Carrot Cake

I can’t believe that in over a year of writing this blog with Simon, that I have never shared my Carrot Cake recipe with you. I have served this cake up at countless Riverford Lunches over the years and everyone is always after the recipe. So here it is. By the way, when I say “my” Carrot Cake recipe, I actually blatantly stole it  from the fabulous “Baking with Passion” by Dan Lepard.

carrot-cake-3

Carrot Cake

This cake can be dairy-free if you use a different icing. This is a big cake. You can half the recipe for a smaller one, or it works well as cupcakes too. Just cook for a little less time.

Serves: 10-12

300g self raising flour

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

pinch of salt

4 eggs

335ml sunflower oil

450g sugar

125g of grated carrots

140g chopped walnuts

2 tbsp boiling water

Icing:

175g unsalted butter softened

300 full fat cream cheese softened

200g icing sugar sifted

Pre-heat the oven to 170C. I use two spring form tins (23 cm) that I butter bottom and sides. Cover the buttered bottoms of the tins with a circular piece of baking paper. Separate 2 of the 4 eggs. In a large bowl (or food processor) beat together both the oil and the sugar. Add the whole eggs one at a time, beat the mixture well before adding the two egg yolks. Stir in both the grated carrots and the chopped walnuts. Fold in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt then add the boiling water. In another bowl, whisk the 2 egg whites to soft peak stage. Fold it into the batter. Divide the cake mixture between the two tins. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted at the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let the cakes cool before removing them from the tins.

Make sure the butter is really soft before making the icing. Whisk all the ingredients together with a electric mixer until thick like frosting. Make sure your cake is really cool before you ice it. In summer, keep the icing in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Sandwich some icing between the two tiers of cake and then cover the rest with what remains.

carrot-cake-2

Nutty Superfood Salad

It is so much easier to eat healthily in the Summer I find. I actually crave salad, whereas in the Winter I crave stodge. Occasionally I pick up lunch on my way home from work, before I pick up the kids. Unfortunately, in my line of work, your job is to cook other people lunch, not cook or eat your own! Marks and Spencer is probably best for ready-made salads. Although I know that Waitrose also do a range. Most of the ones I have tried, may sound nice, but are usually disgusting. They always seem to try just a bit too hard, chucking in any combination of trendy ingredients – black quinoa seeds, Camargue red rice, cranberries, amaranth leaf, black barley –  and the dressings are always really nasty – too much japenese rice vinegar and Yuzu!.

The other day I bought a selection of two different salads, both which unannounced contained seaweed!  Surely if you are going to add seaweed to your salad, you would mention it in the name, not just hidden in a long list of ingredients which are far too small to read with human eyes. Well my eyes anyway. I couldn’t work out what this slimy, sort off-fishy taste was in my salad. Narrowed it down to the Wakame which was eventually mentioned in the list of 30 ingredients, now that I had been forced to put my reading glasses on. I even like seaweed, on say nori rolls, where it is meant to be, but this was disgusting and both pots of salad ended up in the bin. However, I am pleased to say, after much trial and error, I finally found a ready-made salad that I really liked. Marks and Spencer Nutty Superfood Salad. Featuring green beans, peas, broccoli, carrots, black-eyed beans and quinoa plus peanuts, almonds and pistachios, it is absolutely packed with delicious ingredients. It comes two ways, either on its own or served alongside a dollop of cannellini bean hummus and with a soy and ginger.

It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but it is super easy. Make up a large batch and dress it as required. What is so fab about making it yourself, is you don’t have to skimp on your favourite expensive ingredients, which inevitably the supermarkets always do!

