Most evenings around 8pm, Him Indoors and I embark down a well-trodden conversational cul-de-sac. He removes his head briefly from the Guardian comment threads to ask, “What’s for tea?”
An innocent enough question, you might think. My heart sinks. Luckily my brain rises to the occasion – racing through the full range of options suggested by the contents of the fridge. James Martin would be proud of me.
“Pasta and hummus?” No response.
“Spinach and milk?” Nothing.
“Egg – lette?” One eyebrow imperceptibly rises half an inch.
“What do you want to eat?” I ask, hoping to brilliantly volley the dilemma back into his court (and that the answer will require only eggs, hummus, pasta and milk to make.)
“That’s like saying you’d like a buffet.”
“Ooh, I WOULD like a buffet.”
“That’s a drink.”
“Still a drink.”
A brief discussion follows about my taking the question “What’s for tea?” too personally, and we go our separate ways. I to write a blog post about my inability to produce a basic meal, he to pore mournfully through the freezer. By now he will have discovered that that particular cupboard is also bare.
Who are these people who keep a freezer full of past triumphs anyway? Who has the foresight to cook for their kitchen appliances? Should I make the toaster a portion while I’m at it? Even assuming I had the organisational skills, I just don’t have the vision to look at a lump of frozen guano and see the chicken casserole I made last Wednesday.
My excuse, and I’m sticking to it, is that the freezer is full. Full of peas, ice, croissants, mince and fish fingers. The idea of shoe-horning a couple of lasagnes in there as well is laughable. Perhaps Alpha Mums have a chest freezer in the garage? Not that I’d be any better prepared if we did have the outbuilding required for such a thing. In that scenario the food would be there, but I’d lack the emotional resolve to reconstitute it.
Thank heavens for Tooting, the curry nirvana of the Western world. I couldn’t possibly move to the actual countryside, we’d surely starve.
I have to thank my cousin Laura and her husband for the inspiration for these. They made them for us on a recent family get together and they’re just the best pancakes ever.
The blueberries add a sweetness and juiciness which takes them to another level. Add a couple of rashers of crispy bacon and a generous drizzle of maple syrup for breakfast nirvana. Very popular with two year olds!
Makes 12 or so
150g / 6oz plain flour
40g / 1.5 oz vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 pint buttermilk
50g / 2oz melted butter
a small punnet of blueberries
1. Mix the wet and the dry ingredients in separate bowls.
2. Pour half of the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well. Then stir the remaining dry ingredients in.
3. Heat a pan to medium heat and dollop on a couple of spoonfuls of mixture.
4. Add three or four blueberries to the top of each pancake.
5. Turn when browned and bubbles appear, which should take around 90 seconds. In another 90 seconds or so they will be perfectly cooked.
6. Serve with butter, maple syrup and crispy rashers of bacon (plus sausages and a poached egg according to Him Indoors.)
Tooting has another lovely cafe, this time on Fransiscan Road, on the way to Tooting Bec Common from where we live. This one has just popped up in the last few weeks, so we took the small boy along to try them out.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, and the small boy greeted the proprietor with “Cake!” as the door opened. He’s not stupid, that one. We tried out their excellent carrot and walnut cake, Him Indoors had a sticky bun. The place is very well kitted out for a freshly opened cafe and they’re well prepared for kids, with a changing table, toy baskets and a buggy store outside. Highly recommended.
I know these are so easy you barely even need a recipe, but if you’re into speedy baking these take 15 minutes to make and another 15 to cook (5 to scoff the lot.)
Great to make with kids too. So straightforward you might even get them in the oven before they get bored and run off to dismantle the television.
Chocolate chip buns
100g / 4oz self-raising flour
100g / 4oz butter
100g / 4oz caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
large handful of chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gas 5.
2. Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the eggs a little at a time and mix in.
4. Fold in the flour and mix thoroughly.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Spoon into bun cases and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and springy.
You just can’t beat a scone with raspberry jam and clotted cream. This is my Mum’s recipe, you can find a recipe for the raspberry jam here. I dare say you can probably make your own clotted cream too if you’re really keen, but I’m afraid I haven’t ventured into anything that advanced… yet.
Makes 8 large or 16 small
250g / 10oz plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
50g / 2oz unsalted butter
2 tbsp caster sugar, plus a little for dusting
100ml milk, plus a little for glazing
1. Preheat oven to 220°C / 428°F / Gas 7.
2. Put flour and baking powder in a bowl.
3. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub in.
4. Stir in the sugar.
5. Mix in the milk until the mixture comes together to form a nice dough.
6. Knead a little then roughly pat down until about an inch high all over.
7. Cut out scones, reforming the dough until it is all used up.
8. Place scones on a greased tin, glaze with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
9. Place in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
10. Smother with clotted cream and jam and scoff with a nice cup of tea.
This may not be the ultimate brownie recipe, but it is really easy, and the low oven temperature and long cooking time result in a beautifully crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside cake which is just brilliant.
Easiest ever chocolate brownies
200g / 7oz caster sugar
110g / 4oz unsalted butter
3 tbsp cocoa powder
90g / 3oz plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F / Gas 2. Beat eggs and sugar together. Melt butter in a small pan and add the cocoa powder. Pour into the egg mixture and stir to combine. Sift in flour and baking powder and mix.
Pour into a 15 x 25cm (6 x 10 inch) tin, lined with greaseproof paper and bake for 45 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack, remove paper and chop into pieces.
Another slow cooker recipe. Although you use it more as a bain-marie than a cooker, so you could just balance a bowl over a saucepan of water instead. There is a lovely point where it becomes curdy as you heat it at the end, which is very satisfying.
makes 8 x 190ml jars
finely grated rind of 6 large unwaxed lemons
the juice of above lemons (about 400ml)
900g / 2lb caster sugar
a pack of unsalted butter, diced
6 medium eggs, beaten
Put the lemon rind, juice, butter and sugar into a heatproof bowl small enough to fit into the cooker. Pour hot water into the ceramic cooking pot until it reaches half way up the bowl. Switch the cooker to high and leave for 15 minutes, or until the butter has melted and the sugar has completely dissolved.
Remove the bowl and allow to cool. Sieve in the eggs and whisk to combine. Switch the cooker to low and replace the bowl, covering with foil and cook for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally until it thickens. I usually have to pour the whole lot into a pan and heat it gently to get it to thicken up, but that might just be me.
Once the curd is the right consistency, pour it whilst it’s hot into warm, sterilized jars. Strain through a sieve before potting if you prefer a smoother curd.
Cover each jar with waxed disc and lid. Store in a cool, dark place or in the fridge and use within 3 months. Once opened, use within a week.