Mini risotto alla Milanese

milanese

Oops, we’re having a barbeque for dinner and forgot to start it in time for Bert.

Serves 0.5 with leftovers for risotto balls for lunch – triple the quantities to serve 1.5

1-1.5 teaspoons butter

1/2 onion, diced finely

1/3 stick celery, diced finely

1/2 clove garlic, crushed

1/3 cup arborio rice

1 and 1/3 cups hot water from the kettle

About 1/3 to 1/2 a low salt chicken stock cube, crumbled

Pinch of saffron

Handful grated parmesan

Grating of black pepper

Saute the onion, celery and garlic in the butter till soft and translucent then stir through the rice. Add the liquid bit by bit till it’s absorbed – it will take about 20 minutes. Throw in the saffron with the first addition of liquid and add the pepper and cheese at the end.

We’re using the (pretty tiny amount) of leftovers for risotto balls for Bert’s lunch one day this week. They’d be nice with tomato sauce in the middle.

Lasagne

lasagne

Serves 1.5

1 portion bolognaise sauce (we had about a quarter of the bolognaise we had earlier in the week)

4 sheets lasagne

1 level dessert spoon plain flour

1 level dessert spoon butter

300ml whole milk

1 or 2 bay leaves

Grating of nutmeg

Black pepper

About 100g cheese – we had a combination of pecorino and cheddar

Make your white sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour, then gradually adding the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken to a reasonably thin white sauce. Dissaude a cackling baby from using the dog as a Zimmer frame.

Assemble your lasagne. I started with a layer of cheese, then the usual pattern of meat sauce, lasagne and white sauce for two layers. Finish with white sauce and then top with another sprinkling of cheese. Bert liked touching the flour and soft butter, but his sensory play with the cheese turned into him grabbing a large handful and stuffing it in his mouth. Into a hot oven (200 degrees) for about half an hour, till the cheese is bubbling and the lasagne’s cooked through.

I must admit I used a rubber muffin tray for this, imagining a perfectly cute baby portioned lasagne tower on Bert’s plate. (Yes, I did cut individual circles from the lasagne sheets with a wine glass.) My lasagne didn’t have the structural integrity for that outcome, but it would be quite a handy way to make it for the freezer if you greased the muffin tray first and used a rubber one so you could pop the frozen mini lasagnes out. In the muffin tray they took about 20 minutes.

Spag bol

bol

My standard bol recipe used to include red wine, salty bacon, milk and sometimes chopped chicken liver. Sounds a little voodoo when it’s all written down and it was a bit too intensely savoury for a baby. It also involved finely cutting up loads of stewing steak. When you’ve just got a small amount of free time in a day, spending most of it cutting up meat is less appealing.

Serves 6 (we had 3.5 for dinner and leftovers for lasagne)

500g minced beef

300g minced pork

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 stick celery diced

leaves from a spring of rosemary, finely chopped

glug olive oil

500g passata

200ml boiling water

Low salt beef stock cube

Grinding of pepper, grinding of nutmeg

2 bay leaves

Fry (or ‘sweat’) the onions, rosemary and garlic in the olive oil, adding the other veg and cooking for around another 5 minutes. Transfer to a large saucepan or casserole and brown the meat in batches. Add to the veg and then pour over the passata and water, crumble in the stock cube and season, tucking in the bay leaves. Bring to a steady boil and then cook in a very low oven (140 degrees or an Aga simmering oven) for around 3-4 hours. You might need to bring it onto the hob at the end to reduce it a bit.

Croissant and butter pudding

breadpudd f

…except there’s no butter.

Serves 1.5 very generously

2 stale croissants

About 80ml double cream and 120ml whole milk – you can fiddle around with the quantities so long as you end up with 200ml of liquid

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 egg

Good pinch of cinnamon

Grating of nutmeg

Handful soft apricots (some supermarkets sell them – they’re darker brown and much softer), cut into smallish pieces

Slice the croissants into thick slices and lie them in an ovenproof dish that they’ll fit in reasonably snugly. I used a 20cm cake tin. Sprinkle over the apricots. Combine the other ingredients and pour over, leaving the croissants to sit in the custard for a good 10 minutes before turning over for another 10 minute soak.

