Sweet and sour chicken (or tofu)

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Three years ago, our son asked us casually what our favourite colours were. Equally casually we replied – ‘red’; ‘blue’. Little did we realise that we’d unwittingly slipped a chain around our own necks – a chain that would be tightened, inch by inch, as the months and years passed.

It began as a way of sorting sweets. (Bert, cannily, selected pink, yellow, green, orange and purple as his signature colours.) It moved onto him crafting us little objects in the right colours – a blue owl made of toilet roll middles, a red octopus made out of a paper cup.

It got a shade more inconvenient when he began to insist that I put random red objects from around the home next to my bed – a red Rescue Bot or a red Superzing. Then, in a sinister flourish, this was extended to include any object with even the smallest dot of the right colour on.

In some desperation, last night I said to him, ‘I can’t keep everything red and everything that has a bit of red on it next to my bed, there’s no room and I’ll end up hating red.’

He looked at me with ice-cold eyes and said, dismissively, ‘you can have black too.’

This meal has a lot of red in it.

Serves 3

1 red pepper, diced

1 orange or yellow pepper, diced

1/2  a pineapple, diced (a tin of pineapple chunks or the majority of one of the plastic pots of them will do if you don’t have sufficient spare energy to wrestle a large, spiked fruit)

Drizzle of olive oil

2 chicken breasts, diced (and some diced firm tofu for the awkward veggies like me) – both in generous, bite sized chunks

120g self raising flour

100ml sparkling water

100ml tap water

2 tablespoons cornflour

Sunflower oil to shallow fry

(Yep, this is a faffy recipe, ingredients-wise)

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon cornflour

2-3 tablespoons water (add more if necessary)

Chopped coriander and thinly sliced spring onions, to serve

Heat the oven to 200, throw the diced pepper and pineapple on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for about 25 minutes, till starting to char round the edges.

Put the first lot of cornflour in one bowl, and in another whisk together the self raising flour and waters. Get the sunflower oil hot in a large pan (oil about 1cm deep, pan at least 10cm deep). Dip the chunks of chicken or tofu in the cornflour then the batter and then throw them place them gently into the hot pan. Cook for about 3 mins on each side, till they’re a deep, warm, golden brown.

Meanwhile put the ketchup, honey, soy, vinegar, cornflour and water into a small pan. If you happen to have some tamarind paste, add one or two teaspoons for that extra sour kick. Whisk together and simmer over a lowish heat till thickened – about five minutes. Keep checking it as it suddenly changes from watery to a thick sauce. Add a bit more water if you need to and whisk it up a little till it’s combined.

Tip the roast veg into the sauce and serve alongside the crisp chicken or tofu, sprinkling some coriander and spring onions onto adult servings. We ate it with plain boiled rice.

 

 

 

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Parmesan and oat crumbed chicken

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Last night we spoke to our vet friend (a friend who happens to be a vet, not a vet who I stalk) at bath time about the fact that Ray had eaten eight balloons (if you find yourself in the same boat: don’t worry too much unless they were modelling balloons or the dog looks more pissed off than usual) (I paraphrase).

By now Bert was in the bath. He spent the entire time I was speaking to her mouthing ‘let me talk! I dry my hands!’ When he was finally handed the phone he chatted at length, naked, about the eight unblown balloons, the light blue blown balloon that is now hidden and the one red balloon that wasn’t ‘eated’. Anna suggested she come over soon to see his new bedroom and he said casually, ‘that would be cool.’

Just now he called me into his bedroom over a toileting crisis and descended the bunk bed ladder jauntily, looking over his shoulder and smiling like a tiny Bruce Forsyth. He told me ‘you smell nice’ and trotted off to the bathroom.

He requested chicken, chips and broccoli for dinner. No one refuses a charmer. This is the chicken we ate.

Serves 1.5

1 chicken breast

1 tablespoon plain yoghurt

2 tablespoons rolled oats

1 tablespoon grated Parmesan

Bash the chicken with a rolling pin till it’s about a centimetre thick. Resident four-year-olds might help, but watch the arc of their swing. Together, put the chicken in a bowl with the yoghurt, stir to coat and chill it in the fridge for at least half an hour. This stage makes it tender and gives the coating something to cling to without the faff of flouring and milk dipping.

