Fishfingers and ketchup

fishfinger

Serves 1.5

For the fish:

1 large piece of skinless and boneless cod (it was about 280g)

1 slice of bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs

2 good pinches of cayenne pepper

Glug olive oil

Flour for dusting – cornflour works well

Milk

For the chips:

2-3 medium sized potatoes

Sunflower oil

For the ketchup:

1 tomato, diced

200ml passata

1 small clove garlic, crushed

Glug olive oil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Black pepper

To make the ketchup, fry the garlic briefly in olive oil, then add the tomatoes, passata, herbs and seasoning. Cook for around 10 minutes, mashing the diced tomatoes into the sauce as you go. This makes enough to use on one day as a simple tomato pasta sauce, with leftovers for ketchup (or a dipping sauce for fish cakes or sweetcorn pancakes). It would keep in the fridge for around 3 days, I’d say.

Cut the potatoes into chunky chips (about 1.5 cm square at the end), put in a pan of cold water, bring to the boil and parboil for 5 minutes. Drain, give them a couple of minutes to dry off and coat them in sunflower oil, cooking on a lined baking sheet in a hot oven (220 degrees) for about 25-30 minutes. Turn them over half way through.

Combine the breadcrumbs with the cayenne pepper, get a glug of olive oil hot in a pan, and brown them till they’re crispy. The cayenne gives a bit of a kick and a touch of that Captain Birdseye orange hue. Cut the fish into thick fingers and dip in flour, then milk and then in the crumbs. They join the chips in the oven for the last 15 minutes.

Cheesey greens pasta

cheeseygreens

Serves 1.5

Enough pasta for 1.5 – we had about 140g

1 dessert spoon plain flour

1 dessert spoon butter

250ml whole milk

100g parmesan, grated

Handful fresh mint, finely chopped

Black pepper

Mixture of greensĀ  – we had half a head of broccoli, a handful of baby spinach and a few leaves of bok choi

100g cubed pancetta, fried in olive oil till crisp (optional)

Put the pasta on to boil, adding the florets of broccoli when there’s around 7 minutes to go and the finely chopped leafy greens with just one or two minutes to go. Shred them both ways, as long strands will be treated with disdain.

Melt the butter and stir in the flour, then gradually add the milk till you have a thick white sauce. Stir in the mint, cheese and black pepper.

Combine the sauce and pasta, adding the pancetta for any die-hard meat eaters. Salt yours, particularly if you’re not adding salty pancetta.

There’s a rumour going round that babies love over-cooked broccoli. Not this one. I ate all ours, but the green and cheesey sauce was eaten with relish.

Finger arancini

arancini

Finger arancini, because they can be gripped between a tiny, pincer-like finger and thumb.

This made 14 but it depends how much leftover risotto you have, really.

Leftover risotto – we had about 1/3 of last night’s tomato risotto

One egg, beaten

Breadcrumbs – I blitzed a thick slice of stale bread. Or just keep a packet in the freezer and grab handfuls when you need it

Mozzarella, diced. I used about a third of a ball

Form a production line of ingredients while your baby plays a tambourine at your feet like a tiny minstrel. First the bowl of leftover risotto. Then the cubed mozzarella. Beaten egg into one bowl, breadcrumbs in the next. Form small balls with the risotto, a bit smaller than a walnut. Push your finger in to make a hole, pop in a bit of mozarella, then close the hole up. Dip in egg, dip in breadcrumbs and place on a baking sheet. (A Tom Kerridge tip – have a dry hand and a wet hand, so dip in the egg with your left hand, breadcrumbs with your right.)

You could do a few for your baby then season the risotto mixture and breadcrumb dip before doing your own, but I didn’t really notice the lack of salt. Bake at 180 degrees or in the middle of an Aga roasting oven for about 12 minutes. They’ll be golden brown and pleasingly professional looking.

You can also fill these with leftover bolognaise, though who has leftover bolognaise and leftover risotto knocking about at the same time?

Serve with a green salad for adults.

If you have any left, they’re good for taking out and about with a hungry baby.

Tomato risotto

risotto

This is a pretty basic risotto, far less rich than I’d normally eat myself, but Bert loves it and I’ll eat it too if it’s just the two of us rather than cook twice. The main point of including it here is that it makes a great basis for Finger Arancini, which I’m planning to make tomorrow.

Serves 1.5 with leftovers for Arancini

Glug olive oil and small knob butter

1 small onion, chopped

Large clove garlic, crushed

About 200g risotto rice (a bit over a third of one of those little bags)

1/2 tin tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano or finely chopped fresh oregano

About 500ml water from a hot kettle – measure the tomatoes into a jug and make it up to 750ml

Low salt stock cube

2 handfuls grated parmesan or pecorino (my mum recently made this with pecorino, and larger handfuls than I’d probably have put in – I’m now realising that a handful is a rather vague term – and it had lovely pockets of mild, soft cheese in it. I’d always do it that way now.)

