Chicken herb salad

chick ray

So there’s not a toddler alive who doesn’t treat green leaves and herbs with the gravest suspicion, but I think of it as aversion therapy – if we put it on the table and treat it as normal, one day he might not see it as poison. Bert had the chicken plus some cucumber sticks. We all had bread and butter.

This is Bert tucking Ray up with a blanket, knitted monkey and dummy. So thoughtful!

Serves 2.5

2 chicken breasts

Drizzle of olive oil

Juice of half an orange

2 tablespoons of honey

2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

Pinch of saffron

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Bag of rocket

Small bunch of coriander, chopped

Small bunch of basil, leaves chopped

Small bunch of mint, leaves chopped

Brown the chicken in a very hot, oiled pan for 2 minutes on each side then put the (oven proof) pan in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 180 (grid rack on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven). It takes 10 minutes in our Aga but it’s always hotter than it should be.

Meanwhile, put the orange juice, honey, vinegar and saffron in a small pan and simmer until it gets syrupy – about 5-10 minutes. You can see it start to bubble fiercely like toffee, rather than gently like liquid. Take it off the heat and drop in the crushed garlic. When the chicken’s done, cut it into bite sized pieces and tip it into the pan, coating it in the syrupy sauce. At this point I took a few pieces out for Bert.

Then tip all the rest of the chicken onto a bed of rocket and chopped herbs, and toss.

We finished with chocolate buttons, the After Eights of the toddler world.




Orange cake


So winter has started in earnest, and so have the terrible twos. It’s howling inside and out. In an attempt to warm stomachs and sedate a toddler’s fury that he can’t scribble on my books while being spoon fed dinner from the comfort of a tiny red car, it’s beef stew and warm orange cake for dinner tonight.

In the picture he’s actually eating a hot cross bun as I daren’t take a phone to the table at the moment for fear I’ll end the meal by shouting ‘no bloody Peppa Pig!’ and throwing it across the room.

Makes a 21cm cake

Two large oranges, about 375g in total when pureed

6 eggs

225g golden caster sugar

250g ground almonds

A heaped teaspoon of baking powder

Cover the oranges with cold water, bring to the boil, put a lid on and simmer for 2-2.5 hours. Then remove from the water and blitz to a pulp. Weigh out 375g of it and beat with the other ingredients, cooking in a greased 21cm springform tin at 190 for an hour (or on a gridrack on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven).

We had ours warm with yoghurt or double cream.

Plum, orange and ginger frozen yoghurt

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My plum and honey frozen yoghurt was not popular. This is my attempt to redeem myself.

4 ripe plums, skinned, de-stoned and pulped

Zest of one orange, finely grated

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

80g golden caster sugar

120ml plain yoghurt

Chuck it all into the icecream maker and churn till frozen while your toddler throws miniature pianos over onto their sides and moves tiny wooden tables across the room like a 1/6 scale removal man. It takes about 45 minutes in ours.

Chocolate orange cookie-cutter biscuits


Mostly we just snack on fruit – more because Bert’s appetite for sweetness is insatiable than any principled rejection of sugar. And let’s face it, he’s already a well padded boy. But everyone could do with a biscuit now and then and these are more fun to cut out than play doh is.

We used the letters B, E, R and T and some random animal shapes. Use all the letters of the alphabet for the opportunity to offer someone a snack and insult them at the same time.

Makes about 30 small biscuits

250g plain flour

125g butter

80g icing sugar

Tablespoon of cocoa powder

Finely grated zest of an orange

Juice of an orange

Rub the butter into the dry ingredients by hand, or put them all into a food processor until they start to look like breadcrumbs. Add the orange juice till the mixture comes together and then bring it into a ball and chill.

Roll out on a floured surface to about 5mm thick and cut out your shapes (or encourage a child with still developing hand-eye co-ordination to do the same – you may lose some cookies to raw tasting). Put on a lined baking sheet and cook at 160 degrees (I did it on the bottom rung of the roasting oven with the cool shelf two shelves above) for about 10-12 minutes.

I see this is the first time I’ve tagged ‘chocolate’ as an ingredient. How restrained I’ve been.

