Every now and then when we ask the kids what they want for tea they answer with something that strikes fear into me!
Gnocchi is one of them!
They love potato gnocchi and indeed so do I, however, making gnocchi for six hungry people, it’s one of the more… shall we say… time consuming dishes!
However sometimes you just have to and for all the time it takes and mess it causes the end result is always worth it.
Of course you can always cheat and get your gnocchi ready made from the supermarket!
I have to say that I’m not keen on gnocchi when it’s boiled and served in a sauce… it just doesn’t do it for me. However we do love it when it’s gently poached and then fried in butter so it’s nicely caramelised and slightly crispy. It makes an Epic! (Kids description!) side dish when served like this.
I had bought some nice Tuna steaks that had been on special offer and as we don’t have Tuna very often I thought they deserved something a bit special. It was decided that we have them with gnocchi and some chick peas tossed in a nice lemon, butter sauce flavoured with just a touch of cumin.
When I make gnocchi I have to say I normally just wing it! I add flour, egg and a touch of baking powder to some mash potato (usually leftovers!) and hope for the best!
However here is a recipe for those that don’t want to take the risk!
6 large potatoes peeled and cut into four
1 medium egg
3 handfuls plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt and pepper
Place the potatoes in a pan and just cover with salted water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for approximately 45 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked.
Drain the potatoes well and put back in the pan, leave for a couple of minutes for the potatoes to dry out a little then mash or put through a potato ricer.
In a large bowl whisk the egg and add the seasoning and a splash of water. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl and mix together until you have a soft dough. If it’s too wet add a little more flour, if it’s too dry add a splash more water.
Divide the dough into four. Take one piece of dough and on a floured board roll into a long sausage shape. Use a blunt knife to cut the dough making little pillow shapes. place the dough pieces on a floured tray. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Once all the dough has been used up, place the tray with the cut dough on it in the fridge for ten minutes or so to firm up.
To cook the gnocchi bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Carefully drop the gnocchi in and bring back to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for a couple minutes or until the gnocchi floats on the surface of the water.
Once cooked the gnocchi can be drained and either tossed in a sauce or coated in a little oil to either serve later (just drop into boiling water to warm up or heat in a sauce) or be fried. To fry the gnocchi melt some butter in a frying pan and when sizzling drop in the gnocchi, keep turning until the gnocchi are nicely coloured and golden.
We had our gnocchi this time with a nice seared tuna steak and a simple sauce consisting of a little onion and garlic sautéed in butter with chicken stock, a splash of white wine, zest and juice of a lemon, cooked chick peas, ground cumin and finished with yet more butter!
A simple salad of chunky tomato, cucumber and onion drizzled with a little vinegar and a pinch of sugar and seasoning is all that was needed for a superb tasting, Mediterranean style dish.
Happy Happy Holidays!
We love school holidays in our house.
It’s even better when the weather is good, because after a wet winter with 4 bundles of energy bombing around in the house & climbing the walls, we were getting a wee bit fractious temperament wise.
For the first winter in a long time we couldn’t go sledging with our Kids or have snowball fights due to zero snowflakes falling. I have to say board games have been our saviour (although the 3hours of trying to teach our Kids how to play Monopoly was maybe not too good on the old blood pressure!).
So the Easter holidays. A time to kick back, relax & catch up on the little jobs around the house.
The toilet seat that broke in January has finally been fixed by ‘Ome….& then broke again on Easter Sunday due to the amount of traffic using it.
Windows have been cleaned so they’re like, erm, glass.
Courgette & borage plants have been planted out….& then promptly scoffed by slugs! Grrrrr…
The lawn has FINALLY had its first cut of the year. The grass was that long it had lost the will to be in a vertical position.
Cycle rides & walks have been enjoyed by all.
A new (well, second-hand) garden set has been purchased & painted after the last set ended up more leg-less than Oliver Reed (Bless him).
School books have been read.
A project on India is underway.
The schools’ pet snails seemed to have settled into our mad house & are being fed & watered everyday (thanks Dj for asking your teacher if we could have them over the hols!).
The ‘How Much Chocolate Can Small Children Eat In One Day’ experiment was carried out on Easter Sunday. I think CurlyE won that one. Dj was the first to fall & announce ‘I feel a bit sick….do I have to eat all this egg?’. MissT & Lil’MrM drew a very well battled second place.
