Brunch Bap

11.30am Sat. 

Ollie isn’t sure what he is. Everyone’s at the table and I’m cooking brunch. We want to know if he’s vegetarian or not. The chorizo incident has confused us. Daisy pontificates that Ollie might be a pescetarian. Everyone’s talking at once. Suddenly he stands on his chair. He’s had enough: “I’m not a vegetarian! I’m a Christian!” He bellows. 

Well that’s that then. At least we’re clear on something. Bringing religion into the debate seems to have shut everyone up. 

Ollie’s request for a sauce sandwich is turned done on account of him not being a veggie: he needs to have sausages in it. 

We have got into an unhealthy habit of having brunch baps every Saturday. Unhealthy but utterly delicious. While Daisy is at the Maddermarket theatre we go to the market and buy a loaf of the most amazing ciabatta (Providore, Norwich people) plus chipolatas, smoked bacon, and huge field mushrooms. 

Tom puts the works, plus a fried egg into his sandwich and the kids just have sausages in theirs. A big pot of tea is made. 

The kids need a hearty meal for the cycle ride down to the church hall. I’m helping do games at a friend’s child’s party. 

The party has all the hallmarks of a classic boys’ party: they run round getting hot and sweaty; there’s a punch up over balloons; and then we all calm down with the chocolate bar game (classic from the ’80s – chocolate bar, knife & fork, hat, scarf & gloves).

Towards the end of the party I go into the kitchen to cool off, on the pretence of washing up. I have a chat with the birthday-boy’s grandma and uncle. Suddenly Daisy comes stumbling in clutching her stomach. She’s put a balloon up her top. 

“Help me! Help me! I’m having contractions! The baby’s coming!”

I look down and wipe the work surface, pretending she didn’t come with me. The adults all laugh heartily. This only encourages her. Five minutes later she’s back claiming it’s a breach birth.

 This isn’t the first time she’s done ‘the birth routine’. She pulled it out of the bag on my birthday in June. It was a child-free party. Friends were sitting round a fire in the garden. Daisy was supposed to be in bed, but her waters had broken and she was staggering around the fire ‘worrying about staining the carpet’. I looked on in horror. Tom came to his senses before I did and wrestled her back up to bed. Call The Midwife’s got a lot to answer for. 

The light’s fading as we leave the party. The kids attach their party bag glow sticks to their bikes to guide them home. Ollie chats away to me as he peddles up St.Clements Hill. He seems completely oblivious to the fact that he’s only getting somewhere because I am pushing him. My rucksack is weighed down with a kilo glass jar of sweets which Daisy correctly guessed the number of. 

Back at the ranch, I’m starving and raid the fridge for something immediate: yesterday’s lentil soup with half an avocado. The kids have warm milk with hunks of buttered ciabatta and cheese. They are sitting in cow boy outfits. 

Tom is out tonight so it’ll be a tray of tea and chocolate in front of last week’s episode of…..Call The Midwife. Just got to get the cowboys to bed first…… X


Thai Fragrant Meatballs 

We DON’T have that Friday feeling. It’s 3.45pm and we’re still outside the corner shop (the last ones) trying to negotiate bikes and bags of sweets and scarves which get caught in the wheels. Daisy has developed a shoulder injury whilst picking her penny sweets, so I become the proverbial cart horse and am loaded up with PE bag, school rucksack and pairs of gloves (very hard to eat sweets with them on).

No one is in a good mood. Ollie is tired from madly peddling to school; Daisy has had her fill of learning and just wants to get home; and I’m dog-tired and have spent the afternoon looking at our finances. Not something to do on a Friday.

Everyone speaks in querulous tones. I’m as bad as the kids. Ollie rams his wheel in to Daisy’s leg, Daisy hits him round the head. Somehow we make it home. 

I wrestle the bikes into the garage and decide we all need a pot of tea. Daisy has put on a summer dress which always makes her feel better, and Ollie cheers up when I give him a cardboard box to make into a boat or something. 