Nutty Superfood Salad 1

Nutty Superfood Salad

To serve 4

2 Broccoli florets, shredded

1 Handful of peas

100g French beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 large carrot, finely chopped

100g spelt (wheatberries, barley or farro) you can buy ready cooked

100g soya beans

200g cooked black eye beans (or another type of bean – haricot, cannallini)

50g quinoa (You can buy ready cooked)

1 tsp. poppy seeds

1 handful pumpkin seeds

1 handful peanuts

1 handful pistachios

1 handful almonds

A little freshly chopped coriander

For the dressing, mix together:

2 tbsp. soy

1 tsp grated ginger

1 tsp sesame

1 tsp honey

Juice ½ lime

½ tsp. chilli paste

Put three pans of water on to boil. In the first add the quinoa. Cook 12-15 minutes until all the quinoa has gone squiggly. Drain well. In the second add the farro, cook for 20-30 minutes until tender. Drain well. In the third pan, add a pinch of salt and then the green beans. When cooked, add the shredded broccoli, bring back to the boil and add the peas and soya beans. Bring back to the boil and drain. Drain well.

Combine the salad ingredients.

Mix the dressing ingredients together and drizzle over each portion or alternatively, toss through the entire lot in a large bowl.

Nutty Superfood Salad

Roast Carrot, Shaved Fennel, Giant Cous Cous, Chermoula and Feta Salad

Finally this week, a recipe to pay homage to all those lovely bunched carrots I’ve been getting in my box for the last few weeks and there is no better way of cooking them than giving them a good scrub, tossing in olive oil and roasting them until just beginning to caramelise in the oven. They are lovely served in a salad and I find the combination with cumin seeds and feta particularly good.

The mix of giant cous cous (Mograbiah) and Chermoula is one that I came across years ago. Chermoula is a fish marinade from Morocco and although the recipe below is far more than you will need for this salad, it is easily used up as a marinade or a dressing.

I then added the shaved fennel to add texture to the salad but you could use Rocket of another sturdy salad leaf instead. I finally added some crumbled feta and the fronds from the fennel chopped scattered on top and I have to say it looked and tasted pretty good.

Roast Carrot, Shaved Fennel, Giant Cous Cous, Chermoula and Feta Salad 1

Roast Carrot, Shaved Fennel, Giant Cous Cous, Chermoula and Feta Salad

Serves 2

1 bunch of carrots

Cumin seeds

1 head fennel, very thinly sliced on a mandolin, save the fronds

100g giant cous cous

3 tablespoons Chermoula (see below)

Extra virgin olive oil

Juice ½ a lemon

100g feta

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Scrub the carrots. A scouring pad is quite good for this. Top and tail and cut in half or quarters lengthways, depending on size. Toss in olive oil. Salt, pepper and cumin seeds and scatter on a roasting tray. Roast in the oven until tender and caramelised. (About 25 minutes) Cover the cous cous with plenty of cold water in a saucepan. Add a pinch of salt and a glug of olive oil. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the cous cous is completely tender. Drain. When cool, dress with the Chermoula to taste. Make another dressing of lemon juice and olive oil with a pinch of salt. Use this to dress the fennel. Arange the fennel on a large plate. Scatter over the cous cous and then top with the carrots. Finally crumble over the feta and any fennel fronds you may have.

028

Chermoula

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

¾ cup olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

½ teaspoon sweet or spicy Paprika

½ teaspoon Cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Ground Cumin

1 large bunch of Coriander leaves

½ bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves

1-2 small salted lemons, seeds removed

½ teaspoon Ras el Hanout (optional)

1-2 tsp salt or to taste

Whiz up all ingredients in a liquidiser or with a hand-held blender until smooth. Season to taste with salt.

Roasted Carrots with Cumin Seeds

Soupe au Pistou

I never like to admit it, but I am a bit behind on my veg box. I seem to have been so busy with work and kids and endless things that they need for school before the end on term, that I am constantly pushed for time. This is one of my favourite soups, a French version of the better known Minestrone. I first remember seeing Soupe au Pistou in Marie Claire magazine probably about 30 years ago, when the food writer was a little known guy called Nigel Slater. I can still remember the photos and it looked so simple yet sophisticated.

What is great is, although it takes a little time to make what with all the chopping, it uses up lots of veg. You can be experimental with the ingredients but I piled in heaps of onion, celery, carrots, courgettes and broad beans.

If you too are pushed for time you can buy ready cooked beans and even buy some good quality pesto rather than make your own.

Soupe au Pistou

Soupe au Pistou

Try to have all the vegetables diced about the same size, which makes for a nice presentation. Of course, you can vary the vegetables according to what’s available. If you wish to use canned beans, use 1 400g tin on haricot or cannellini beans. For vegans, leave out the Parmesan.

