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


Mother’s Day marmalade cake (or a banana and oat loaf for toddlers)

(I say the banana loaf versions for toddlers – Bert’s dad’s eaten about 1/2 a loaf in the last ten minutes.)

The marmalade version’s a mother’s day present for my mum. I overheard Bert telling his dad, ‘I love Gran!’ this morning – if only I’d recorded it that it could be a mother’s day present too.

Anyway, here’s an easy to make and easy to eat cake for the person in your life who taught you how to talk, spoon food into your mouth and wee in the right places.

Makes a small loaf

150g soft butter

100g golden castor sugar

50g soft dark brown sugar

1teaspoon baking powder

150g self-raising flour

3  eggs

I heaped tablespoon marmalade (to convert to a banana loaf, use 2 large or 3 small bananas instead)

Zest of one orange (to convert to a banana loaf, use 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence instead)

115g porridge oats

150ml double cream or full fat yoghurt

Preheat the oven to 180°C or gas mark 4. Line a 2lb loaf tin (one of the smaller ones).

If you have a mixer, bung everything in and cream together till fluffy (about 5 minutes). You don’t even have to mash the bananas for the banana version first. If you don’t, then cream the butter and sugar together before adding the wet ingredients (bananas mashed in this case) and stiring the dry ingredients through.

Bake for around a hour, till the top’s cracked and firm.


Maple syrup, coconut and cranberry granola 

An artfully positioned plastic bowl saves Bert’s modesty.

Bert is many things – exuberant, showy, funny, caring, dramatic, brimming with relish, nerding out over the small details of functional vehicles, stubborn, determined, ridiculous, inhabiting a book so completely he has to act it out, a bizarre but brilliant dancer, all or nothing, the calm or the storm.

But one thing he is not is cool.

Feeds us for a couple of weeks 

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

125ml maple syrup

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

300g rolled oats

100g mixed seeds

75g sultanas

25g cranberries 

50g dedicated coconut

Heat the oven to gas mark 2 (150 degrees) and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. 

Mix the oil, syrup, honey, vanilla, oats and seeds together and spread the mixture out evenly on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes then add the coconut and dried fruit and bake for another 15. 

When it’s cool, tip it into an airtight container, breaking it up into small pieces as you go.

Overnight apple, maple syrup, raisin and cinnamon porridge


I didn’t get a picture of Bert refusing to eat this, so here’s a gratuitous one of him having a cuddle with his big brother. The dark shadow sitting at his feet isn’t the ghost that foreshadows some far-off, horrible doom, it’s Ray.

Serves 2

1/2 cup porridge oats

2 cups milk

1 apple, grated

1/2 a cup of raisins

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Dessert spoon of maple syrup

Sprinkling of brown sugar

The night before, put the oats and milk in a pan and pop it in the fridge. It will seem like far too much milk. The next morning warm it gently with the apple, raisins, cinnamon and maple syrup till it’s smooth and creamy (you get a much creamier, softer consistency by leaving it overnight and it cooks more quickly too). Sprinkle on a little brown sugar and offer to a toddler who writhes away from it like it’s poison.



Mini schnitzel


If you’re in that precise frame of mind that combines a delight in violence with the enjoyment of repetitive tasks, I highly recommend you cook this. Luckily I’m in that frame of mind most of the time.

I had some diced pork in and thought I’d make tiny pork schnitzels, the size of chicken nuggets. Insane? Maybe.

I experimented with an oatcake crumb coating too, since we seem to eat so much white flour.

Serves 2

About 150g of diced pork – I’m on a 5/2 day (too much toddler group cake) so I didn’t make much for myself

4 oatcakes, blitzed to a fine crumb

Zest of half a lemon, finely grated

Teaspoon of dried sage

Whole milk

Bash each piece of pork with a rolling pin till it’s thin, then tip the lot into a bowl and cover with whole milk. Leave to further tenderize for an hour or two. Combine the crumbs, lemon zest and sage.

Take the pork out of the milk and coat in the crumb mixture. Lay on a baking tray and bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes, turning over halfway through.

We had ours with home made oven chips and green veg. Serve with redcurrent jelly for Austrian authenticity.


Fruit and seed flapjack


Makes 10-12

125g butter

125g brown sugar

125g honey

250g rolled oats

100g dried fruit – we had raisins and dates

30g mixed seeds

Melt the sugar, butter and honey together. Stir the dry ingredients together wildly so that the mixture is catapulted across the table, carpet and chairs. Add the melted ingredients and combine, flicking globules of warm mixture across the room and cackling madly. Press into a 20 x 25cm or so tin, bashing one small area like a drum until it is extremely flat but ignoring the rest. Cook at 180 degrees or on the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven with the cold shelf two shelves above, for 20-25 minutes. Put the bowl on your head and lick it from the inside. Dance on a chair while your mother tries to sweep the flapjack mixture up around you.

Cut into pieces in the tin while still warm.



This isn’t my recipe, but we eat it all the time.

This lasts us a week, but I think it’s already clear that we’re very, very greedy

250g porridge oats

150g mixed seeds

100g dried fruit

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of honey, melted together

Spread the oats out onto a tray and toast in the oven at 200 degrees for 10 minutes. (In the Aga, it seems to burn easily so I do it on the lowest rung for 7 minutes.) Add the seeds and toast for another 5 minutes in theory, 3 minutes in our Aga. Mix together with the fruit, spice and melted butter and honey and spread out to cool.

We have it with yoghurt and fruit. Amazed that Bert eats it, but he does. (He doesn’t yet know what a cocopop is.)