Sunday, 25 March 2012

Coles Dutch Baby

this is not my recipe but it comes with a lovely story and it was the absolute favourite part of Mr Z's day seeing this thing rise in to a puffy monster of a pancake/yorkshire pudding. it was not the highlight of my day as i burned the palm of my hand badly on the handle of the frying pan. i also made the mistake of using salted butter which meant it tasted more like a yorkshire pudding than the sweet breakfast treat it was supposed to be, but the maple syrup thankfully masked my mistake.

This recipe comes from Cole Dickinson, who is a chef in Los Angeles. Dickinson says, “My mother was a single mom raising three kids. She made Dutch babies because they were affordable—and always made us feel special. Today, they’re something we all associate with special occasions and happy times.”

3 eggs
3/4cup flour
3/4cup milk
3/4 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 stick - 4 tbspn unsalted butter

1. put 11inch skillet or oven proof saute pan in cold oven. preheat oven to 220C (WARNING - the handle of the pan will be so hot and so easy to absent-mindedly grab, especially when distracted by kids. I'd say make this while another adult is around to help supervise the kids when you're doing the super-hot bits!)

 2. combine the eggs, flour, milk, vanilla and whisk thoroughly - until frothy.
3. put butter in the pan in the oven and return it to oven until butter melts and browns

4. carefully pour batter into hot pan

5. bake until Dutch Baby is lightly browned and sides have risen (approx 15mins)

Cole's recipe includes dusting the whole thing in icing sugar and serving with whipped cream mixed with mounds of icing sugar, plus a complicated bacon and maple syrup sauce. 
I say, unless you want to feel totally sick from sugary syrupy creamy sweetness, just serve this up with plain greek yoghurt, maple syrup and some strips of bacon. it was delicious this way and fun for the kids with all the huge puffiness. a perfect sunday morning treat.

Saturday, 24 March 2012


My mum always made delicious salad dressing. my recipe is based on what i think went in hers.

2 cloves of garlic (leave these in the bottom of the jar for months, and keep topping up the other ingredients as required)
125ml extra virgin olive oil
50ml balsamic vinegar
1 tbspn dijon mustard
1 tspn sugar
salt & pepper to taste
mix really well and store on the shelf (not in the fridge)
this amazing salad dressing holder has recipes on the side and when you squeeze the handle it mixes the dressing beautifully with that twisty internal bit. no guest has ever figured out how to pour it though and every guest that tries gets very embarrassed as they quietly shake it and struggle to find an opening.

Friday, 23 March 2012

power lunches

now that the sun is out a bit and my kids are both over two years old, i feel inspired by big salad lunches. for the first year of Little Miss M's life i lived off cheddar & avocado sandwiches plus carrot & cucumber sticks for lunch. it's what i fed the kids too. i do find if i eat a huge salad rather than sandwiches i have a lot more energy and creative zest for life and am not feeling desperate to go to sleep on the sofa all afternoon. The nice thing too is that you can eat mountains of it and it is still healthy! it doesn't take much forethought - i tend to grab every vegetable in the fridge and chop them all up. add some fruit and  seeds to spice things up. here are some ideas:

Salad 1:
grated carrot (lots!)
grated red cabbage
sunflower seeds
Salad 2:
cherry tomatoes
black olives
Salad 3:
spring onions
mange tout
grated carrot
Salad 4:
beetroot (cut in chunks)
cherry tomatoes
red pepper
left-over cooked bulgar
ready-to-eat puy lentils (yum!)
Salad 5:
grated carrot
grated beetroot
cabbage (roughly chopped)
pine nuts
pumpkin seeds

Mr Z decided that he wanted to eat a whole beetroot to try to turn his wee red - one way to encourage vegetable eating!
Little Miss M helping me out with my huge salad
after all that raw vedge you definitely deserve this

