Meal Planner (archive)

Week starting 18th April


I write this a broken woman. The toddler who normally takes 10 minutes to put to bed has decided it’s going to take an hour of crying for the last 3 days. And as a bonus twist also that she can’t sleep in her cot past 3am and must get into bed with us to poke us in the eyes and cover us with her snot. If it isn’t about her cold then I’m seriously going to have to consider taking her back to the hospital.

In the face of these new developments, which just happen to come at an exceptionally busy week of work for both of us, I’m still attempting to function as normal as far as the meal plan goes. However, if I dissolve and we are living on beans and pizza by Friday then I think that would be entirely understandable.

Today I pressed on and served up eggy fish fingers with egg fried rice. I used the same egg fried rice from John Torode’s recipe that I made last week (because it was so blimmin tasty – see the recipe in our archive) and the eggy fish fingers are from the River Cottage light and easy book. I would include a recipe but it basically involves skipping all of the difficult bits of making batter or breadcrumbs and pretty simply coating fish goujons in just egg before frying off. I liked how light it tasted. Edie gave it a good go. Max tolerated a mouthful or two (which is not a bad result right now).


Tomorrow I’m off to London at 7am to add a new layer of tiredness to the tiredness but because I’m a trooper (and in a fit of organisation before bedtime went awry) I made the hidden veg sauce for tomorrow night’s pasta. I cooked off one courgette, 2 peppers, an onion and a clove of garlic in some olive oil, added a tin of tomatoes and a tbsp of tomato puree and cooked down until the veg were soft. I’ll whizz this up to a smooth sauce in the food processor at a time when I’m not terrified that any excess noise might wake the beast.


On Wednesday it’s salmon and chips because Max has declared he’s ok with salmon and I’ve jumped on the bandwagon whole-heartedly by extolling its virtues so we’ll bake it simply and serve with chips of the oven variety and some greens.

On Thursday I’m off out for a black tie dinner so good luck to them. They’re going to have sausage and mash because it somehow just feels like a bit of a dad tea.

At the weekend I came into the living room to a scene of Max and Edie sitting on the sofa cuddling together and watching an old episode of Rick Stein cooking a potato and pea curry (Aloo Dum) which was interesting (scene-wise). So I’m going to recreate it for them and serve with some very Friday like poppadoms, nan and rice. You can see the recipe here:

Saturday is my day off to cry into my pillow and then on Sunday we’re having some friends over so I’m going to cook a big old roast with yorkshire puddings. They don’t have kids as yet so I might not regale them with this tale in case I slow down the progress of the next generation.

Have a great week!


Meal Planner (archive)

Week starting 11th April


Having visited L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s Michelin-starred restaurant in the Lake District for a birthday treat this weekend, I have a feeling that everything that we eat this week is going to be a bit of a let down. Although the Cartmel sticky toffee pudding we had for tea tonight with vanilla custard was actually sublime.

It’s also one of those week’s where I’m not around so much because of work and I find these meal planners the hardest to put together because I’m trying to come up with things that are interesting but not a pain for the other half to cook when he’s on his own with them.

On Monday I’m off to London in the evening so I’ll probably have time to make them their egg fried rice with prawns before I set off (although if I’ll have time to eat it is another matter of lesser importance). I’m planning to use a John Torode recipe from his My Kind of Food book which I’ve been planning to use for a while (details below) and stick some prawns in there too.

Max’s fish embargo is challenging me a bit with the fish recipes but maybe tonight we had a bit of a breakthrough during one of our end of the day chats. I explained I’d like him to eat a bit of fish because it’s good for him and will help him to grow strong and he said that he prefers salmon to white fish and would eat some of that plus his usual prawns (and fish fingers naturally). Sometimes we forget to listen to them and I think I’ve definitely been guilty of that in the last few weeks. It doesn’t mean white fish is off the menu but perhaps that we’ll skew a bit more towards salmon until fish-gate is out of the way.

On Tuesday I’m out in London so they will be having pasta and pesto, a trusty, easy recipe which they are guaranteed to eat because it does taste pretty bloody delicious.

On Wednesday it’s going to be lemon and herb chicken with mash, this is a Jamie Oliver recipe and another one I picked up off his app.

