Pesto, bacon and tomato pasta 

Or green dinosaur and meat pasta as we call it.

Today Bert discovered he could run out of the back door and climb back in through the living room window. He declared himself ‘amazing superhero window boy’, and every time (there were about 50 times) he attempted to climb in, I was instructed to say, ‘there’s no way Bert could climb in the window. He’s just a boy! Unless…’

We were all assigned personas – I’m bookandtea-man (realistically my best fit superhero), Tony campervan-man (ditto) and Ray lead-dog (he’s less thrilled).

This is campervanman’s favourite crime fighting pasta dish.

Serves 3-4

2 little packets of diced pancetta or diced bacon, fried in a little olive oil

1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 bag of pine nuts, dry toasted in a hot pan

Cooked pasta

3 dessert spoons pesto

Parmesan cheese, grated

Combine the cooked pasta, pesto, pine nuts, tomatoes and bacon, and top with cheese at the table.


Egg fried rice

At music group today Bert had three tantrums, threw a plastic cuckoo clock at his best friend’s head and refused to apologise. When his dad asked him at dinner if ‘Tadpole Tunes was good’, Bert replied with a flat ‘no’.

When I was trying to convince him to leave the house at lunchtime, I said ‘you can jump off the back of the sofa and then we’ll leave. Deal?’ He laughed, said ‘No deal!’ in a high-pitched voice and dived, head first, off the sofa.

He did eat this, on condition that I spoon feed him. 

Winning at parenting; as Bert would say, ‘I nailed!’

Serves 4

Cooked rice, left to cool (works even better if cooked the day before) 

4 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 of fish sauce 

Thumb (what else!) of ginger, grated

1/2 small white cabbage, finely sliced to ribbons

Handful of frozen edamame beans or peas

6 spring onions, finely sliced

Leftover chicken or pork, shredded, or some frozen prawns (or a combination of these)

4 tablespoons sunflower oil

50g salted peanuts, bashed into chunks

Heat half of the oil in a wok and cook the cabbage and ginger for about 5 minutes, till wilting, then add the cooked meat, onions and beans and cook for another three minutes. Remove to a bowl.

Get the rest of the oil smoking hot in the wok then add the rice, stirring quickly till it’s coated with oil. Add the egg mixture and stir rapidly till it’s completely coating the rice, then keep stirring and cook till it’s starting to brown and caramelise in places. Stir the rest back through and serve, sprinkling the peanuts on at the table.

From the National Trust Family Cookbook. 

Tomato-plus soup

I’m having a bad mummy day. A shouty, irritable day not a fun, whisky swilling, swearing, Bad Santa kind of day. This photo, complete with iPad, shows that even by lunchtime I’d decided to pick my battles, for both of our sakes.

At bedtime I said, ‘have I been really grumpy today?’, beautifully finishing off a bad tempered day with a bit of neediness. ‘No,’ Bert said, ‘it was my fault.’ Which of course made me feel even worse.

When Bert spoke to his dad at dinner time I was hoping he’d mention the fun stuff we’d done rather than say I’d been shouting at the dog then apologising all day. But no: ‘we played and then I felt something moving in my punny and then a poo came out!’ ‘Great!’ said his dad with the level of over-excited cheer that seems to be everyone’s standard response to poo news. ‘Where? When?’ ‘On the chair!’ Tony’s smile became just a touch more fixed.

Luckily it’s a leather chair. 

This is week five of Bert’s dad working away and while I don’t want to moan about parenting someone I wanted and love dearly, single parents, whether they are better people than me or just have to tolerate a lot of feeling like a shit parent days or both, have my deep felt admiration.

Serves 2

A portion of cooked veg, primarily orange-hued (we had half a large carrot in batons and a couple of spears of broccoli left over from Sunday dinner, but I’ve also used a tin of drained sweet corn combined with a handful of frozen peas in the past)

A large teaspoon of butter

A clove of garlic, crushed

1 tin of tomatoes and half the can of water

A teaspoon of light brown sugar

1 tablespoon of cream

1 egg yolk


Melt the butter, fry the garlic for a few seconds then add the veg, tomatoes, water, sugar and seasoning. Bring to a rapid simmer. Puree then stir through the egg yolk and cream, check seasoning and serve.

