Cooking with children

My son has a Fairy Gothmother (FGM), he also has a Not Quite Godfather (the NQG) and a VIP (very important person in life aka KT Cupcake). People who know this about me and about Spider are therefore quite surprised to discover that I have a goddaughter.

Yes, I am a godmother, possibly not a very good one because as KT Cupcake sometimes likes to recall at the time of my goddaughter’s (Cookie) christening I was actually on the other side of the world and 18 metres under water – actually because of the time difference I was probably tucked up in a hotel room somewhere snoring my head off, but that’s not quite so good a story. The idea behind me being a godmother was that Cookie’s parents wanted her to have an adult influence in her life of someone with a different attitude towards life than her parents.

Her mother is a talented artistic person. I am not. I like making cakes to make people smile, KT Cupcake spreads happiness in other ways. Anyway, for Cookie’s  last birthday I gave her a voucher for a mornings cooking together and since her 7th birthday is now approaching at speed, we thought it was probably about time that she cashed it in.

Now, since I am feeling guilty about the fact that I have been a bit of an absentee godmother since Spider was born, I was planning on making it a special occasion, perhaps buying in some fancy cooking bits from the Pink Fairy Cake website, but as usual in my life things were very last minute “are you free tomorrow ?” “why ?” “Cookie’s ballet has been cancelled, can she come and cook with you saturday morning ?”

So had to make do with a container of 4 different sprinkles from Budgens, food colouring and some gold and silver foil cake cases dug out from the back of the cupboard (dating from when I got married I think)…I also managed to find a little whisk shaped like a chick in an egg which I bought as something for Cookie to take away with her as memento.

The house was also a mess and needed an early start saturday morning to ensure that the house could receive visitors and the kitchen declared fit enough to cook in and no longer a health hazzard.

The jury is out on whether I have provided her with a different approach to life after one morning together but I have at least introduced her to a few new things. She had never cracked an egg before and thought that you needed a bread maker to make pizza…

We made:

Since Saturday I have been in and out of bed with a stress related problem…I don’t think it was related to cooking with Cookie, who it would appear had a fantastic time and wants to do it again – soon. We had fun, but I don’t think teaching cooking to children is going to be my route out of debt, not unless I want to spend all my spare time chipping icing off the sink… I actually had fun too and am planning to make more of an effort to cook with Spider and to live up to my godmotherly duties…currently trying to overcome my make and do phobia and make a little scrapbook for Cookie of our morning together plus the recipes.

Photos to follow – I have technical gremlins at the moment


Ursula’s (wholemeal) Pizza

I challenged myself at the beginning of January to post in alphabetical order. There were some rules, I was allowed to bend the subject matter of the letter a little, I would not buy lots of ingredients in specially for the recipe and I would cook things that we would normally eat. On days where I didn’t have the time to cook or the inclination I could write about something related to food, like a chef.

So I was so pleased to discover this recipe under “U” in Leon:Allegra McEvedy and then to realised that the only strong flour left in cupboard was wholemeal, I have all the ingredients in the cupboard for the sauce and I can tailor the toppings to something the family will eat.

But wholemeal ? Do I eat wholemeal pizza ? Yes, in  fact a slice of wholemeal pizza, topped with pumpkin seeds from the health food shop in Llangfni (Anglesey) used to be my treat in the summer I left university…there weren’t a lot of jobs around that year and even less when you were living away from the main stream on a welsh island. Not a lot of jobs around now, and homemade pizza is cheap if you have the time.

And time is something I don’t have a lot of which is why its taken until saturday for me to make the dough. Its in the fridge now having a long long slow rise (a la Nigella Lawson) ready for movie night tonight – I’m off now to clear out the veg drawer in the fridge – fun (not!).

Oh almost forgot, can’t find recipe for this out on the web and I’m not posting it here as there is a mistake in the book (you add the yeast twice in 2 different ways, I did what I thought made sense but I won’t know until tonight whether it’s worked). Recipe for a  similar wholemeal pizza is here.

The knights who say “knit”

Here at Bunn towers we have gone all knights and castles since Christmas. Well really its since October when we acquired free tickets for Warwick castle. Spider has been mad for horses knights castles falcons and anything medieval. He made some armour over the holidays with grandma out of baco foil and cardboard and just as this was falling apart some kind friend gave him a sword and a shield for Christmas.

Cheese and tomato shield

Cheese and tomato shield

I don’t do cute food for children as a rule. You won’t often see me turning cupcakes into teddybears or burgers into people with pasta hair, but yesterday I just caught part of Big Cook Little Cook where they were just taking out of the oven a pizza shield, so I thought, as we were having our home made pizzas again this evening I would give it a go – but only for Spider, much as Teenager and Husband might have enjoyed it, I usually leave them to make their own pizza. Anyway, I wouldn’t say it was a roaring success, it’s easier to get a pizza to keep its shape if you use a scone dough which I think they did on the TV. Anyway it served its purpose namely helped with the cheese mountain we are still working are way through since Christmas.

Tiger Hat, no feet

Tiger Hat, no feet

I mentioned just before Christmas that I’d been trying to finish some knitted presents I’d been making for Flapjack Queens children. This morning when I tidied the top of the house I finally managed to undo the spiders web that the cat had made of my knitting bag.

After we put Spider to bed I hoped to settle down to a couple of hours noodling around on the internet, only to discover that Husband had nicked my laptop – so I thought I’d better get cracking on trying to finish 1 of the 3 presents I have on the go at the moment before the cat rediscovers the knitting bag and undoes all my hard work.