Thursday is another attempt to use a Deliciously Ella soup recipe. I tried one a few weeks ago and it looked fab but it tasted distinctly meh and the kids were less than impressed. I’m trying this one as tomato is their favourite (when it’s of the Heinz variety) so you never know, I might be able to convince them that homemade is better than tin (I know in reality that this is never going to happen).

I’m really looking forward to Friday, I’m trying crab salad to see if I can coax Max into more seafood. He absolutely loves catching crabs when we go away on holiday with his dad but we never catch anything big enough to throw into a pot. I’ll pick up a couple of dressed crab from the fishmongers (our fishmonger is really good) and serve it with salad and new potatoes – Jersey Royals if I can find them.

Saturday is our day off and then I’m finishing the week with a slow roast lamb. I feel slightly mean about this having spent a day in the Lakes walking through lamb-filled fields but it is that time of year so in the spirit of being seasonal….I’ll serve it with the usual accompaniments plus some salsa verde which I think goes fantastic with lamb and potatoes.

Hope you all have a fab week.



Egg fried rice – John Torode’s My Kind of Food (serves 2 as a main and 4 as a side)

Heat 2 tbsps of vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok. When hot add 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger (peeled and grated) and 2 grated garlic cloves and slowly fry over a low heat until fragrant but not coloured.

Add 1 chilli (I won’t add this by the way) and 20ml sesame oil and turn up the heat. Add 500g cooked rice, break it up and stir around well for 4-5 minutes scraping the base of the pan so it doesn’t stick. Add 30g frozen peas and stir as the peas cook. Stir in 2 sliced spring onions and 30ml soy sauce.

Break 2 eggs into the rice and give them a good stir. Turn the heat up as high as you can, then really scrape the bottom of the pan. Stir for a minute then remove from the heat and leave to stand.


I based by original pesto sauce on a recipe from Felicity Cloake’s perfect but now I just make it up as I go along. I lightly brown about 30g of pine nuts and then blitz them up with a large bunch of basil, a good glug of extra virgin olive oil, and about 30g good parmesan (I buy Natoora 30 months Parmigano Reggiano from Ocado). Add more olive oil if it seems a bit too dry.

Lemon and herb chicken and mash

Nick the recipe from Jamie’s app here:

Salsa verde

Put a large handful of parsley leaves and basil leaves into a food processor with 2 garlic cloves and pulse till chunky. Add a handful of white breadcrumbs, 1 tbsp white vinegar, 1 tbsp of capers, 50ml olive oil and salt and pulse until the mixture has a roughly chopped texture.

Eating out with kids – portion sizes

A while ago we were eating out at an Italian restaurant in Manchester. As the waitress brought her dessert over my daughter exclaimed “Is that it?!”   Cringing with embarrassment I did kind of agree. Whilst kids meals are offered at a reduced rate I do still want them to be full when they leave. Not on ice cream ideally but on this occasion this disappointing dessert followed a meal of a couple of fish goujons with some salad, maybe enough for a baby but not a child above the age of three to be honest.  To be fair to that particular restaurant, I recommended on their comments page that they maybe up the sizes and they got back to me very promptly saying that they would look into it.

Another local Italian restaurant offers kids meals up to the age of ten. In line with most restaurants of this type, the kids menu includes a starter of salad or dough balls, a main course of pizza / pasta and the usual ice cream or chocolate cake for pud. The meal itself is the perfect size for my four year old. But Georgia at six years old has “mummy pasta” (ie mushroom and goats cheese penne) and Billy at eight years old hasn’t eaten from the menu for years choosing adult size dough balls and pizza instead (and not actually being bothered about the ice cream).  The kids portions are simply not big enough to fill them up.

In reality according to the NHS website (and I looked this up especially), on average an eight year old boy needs 1745 kcals a day ie not much less than my recommended amount of 2000 kcals. Plus, like most kids of his age, Billy is very active and hence needs a reasonable amount of calories just to keep going.

Obviously portion sizes are a significant part of the debate surrounding the obesity epidemic that is sweeping the country and indeed the developed world. No amount of persuasion will make ice cream an important part of the daily diet of a child but this element of the meal, and in reality probably the meal as whole, is intended to be a treat.

