Raspberry, white chocolate, almond and coconut loaf

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And just like that he was six, had lost three teeth, could spell and didn’t want morning cuddles. Suddenly things are classed as ’embarrassing’ (not me – yet) and ‘boring’, he’s peppering his sentences with ‘like’ and he wants to train to be a ninja.

But squidged in between this is a boy who writes me love letters, nods earnestly with wide eyes about pretty much any surprising fact and fully believes the world is fair, loving, orderly and safe. I’ll keep his bit of it that way as long as I can.

Makes 1 small loaf cake

2 eggs

160g soft butter

160g granulated sugar

160g ground almonds

160g self-raising flour

3 tablespoons coconut milk

1 tablespoon dried raspberries

75g white chooolate chunks

150g fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 180/ 170 fan.

Beat together the eggs, butter, sugar and ground almonds till soft and pale then stir in the flour, coconut milk, dried raspberries and chocolate.

Line a 1lb loaf tin with a paper liner and spread in half of the cake batter (it’s a little thicker than some cake batters). Scatter the fresh raspberries over and then cover with the rest of the batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes.

Pina colada cake

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Bert has a new thing of telling me his secrets, accompanied by the whisper, ‘this is top, top secret’. I obviously can’t reveal any here, but I’m really enjoying hearing them. Some are a long way from being news to me, but others are genuinely surprising – a wonderful reminder that we never really know anyone as well as we think we do.

I’ve had to repay him with my own secrets (one secret buys one secret), and I didn’t think I really had any, but it’s amazing what you can rustle up if you have to – and how therapeutic it is to share it.

Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting caught in the rain. I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne. I’m not that into yoga and I have half a brain.

None of those are my real secrets.

Makes one 20cm cake which lasted us about an hour

40g soft brown sugar

150g pineapple chunks

115g butter

115g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

100g dessicated coconut

4 tablespoons coconut milk (I’ll make chicken and mushroom biryani with the rest) (probably)

225g self-raising flour

Preheat the oven to 140 fan. Grease a 20cm round tin well, then sprinkle in the brown sugar and layer in the pineapple. Add a bit more pineapple if you like things pineapple-y.

Beat the sugar and butter together till really light and fluffy then add the eggs, cinnamon (a Smitten Kitchen recipe got me into the idea of cinnamon in coconut cakes – it gives it a toasty, mellow nuttiness), coconut and coconut milk. Finally stir in the flour, just until you can’t see it, and spoon the mixture on top of the pineapples. Smooth over and bake for about 45-50 minutes, till golden and springy.

Obviously turn upside down to serve. Perhaps with champagne.

Jammy berry, lime and coconut cake

I was in the car with Bert yesterday, went to change gear and couldn’t find it straight away. Bert laughed and laughed. ‘Your driving!’ he said, overcome with mirth. ‘You drive like this!’ And he leaned forward, scrunched his face up, held an imaginary wheel and made a screeching sound.

Today, on an empty country lane, I went round a bend slightly wide. ‘Too fast!’ he chuckled. ‘Corner too fast!’

Despite this, I made him a coconut cake for pudding. ‘You!’ Bert laughed, ‘you put cheese on cake!’ He picked the berries off, stood up, emptied the plate into the bin, put it in the dishwasher and pressed start.

Makes a 25cm square cake 

110g self raising flour

110g golden caster sugar

110g soft butter

2 eggs

Zest of 1 lime, finely grated

80g dessicated coconut

To top:

Dessert of spoon jam (we used raspberry)

Berries (we used blueberries and blackberries)

Scattering of dessicated coconut

Preheat the oven to 180/ gas mark 4.

Beat together all the cake ingredients until smooth, then tip into a lined 25cm square tin. Bake at gas mark 4/ 180 for 25-30 minutes, till golden and springy to the touch. 

Let it cool in the tin for 15 minutes then remove to a wire rack. When completely cool, thinly spread jam over the top. Stud with berries then shower with coconut (not cheese).

