Like I said in a post recently, my cooking nowadays is very different to what it was when a) I slept at night, b) I didn't have a very vocal baby who developed separation anxiety very early on, and c) I didn't have a 3-year-old who values his space and screams whenever his baby brother comes near him.
So, it's all about food that doesn't take up too much of my time – for now, at least. That is, food that either I can rustle up quickly and put on the table within 20-30 minutes, or something I can shove in the oven – for hours if need be – while I take the boys out.
Effortless food based on good ingredients (some homegrown now, I'd like to add!).
That's what I'll be mostly writing about over the next few months.
I wish I planned my meals better for the week ahead. But somehow I always start the day wondering what I've got to do for the boys' lunch and dinner.
Yesterday was a case in point. We've had a lot of chicken and red meat of late, so I started thinking pasta and vegetable dishes. My plan was to pick Luca up early and have him help me in the kitchen. So I needed something involving a little light chopping and some mixing.
Corn from the freezer combined with some store cupboard ingredients make a very tasty fritter for children, especially with some avocado on the side. And they're a cinch to make.
I don't know about you, but I always have a particular book, writer or website in mind depending on what I want to cook.
Chocolate cake? Nigella.
My favourite roast chicken recipe? Hugh FW's meat book.
Food to whisk me back to life in the Middle East? Claudia Roden.
Fritters? It has to be the cool and breezy Bill Granger.
A fabulous recipe to cook with kids. Before I darted out to get Luca, I measured the corn, flour and spices into two bowls. When we got in, he took great delight in whisking the eggs, adding the corn and stirring it all together.
I heated a bit of leftover duck fat from our dinner a couple of nights ago (a little decadent for kids' food, but why not?), and Luca dolloped spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan.
We made a mess, but for once we had fun together from beginning to end (normally, it all starts well and then he'll go off in a sulk about something).
He even managed to flip them. While he waited for them to turn crisp and golden, he sliced some avocado (yes, he uses a knife in the kitchen. On paper, he's probably too young to be near a hot pan and a sharp knife, but he's incredibly sensible. And I think it's key to getting children involved in food from an early age; if they show an interest and can be trusted to listen, then encourage them as much as possible).
I was so proud of him yesterday. He served the fritters onto plates for him and Kian. What's great about this recipe is that you end up with a robust fritter, one that holds its shape well, so I simply cut it into fingers for Kian to hold in his gorgeous chubby fist.
I wish we could do this every day, but it's not always possible with Kian hanging off my leg.
The fritters were such a hit, I'm now wondering how a pea version would go down. With some parmesan perhaps, instead of the spices. I'll let you know...
P.S. I'm not going to type out Bill's recipe because, as I discovered today, the web is awash with mention of these famous fritters.