What’s on the Menu Then?

Now if you are a regular indulger in my diary, this will be just a recap. But if you have recently found ‘Diary of a Gay Dad’, then I have this to say! ‘Man can not live by bread alone’ and ‘let them eat cake’! Well, not really as I don’t bake that many cakes, just birthday ones and the occasional collaboration with the children making cupcakes (and very occasionally with chocolate). Let us create a positive spin on ‘Man can not live by bread alone’, of course I should have quoted the politically correct saying of ‘WE can not live by bread alone’.

Okay, I love to cook and I always cook in batches, I freeze two thirds of what I prepare in two separate containers and eat the other third on the day that it is produced. So many dishes lend themselves to the ‘table d’hote’ idea (go on, google it). You probably make some of these yourself at home. Bolognese sauce, cooked for at least two hours is a must and easily transformes into a chilli con carne with the addition of red kidney beans and some chilli sauce (I use the Sriracha one from Thailand). If you use Dolmio sauce, the one with extra garlic is acceptable. But do try and make your sauce from scratch, it’s just too simple (try to find the time, it is also a lot cheaper). You might also remember that I only cook with basmati rice (and I only make it in the microwave).

For me, Puttanesca is the royalty of Italian sauces. My personal favorite. The other pasta sauces we eat regularly are home made carbonara (ham, mushroom, Parmesan, garlic, double cream and seasoning), all thinly sliced, or the other option is using smoked salmon instead of ham.  This is one of the most amazing pasta dishes you will ever enjoy. I am presuming you like smoked salmon, that is. You don’t need a lot of salmon, but like carbonara, watch you don’t dry out the sauce once you add it to the cooked pasta! Use a little full fat milk (not cream) to thin it down slightly if you are a little wary of overindulgence.

These things don’t take up a lot of your time. That is with regards physical work. And regarding the length of time to cook a basic bolognaise made with minced beef, just simmer the sauce on the lowest heat, with the lid on and try not to leave the house (lol)! The other option available is to use minced pork. Perfectly cooked within thirty minutes. The final Italian essentials in this house are those meatballs that I make again and again. I have several recipes for them at this point. Don’t buy those factory made pellets from the supermarket, put in some real ingredients and say to people ‘I made this’! With  cooking the sauce yourself, there comes a certain pride. These dishes are very basic, easily made and enjoyed by both the children and us adults alike.

John really loves his meat and two veg, being Irish and all, so there is always a roast dinner on the menu every week, usually on a Sunday with us all participating. Just one tip for the roast potatoes and that is the meat juices and some of the fat. Just make sure you smash the potatoes about a bit for a lighter, fluffier result. It’s only once a week, so indulge yourself.

There is always an Indian meal in our average week. Both for us grown ups and for the children. There are so many recipes I could talk about, but the main advice is to make what you like but cook out those spices long enough to turn the strength of them into pure sweetness, whichever spice combo you use. Don’t forget the holy trinity (fresh garlic, ginger and chilli). Tomato and onions will sweeten your sauce to perfection.

Other Asian based flavors served up on a more or less weekly basis are those from Thailand and China. I love these sweet and sour flavor combinations. I pretty much get creative with Thai food. And as for Chinese food, I backward engineer from those at the Chinese takeaway. I really have to take a deeper look at Vietnamese cuisine. Note to one self!

Lastly, we all deserve moments of elevation. And I love to cook with fish and shellfish. Most weeks I throw together something that both John and I will enjoy as a real treat. Lobster Thermidor or ‘Coquille Saint Jaques Mornay’ sound a little bit too fancy, even the French word ‘mornay’ (with cheese) kind of makes it sound extremely complex. But take a fresh look at these French classics. Just dress a good cheese sauce over your cooked fish or shellfish and voila! It just sounds too simple doesn’t it! Use a whisk whilst making your sauce to avoid lumps and use plenty of mature cheddar cheese, plus a teaspoon of English mustard (I wouldn’t bother using gruyere). Plenty of mature cheddar, both in the sauce and on the top before you blitz in the oven for twenty five minutes. Serve with oven French fries or home made chips. I love to scrape off the dark, crystalised bit around the edge of the dish – wow, so tasty! You can always substitute good quality prawns if Lobster meat or scallops are not available. A small tip – Canadian lobster is always available before Christmas at just six pounds each. I always stock up the freezer when the going is good. Another small tip – whatever your thoughts about shopping at Iceland supermarket. Their frozen fish is definitely worth the trip. The Argentinian red prawn and scallops are certainly worthy… Oh! And invest in a few ‘Au Gratin’ dishes if you want to serve up something that looks like you ordered it in a quality restaurant.

Of course the children eat what just the children eat as well. But this entry in my blog couldn’t possibly showcase baked beans and a jacket potato with grated cheese on top, surely not! Albeit a very tasty, nutritious and cost effective meal!