I decide to ruin the moment by phoning Npower to tackle them about our huge energy bill. At the same time I start fiddling with lemon grass ready for tonight’s dinner. My multi-tasking knows no limits. Just as I am getting into full swing with my ‘we-shouldn’t-be-paying-this-much’ argument, Ollie crashes into the kitchen on Daisy’s rollerboots. This is definitely not allowed because: 1) Daisy will hit the roof if she sees him and 2) they scratch the new floors (yes I have become that person!)

He rams into the kitchen drawers and careers backwards into the cat’s bowl screaming all the while. It’s like watching a drunk sailor on the deck of a rocking boat. 

Fortunately Daisy arrives in the doorway just in time, and announces in her stage voice: “I am a Victorian teacher!” She has changed into a long dress and flamenco heels. Her chin is smeered with sudocrem (dry skin problem) which doesn’t quite go with the outfit. I feel like I’m in an unscripted play with dramatic entrances and numerous costume changes.

Daisy is so deep in role that she doesn’t seem to notice Ollie’s rollerboot misdemeanour and she shepherds him out. Next thing I know he is doing handwriting practice under her watchful eye and she is handing out ‘Star of the Week’ awards.

I am cursing myself for starting a recipe which takes hours to prepare, when we could’ve just had fishfingers out of the freezer. Ollie becomes so hungry that he starts eating slices of raw red pepper – something he would never have contemplated a few hours earlier.

Tom arrives home and I start frying. Suddenly everything comes together. The Thai meatballs are delicious and the kids are so ravenous that they wolf them down dipped in soy and sweet chilli sauce. It all tastes so fresh and fragrant and delicious, and when Tom announces “This is proper Friday night food!” I think maybe it was worth the effort after all. 

Now time to (secretly) watch Bake Off with Daisy and get into that Friday feeling. 

Happy weekend! X



  • Yourself
  • Any dependables
  • A mode of transport
  • Colouring in, (for dependables)
  • Felt tip pens, every colour X amount of children (to avoid fighting)
  • Wallet
  • Your local supermarket caff


Get yourself and dependables in/on mode of transport. Travel to nearest supermarket caff. Relax. Order something with chips. Stare into space whilst everything is done for you. Go home to clean kitchen just as you left it. No washing up. Feel happy.

Most Thursdays we go to Morrisons for tea after swimming lessons. After the first time, I swore we’d never go back. The stew tasted sweet; there was no soya for me cuppa; and the stained fabri-plastic seats are….rank.

And yet the next Thursday came round and I found myself here again. Since then it’s become a habit and I really look forward to it. 

I sit with an empty head and a cup of tea, occasionally helping the kids with colouring in (you should try it, it’s like therapy), or a wordsearch; and everyone is calm and gets on. Daisy starts sentences with things like: “I shouldn’t be telling you this, but…” and volunteers all the latest gold from school without me even asking. 

Best of all, I’m not racing around trying to keep on top of the endless cycle of housework; of feeding and cleaning and washing up. My mind is calm. Morrisons is like meditation in the most unlikely of places.

There are other benefits: it’s cheap. Dirt cheap. Five pounds to be precise. For that we get : 

  • a mug of Clipper tea 
  • tropicana apple juice x 2
  • salmon, chips & peas
  • Fish & chips x 2
  • Fruit pudding x 2

You couldn’t buy the ingredients for that! It’s supposed to be buy ONE adult meal, get ONE child free which would make it £8; but every week, no matter what we order, it’s £5. The young lad on the till taps furiously away on the keys then looks up smiling: “Five pounds, please.” I’ve tried chucking in a few sauces (10p each), he puts it all through: “Five pounds, please”. I’m tempted to go mad and add a trifle portion to see how far he will go. 