Pre-heat the oven to 180.

Put the oats in a ziplock bag and bash them with the rolling pin till broken up a bit. Put in a bowl with the Parmesan and stir quickly to mix. Take the chicken breast out of the yoghurt and dip in the oats, turning over till fully coated. Pop on a lined baking tray and into the oven for 20 minutes.

Yes, we ate it in front of the TV.

 

 

Chicken and mushroom biriyani (or mushroom biriyani)

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Bert’s hitting the party scene hard. Somewhere between the age of three and four, children stop existing like well-loved dogs – food ideally being stolen and lapped off the floor, the top of a new speaker being as good a place to poo as anywhere, reality being here right now with no sense of past or future, emotions being either damp, panting joy or aimless whining – and suddenly gain a sense of time. Four is bigger than three. Fourth birthdays are a Big Deal. I’m not sure there’s anyone we know, or indeed have just passed in the street, who hasn’t had the news of Bert’s age reinforced with four fingers held up forcibly and the number repeated twice.

Anyway, fourth birthdays being a Big Deal, we’ve been to a lot of parties recently and I’ve become a hoarder of ‘low maintenance good party ideas’. The one we went to on Saturday involved ride-on, very fast racing cars, a huge bouncy castle, between-meals timing (biscuits, crisps and squash on offer) and me frantically scribbling down supplier numbers for future reference. Now Bert’s fully immersed in party season I’m meeting a lot of mums and I’ve discovered that the phrase ‘do you watch Motherland?’ is code for ‘may I speak freely?’

I love Motherland and I love bacon Frazzles and I love Iced Rings (or hard doughnuts as Bert has it). But for more motherly days, this passes the ‘no sauce’ test, so long as I don’t even begin to suggest that Bert might eat a marinated mushroom – I put those in first, in a clearly separate layer, and don’t offer them to FOUR-YEAR-OLDS.

Serves 4 (or a greedy 2.5 with leftovers)

1/2 punnet mushrooms, sliced (or a whole punnet, no chicken, for vege nights or vege lives)

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (my preference), cut into 2cm pieces

1.5 teaspoons mild curry powder

1.5 teaspoons garam masala

2 garlic cloves, crushed

120g plain yoghurt

2 onions, sliced

1-2 splashes of vegetable oil

Cinnamon stick

3 cloves

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon turmeric

350g basmati rice

450g boiling water

1/2 tin coconut milk (we tend to cook this in the same week as chicken satay, which uses the other half)

Chopped coriander

Toasted flaked almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 180/ 170 fan.

Mix the mushrooms with the yoghurt, curry powder, garlic and garam masala, season and set aside.

Fry the onion in half of the oil till translucent, then tip into a large saucepan or casserole dish that has a lid. Pile the mushrooms on top and then the chicken.

Reheat the pan you fried the onion in and add a little more oil if necessary. Fry the cinnamon, cloves, turmeric and bay leaves for a minute or so, then stir through the rice, coating in oil. Add the boiling water, bring to simmering point and cook for five minutes. Take off the heat, stir in the coconut milk, season and then add to the sauce pan, covering the chicken with the rice. Cover with a lid and put in the oven for 45 minutes, till all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. Serve, only going as far as the chicken layer for FOUR-YEAR-OLDS. Scatter adult portions with chopped coriander and toasted almonds.

Adapted, a bit, from the National Trust Family Cookbook.

Chicken satay

(Dunno, I think there’s satay on the lens.)

Bert went to a friend’s for tea dressed as Spider-Man, made a paper crown and danced in it in the kitchen for ten minutes when we got in. He kept it in sight of the bath then went to bed in just the crown and a pair of pants. (We have much in common.)

I said, ‘look at you, a handsome prince.’

‘No, I the Queen! Call me the Queen. I am the Queen. Goodnight.’ And I was regally dismissed.

He woke up in the crown and came excitedly to our bedroom to show his dad. His dad, who’d been primed, said ‘who are you? The Queen?’

Bert threw him a look of ice-cold incomprehension. ‘No,’ he said, narrowing his eyes as if it was the oddest thing he’d ever heard.

I can’t take credit for any element of this recipe (another one from the National Trust Family Cookbook) but we eat it all the time.

