During my mother’s annual visit to us in Sussex last year, I noticed her watching me intently as I prepared our special family get-together meal. I knew she was about to say something and thought it might be:
“Why, haven’t I given birth to a domestic goddess? I see you have become a culinary genius since you left home.”
“I truly admire your incredible skills as a cook. If only I too could be that talented…”
But, no, what she actually came out with was:
“By ‘eck, you don’t have fanny around.”
To be fair, I was busily blanching almonds (took ages then I forgot to put the darn things in the recipe!), but yes, I do like to ‘fanny around’ as she so delicately put it.
I find cooking very therapeutic and a good way to channel one’s creative output when other artistic alternatives are not viable. Also, it makes me feel like a better wife/mother/daughter when I cook something that’s taken some effort, even if my 5 year old does turn up his nose and request Crispy Pancakes instead.
“Crispy Pancakes?!” I cry, looking around the table, guiltily. “He must have had them at a friend’s…”
“No, mummy, you made them for me yester-”
“Shush, darling, and eat your organic petit-pois that daddy picked from the allotment during the last full moon.”
What I do not enjoy, however, is the tedious, monotonous and most banal Monday to Friday teatimes. That time of day between the school run and story time when all you want to do is sit in your pants and eat Pringles, but instead you have about an hour to squeeze in preparing and eating a weekday meal which wouldn’t earn you a place in the Jamie Oliver Book of Crap Mothers.
Forget creativity – no time for that! And if you enjoy ‘fannying around’ you can forget that too, because bish, bash, bosh is the order of the day.
Keeping the tummies of two fusspots full and happy (not me, I’ll eat anything!) makes me want to tear out my hair sometimes, but a quick, tasty and yummy weekday tea means fuss-free meal times and a reasonably happy start to the evening. This in turn makes my life easier and puts me in a good mood for when story time and tucking in is over, and it’s time to start writing!
And trust me, being in a good mood when you start writing is critical if you hope to write anything you won’t later read back wonder what they’re putting in those Crispy Pancakes these days.
Here are some ideas for quick weekday family meals to make your life easier, your writing time more enjoyable and maintain a (relatively speaking) harmonious household.
Quorn nuggets with baked beans
Saying you feed your child chicken nuggets gets you zero parent points. However, serving up Quorn tastes practically the same but with a posher name (and no animals need get hurt in the process)! Yes, it’s all in the name you see. Before long you’ll see other mothers in the playground nudging each and looking over at you admiringly, saying such things as:
“You see that woman there, rumour has it she feeds her children Quorn.”
Quorn, I tell you! It’s the way to go. Kids love it (tell ‘em it’s chicken if they look alarmed) and other parents and your mother in law won’t think you’re the lazy cow that you really are. A winner on all counts, I’d say.
Plaice goujons with veggies
Try saying this:
“On Tuesday for tea we have fish fingers, chips and mixed veg.”
Now try saying this:
“On Tuesday for tea we have plaice goujons and skin-on wedges with baby corn and broccoli florets.”
Y’see the difference? Basically it’s the same thing but you’ll rate higher on the ‘good parent’ scale for serving up something that sounds like you know what you’re doing. Ha! The perfect lazy mother cheat.
Naan bread ‘pizzettes’
OK, so I nicked this idea from Nigella, but it’s a good one! Basically, you take a naan and pop on it what you will before you bake it to create your own home-made pizza.
It sounds good, it looks very rustic, like something from the pages of Good Housekeeping, and kids love it because they can get involved in putting on the topping.
Nigella does say, however, that ‘shop bought pizzas are vile’. No, no, no, Nigella, Ginella strongly disagrees – she clearly hasn’t sampled Waitrose’s own, which are yummy and a good alternative if you really can’t be bothered.
An Indoor Picnic
What kind of mother feeds her kids an indoor picnic – a cool one, that’s what!
You are sure to be flavour of the month with this corker of an idea. If the weather’s nice of course you can have an outdoor picnic but don’t let a bit of rain stop you from enjoying some picnic fun.
I set up lots of little plates on the table with fruit, bread or crackers, slices of carrot, cucumber and pepper (if they don’t like pepper tell them it’s ‘yellow carrot’. Lying to children is acceptable where vitamins are involved), hummus and – this is the best bit – charcuterie! Ham, salami, chorizo – you name it, if it’s dressed up as an ‘indoor picnic’ they’ll eat it.
I try to encourage my son to be as adventurous with food as possible as I’m terrified of him ending up like the dull girl at school who’d only ever eat cheese sandwiches in white bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cheap date though.
Generally if I present him with something he hasn’t seen before he looks at me like I’m trying to poison him. However, utter the words ‘shall we have an indoor picnic today’ and he’d be tucking into grilled kangaroo testicles if they were served off a gingham tablecloth.
I’d just like to make it clear that I have never served my family kangaroo testicles, although if Findus started putting them in Crispy Pancakes I might give it a try.
Friday is normally ‘I’m out of ideas, let’s go out for tea’ night. If this is the case I always choose somewhere that’s got an element of the kid-friendly about it. Somewhere where they offer colouring sheets for children is good and actually pub chains, which aren’t always the most inspiring places to eat, are quite good for this. Likewise, Pizza Express is fab as they do stickers and paper hats which children love.
If going out isn’t an option then here are a few more ideas to get you through into the weekend without having a kitchen break-down:
- Cheese on toast with mango chutney – delicious!
- Pasta with just about anything mixed in is quick, hot and reasonably nutritious. Tuna and pasta is a good one, or pesto and pine nuts perhaps.
- Pancakes (as in the Shrove Tuesday type). I do a pancake two-courser special sometimes: a savoury one to start followed by a dessert one, such as with Golden Syrup, lemon and sugar or chocolate spread. Be sure to toss to add an element of entertainment into the tea-making process – you get more mum points that way!
- Fajita or Taco Kit – wam, bam, thank you mam. Done in a jiffy and scrumptious.