There are some down-sides to Morrisons though. Don’t expect haute cuisine; and the clientele can be interesting. There’s the old woman with the Silver Cross pram and the two plastic babies. She stands joggling them as her food goes cold. Then there’s the guy on the mobility scooter who talks loudly to himself (maybe where Ollie’s phobia comes from?!)

One week I’d kind of had enough so I told the kids we were going to a more up market venue for dinner: Sainsbury’s. You’d think I’d suggested eating gruel for tea. They threw themselves on the floor and sobbed about how much they loved Morrisons: the free colouring in (with wax crayons in only primary colours); and the revolving door; and the discounted buns we get from the bakery afterwards. They see none of the things I see and I like that.

So there it is. If you want to find us from 5.30pm on a Thursday, we will be in Morrisons for the foreseeable future. I suggest you sometimes do the same. 

Roasted Winter Vegetables with Harissa & Chick peas

I have vegetable overload. I open the fridge and all I can see is veg on every shelf. Not the nice easy-to-use veg, but the winter root ones that give you a heavy heart. There’s a turnip, a swede and a celeriac, not to mention the ten leeks that have been piling up every week.

Tomorrow the veg box man will be arriving with a truck-load more (ok, just a box but it feels overwhelming) and I need to get through some of this old stock first. (Yes, I should have cancelled the delivery, but that would’ve required some forward planning which I’m short of at the moment.) 

I start rifling through our back catalogue of Good Food magazines for a recipe I made last autumn when faced with a similar problem. As luck would have it, I find it! This never happens.  So tonight’s dinner is a version of Yotom Ottolenghi’s Winter Cous Cous, except I will be using rice and I will be hiding some of the swede and celeriac in there, rather than his more attractive butternut squash.  

Before you start to wonder, I will not be offering this to the kids, even I know when it’s a bridge too far. They have two friends around and are having  Italian pizza bases which I spied in Poundland. They look pretty good. 

I call the kids in from playing outside at just the right moment: Ollie is swinging a cricket bat wildly above his head and there’s an air of aggression. They wash their hands and set about creating their pizzas. Ollie spies the bowl of chorizo slices. And shouts: “Mum! I’m not a vegetarian any more!” 

So that’s it. Five days into his journey down the path of vegetarianism and he has been turned by the dirtiest of meats. I feel a bit disappointed. I respected his views and the fact that he’d lasted longer than Daisy ( 3 days), and I hoped if anything changed his mind it would be delicious organic, free-range, corn fed, outdoor-reered, locally sourced meat, but no, it was the chorizo. 

I thought he might change his mind on Monday when we had chicken noodles. I was stir-frying when I suddenly realised I was flanked on either side by a child. 

“What’s that Daiz?” Asks Ollie pointing at the chicken in the pan. Bearing in mind, Daisy has been asked to tone down the brutality of her Meat is Murder message, she replies: “Oh it’s vegetarian chicken, Ol.” I asked her to tone it down a bit not to outright lie. Ollie screws up his face. “You sure Daiz? It looks like normal chicken.” He sniffs the air. “And it smells like it.” “Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely vegetarian chicken Ol. You can eat it”. She hops down off the chair, “Come on Ol, let’s go and play Secret Club.” 

Ollie is not fooled though, and he painfully eats around each piece of chicken. 

Back to tonight. The kids wolf down their pizzas and I force them back outside before pudding. Yes, it is pitch-black but I give them a torch and tell them to go and have an adventure. In the meantime I serve the Harissa roasted vegetables on to a bed of coconut rice (Tilda Ready Rice: buy 1 get 1 free at mo), with lots of coriander and mint and avocado on the side. 

It’s delicious, but the best part is that Kerry and I get to eat in silence (apart from the occasional screams from the garden when Ollie throws a dead daddy-long-legs around). Normally it’s like feeding time at the zoo. The quiet is wonderful.  