Cook at 180 for 20-25 minutes, till the custard’s set and the pudding’s golden brown.

Fishfingers and ketchup

fishfinger

Serves 1.5

For the fish:

1 large piece of skinless and boneless cod (it was about 280g)

1 slice of bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs

2 good pinches of cayenne pepper

Glug olive oil

Flour for dusting – cornflour works well

Milk

For the chips:

2-3 medium sized potatoes

Sunflower oil

For the ketchup:

1 tomato, diced

200ml passata

1 small clove garlic, crushed

Glug olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Black pepper

To make the ketchup, fry the garlic briefly in olive oil, then add the tomatoes, passata, herbs and seasoning. Cook for around 10 minutes, mashing the diced tomatoes into the sauce as you go. This makes enough to use on one day as a simple tomato pasta sauce, with leftovers for ketchup (or a dipping sauce for fish cakes or sweetcorn pancakes). It would keep in the fridge for around 3 days, I’d say.

Cut the potatoes into chunky chips (about 1.5 cm square at the end), put in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and parboil for 5 minutes. Drain, give them a couple of minutes to dry off and coat them in sunflower oil, cooking on a lined baking sheet in a hot oven (220 degrees) for about 25-30 minutes. Turn them over half way through.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the cayenne pepper, get a glug of olive oil hot in a pan, and brown them till they’re crispy. The cayenne gives a bit of a kick and a touch of that Captain Birdseye orange hue. Cut the fish into thick fingers and dip in flour, then milk and then in the crumbs. They join the chips in the oven for the last 15 minutes.

Half moon chicken pasties

pastie

A bit more sun-like when they’re coated in egg wash, in fact.

There’s something very satisfying about this; using up leftovers and doing the sort of cooking that you watched your mum do when you were little – rolling out pastry, sealing pies, brushing on egg wash.

This is one of those dishes that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Makes 16 bite sized pasties

1 sheet puff pastry

Leftover chicken stew

1 egg, beaten

Flour for rolling

Roll the puff pastry out thinly and cut into small circles – I used a tea cup. Place on a lined baking sheet, floury side up (otherwise when you egg wash you get into a claggy mess of flour and egg), and put around a teaspoon of stew into the middle of each. You need to be relatively stingy with the stew to keep them neat. Brush egg in a circle round the outside rim and seal them into half moon shaped pasties. Brush the top with egg wash and pop them in a hot oven (200 degrees) for 15 minutes, till puffed up and golden.

I had mine with a leafy green salad. I showed Bert what a salad leaf looked like for future reference.

Finger arancini

arancini

Finger arancini, because they can be gripped between a tiny, pincer-like finger and thumb.

This made 14 but it depends how much leftover risotto you have, really.

Leftover risotto – we had about 1/3 of last night’s tomato risotto

One egg, beaten

Breadcrumbs – I blitzed a thick slice of stale bread. Or just keep a packet in the freezer and grab handfuls when you need it

Mozzarella, diced. I used about a third of a ball

Form a production line of ingredients while your baby plays a tambourine at your feet like a tiny minstrel. First the bowl of leftover risotto. Then the cubed mozzarella. Beaten egg into one bowl, breadcrumbs in the next. Form small balls with the risotto, a bit smaller than a walnut. Push your finger in to make a hole, pop in a bit of mozarella, then close the hole up. Dip in egg, dip in breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet. (A Tom Kerridge tip – have a dry hand and a wet hand, so dip in the egg with your left hand, breadcrumbs with your right.)

You could do a few for your baby then season the risotto mixture and breadcrumb dip before doing your own, but I didn’t really notice the lack of salt. Bake at 180 degrees or in the middle of an Aga roasting oven for about 12 minutes. They’ll be golden brown and pleasingly professional looking.

You can also fill these with leftover bolognaise, though who has leftover bolognaise and leftover risotto knocking about at the same time?

Serve with a green salad for adults.

If you have any left, they’re good for taking out and about with a hungry baby.

