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).
1 small courgette (from our garden!), coarsely grated
Leaves of a spring of mint, finely chopped
25g (about a tablespoon) plain flour
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
I pity the fool!
Serves 4 (or, in our case, two and a toddler)
1 punnet of raspberries
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar
2 egg white
2 tablespoons golden icing sugar
About 300ml double cream (I used a 284ml tub)
Simmer the raspberries with the golden caster sugar for about five minutes, till they start to break down. Mash them with the back of a fork and leave to cool. You still want chunks in there so don’t mash too thoroughly.
Whisk the egg whites until they form peaks. Tip them gently into your serving bowl. Then whisk the double cream and icing sugar till they form stiff peaks too. (Instructions always say to whisk in separate bowls, but so long as you do the eggs first, since eggs are the more temperamental, you can use the same bowl and whisk for the cream.) Gently fold the whipped cream into the egg whites and then swirl the berries through to get a ripple affect. Chill before you serve.
Today Bert declared Ray (the dog) to be ‘beautiful’ and then asked if he was beautiful. I said he was and that we’re beautiful to everyone who loves us. By that logic, Ray is indeed beautiful. And yet…
Actually, this isn’t our carbonara, it’s the New York Times’.
200g pancetta pieces or bacon lardons
Splash olive oil
2 eggs, 2 egg yolks (make a meringue or throw them away, according to your temperament and mood)
1/2 cup of grated pecorino, 1/2 cup grated parmesan
Good grating of black pepper and good grating of nutmeg (the nutmeg is my sole contribution to the recipe). (You can swap the nutmeg for a couple of handfuls of peas, added to the cooking pasta in the last minute or two of cooking time, and some shredded fresh mint, added to the egg and cheese combo.)
Pasta to your appetite
Fry the pancetta in olive oil in a hot pan till just starting to crisp and brown. Meanwhile put the pasta on to cook and boil the kettle again. Fill a large bowl with boiling water and set aside.
Mix together the eggs, cheese and seasoning. At this point I had the dog begging for scraps and a very small person standing next to me saying ‘thcheesthe’ very insistently. Reader, I gave them both cheese.
Then add the cooked pasta to the pan with the pancetta and continue to cook it on a gentle heat for a minute or two.
Empty the bowl of water and immediately add the pasta and bacon and the cheese and egg mixture to the hot bowl. Stir to combine.
Serve with more grated parmesan. Bert had his with fresh strawberries (intended for pudding, but he insisted) and I had mine with a green salad.
Roast yellow veg carbonara. Blurred but cute picture.
Served 2.5 (me and Bert and leftovers for my lunch tomorrow)
Half a butternut squash, deseeded, sliced into slim discs
Yellow pepper, deseeded, sliced into discs
Splash of olive oil or rapeseed oil
One clove of garlic, crushed
1 egg and 1 egg yolk
60ml double cream
Pecorino cheese, grated – about half a cup – around 60g or so – and a little more to serve
Half a ladle full of saved pasta water
Drizzle the veg with oil and roast for about half an hour in a hot oven – 220 or so. (I did it on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven.)
At this point in the proceedings I watched two Peppa Pigs with Bert on my knee, surrepticiously sniffing his hair.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta, keeping about half a ladle of the cooking water to one side. Mix together the cream, egg and cheese and season with salt and pepper. In a large pan, fry the garlic briefly in a little oil, stir in the veg then take the pan off the heat and stir through the pasta the second it’s drained, followed by the cream mixture and a little bit of the pasta cooking water. Coat the pasta with the sauce and serve with a bit more grated cheese.
Bert hasn’t eaten for over 24 hours because of a virus (Ray’s done well out of it), but he ate this.