Baked pork, courgette and pecorino meatballs


I’m no longer a ‘hidden veg’ believer – I’d rather Bert learned to enjoy them than have to sneak them in. It seems to be the texture that babies and toddlers object to anyway, not the taste – anything crunchy, slimy or containing strands is spurned. Anyway, the veg in this appear to be hidden but that’s because the recipe works out that way, not because I’m hiding them, honestly.

Served 3

300g minced pork

1/2 courette, coarsely grated

A good grating of pecorino – maybe about 30-50g

Salt and pepper to taste

A lot of olive oil – a good 2-3 glugs

1 small onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 carrot, grated

1 stick celery, grated

1 tin of tomatoes

1 dessert spoon tomato puree

A splash of water from the pasta you cook to go with the meatballs

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch parsley, chopped

Pasta and grated parmesan to serve

Combine the meat, courgette, percorino and salt and pepper. Form into little balls (walnut sized seems to be the generally accepted measurement), put on a lined baking sheet and cook in a hot oven (about 200 degrees, or the second rung up in the Aga roasting oven) for 12-15 minutes, till they’re starting to brown.

Meanwhile, fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil and add the grated carrot and celery. Fry it gently for a good 5-10 minutes – you want it to be melting into the oil. Then add the tomatoes, tomato puree, seasoning (Bert seasoned ours – perfectly actually, thanks Bert) and another splash of oil. Cook for 5-10 minutes, then blend to a puree. Add the cooked meat balls to the sauce and simmer while you cook the pasta.

When the pasta’s done, stir a little of the pasta water through the meatball sauce (this gives it a creamy texture) and add the chopped parsley to the sauce. Serve with your pasta (the sort of pasta shape that holds sauce well) and grated parmesan.

I think Bert has molars coming through at the moment so I don’t anticipate getting much sleep, but at least everyone’s belly is heavy with carbs.


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.


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.



Creamy tomato and marscapone pasta


Got laryngitis from shouting ‘didDA’ too much? What you need is a soothing, creamy, tomato pasta sauce.

Serves 1.5-2.5

1 shallot (I used the white of a massive spring onion), chopped

Glug olive oil

1 large tomato, chopped

300ml passata

100g marscapone

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Fry the onion gently in olive oil till translucent, then add the chopped tomato, salt, sugar and passata and cook for around 10 minutes (while your pasta’s cooking). Stir in the marscapone and serve with a pasta like fussili, which will hold onto the sauce and can be grabbed easily by a chubby hand.

Watch as your baby eats half and throws the other half on the floor, piece by piece, while fixing you with a cold, unblinking Sopranos stare.

Chicken and peas and rice and herbs


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.

Fresh tomato sauce


Serves 2.5

3 tomatoes, diced

400ml passata

1 clove garlic, crushed

Glug olive oil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Black pepper

Get your pasta in a pan of boiling water on the hob.  Fy the garlic briefly in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, passata, herbs and seasoning and cook for around 10 minutes, mashing the diced tomatoes into the sauce as you go. Serve with freshly grated parmesan. This is a good, easy dinner for lazy busy days.

We have this cold as ‘ketchup’ – or will do until the day Bert tastes Heinz ketchup.

Mini risotto alla Milanese


Oops, we’re having a barbeque for dinner and forgot to start it in time for Bert.

Serves 0.5 with leftovers for risotto balls for lunch – triple the quantities to serve 1.5

1-1.5 teaspoons butter

1/2 onion, diced finely

1/3 stick celery, diced finely

1/2 clove garlic, crushed

1/3 cup arborio rice

1 and 1/3 cups hot water from the kettle

About 1/3 to 1/2 a low salt chicken stock cube, crumbled

Pinch of saffron

Handful grated parmesan

Grating of black pepper

Saute the onion, celery and garlic in the butter till soft and translucent then stir through the rice. Add the liquid bit by bit till it’s absorbed – it will take about 20 minutes. Throw in the saffron with the first addition of liquid and add the pepper and cheese at the end.

We’re using the (pretty tiny amount) of leftovers for risotto balls for Bert’s lunch one day this week. They’d be nice with tomato sauce in the middle.

Barley risotto


This is similar to risotto in every way except it takes a bit longer (about 45 minutes), so start a good while before your baby’s howling like a wolf, and you don’t need to keep stirring while the liquid’s getting absorbed, freeing you up to race tiny cars.