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

1-2-3 fish pie

i love feeding my kids fish pie. it feels like the ultimate wholesome meal, covering most of the food groups - fish, potatoes and vegetables plus lots of luscious calcium and protein filled butter, cheese and milk. i try to keep mine simple - it is three nice and easy steps to make it. here we go:

preheat the oven to 200C
put 700g of chopped potatoes on to boil

1. the fish - butter a pie dish and put chunks of fish (a fillet of salmon, cod or haddock) plus about 15 prawns in the bottom. i also like to add cherry tomatoes (halved)

2. the sauce - 
melt 25g butter in a saucepan
saute for 2mins: a chopped onion, 2 cloves of garlic chopped and crushed and one diced carrot
add 3 tbspns flour and stir until the butter is absorbed
slowly add 3/4pint milk letting the sauce thicken as you stir 
add a pinch of salt, pepper & nutmeg
add a large handful of broccoli florets (or frozen peas) and a cup of grated parmesan and stir for a few minutes.
pour the sauce over the fish & prawns
3. the mash - drain the boiled potatoes and add 25g butter and a big splash of milk - mash and spread over the fish pie doing quaint patterned lines with a fork - why do we do these is it just tradition?
Bake for 30mins
my kids enjoyed this but did not appreciate what had become mushy broccoli when i reheated it the next day. you may want to cook broccoli on the side or try adding peas to the pie instead

Monday, 19 March 2012


today i ventured to a huge supermarket with a very tired three year old, in order to buy some ingredients...
i made the mistake of going to the toy aisle to look for a gift for his friend. he of course wanted everything on the shelves and in his tired state went in to complete meltdown at the check-out because i had told him he could try out a certain toy we'd seen and then we got distracted by something else. he remembered the promise to try this toy at the check out but by this point he was on a knife-edge of tiredness and we were running late - having left little miss m asleep at home where her father was working and probably wouldn't appreciate having to look after her once she woke... whilst making important work calls. Mr Z had the worst meltdown i have ever witnessed - everything going wrong because i was in a rush (rushing never goes well with toddlers!) and he wanted to pack bags and re-arrange things in certain orders. it all got too much as i rushed him and he ended up throwing food across the floor, collapsing on the floor sobbing loudly. i could feel the queue behind me growing and their stares burning in to my back. quickly pay i thought and get out of here. at which point i realised i had a bank card that expired a year ago! when i left the house i had spotted a bank card on the counter and thought yes i'll leave my wallet behind and just stick this in my pocket!.. nice and light and easy... arghh. (what was it doing there? well i give the kids old cards & wallets to try to deter them from going through and emptying my wallet! and to play shopping games with. So it must have been picked up off the floor and popped helpfully on the counter). My heart sank... and i imagine every heart in the growing queue behind me did too as they saw their wait getting longer! the check-out lady was very sweet and said my boy seemed tired and did i have other kids. in my flustered state and trying not to cry i said "yes yes i do - his little sister is actually asleep at home and that's why we're in such a hurry to get back before she wakes up." at this point the looks of dismay, frustration or possibly sympathy from those behind me turned to horror at the thought that i'd gone to do my grocery shopping leaving my baby girl asleep at home, on her own!
z sobbed as we walked away from our shopping not wanting to leave it behind. we called hubby - me crying and z wailing and decided to leave the shopping at customer service and go home.  lovely hubby saved the day and took both kids back to the supermarket to pay for and pick up the shopping.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

simple scones

these are the simplest things in the world and great to make with little kids. they are very quick so if you don't have much time and are having friends for tea, you can whip these up in no time. the recipe doesn't involve any eggs so it doesn't matter if little ones tuck in to the raw mixture. Little Miss M ate huge spoonfuls of this while supposedly mixing it. 

