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.

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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.

Tandoori chicken


Every day I’ve dropped Bert at nursery since a week or so before Christmas, he’s clung to me sobbing. Nursery’s solution: peel him off me, weeping, and ask him what he wants for breakfast. My solution: wait outside till I hear him stop crying then go home and worry. 

This morning he said he didn’t want to go to ‘school’ and started to sink miserably into the sofa and hide his face. We talked about why and found out it was saying goodbye he hated (don’t we all), so we came up with the solution of taking a different dinousaur in to show his mates every day. He skipped, smiling, into nursery with his robot dinosaur and didn’t look back.

What’s a blog for, if not to share the rare moments of smug parenting?

But now he’s eating this with his hands in front of the TV. Bert: do dinosaurs eat rice? Me: yes. Bert: do dinosaurs eat chicken? Me: yes, they do.

Serves 2-3

4 skinless chicken thigh fillets

150ml plain yoghurt (with low-fat yoghurt, this works for 5:2ers – 2 thighs and a small portion of rice is about 350 cals)

1 teaspoon each of: smoked paprika, cayenne, ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric, ground ginger (or a tablespoon of tandoori spice mix) – this has a kick but isn’t hot; adjust the paprika and cayenne for less heat

Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

Mix the marinade ingredients together, slash the chicken thighs, cover with marinade and leave to marinate for at least an hour, ideally overnight. Then preheat the oven to 200 or gas mark six and bake for around twenty minutes.

We had ours with brown rice and peas, and crunchy carrot and cucumber salad. If I’d been cooking for adults with less veg-suspicion, I’d have probably gone for sag aloo, coconut naan and cucumber raita.

Chicken skewers, veg fritters and potato croquettes

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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.