Aromatic slow roast lamb feast with tomatoey broad beans, crushed new potatoes and orange berries for dessert

lamb feast

Today Daddy was home after a week away and Bert’s big brother and sister came to see him. He celebrated by not taking an afternoon nap.

Serves 4.5

For the lamb

I shoulder of lamb

1/2 a teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1/2 a teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of zaa’tar

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Good glug or two of sunflower oil or a similar light oil

For the tomatoey broad beans

About 250g broad beans (I had a third of a bag of frozen ones)

About 1/2 a tin of tomatoes

Leaves from 2 springs of rosemary, finely chopped

Good handful of parmesan

For the crushed new potatoes

About 500g new potatoes

Really good glug or two of olive oil

Salt and pepper

For the orange berries

One punnet of strawberries

One punnet of raspberries

Zest of half an orange, finely grated

Juice of half an orange

Get the meat to room temperature then combine the spices and garlic with enough oil to make a thin paste. Rub the aromatic oil all over the meat, top and bottom, and then pop it in a roasting tray in a hot oven (about 220 degrees) for 20 minutes, before transferring to a cool oven for about seven hours. I used the simmering oven of the Aga, which I think is the equivalent of 120 degrees.

Meanwhile, your baby can laugh like a drain at a bouncing ball, at a dog jumping for a bouncing ball, at a dog looking like it’s nodding if you bounce a ball next to it, at a dog chewing a bouncy ball, at a dog not wanting to stop chewing a bouncy ball… the seven hours will fly by. At the end of its cooking time the lamb will just fall off the bone. Its tenderness is great for those of us with no molars, but to be honest no-one complained.

Simmer the broad beans till cooked through – about five minutes. Then add to the tomatoes with the rosemary and a little bit of olive oil. You could add a couple of chopped anchovies at this point, but I live with anchovy deniers. Simmer slowly for ten minutes or so then stir the grated parmesan through.

Cook the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in salted water till tender then roughly mash with the olive oil and season. The oil is acting like the butter in normal mash here, so don’t be stingey with it.

Grate the zest over the berries and then squeeze the orange juice over. This is so simple but absolutely delicious.

We had our main course with roast carrots and salad. Bert ate loads. His little pot belly really isn’t so little at the moment.

Rhubarb, orange and hazelnut crumble


Serves just me 2 – 2.5

3 sticks rhubarb

1 orange

4 dessert spoons golden castor sugar

50g butter

85g plain flour

50g golden castor sugar

50g roast, chopped hazelnuts

Cut the rhubarb into chunks and add to a pan with a few peelings of orange rind (use a vegetable peeler), followed by the juice of the orange and the four dessert spoons of sugar. Simmer till the rhubarb is soft.

Throw the flour, butter and sugar into a food processor and pulse till breadcrumby then stir the hazelnuts through.

Pour the fruit mush into an ovenproof dish, top with the crumble and cook at 180 or the middle of an Aga roasting oven for 30 minutes. You probably don’t need this much topping, but I think the topping’s the best bit.

Perfect for a baby who’s spent the day having rides on a ride-on lawnmower, digging in the garden till his tiny fingernails are black and going mountain-climbing up the wooden attic stairs to find treasure*.

*bouncy balls and lego men

Little orange and almond cakes


This is a version of a Tom Kerridge recipe. I’ve reduced the sugar and fiddled around with the quantities to make little cakes and to avoid the scales, as cups and tablespoons are a bit less fiddly when a two foot tall person is tapping at your knee. I like a pudding that’s an excuse to get a bit of protein in Bert (egg and almond here), and a lot of the sweetness comes from the orange. In a baby free life, simmering an orange for two hours would be a bit limiting, but if you’re hanging around at home anyway while someone drops small plastic balls into holes, then why not?

Makes 4 small cakes

1 orange

1 cup ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon soft brown sugar

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Cover the orange with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about one and a half hours till it’s soft. Blend it, skin and all, into a pulp then combine with all the other ingredients. Butter four holes of a muffin tin and fill each nearly to the top. Bake at 160 degrees (or on the grid shelf on the floor of the Aga roasting oven with the cold shelf three rows down from the top) for about 20 minutes, till golden and firm.

I had mine with Greek yoghurt with some honey stirred through. Bert had his naked.