Leftover roast chicken, pea and rosemary macaroni

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On the way to school earlier this week, I wound down the car windows to clean the rainwater off them so I could see out. Bert burst into tears because he still wanted to look at the dirty water.

I want him to be comfortable with expressing emotions. But do we need to howl to the moon in despair and prepare to die when our mother looks at a toy aardvark at the wrong moment? I don’t see his mates inconsolable over a shoe being put on before a hat. There’s a balance to be had, somehow, and I feel the need to help him navigate this.

So I launched into an explanation that I became more self-satisfied with the further I got. ‘Some sadnesses are like tiny spiders on your shoulder. You have to learn to shake them off by yourself. Others are like big pigs, you need help in lifting them off. This is a small spider.’

But it didn’t go down quite how I hoped. Did you know there are spiders in the Amazon rainforest the size of dinner plates? Well, we both do now.

Yesterday I told him to brush his toothbrush. ‘That’s a sentence but one word is wrong,’ he told me. ‘I do that all the time,’ I admitted. ‘So it’s not a mistake, it’s your personality,’ he summed up brutally.

Tonight he cried because bath-time had come and I hadn’t yet sorted a box of his accumulated randomness into the categories of nature, animals and favourite toys. I brushed the tears off quickly, did a speedy nature sort and popped him in the bath without comment.

No point trying to correct a mistake when you’re just dealing with a personality.

Serves 3

Leftover cold roast chicken and its carcass

1 carrot

1 onion

Sprinkling of peppercorns

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

200g macaroni

Teaspoon dried rosemary

3 or so large handfuls of frozen peas

Juice of half a lemon

Grated parmesan

Strip the decent chicken from the carcass, set the chicken meat aside and put the bones in a large saucepan with the unpeeled onion, chopped in half, the carrot, the peppercorns and the salt. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for around 3 hours (check the water isn’t running low). Drain (put a colander over a large bowl). Set aside 450ml of the stock for this recipe and keep any more in the fridge for soups. (Of course, you could skip this stage and use a stock cube and precooked chicken, but it won’t be quite as tasty.)

Heat the olive oil in a big saucepan and gently fry the chopped onion, garlic and rosemary till soft. Add the uncooked macaroni, stock and chicken, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the peas for the final 5 minutes then squeeze in the lemon juice at the end. Serve with lots of Parmesan.

This is a version of a recipe in The National Trust Family Cookbook.

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. 

Mini chocolate and raspberry trifles

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Today’s a good day. I got up to find Bert sitting up in bed, reading a book about dinosaurs to his diplodocus. He greeted me with ‘oh, hi Mum!’ and a laugh. He was topless and I asked why – apparently he’d split some of last night’s milk on himself so he took his top off and put it in the dirty washing basket.

An angelic child and a round toddler belly – what could be better? Oh yes, a large cheque from HMRC reimbursing me for a mysterious overpayment of … some kind of tax. And I’m down to the last two on a project in Winchester, where one of my oldest friends lives. For now I’ll enjoy imagining the cups of tea and glasses of wine rather than worrying about the childcare.

Bring on the chocolate trifle!

Makes 3 mini trifles (one for you and two for me)

Leftover chocolate cake (I get that this is kind of a weird concept, but me and Bert have been on our own a lot recently and found our banana and chocolate loaf a bit big to get through)

3 teaspoons raspberry or cherry jam

12 raspberries (give or take)

100g ricotta (or whipped cream)

1 tablespoon golden icing sugar

1/2 Cadbury’s flake, crumbled (hmm, what to do with the other half?)

Push slices or crumbled up pieces of the cake into the bottom of three ramekins, top each with a spoon of jam and then some raspberries. Beat together the ricotta and icing sugar (or whip the cream and fold the sugar in) and spread it over the fruit. Crumble flake on top and chill before serving.

 

Easy and cheap leftover lamb and lentil ragu

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Today Bert had a play and a picnic lunch with Fearne, one of his nursery gang and his general partner in crime/ muse. When she picked up a green frisbee that he wanted to wear like a hat he threw a wooden toy at her head. He sobbed, refusing to say sorry, even though she was kissing his hand and offering him the frisbee back. Half an hour later he was wrestling her to the floor and trying to opportunistically convert the situation into a kiss.

In the car he cheerfully claimed that it was ‘nice seeing Fearne.’

That’s the hidden dynamic of most romantic relationships for you, right there.

Serves 4-6 generously

200g leftover roast lamb

75g dried red lentils

200g roast veg – either frozen and ready to cook, or leftover

1 can of tomatoes

1/2 can of water

Salt and pepper to taste

Finely grated zest of half a small lemon (so a G&T later!)