For the soup

1 cup (200g) dried beans (haricot or cannellini) or 400g tin of beans

2 bay leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and diced, or 4 leeks, cleaned and sliced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or dried oregano

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium courgettes, diced

200g shelled  broad beans

200g fresh shelled peas (or frozen)

6 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced or thinly slice

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

100g dried pasta; any small variety will do, such as orzo, vermicelli, elbows, or shells

For the pistou

1 large clove of garlic, peeled

pinch of salt

2 cups (40g) packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil

1 small tomato; peeled, seeded, and diced

1 1/2 ounces (45g) Parmesan cheese, grated

Rinse and sort the beans. Soak the beans overnight covered in cold water. The next day, drain the beans and put them in a large saucepan with the bay leaves and enough water to cover the beans. Cook the beans for about an hour, or until tender, adding more water if necessary to keep them immersed. Once cooked, remove the beans from the heat and set aside. Alternatively use 1 tin of canned cannellini or haricot beans.

In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onions or leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add the thyme or marjoram, diced carrots, zucchini, garlic, and salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are completely cooked. Add the cooked beans and their liquid, then the peas and pasta, plus 2 2l water. Bring the soup to a boil, and simmer a few minutes until the pasta is cooked. Bring a small pan of water to the boil and boil the broad beans for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into cold water to refresh. Slip the broad beans out of their outer shell. When the soup is cooked, check the seasoning and add the broad beans.

While the soup is cooking, make the pistou. Pound the garlic to a paste in a mortar and pestle (or use a food processor) with a generous pinch of salt. Coarsely chop the basil leaves and pound them into the garlic until the mixture is relatively smooth.Drizzle in the olive oil slowly, while pounding, then pound in the tomato and cheese. Taste, and season with more salt if desired.

To serve: Ladle hot soup into bowls and add a generous spoonful of pistou to the centre and swirl gently. Keep extra pistou within reach because you’ll likely want to add more to the soup as you go.

Note: If the soup is too thick, thin it with additional water.

Courgettes

Carrot and Pointed Cabbage Asian Slaw with Peanut and Ginger Dressing

Finally for this week, another slaw. Nut butters were all the range last year and a huge range has become available in our local supermarkets from cashew, to almond to coconut butter.

High in protein, packed with vitamin E and magnesium, and usually free from sugar and gluten, nut butters are good for those on vegetarian, vegan and paleo caveman diets.

But let’s not forget we have actually been eating nut butter for years, only peanut was the only available option. Nowadays this too is available in much healthier varieties from organic to sugar-free. It works fabulously in salad dressings and really works well in this delicious Asian inspired slaw.

Carrot and Pointed Cabbage Asian Slaw with Peanut and Ginger Dressing

Carrot and Pointed Cabbage Asian Slaw with Peanut and Ginger
I love all sorts of “slaws”, especially with barbecued food. This salad does not look that beautiful but it really tastes great. I like to use savoy cabbage when in season but you can use pointed cabbage, January king cabbage or even red cabbage.
1 small white cabbage or 1/2 a large one, finely shredded
3 large carrots, peeled and grated
Handful of finely chopped coriander
Dressing:
3 tablespoons good quality crunch peanut butter
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Large knob of ginger, peeled and grated
2 small clove garlic, grated
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Mix together all dressing ingredients. Dress the carrot and cabbage with the dressing and stir through the chopped coriander. Adjust seasoning to taste.

pointed cabbage

Ribollita

Veg boxes are a bit like allotments, in that one always seems to be lacking in something one month only to have a glut of it the next. I was lamenting the lack of greens over January but I am now inundated with Chard, Cime di Rapa, Cavalo Nero and Spinach and Spring Greens. One of my favourite soups sprang to mind, a fantastic peasant soup, cheap and wholesome and packed with nutritious greens.  If you had fresh tomatoes in your box this week, you could use them instead of tinned. Make sure you use proper rustic bread, preferably a bit stale, otherwise it will just dissolve. Also, invest in a good, peppery Tuscan olive oil. Riverford do a good one.

