Sausage pasta


‘Look my willy! Look like snake, long snake. I pull it?’

Two minutes later.

‘Look my crazy willy!’

In other news, we had sausage pasta for dinner. 

Serves 2

1 onion, chopped

2 small carrots, diced

2 sticks celery, diced

1 tin chopped tomatoes and half the can of water

Olive oil 

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon cream

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

4 sausages 

1 tablespoon cream

Parmesan to serve 

Fry the veg gently in olive oil till starting to soften then tip in the tomatoes and water, and season. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile de-skin the sausage and break into pieces into a hot pan with a splash of oil in. Add the fennel seeds and cook on a very low heat while the sauce cooks. 

Then blend the sauce, add half to the sausages (fridging or freezing the rest for pasta sauce or pizza sauce), stir a spoonful of cream into the remainder and simmer on a very low heat while you cook the pasta. Add a splash of the drained pasta water to the sauce, stir through the cooked pasta till its coated in sauce and you’re good to go. Sprinkle on Parmesan at the table.

Eat naked from the waist down, dressed as the Gruffalo waist up.


Raspberry, almond and yoghurt cake


I strapped Bert into his car seat as he picked his nose and… ‘Are you eating your snot?’ I said. ‘That’s disgusting.’ 

‘No,’ he corrected me. ‘It’s delicious.’

He then swiped the back of his hand across his nose and held it out to me. ‘You try it,’ he said.

This cake was moist, just sweet enough and delicious. But its not the most delicious thing we’ve eaten this week.

Makes a small loaf

125g soft butter

175g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

125g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

45g ground almonds

125ml Greek yoghurt (or other plain yoghurt)

125g raspberries

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 degrees.

Beat the sugar and butter together till light and creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Fold through the flour, baking powder, almonds and yoghurt, then finally stir through the raspberries, gently. Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin or 20cm round tin. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, till golden and firm on top. We had ours warm with a dollop of yoghurt, and now I’m thinking that that’s practically a balanced breakfast tomorrow.

 

Salmon fish fingers 


Daddy’s away with work for nearly four weeks. Today’s only day two but I’ve already been told Bert’s cross with him four times. When we walked the dog on the heath by the hospital this afternoon, Bert pointed at a man aged, I don’t know, 90, and said ‘is that my dad?’ I thought the man didn’t hear but he gave us a bleary wink and said ‘I wish I was!’ 

As we approached someone sitting outside the hospital, Bert said, ‘that my dad? Oh no,’ dismissively and loudly, ‘just old man.’ ‘Not old!’ I said brightly, ‘and not a man!’ 

Then Bert repeated, with great pleasure and not for the first time, his version of the birth story I told him last time we were here, since this was the hospital he was born in. ‘Didda in Bert’s punny [tummy]. Very big bottom. Huge! Mum take Bert hospital and Didda come out Bert’s punny. We put nappy on Didda and blanket and take him home.’ 

I guess sometimes missing people comes out in funny ways. And, sometimes, a story can put an image into your brain that can never be undone.

Makes 6

2 salmon fillets

1 tablespoon cornflour

50ml milk

2 tablespoons breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Olive oil

Cut the salmon into strips about a centimetre deep and a couple of centimetres wide. There’s often a thin end of a fillet so cut that off and slice the remaining piece horizontally in a parallel line to the surface of the fillet. Arrange the flour, milk and mixed crumbs and cheese in three bowls and production-line dip the fish in flour then milk then crumbs & cheese. Fry in olive oil on a medium heat for six minutes, turning after three.

Four veg pizza sauce

Looks and tastes like standard pizza sauce (maybe a little sweeter), turns pizza into a vaguely healthy meal for small builders who spent all afternoon methodically digging a tiny road into the gravel on the drive.

I can’t remember the last time I saw my child without fancy dress on, other than in the bath.

Enough for about 16 pizzas (I froze some)

1 large carrot

1 small parsnip

2 sticks celery

Dash olive oil

Salt and pepper

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon golden caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200 degrees. Slice the veg into 5cm batons, drizzle generously with oil, season and roast for about half an hour. Then tip the lot, oil and all, into a pan with the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and sugar, cooking gently for 10 minutes. Blend to a puree, check seasoning and spread on rolled out pizza dough before adding mozzarella and any other toppings (ham for me, road dust for him).

Banana and chocolate button loaf


Do I really need another recipe for a banana loaf? Yes, I do.