Banana, chocolate and coconut loaf


For the last few weeks I’ve finally got Bert to sleep at nine at the earliest, despite one night of success when he was silent from eight onwards (mutely doing who knows what) on the promise of a sticker. Last night all the stickers in the world weren’t going to convince him when he knew that ‘I not sleepy’. He got up and watched ‘World’s Most Extraordinary Houses’ – ‘Wow, look that house! It’s like your house!’ – and was finally convinced to remain behind a closed door at about ten. Still, it’s nice to know he appreciates Modernist architecture.

I walked into his room this morning to find his trike (or his motorbike, as he calls it) on his head. I guess he went straight to sleep then.

Anyway, as a result, it’s goodbye, lunchtime naps. How I’ve loved you! How I’ve cherished you! How I’ll miss you!

All the online parenting guides calmly suggest you switch naptime for quiet time, like sitting at a table reading or colouring in for an hour and a half. This seems about as likely as Bert turning down a packet of chocolate buttons. On the other hand, if I series linked Grand Designs, maybe…

Makes a large loaf

175g golden caster sugar

175g wholemeal self raising flour

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

4 tablespoons dessicated coconut

2 ripe bananas, mashed

3 eggs, separated, whites beaten to stiff peaks

50ml whole milk

100ml sunflower oil

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3 (140-160 degrees) and line a large loaf tin.

Combine all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed banana, egg yolk, milk and oil, then stir into the dry ingredients. Fold through a quarter of the beaten egg white then quickly fold through all of the rest and tip the mixture into the tin. Bake for about 1 hour and ten minutes.

Too-tired-to-cook curry

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Bert pushed his bowl away and refused to eat then sat on our knees, one at a time, working his way through all of our food. Every time we tried to take a mouthful he’d point at himself and say ‘Ber’ firmly. We’re going to market it as the Bert diet.

We probably shouldn’t dwell too closely on the total lack of parental control.

Serves 2.5

2-3 chicken breasts (we had two, but they were big), cut into bite sized pieces

Splash of olive oil

1 dessert spoon tikka curry paste

1 can coconut milk

Peas – pour in until it feels ‘pea-y’ enough

Salt

Briefly brown the chicken in the olive oil then add the tikka paste and coconut milk. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 20 minutes, adding the peas in the last 5 minutes. Season to taste.

We had ours with rice and Indian spiced root veg (add 1 teaspoon of nigella seeds and one teaspoon of turmeric to peeled and batonned root veg, toss in olive oil and roast for 30-40 minutes).

 

Raspberry and coconut frozen yoghurt

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Served 3

200ml plain yoghurt

50ml double cream

60g golden caster sugar

20g dessicated coconut

200g raspberries

Blend the raspberries to a puree then put everything in an icecream maker till frozen while your toddler sits in the sink, filling beakers, teapots, buckets and small, plastic turtles and cooling their fat, little feet with cold water.

Lamb korma and coconut rice

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I thought this was a bit of a risk, but Bert loved it. And so did I. I imagine that, other than the inevitable ‘thumb’ of ginger, this is totally inauthentic.

Serves 2.5

3 or 4 lamb steaks (or any lamb cut that needs quick and hot rather than long and slow cooking)

3 tomatoes, cubed

3 tablespoons ground almonds

3 tablespoons plain yoghurt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 heaped teaspoon garam masala

Fresh ginger, peeled – about 3 centimetres. Okay, a thumb sized piece.

2 cloves of garlic

1 small onion

1 or 2 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil

1/3 mug coconut milk

1 mug basmati rice

Measure the coconut milk into a mug, fill up with cold water till you have a mug full of liquid and add to the rice in a pan. Bring to a boil then simmer on a very, very low heat with the lid on for 25 minutes till the liquid’s absorbed. For once, the Aga actually excels here – pop in the simmering oven for 25 minutes once it’s boiling.

Blitz the onion, garlic and ginger to a pulp in a food processor. Hold your baby with one arm while he plays the spoons one centimetre away from your face, and fry the onion mixture in a couple of tablespoons of oil with the spices. When the spices smell warm and fragrant and the onion’s translucent, add the lamb, cut into bite sized pieces, and brown. After about five minutes, add the tomatoes, almonds and yoghurt. Cook for around another 10-15 minutes on a medium heat, till the lamb’s cooked through. Salt yours on the plate – I thought it needed it.

Bert even managed to gum his way through quite a lot of the meat here, but the dog did end the meal covered in coconut rice confetti.