Apple lattice tarts

lattice

Two for me, one for you and one for me to share.

Makes 4 small tarts

About 1/4 sheet shortcrust pastry (the rest of the pastry I used for the pies)

4 teaspoons of apple puree or apple sauce

Sprinkle of cinnamon

A little flour

A little milk or beaten egg

A scant dessert spoon of crunchy brown sugar

Cut 8 small circles from the pastry – I used a tea cup. Put four on a baking tray and put a teaspoon of apple sauce in the middle of each, sprinkling with cinnamon. Brush the edge of the circle with milk or egg wash then press a second circle of pastry onto each. Brush the whole of the top with milk or egg, cut two or three slits across the appley mound and sprinkle with crunchy brown sugar. Bake at 180 degrees for about eight minutes.

Little meat pies

piebert

A better woman than I would make the pastry from scratch and chill in the fridge for half an hour, and make the filling fresh. But I keep Jus-Rol puff and shortcrust pastry in the freezer for when I feel a pie coming on, and I’ve used yesterday’s beef stew to fill them.

An ex once refered to my home made beef stew as ‘pie filling’ – needless to say the relationship didn’t last, but this is a good use of leftovers.

Makes 4 small pies

Leftover stew – I had about a third of last night’s stew or you could make it from scratch, thirding (is that a word?) the ingredients

1 sheet shortcrust pastry

A little flour

A little milk or a beaten egg

I use a muffin tin for this. Flour your surface and roll your pastry out a tiny bit, then cut four large circles – you’ll need about a centimetre overhang when you line each muffin, er, hole. I used a saucer. Line your holes, gathering up the overhang like the pleats of a skirt.

About two dessert spoons of cold stew goes into each – fill them generously. (It has to be cold as it goes into the pastry – another good reason to wait for leftovers if you make this.) Brush the rim of the pastry with milk or beaten egg, then cut out four smaller circles of pastry – I used a tea cup. Press the top onto the pie and pinch the sides together, cutting away the excess. If it looks a bit jagged, it will crisp up nicely in the oven. Brush the top with milk or egg, cut a small hole in the centre and bake at 180 degrees for 15 – 18 minutes. They’ll look like little pork pies when they come out of the moulds.

We had ours with buttered peas. A lot for me, about 10 for Bert since he picks up each one individually with finger and thumb.

One pie for him, two for me and one for my lunch tomorrow. There was enough filling and pastry for a fifth, so this could serve two humans and one baby, but I gave the dog the filling (he’d had a bad day) and used the pastry to make apple lattice tarts. They’ll be pudding tomorrow since a two pie tea is a bit decadent for a Monday.

Golden pesto

goldenpesto

If you’ve got leftover sauce from the sausage and pasta dish, you can use it to make this, just adding the parsley, pine nuts, cheese and extra olive oil and blending. If not, here’s the full recipe. It’s creamier and less strong tasting than off the shelf basil pesto.

We have a very embittered cocker spaniel whose few moments of joy derive from sitting directly below Bert’s high chair with an open mouth. He got no gifts today.

Serves 1.5 with leftovers

glug olive oil

1/2 carrot, grated

1/2 stick celery, grated

small clove garlic, crushed

1/2 can tomatoes

large handful parsley

1/2 small bag pine nuts

handful grated pecorino

another good slug of olive oil

Fry the garlic and veg briefly in a glug of olive oil, then add the tomatoes and cook for around 20 minutes, adding a bit of water from the kettle if it’s drying out. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts till golden. Put it all in a blender (or a Nutribullet – we got one for Christmas) with another glug of olive oil and the cheese and parsley and blend till smooth.

If you’re using leftover sauce it’s even quicker. Babies have a limited amount of patience for your activities if they don’t involve you clapping them or carrying them.

Stir about 2 dessert spoons into overcooked (for your baby) pasta. Grab your pasta a couple of minutes earlier if you care for a more al dente experience. Add salt and pepper to yours after stiring into the pasta.

Leftovers will keep in the fridge for about a week. We plan to make a pasta salad with ours for a beach picnic tomorrow.