As I am our family chef, my daily updates will continue to enlighten you regarding what’s on the menu, but please allow me to advise, if it sounds tasty reading about it on this blog, maybe give it a go at home yourself… Bon appetite

Love It or Hate It

I have harked on about food again and again. And do you know what? Eating is a pleasure, not a chore! I firmly believe that allowing children to be picky and awkward at the dinner table is denying that child the true right to choose from life’s bounty of flavours and variety in later life. There are those out there with young children who take the easy option. It is hard not to, I know we lead busy lives and it’s just easier to let little ‘Freddy’ or ‘Freya’ refuse to eat certain items. Our children have all done it with various food stuffs. Cheese, peas, mushrooms, tomatoes have all been refused at some point or another. But I stick to my guns. They have to at least try it and swallow. They have been exposed to pretty much all foods from an early age. Olives are a family favourite, liked as much as the occasional packet of crisps. They just go through cycles of like and dislike. Thor is the worst from our bunch. He loves cheese, he hates cheese. The same can be said with his relationship with ham, even sliced chicken or pate. But as strong as his opposition, he finally voices his love of that item. At present he loves cheese and often tells me ‘I love cheddar Dadda’, but last month he would refuse to eat a cheese sandwich, even with branston pickle. Funny boy is Thor.

I am going to have a think and later today write down exactly what we do eat as a family. Also what John and I enjoy eating. I have mentioned a number of things that we eat on a regular basis. They’ll be at the top of the list for sure.

Smoothies and Sweeties

And popcorn to boot. John not around this afternoon, so to keep the not so famous five focussed, unlike this mornings crazy goings on, I thought a more structured approach might be in order. Bagels for lunch then a couple of movies with sugared popcorn. Some dancing with the Beatles (Help album), summer berry smoothies and a sausage, pea and mash dinner, with the remaining celebrations chocolates (from Christmas) for dessert. Mind you having left them to write this in the kitchen, the tempo has risen a few levels and the sound of their running and screaming can be heard. There is laughter however, though I am just waiting for the eventual shouts and screams of someone falling over or just getting a bit angry. The worst scenario at present is Amritsar shouting that Tara has pinched her! It seems to happen again and again. Of course they are friends again soon enough. Thor seems to think that he is a small baby every now and then, saying that he is not Thor, rather a little baby called Mee! I’m not sure how that arose, but there we have it. I will finish on that note, get mashing those potatoes and find a picture of Thor to amuse you with that I took earlier when he relaxed back with his second bowl of popcorn, sat on the pew in the kitchen. That pew is actually where John and I met! Rather it came from the Coleherne Pub in Earls Court. It sat for a number of years on the hallowed ground where we first started talking. I purchased it from the then manager of the pub, Barry. Paid a hundred and fifty quid for it all those years ago, a lot of money. Probably worth twenty pounds at auction today, but it has a lot of history and means a lot to us.

Five Go Wild

I am sat in the kitchen, having come down later this morning. John had cooked them pancakes. At present the children are running past me completely naked! Daddy is upstairs getting clothes, however they have (excluding Thor) all offed their Pyjamas and are running loops around me through the living room, kitchen, hall, again and again, doing laps. Thor is now playing ‘The Wolf’ and they are all screaming. Caleb has pee’d on the floor.

being the ring leader, Tara has been asked to clean up Caleb’s pee! They have both attempted to do so with kitchen roll. I have now just asked them to wash their hands. Daddy has come down with today’s clothing and things have become a little more sedate. The sofa cushions are all amassed in the floor so there is nowhere for an adult to sit in there. As much as I feel like going back up the stairs and lie on the bed, I am now off to rearrange the sofas.

Will update you later!

Spaghetti Heads

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It’s not yet lunchtime, but we’ve had our ups and one or two downs as well. Pretty standard stuff I guess. Amritsar has been in quite the ‘mood’ but did cheer up when I helped both Tara and herself stitch together their alien hand puppets brought home from school as a weekend project. I taught them ‘blanket stitch’ and probably did a little too much sewing on their  behalf. Now with regards lunch, with an abundance of puttanesca in the freezer, guess what we are having with the spaghetti? Better get it on to boil in a moment, though I just had a thought! Toddler pics of spaghetti lunches, please note today’s pictures! Yes things are certainly looking up… Weekends are a little less chaotic nowadays, which is well deserved as parents I hope. They used to stress me out, but with the terrible twos well behind us and the troublesome threes dissipating, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Vineyard

Okay, I’m not a restaurant or food critic, though I am a bit of a foodie if truth be known. It’s funny isn’t it! When you are a couple together for a number of years, so often you end up ordering the same dishes. Not through blind laziness, ‘I’ll have the same as him’, rather your pallets are just so in tune. We both ordered the same for all three courses. You have to smile. It has in fact been two years since our last visit to the Michelin stared Vineyard. My birthday two years ago lead to a major disappointment there when the chef had chosen to substitute a dish serving a very ‘blue’ filet of lamb with saddle! Yes the toughness of ‘rump’ really does not lend itself to being served almost raw. I did make a complaint and in fairness they did comp my main course, but it was untouched, excusing the three mouthfuls of meat. But leaving in haste as we did, the bill still came to two hundred pounds as there was zero understanding of just how the celebratory meal was a complete wash out. I had but eaten a rather wispy smoked salmon starter and a few mouthfuls of inedible meat, obviously Johns enjoyment of the celebration had been marred, so we just decided to not return. Though here we are, almost two years later and we returned and had a very pleasant meal, though portion wise, a little meagre. The carbs were non existent, that is if one did not include the two portions of very tasty home made bread rolls that were served. A final bill of two hundred and forty pounds made us consider things. And to be honest, the atmosphere was not sufficient to compel us to rush back. Service (front of house) was very good, but sadly the menu was lacking in That ‘something dynamic’ you would expect with a restaurant prizing itself on its level of quality.

P.s. On the greater visual stimuli of the environment , the prints / engravings on the walls should certainly be reconsidered! This is just my own personal opinion and is not meant to offend the restaurants design team…