Cooking with Kids: Unicorn Poop

If you weren’t seduced by the title, you will be by the list of ingredients for these delicious nuggets of sugary goodness.

IMG_0403On our last visit to the library, we were pleased to find out that my daughter’s copy of Hope and Greenwood’s Life is Sweet had finally come in. We’d been watching Sweets Made Simple on iPlayer and as soon as she got the book home she was determined to start churning out pounds of fudge and marshmallows and gummies. I don’t think even the most competent six year old should really be fooling around with sugar thermometers on her own… and on a Sunday morning, I’m not really in the mood either.

So we compromised and made Unicorn Mallow Pops. Except I had no popsicle sticks, so they became Unicorn Poop.

Kids love anything with sparkles and poop, right?

The gold lustre spray is available from Dr Oetker but in no way necessary. Although it can be very handy to have gold spray in the cupboard to make any food look like it was crafted by fairies.

Fairy green beans anyone?IMG_0408

Unicorn Poop

Serves: Well, as many as can clamour in the kitchen to scoff them. They don’t keep very well, so plan on eating them all immediately.

Ingredients:

1 bag of microwave popcorn, sweet or salty (we prefer salty)
200g of marshmallows (any colour or shape, you’re melting them)
50g unsalted butter
Gold lustre spray, optional

1) Microwave the popcorn according to the instructions on the bag. You won’t need all of it, so eat a bit.IMG_0404

2) Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat. Still on the heat and stirring occasionally, toss in the marshmallows until you have an unctuous sweet gooey mess that is all too tempting to stick your fingers in.IMG_04063) Turn off the heat and stir in the popcorn. Then leave the kitchen for 30 minutes to let it cool.IMG_04074) When the mix is cool enough to handle, form it into small balls. Or huge ones. Or whatever the wee ones fancy. Place on greaseproof paper to set. Spray them with gold spray until they resemble something that has fallen out of the bottom of a mythical creature.

Enjoy!

Magical Midweek Mince: Kid Friendly Keema

By midweek, my cooking mojo has begun to drain. It seems a long way til Saturday when we do our weekly food shop and the contents of the fridge is far from exciting. BUT THERE SHALL BE MINCE.

Despite being one of my least favourite sources of protein, it has earned a permanent place in my fridge due to the fact that children rarely turn their nose up at it. This means that I am only ever half an hour away from a meal that won’t get fed to the dog, which suits me just fine.

Having exhausted the traditional stalwarts of bolognese, chilli con carne and cottage pie (which I despise, but more on that in a minute), this spicy kid-friendly keema has become a regular fixture in our house.

It works best with lamb mince, but I have subbed in beef, turkey or even pork without really changing the outcome. It borrows heavily from Nigella Lawson’s hangover cure in Feast but I felt it was ripe for a family-friendly makeover. Add a few more veggies, tone down the spice and add important tips to make this as quick and painless as possible.

* Chop nothing. Whiz it all in the food processor. Except the pepper, which needs to be a little chunkier really. In fact, you can bung in stray courgettes, carrots and other lingering fridge veg. Wilting some spinach in at the last minute works well.

* The freezer is your friend. I keep chillis and root ginger in the bottom drawer and use them straight from the freezer, extending their life to infinity.

* Buy those vacuum packed naan breads and keep them in the cupboard for dinner emergencies. And don’t bother turning on the grill to cook them, as they fit in the toaster for a reason.

* Lime juice in a bottle works fine here.

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Kid Friendly Keema

(serves 4 ish)

Ingredients:

600g lamb mince
A large onion
A thumb of root ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1 bell pepper (you choose the colour), diced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
300g of frozen peas (about 2 mugs full)
2 generous tablespoons of balti paste
A splash of lime juice

Naan breads, to serve (see above)

1) Whiz up the onion, ginger and garlic in the food processor.
2) Pop the mixture in a large frying pan with a splash of oil and allow to cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3) Meanwhile, dice the pepper and add in. When everything begins to soften, add the mince.
4) After 5 minutes, everything should be beginning to smell yummy, so add the balti paste and tinned tomatoes. Allow to bubble along cheerfully for about 15 minutes, until everything is cooked through. Add in the peas, giving them 5 minutes to heat through.
5) Just before serving, stir in a splash of lime juice. You can add a verdent covering of fresh coriander if you like as well.
6) Taste. If it’s not punchy enough, add some chilli, or if you’ve overdone it with the balti paste, add a dollop of yogurt or even just milk.

Leftovers are delicious eaten straight from the fridge, but if you want to be extra fancy, double the recipe, top the second half with mashed sweet potato and crisp the top in the oven for possibly the finest cottage pie ever.

Flapjacks: The 1980s teatime edition

A lot has changed since the 1980s. Cadbury’s Creme Eggs have shrunk to 1/8 of their previous proportions (probably). Children’s television lasts indefinitely, as opposed to the 90 precious minutes after you got in from school. The less said about My Little Pony’s fate, the better. And flapjacks have forgotten their roots.

The 2013 flapjack is still delicious. But it is buttery and soft and rather bland on its own, hence the trend for studding them with berries and chocolate and the like. But the 1980s teatime flapjack could stand its ground without any adornments. Buttery and sweet yes, but also fiery with ginger and a tang of lemon. Relentlessly chewy, the only accompaniment it needed was a can of Tizer and an episode of Count Duckula.

