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.

Easy peasy macaroni cheesey

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… pleasey.

This is Nigella’s easy macaroni cheese recipe (I say ‘mac ‘n’ cheese’ for no one), pimped up with peas and mint.

Serves 4

250ml evaporated milk (not condensed!)

125g red Leicester cheese, grated

125g Cheshire cheese, grated

2 eggs, beaten (so you don’t get little clots of scrambled egg in there)

2 handfuls fresh peas

1 small spring of mint, leaves roughly chopped (flavour plus leaves – a massive risk when cooking for eagle-eyed small children, but worth it)

Salt and pepper

Half a bag of macaroni

Cook the pasta in boiling water till 1-2 minutes away from done. Put the oven on to 200 fan/ 220.

Combine the egg, cheese, evaporated milk, peas and mint with a little salt and pepper. Mix into the cooked pasta, tip into an ovenproof dish and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, till golden brown with little bits of crunch on top.

If you prepare it earlier and put it in the oven cold, give it 25 – 30 minutes.

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. 

Tomato, ricotta and green veg pasta

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Table manners are coming along nicely.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons ricotta

200ml passata

1 head broccoli, florets separated, stem peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons frozen peas

Grated zest of half a lemon

1 tablespoon pine nuts

Wholewheat pasta to appetite

Grated cheese to serve (we had Cheddar)

Gently fry the ricotta in the olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the passata, lemon and pine nuts. Simmer.

Meanwhile put the pasta on to boil, adding the broccoli for the last five minutes and the peas for the last two. Drain, stir the sauce through, season and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Shove fistfuls into your mouth.

Too-tired-to-cook curry

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Bert pushed his bowl away and refused to eat then sat on our knees, one at a time, working his way through all of our food. Every time we tried to take a mouthful he’d point at himself and say ‘Ber’ firmly. We’re going to market it as the Bert diet.

We probably shouldn’t dwell too closely on the total lack of parental control.

Serves 2.5

2-3 chicken breasts (we had two, but they were big), cut into bite sized pieces

Splash of olive oil

1 dessert spoon tikka curry paste

1 can coconut milk

Peas – pour in until it feels ‘pea-y’ enough

Salt

Briefly brown the chicken in the olive oil then add the tikka paste and coconut milk. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 20 minutes, adding the peas in the last 5 minutes. Season to taste.

We had ours with rice and Indian spiced root veg (add 1 teaspoon of nigella seeds and one teaspoon of turmeric to peeled and batonned root veg, toss in olive oil and roast for 30-40 minutes).

 

Me and Bert’s sausage and mash

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I’ve realised that this blog is done in the same spirit that I obsessively filled the freezer with breast milk when Bert was newborn. If anything happens to me, feed my child!

It’s best not to dwell too much on how many times the ingredients list a dessert spoon of butter.

Serves 1.5

4 good quality sausages

A generous knob of butter. (Maybe about a dessert spoon?)

A couple of floury potatoes, depending on your appetites

A dessert spoon of butter, a dessert spoon of creme fraiche, sea salt, ground black pepper, freshly ground nutmeg

1 leek, finely diced

A…dessert spoon of butter

A couple of handfuls of peas

A dessert spoon of water

Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the sausages. Do not prick them first. If you have an Aga, put the whole pan on the bottom of the roasting oven for a good half an hour, turning the sausages once. Otherwise, cook gently for half an hour on the hob. I believe that sausages need to be cooked slowly, and in butter!

Chop the potatoes into roughly equal pieces (don’t bother to peel), cover with cold water and simmer till tender. Drain, then immediately add the butter to the hot pan so it melts. (Adding the potatoes to warm butter – or warm cream – means they’re lighter and fluffier.) Push the potatoes through a potato ricer into the warm butter then stir through the creme fraiche and seasoning. I think the ricer’s essential for light, fluffy mash. It’s a completely different experience to mash done with a masher. And it peels the potatoes for you, so win win.

Meanwhile, saute the leek in the butter till soft, then add the peas and water and cover with a lid, steaming till the peas are tender. Add a little salt. The water and butter make a light sauce. (You could also do an onion gravy, but mine involves a good dessert spoon of butter so I dare not add the recipe here.) I do peas a bit like this, without the leeks but with the addition of freshly chopped mint, for a Sunday roast.

Bert ate very little of this and then had a massive bowl of bran flakes before bed. He seems to be going through a ‘phase’.

