I may cook the vast majority of our meals from scratch but I’m not tied to the stove. When it comes to meals for the children I like things to move swiftly as small tummies don’t play the waiting game in this family.
One of my favourite store cupboard standby meals is this pizza which is ready for the oven in under 15 minutes (10 if you’re super speedy). No proving, just kneading, rolling and topping. You are going to love this dough as it is so quick and makes a nice crisp base.
As I’m allergic to tomatoes we always have pesto on our pizza (here’s my homemade pesto recipe). You can load it up with whichever toppings take your fancy, we’re big on veggies and I’ll use whatever I have to hand.
Five Minute Pizza Dough
275g light brown self-raising flour (white is ok or a 50/50 mix of white & wholemeal)
60ml olive oil
Small pinch of salt (optional and not for under twos)
Veggie Pizza Toppings
Enough pesto to cover the dough, about 2 – 3 spoons
Half a courgette, either grated or sliced into wafer thin rounds
Cheddar cheese, grated
A handful of black olives, sliced
Half a red pepper, sliced
Three artichoke hearts, sliced
Five or so mushrooms, sliced and fried in a little oil
Any other vegetables you fancy!
Preheat oven to 180°C
Makes enough for six children (or three with leftovers)
- Mix your ingredients together in a bowl until they come together in a dough.
- Either pop it in your mixer and let the dough hook work its magic for five to ten minutes or turn out onto a floured worktop and knead by hand.
- When you have an elastic dough roll out to about 5mm and place on a baking tray.
- Spread your pesto (or tomato sauce) over the dough.
- Layer your courgette (grated or sliced) over the base sauce then grate the cheddar over the pizza. Only using enough to cover in a layer.
- Then lay out your toppings, Milla did the pizza above.
- Cook in the oven for 20 minutes checking after 15 minutes and turning if needed.
I think a lot of cooking scrummy nutritious food from scratch comes down to having tricks up your sleeve. I rarely have the time to cook for long on weekday evenings but with a few staple ingredients always in the store cupboard and a little in the freezer I manage to put food on the table I’m proud of and that the children love to eat.
This is one of my speediest supper fall backs and making the sauce takes less time than boiling the pasta to go with it. There is always more than I need for three so the leftovers go in sandwiches or as a base for a pizza. It works equally well as a dip or a side for fishcakes.
The recipe uses Greek yoghurt. If using cold you could substitute for natural yoghurt but this will not stand up to the heat of pasta. Creme Fraiche would be a good substitute for a sauce on hot food.
Avocado, Basil and Yoghurt Sauce
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 lemon, squeezed
5 – 6 large basil leaves
2 big dollopy spoons of Greek Yoghurt (I use Yeo Valley Greek)
- Put all of the ingredients into a small blender, the bowl attachment of a stick blender is ideal.
- Whizz until a smooth gloopy mess.
- Stir through pasta or serve as you please.
- To make by hand smoosh the avocado and lemon juice together in a pestle and mortar or with a fork in a bowl.
- Add the basil finely chopped and stir through the yoghurt.
Keeps for a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge.
I get such a mid-winter craving for vegetables. Maybe it’s the festive meat-eating or the sight of the Farmers’ Market half empty but I can’t help but want to pile my plate with veg every day.
This little risotto was one of Milla’s absolute favourites when she was a baby and I made it at least once a week. My favourite risotto is definitely and earthy mushroom best served on a cold wet evening.
I often use frozen veg in this risotto, either peas or a vegetable medley, to take a bit of the prep work out of it. If using frozen veg then pop them in your stock half way through and let them cook there and be added slowly.
Adapt this recipe to what you have around and your baby’s tastes. Betsy adores parsnip so I included some in the base veg and I had some Cavolo Nero from the market just begging to be thrown in for the last couple of minutes.
Of all the things I have learned to cook risotto has been one of the most satisfying and is also the one most people ask me to teach them. It doesn’t need cream or cheese to achieve the oozing consistency – that’s all down to the rice.
Olive oil or butter (a glug or knob respectively)
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 stick of celery, diced
- 1 small/medium onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
500ml of hot chicken stock in a pan with a ladle (either home made or low-salt cubes)
1 cupped handful of arborio risotto rice (per two children)
Extra vegetables; some, all or none:
- Cabbage (red cabbage is great as turns the rice blue)
- Mushrooms (lightly fried first)
- Or anything you have to hand in total should make up a large handful.