So if you fancy a meal that offers peace and calmness AND uses up those lingering root vegetables in a delicious way, have a go at this:

You won’t regret it. X

Sunshine Smoothie

This photo sums up today: we’ve been joined at the hip. Ollie is scared of quite a few things and today his fearfulness reached new heights. It now includes people on mobility scooters, and men dressed in black. (It’s how I imagine living with Sybil Fawlty’s mother might be like: She has these morbid fears: Vans is one. Rats. Doorknobs. Birds. Heights. Open spaces. Confined spaces. It’s very difficult getting the space right for her.  Footballs. Bicycles. Cows. And she’s always on about men following her, I don’t know what she thinks they’re going to do to her. Vomit on her, Basil says.)

So we’re struggling home from the school run; one minute Ollie is plodding along on Stinger, the next he is trembling in my arms, whimpering. I look around to see what has caused the scare but there is nothing, the street is empty, a tumbleweed moment, EXCEPT for two mobility scooters that have just gone past. A man & woman innocently going about their business with an array of teddies  clipped to their baskets.

I prise Ollie’s arms from round my neck and try to get some sense out of him. As his feet touch the ground he catches sight of two men in black walking towards us.

“Aaah!” He screams. “They’re burglars! They’re thieves! They’re going to take me away!” I clap my hand round his mouth before he can say any more. 

Trying to travel home with a child attached chimp-like to your back, whilst hunched over a small bike with stabilisers bashing your heels, is excruciating. 

At home he sticks to me like glue. At one point we are both in the broom cupboard together which makes manuvouering the Hoover out very difficult. He won’t leave my side because he thinks there are ‘people in the house’ I don’t know whether to laugh or be afraid. Maybe he’s one of those children who can see the supernatural? Poor child has my highly strung genes so I’m partly to blame.

We make this smoothie to take his mind off ‘the others’ in the house, (and to use up the tin of grapefruit segments going old in the fridge.)  

I had a juicer once but I think it may have succumbed to one of Tom’s clean ups. Anything that doesn’t have a proper home is rounded up and taken to the tip. The same happened to the microwave. One minute it was there in the outhouse, the next, I went to heat up a take away and it had gone. You have to watch him like a hawk.

So this was done in a food processor. A blender would do the same. It would make a great breakfast for recluctant eaters: the juicy, tangy flavour is delicious and the oats make it more substantial.


  • one banana
  • four grapefruit segments 
  • quarter of fresh pineapple, peel off, core removed
  • juice of one & half large oranges
  • 2 tbsp (ground) oats

Put it all in a food processor or blender. Whizz for 30 seconds. Check the taste and consistency. Add more squeezed orange juice if too thick, a tsp of honey if needs sweetening. 

Mango & Coconut Rice Pudding (dairy-free)


  • 150g pudding rice
  • 400ml tin full-fat coconut milk
  • 400ml water
  • cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp coconut cream (optional)
  • 2tsp vanilla essence
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1-2tbsp golden caster sugar

To serve

  • 1 mango, cut into slithers 
  • ground cinnamon, a sprinkle
  • golden caster sugar, a sprinkle


Rinse the rice in a sieve, place in a heavy bottomed pan with the coconut milk, water & cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Take off the heat. Stir in the vanilla essence, lemon zest, sugar & coconut cream – if you want it creamier. Leave to cool for five minutes then serve in bowls with extra sugar/cinnamon/lemon zest on top, plus strips of mango. Delicious! 

First day back at school after the half term. Getting up and out was such a shock to the system that I had to lie down afterwards.  

I made up for it this afternoon though, with a trip to Halfords to buy oil for the car. I came out with oil, a new cycle helmet, an attachable drinks bottle & a bike bell. All for Ollie. This was not the plan, but Ollie can be very persuasive. He is so persuasive that I found myself, screwdriver in hand, attaching the bell & bottle to his bike. I felt triumphant after. It’s a defeatist attitude, but I normally tell him to ‘wait til your father gets home’. Since Tom cleaned the shed out yesterday though, the first hurdle of ‘where is the screwdriver/hammer/saw?’ has been removed. 