A spring of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped (for me this is a balance between how small I can be arsed to chop it and the knowledge that if it’s visible, the whole meal will be rejected).

Chop the lamb fairly small and add it to a casserole dish with the lentils, roast veg, tomatoes and water. Don’t season it yet. Bring it to a boil then put the dish in a slow oven (gas mark 1-2) for around four hours.

When you’re nearly ready to serve it, bring it to the hob while you cook some pasta, mushing the veg into the sauce, adding the lemon zest and rosemary and checking the seasoning and liquid. (It may not need any salt if the lamb and veg were already seasoned, it may need a little more water or to reduce further.)  I did it with the grated zest of a whole lemon and it was too citrussy, so I’d not go too large on the zest.

Serve with pasta and grated parmesan cheese.

Not Heinz tomato soup

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And yet, strangely, very much like Heinz tomato soup.

Serves 2

1 tin of cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes (cherry are a bit sweeter, but plum are fine)

1/2 a slice of white bread

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt

Water from the kettle

Bring the tinned tomatoes and their juice to a boil in a saucepan and add the torn up bread, sugar, vinegar and cayenne. Turn the heat off, leave for 5-10 minutes for the bread to absorb the liquid, and then puree, thinning to the right consistency with hot water from the kettle if you need to. (We have it a bit thicker than Heinz, but – importantly – thin enough to drink through a bowl with a built in straw.)

Season and liquidise. You can also add any leftover roast red onion, pepper or carrot (anything red-hued), if you’ve got it, before you puree.  Reheat gently, checking the seasoning, and serve with bread and butter.

 

Chicken skewers, veg fritters and potato croquettes

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A one tray in the oven meal, using leftovers, but you could use fresh veg. As I handed it to Bert he said, ‘mmm, Bert like – very nice. Thank you Mummy!’ What an angel. He didn’t eat the fritters but I knew that was pushing it since the veg were a. visible and b. not raw or frozen.

Eaten on the sofa under a duvet because I thought he was ill, but he ate all of his (except the fritters of course), stole some of mine then had 3 portions of strawberry yoghurt. I think I’ve been had.

The fritters recipe is based on a recipe in the fantastic Fast Days and Feast Days by Ellie Pear.

Served 2

For the fritters:

1 small carrot, grated

Mixed leftover veg – we had peas and savoy cabbage – chopped if not already in smallish pieces

1/2 block of haloumi (100g), grated

1 egg

2 dessert spoons plain flour

Salt

A few leaves of fresh mint, finely chopped

For the croquettes:

Leftover mash

1 egg, beaten

Flour to dust

Storecupboard golden breadcrumbs

For the chicken skewers:

1 chicken breast, cubed

2 teaspoons dried rosemary

dessert spoon olive oil

dessert spoon lemon juice

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

Combine all the ingredients for the fritters, form into four patties and put on a large baking tray.

Form the mash into little barrel shapes, dush in flour, roll in egg and then coat in breadcrumbs. Put them on the same baking tray and put the tray in the fridge for an hour or two.

Combine the chicken in a dish with the rest of the marinade ingredients and pop in the fridge for an hour or two. Preheat the oven to 200/ gas mark 7, then thread the marinated chicken onto skewers and put on the same baking tray as the veg.

Put everything in the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning everything once halfway through. Ketchup for dipping if you’re a small boy.

Slow-cooked lamb ragu

Here’s Bert in his autumn knitwear, no doubt thinking about dinosaurs. At the moment I have to dance like a dinosaur every night before bed. ‘Are you a dinosaur rex? Then dance!’ I don’t feel that I’m allowed to answer, ‘no. No, I’m not.’

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Serves 4-6 (or 2 with leftovers for a pasta bake)

Splash of olive oil

2 carrots, grated

1 leek, sliced

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon dried oregano or finely chopped leaves

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or finely chopped leaves

Finely grated zest half a lemon

1 tin plum tomatoes

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

Salt and pepper

500g of a lamb leg, ideally whole with bone in; if not, diced

Pasta and parmesan to serve

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 2 (140-150).

Fry the carrots, leek and garlic gently in the olive oil till they soften. Add the herbs, puree and lemon zest then nestle the lamb in the middle and tip over the tinned tomatoes. Season, bring to a fast simmer/ slow boil and cover with a lid. Put in the oven and slow cook for 4-6 hours, by which time the lamb should fall apart and the veg should have dissolved into the tomatoes. Pull the meat off the bone with a fork and stir into the sauce. If it’s slightly watery you might want to reduce it a little on the hob before serving.