This hat is for FQ’s youngest (wheatflake ?) I’ve made it before for Spider, for his 2nd birthday when he was going through a tiger phase…unfortunately 3 hours after he first put it on it got left behind in a cafe in Banbury and was never seen again 😦

Dead Time:M40

Didn’t make it to work today, instead spent almost 4 and a half hours in a traffic jam on the M40, most of which was spent covering a distance of 5 miles – so I phoned in and took the day off – I gave the Brownies to luscious Lulabelle, the other bag was to go to the ladies at Spider’s pre-school but I didn’t get back until 1pm.

I was cursing myself for having removed my book from my bag in a misguided attempt to carry less junk around – at least I had the radio to keep me company and a Toddler cookbook which I was taking to lend to a colleague. Got back home just in time to see the wicked witch of the west taking photographs of the drive…looks like we are in for a boundary dispute, fun, not !

So headed off to Stratford, my feel good town as having found the bank statement on the mat I really needed cheering up…

It has not been a good day but at least we all came home in a Christmas mood

Further Adventures in Pizza

Today’s pizza has been brought to you by the letters T and…well OK that’s not going to work as I’d have to list 6 letters. Yes we’ve been having another go at pizza, my role this time has been restricted to buying some mozzarella, easi-blend yeast and then sitting on the work surface reading out the recipe whilst my minions scurry around the kitchen obeying my every whim – except it doesn’t quite work like that as there’s lots of “are you sure that’s what the recipe says” and “HOW much olive oil !”

Teenager has been chef for the evening with Husband as comis. No need for the fridge technique as we’ve had time to spare this evening. The other main difference was the recipe. Like a lot of people who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s Husband and my immediate reaction to a recipe that doesn’t work out as planned is “well what would Delia do ?” So we dug out her cookery course and I sat there on top of the washing machine reading the instructions out to the Teenager.

Apart from the fact that the bottom of my cooker is covered in melted mozzarella (put the topping too close to the edge of the pizza), it was a very successful and fun evening – don’t know if it was the new recipe or the yeast that resolved yesterdays problems but we have had a very successful movie night… the rest of the day has been a bit of a disaster but its been nothing too serious – I’m saving the Brownies for tomorrow though as I seem to have lost my cooking mojo.

Experiments in Pizza

Lunchtime – In the fridge at the moment I have some pizza dough – correction,the dough is slowly rising. I made the dough itself at 8.30am, just before taking Spider off to pre-school using the dough recipe from Apples for Jam:Tessa Kiros I had to adapt the recipe however as my yeast refused to foam using the method from the book so I adapted the recipe to match the instructions on the tin – will be changing yeast brands as this tin has been very fussy as to what it gets added to!

After making the dough I followed a tip from Nigella about leaving the dough to have a long slow rise in the fridge. I have to head off now for a site visit in the wilds of Oxfordshire. Hopefully by teatime my dough will be ready for stretching and rolling and having toppings added. Off to find some mozzarella… I’m also going to buy some new yeast as I was concerned about the dough when I was kneading it, it started off as a little tight ball of dough and stayed that way…now I know that’s not supposed to happen.

Dinnertime: The dough did not look promising when I got home, it was a little bit softer than when it went in the fridge. I punched it down, divided it in two and left it to rise a bit more in the warmth of the top oven – in the lower oven I had 2 granite tiles warming up – tip from Jamie at home (who needs a pizza stone). After 30 minutes it was pliable enough to stretch it out as a base. Decided that simplicity was best and just did a simple tomato and cheese (cheddar ) and wow, after about 10 or 12 minutes we had lift off !

Not quite wood fired oven, but good enough for now
Not quite wood fired oven, but good enough for now

If I were to do this again, which I will tomorrow I think the only thing I would change is the dough… don’t know why but it didn’t quite work, I think perhaps my yeast may be on its last legs.

Anyway for Saturday night I shall buy some new yeast and let Teenager have the run of the kitchen and the fridge and see what he comes up with – but for now I am happy that I have found a good cheap alternative to frozen pizza and one that does not entail too much preparation in the kitchen…

I feel a bit like a kid who believes in magic – its been almost as much fun today as the first time I tried developing a photograph from a negative… mind you I did that in my bathroom not my kitchen !

What I don’t want for christmas…

London again today. Popped into the House of Fraser before heading home. My big boss (the grand fromage ?) had some money off vouchers for HoF which he didn’t want and I was a more than grateful recipient. I had a vague idea of perhaps getting a new handbag – I think it may be time to smarten up my act a bit and take a slightly more professional attitude towards things, be a bit less Slummy Mummy…was a little bit embarrassed yesterday when visiting a firm of solicitors when I realised I’d turned up for a meeting with all my papers just stuffed into a Sainsbury’s hemp bag !

But, as anyone who has known me for longer than 3 years will tell you, my laid back approach to my appearance pre-dates motherhood by many years. I remember one year my school mates gave me a selection of plastic bags as a Christmas present as a comment on the fact that my school files were carried around in carrier bags as I never seemed to have a proper school bag – mind you that was probably one of the most useful presents I’ve ever had, lasted me well into university years !

But to get back to House of Fraser. I was happily browsing in the homewear section when I came across an electric pizza oven. Yes, for just under £50 you can have an electric pizza stone which not only will cook your pizza base almost as crisp as a restaurant, but you can also use it for making omlettes and heating pastys…

I am doing home made pizza this weekend with the Teenager. We acquired a pizza stone the other week following a suggestion from one of the Jamie Oliver books (Jamie at home I think) which suggested that any slab of granite would do. I’m trying out a 50cm x50cm floor tile which Husband picked up from a skip a few months ago – so can I spend the £50 I’ve just saved on a new handbag/briefcase or do I have to donate it to the “pay off the credit card fund” ?

Was planning on making more Brownies tonight but tomorrow’s meeting has been changed into a site visit, which means I won’t be seeing the future owners of the Brownies until monday and I don’t think they will last the weekend if I do them now