Risotto primavera

This is the sum total of my veg patch harvest this year. Maybe my living of the rural idyll is limited a little by my skills. Anyway, both peas were delicious.

primavera

Serves 3

Dessert spoon of butter

1 small onion or shallot, finely diced

1 stick celery, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

200g arborio rice

About a litre of fresh chicken stock

Young, baby vegetables – we had the bounty in the photo (baby carrots, 8 peas, 9 broad beans) and some green beans, the carrots and the green beans finely sliced on the slant

A table spoon of double cream

A teaspoon of butter

Fresh mint, leaves from a generous sprig, chopped

Salt and pepper

Grated pecorino cheese

You really need very young, very fresh veg for this. I’m the first to use up manky old veg, as Bert’s dad will testify – I’ll happily bend a carrot double to touch its toes and then chuck it in a stew. But this really relies on tender, fresh veg, as young as possible and as close to being dug up as you can manage. Yes, I only had one carrot that was larger than a field mouse’s femur. But they were fresh out of the ground and delicious. I think you really need home made stock too. Use old veg and a stock cube, and I think you’ll end up with something out of a Birdseye ad. This is all about fresh, delicate flavours.

Saute the celery, onion and garlic till translucent then stir the rice through. Gradually add the stock until the risotto’s thick and creamy. About 5 minutes before it’s done, add the veg. When the rice is plump and starting to fall apart, stir though the cream, the extra butter, the mint and a handful of cheese. Season and have extra cheese at the table.

At 12.30 this morning a delirious-with-teething Bert was sitting cross legged and high fiving me. He ate the veg in this so I high fived him back.

 

 

Chicken and peas and rice and herbs

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A mucked about with Leon recipe.

Served 3.5

1 dessert spoon butter

1 onion chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

400g diced chicken (breast or thigh)

1.5 mugs brown basmati rice

1 low salt stock cube

3 mugs of water

A couple of handfuls of peas or broad beans

A handful each of basil leaves and mint leaves, chopped

Large handful of grated parmesan – be generous with the cheese and the herbs

Salt to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the butter, add the chicken and brown. Stir the rice through, coating it in buttery garlicy onion. Then crumble in the stock cube, add the water and bring to the boil, putting on a lid and cooking it on a very low heat till the water’s absorbed. (I put it in the bottom of the Aga simmering oven for 45 minutes.)

Meanwhile, your toddler can sprint in circles like a caged monkey and walk backwards with a smug look on his face.

Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the peas or beans. When it’s done, stir through the cheese and herbs, season a bit more if neccessary, and serve.

But where’s my brilliant eater gone? Unless I hide every morsel in the centre of a raspberry, I fear Bert will never eat a rounded meal again.

Fish and chips and posh mushy peas

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Is there nothing I won’t subject to a crumb coating?

Serves 1.5

2 small fillets white fish (we had cod)

A thick slice of white bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs

A handful of leaves of fresh thyme or oregano, finely chopped, or a teaspoon of the dried stuff

Finely grated rind of half a small lemon

A small amount of milk – around 50ml

Flour for dusting – cornflour or plain flour

A handful of unpeeled floury potatoes, cut into 1cm square sticks

A tablespoon or two of sunflower oil

Peas

A dessert spoon of yoghurt

A squeeze of lemon juice

A handful of mint leaves

Put the chipped potatoes into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and parboil for 4 minutes. Drain, toss in sunflower oil and cook on a baking sheet, in a single layer, in a hot oven (200 – 220 degrees) for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, get the flour and milk into two bowls and combine the breadcrumbs, lemon peel and herbs in another with a bit of black pepper. Dip one fish fillet in the milk then the breadcrumbs, sprinkle on salt and put it on a baking tray. It needs 15 minutes at about 200 degrees, so put it in when the chips have had 10 minutes.  Cut the other fillet into bite sized pieces, about 1cm thick, and dip and crumb them. They need about 8 minutes, so they can join the bigger piece of fish when it’s had 7 minutes.

Cook the peas and roughly blend with the yoghurt and mint and a squeeze of lemon.

Slather your own chips in malt vinegar and sea salt.

Pea and parmesan pancakes

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A new category in honour of Anna and her daughter, Fearne of the evil cackle – portable finger food. This is a little nursery-food-like as it comes, though I eat it like that with Bert, but you can add crispy bacon and a poached egg and call it brunch.

Makes 8

100g self raising flour

150 ml whole milk

1 egg

Good handful grated parmesan – about 30 or 40g

Handful or two of frozen peas – a small hand may help you carry one extra pea from the freezer to the work surface

Small knob of butter

Freshly chopped mint. I’m a new convert to dried herbs, but this needs fresh

Mix all the ingredients except the butter together with a whisk or fork. The flour needs to be incorporated but it doesn’t matter if it’s lumpy. Get a pan hot and melt the butter – brush it over the whole pan surface with a piece of kitchen roll. The pan needs to be barely greasy and very hot. Put in dessert spoons of the batter and spread into small circles. They need a couple of minutes on each side – once they start to firm up you can turn them over – they should be evenly golden on each side. You could cook half and then season the other half of the batter for you, but I think my palate’s adjusted to the salt thing and I don’t bother.

I ate 3.5, Bert ate 2.5 and there are two in the fridge for when we’re out and about tomorrow.

This is one finger food that you don’t need your baby in full Breaking Bad protective overalls for.