Bert’s egg and tomato salad

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Yesterday I took Bert out to dinner and was reprimanded for not being spontaneous enough – always saying I had to cook when he wanted to play and always saying not yet or it’s time for bed. Though I am weary of receiving his driving advice (always involving the benefits of reverse parking), I decided to take this on board. It was approaching bedtime, but we stayed for pudding and when we got in he stripped off and jumped into the paddling pool and I was forcibly encouraged to sit down in it fully clothed.

You know what, maybe he had a point. So in the spirit of our children sometimes being able to teach us something, this is Bert’s receipe, created under the structure (I can’t help myself) of picking one thing to give you energy to play, one thing to help you grow, two different coloured things to keep you healthy and one flavour. He also decided all the bits should be separate, the eggs should be hard and the bread should be crunchy. Over to Bert.

For Mum and Bert

4 eggs

3 tomatoes

1/2 a cucumber

4 slices of tomato bread

Some oil and salt

2 big spoons of cream [creme fraiche]

Squeeze of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

Leafs – 1 big one [little gem] cut into 2, some little ones picked off [parsley leaves]

Boil the eggs till they’re hard then put them under cold water. Turn oven button all the way round to sideways till the oven’s very, very hot! Cut bread into small bits. Put on a baking tray. Sprinkle on a salt! And oil. Mix up with your hands then wash them. Mum puts bread in the oven for five minutes. Cut tomatoes up and cucumber. Mix cream and lemon up with a big spoon and put in salt and and pepper. Put leafs in Mum’s bowl because children don’t like leafs. Roll eggs, peel and then break them into halfs. Get a children’s plate. Put on tomatoes, cucumber, eggs and some toasted bread, on the children’s plate. Rest on Mummy’s plate. And sauce on Mummy’s plate. Then eat at a TV.

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Raspberry and yoghurt muffins

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Some cakes shouldn’t pretend to be useful. This isn’t one of them. Bert pressed two to his face and digested them like a fly, innocent to the fact they contain spelt flour, yoghurt, almonds and not a huge amount of sugar.

Makes 6 muffins

90g plain flour

30g spelt (or plain brown) flour

70g sunflower oil

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

80g golden caster sugar

100g frozen or fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

Flaked almonds to scatter on top

Pre hear the oven to 190/ 180 fan.

Beat all the ingredients except the raspberries and almonds together. Fold through the raspberries then spoon the mixture into a case-lined muffin tin. Scatter each muffin with almonds then bake for 20-25 minutes, till firm to the touch.

The oil gives them a more delicate crumb than butter, and they’re not too sweet. I think frozen raspberries are less prone to sinking, but both work.

Peanut butter and jam mini-brownies

… in 20 minutes.

Today Bert passed his stage 1 gymnastics badge. It involved ‘hopping on one leg and other very hard things.’

He also sulked for an hour when I chose flapjack over chocolate cake at play group (hey, he’d had his Rich Tea!)

This was commiseration and celebration.

Makes 5-6

50g crunchy, unsweetened peanut butter

75g butter

1 egg

25g cocoa powder

50g plain flour

100g golden caster sugar

5-6 teaspoons jam

Preheat the oven to 180/ 160 fan.

Melt the butter and peanut butter.

Mix the other ingredients, except the jam, in a small bowl then stir in the peanut butter and butter mixture.

Grease 6 holes of a cupcake tray and spoon in the mixture to just under the top of each. Better to have 5 good portions than 6 stingy! Make a little hole in the top of each with a teaspoon and add a teaspoon of jam to each.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Eat two each.

Courgette fritters


I thought this was worth a try and tried to sell them in as ‘big, round chips’. Fail. 

Here he is, complete with the hot pink manicure nursery gave him today (I’ll miss their sweet, random activities when he leaves – it’s like the kids run it. The other day all the children came up with a list of rules, like they live in a tiny commune – most involved trying to resist the urge to be violent). It was film night, Bert’s choice; Boss Baby (don’t bother).

Makes 4

1 small courgette (from our garden!), coarsely grated 

Leaves of a spring of mint, finely chopped

25g (about a tablespoon) plain flour

1 egg

25g grated Parmesan 

Salt and pepper 

2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil for frying

Mix everything but the oil together and heat the oil in a large frying pan till it’s good and hot. Drop in spoonfuls of mixture, flatten and fry for a couple of minutes on each side till golden. 

Mini marmalade bakewells

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Though Bert often greets my offerings of food by saying ‘bleurgh!’, pushing them away or even crying (‘no mummy, please no. Pleeasse! Not nice, Bert not like’), he does just as often eat them greedily or say ‘mmm, Bert like – very nice.’ Substitute, in almost anything he says, the word ‘Bert’ for ‘Gollum’ and you see the true reality of what I’m living with. But anyway, at least he likes his food.

There are some people whose cooking is motivated by the desire to learn how to do something properly and accurately, those who want to feed their family frugally or easily and those who are greedily thinking about food most of the time and invent recipes out of sheer gluttony.

I think it’s clear which camp I belong to, and I hope very much that Bert follows me down the path of taking pleasure in his precious food.

Makes 8-10

200g shortcrust pastry (shop bought unless you’re feeling worthy – there is an upper limit on how much cooking I’m up for in a day and this almost always rules out making pastry)

8-10 teaspoons marmalade

75g ground almonds

75g self raising flour

150g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

Finely grated zest of two oranges

150g soft butter

Flaked almonds to top

Roll the pastry out thinly and cut circles to fit a muffin tray – I make the pastry slightly bigger than the hole since it shrinks in the oven. You can always snap off any over hang when it comes out. Put the pastry cases in the freezer for an hour or so – this prevents the soggy bottom issue without the hassle of blind baking.

Beat together the ground almonds, flour, sugar, eggs, orange zest and butter to make the frangipane.

Spread a teaspoon of marmalade onto each pastry case, then top with a generous desertspoon of frangipane. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and cook at 180/ gas mark 4 for 25-30 minutes, till the frangipane is risen and golden brown and firm to the touch.

Swap the orange zest for a teaspoon of vanilla essence and the marmalade for a scattering of frozen cherries for mini cherry bakewells. The same quantities also make a single 25cm tart of either type (cook this bigger version for 30-40 minutes).

Nearly Bird’s custard

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Mine and Bert’s relationship came as close as it’s ever come to crisis point when he refused to try this. It’s home made! It’s creamy and custardy! It’s a nursery classic! I was genuinely really annoyed.

But I’m over it now – at least enough to note down the recipe to force on him at a future date. It basically tastes just like a really, really nice version of packet custard.

Serves 3-4

2 cups of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

4 egg yolks

1 tablespoon of cornflour

1/2 cup of golden caster sugar

I’m friends with the mother of the girl Bert loves most in the world. Fearne treats him with a firm hand, shares his love of dinosaurs, is up for most things and has loaned him spotty socks. Maybe those are the secrets to a lasting relationship right there. Anyway, her mum suggested stewed apple and custard as a toddler friendly pudding and I thought, that sounds bloody lovely. And it was, even though the toddler in question wasn’t friendly about it in the slightest.

Whisk cornflour with the eggs in a foodmixer (or by hand) till thick, add the sugar and beat till thick and pale. Bring the milk and vanilla to a simmer then add to the egg mixture slowly, whisking all the time. Return it all to a clean pan and heat gently, constantly stirring, till thick. Eat the lot yourself if necessary.