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COOKING FOR CHILDREN: Even the most basic of store cupboard staples can be made into enjoyable meals by time-pressed parents, reports Annabel Karmel can write in some real words and it will fill space
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The Independent Culture
One of the major tasks in every parent's routine involves preparing food at least two and sometimes three times a day. As a mother of three young children, I know how difficult it can be to find the time (and sometimes the inclination) to make a home-cooked meal. Even worse, what do you do when you have been out working all day, had no time to pop to the local supermarket and the cupboard is pretty bare?

Here are some suggestions for tasty and nutritious dishes you can conjure up out of quite ordinary ingredients that you can make sure are stored in the cupboard all the time.

CHICKEN AND POTATO PANCAKE

A delicious thick, golden and crispy pancake with a soft succulent centre. This recipe can be varied by adding other vegetables like grated courgettes or chopped and sauteed sweet peppers. I make it in a 20cm (8in) frying pan and my children enjoy cutting their own slices. It can be eaten hot or cold.

115g/4oz left-over cooked chicken or 1 chicken breast, cooked and chopped

1 baking potato, peeled and grated

1 onion peeled and grated

40g/112oz frozen peas

1 small egg, beaten

1 tablespoon flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Squeeze out some of the liquid from the grated potato and combine with the onion, frozen peas, egg and flour and season lightly with salt and pepper. Dice the chicken and add it to the vegetable mixture.

Heat half the oil in the frying pan, tilt the pan so that the oil coats the sides and press the mixture into the pan. Fry for five to six minutes or until browned. Turn the pancake on to a plate. Heat the rest of the oil in the pan, and brown the pancake on the other side. Cut into wedges and serve.

TUNA TAGLIATELLE

This tasty and nutritious pasta dish is quick and easy to make.

Makes 4 portions

250g/9oz spinach tagliatelle

1 medium onion, finely chopped

30g/loz butter

1 x 405g tin cream of tomato soup

120ml/4fl oz cold water

1 tablespoon cornflour

125g/4oz button mushrooms, washed and sliced

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

12 teaspoon dried mixed herbs

1 x 400g tin of tuna in vegetable or olive oil

For the cheese sauce:

30g/loz butter

30g/loz flour

375ml/12fl oz milk

12 teaspoon dried mustard powder

125g/4oz grated Cheddar

Cook the tagliatelle in a large saucepan of boiling water until al dente. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and saute the onion until softened. Stir the cornflour into the cold water until dissolved.

Mix the tomato soup, cornflour mixture, sliced mushrooms, parsley and herbs with the sauteed onions and cook, stirring over a gentle heat, for about five minutes until thickened. Stir the drained and flaked tuna fish into the sauce and mix with the cooked tagliatelle.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook over a gentle heat for one minute. Gradually add the milk, stirring or whisking all the time. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and simmer for two to three minutes until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in 90g (3oz) of the grated cheese and the mustard. Arrange the tuna tagliatelle in a greased 22x18cm (10x8in) ovenproof dish, pour over the cheese sauce and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Cook in an oven pre-heated to 350F/ 180C/Gas 4 for 20 minutes, then brown under a hot grill before serving.

PUFFY CHEESE TOASTIES

You can serve the tasty toasties either plain or topped with thinly sliced tomatoes.

Makes 4 portions

25g/1oz butter

1 tablespoon plain flour

150ml/14 pint milk

90g/3oz Cheddar or Edam, grated

14 teaspoon dried mustard

l teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 eggs, separated

4 slices wholemeal or multi-grain white bread

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced (optional)

Melt half the butter in a small saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Gradually stir in the milk, bring to the boil and then simmer until thickened. Remove from the heat, stir in the grated cheese, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and egg yolks. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the cheese mixture.

Toast the bread, spread with the remaining butter and top with the cheese mixture. Arrange some sliced tomatoes on top (if using) and season with a little salt and pepper. Cook under a pre-heated grill until puffy and golden.

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