Stir the sauce through hot pasta and add grated parmesan at the table. Bert had red pepper batons on the side, I had buttered, wilted spinach.

Bert’s latest thing when I serve him dinner is to push it away complaining that it’s ‘too nice’. This wasn’t too nice. I’m so confused – should I be pleased or offended?

Anyway, we’re going to have a pasta bake with the leftovers stirred into pasta and topped with bechemal sauce and then mozzeralla, and baked in the oven for 30 minutes. It’s really no wonder I need to be on the 5|2 diet – it’s Friday and I’m already thinking about Monday’s dinner.

Afterwards we had warm, homemade chocolate (and beetroot) brownies and cream, with chocolate oozing out into pools on the plate and the beetroot undetectable, just giving a bit of extra richness and depth. They were definitely not ‘too nice’ to eat.

Fish cakes

fishcakes

Highlight of the day: Bert got into bed with me in the middle of the night because he woke up too hot, wrapped a chubby, little arm around my neck and pressed a damp face against me to sleep, even though it must have made him even hotter.

Lowlight of the day: at toddler music group, he grabbed my index finger, used it as a tool to pick his nose, and then licked the bogie off it.

We had fish cakes for dinner.

Makes 8 – we ate 5 between 3 of us and froze 3

1 packet of fish pie mix or about 450g of fish – or any combination of salmon, white fish and smoked fish, in bite sized pieces

Milk, to cover fish

About 350g potatoes, steamed or boiled till tender then mashed

1 egg

1 spring onion, chopped

1 teaspoon French mustard

75g Cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and pepper

To coat:

1 egg, beaten

Flour for dusting

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Cover the fish with milk and cook for about 8 – 10 minutes on a medium hob till cooked through. Combine gently with the other ingredients, being careful not to break the fish up too much.

When cool, make handfuls of the mixture into patties and chill for an hour before coating.

Coat each patty with flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs, fry on each side in a little olive oil for 2-3 minutes (till golden), then transfer to an oven and cook at 180 degrees (or near the bottom of the Aga roasting oven) for 10 minutes, till warmed through. If you chill them before coating and don’t move them about while they’re frying, letting them form a firm crust, they hold together well.

 

 

 

Leftover roast beef stir fry

beef stir fry

Terrible photo of a dubious looking Bert, but it was actually delicious. I have to take the photos by stealth these days or much fury follows at the sight of a phone he’s not allowed to play with at the table. (Naughty, hypocritical mummy.)

Serves 3

1 tbsp  vegetable oil

Leftover beef cut into thin strips

1 green pepper, cut into thin rings, deseeded

1.5 leeks, sliced

5 or 6 white mushrooms, sliced

For the sauce:

30g  dry roasted cashews

1 shallot, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 inch fresh ginger, grated

2 tablespoons soft brown sugar

3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

Juice of one lime (or 1 tablespoon lime juice)

Stalks of bunch of fresh corander, roughly chopped

Blend all the ingredients for the sauce until smooth. Fry the veg for 2-3 minutes, then add the sauce and beef and cook for another minute or two. Garnish with more roughly chopped nuts and the chopped leaves of the coriander, if this won’t infuriate your child.

I made the mistake of cooking the veg too long so they failed to pass the very stringent toddler slime test. Next time I’ll make sure they were crunchy. I’m getting enough finger wags and ‘naughty mummy’s at the moment as it is.

Moroccan spiced pork belly and bean casserole

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I was expecting five for Sunday dinner and ended up with two, so we had a lot of leftover slow roast pork belly. Finally the pick of the crackling though, after years of listening to stealthy crunching in the kitchen after Bert’s dad offered to carve.

Serves 3-4

1 onion, diced

Splash of olive oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin flageolet beans, drained

Salt to taste

Leftover slow roast pork belly, cut into good chunks – each piece about 2cm cubed

Saute in the onion in the oil in a casserole dish or large saucepan. When it’s translucent add the spices and fry till fragrant. Then add the tinned tomatoes and beans, season and stir through the chunked meat. You could cook this on a simmer for about half an hour, adding the meat in the last 10 minutes, but I took advantage of having a slow oven constantly on in the form of an Aga and brought it to a steady simmer then put in the simmering oven (or very low oven) for a couple of hours. You don’t really notice the spices, they just add a soft, background warmth. It’s a bit like a gentle cassoulet, with butter-soft meat and small, tender beans.

It has the added benefit of making your toddler fart in the bath and laugh like a drain. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not in John-the-small-fabric-rabbit’s shoes tonight.