Fish pie

fishpie

I’m not a fan of boiled eggs, vegetables, prawns or other such fancy touches in fish pies. This is a bit like the fish pie my mum used to make and there’s a comfort in the way our palettes and recipes get passed down the line.

I’ve since nerded out a bit on the subject of mashed potato, and come to the conclusion that fish pie really needs a very dry mash so that it doesn’t merge into the sauce. Steaming potatoes with their skin on is the way forward, though it does take ages. They keep a really potatoey taste, too.

Serves 4

450g fish – a combination of salmon, white fish and smoked fish like smoked haddock. Ideally skinless and boneless. Cut into bite sized chunks.

500ml whole milk

1 dessert spoon butter

1 dessert spoon plain flour

Chopped parsley – a small bunch

750-850g floury potatoes (that’s about 4 or 5 medium sized baking potatoes)

1 tablespoon of butter

Salt, pepper and grated nutmeg to taste

About 130g cheddar cheese, grated

Put the fish in a pan, cover with the milk, bring to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Get your potatoes steaming. Remove the cooked fish and reserve the milk. Melt the dessert spoon of butter in a saucepan, mix in the flour to form a roux and gradually add the milk the fish was cooked in till you have a thick white sauce. The fish goes in an oven proof dish, followed by the chopped parsley and the sauce. Ideally leave this to cool till your potatoes are ready so that the sauce is a bit firmer and the potato’s easier to spread on top.

Steam the potatoes in their skin for about 45 minutes, till tender. Mash or, even easier, rice with a potato ricer. Return the pan of mash to the hob and add the butter, stirring through as it melts. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Cover the fish with the mash and then the grated cheese. Cook at 200 (or the middle of the Aga roasting oven) for about 30 minutes, till golden and bubbling. Give it an extra 10 minutes to cool. Bert looks very disapproving if he’s served food that’s too hot, making a tiny O mouth and blowing showily on each mouthful.

I know his portion looks massive. It’s not the perspective.

Raspberry and soft cheese sandwich

raspsand

Okay, I admit I didn’t eat this myself, but Bert loved it. I’ve been struggling with lunches since he stopped eating eggs and refuses most sandwiches, but this worked. Now, how can I sneak a carrot in?

Serves a greedy 0.5

1 English muffin

Generous slathering of Philadelphia cheese

Scattering of raspberries

Split the muffin, spread with cheese, squish in the raspberries and stuff in face.

We walked Ray, hunted Gruffolos and Bert ate a picnic in his baby carrier, which he found a totally hilarious concept. At one point, Ray ran into the woods and a couple of seconds later three black spaniels, including Ray, ran out – also hilarious if you’re one and a half.

Gran’s sweetcorn pudding

sweetcorn

My mum used to make something like this when we were small. It came to me in a flash today and I thought it would be nice with the pulled pork I put in the oven at lunchtime.

Serves 4-6 (just me and Bert here though, ahem)

2 thick slices white bread – about 170g

2 eggs

400ml milk

1/2 teaspoon paprika

250g can sweetcorn, drained

salt to taste

100g grated pecorino

Break the bread into chunks and put in a pan with the milk. Warm till the bread’s absorbed the milk and is soft. Break it up into smaller pieces with the back of a fork or spoon until it looks like mash. Then stir in the paprika, salt, sweetcorn and beaten eggs. Put in an ovenproof dish, top with the grated cheese and bake at 180-200 degrees (or near the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for about 25 minutes till it’s puffed up and golden.

While it was cooking, I desperately tried to add ‘mummy’ to Bert’s repetoire, which now includes car, hiya, RaRa (for the dog), Didda (for daddy) and bye bye. Priorities, Bert!

Shepherd’s pie

sheppie

This shepherd really likes to hide veg in his pies.

Serves 3.5 – 4.5

400 diced lamb

200g minced lamb

3 carrots, 1 sweet potato and 2 sticks celery, all coarsely grated

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Glug of olive oil

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

1 dessert spoon Worcester sauce

1 dessert spoon plain flour

1 beef stock cube

300ml hot water

400g potatoes

Knob of butter

1 leek, sliced

100g Cheshire cheese, grated

1 dessert spoon butter

Fry the onions and garlic in the oil till soft, then add the meat to brown. Stir through the grated veg and cook for five minutes, then add the flour and cook for another minute or two. Pour in the boiled water and add the Worcester sauce, tomato puree and crumbled stock cube. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on a low heat or in a low oven for 2-3 hours.

Boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes till soft. Meanwhile saute the sliced leeks in butter. Mash the potatoes with another spoon full of butter then add the cheese and the leeks. Pour the meat sauce into an ovenproof dish, top with the potato mixture and cook at 180 degrees (or the middle of an Aga roasting oven) for about half an hour, till the little peaks of potato are brown and crunchy.

Potato topping and sweet potato in the sauce – we’re really going in carb-heavy at the moment. Anything to avoid sitting up in bed at 3am while a baby repeatedly slaps you round the face and laughs his head off. The grated sweet potato does make the gravy thick and tasty, too.

Pizza

pizza

Makes about 6 pizzas – we didn’t eat all of them between the two of us, honestly

For the pizza base:

7g quick yeast

175ml lager [wonders if beer is appropriate in a recipe for a 1 year old]

200ml tap hot water – when combined, the beer and water need to be hand hot. I get the beer from the fridge and add very hot water.

600g 00 pasta flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

50ml olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

2 garlic cloves, crushed

Good glug olive oil

Can chopped tomatoes

For the topping:

About 125g mozzerella per person (that’s a single ball)

And then whatever you fancy – we had ham and pineapple so Bert could have the Pizza Hut c. 1987 experience; when his mother was in her permed prime. With good ham and a nice, crisp base, this is actually a surprisingly good topping, as rediscovered by Bert’s dad, our usual pizza chef.

Put the yeast into a bowl, pour over the liquid and whisk together. Add the remaining base ingredients, gather into a rough dough and knead till smooth. It just takes a couple of minutes or so. Don’t be tempted to add much extra flour if the dough starts out sticky – it will get smooth and a wetter dough is a better dough.

Put the dough into a clean, oiled bowl. I’d not normally advocate unneccessary cleaning, but the clean, oiled bowl means the dough doesn’t stick to it. Cover with a tea towel and leave for a couple of hours. After the first rise, give it another knead. If you have time and energy, the more stretching and folding you do at this stage the better, but this dough is still good with just a quick second knead. You can involve babies in stretching and folding if you’re looking to convert the pizza into an immune system opportunity for everyone. After the second knead, leave the dough for at least half an hour before rolling out into pizzas.

For the tomato sauce, fry the garlic briefly in a generous amount of olive oil, add the tomatoes and as soon as they’re bubbling take them off the heat and push through a sieve. Return the sieved tomatoes to the pan and reduce for five or ten minutes. You’ll know when they’re the right consistency.

When you’re ready to cook, get the oven really hot (the maximum your oven offers) and roll out the dough into six circles. Get the tray hot in the oven, then build your first pizza on the tray. Be stingy with the tomato sauce. They take about 7 – 10 minutes. The quicker and hotter the better. For Agas, put the tray directly on the floor of the roasting oven.

The dough was originally a River Cottage recipe I think, though I refer to my own notes not the original when I make it so I’ve probably cut corners and changed it a bit over the years.

Spinach, mint and parmesan frittata

frittata

Serves 2.5 (if the large people are greedy)

4 small floury potatoes

Tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Large handful spinach, chopped

Leaves from a sprig of mint, finely chopped

4 eggs, beaten

Handful grated parmesan

Peel and thickly slice the potatoes (to about 1cm thick), place in a pan of boiling water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes till tender. Drain and leave them in the colander for a couple of minutes to dry.

Heat the oil in the pan and fry the potatoes till golden, adding the garlic at the last minute. Mix the eggs, spinach and mint and pour in, topping with cheese. Cook on the stove top till firm then finish off under a hot grill till the cheese is bubbling and golden.

We had ours with sausages and cherry tomatoes. To be honest, this really could have served four.