We didn’t have any lemons so I used a bit of sumac from my Ottolenghi period.

Serves 1.5

Teaspoon of butter

1/2 stick celery, finely diced

1/2 onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

100g pearl barley

300ml passata

400ml boiling water

Low salt veg or chicken stock cube, crumbled

Finely chopped oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried oregano

Zest of half a lemon

A pinch of saffron

Grating black pepper

Saute the veg in the butter, then stir through the barley and add the liquid and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook for around 35-45 minutes, till the liquid’s absorbed and the barley’s tender.

Serve with a bit of mild cheese on top – maybe pecorino or crumbled feta.

Beef ragu


This is so easy and absolutely bloody delicious. Total active cooking time is about 15 minutes. That’s extra time to watch your baby pester the dog by throwing toys at it, press warm lips against a cold window and stare at the birds, or play a small tamburine while cackling wildly.

Serves 3-4 (we had it for 1.5 with a lot of leftovers for a pasta bake)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Glug olive oil

Finely chopped leaves of a sprig of rosemary

500g piece of stewing steak, diced or whole

300ml passata

100ml boiling water

1 low salt beef stock cube, crumbled

Saute the onion, garlic and rosemary in the olive oil till the onion’s translucent, quickly brown the meat, then add the liquid and stock cube. Bring to a good boil and then put in a very low oven (140 degrees or the Aga simmering oven) for 5-6 hours. After the cooking time’s up it will just pull apart with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon to form a thick, delicious, meaty sauce. You might need to pop it on the hob with the lid off for the last 30 minutes to thicken it up (I did).

Serve with pasta and parmesan.



Serves 1.5

1 portion bolognaise sauce (we had about a quarter of the bolognaise we had earlier in the week)

4 sheets lasagne

1 level dessert spoon plain flour

1 level dessert spoon butter

300ml whole milk

1 or 2 bay leaves

Grating of nutmeg

Black pepper

About 100g cheese – we had a combination of pecorino and cheddar

Make your white sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour, then gradually adding the milk. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes to thicken to a reasonably thin white sauce. Dissaude a cackling baby from using the dog as a Zimmer frame.

Assemble your lasagne. I started with a layer of cheese, then the usual pattern of meat sauce, lasagne and white sauce for two layers. Finish with white sauce and then top with another sprinkling of cheese. Bert liked touching the flour and soft butter, but his sensory play with the cheese turned into him grabbing a large handful and stuffing it in his mouth. Into a hot oven (200 degrees) for about half an hour, till the cheese is bubbling and the lasagne’s cooked through.

I must admit I used a rubber muffin tray for this, imagining a perfectly cute baby portioned lasagne tower on Bert’s plate. (Yes, I did cut individual circles from the lasagne sheets with a wine glass.) My lasagne didn’t have the structural integrity for that outcome, but it would be quite a handy way to make it for the freezer if you greased the muffin tray first and used a rubber one so you could pop the frozen mini lasagnes out. In the muffin tray they took about 20 minutes.

Spag bol


My standard bol recipe used to include red wine, salty bacon, milk and sometimes chopped chicken liver. Sounds a little voodoo when it’s all written down and it was a bit too intensely savoury for a baby. It also involved finely cutting up loads of stewing steak. When you’ve just got a small amount of free time in a day, spending most of it cutting up meat is less appealing.

Serves 6 (we had 3.5 for dinner and leftovers for lasagne)

500g minced beef

300g minced pork

1 onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves chopped

1 carrot, diced

1 stick celery diced

leaves from a spring of rosemary, finely chopped

glug olive oil

500g passata

200ml boiling water

Low salt beef stock cube

Grinding of pepper, grinding of nutmeg

2 bay leaves

Fry (or ‘sweat’) the onions, rosemary and garlic in the olive oil, adding the other veg and cooking for around another 5 minutes. Transfer to a large saucepan or casserole and brown the meat in batches. Add to the veg and then pour over the passata and water, crumble in the stock cube and season, tucking in the bay leaves. Bring to a steady boil and then cook in a very low oven (140 degrees or an Aga simmering oven) for around 3-4 hours. You might need to bring it onto the hob at the end to reduce it a bit.