WARM AND COMFORTING

COOKING FOR CHILDREN: PUDDINGS AND PIES; Annabel Karmel updates some old-fashioned favourites for happy consumption by both adults and children of the 1990s

THERE was once a time when children ate largely the same food as their parents. Nowadays pre-packaged and processed foods tend to win out, but there's no reason not to serve up one of the old-fashioned favourites from time to time. Foods that were, often quite rightly, vilified at school can be brought up to date to give as much pleasure as the most intricate or modern culinary masterpieces. Here are some suggestions for family- oriented food that's relaxing and simple to cook and has a definite flavour of nostalgia.

MULTI-LAYERED SHEPHERD'S PIE

An attractive variation on a traditional nursery favourite. This recipe makes one family-sized dish, or you can prepare several mini portions in ramekins or other small dishes as individual portions for your child.

112 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 onion, finely chopped

12 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, freshly chopped

450g/1Ib lean minced beef or lamb

400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes

1 chicken stock cube, crumbled

1 teaspoon Marmite

freshly ground black pepper

450g/1Ib carrots, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons double cream

175g/6oz mixed frozen peas and sweetcorn

750g/112Ib potatoes

30g/1oz butter

60ml/2fl oz milk

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion, red pepper and parsley in the oil until softened. Stir in the meat and cook until browned. Add the tomatoes, stock cube and Marmite and season with pepper. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile cook the carrots and the potatoes separately in lightly salted water until tender. Drain and mash the carrots together with the cream and season to taste. Drain the potatoes and mash with the butter and milk until creamy and season to taste. Cook the frozen peas and sweetcorn in a little salted water according to the packet instructions. Spoon the meat into the base of a deep, round ovenproof glass dish (18cm/7in), top with the peas and sweetcorn, cover with the mashed carrots and top with the mashed potato. Dot with a little butter and bake in an oven pre- heated to 200C/400F/Gas 6 for 30 minutes, or until the top is brown and crispy.

ANNABEL'S BREAD AND BUTTER PUDDING

This is the perfect impromptu pudding to make when the cupboard is pretty bare. Stale bread will do for this recipe. It is also delicious made with raisin bread, chola or sliced panettone cake.

Makes 5 portions

275ml/9fl oz milk

275ml/9fl oz double cream

1 vanilla pod, split

6 thin slices white bread, crusts removed

40g/114oz unsalted butter

3 large eggs

60g/2oz castor sugar

60g/2oz sultana, soaked in water and drained

8 tablespoons apricot jam

icing sugar

Place the milk and cream in a pan with the vanilla pod and bring slowly to the boil. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Butter a large ovenproof dish (approximately 26cm x 20cm/10in x 8in). Butter the slices of bread and cut diagonally into quarters. Arrange in the dish with sultanas between the slices. Whisk the eggs with the sugar. Remove the vanilla pod from the milk/cream mixture and gradually stir into the beaten eggs until well mixed. Pour over the bread and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Bake in a pre-heated oven (160C/325F/Gas 3) for 45 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool down a little. Gently heat the jam, thinning it with two to three teaspoons of water, strain and brush over the pudding. Dust with icing sugar.

APPLE AND BLACKBERRY PUDDING

Makes 5 portions

100g/4oz butter

100g/4oz castor sugar

2 eggs

100g/4oz ground almonds

5ml/1 teaspoon almond essence

450g/1lb cooking apples, peeled and sliced

225g/12lb blackberries, fresh or frozen

Cream together the butter and sugar and beat in the eggs, ground almonds and almond essence. Mix together the fruit, place in an ovenproof dish, spread over the topping and bake in a pre-heated oven (160C/325F/Gas 3) for 45 minutes.

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