Ribollita literally means re-boiled or re-cooked in Italian and is meant to be re-heated. It tastes even better the next day!

Ribollita

Ribollita
2 red onions, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
3 sticks celery, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, peeled
Good Tuscan extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch ground fennel seeds
1 pinch dried red chilli
400 g good-quality tinned plum tomatoes
2 tins cannellini beans
300 g cavolo nero or chard, leaves, striped weight from the stalks
2 large handfuls good-quality sour-dough stale bread, torn into chunks
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Finely chop your onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Heat a saucepan with a splash of olive oil and add the vegetables to the pan with the ground fennel seeds and chilli. Sweat very slowly on a low heat with the lid just ajar for around 15 to 20 minutes until soft, but not brown. Add the tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.

Add the beans with a little of the water from the tin and bring back to the boil. Shred your cavalo nero and chard and stir in to the soup (it will look like loads, but don’t worry as it will cook down.) Season well with sea salt and pepper. When the greens have cooked into the soup add the bread. The soup should be thick but not dry, so add a little more water if you need to loosen it. Add plenty of olive oil – you want to achieve a silky, thick soup. Check seasoning.

Chard

Turlu Turlu

Good to my word, I tried out a fresh tomato sauce, just to see how it turned out. As far as I know, there are two schools of tomato sauce. The Italian version which consists of no more than olive oil, garlic and tomatoes and maybe a little basil, or the French version which can contain pretty much anything. I believe that this is because the Italian version relies heavily on superb ingredients, including very good tinned Italian plum tomatoes, so I decided to opt for the French. I used some onion, celery and garlic in my base, sweated down with olive oil and I added some wild dried Oregano. The results where certainly good enough for this week’s recipe of Turlu Turlu. This is a sort of Turkish Ratatouille, and just the sort of recipe I love. It literally means hotchpotch and can incorporate any number of different vegetables mixed with chickpeas, tomato sauce and lots of herbs. It is a great use up dish and I had a whole array of vegetables in the bottom of my fridge, which all went in, including beetroot, parsnips, red onions, red peppers, courgettes, sweet potatoes, fennel and carrots and of course, the tomatoes. But you could have added potatoes, squash, green peppers, cauliflower, aubergine or any other vegetable you have to hand.

veg for Turlu Turlu

This recipe seems a little more complicated than it is, but only because I insist on separating the vegetables up which cook better on their own. They need a lot of room and different times and this way, all your vegetables are perfectly roasted. It is worth the effort.

As for my tomato sauce – I am not sure it was good enough to just serve on its own with pasta but I will keep working on it and let you know how I get on.

Turlu Turlu 2

Turlu Turlu
Serves 4
1 red onions, cut into into 8 wedges through the root
1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded, and cut into large bit-sized chunks
1 head fennel, cut into into 8 wedges through the root
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
A few beetroot, peeled and cut into large bit-sized chunks
3 courgettes, cut into 1cm slices, slightly on the diagonal
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes, or to taste

For the sauce
6 Large ripe tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 small onions, finely sliced

1 tin chickpeas, drained
Freshly chopped coriander
Freshly chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Toss the red onion and red pepper with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray and put in the oven. Toss the fennel with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray, making sure as much surface area as possible is in contact with the tray and put in the oven. Combine the root vegetables – parsnips, beetroot and sweet potato. Toss with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray and put in the oven. Toss the courgettes with some coriander, cumin, chilli flakes, salt, black pepper and olive oil. Tip onto a tray, make sure as much surface area as possible is in contact with the tray and put in the oven. You will have to check your veg regularly, and rotate veg to ensure even cooking, When your veg are cooked and a little caramelised remove them. Each tray will slightly different time. Meanwhile make your sauce. Sauté the onion and celery slowly in plenty of olive oil, for a s long as possible. Meanwhile, put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Cut a small cross in the top of your tomatoes. Add them to the pan of boiling water and boil for 1-2 minutes, until the skins begin to come away. Remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Remove the skins and roughly chop. Add the garlic to the onions and fry a minute more before adding the tomatoes. Cook down gently until the tomatoes have completely dissolved, Season with salt and pepper and oregano. Puree with a hand blender.

