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

Seasoning

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?

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.


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).

Carrot, ginger and red lentil soup

Bert is regularly in character (and full fancy dress) as a fireman, astronaut or builder. He’s been known to be a cowboy, a dinosaur, a policeman and a pirate. Peepo, despite popping to Sainsbury’s and then driving back to his own house, occasionally visits, and we have a number of invisible lions and dinosaurs that live with us, as well as Peepo’s creepy mate, the flying monkey.

Next to Bert I feel positively unimaginative, but one thing I am good at inventing is soup.

This is normally another us-not-Bert one, though Bert will have a go at almost any soup if it’s topped with croutons (toss cubes of bread – the staler the better – in olive oil, sea salt and dry rosemary, bake at 200/ gas mark 6 for about 10 minutes, till golden).

Serves 2-3

25g butter

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

2cm fresh ginger, grated (I portion it up and freeze it, grating it frozen)

3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped

Large handful red lentils

1 chicken stock cube

Boiling water

Dollop creme fraiche to serve

Melt the butter in a saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic and spices. When the onion’s transparent, tip in the carrots, sweating gently for a couple of minutes, then add the ginger, seasoning, lentils, stock and enough boiling water to entirely cover the veg. Bring to a rapid boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Puree and check seasoning then serve with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

 

Chickpea and tomato macaroni

 

Bert breakfasted as a fireman, shopped as an astronaut and dined as a builder.

If I’d ever wondered what it was like to be famous, walking down a shopping street with a tiny astronaut would have given me a clue. Nearly everyone stared, smiled or stopped to talk. Bert was muttering to himself under his helmet ‘look me! I spaceman!’ 

Not every man can carry off a silver jump suit.

Serves 2-3

1 small onion, chopped

A little olive oil

3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

400ml passata

1 x 380g can chickpeas

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons single cream

Macaroni to appetite

This is based on a Nigel Slater recipe but I rarely make a tomato sauce without adding extra veg. I had mine with green salad (Bert mimed being sick) and we both had grated cheese on top.

Gently sauté the onion in a little olive oil. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and cook till the onion’s transparent, then tip in the passata (or tinned tomatoes, if you prefer). Bring to a fast simmer then turn right down and cook on a gentle heat for an hour to an hour and a half.

At the end of the cooking time put the pasta on to boil. Puree the sauce and add the drained chickpeas and cream, seasoning to your taste. Heat through for five minutes then stir through the drained pasta.

If you don’t have a blender, you could finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and grate the veg.

Serve with grated cheese and green leaves (bleurgh).

  

 

Chicken skewers, veg fritters and potato croquettes

img_6474

A one tray in the oven meal, using leftovers, but you could use fresh veg. As I handed it to Bert he said, ‘mmm, Bert like – very nice. Thank you Mummy!’ What an angel. He didn’t eat the fritters but I knew that was pushing it since the veg were a. visible and b. not raw or frozen.

Eaten on the sofa under a duvet because I thought he was ill, but he ate all of his (except the fritters of course), stole some of mine then had 3 portions of strawberry yoghurt. I think I’ve been had.

The fritters recipe is based on a recipe in the fantastic Fast Days and Feast Days by Ellie Pear.

Served 2

For the fritters:

1 small carrot, grated

Mixed leftover veg – we had peas and savoy cabbage – chopped if not already in smallish pieces

1/2 block of haloumi (100g), grated

1 egg

2 dessert spoons plain flour

Salt

A few leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped

For the croquettes:

Leftover mash

1 egg, beaten

Flour to dust

Storecupboard golden breadcrumbs

For the chicken skewers:

1 chicken breast, cubed

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

dessert spoon olive oil

dessert spoon lemon juice

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

Combine all the ingredients for the fritters, form into four patties and put on a large baking tray.

Form the mash into little barrel shapes, dush in flour, roll in egg and then coat in breadcrumbs. Put them on the same baking tray and put the tray in the fridge for an hour or two.

Combine the chicken in a dish with the rest of the marinade ingredients and pop in the fridge for an hour or two. Preheat the oven to 200/ gas mark 7, then thread the marinated chicken onto skewers and put on the same baking tray as the veg.

Put everything in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning everything once halfway through. Ketchup for dipping if you’re a small boy.

Sweet and sour chicken

chinese chickwn

We went to the zoo this morning, and on the way out Bert was counting on his fingers all the animals he’d seen. ‘One, tiger. Two, pinguin. Three, tiger. Five, tiger.’

Basically, we liked the tiger.

This is a zoo selfie because I forgot to take a picture of Bert eating the chicken.

Serves 3-4

For the sauce:

100ml Chinese rice vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 table spoon dark brown sugar

1 tin of pineapple and the juice

4 star anise

1 dessert spoon tamarind (optional)

4 small carrots, cut into batons

1 red pepper, chopped into bitesized pieces

For the chicken:

2-3 chicken breasts, cut into bitesized pieces

240g self raising flour

50g cornflour and more to dust

200ml tap water

200ml sparkling water

Sunflower oil to fry

Put the pineapple and its juice, the sugar and honey, the vinegar and the star anise (and the tamarind, if you have it) in a saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the veg for the last 10 or so minutes, depending on how crunchy you like it; a little more if you like it soft. Remove the star anise before serving.

Whisk together the two types of flour, the water and sparkling water to make the batter. Dust the chicken in cornflour and then coat it in batter. Fry it in sunflower oil in a deep pan at 180 degrees for about five minutes, till it puffs up and goes golden. Serve with rice.

Do not make the mistake of frying it in a deep fat fryer unless you fancy dancing around the kitchen, swearing as you try to dislodge the welded-on chicken from the metal basket.