cook everything together to blend the flavours and heat the ingredients through. Then add the chickpea mixture to the onion mixture and toss them together. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper, if required.

If you're serving the salad warm, at this point add in the chopped fresh parsley, the chopped fresh coriander, if you are using it, the chopped fresh mint, the chunks of feta and the thinly sliced spring onions to the bowl. Dress with a little of the extra-virgin olive oil, to taste, and toss the salad gently.

If you're serving the salad cold, wait until the contents of the bowl are cold before adding in the herbs, the feta and the chopped spring onions. Dress and toss it as described above.


A few peanuts give a delightful extra crunch to this tasty mix. The tinned tuna combines well with the finely chopped celery and apple, which are added to a tub of cottage cheese. Serves 2-3.

You will need:

1 x 200g carton cottage cheese flavoured with chives (or garlic and herbs)

1 x 100g (almost 4oz) tin (or the larger 200g/7oz) tuna, drained

2 sticks of celery, chopped

1 eating apple, peeled or unpeeled, chopped

50g (2oz) peanuts

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Shredded lettuce, to serve

2-3 pitta breads, slit down one side to make a pocket, toasted, to serve

In a bowl, mix together the cottage cheese, the drained tuna, the chopped celery, the chopped apple and the peanuts. Season with some salt and freshly ground black pepper if necessary.

Put a little shredded lettuce into the base of each toasted pitta pocket and pile some of the tuna and cottage-cheese mixture on top. Serve.


Really good, this quick-to-cook, chunky soup is ideal for a light lunch dish. Dice the potato so it cooks quickly. Serve with crusty bread. Serves 4-6.

You will need:

4 skinless chicken breast fillets

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2-4 tablespoons olive oil

175g (6oz) mushrooms, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 -1 teaspoon hot chilli powder (optional)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped in small dice

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

900ml (1 1/2pt) water

1 1/2 -2 chicken stock cubes, crumbled

1/4 teaspoon mixed herbs

1 bay leaf

300ml (1/2 pt) fresh milk

Kneaded butter (see note)

1 tablespoon fresh parsley or chives, chopped

Crusty bread, to serve


To make the kneaded butter, mash a tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of flour until they form a paste.

Cut the skinless chicken breast fillets into little chunks -- about 6-8 chunks per fillet, depending on the size of the fillet. Using a heavy-based saucepan, fry the chopped onion and the chopped garlic in the olive oil until they become soft. Add the chopped mushrooms and fry until they are soft too, adding a little more olive oil if necessary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Next, fry the chicken chunks in two lots until they turn white or, better still, lightly golden. Add the hot chilli powder, if you are using it, and stir it through the ingredients. Add the peeled, diced potatoes and the finely chopped celery to the saucepan along with the water, the crumbled chicken stock cubes, the mixed herbs and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and simmer gently until all the ingredients are tender; this should take about 20 minutes.

Add the fresh milk and drop in the kneaded butter, in small pieces, while you bring the soup to the boil. Stir briskly all the time, perhaps using a whisk, to mix in the kneaded butter until the soup thickens slightly. Add the chopped fresh parsley or chives, whichever you are using, and simmer briskly for about a minute or so to cook the kneaded butter. Add some salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Serve with crusty bread. This soup reheats excellently.


These muffins are great for a snack. They can be frozen, so while you have the oven on, make double the amount. Season well. Makes 8-10 muffins.

You will need:

350g (12oz) self-raising flour

6 back rashers, grilled, finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

50g (2oz) grated Cheddar

Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper

50g (2oz) butter

175ml (6fl oz) milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon English mustard

Butter or relish, to serve

Use a non-stick muffin tin with 12 deep holes. This mixture will fill about 8-10 of the muffin holes. Lightly grease the tin. Preheat the oven to 200 C, 400 F, Gas 6.

Put the self-raising flour into a bowl and add the finely chopped grilled back rashers, the chopped fresh chives, the grated Cheddar and season with some salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Mix everything well together. Melt the butter, then take it off the heat. Add the milk to cool the butter, then add the lightly beaten egg and the English mustard.

Add enough of the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients to make a soft dough, but not a sloppy one. Put the dough into the muffin holes and bake in the oven until the muffins are golden and cooked through -- about 25-35 minutes. Serve warm or cold with butter or relish.


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