This is my attempt at recreating the 1980s flapjack. I am not sure whether I am quite there yet, but the spicy citrus smell that filled my kitchen as it baked suggests…

flapjacks
1980s Flapjacks

Ingredients:

175g unsalted butter
175g golden syrup
175g soft light brown sugar
2tsps ground ginger
The zest of one lemon
350g porridge oats

1) Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Line an 8 inch square tin with baking paper. Set aside.

2) Over a medium heat (and indeed, in a medium saucepan), melt together the butter, golden syrup and sugar until combined. Remove from the heat and stir in the ginger and lemon.

3) Pour in the oats and stir until well combined, occasionally spooning a bit into your mouth. Spread evenly into your prepared tin, preferably using your hands so that you can eat more mixture.

4) Bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tin on a rack, then remove. Try to save cutting it up until it has cooled through, or you’ll end up with some rather messy bits that fall apart and demand to be eaten immediately. Not always a bad thing.

Store Cupboard Lemon Drizzle Cake

Despite the fact I love its enveloping stickiness and lengthy tin life, I rarely make lemon drizzle cake. This is because I never have a lemon. Any lemon that enters my household is quickly dispatched to float in a gin and tonic in lieu of limes, halved and shoved up a chicken’s bottom or sentenced to languish in the fruit bowl til green and furry. Coupled with the misery of cleaning a lemon zester, the flour, eggs and butter instantly become a Victoria sponge.

However, I recently discovered that you can buy very good lemon extract to take the place of lemon zest. It gives all the depth of flavour, but without the need for actual lemons. Sainsbury’s Sicilian Lemon Extract is particularly good. Add to that bottled lemon juice – found next to the pancake mix – I can now create lemon drizzle cake on a whim. And have done frequently since this discovery.

This is one of the few times that I will suggest the faff of a loaf tin liner, as all the delicious lemony syrup can effortlessly weld your cake to the bottom of the tin.

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

Cooking time: 1 hour plus cooling

You’ll need: a lined 2lb loaf tin and a skewer for pricking the cake

Ingredients:

125g lightly salted butter
175g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsps lemon extract
200g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100ml milk

For the syrup:

125ml lemon juice
100g icing sugar

For the glaze:

50ml lemon juice
150g icing sugar

1) Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celcius. Line your cake tin, ‘gluing’ the liner securely with a bit of butter.

2) Cream the butter and sugar by hand or with a mixer til pale and fluffy. Keep beating as you add the eggs, milk and lemon extract.

3) Carefully fold in the flour and baking powder, adding a little more milk if it becomes too stiff or grainy. Dollop into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. This will be a delightfully moist cake, so don’t worry about giving it a few extra minutes.

4) While the cake is in the oven, make your syrup. Put the lemon juice and sugar in a pan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Take it off the heat and let it cool. As soon as you remove the cake from the oven it’s time to go postal on your cake. Grab a skewer, picture your ex boyfriend’s smug stupid face and start stabbing. Be careful not to injure yourself or stab through the lining of the tin. Pour over the cooled syrup and let the cake cool completely in its tin.

5) When cooled, combine the remaining icing sugar and lemon juice into a delicious gunky paste. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake with gay abandon. Try to let it set a little before hacking into it.

 

Jam Roly Poly: Because baby it’s cold outside…

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Like the rest of Britain, my little corner of the Shire is caked in snow. What better reason to stay indoors, crank up the oven – particularly if your heating is as ineffective as mine – and bake something to keep you warm?

Jam roly poly is one of my top puddings and despite falling out of favour for a few years, is beginning to return to the height of tea time popularity.

Part of the reason many people recoil from this delicious treat is the fact it contains suet. You may not think that your desserts have been lacking in rendered beef fat, but they have. The technical details of what suet is fail to mention the light unctuous flavour of pastries and puddings made with it. If you are currently retching into a bucket reading this, vegetarian suet is available, although it never seems as rich to me and yields a slightly stodgier result.

It’s worth mentioning that jam roly poly hails from a time when food was scarce and every calorie counted… in the opposite way to how it does now. This is not something you want to eat every day, but building all those snowmen is going to take fuel.

I can only offer one serving suggestion for this:

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Judge, lest not ye be judged…

Jam Roly Poly 
Serves: 8-10
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

250g self raising flour
75g golden caster sugar
150g suet (veggie if you must)
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup raspberry jam
An egg, beaten

1) Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcium. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the caster sugar. Plonk in the suet and just enough water to create a soft, but not too sticky dough.

2) Pop your dough onto a floured work surface and try to shape it roughly into a rectangle. Aim for 8 x 12 and about 1cm thick. Place it landscape in front of you. Now for the nerve wracking bit.

3) Zap your jam in the microwave for 30 seconds and grab a pastry brush. Generously paint your flat poly with jam, leaving a 1cm border around the edge. When you’re done, fold the jamless border in on to itself, to encase the lovely jammy centre.

4) Take a deep breath (or a swig of wine), and begin rolling the roly poly up like a giant swissroll. Move steadily, trying to keep straight but keeping it tight. Tightness is paramount. Transfer to a greased baking sheet as elegantly as you can manage.

ImageYes, it’s winning no beauty contests, and somewhat resembling my pale, cellulitey thigh after eating too much of it.

5) Generously cover your roly poly with beaten egg to make it a little prettier, then whack it in the oven for 40 minutes. You should probably spend that time doing push ups.

6) Remove from the oven and allow to cool very briefly, before slicing generously, covering in custard and thoroughly enjoying.

A word of warning… you must roll this tightly. If you don’t, it might just lose its lovely Swiss roll shape and become a bit rounder…

ImageStill delicious. And we’re snowed in, so nobody is going to be round to see it.