Of course there’s the other end of the spectrum and the times when the kids portions are huge and the kids decide that they just aren’t eating that day for no apparent reason other than awkwardness. This was particular evident when we visited Canada recently and the kids looked like they hadn’t even touched their meals.  Embarrassing of course, as it looks like they don’t like it, but at least they’re big on you taking your leftovers home there.

So granted it is hard to get it right. But at the end of the day when we eat out it’s a big treat and I want to feel like I’m getting value for money not that the restaurant is giving us as little as they can get away with.

Meal Planner (Archive)

Week starting 4th April


Well that was a shit show of evening – one 2 year old who decided to have her biggest kick off ever just as we sat down to eat, and a 4 (and 3 quarters) year old who decided to refuse to eat anything but cucumber. I think I’m moving to Brazil.

But first, this week’s meal planner for your perusal, recipes below.

Starting with the very meal that got everyone so worked up – Primavera Vegetable Carbonara, a Jamie Oliver recipe I picked up from his app (yes I have his app as well as everything bloody else). Well I thought it was tasty but a disclaimer – it may turn your kids temporarily insane. I think I’d tone down the lemon zest next time, perhaps that did it.

Hopefully tomorrow’s quesadillas will be slightly less provocative but even if they aren’t, I’ll be in Birmingham so it doesn’t much matter. For my quesadilla recipe please see previous meal planner on our blog page.

On Wednesday we are having a Spanish rice and prawn one pot from the BBC Good Food website and Thursday feels like a sure fire winner – homemade burgers in the very loveliest brioche buns with oven roasted sweet potato fries.

On Friday I have a feeling the kids are going to be having something pretty simple because the other half and I are off for the night to L’Enclume, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Cartmel in the Lake District, my late birthday present.

Saturday it’s back to some salmon en croute and then I’m finshing the week with a chicken katsu curry because it seems to be the thing to make right now.

Hope you’re having a better evening than me.



Primavera Vegetable Carbonara (serves 4)

Mix together 50ml of creme fraiche, 40g parmesan and 4 egg yolks plus a bit of lemon zest (if you dare). Put your pasta onto cook as per packet instructions – I used spelt pasta for some added drama.

Cook 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, in a tablespoon of olive oil and then add a bunch of chopped asparagus, 100g frozen peas and 100g of broad beans (I subbed broccoli). Cook until tender.

Drain your pasta retaining a little of the cooking water, mix the pasta, the water and the egg mixture into your veg and stir quickly. Season to taste and serve to mass disapproval.

Spanish rice and prawn one pot

Burgers & sweet potato fries

For your sweet potatoes, peel and chop then mix in a tablespoon of olive oil until coated, season and bake for 30 mins at 180.

For burgers I use 400g of lean good quality minced beef to serve 4. To the mince I add one chopped clove of garlic, breadcrumbs (usually one slice of white bread whizzed up), a tablespoon of tomato puree and salt and pepper. Then shape your patties into burger shapes and chill for 30 minutes or so to help them to stay together before cooking for around 10 minutes until brown through to the middle (or pink for grown ups that like it like that).

Salmon en croute

There are lots of lovely recipes for salmon en croute out there for inspiration but I normally keep it pretty simple.

For the filling I usually cook up one finely chopped onion and 100g mushrooms until browned and softened, remove from the heat and add around 100g of cream cheese.

I use ready rolled puff pastry, roll it a little thinner, top each bit of salmon with the mixture and then fold up in the pastry. Brush with an egg wash and then bake in the oven at around 180 for 30 minutes. The pastry should be golden brown and the salmon just cooked so it’s beginning to flake.

Chicken katsu curry.

There are also a lot of katsu curry recipes out there but this week I’m going to try this one:

Vegan Victory??

So first of all, I am not by any means, vegan. But in an alternate universe, in which I didn’t have significant others to cater for, I would be I’m sure. It suits my likes and dislikes and I often feel healthier when I’m eating vegan. As a result, I often try to incorporate meat-free and vegan days into my family’s weekly meals     1) because I want to and hey, I’m cooking and 2) because it can’t be bad for them! They often make fun of me for eating ‘seeds and dead fruit’ and aren’t always persuaded by my tastes but they humour me and I have tried a few things to positive effect which I’ll share here.

