Sane is best

Oh dear, Jamie. You seem to have got yourself in the middle of a right old shit storm.  Brave is the man who makes any kind of public comment on breastfeeding and if that man should use the adjective “easy” in said context then he probably deserves what he’s got coming.

Having said that, I have to sympathise with poor old Jamie. I admit I’ve sniggered along with all of the comments about mothers being as happy to accept breastfeeding wisdom from Jamie as they would be to find Greg Wallace spouting about the virtues (or not) of co-sleeping but I do tend to think that he has his heart in the right place.

The thing is, whether we like it or not, the research does tend to show that breastfeeding is good for both babies and for mothers. And so Jamie has picked up on this research and said, well duh, everyone should be doing that then surely?

And maybe, in a perfect world, we all should. But sadly, the world of babies and breastfeeding is not a perfect one, far from it in fact.  It’s a world in which so many of us enter the whole thing with the absolute best of intentions and then emerge from it, bleeding and emotionally exhausted, haunted by a sense of failure which imbues every syllable we have to utter on the subject with an intense and wearied emotion.

I’ve had 2 babies myself and I breastfed the first until he was 11 months and the second until she was 8 months, pretty much exclusively. On the face of it I look like the picture of breastfeeding success and, I’ll be honest, I do look back on that time and feel glad of the experience.

However. I also look back on that time and remember the time when I was crying so much about being unable to feed my son that I couldn’t come downstairs to meet very well-intentioned visitors hoping for a glimpse of a blissed out mother and baby.  When every feed would start with excruciating pain and end with blood around the mouth of my beloved child so it felt like I was somehow punching him in the mouth with my good intentions.  And that terrible isolating feeling that I absolutely couldn’t quit no matter how much it was costing me emotionally because I just couldn’t cope with the sense of failure.

Far from easy it was probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life.

I got there in the end partly because I wanted it so badly and partly because I had some great people around me that helped, including sisters of course and a really good breastfeeding clinic where it felt ok to be in a terrible bloody (literally) state.

When I had my second, it all came much easier. Maybe it was because I’d been there before, maybe it was because the birth was somewhat less awful (although still not exactly idyllic) or because she wasn’t tongue-tied like my first but I think mostly it was because I had just decided that whatever happened I wasn’t going to put myself through that again.  It just really wasn’t worth sacrificing my sanity for.  And so, of course, she latched immediately and we never had an issue.

But I remember very clearly being on a ward full of women, all first time mothers except me, all terrified that they had no idea how to feed their baby but very much wanting to and being offered very little help. One said to me desperately, “how are you getting her to do it??”  I wanted to run her through a quick slideshow of my own crappy breastfeeding experiences but I could only explain that this wasn’t my first time and that it does get easier.  The words felt insufficient.

And so I do think that Jamie is right in some respects. We should be doing more to help women breastfeed, it’s a good thing, it is, and when it goes right it’s a pretty beautiful experience.  But this is about helping the women who want to and who are struggling to do so to breastfeed, not judging those who don’t want to, or cannot with words like “easy” because, believe me Jamie, we are already judging ourselves harshly enough without anyone else getting in on the act.


Meal Planner

Week starting 14th March


Spring is in the air… I love March, and not just because it’s my birthday and a good time to justify new bags and shoes, it’s lovely to start feeling a bit of sunshine on your skin and to feel that you can contemplate something other than comfort food.

This week we started with something significantly more summery – quesadillas.  For those that have asked I’ve included some recipes at the bottom of the post to make it easier to find it all in one place – I’ll include a link where possible and write it out where it’s not.  Today I made one cheese and ham, one cheese and chorizo and one vegetarian.  Max ate so many that sadly by the time his father got home there was no dinner left…That will teach him to work late.


Tomorrow I’m making a veggie curry using a recipe from a book I bought about six months ago – Rosie Birkett’s A Lot on Her Plate.  See below for details and  also my earlier post in Blog & Archive on other ideas for good curries for kids.

On Wednesday we’re having a prawn stir fry with a sauce I nicked from Gordon Ramsay which is pretty straightforward and on Thursday – no recipe required – fish finger sandwiches for emergency post swimming nutrition.

On Friday I’m going to try the Leek Pasta Bake from Nigella’s Simply Nigella.  Max pointed at it when I was looking for recipes and said he wanted to eat it.  That’s with no knowledge of said leeks so we’ll see how it actually goes down… or not as the case may be.