Bert took a sip through his bowl’s in-built straw and said, ‘mmm, it really is tasty!’ How could I be impatient with such a boy?

Spinach and cashew pesto

Green things Bert approves of: dinosaurs, traffic lights, broccoli and now this. Green things Bert does not approve of – salad; ‘you eat leaves?! That’s kind of crazy.’

I thought he might help me make this in the ‘milkshake maker’, but no, instead he sent his dad about a hundred texts of emojis that he toils and sweats and weeps over like he’s writing a novel.

Makes a couple of small jars (you may get one in the post, Mum)

75g spinach

75g cashews

35g grated parmesan (an earlier edit read garlic – I apologise to anyone who cooked this and still has garlic breath)

2 cloves garlic

2 dessert spoons chopped basil

2 dessert spoons chopped mint

Zest, grated, and juice of a lemon

190ml olive oil

2 teaspoons sea salt (1/2 teaspoon table salt)

Blend the lot and keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Sardine fish cakes 

Photographed in the middle of singing our own version of The Wheels on the Bus. I made the mistake of suggesting ‘the grandad on the bus says have some crisps’ as a verse, after which the fish cakes lost their appeal.

He ate half the fish cake. And a packet of crisps.

Makes 4-5 fish cakes (just the two of us so I froze two)

400g mashed potato (ours were leftovers – if cooking from scratch leave to cool first)

200g tinned sardines (about 2 tins), drained and broken up -coincidentally how I felt on Saturday after a full day of screaming tantrums

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 small egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon breadcrumbs and more to coat

A few chives, finely chopped


Combine the ingredients, adding more breadcrumbs if the mixture seems too wet. Form into patties and sprinkle them with breadcrumbs, turning over and sprinkling again. I chilled them at this point but according to the recipe there is no need!

Get a couple of tablespoons of sunflower oil very hot in a large frying pan then fry the fish cakes for a couple of minutes on each side, till deep golden brown.

We had ours with broccoli, Bert had half a slice of buttered bread, I had half an avocado, sliced and drizzled with chili oil and sea salt. Bert begged to try the avocado then declared it ‘too frothy’.

This is another one from the National Trust Family Cookbook, only I subbed smoked mackerel with tinned sardines.

Cheddar and parsnip bread

‘You’re too gorgeous,’ I said to Bert, grabbing him for a cuddle as this was cooking for our lunch.

‘I not too gorgeous,’ he said strictly. ‘I right amount gorgeous.’

Too true.

Makes 2 small loaves

175g self raising flour

50g grated strong Cheddar

175g grated parsnip (about 3 parsnips)

1 lightly beaten egg

4-5 tablespoons whole milk


Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180. Combine all the ingredients gently until they’re just formed into a dough, then split into 2 rough, round loafs. Bake on a lined baking sheet for abou 35-40 minutes, until they’re golden and hollow-sounding when the bottom’s tapped.

Instant banana icecream

Bert has recently decided he doesn’t like Ray. His reason? ‘He makes me sick.’ Poor old Ray.

Last week we were snuggled up reading a bedtime story and turned around to see Ray gathering a blanket into a frenzied ball between his legs and making violent love to it. There was a short pause then Bert asked, ‘what’s Ray doing?’ I weakly described it as a special cuddle but am now terrified that nursery will complain about Bert’s new ‘special cuddles’.

I love Ray but sometimes he makes me sick too.

(I should perhaps clarify that Ray’s the dog not a particularly disturbing member of the family.)

Serves 1

1 banana

Slice any spare, nearly too-ripe bananas into discs and freeze (in a single layer – if they stick together when they freeze it doesn’t work so well).

Decant frozen banana to a blender and blend. At first it looks kind of grainy then it becomes the texture of soft ice cream. Scrape out and serve. An easy, on demand ice cream and your child avoids bring presented with yet another banana loaf. (Though I do love banana loaf.)

This is from the brilliant National Trust Family Cookbook – I’ve made three things from it so far and they were all keepers.