Serves 3-4

Chicken (breast or thigh) in 2cm cubes – we had four thighs and two breasts, but we’re greedy

2 crushed cloves of garlic

Small piece of ginger, grated

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 tin coconut milk

150g unsweetened crunchy peanut (or other nut) butter

1 teaspoon chilli flakes

2 more tablespoons soy sauce

Juice of half a lime (or a tablespoon of bottled lime juice)

Mix together the garlic, ginger, first lot of soy and chicken and marinate for at least a couple of hours.

Put the coconut milk, nut butter, chilli and the rest of the soy into a small sauce pan and heat till combined, stirring a little till smooth. Add the lime juice and season. Leave to cool.

Spread the chicken out on a grill pan and cook under a very hot grill for about 10 minutes.

Serve with cucumber and pepper batons and boiled rice (perfect rice tip – add the uncooked rice to a pan of lots of already boiling water and cook for 11-12 minutes. Drain and run a kettle of boiling water over it in the colander. Return the rice to the hot pan as soon as it stops dripping and put a tight lid on it. Keep it there, steaming, for at least 20 minutes). The boys had flat bread too.

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. 

Auntie Tab’s chicken korma

That’s a pirate waist coat – I don’t dress him in gold epaulettes, much as it’s the closest sartorial match for his personality that there is.

I wrote the recipe down on here a couple of days ago when we ate it and Bert did demolish it – I realise that this blog implies that Bert eats a rainbow of veg every day, but in the interests of honesty I’ll admit that for dinner tonight he had a hot cross bun, a peanut cookie and a Kinder Surprise.

Serves 3

1 small onion

1/2 red pepper, puréed with the onion in a blender

1 1/2 dessert spoons korma paste

Dessert spoon butter

Splash vegetable oil

3 chicken breasts, diced

1/2 tin chopped tomatoes

1/2 sweet potato peeled (or half a large carrot) and chopped and puréed with the tomatoes

1 dessert spoon tomato purée

Teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

1 dessert spoon mango chutney

Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan, and add the onion and pepper purée and the tikka paste. Cook gently for fifteen minutes then add the chicken, tomato purée and tinned tomato/ sweet potato purée. Season, cover and cook for 15 minutes till the chicken’s tender. Then stir through the yogurt and mango chutney and serve.

(Auntie Tab chops the onion and pepper, frying the onions on their own with the salt, adding the pepper and then proceeding the same way. But pirates can object to pieces of sauce-soaked, soft, cooked veg so I puréed mine. I’ve also – since I first blogged the recipe – tweaked it again to add the sweet potatoes for a thicker sauce, extra sweetness and another veg towards our ten a day.)

Crispy baked chicken


So we have a new house guest. His name’s Peepo and no one but Bert can see him. He’s small and he wears green.

Yes, that’s right, he’s called Peepo.

Not scary enough for you? Peepo has a pet flying monkey who also lives with us.

I thought it was one of those weird things that comes and goes in a day and Bert didn’t mention him at all yesterday so I breathed a sigh of relief that Peepo had left the building. But today I reminded Bert that it’s his birthday party tomorrow. ‘Is Peepo coming?’ he replied. Warily I said, ‘when did you last see Peepo?’ Bert found that hilarious; ‘he’s here – here in your house!’

Peepo’s normally next to Bert and the flying monkey on the sofa. He has appalling taste in TV and Bert won’t tell me what they talk about.

I deleted all my photos to try to make my phone shut up about storage so here’s Bert pre (as far as we know) Peepo.

Serves 4-5 (I froze some uncooked – maybe Peepo will have them tomorrow)

2 dessert spoons plain yoghurt

50ml whole milk

3 chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

50g panko breadcrumbs (or any fine breadcrumbs)

2 table spoons self raising flour

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 teaspoons sea salt

Mix together the milk and yoghurt and marinate the chicken in it for at least two hours. Meanwhile combine the flour and breadcrumbs, heat a dry frying pan and dry-fry till golden. Combine with the rest of the dry ingredients.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 8 / 230 degrees. When you’re ready to cook, coat the chicken in the crumbs, and put the crumbed nuggets in the oven on a lined baking tray for 20 minutes, turning over half way through.