Bert’s been saving reward stickers for a month now and today was the day we went shopping for his chosen toy (‘Zuma, Skye, Rocky [all Paw Patrol dog characters that drive a vehicle], a dinosaur, a Gruffalo, another Gruffalo’ he said, ambitiously.) He got the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s child and we walked back to the car, Bert in full Gruffalo outfit, holding a Gruffalo in each hand and explaining to me he’s going to live in the ‘deep, dark woods’ with the Gruffalos plus the real Gruffalo, cuddling and kissing them and telling stories. Bliss indeed. (Yes, he’s sleeping in the Gruffalo body.)

He tells me Gruffalos don’t eat cake so I’ll have this one to myself.

Makes a 2lb loaf 

125g butter

150g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg

60ml whole milk 

190g self-raising flour

100g chocolate buttons

Pre heat the oven to gas mark 3/ 170 degreee. Line a 2lb loaf tin (I partly make so many loaves because I have a pack of the ready made paper liners.)

Melt the butter, sugar and vanilla together then mix into the bananas and egg. Add the milk then stir through the flour and then the chocolate buttons. Tip into the tin and bake for about 45-50 minutes. 

If Bert finds six empty packets of chocolate buttons in the bin tomorrow I’ll be mince meat.

Blueberry and lemon loaf (or 12 muffins)


Me and Bert took my mum out for dinner for Mother’s Day, to a perfectly family-friendly restaurant (in fact, the waitress was either Bert’s soul mate or a highly-skilled professional charmer, and exchanged dinosaur facts with him for hours, seeming genuinely disappointed to serve other tables). But yet again we were given the blandest of food options for Bert. Even though I had delicious sticky ribs, coleslaw and fries and my mum had an amazing fish pie, his options were the usual fish fingers, chicken nuggets, macaroni cheese and spag bol. No kids’ cutlery, so he had to struggle with even larger than usual adult ones (or a teaspoon). And I’d lugged a bag of stickers, books and playmobil people with me to try to stave off the moment where all the child-free adults in the room collectively put a court order on him to leave. (Despite this, the ten minutes before we left were taken up with trying to coax a three year old in full Gruffalo gear out from under the table.)

I thought, I should set up a Me and Bert cafe! Books and lego at every table, children’s plates and cutlery, a different, free, ‘try something new’ tiny-taster bowl with the kids’ meals each day, children’s loyalty cards and space for push chairs. Child-friendly food that’s tasty first, nutritious second and edible by actual adults. We’d clean up with the pre-school mums and dads and grandparents! We’d only need to open school hours…

Then I remembered that, as a work at home freelancer, my standard day encompasses putting dinner on, stroking the dog’s ears (not a euphamism) and making an impulsive cake for pudding. And I realised that the reality of running a cafe  would be a huge shock to my  system, one that would probably age me ten years in a week. Nevermind my less than perfect cooking days suddenly being extremely public.

But here’s a cake that would have been on the menu.

Makes a small loaf

150g soft butter

150g golden caster sugar

150g self-raising flour (hold a tablespoon back to toss the blueberries in)

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 tablespoon whole milk

3 eggs

Grated zest of one lemon

100g blueberries, tossed in a tablespoon of flour (supposed to help them not to sink) (update: but didn’t)

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 degrees and line a small loaf tin or 12 muffin holes.

Beat everything except the blueberries together for a good 5-10 minutes (about 4 minutes in a mixer), till it’s pale and fluffy. Gently fold through the blueberries and bake for about an hour (or 15-20 minutes for the muffins), till it’s golden and firm on top. Hide from your child’s father till dinner time. (The cake, that is – I’m not suggesting a game of hide and seek.) Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche or yoghurt.

Mother’s Day marmalade cake (or a banana and oat loaf for toddlers)


(I say the banana loaf versions for toddlers – Bert’s dad’s eaten about 1/2 a loaf in the last ten minutes.)

The marmalade version’s a mother’s day present for my mum. I overheard Bert telling his dad, ‘I love Gran!’ this morning – if only I’d recorded it that it could be a mother’s day present too.

Anyway, here’s an easy to make and easy to eat cake for the person in your life who taught you how to talk, spoon food into your mouth and wee in the right places.

Makes a small loaf

150g soft butter

100g golden castor sugar

50g soft dark brown sugar

1teaspoon baking powder

150g self-raising flour

3  eggs

I heaped tablespoon marmalade (to convert to a banana loaf, use 2 large or 3 small bananas instead)

Zest of one orange (to convert to a banana loaf, use 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence instead)

115g porridge oats

150ml double cream or full fat yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180°C or gas mark 4. Line a 2lb loaf tin (one of the smaller ones).

If you have a mixer, bung everything in and cream together till fluffy (about 5 minutes). You don’t even have to mash the bananas for the banana version first. If you don’t, then cream the butter and sugar together before adding the wet ingredients (bananas mashed in this case) and stiring the dry ingredients through.

Bake for around a hour, till the top’s cracked and firm.