Chilli balls

When I started this blog, Bert was a great eater. Now he declares anything in a sauce, cooked in a sauce then fished out, sitting near a sauce, as ‘soupy’.

I was prepared for a veg avoider but not a soup avoider.

This may be my most niche recipe yet, but if you fancy a soupy chilli and your child is a sauce avoider, try these. Then make a normal chilli for all the sane people in the room.

Or cook up a bigger batch in tomato sauce and serve with rice, grated Cheddar cheese, sour cream and guacamole. (Naked, soupless balls also being available.)

Makes 6 meatballs

60g minced beef

20g red kidney beans, mashed with a fork.

10g finely grated cheddar

10g finely grated carrot

Pinch each of ground cinnamon, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, salt

Preheat the oven to 180. Mix all the ingredients together and form into walnut-sized balls. Bake on a baking sheet for 20 minutes. Serve with rice, broccoli (and soupy guacamole if you dare).



Finally a lasagne recipe that Bert likes (the squash and beef lasagne was a dark day). Here he is eating it in our new camper van – in the drive, where else?

At bedtime, with great excitement, he counted on his fingers all the things he’d done in it – climb ladder, play [with] Dad, eat sweet, have wee. Why bother leaving the drive? All of life is here.

Serves 4-6 (half for the freezer)

For the meat sauce:
1 small onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Dessert spoon butter

Splash olive oil

1 large or 2 small carrots, grated

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

500g minced beef

500g minced pork

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes, then half the can of water

350g passata

1 beef stock cube

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

Salt and pepper to taste

For the cheese sauce:

1 smallish leek, finely sliced

2 dessert spoons butter

2 dessert spoons flour

500ml whole milk

Salt and pepper to taste

180g strong cheddar, grated

For the lasagne:

About 9 sheets dried lasagne

Fry the onion and garlic gently in the butter and oil, adding the grated carrot and chopped celery and cooking slowly till soft – 10-15 minutes. Add the meat and cook till it’s browned, then stir through the tomatoes, water, stock cube, spice and seasoning. Bring to a rapid simmer, turn down and cook gently for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, melt the butter for the cheese sauce and fry the leek on a low heat till very soft and silky – about 15-20 minutes. Then blend with a stick blender. (If you don’t have a toddler you could leave it as it is, but there’s nothing that invokes Bert’s deep suspicion more than a strand of unexpected green.) Add the flour and cook gently for a couple of minutes, then gradually add the milk, stiring well, till you have a thickened sauce. Stir in half the cheese till it’s melted. Taste and season. The addition of leeks is a Jamie Oliver thing and it does give the sauce a bit of extra sweetness, as well as giving you an extra veg in there. 

To construct the lasagne, start with a quarter of the meat sauce, then a quarter of the cheese sauce, then three of the lasagne sheets (depending on the size and shape of your dish). Repeat two more times and make sure, at each stage, that the pasta’s completely covered with sauce. Finish with meat sauce then cheese sauce then top with the rest of the grated cheese. Cook at gas mark 5/ 190 degrees for 45 minutes, cooling for about 10 minutes out of the oven before serving. Add salad or veg sticks and you’re at 6 or 7 of your 10 a day!



Me and Bert’s chili


I’ve had Bert on curries since he was first weaned. I think if you go gentle on the chilli, heat with warm spices like garam masala and add flavour with cumin,  coriander and turmeric, even small babies can handle it.

The grated beetroot sounds mad, but it disappears into the chili and gives it a sort of subtley earthy flavour.

Served 5

Dash of olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/2 a red chile, finely chopped (or more to taste), or a teaspoon of dried chile flakes

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 carrot, grated, a 2 beetroot, grated

Small bunch of fresh coriander, stalks chopped, and – to garnish – its chopped leaves

500g minced beef

1 tin tomatoes, 1/3 of the tin of water

1 tin red kidney beans, drained

Fry the onion and garlic till translucent. Add the spices and grated veg and cook for a minute or two, then add the meat and brown. Stir through the chopped coriander stalks then add the tomatoes, water and kidney beans, season, bring to the boil and simmer for an hour or so. (I slow cook it in the Aga simmering oven.) Garnish with the chopped coriander and serve with rice and sour cream or yoghurt (plus grated cheese for cosy indulgence – not sure if that’s authentic, but can cheese ever be wrong?). Guacamole if you have avocado and energy.

As I write, Bert is on his hundredth race through a large book of farm tales with his big brother Ben, pointing out every single tractor in it. Ben just said weakly, ‘shall we see if there are any other books on the shelf?’ Sadly, Bert chose a book of tractors as the replacement. I’d better crack on with serving dinner for everyone’s sake.