After that, I had the bit between my teeth and decided to clear up the whole garden. Unfortunately this coincided with school pick up. Daisy was delighted to get out of school until I informed her that she would be cleaning the play house for half an hour. Poor child, She just wanted to watch CBBC. 

Ollie was more than enthusiastic though. He was riding high on his cycling success: he had managed his maiden voyage to school and back on Stinger. The drinks bottle thing was a bit of a pain though, because he wanted to stop at every street corner to refresh himself. 

Back in the garden Daisy was faced with mouldy hot chocolate mugs in the playhouse dating back to last November, while Ollie was enthusiastically re-filling the bird feeder:

“Mum can I try one of these bird seeds?”

“No Ol. They’ve been in the shed for over a year.”

“Oh”. He’d already eaten half the packet.

We celebrated our clear up with hot chocolate and a fire.

Return to school shock + hard work in the garden = need for a comforting pudding. 

I love rice pudding but haven’t had it since going dairy-free seven years ago. What a treat then to make this up and it actually to work! I’ve seen American recipes which requires you to let the rice pudding chill for three hours before eating. This is not what we wanted! I wanted a pudding that I could put on at bath-time, and would be ready by the time they got out. 

It worked perfectly and I had seconds, then thirds and will probably be polishing it off for breakfast…….

Lemon and Basil Chicken

I do the ‘three ingredients’ quiz on Tom over brunch (yes it is another fry-up, we’re turning into pigs). 

“We have a chicken, a bag of watercress & an old jar of preserved lemons in the fridge, what would you make?”

He takes a swig of Earl Grey and glances over at the drinks-trolley-cum-recipe-book-shelf.

“What about Slater’s classic lemon and basil chicken with a watercress salad?” 

Until last week all our recipe books were boxed up in the garage. We moved house a year and a half ago and the shelves in the kitchen haven’t quite gone up yet, (to be fair there’s been a whole house to renovate first).

But suddenly it got too much (I blame the blog) and I really wanted to see them again, shelf or no shelf, so Ollie and I went on an expedition into the garage, and after climbing over bikes and junk and getting covered in spiders’ webs, we found two boxes at the back. This is the tip of the iceberg as far as our collection goes, but it was a good start. Ollie was as much use as a chocolate teapot in lugging them out, he was too busy with the old toys that I had hoped he’d never clap eyes on again. 

I could see the delight in Tom’s eyes later that night when he came home and saw that the drinks’ trolley had been commandeered into a library: 

Today’s recipe comes from Real Food by Nigel Slater. According to the inscription in the front, I bought it for Tom Xmas, 2002. It was like a trip down memory lane looking through the food stained pages with notes joted in Tom’s handwriting next to the recipes. 

Lemon and basil chicken was our favourite and we haven’t had it in ten years. Maybe it was because I didn’t cook it, or maybe it was the perfect mix of crispy chicken and tangy sauce and the chewy, soft roasted sweet potatoes, but it really was the meal I’ve most enjoyed so far this year. In Daisy’s words: “This is a triumph, dad!”

The only slight fly in the ointment was Ollie’s refusal to eat the chicken. He has been a vegetarian since Friday. We visited the sausage stall on the market and Daisy’s proudly told him: “Those sausages are cut up pigs and so is that bacon”. With Ollie’s sensitive disposition and his love of animals, this went down like a lead balloon and he wimpered and sobbed into my coat. He has firmly stuck to his beliefs though and not a jot of meat has passed his lips since. He uses Daisy as his loyal advisor and she relishes the role:

“Daiz is this chicken, meat?” 

“Yes Ol! It’s a chicken that has been killed for us to eat it.”

Cue much whimpering and sobbing. 

Not only do my family all live abroad, they are also pretty much all veggies: mother, sister, brother-in-law, nephews, aunt…. I am struggling to hang on to the only meat stronghold left in this family, and if Daisy carries on with her cheerful Meat is Murder campaign it looks like another one will have gone over to the other side.