Apple and blackberry toffee crumble 


Last time Bert cooked I had high hopes that he’d eat every mouthful. I helped him grate the courgette into the pea and bacon risotto chortling to myself about the thought of him eating it greedily. He took a single mouthful and flatly pronounced it ‘gusting’.

This went a bit better. 

Enough for 6 (I was cooking for two)

2 cooking apples, peeled, cored and thickly sliced

1 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon butter

As many blackberries as you can pick – we had about four big handfuls

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

230g plain flour

115g butter, cold and in small pieces

50g golden caster sugar

40g brown sugar

Level teaspoon ground ginger

40g jumbo oats

Melt the first lot of butter and brown sugar, drop the apples in the pan, toss in the toffee sauce and cook gently on the hob for 5-10 minutes, till the apples are starting to soften. Add the blackberries and first lot of caster sugar. 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180.

Put the flour and remaining butter into the bowl of a food processor and pulse till crumbed (or rub between fingers and thumbs to crumb by hand). Stir through the remaining sugars, ginger and oats. 

Pour the fruit into an ovenproof dish, top with crumble and cook for about half an hour, till golden. Serve drowned in cream

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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. 

Carrot, ginger and red lentil soup

Bert is regularly in character (and full fancy dress) as a fireman, astronaut or builder. He’s been known to be a cowboy, a dinosaur, a policeman and a pirate. Peepo, despite popping to Sainsbury’s and then driving back to his own house, occasionally visits, and we have a number of invisible lions and dinosaurs that live with us, as well as Peepo’s creepy mate, the flying monkey.

Next to Bert I feel positively unimaginative, but one thing I am good at inventing is soup.

This is normally another us-not-Bert one, though Bert will have a go at almost any soup if it’s topped with croutons (toss cubes of bread – the staler the better – in olive oil, sea salt and dry rosemary, bake at 200/ gas mark 6 for about 10 minutes, till golden).

Serves 2-3

25g butter

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and whole

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

2cm fresh ginger, grated (I portion it up and freeze it, grating it frozen)

3-4 carrots, peeled and chopped

Large handful red lentils

1 chicken stock cube

Boiling water

Dollop creme fraiche to serve

Melt the butter in a saucepan and saut√© the onion, garlic and spices. When the onion’s transparent, tip in the carrots, sweating gently for a couple of minutes, then add the ginger, seasoning, lentils, stock and enough boiling water to entirely cover the veg. Bring to a rapid boil then turn down to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes. Puree and check seasoning then serve with a dollop of creme fraiche on top.

 

Thai crab cakes

Gratuitously cute picture of a sleepy Bert watching The Fox and the Child with his fox, because taking photos at the dinner table at the moment is like dangling a bag of chocolate buttons in front of him, snatching it away then expecting not to get a tantrum out of it.

crab cake

Makes about 12 little crab cakes

2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, crushed in a pestle and mortar

100g white crabmeat

1/2 small bunch fresh coriander, finely chopped

1 small can (165g or so) sweetcorn, drained

2 eggs (saving 1 for crumb coating)

8 tablespoons breadcrumbs (saving 2 for crumb coating)

plain flour, for dusting

Good glug of olive oil

Combine the ginger, chilli, crabmeat, coriander, sweetcorn, one egg and six tablespoons of breadcrumbs. Chill for at least 20 minutes then mould into ball shapes (less likely to fall apart than patties). For some reason the chilling makes them more biddable than if you do it straight away, so you’re less likely to end up swearing at sweetcorn. The longer the chill, the more biddable the mixture – a couple of hours is even better. If I don’t finely chop the coriander I’ll spend all of dinner removing strands of it before Bert gets bored and decides that eating in general is a bad idea.

Beat the remaining egg and dip your patties first into flour, then egg, the breadcrumbs. Fry in a hot pan for two or three minutes on each side, till crisp and golden, then transfer to the oven at 200 degrees (or the middle of the Aga roasting oven) for five to ten minutes.

Tomato, ginger and chicken curry

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Haven’t we made a beautiful boy?

Serves 3

2 chicken breasts (they were big, though; I’d go for three or four if they were small)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 piece ginger, grated or finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 small onions, sliced

2 teaspoons turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

6 tomatoes, quartered

Salt and pepper

Small bunch coriander, stalks chopped and (separately) leaves chopped

Couple of tablespoons of water

Fry the onion, garlic and ginger till translucent and then add the chili, turmeric and chopped coriander stalks. Fry for another minute or so then add the chicken, frying till white, and the tomatoes, salt and pepper and water. Season, cover and cook for another ten to fifteen minutes.

Stir through the chopped coriander when you’ve taken the curry off the heat to serve. I dish up Bert’s before I add the herbs as helping him pick each small piece of leaf off is too much of an arse-ache not the best use of my time.

We had ours with rice and spiced cauliflower. Bert carefully laid each piece of cauliflower out in a neat row by his dish, making his point clear, though he did try some later.

Plum, orange and ginger frozen yoghurt

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My plum and honey frozen yoghurt was not popular. This is my attempt to redeem myself.

4 ripe plums, skinned, de-stoned and pulped

Zest of one orange, finely grated

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

80g golden caster sugar

120ml plain yoghurt

Chuck it all into the icecream maker and churn till frozen while your toddler throws miniature pianos over onto their sides and moves tiny wooden tables across the room like a 1/6 scale removal man. It takes about 45 minutes in ours.

Little blackberry and ginger upside down cakes

blackberry

Not very seasonal – but very nice. This is basically a pineapple upside down cake, purpled. I do this in ounces not metric, because it makes easy proportions with the egg (2 ounces of everything else for every egg).

Makes 6 muffin sized cakes

2 eggs

4 oz self raising flour

4 oz golden caster sugar

4 oz soft butter

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

A few blackberries

Beat the egg, sugar, butter and flour together (in a food processor for laziness) till whippy. Butter the insides of a muffin tin, pop a layer of blackberries in the bottom of each and top with batter. Cook at 180 or on the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven for 15 minutes.

The creamy gingerness reminds me of the ginger-iced shortbread me and my sisters used to buy on the way home from school.