A little pepper

Fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil and butter then stir the rice through to coat it. Add the herbs then the liquid (with the crumbled stock cube stirred in), bit by bit till it’s absorbed. This takes a while – you may have to hold your baby while you do it – but Bert seems to enjoy watching me cook and it’s easy enough to stir with one hand and hold a baby in the other arm. He also loves running his fingers through the raw rice. I’m hoping he’ll have lovely memories of cooking with me, but who knows, he might just have the level of awareness of a high functioning ape at the moment. Anyway, when the liquid’s all absorbed and the rice is soft, season and stir through the cheese. It may take more or less liquid so you’ll need to keep tasting it. I did feel like I needed to add a bit of salt for myself with this one.

Mac ‘n’ squash

macaroni

I remember macaroni cheese always tasting too strong when I was little. This is a bit lighter.

Serves 2.5

1/2 small butternut squash

good glug olive oil

1 tsp dried sage or a few finely chopped sage leaves

4 or 5 handfuls of tubey pasta – it was about 175g

1 dessert spoon butter

1 dessert spoon flour

1/4 litre of whole milk

Grated nutmeg, pepper

A large handful grated strong cheddar

A small handful grated parmesan

1 thick slice of bread – I used sourdough because that’s what we had and because I’m insufferably middle class.

Another dash of olive oil

Peel, seed and chop the squash. Drizzle it with olive oil – actually, I rained on it rather heavily. Sprinkle on the herbs. For some reason, even though I don’t recall ever cooking with dried herbs, we have a full set in the cupboard. I think a single Jamie Oliver recipe called for the lot. Frugal. Anyway, they’re proving to be quite good for cooking for babies – a bit stronger, so helpful with the low salt thing, and very fine, so no strands for a baby to pull out of their mouth in disgust.

Roast the squash in a hot oven for about 20 – 25 minutes depending on how small you cut it. Check now and then. You want it soft and browned but not crisp. It needs to be soft enough to collapse into the cheese sauce almost completely.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the packet instructions – 10 minutes or so.

Melt the butter and beat in the flour – take it off the heat, stirring, so it can cook for a little while. Then add the milk. A tiny bit at first – the whole thing will seize up – then more and more, stirring a lot. Season with pepper and grated nutmeg. When it’s thickened add the cheese and take off the heat. Add a ladleful of the hot pasta water.

Reduce your bread, crusts and all, to crumbs. I use our new Nutribullet. Everything’s getting Nutribulleted these days. The dog’s lucky not to get a smoothie for dinner. Now heat up a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and, I would say toast but I think the honest word is fry, the breadcrumbs.

This sounds like a pain to cook but it’s really not. I put the squash in to roast, took a ten minute cuddle break with Bert, and then did the rest in fifteen minutes. For some of that time I was holding him while he peered at what I was doing one handed.

Crush the roasted butternut squash with a fork and combine with the pasta and sauce. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs. Put the whole thing in the oven at 180 degrees for about ten minutes.

Golden pesto

goldenpesto

If you’ve got leftover sauce from the sausage and pasta dish, you can use it to make this, just adding the parsley, pine nuts, cheese and extra olive oil and blending. If not, here’s the full recipe. It’s creamier and less strong tasting than off the shelf basil pesto.

We have a very embittered cocker spaniel whose few moments of joy derive from sitting directly below Bert’s high chair with an open mouth. He got no gifts today.

Serves 1.5 with leftovers

glug olive oil

1/2 carrot, grated

1/2 stick celery, grated

small clove garlic, crushed

1/2 can tomatoes

large handful parsley

1/2 small bag pine nuts

handful grated pecorino

another good slug of olive oil

Fry the garlic and veg briefly in a glug of olive oil, then add the tomatoes and cook for around 20 minutes, adding a bit of water from the kettle if it’s drying out. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts till golden. Put it all in a blender (or a Nutribullet – we got one for Christmas) with another glug of olive oil and the cheese and parsley and blend till smooth.

If you’re using leftover sauce it’s even quicker. Babies have a limited amount of patience for your activities if they don’t involve you clapping them or carrying them.

Stir about 2 dessert spoons into overcooked (for your baby) pasta. Grab your pasta a couple of minutes earlier if you care for a more al dente experience. Add salt and pepper to yours after stiring into the pasta.

Leftovers will keep in the fridge for about a week. We plan to make a pasta salad with ours for a beach picnic tomorrow.