One of my biggest obstacles is not actually stubborn or picky children but my carnivore half-Spanish husband who seems to think he has a genetic pre-disposition towards needing meat in every meal. If he likes a vegan offering, well, it must be good.

Here are 5 of my faves:

  1. Veggie burgers: the kids love anything burger-shaped. I use a mixture of beans-usually cannellini, butter(for good texture) and black-eye. It needs finely chopped (or minced) onion and garlic and lots of seasoning. Paprika, cumin, coriander and fresh herbs are good if you have any. Sometimes I add mushrooms (my all time fave food) or tofu to half of the mix for bigger people. It can be mashed or whizzed in a food processor and then shaped and either fried in a little olive oil or oven-baked. They can then be served with or without salsa in a bread roll( or without bread and with lots of salad).  Alternatively, shape it into sausages and serve with mash and onion gravy.
  2. Stuffed aubergines: recipe from my veggie friend Anna, whose hubby was won over by this dish. Aubergines are a great meat replacement and the stuffing of garlicky, tomatoey, red peppery, basily red lentils ticks the husband’s protein box. We have it as it is and for the kids it’s chopped up with more tomato sauce and pasta or topped with mash as a veggie shepherd’s pie.
  3.  Felafel wraps with sweet potato wedges: served with all fajita night trimmings! Big ones like some chilli sauce with this, little ones lots of sweetcorn and cucumber. I make Cajun spiced wedges for some and a few plain for the littl’un.
  4. Veggie curry: this can be any combination of veg as long as there are lots of fun condiments! My lot got used to lentils by my adding them in small amounts to curries. I like to go either squash and spinach or broccoli, sweet potato and carrot with red lentils. See my sister’s blog on ‘how we tackled curry’ for more ideas!
  5. Tofu Noodle Broth: I think because we’ve been to Yo Sushi at my 12 year old’s request a couple of times my older ones have got used to Miso soup and similar things. Now if I have vaguely Eastern flavours I can pretty much add    what I want to a basic broth and noodles. Sometimes it’s a miso base, sometimes just vegetable stock with floating chopped veg, soy sauce and a little lime juice. Thai Basil’s great if you have it and some tiny pieces of tofu, rice noodles and some spinach. The littl’un’s not a great soup fan so he has the noodles, spinach and a bit of fried(sometimes breadcrumb coated) tofu.

And so… I get to eat more of what I like-they largely get their choices for the rest of the week. Often they like things with bits and pieces to add for an interactional dinner and they do appreciate change. The substitutions have become less necessary as the kids have got older and more adventurous but there are easy ways of converting the same set of ingredients for less biddable people(like my 6 year old).   Husband on board do far-as long as there’s meat or fish somewhere in the week…


How we tackled… curries for kids

Full disclosure, I had intended to do a post tonight about the meals we’ve been cooking from Tana Ramsay’s Family Kitchen but, whilst I had the best of intentions, the meal planner went awry in the middle of this week thanks to a little person with either teething or ear infection problems and, well, just life…

So we’ll save that for another time and talk about curry instead because the one Tana recipe I did manage to make this week (yesterday evening) was her king prawn and monkfish curry.  Which got me thinking a bit about curries and how we make them work for kids.

I’ve always loved curry, both the making and eating of, so I did try to get both kids used to the strong flavours relatively early on.  By early on I don’t mean first foods, that may be a bit of a shock to the milk-sozzled system, but certainly within the first year when first tastes are being formed (and they’re too amazed by the general thrill of eating to reject it).


But whether they’ve been eating it from early days or not there are some staples we know to be true when trying to encourage kids to eat curry.

Firstly, it’s all in the accompaniments.  Rice is pretty much acceptable to all but the very fussiest of eaters but mine are all about the naan bread, even if it’s doused in garlic in coriander, in fact especially if it’s doused in garlic and coriander, so we have it pretty much every time because if the worst comes to the worst, well they’ve eaten some bread and are unlikely to die from hunger in the night.  And if you can throw poppadoms into the mix then they’ve had crisps as well and everyone’s happy.

