Beef and mushroom burgers, corn on the cob and potato wedges

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The other day, Bert’s dad mentioned this author to me. ‘I love her writing!’ I said and added, never one to miss an opportunity, ‘That would be a great Mother’s Day present for someone who admired her writing.’ He gave me the noted look.

A couple of days later a book-shaped parcel arrived. At dinnertime, Bert and his dad asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day. ‘Aren’t you supposed to think of it yourselves?’ I said. ‘Or else there’s a book I want.’

‘Oh, I’m keeping that for myself,’ Bert’s dad said. Bert followed me into the study and said, ‘what thing do you love and want most in the world?’

‘You,’ I said. ‘Or jewelry.’

He reported back and then came back in, while I was Googling bracelets, to say, ‘something cheaper.’

‘I love bubble bath and books,’ I said.

A sign went up on Bert’s bedroom door reading ‘no Mother’s Day presents in here!!!’ and I was instructed absolutely not to look in his room, especially not on the bookshelf, and absolutely especially not on the top shelf.

At bathtime I said to him, ‘I also really like snuggly things like blankets or this bubble bath here.’

‘Mum,’ he said wearily, ‘we already got you a Mother’s Day present. We don’t need to know any more.’

Did I mention there’s a book I wanted?

Serves 3

500g minced beef

2-3 good sized closed cup mushrooms

Salt to season

A slice of cheddar each burger (or on the side if you’re five)

Three brioche buns

A few leaves of cos lettuce and a few sliced baby tomatoes to garnish

Mayonnaise and ketchup

‘Enough’ potatoes

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon onion salt

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

2-3 corn on the cobs

Teaspoon of butter

Sprinkle of salt to season

Pre-heat the oven to 200 fan.

Only you know how many potato wedges are enough. Don’t peel the potatoes, just cut into quarters or sixths, if bigger, lengthways. Put in a bowl, sprinkle on the spices, tip in the oil and mix to coat thoroughly. Lay on a lined baking tray in a single layer and cook for 35 minutes, turning half way.

Dot butter on the corn, season, wrap in foil and put on a tray in the same oven as the wedges for 30 minutes.

Mince the mushrooms finely and add to the minced beef in a bowl. Season, combine with your hands and form into three burgers, about an inch thick however big they are (for adults, aim for a little bigger than the bun, as they’ll shrink in the pan). Get a frying pan really hot, cover the base with a thin layer of oil and press the burgers firmly into the bottom of the pan to form a nice, savoury crust. Cook for 10 minutes, turning and pressing down firmly with a spatula again half way through. The pan needs to be hot enough for you to be nervous of smoke alarms. Only turn once. Do not fiddle with them.

When done, pop the slices of cheese on top, put a lid (or large baking sheet) on top of the pan and turn the heat off. The cheese will melt while you toast the buns, slice the tomatoes and spread mayo and ketchup on one half of each bun. (Or puddle the ketchup in a separate compartment of your plate if you’re five.)

You wouldn’t know the mushrooms were there if you hadn’t been told, but they make the burgers more moist and give the flavour a bit more depth. (And when was the last time a 5-year-old ate a mushroom?)

Pork, apple and Cheddar burgers

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This dinosaur’s a better veg eater than Bert is at the moment.

I’ve tried faking a meat bolognaise with finely-chopped aubergine and brown lentils (I’ll be eating that for lunch for three days then), puréeing veg into macaroni cheese and offering multiple veg with any meal. Nope. He’s ‘just not that into it,’ he politely points out. I toyed with the idea of grating a mushroom today then slapped myself firmly on the cheek.

Ultimately I want food to be a pleasure for him not a chore, so still-frozen peas and cucumber it is, for now. This burger has grated apple and cheese in, both of which he’d probably eat anyway, but it tastes nicer that way.

It’s enough for four burgers.  I made two and saved the rest for meatballs in four-veg sauce. Mwah-ha-ha-hah.

Makes 4

500g pork mince

1 apple, peeled and grated

50g Cheddar cheese, grated

1 teaspoon dried thyme

Mix together and shape into patties. Burgers shrink so always make them a little bigger than the bun. I make Bert’s Bert-size then trim the bun to fit.

Fry in a little olive oil on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Check it’s done – no one likes rare pork mince. And tuck in – welcome to the Chinese year of the pig! I’m a pig (literally, Chinese year-wise, and figuratively) so I’m expecting great things.

Chicken nuggets and sweet potato wedges (and a chicken burger for you)

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A chicken recipe for Caroline and Rupert.

It’s only when I look at these photos I’m taking every day that I realise how massive my son’s hands are.

Feeds 1.5 with nuggets to spare

2 chicken breasts

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

4 crackers (we used Jacob’s)

A bread roll

A couple of dessert spoons of mayonnaise

1 lemon

Black pepper

1 tomato, sliced

Small handful of baby spinich

1 large sweet potato

A table spoon of sunflower or vegetable oil

Bash both breasts about with a rolling pin till a little flatter – this tenderizes them. Cut one chicken breast into bite sized pieces and leave the other whole. (If neither of you are huge eaters you could do this with one large chicken breast, cutting a few nuggets off for the baby – that’s what we did.) Put the chicken in a freezer bag with the yoghurt, making sure it’s coated, and leave in the fridge for a couple of hours. The yoghurt acts as an extra tenderizer, so the nuggets are nice and soft for peg-toothed people.

Blitz your crackers to a powder by putting them in a bag and bashing with the rolling pin again (this is a good recipe for punchy days), or by putting them in the food processor for a few pulses.

While your baby climbs inside the dishwasher with a small plastic ball, peel the sweet potato, cut into wedges and coat in the oil. I pour a little oil into my hands and jiggle the wedges around in it.

After their marinade, take the chicken pieces out of the yoghurt and dip in the crumbs to coat. Add a little salt to yours. Pop the chicken and wedges onto a lined baking sheet and bake in a hot oven (about 220 degrees) for about 20 minutes. You’ll probably have more nuggets than you need if you used two chicken breasts. Either cook the lot with a view to nabbing some yourself, or freeze them in their coated state and give them an extra five minutes to cook from frozen another time. The wedges need another five minutes, so take the chicken out and give them a last blast, turning them over first.

Meanwhile, finely grate a little lemon rind (about half a lemon’s) into your mayonnaise with some black pepper and lightly toast your bap. Then construct your burger – bun, chicken, mayo, sliced tomato, spinich, bun. Any extra lemon mayonnaise can have a sweet potato wedge or two dipped in it.