Just before your final tray of veg is ready, add the chickpeas and tomato sauce to the tray and return to the oven for 5 minutes. Then remove and add all your veg together. Stir gently to avoid mushing up the veg. Allow to cool slightly before adding your herbs. Serve warm or room temperature.

Turlu Turlu 3

Grilled Chicken with Almond Dressing, Avocado and Vegetable Salad

It is not only Omega 3 which provides good fats. Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated fats are also good. A moderation of saturated fats is also acceptable from whole milk, coconut oil and grass-fed meat but tran-fats should be avoided at all costs in commercially baked goods, packaged snack foods, margarine and commercially prepared fried foods.
To make sure you are getting enough good fats (Monounsaturated and Polyunsaturated) stock up on avocados, olives, nuts (almonds, peanuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews and walnuts), seeds (sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds), flaxseed and fatty fish.
Luckily I had a couple of Avocados in my box this week so I set about making up a new salad. I am particularly pleased with the salad dressing which turned out really creamy and fresh, I just used tarragon, which always goes well with chicken and some basil for added zing. I also like chicken cooked in this butterflied method as it cooks in minutes as it is so thin, and stays really juicy and tender. Finally, of course you can add any other vegetables you have to hand and your salad leaves are up to you too. I used a mixture of rocket, watercress and a few sprigs of mint mixed through the green Batavia lettuce in my box this week.

Chicken Salad with Almond Dressing 2

Grilled Chicken with Almond Dressing, Avocado and Vegetable Salad
Dressing
50g almonds, soaked
A few sprigs of what herbs you fancy – coriander, basil, parsley or tarragon, leaves picked
100ml extra virgin olive oil

2 x 150g chicken breasts
Zest of a lemon
Dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Mixed salad leaves and maybe a few sprigs of herbs
1 bulb fennel
1 carrot
1 small courgette
1 ripe avocado
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
lemon wedges, to serve

For the dressing drain the almonds, add the olive oil, the herbs, a good pinch of salt and pepper and some water and puree with a hand blender until smooth and creamy. Add more water to get a good consistency and check for seasoning.

Take each chicken breast and cut it through the from one side to the other, stopping just short of the edge. This is difficult to explain so please follow link. Unfold the chicken breast and lay flat. Season with salt and pepper, dried oregano and lemon zest on both sides. Drizzle with olive oil.
Shave the fennel, courgette and carrot with a mandolin. Peel and thinly slice the avocado. Dress the salad and shaved vegetables with a little olive oil and a small pinch of salt. Arrange on plates. Heat a griddle pan of just a large frying pan. Arrange the avocado on the plates with the salad. Grill the chicken on both sides until just cooked. Place on top of the salad. Drizzle with almond dressing and serve with a wedge of lemon.

Chicken Salad with Almond Dressing

Christmas Slaw

I accidentally somehow ended up watching a Nigella Christmas special last night. I think she is an intelligent and beautiful woman but she always comes over as somewhat smug and rather revoltingly, overtly sexy for me to watch for very long. It was long enough however, to catch her version of a Christmas Slaw which I thought might be particularly fitting for all you veg box lovers, to use up some of those winter veg. This is a great dish for boxing day with cold meats and chutney. You can add what you like, but I went for a very pleasant combination of celeriac, fennel, pointed cabbage, red cabbage, carrots and pear, which is very attractively colourful as well. Almost jewelled with its striking combination of purple and orange, so bear this in mind when choosing your veg. The spicy, caramelised pecans add a seasonal note. A mandolin is best for the job of quickly shredding your veg, so if you haven’t got a good one, why not treat yourself to one this Christmas. A food processor will not produce such pretty results although I am sure it will taste just as good.

Christmas slaw 2

Christmas Slaw
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 medium fennel, trimmed and very thinly sliced
¼ pointed or savoy cabbage, shredded very thin
¼ red cabbage, shredded very thin
¼ a celeriac, peeled and coarsely grated
1 pear, very finely sliced
Dressing
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp maple syrup
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one orange
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the spiced pecans
120g cashew nuts, roughly chopped (or other toasted nuts)
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp chilli flakes

Heat the oven to 160C/320F.