Lasagne

lasagne

Serves 1.5

1 portion bolognaise sauce (we had about a quarter of the bolognaise we had earlier in the week)

4 sheets lasagne

1 level dessert spoon plain flour

1 level dessert spoon butter

300ml whole milk

1 or 2 bay leaves

Grating of nutmeg

Black pepper

About 100g cheese – we had a combination of pecorino and cheddar

Make your white sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour, then gradually adding the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken to a reasonably thin white sauce. Dissaude a cackling baby from using the dog as a Zimmer frame.

Assemble your lasagne. I started with a layer of cheese, then the usual pattern of meat sauce, lasagne and white sauce for two layers. Finish with white sauce and then top with another sprinkling of cheese. Bert liked touching the flour and soft butter, but his sensory play with the cheese turned into him grabbing a large handful and stuffing it in his mouth. Into a hot oven (200 degrees) for about half an hour, till the cheese is bubbling and the lasagne’s cooked through.

I must admit I used a rubber muffin tray for this, imagining a perfectly cute baby portioned lasagne tower on Bert’s plate. (Yes, I did cut individual circles from the lasagne sheets with a wine glass.) My lasagne didn’t have the structural integrity for that outcome, but it would be quite a handy way to make it for the freezer if you greased the muffin tray first and used a rubber one so you could pop the frozen mini lasagnes out. In the muffin tray they took about 20 minutes.

Cheesey greens pasta

cheeseygreens

Serves 1.5

Enough pasta for 1.5 – we had about 140g

1 dessert spoon plain flour

1 dessert spoon butter

250ml whole milk

100g parmesan, grated

Handful fresh mint, finely chopped

Black pepper

Mixture of greensĀ  – we had half a head of broccoli, a handful of baby spinach and a few leaves of bok choi

100g cubed pancetta, fried in olive oil till crisp (optional)

Put the pasta on to boil, adding the florets of broccoli when there’s around 7 minutes to go and the finely chopped leafy greens with just one or two minutes to go. Shred them both ways, as long strands will be treated with disdain.

Melt the butter and stir in the flour, then gradually add the milk till you have a thick white sauce. Stir in the mint, cheese and black pepper.

Combine the sauce and pasta, adding the pancetta for any die-hard meat eaters. Salt yours, particularly if you’re not adding salty pancetta.

There’s a rumour going round that babies love over-cooked broccoli. Not this one. I ate all ours, but the green and cheesey sauce was eaten with relish.

Cheddar and sweetcorn fritters

cheeseandsweetcorn

A cheese and sweetcorn version of the pea and parmesan pancakes.

Serves 2.5 (Daddy’s home!)

100g self raising flour

150 ml whole milk

1 egg

A couple of handfuls of grated strong cheddar

1 small tin sweetcorn, most of the liquid drained out

Strangely, this makes a lot more than the eight that the pea and parmesan mixture makes – I think the extra liquid from the sweetcorn and extra cheese explains it.

Combine all the ingredients and pop dessert spoons of the mixture in a hot pan that’s been greased with a smigeon of butter. They need a couple of minutes on each side till they’re golden and feel firm under a spatula – you don’t want uncooked batter in the middle, so wait till they feel a little springy under pressure.

Also lovely with a thinly sliced leek that’s been sauted in butter in place of the sweetcorn.

Oat and cheese biscuits

oatandcheese

Cheese hob nobs, I suppose. Biscuits to throw at a baby in a panic when you want it to eat quickly and then have a lunchtime nap. It would make a pretty balanced and splash-free portable lunch if you added a couple of sticks of cheese and some fruit.

I’ll be honest – there are days when we mostly eat biscuits.

Makes around 25

150g oatmeal

100g wholemeal flour

100g butter, cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon baking powder

75g grated cheese – I used half parmesan, half strong cheddar

30ml of milk

Weigh out the dry ingredients and then rub in the butter – by hand or by whizzing it in a food processor. Stir through the cheese and then the milk – it should start to clag. Gather into a ball and clingfilm, and put in the fridge for half an hour.

When it’s chilled, roll it out between two floured pieces of cling film to about 3mm thick and cut out discs with a small cutter or a champagne flute. I have no cutters – who needs them when the kitchen’s full of circular items? Bake at 180 for 11-13 minutes, or, with an Aga, on the grid shelf at the bottom of the roasting oven with the cold shelf two rows up.

These keep in an air tight container for a week or two, though I don’t think home-made biscuits ever get as far as going off.