3cups/375g self-raising flour
80g butter
1cup/250ml milk
preheat oven to 200C

1. sift the flour
2. Mix the flour and butter with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs
 3. pour in the milk and mix gently with a spoon
 tucking in
4. push the dough in to a ball but try to handle it as little as possible. 
5. push it down on a floured surface so that it is about 1inch thick. 
6. use a round cookie cutter to cut out circles and place them on a greased baking tray. 
7. bake at 200C for 15mins or until starting to brown slightly.
 serve with butter, jam and whipped cream - mmmmm
we have recently discovered this jam - it is really delicious and has no sugar - just fruit!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

milk bubbles

spilled milk is one of those things that can drive me mad. i guess milk slightly grosses me out when it is all over the place. but today i decided to embrace it and let the kids have fun blowing milk bubbles. we had a lot of soggy tea towels when this was all over. they really enjoyed it.

it seemed to be a day of teaching me not to cry over spilled milk as our milk container decided to spurt milk everywhere when i poured it in to my coffee. good thing i was in a milk-embracing frame of mind!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

sweet & sour

in my mind sweet&sour pork was surely far too complicated to make at home and belonged solely to the chinese take-away. my husband mentioned one day that his mother made great sweet and sour pork and it was his all-time favourite meal growing up - he would always ask to have it on his birthday. so i thought i better get cracking and give it a go. when i came to making it our cornflour and rice vinegar were both a good year out of date - they are those things that you buy with good intentions of figuring out how to cook with them and expanding your meal repertoire and then they sit on the shelf for years. and we didn't have any pork so i decided to go with prawns which are probably easier and my kids love them. you could do this with chicken too but maybe pre-cook it a bit first in fry pan or oven.
rolling the egg-covered prawns in cornflour is SO very pleasing and has an amazing texture that the kids will enjoy... or you if you are surrounded by chaos and need some texture therapy.
this recipe tasted great despite a few out-of-date ingredients so i'd say just go for it! it is very simple and kids will enjoy helping you with all the measuring, pouring and stirring.
there is something sweet & sour about children and child-raising - the intense indescribably vast and deep deep deep love and protection and care you feel for them. and the extreme of how intensely angry, frustrated or claustrophobic they can make you feel. my brother once said after a particularly challenging bedtime with his three little ones "there is a thin line between love and hate". the joy and the slog are both so intense.


3 tbspn soy sauce
12 large prawns
100g corn flour
1 egg
2 tbspn vegetable oil
1 onion
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1&1/2 tbspn sugar
1 tbspn rice vinegar
2 tbspn ketchup
2 tbspn water

1. in a bowl, cover 150g (roughly 20) king prawns in soy sauce and place in the fridge

2. chop up 1 onion, 1 red pepper, 1 green pepper

3. beat 1 egg - add to the bowl of prawns and stir

4. add 100g corn flour and stir (or mix with hands - this feels lovely once the prawns are covered so can be nice for kids)

5. heat 3 tbspn vegetable oil in a wok or fry pan add the prawns to the pan (keep the remaining soya sauce, egg & cornflour mix left in the bowl)and cook for 3 minutes - turning them over half way through

 6. add the onions and peppers, stir and cook for 2 minutes. 

7. add to the bowl that the prawns were in - 1&1/2 tbspn sugar, 1 tbspn rice vinegar, 2 tbspn ketchup, 2 tbspn water - stir well with a fork and pour over the veg and prawns in the pan

8. cook for 2 minutes and then serve up with rice

Friday, 9 March 2012


home made bread is one of those things that i would love to make all the time... in my mind a good mother bakes bread - to save money and to avoid all those preservatives and the sugar & salt in store-bought bread. however in my mind also was bread-making being an impossible & unrealistic task. but didn't previous generation make their own bread all the time? i've always had a mental block - assuming it would involve various long and boring hours of kneading and rising. finally i was inspired by a recipe in a kids cooking book and was surprised to find it so manageable and easy. so i am trying to make my own bread more often. this bread is super easy and tastes great. you can experiment with adding seeds, making rolls or loaves. i like making rolls and freezing them so i can pull out one or two at a time for lunch.

bread is a great thing to make with kids because they can really get their hands stuck in and sticky. little mr z loves playing with his hands in a bowl of flour. so our bread generally has the lovely added flavour of toddler snot.