Mix the nuts with the syrup, the cinnamon, the chilli and a good pinch of salt. Line a baking sheet with grease proof paper and tip on the nuts. Spread out and roast for 10-12 minutes, until golden and crunchy. Stir from time to time to ensure even cooking. Remove and set aside to cool.

Put all the vegetables in a large bowl.

For the dressing, whisk together the mustard, maple syrup, olive oil, orange juice, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and an eighth of a teaspoon of pepper. Pour this over the vegetables and mix well. Add the spiced nuts, stir to combine and serve.

Fennel

Family Bolognaise

I have been so busy this week with thinking about Christmas, that I forgot to order my veg box. I was so occupied looking at all the Christmas hampers and cook books for family, that I clean forgot. But it is amazing how rummaging through the fridge I came up with all sorts. Last week I was talking about bulking out, or even replacing, meat dishes with mushrooms and I had a punnet to use up so that went in, and I had leeks too, which can always replace onions in sauces or stews.

I have also been talking quite a bit about cooking for kids and I came across a picture of my daughter aged 3, quite happily tucking into Spaghetti Bolognaise and I wondered how she had managed to turn into the fussy little madam she is today. I know that I have probably been a bit to blame, maybe bearing the adults in mind a little too much when cooking family dishes and I am quite a robust sort of cook. With children’s sensitive, little palettes, a little too much pepper or chili is probably enough to put them off. So I decided to make a batch of Bolognaise entirely with her in mind and see if I could win her back. Here are a few key points when cooking for kids although obviously you will need to adapt them for your own. Anyway, I am very pleased otro say that my efforts were rewarded when she not only finished up her own plateful, but somewhat regrettably, half of mine too!

• Go easy on the pepper and chilli. Don’t use too much wine. Make sure you cook it off.

• Break up the tinned tomatoes really well. Children can be fussy about pieces of tomato in things. Don’t use chopped, use whole, and mush them up with your hands until there are no big chunks left.

• Make sure you do not let anything catch. Burning makes things taste bitter. We tend to use leaner and leaner meat which of then does not have enough fat to cook. Add sufficient. If your sauce is greasy at the end, skim it or blot it with kitchen paper,

• Leave out (or puree) vegetables that they hate. My daughter will not eat carrots, no matter how I try and tell her they are something else, golden nuggets for example, she is not falling for it. As frustrating as it is leaving these things out, it is not as frustrating as them refusing to eat the whole dish.

• Cut vegetables fine, and cook down for as long as possible. Do this slowly with enough oil and a good pinch of salt. This will help them disappear into the sauce. This will also add some of the missing flavour that you have had to leave out, back.

• Be careful with cuts of meat. Children can be particularly fussy about skin, sinew or pieces of fat.

• Be careful with “green bits” ie herbs. Dried oregano is best to start with as it is familiar from pizzas.

Spag Bol 2

Family Bolognaise
Extra virgin olive oil
250 g quality British beef mince
6 rashers thinly sliced dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 leek, peeled and finely chopped (or onion)
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
4 large Portobello mushrooms or 8 smaller ones
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
100 ml red wine
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

Put a casserole pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil then cook then brown the meat. Break it up completely with a wooden spoon. Do not burn. Add more oil if necessary. When golden brown, remove to a separate bowl. Drain any extra fat if necessary. Add another glug of oil to the pan and add the bacon. At first the bacon will sweat. Use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean so that it does not burn. Fry until crispy. Add leek or onion and celery and sweat for a good 10 minutes, with a pinch of salt, stirring now and then, until really soft. Add the mushrooms, oregano and garlic and cook until completely broken down. Add the mince back, the tomato puree and then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and cook off for at least 2 minutes. Add the mushed up tinned tomatoes. Rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too. Either tip the whole lot into a slow cooker for 3 hours on slow or cover with a lid and cook on the hob very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Check seasoning and add salt and a little pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever pasta your kids like best. Parmesan is obviously optional too. Don’t forget it is great in baked potatoes.

Amelie eating spag bol