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.

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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.