Little Z: "i'm pretending this is soil" as his hands turn in to scoops and he makes digger noises. we have some lovely chats while we knead dough together. he told me recently that if could be an animal he would be a sookoolyder which is an animal that can jump really high in the air - higher than any other animal.
25g butter
225g strong brown/granary flour
225g white flour
1 sachet (2tspns) yeast
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
275ml warm water

You can play around with the ratio of brown and white flour or the amount of salt and sugar. The main thing is that the mixing, kneading, rising, baking process can actually be very simple and quick.

pre-heat the oven to 220C/425F

mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl and rub in the butter. kids love doing this.

make a well in the middle and add the water

mix it up with a spoon and then your hands to make a dough ball
sprinkle lots of flour on a surface and knead the dough for 10minutes
put the dough in to greased loaf tins, make it in to rolls on a greased tray or plait it if you're feeling fancy

cover the dough with a warm damp tea towel and leave it to rise for an hour

optional - brush with beaten egg
optional - add seeds on top

bake for 20 minutes

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

whirlwind of pie

i have to admit i made this with no help from the kids. i had a rather lovely and rare two hours to myself in the middle of the day. after accomplishing nothing for the first hour and a half i realised my little cherubs would be home soon and the house was a mess and i had nothing prepared for dinner. i cleaned up the kitchen only to decimate it again in a whirlwind of pie making. 

i made a simple shortcrust pastry and stuck it in the fridge while i improvised on the filling. the kids got home while i was in full-flow... unable to stop and determined to finish my pie. little mr z walked up and down the kitchen asking to watch Postman Pat and singing the theme tune over and over again, each time ending in an operatic crescendo of "Pat feels he's a very happy man!!" which was heart-warming, despite the repetition. little miss m meanwhile went through the pantry cupboard and slowly, subtly emptied an entire bag of buckwheat and a fair amount of pasta on to the floor (be warned buckwheat rolls beautifully across a smooth floor and gets in to every crevice!). as he swept up, little mr z told her "i don't like this mess. i don't want to see this ever again." i know how he feels.
i finally popped the pie in the oven and dragged both kids out to the shop to get essential milk supplies. i decided we all needed some fresh air and exercise and told mr z he could watch Postman Pat when we got home if he walked all the way to the shop and back. needless to say we had a lovely sunny walk to the shop and a disaster return journey. it was almost dark and totally freezing. little miss m gave up and went in the pushchair, little mr z sobbed the entire way home, nose streaming and only letting up on the crying front in order to let his hacking cough take over. i felt like a terrible mum. i was that mum that i would have looked at years ago and thought "she is so mean striding along with a sobbing child next to her.. how awful, not to mention that poor boy shouldn't be out this late or in this weather with that awful cough he has! i would never let my child cry like that - she clearly has no control.. dear me. why isn't she either spanking him or taking creative measures to distract him?" i knew i just needed to get poor little mr z home for his tea!

the pie looked a bit miserable when we got home. however i have to say it was really delicious, very easy to make and not sickly filling.

chicken, leek & mushroom pie

for the pastry: 
mix together 150g plain flour, a pinch of salt and 60g butter. rub with your fingertips until it feels like breadcrumbs. Add 2tbsp cold water, mix and press together in to a ball. wrap in cling film and put in the fridge.

for the filling: 
1. chop up 2 celery sticks, 2 leeks, 6 medium-sized mushrooms and 2 chicken breasts.
2. preheat the oven to 180C/350F

3. melt 50g of butter in a pan and add the chicken - stir for 2 minutes or until the chicken has just turned white. 

4. add the celery, leek and mushrooms and stir for approx 4 minutes.