Parmesan to garnish (optional)
- Get all of your ingredients ready first as once you are stirring you don’t need anything else to distract you (the children can do that).
- Heat a wide heavy based pan over a medium heat then drop in your glug of oil or knob of butter.
- Add your carrot, celery and onion and allow them to cook gently for a couple of minutes to soften without colouring.
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
- Add the rice and stir well to combine with the veg and their lovely juice.
- When the rice is almost crackling (but never coloured) add your first ladle of stock. This noise is apparently called the ‘sigh of risotto’ so I’ve heard.
- Now you are into the main cooking part of stirring and adding stock. Stir in a figure of eight getting into the corners of the pan so no rice sticks.
- To know when to add the next ladle full of stock pull your spoon through the risotto. If, like in the picture at the bottom, the rice does not flow back together but leaves a path then it is ready.
- The process should take about 20 minutes so 10 minutes in add any frozen or big veg you are using to the stock and crank up the heat a little to compensate.
- Continue to ladle stock and stir allowing veg to come in with the stock.
- The rice will be puffed up and when you bite a grain to try it should feel soft with a tiny bit of bite left in the centre.
- Once it has reached this stage, turn off the heat and put a lid on the pan for a few minutes.
- When you remove the lid it should be oozing and creamy.
I barely have to say the word cookie before there is a frenzy of excitement from the children. Nothing seems to please them more at snack time than being able to choose a knobbly cookie from a biscuit tin.
I created this recipe a few years ago and specifically use cup measurements so it’s easy for young children to measure themselves. Monty in particular loves to be in charge of putting everything in the bowl and switching on the mixer. He’s always decidedly unimpressed when I want to measure precisely or mix by hand!
You know me so I don’t need to tell you that this recipe has less sugar than an adult version would. It has also be extensively tried and tasted by children and grown-ups alike.
Oatmeal and Raisin Cookies
115g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/3 cup of soft brown sugar (double if you want sweet cookies which spread out)
3/4 cup of plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups of rolled oats (I like Mornflake Oats or Waitrose Jumbo Oats)
1/2 cup raisins
Oven preheated to 180°C. Large baking tray at the ready greased or lined.
- Cream the butter and sugar together then crack in the egg to cream.
- Sift in the flour, bicarb and cinnamon (not the end of the world if you don’t sift) and combine.
- Add the oats and then the raisins until everything is well mixed.
- Using teaspoons, spoon out onto the baking tray. They don’t spread much as they are low sugar so they will stay in the shape you create. I like to make them into chunky little rock cake shapes.
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until they are golden and smell delicious.
- Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes on the tray then transfer to a wire rack to cool under a tea towel.
- Will keep for up to a week in a tightly sealed container.
Beyond the design of the tins there are many reasons to have tinned fish in your store cupboard at all times. They will pull you out of a tight spot at supper time any day of the week.
We love fish cakes in this house. I always make more than I need so I have a good stock of them in the freezer. Far nicer than fish fingers and just as easy to pop in the oven when you’re short of time.
This tinned fish version I make has an advantage over its fresh couterpart in that you eat the whole fish bones and all. The bones are a good source of calcium and mackerel and sardines happen to be one of the best dietary sources of vitamin D which means the calcium has what it needs to be absorbed.
I serve them with either salad or vegetables and a big dollop of Greek yoghurt.
Tinned Fish Fish Cakes
1 tin of sardines
1 tin of mackerel
4 medium potatoes – peeled and chopped
1 large sweet potato – peeled and chopped
A little flour on a plate for dusting
Preheat oven to 180°C – makes around 16 fishcakes (more or less depending on size!)
- Boil your potatoes until they are cooked. Drain and set aside – the longer the better as it will let the water out.
- Open the tins and drain the fish.
- Mash the potatoes until they are fluffy either with a fork or a ricer.
- Put the fish into the bowl and fork it through the potatoes until they are well combined. If you are worried about the bones get your fingers in there and you’ll see they just crumble in.
- Now you can shape your fish cakes. I use a tablespoon measure to portion each cake.
- Roll each fish cake in the flour and pat dry.
- Place on a baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes in the oven.
- Once out of the oven let them stand for a couple of minutes before serving.
Watch my Baby Led Weaning video: