Hedgerow fool


Bert’s been at school for two full days and he’s run through the full gamut of emotions. From a summer-long excitement, to hysteria the day before term began, jangling nerves on the morning itself, through to jubilance at the end of the first day. (‘It was brilliant. I don’t know why I nervous.’)

He then moved, after a total of 12 hours in school, onto a nonchalant confidence. When I picked him up today, I asked him what he’d been doing and he said, ‘I spent a lot of time working in the office, organising things’. Surely they hadn’t moved him into a paid administrative role already? Turned out he was demonstrating his ability to sort colours into the right piles and numbers into the correct order. ‘I got them all right,’ he claimed, and nodded at me that the road was safe to cross.

But by 4.30, the cheery confidence had shifted into a melancholic nostalgia for the old days. ‘We don’t laugh at the same things anymore, Mum,’ he said wistfully in the car on the way to the supermarket to buy the makings of home-made fruit lollies. ‘We used to.’ ‘What do you mean? I just laughed at about a hundred of your jokes.’ ‘Not the last one, in the car.’ He stared out of the window, mouth set in a straight line, remembering the good times, now irrevokably passed, before we drifted apart.

The day before term started, before it all went wrong, we picked blackberries and made a blackberry fool.

Serves 4

400g blackberries

100ml elderflower cordial

2 tablespoons golden caster sugar

150ml thick Greek yoghurt

150ml cold custard

Put the washed blackberries in a pan with the cordial and sugar. Heat till bubbling then simmer merrily for about 10 minutes, crushing the berries against the side of the pan to make a very rough, chunky sauce. Cool.

Fold the cooled fruit, yoghurt and custard together briefly till combined but still rippled. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving, more time if you have it.


Raspberry and yoghurt muffins









Some cakes shouldn’t pretend to be useful. This isn’t one of them. Bert pressed two to his face and digested them like a fly, innocent to the fact they contain spelt flour, yoghurt, almonds and not a huge amount of sugar.

Makes 6 muffins

90g plain flour

30g spelt (or plain brown) flour

70g sunflower oil

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

80g golden caster sugar

100g frozen or fresh raspberries

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

Flaked almonds to scatter on top

Pre hear the oven to 190/ 180 fan.

Beat all the ingredients except the raspberries and almonds together. Fold through the raspberries then spoon the mixture into a case-lined muffin tin. Scatter each muffin with almonds then bake for 20-25 minutes, till firm to the touch.

The oil gives them a more delicate crumb than butter, and they’re not too sweet. I think frozen raspberries are less prone to sinking, but both work.

Yoghurt bread

Bert’s first loaf of bread (with a bit of help measuring) – he’s very proud.

Two hours after this photo was taken he was naked in the kitchen, slice of warm bread in hand, singing ‘go mummy! Go mummy!’ as I chased a fly around the kitchen with a fly swat muttering I will beat you. Making memories.

Makes one loaf

350g strong white bread flour

250ml hand hot water

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon salt

7g (1 sachet) dried yeast

75g Greek yoghurt

Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 5 minutes or till stretchy. Cover and leave for an hour then tip onto a lined tray to form a mound and bake at 140/ gas mark four for an hour. Have a slice, still warm, in your pyjamas (or, indeed, nudie).

This is a Jack Monroe recipe.

Roast rhubarb puree

Another attempt to bring fresh fruit and veg back into Bert’s life. Bert refused to eat it – I went away, stirred half a teaspoon of strawberry jam in and he declared it ‘very nice’.

We just spent two weeks at a friends house on an island off the coast of France, stopping for the night on the way at a chateau with a pool, swings, a trampoline, and bunk beds behind a hidden door. The highlight of Bert’s holiday? ‘The iPad’.

Serves 2

80g rhubarb, cut into 2cm pieces

40g golden caster sugar

30g butter

Roast at 180/ gas mark 4 for 10-15 minutes, till softened, then puree and stir through Greek yoghurt, custard or whipped cream.

Raspberry, almond and yoghurt cake


I strapped Bert into his car seat as he picked his nose and… ‘Are you eating your snot?’ I said. ‘That’s disgusting.’

‘No,’ he corrected me. ‘It’s delicious.’

He then swiped the back of his hand across his nose and held it out to me. ‘You try it,’ he said.

This cake was moist, just sweet enough and delicious. But its not the most delicious thing we’ve eaten this week.

Makes a small loaf

125g soft butter

175g golden caster sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

125g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

45g ground almonds

125ml Greek yoghurt (or other plain yoghurt)

125g raspberries

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180 degrees.

