Fish with a pesto crust

Fish with a pesto crust

This fast family friendly fish dish has earned itself in a place in the McDonald hall of culinary fame. My children both love it and it takes about 60 seconds for a very quick person to prepare. OK – about 2m really, I was just showing off. It can be made from stuff most of us have in our cupboards or freezer. The fish is a frozen fillet (I used cod. I always have a bag of cod fillets in the freezer. It is such a great way to buy fish – good value, fresh and they last for ages) and then you literally smear over a tbs pesto, a small handful of Parmesan and a larger handful of breadcrumbs, which you have already mixed in a bowl. Then pop the fillet on a lined baking sheet in an oven that has been pre-heated to 200c and roast until cooked all the way through – about 20m. I started cooking this because, bar fishfingers and prawns, my youngest wasn’t keen on fish, until a viewer on our YouTube channel (where we made a very short film about it) recommended this so thank...
Hey pesto!

Hey pesto!

 What craziness are we suggesting? Pesto made by your own fair hand? Have we gone mad? Why not just buy it, when it’s so delicious straight from the jar?  Friends, I know it might seem like I’ve gone all folksy, knocking up homemade pesto in between childcare and skipping to work. But really, it’s easy. Two minutes in a blender/food processor and ta da! You have something so much more delicious than what you would buy from the shop. And by making it yourself, giving your kids pesto and pasta on a regular basis isn’t a shortcut to bad parenting. Instead you are administering green vegetables to your children. Congratulations! I’ve written about pesto before, but Lucy and I had to make it for a Google presentation we did last week, and I was reminded of its gloriousness. People were literally eating it from a spoon, coming back for seconds, thirds and then bringing their friends. Here’s the recipe. I’ve kept it vague so you can taste and add more or less of what you fancy. Also, it’s not just about basil, parmesan and pine nuts. Use whatever leaves you have in the fridge (pesto is a great way of preserving leaves which are about to go off). Rocket and pecorino, spinach and stilton, I made parsley, goats cheese and walnut recently, which went down well. Sometimes I even use Cheddar. I know. Don’t tell the Italians. Serves: 4 bunch of leaves/herbs – about 30g 40g nuts – lightly toasted 40g cheese, grated half a clove of garlic, crushed 75 ml virgin olive oil Pinch of salt Grind of pepper Optional squeeze of...
Food in 5 – pea pesto

Food in 5 – pea pesto

The summer holidays loom, and I don’t know about you, but I’m scared. Six weeks of virtually no childcare, and the constant grind of cooking and cleaning. Argh. Maybe it will be sunny. With that in mind we’re launching a week of Food in Five. That’s lunch or tea that can either be made in five minutes or with five ingredients (not including salt, pepper and oil). I’m kicking off with this pea pesto, which was born out of sheer desperation last week. What would I do without frozen peas? You may not have the exact same things in your cupboard, but the thing with pesto is that you can adapt it to what you have got. Pesto is the past participle of pistare, to pound (according to yahoo answers) and I think if you look at it like that, your fridge (or freezer) becomes your oyster. Just choose a combination of things you think will taste nice together and give it a blitz in the blender with some olive oil. Frozen broad beans, some wilting rocket, or a jar of sundried toms are all a good base. I had pine nuts in the cupboard as my husband is obsessed with them (I know, other men like interent porn, Mr McDonald is into pine nuts – or maybe that’s just a euphemism?) and although they are nice in pesto, you could always manage without. The mint was because that’s what I’ve got in the garden. I didn’t put any garlic in, because we didn’t have any, but a small amount crushed would jazz up anything. I think cheddar is just...
Something for the weekend – Sunday night pesto

Something for the weekend – Sunday night pesto

Good for: grown up dinner or mix it up with a bit of creme fraiche and give it to the kids with pasta on Monday.If you’re anything like me you’re always a bit over ambitious on the salad front. ‘Of course we’ll get through a packet of rocket, watercress and an iceberg this weekend’ I think, as I have total amnesia regarding my sons’ aversion to anything leafy – they’re still young and find greenery difficult to eat. My husband, on the other hand, has a fine set of teeth, but he says he doesn’t see the point of rocket, lollo rosso or any other exotically named lettuce. This means that on a Sunday night there is often nothing more than several packs of wilting leaves at the back of the fridge – but as my frugality knows no bounds I see this as a perfect opportunity to perfect my Italian mama impersonation and whip up some pesto. The great thing about pesto, which I realised recently, is that basil is just one option. There are loads of other things you can make it with – baby leaf spinach, rocket, watercress. Just vary the cheese and the nuts to complement the leaves and voila, a taste sensation. And the great thing about pesto is that as you put so much greenery in it, you don’t need to serve it with a salad, which keeps my husband happy. Rocket pesto Start to finish: 10 minutes including cooking the pasta Serves: 4 adult servings 4 small handfuls of rocket 75g blue cheese 100g walnuts 2 garlic cloves 200ml olive oil salt...
Great balls of rice!

Great balls of rice!

I do love an arancini ball – golden and satisfyingly round. I first came across them on holiday in Sicily and had no idea what they were. In more recent times my husband has become a dab hand at making them. They look impressive and we recently made them for the cafe at our local allotment, and they went down a treat. Perfectly portable, they could be taken in a napkin to munch back at the plot. Then I made them last week for a Saturday night picnic in the park. I want it to be our new summer tradition. Instead of having friends over for dinner, which can take the whole day to prepare for, a Saturday night picnic is similarly sociable, but you don’t need to make quite so much effort, as everyone can bring something. Start it at 5pm so you can feed the kids early, and then as they go off for a cartwheel/back flip extravaganza, you can tuck in to the rest of the food (and the prosecco). By 8pm everyone’s fed, you’ve actually managed to have a conversation with your friends and the kids still get to bed on time. Perfect. I made these arancini balls using Bertolli’s new butter and olive oil spread, which they say is perfect for cooking as it doesn’t burn like butter, as the olive oil lets it go to a higher temperature. I can vouch for that, being the most distracted cook ever. I’ve just fried some flatbreads for lunch (so much nicer than just warming through!) and left the butter/olive oil on for too long and it...