On Saturday I definitely deserve the day off because it’s my birthday.  Not sure what we’ll be doing yet but hopefully it will involve someone else cooking and washing up plus plenty of cake.

And finally Sunday we’re going to be having toad in the hole – again.  I did say I was going to get Max more involved in choosing some of the meals and this was his request, never have I seen someone more in love with yorkshire pudding, my (Yorkshire) dad would have been so proud.

Have a good week.




Not so much a recipe as assembly.  I usually make around 4 to go around the 4 of us as they go quicker than you’d expect.  I lay out the tortillas or wraps and add the fillings – for us usually a scattering of grated cheddar to cover the bottom, meat (chopped up ham or chorizo slices) or veg (for the veggie one I cooked the onions and courgette in a little olive oil for 5 minutes first) and then some grated parmesan on the top.

Then put the loaded tortilla onto a dry frying pan on a medium heat and press the other wrap on the top.  After a couple of minutes the bottom should be lightly browned and you turn the whole thing over to do the other side.  Then cut up and serve!


Vivek Singh’s Killer Vegetable Curry (Gajjar Mutter Tamatar Sabzi) – Rosie Birkett, A Lot on Her Plate

Prawn Stir Fry

To make my stir fry sauce (for 2 bigs + 2 littles) I mix up 3 tablespoons of oyster sauce, 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp of caster sugar, 1 tsp of cornflour and 3-4 tablespoons of water.

I fry whatever veg we happen to have in – usually broccoli, finely sliced carrots, green beans, peppers and peas for 5 minutes until soft, then add prawns and cook for a couple of minutes until they turn pink then cook everything down in the sauce for a further 2-3 minutes.

It’s a really simple, quick and straightforward meal based on Gordon Ramsay’s Thai-Style Beef Stir Fry recipe.

Leek Pasta Bake – Simply Nigella (serves 8)

  • Cut 500g trimmed and cleaned leeks into 1cm slices and put into a wide heavy-based saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  And 250ml of vermouth (or white wine) and 500ml of water plus 2 tsps of sea salt flakes, the leeks should be just covered.  Then put on the lid and bring to the boil.  Once bubbling, keep them covered, you need the cooking liquid so don’t let it evaporate.  Cook until soft and not squeaky, about 10 minutes.  After about 5 minutes take the lid off briefly to stir and help the leeks unfurl.
  • Drain the leeks and set aside, keeping the water (should be about 500ml).  Add 500ml full-fat milk (or a bit more to make 1 litre).  Put the pasta water on to boil.
  • Melt 75g butter in the leek pan over a medium heat, add 75g of plain flour and 2 tsps of dijon mustard, whisk to form a roux, then cook, whisking for 1-2 minutes until the bubbling mixture thickens a bit.
  • Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the milk mixture, constantly whisking to incorporate the liquid and getting rid of any lumps.  When it is all added put the pan back on a medium heat and, with a wooden spoon, cook it until the sauce is thick and smooth, around 10 minutes then remove from the heat.  Add 50g parmesan and 225g of cheddar and season to taste.  Then stir in the leeks.
  • Cook 500g pasta in the boiling water, leaving it al dente and reserving a couple of cups of pasta water.
  • Beat half a cup (125ml) of pasta water into the sauce and then pour half into a lasagne dish (around 27cmx37cm) tip in the pasta then pour over the remaining sauce, stirring gently until all is mixed together.  Add more pasta water if needed, it needs to be quite runny as it thickens on cooking and standing.  Let it stand for 10 minutes.
  • When you’re ready bake at 220c with 75g of cheddar sprinkled on the top for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.  Let it stand for 10-20 minutes before serving.

Toad in the hole

This is one that I don’t often use a recipe for, it’s sort of ingrained in my yorkshire heritage but if I was to use a recipe, it would be a James Martin one.


Meal Planner

Week starting 7th March

Happy Mother’s Day to you all, whether you are one, you have one or you are remembering one (or a combination of all of the above). I’m in a bit of a cake coma this evening – the result of having a family into baking is that when you all come together for a celebration there is far too much cake.


Today we had a coffee cake, a chocolate cake, a caramel and macadamia cheesecake, millionaire’s shortbread, chocolate crispies, some fudge and a rosemary and maple tart. And that was just pudding. Good job there’s lots of mouths to feed.