5. add a few glugs of white wine and stir for a few minutes

6. add 2 tbsp plain flour and stir until the liquid has been absorbed

7. slowly add 1cup/250ml of chicken stock - stirring and letting the liquid thicken

8. add 1/2tsp pepper and 1 tspn nutmeg

9. leave to simmer for a few minutes and butter a pie dish

10. stir in 1cup/250ml of double cream to the mix. leave to simmer for a few minutes and roll out the pastry on a floured surface to the size of the pie top

11. pour the mixture in to the pie dish & place the pastry on top

12. beat an egg and brush it on top of the pastry and put in the oven for 40minutes. 

i served it up with carrots and potatoes

Sunday, 4 March 2012


i love when mr Z sleeps well and is full of beans and energy. however he has so much enthusiasm that it can be hard to get out of the house when we need to. we move from room to room gathering clothes, siblings and food as we prepare to leave - each room is like a treasure chest - he finds something he desperately wants to do - we walk in to the living room and he spots a book he wants read to him, we walk in to the hall and he spreads a pack of cards on the floor and wants to play a game, we walk in to the bedroom and he wants to jump and play on the bed, we walk in to the kitchen and he wants to play chase or build a train-set, we walk in to his sisters room and he wants to play with the doctor's set. each suggestion is followed by desperate pleading "just quickly just mega-quickly","as a treat", "pleeeease pleeeeease". i don't enjoy having to say no a million times to all his lovely enthusiastic suggestions and explain that we dont have time and could do it later etc. this is why some days we just don't leave the house! and why birthday parcels are always sent late. 

our latest escapade was to the post office where i ended up holding up a HUGE queue while i crawled on all fours in front of the check-out, butt-crack on full show, over-heating in my cashmere jumper, scraping the contents of a huge box of scattered raisins up off the floor and trying to calmly tell my children not to keep running off and taking things off shelves, while defensively explaining to the lady at the check-out that it was her computer system being down that was holding everything up, not me!

Little mr Z's favourite meal is macaroni cheese. With the time it can take to get out of the house, do something meaningful or productive and get back again, i often need to be able to cook a quick (comforting - for me!) meal and this is a winner.

macaroni cheese

melt a big chunk of butter in a saucepan on low heat, add 2 tablespoons of flour and stir with a whisk for 1 minute.

while stirring, slowly add a little warm milk until it thickens, then add more.. continue this process until you have added about a pint of milk, stirring as much as possible along the way.

while you are making the sauce, boil macaroni or pasta of your choice. i normally add chopped up carrots or courgette and peas for the last 2 minutes.

add a pinch of salt, pepper and nutmeg to the cheese sauce

when the sauce is a nice thick-ish consistency, remove from the heat and stir in your choice of - some grated cheese, an egg, left-over sausages or bacon (chopped up).
mix the pasta, veg and sauce and serve. Little Z eats about three servings of this.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

basic cupcakes

These are super super easy and quick to whip up. so if you're seeing someone on their birthday why not surprise them with some cupcakes? And hopefully the kids won't feel too sick from licking batter and eating icing and sprinkles to enjoy the tea party.

preheat the oven to 160
110g(1cup) self-raising flour
110g(1/2 cup) caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g(1/2cup) margarine
2 eggs
sift the flour, sugar and baking powder
add the vanilla extract
add the butter and eggs
beat all the ingredients well (cover the mixer so flour doesn't fly everywhere)
put the batter in to 12 cupcake cases and bake for 20 mins
meanwhile lick the utensils clean

we even tried our hand at piping some buttercream icing. piping was always one of those things that i have wanted to try but it seemed too complicated and too much effort. it was in fact very easy, fun and effective (for a first attempt). if your kids like squeezing toothpaste tubes etc, they will love piping.

Beat well:
225g (1&1/2 cups) icing sugar
100g(1/2 cup) soft butter
+ a few drops of food colouring (or squeeze in some cherry or blueberry juice for natural colouring)
have your child hold the piping bag while you fill it with icing
fold over the top of the bag and hold it tightly (to avoid the icing squeezing upwards) while they squeeze icing on to the cupcakes (you can slightly direct the movement this way too)

et voila

decorate with sprinkles
and enjoy!