Alone in the kitchen, botched cakes, cheesy leeks and other things

Alone in the kitchen, botched cakes, cheesy leeks and other things

Everyone else in the house is tucked up in bed and I am sat in a partially-lit kitchen listening to bluesy music and enjoying the peace of having the downstairs to myself. It is such a rare occasion, that I am tempted not to go to bed. Ever. But to savour this moment free of the reverberations and demands of other people, for as long as I can. My children are three and nearly six and I have recently become conscious that we are a proper family now, with all its idiosyncrasies, instead of two bigger people looking after two smaller people, which on reflection was less complicated, I suppose. Much though I long for silence and solitude, the odd thing about being a mum, for me, is that when I get it, the enjoyment is fleeting. In the still of the house, I feel bereft almost and like I want to wake everyone up and check they’re ok. But then if they did actually get out of bed, the spell would be broken. Is it part and parcel of being a mum that you never feel you are quite in the right place? Tonight’s blog was supposed to be about the triumph of my eldest’s birthday cake. It is her party on Saturday and she asked for one of those hideous Barbie cakes, where the doll’s torso emerges from a Victoria Sponge skirt. They are completely revolting and, perhaps I am projecting, but they remind me of naff loo roll holders from the 1980s. Found at the homes of people who had those floral china signs on the...
Cherry clafoutis

Cherry clafoutis

My husband was cycling home from work last week when a woman opened her car door without looking. A fraction of a second later he was flying through the air, landing with an awkward thud on the road. After a breathless phone call from him, I picked the two children up from the dining table, where they were eating tea, thrust them in their car seats and drove to meet him at the kerb. I got there just seconds after the ambulance arrived, and had a few moments to see him before it whisked him away with a suspected broken shin. I drove home with a shoeless two-year-old (there hadn’t been time to get him properly dressed) and a subdued four year old, finished giving them their tea, asked a neighbour to babysit, and drove to A&E for a quick whisk through the system. After an hour we were told it wasn’t broken, just badly bruised and he needed to keep it up with an ice pack (preferably frozen peas). We drove home (via the fish and chip shop) and spent the evening counting our blessings, thinking of what might have been (it’s a busy road but fortunately he wasn’t hit by any oncoming cars) and marvelling at the restorative powers of fish, chips and slightly flat cava. But we didn’t have any frozen peas. Instead I had some 480g packs of frozen dark sweet cherries from Sainsburys, which are on offer at the moment, three for a fiver. A very good deal, I’m sure you’ll agree. And it meant I didn’t flinch when I realised that this was all...
Ferran Adria’s crisp omelette

Ferran Adria’s crisp omelette

I was flicking through the Saturday papers last weekend and saw a piece plugging Ferran Adria’s new recipe book aimed at families, The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria. Ho ho, I thought. What’s the chef from the world’s most experimental restaurant, El Bulli, famed for his use of blow torches and dry ice, going to know about cooking family meals? Then I read through the recipes and had to concede that maybe the Michelin-starred chef knew a thing or two about cooking, even the low-key, churn it out variety that most mothers do day in, day out. So, I decided to give it a try. I made his spaghetti bolognese last night, which used simple ingredients and relied on a long cooking time to get such a delicious rich flavour. I’ve put the recipe below. But where’s the whizz-bang in that? So I decided to also make the crisp omelette. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never hankered after a crisp omelette. And even as I was making it I was wondering exactly why I was bothering – except to blog about it. But with only three things in the ingredients list it had a certain allure. And actually it was very nice. I’m not entirely sure what the crisps added to the omelette party – they just became a slightly chewy filling, but the instructions on how to make the spanish tortilla-style omelette were so good that I made my first ever perfect tortilla, all gooey on the inside and set on the outside. Now I’ve got that sussed I could put anything inside the...
Herby sardines on toast

Herby sardines on toast

This is a recipe I never thought would see the light of day. But with a last blast of summer sunshine predicted, here it is. It’s a meal with a powerful pack of flavours, with lemon, coriander and sardines, plus anchovies, onion and garlic. If you don’t like any of those, or don’t have them to hand, just omit them, there’s enough going on for them not to be missed. Other than the herbs, I generally have all the other ingredients in my cupboard/fridge, so it’s quite a good one for Friday night. Quick to knock up, really healthy, but delicious enough to warrant at least one (very) large glass of white (see Knackered Mother’s recommendation below). For some insane reason I’ve included in the proportion size enough for two children. If your children will eat sardines, well done. For the rest of us, this makes a delicious if rather large supper (it’s because the tin sizes are that bit too big), but I’m relaxed (lazy) enough to have it for lunch again the next day. Herby bean with sardines, on toast Serves: 2 adults and 2 children – 2 slices of toast for each adult, 1 for each child Start to finish: 10 minutes 1 x 400g tin haricot beans 1 tin of sardines in oil Bunch of coriander Bunch of parsley Juice of half a lemon Zest of a whole lemon Several big gulps of virgin olive oil 4 anchovies (optional) Black pepper to taste Quarter of a large red onion, finely chopped Quarter of a garlic clove, finely chopped The rest of the garlic clove to rub...
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...
Fruit loaf

Fruit loaf

I had planned to post a summery supper today. Something herby and light for balmy nights, enjoyed with a glass of white once the kids are in bed. What was I thinking? I’ve spent most of this weekend on the spectrum of slightly damp to sodden. Yesterday we visited the Lambeth Country Show to see funny-looking sheep, drink scrumpy and eat jerk chicken, instead we (unsuccessfully) dodged downpours and spent £10 on two helium balloons (well, my husband did, not being as well versed as me in the art of saying “no“). The joys of a British summer. Today we are wrapped up at home, and if we had a log fire, it would be on. So it’s a change of recipe plan. This fruit loaf is perfect for anything the summer can throw at you – hot, cold, damp etc. It’s unbelievably easy, so do it with the kids in the summer holidays, and serve with butter, slices of banana or on its own. I like to have it with a banana and peanut butter milkshake. Fruit loaf Serves: 12 slices Start to finish: 5 mins prep, 1 hour soaking, another 1 minute prep, 1.5 hours in the oven 1 cup of dried fruit – whatever you’ve got, I’ve used a mix of figs, sultanas and apricots, all cut up small 1 cup of bran flakes 1 cup of milk 1 cup of SR flour Put dried fruit, milk and bran flakes in a bowl, stir and leave for an hour, but don’t worry if you leave it for longer, I’ve left it for six hours and it was fine....