Sadly the rest of the week might not be all me, me, me and cake but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Tomorrow we are having some fresh pasta – Waitrose tortellini to be exact – with a fresh tomato sauce that I’m going to knock up from a combination of onions, passata and some fresh cherry tomatoes. Max has decided he loves filled pasta again hence it’s on this week’s menu but I feel bereft about the blow up of my beloved stick blender so in the sauce department we might be a bit lumpier than usual…

On Tuesday we’re having a very summery meal in the hope that someday soon the weather is going to start warming up – falafels (not homemade but I spent a lot of time making them when I had more time on maternity leave and they were definitely worth the effort) with hummus, pittas, salad and some halloumi. Bring on the sun.

Wednesday is fish cakes and veg (whatever comes in the Abel & Cole box) and on Thursday we’re having some pan fried sea bass with roasted potatoes and greens. Edie is currently tucking into fish with real gusto (whilst calling out more “chicken”) whilst I’m having to persuade Max through every bloody mouthful. You can’t win them all.

On Friday I’m making another Ottolenghi recipe (having successfully made his caramel and macadamia cheesecake yesterday which was fab) – turkey and sweetcorn meatballs which he serves with a roasted pepper sauce. I think I’ll add some rice into the mix too.

Saturday is a day off and then we’ll finish the week with roasted catalan chicken which is a Diana Henry recipe from her book Cook Simple (from 2007). I’ve been hearing a lot about Diana Henry recently so I downloaded this one onto Kindle from Amazon last week and I’m really enjoying it. Lots of interesting ways to take simple ingredients to the next level – I can definitely see it becoming a bit of a staple.

Hope some of this gives you some inspiration for the week ahead, I seem to be getting most of my food inspiration from Instagram these days, I’m sure the kids would rather I just kept feeding them pesto pasta and burgers but you never know, one day they might say thanks!

Have a good week.


Meal Planner

Week starting 22nd February


It’s that time of the week again… Call the Midwife on and meal planner sorting, my life really is a rollercoaster.

Back to school this week which Max is excited about because he’s got new dinosaur shoes but I preferred the slower pace of half term even if I do feel a little bit like I’ve been hit by a bus.

Meal planner rules remain the same – we have 2 meat, 2 fish, and 2 veggie meals a week.  This is partly because I’m not a big meat eater and it’s a way of justifying us not eating it all of the time and partly because it forces me to get a bit creative and keep everyone’s diet mixed up.  Which of course they’re ever so grateful for.

I’m starting the week with a hidden veg pasta which I actually made while I waited for tonight’s toad in the hole to cook.  I cooked down leeks, tomatoes, courgettes and onions with some passata, garlic and tomato puree and whizzed it up with my stick blender.  I don’t really hide the veg because they don’t like it, actually both are quite veg friendly, but it makes for a good sauce, a good veggie meal and a good way of using up the last of what’s in the fridge before our next Abel & Cole box arrives tomorrow.  If yours are veggie allergic however, it really is a good way of getting the good stuff into them.

On Tuesday we’re having a simple one of salmon, mash and peas.  I’ll mix in some sweet potatoes with the usual white ones to make this a bit healthier.

Wednesday we’re having bolognese which is, unsurprisingly, one of the kids’ favourites but I’m going to do it with quorn mince – they haven’t had this for a long time so I’m interested to see if they’ll notice.  Again it’s a good way of having a veggie meal and also a healthier alternative too.

Thursday is a quick and easy one as I’m in London for the day with work – prawn stir fry with noodles and a homemade mix of oyster sauce, soy sauce, chinese rice wine vinegar, cornflour and water.

On Friday it’s a bit of a treat for the end of the week – hot dogs with corn on the cob.  We’ll use decent sausages rather than frankfurters and whilst they won’t want them I’ll definitely cover mine in a load of lovely onions.

On Saturday we are out for dinner for the night so they will be having something nice and simple like beans and then we’ll finish the week with bombay chicken and rice – this is another recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Superfood that I’m really looking forward to trying.  I’ll serve it with some naan and poppadoms whilst trying not to burn half the skin off my hand like I did last night.

Have a great week all, for me it’s yet another one with no sweet food, waaaahhhh…..