Spinach and cashew pesto

Green things Bert approves of: dinosaurs, traffic lights, broccoli and now this. Green things Bert does not approve of – salad; ‘you eat leaves?! That’s kind of crazy.’

I thought he might help me make this in the ‘milkshake maker’, but no, instead he sent his dad about a hundred texts of emojis that he toils and sweats and weeps over like he’s writing a novel.

Makes a couple of small jars (you may get one in the post, Mum)

75g spinach

75g cashews

35g grated parmesan (an earlier edit read garlic – I apologise to anyone who cooked this and still has garlic breath)

2 cloves garlic

2 dessert spoons chopped basil

2 dessert spoons chopped mint

Zest, grated, and juice of a lemon

190ml olive oil

2 teaspoons sea salt (1/2 teaspoon table salt)

Blend the lot and keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.


Penne Giardiniera


This is a Carluccio’s recipe, and I wouldn’t neccessarily have thought of trying it on Bert, but we had lunch there a few months ago and he nicked most of mine so…

It’s also fairly faff-y, particularly the spinach balls, but I’m out of work at the moment and while Bert was at nursery yesterday I spent most of my time colouring in, so let’s just say that time isn’t my most pressing concern currently. But you could always do just the courgette bit, which is really quick. The spinach balls would make a good vege meatball if you served them in tomato sauce, too.

Serves 3

For the spinach balls:

100g spinach, cooked in water for just a couple of minutes, then drained

1/2 a clove of garlic, crushed

1/2 a beaten egg

35g fresh breadcrumbs

Grating of fresh nutmeg, salt and pepper

20-25g grated parmesan

For the pasta:

1 courgette, grated

40g (yes!) of butter

1 and a half garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon chili flakes

120g (yes!) grated parmesan

Cooked pasta to your appetite

Squeeze as much water as you can out of the cooked spinach, then keep squeezing till no more comes out. (Weirdly satisfying.) Chop it fairly finely and add it to the other ingredients, then form into walnut-sized balls. I put them in the fridge at this point to firm up. When you’re nearly ready to eat, shallow fry in plenty of olive oil till golden brown – about 5-10 minutes. The more water you’ve squeezed out of your balls – don’t – the firmer and less prone to falling apart they’ll be.

While your pasta is simmering, gently cook the courgette, chili, butter and garlic in a frying pan till the courgette is soft. That takes about 10 minutes, so the amount of time you’re cooking your pasta, more or less. Add to the cooked pasta with most of the cheese (leaving some for the table). The chili really doesn’t make it at all hot – it’s more a flavouring.

Despite the appalled look on his face in the picture, Bert demolished this. I felt briefly filled with a warm glow of smugness. Then I remembered that his dinner on Friday night was a bowl of Rice Krispies and a bag of chocolate buttons.

But I do believe that if you present small children with tasty, nutritious, ‘adult’ food in a no-pressure way (we never insist he tries or finishes anything) and present it all as equally attractive (he doesn’t have to eat veg, and puddings aren’t a treat or a reward, they’re just what comes after dinner if I can be arsed I’ve made one), then they’ll generally eat about 70% of it enthusiastically and ignore the other 30% randomly. If one day they just eat a huge pile of mashed potatoes, who cares?


Spinach, mint and parmesan frittata


Serves 2.5 (if the large people are greedy)

4 small floury potatoes

Tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

Large handful spinach, chopped

Leaves from a sprig of mint, finely chopped

4 eggs, beaten

Handful grated parmesan

Peel and thickly slice the potatoes (to about 1cm thick), place in a pan of boiling water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes till tender. Drain and leave them in the colander for a couple of minutes to dry.

Heat the oil in the pan and fry the potatoes till golden, adding the garlic at the last minute. Mix the eggs, spinach and mint and pour in, topping with cheese. Cook on the stove top till firm then finish off under a hot grill till the cheese is bubbling and golden.

We had ours with sausages and cherry tomatoes. To be honest, this really could have served four.