Secondly, I almost never stick completely to a recipe.  Toning down the chilli is an obvious adjustment (although not so obvious to my husband it turned out, sorry Max) but I also adjust what goes into the curry/gravy regularly too.  This is partly because I see curry as a good way for us all to eat a tasty vegetarian meal (so leave out the meat) and partly because success rate is hugely improved if I stick the veggies in that are bankers – for us broccoli, green beans and carrots for example.

And thirdly, something that is true of all meals with children, if they don’t like it then try try try again.  Try the same recipe on another day – sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason to them rejecting it, try a different recipe – some kids prefer thai curries with coconut milk bases whereas others prefer more tomato-based sauces, and, of course, try a bit of bribery.  No cake unless you give it a try, even the tiniest mouthful at first.

And finally to some curries that I enjoy making and that I have had some success with over the years.

The Tana recipe is a coconut milk-based curry with a good depth of flavour.  She suggests it as a good introduction to spice for young kids and it’s also a good recipe for a fish day. For me it feels a bit extravagant to do king prawns and monkfish (unless you’re doing it for a special occasion) so I typically just do prawns, another safe bet for my kids, but I think it would work equally well with chicken.


In a similar, but simpler vein, we also very frequently use the Ella’s mum’s easy chicken curry from the Ella’s Kitchen The Red One cookbook, one you can feasibly make when you’re just in after a day at work and they’re hanging off your knees.

I also really enjoy Marcus Wareing’s chickpea and almond curry from his book Nutmeg and Custard.  It’s a bit more of a faff but again, good depth of flavour and seems to work well with kids.

I’m also a big user of the BBC Good Food magazines and website to get new inspiration for curry recipes, here are a few good suggestions.

Jamie Oliver is also a great source of inspiration for a good curry, though you’ll likely to have to put up with a lot of “loadsa” type language in the recipe, bear with it.

At the end of the day the goal is to be eating food you actually really want to eat when you’re eating with the kids and for me, a good curry is high up on that list and one day they’ll thank me for it (probably).

The ‘S’ word

So the ‘S’ word, what do we all think? Ever since Jamie jumped on a bandwagon, which had been rolling for a while to be fair, it has been brought to the forefront of thoughts on food.

At the end of the last academic year, my kid’s school decided to remove refined sugar products from the menu. Gone was the cake and custard, gone was the ice cream and we said farewell to the biscuits my eldest certainly loved very well. In their place we have yoghurt, bread and, of course, fruit.

To tell the truth I was pretty happy with the change. Not because I have a particular issue with sugar (aside from the usual parental guilt) but because if we want to have cake and custard at home I can give it to them pretty much guilt free. Having said that the effect on kids on packed lunches has been much more wide reaching. And there was uproar over a decision to limit dried fruit.

To be honest there has been uproar more generally with lots of parents suggesting overkill and that the school is being too draconian in their approach. Cue lots of muttering in the park after school and various other locations, but very little actual action.   To be fair these parents are probably the ones who give their kids the right type of food, who consider the level of sugar in their diets and who cook from scratch avoiding all those nasty hidden things.

But what about the kids who don’t get that? Not because their parents love them any less but just because there’s a lack of understanding about where sugar is.   Does the school not have a duty of care to these kids? When I see 3 and 4 year olds with rotten teeth in nursery alongside my youngest I have to think that the policy is a good thing isn’t it?

When I was little we had puddings everyday as far as I can remember. But the puddings where homemade and sugar content could be controlled. We had custard to provide a hit of milk and, therefore calcium. And these homemade puddings followed a homemade meal which was always tasty and NEVER from a jar (those kind of things being quite limited way back then).

Nowadays sugar is literally everywhere and our kids are bombarded with it. It’s up to us to educate the kids (and ourselves along the way) to make the right choices. Not to demonise sugar, which in the right quantities is ok in my opinion, as long as it’s part of a otherwise pretty good diet (and of course pretty good teeth brushing). Overall, I think it’s going to take a long long time to change people’s attitude to sugar but where better to start than with our kids?