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.

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Plum and ginger crumble


I left for a two-day work trip before Bert finished pre-school on Monday. So I wrote a note for him – ‘I love you, gorgeous Bert, love from Mum xxx’. I drew a roaring dinosaur, folded it in half, wrote his name on the front and secured it in the jaws of the dinosaur on his bedside table. 

The trip was fine but today was a true sod. Bert woke me up at 5 and stayed awake. I had two big, stressful arguments. I dropped and broke the phone I bought yesterday. I had a reprimanding email from a client about something relatively small, which I found excruciating. Pudding was a disaster.  (We had this crumble a few days ago and it was delicious – but if anyone wants the recipe for black tarte tatin, I’m happy to share.)

I got in the bath at Bert’s bedtime and he called me back to clear up a poo. I got back in and almost straight away he called for me again.

When I opened his door he was clunching my note in his hand. It was folded over and over and crumpled up. He held it out. 

‘Do you want me to straighten it?’ I said, reaching for it. 

‘No,’ he said, ‘I want you to throw it in the bin.’

‘Why?’

‘I don’t like the words.’

‘The words I wrote?’ 

‘Read then to me,’ he said.

I read it out.

‘I don’t like the words. Throw it in the bin.’

I obediently put it in the bin and found another reason to cry a bit later. 

But at least he still falls gorgeously and hotly asleep on me and lets me eat most of the crumble.

Serves six

1 punnet of plums, cored and chopped into eight or so pieces each

2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

6 or 8 cubes of crystallized ginger, chopped up into smaller pieces

 230g plain flour

40g bran

115g butter, cold and in small pieces

90g soft brown sugar

Level teaspoon ground ginger

Put the plums in a pan with 2 tablespoons of sugar and the chopped, crystallised ginger, and cook on a low heat on the hob while you prepare the crumble topping. Pre heat the oven to 200/ gas mark six.

Breadcrumb the flour and butter, by rubbing between your fingers or pulsing in a food processor. Stir through the sugar, bran and ground ginger. By now the plums should be starting to soften. Tip them into an ovenproof dish, cover with crumble topping and bake for 30 minutes, till the fruit is bubbling up round the edges.

 

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

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 sauté 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.