Beat the sugar and butter together till light and creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the vanilla with the last egg. Fold through the flour, baking powder, almonds and yoghurt, then finally stir through the raspberries, gently. Pour into a lined 2lb loaf tin or 20cm round tin. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, till golden and firm on top. We had ours warm with a dollop of yoghurt, and now I’m thinking that that’s practically a balanced breakfast tomorrow.


Courgette and lime cake with Greek yoghurt frosting

courgette cake

Shortly after this photo was taken, Bert’s dad was ‘naughty daddy’ for picking up a piece of cake Bert had dropped. Then I was ‘naughty mummy’ for putting a nappy on him and giving him his blanket before his nap. He’d only go to bed if he was put in an entirely green outfit, and was read three green books. Last night he screamed at me for not having the Peppa Pig towel to hand after his bath.

There is no Peppa Pig towel.

We’re completely terrified of him.

This is a tasty, moist cake. If you find the green speckles disturbing, you could peel the courgettes first.

For the cake:

2 eggs

170g soft butter

140g caster sugar

2 medium courgettes, grated (about 200g)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

75g self raising flour

75g plain wholemeal flour

1 dessert spoon lime juice

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the topping and filling:

3-4 dessert spoons lime or lemon curd

4 dessert spoons Greek yoghurt

1 cup icing sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon lime juice

Beat together the eggs, sugar, courgette and butter till smooth and light, then fold in the rest of the cake ingredients. Divide between two buttered small loaf tins (mine are 15 x 9cm) and bake at 180 degrees (or the grid shelf on the bottom of the Aga roasting oven with the cool shelf two rows above) for 20-25 minutes, till golden brown and firm.

Leave to cool slightly then turn out onto a rack.

Beat the icing sugar and remaining lime juice into the Greek yoghurt and cool for at least an hour. Spread one completely cooled loaf with curd, sandwich with the other, and then spread the frosting over the top – it should dribble down the sides.


Banana and dark sugar ice cream


Bert has a very strict screen time policy (which he doesn’t apply to lego apps or watching Cars) so I got no photos of the icecream being consumed. This is him loving the scene in the Lion King where the daddy lion play-wrestles with his son.

The dark sugar gives the icecream a kind of Caribbean vibe.

Serves 3

2 ripe bananas, roughly chopped

50g dark brown Demerara sugar

½ a large pot of plain, unsweetened Greek yoghurt

A dash of double cream – maybe 30 ml

Sprinkle the sugar into the bananas and mix. Put everything into an ice cream maker and churn till frozen.

The day we ate this was one of those blissful toddler days that makes you forget the ones that are full of battles and tears. We made a den, watched the Lion King for the hundredth time and ate home made ice cream.


Plum, orange and ginger frozen yoghurt

2015-09-10 18.46.27

My plum and honey frozen yoghurt was not popular. This is my attempt to redeem myself.

4 ripe plums, skinned, de-stoned and pulped

Zest of one orange, finely grated

1 teaspoon finely grated ginger

80g golden caster sugar

120ml plain yoghurt

Chuck it all into the icecream maker and churn till frozen while your toddler throws miniature pianos over onto their sides and moves tiny wooden tables across the room like a 1/6 scale removal man. It takes about 45 minutes in ours.

Strawberry, banana and maple syrup frozen yoghurt


Served 3

1 ripe banana

200g strawberries

120ml plain yoghurt

60g golden caster sugar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Blend the banana and strawberries then put, with all of the rest of the ingredients, into an icecream maker till frozen. I normally add a dash of double cream but I think the banana’s creamy enough.

It takes about half an hour to an hour to freeze – long enough for your toddler to take every key down from the key hooks and throw  them onto the floor, ride a miniature ride-on mower backwards in just a nappy and shout at the football on the TV.

Yoghurt marinated lamb kebabs


Served 3

500g lamb steaks, cut into chunks

1 red pepper, cut into chunks

2 red onions or large shallots, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons plain yoghurt

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds crushed with 1 clove of garlic and salt to taste

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon turmeric

Mix the yoghurt with the spices and marinate the lamb in it for about an hour. With a yoghurt marinade, you don’t want to marinate too long or the lamb gets tough. (I think the marinade is originally a Nigel Slater recipe.) Thread onto skewers with the veg and cook on a high heat – in a hot pan or under a hot grill – for 10-15 minutes. In a very tradition division of labour, Bert’s dad barbequed them while I made some flat breads and Bert moved water from one container to another.

We had it ours with salad. Bert looked at a salad leaf with the kind of horrified morbid curiosity most of us reserve for a road accident. Have I read somewhere that babies are programmed to avoid greens in case they’re poisonous? Bert is in no danger of being poisoned by greens.