Thursday, 10 March 2011

Mum knows best!

I'm really enjoying the current BBC2 TV series of by the Hairy Bikers - Mum Knows Best. Their unpretentious style is refreshing and of course, Mum does indeed know best!  Looking through my recipe book, it's amazing how much came from my Mum or Grandma.  I frequently ask my Mum for a recipe she made us that I think my kids might like now.  I've inherited various kitchen implements from her

Back to the Hairy Bikers - I like their plundering of other people's recipe books and the cooking in people's real kitchens instead of faux studio sets.  They made a fantastic looking mulligatawny soup in Northern Ireland this week and I saw my first George Washington cake - a light fruit cake, with jam filling, topped with white icing and glace cherries.  Might be fun to do this for July 4th.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Breakfast al-fresco with Swan

"When I was young, we always had mornings like this" - Toad of Toad Hall, A.A. Milne dramatization (1929) of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows.

The other morning before we'd got to the breakfast table, I thought we could do with a change of scene so I suggested to the kids that we had a breakfast picnic on the way to my daughter's nursery.  This was a cunning way of mine to avoid having to wipe the kitchen table as we were running late.  The only disadvantage was that, just this once, we'd have to clean our teeth before breakfast.  Crazy.  I filled some wraps with cream cheese, chopped banana and raspberry jam, and made up flasks of warm milk for the kids and some coffee for me. 

The children were very excited and I was wondering which picturesque spot we could make it to en-route to the nursery for our winter picnic.  Five meters down the road from our house my daughter stopped at the first street bench and announced this was were she wanted us to have our picnic.  Realising the clock didn't give me much option and keen to build on the children's enthusiasm for this venture, I agreed.  It was actually quite fun to sit down outside by the house (rather cold too) and watch the world go past; commuters, delivery vans, school children - and pretend that we weren't part of this commute.  We played one of our favourite bench games that we call "Dog or Pram" - you have to guess which will go past first.  My daughter also played 'fantasy dog ownership' commenting on which passing dogs she'd like as pets and why. The picnic was going down a treat, the only thing I had to wipe was son's mouth/ hands.  We even witnesses a fabulous flock of swans flying overhead on their way to Hampstead Heath ponds.  It was a little 'wow' moment.   We even had a few smiles and good mornings from passers by and our next door neighbour stopped for a chat on his way to get his paper.  Once he'd gone and I was clearing up, I noticed someone had left a can of Special Brew under the bench where I'd been sitting.  Some of the innocence had been lost - maybe those smiles had been in sympathy for those poor children whose mother gives them breakfast on a street bench?  We gathered our things and made it to nursery on time.

(N.B. Husband is away)

Rice Pudding with Coconut Milk & Raspberry Jam

"Life is a jest; and all things show it
I thought so once; but now I know it".  John Gay, My Own Epitaph.

So after my foray into chicken satay, I'm left with an opened tin of coconut milk.  I decant it into an old jam jar and it looks disconcertingly like dirty white spirit in the fridge.  If I leave it there a few days, my husband will throw it away.  While my kids are still finishing off their chicken satay, I start making rice pudding.  While I'm pouring out the milk, I suddenly realise that the coconut milk and rice pudding could be a marriage from heaven. 

Now making home made rice pudding, when it's left festering at the bottom of the oven for a couple of hours, is lovely.  But most of my deserts are done on the spur of the moment in response to hungry appetites so this isn't an option.  Thankfully a few years ago my Mum introduced me to flaked pudding rice.  It has cooking instructions on the packet; either in the oven for 1.5-2 hours or on the hob for 6-8 mins!  Yes, 6-8 minutes!!  Ok, so you don't get to enjoy the skin, but that often seems to divide people anyway.  OK, so there is quite a bit of stirring - but I added the coconut milk towards the end to loosen the pudding that was thickening a little too much and again at the end to help cool in down quickly for impatience children.  They loved it and ate it with a blob of raspberry jam.  Incidentally, everything "tastes like jam" at the moment, according to my 2 year old or tastes "like tractor".  For some unknown reason we haven't had jam in the house for a couple of months.  The children don't usually eat jam, but due to the sudden novelty, they can't get enough of it and it's getting lots of requests.

Chicken Satay & Noodles

"Keep up your bright swords, for the dew will rust them" -  Shakespeare's Othello

The kids often struggle to eat meat and can be a little funny about the texture of chicken.  I mixed a tablespoon of peanut butter with some coconut milk and lemon juice and chopped chicken breast into cubes and marinated it in the satay sauce then grilled the chicken.  Served on bamboo sticks 'kebab style' with tinned pineapple and fresh cucumber quarters on a bed of sticky noodles.  The kids loved the novelty of pulling the morsels of the sticks (although 2 year old did require some supervision as he tried to sword swallow his bamboo stick at one point!).  What to do now with the rest of the coconut milk?