It won’t be long until we’re back into the same old routine of school & homework & packed lunches & work & stress.
But then if we didn’t have that I don’t think we’d ever fully appreciate the times when our Kids are wired, bringing home P.E kits to be washed & emptying their school bags of all the crap they’ve accumulated over the school terms because
‘IT’S THE HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!’
Soup… We absolutely love it in our house. Not the tinned variety of course. It has to be ‘Ome-made! And it’s so easy to make. You take your favourite ingredients sweat them off in some butter add some stock, cook for a bit and then blitz. Not leek and potato soup though, that can’t be blitzed. That’s completely breaking the rules, that has to be… ‘lumpy’.
If you make your own stock it’s even better. Even if it’s chucking the bones from the leftover roast chicken in a pot and boiling for an hour, you will be left with a nice base for a soup. Of course if your one of those non-meat eating types you can make a stock from those manky left over carrots at the back of the fridge any veg trimmings and some onion. If you roast the veg for 20 minutes or so you’ll get more flavour and a deeper colour to your stock too.
So heres a recipe for a soup I made the other day along with a recipe for some cumin, ginger and garlic croutons. If you don’t have the croutons with this soup I suggest putting the spices used to flavour them in the soup. Although this recipe has chillies and spices in it it is no way spicy. If you prefer it spicier just up the amount of red chili in the recipe.
Sweet Potato & Red Chili Soup
1 medium onion roughly sliced
2 cloves of garlic roughly chopped
200g (a large baker) potato cubed
700g sweet potatoes (4 small or 3 medium)cubed
1 large carrot diced
1 teaspoon ground white pepper (or extra black if you haven’t)
1 teaspoon salt
1 heaped teaspoon mild curry massala (or curry powder)
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 litre of stock
2 medium sized red chillies deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
Ground black pepper and salt to taste
Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Gently fry the onion and garlic for about 10 minutes.
Add both types of potato and carrot to the pan along with the white pepper, salt, curry massala, allspice and thyme. Gently sweat all the veg off for a further 10 minutes stirring so the spices don’t stick and burn.
Add your stock which should just cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer and cook for approximately forty minutes or until all the veg is cooked through and soft. Take off the heat and carefully blitz with a hand blender, blender or food processor.
Put back on the heat and add the remaining ingredients. The soup will be ready after 20 minutes.
Cumin Ginger & Garlic Croutons
8 slices white bread
2 teaspoon crushed garlic
2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Salt and black pepper
Cut the bread into cubes and put in a shallow roasting/baking tin.
Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with the garlic, cumin and ginger. Give the croutons a good toss and then sprinkle a little more olive oil on them and toss them again.
Put in an oven preheated to 165°C on fan setting (185°C for conventional)the croutons will take 30 – 40 minutes but you need to regularly check on them and give them a shake or turn every 10 minutes or so.
Once the croutons are cooked they can be used straight away. Once the croutons are completely cool they can be put in a sealed container where they should be good for up to five days.
Happy soup making!
Come wind, rain, hail, snow or shine, Flossie, Buttercup, Donkey, Matilda, Monsey & our 2 new additions (it’s amazing what you come home with when you’ve just been for a walk in the park!) Stuffin’ & Strudel all need feeding, watering & their eggs collecting.
We discussed all this with our Kids before we decided on getting chickens & ducks. We pointed out the up-sides & down-sides of having different animals.
1. No to a dog as they need walking at least 3 times a day whatever the weather, they need lots of human company & food & vet fees are very expensive. Plus the thought of pooper-scooping with a little thin plastic bag & nowhere to wash your hands just really does not float my boat (although my mind may be changed when doggie-nappies are invented).
2. No to a rabbit because as well as feeding & watering it every day it would also have to be cleaned out most days. Plus we know people who get their kids a rabbit & after a few weeks the ‘novelty’ wears off because to be honest, a rabbit doesn’t really do much…..apart from settle down in your veg patch & eat the fruits of your labours.
3. No to a hamster/other small rodents because of the ‘novelty’ factor again & largely being nocturnal it’s not a good match for kids who go to sleep at night. Also when we’re up with the first sparrow-pump everyday I don’t want to be laid in bed listening to a hamster going for a 40k run on its wheel at 3am.
So the decision was made for chickens & ducks because:
1. They don’t need human company all the time.
2. Feed is relatively cheap.
3. They will help keep the slug & snail population down in the garden.
4. They will be interesting to watch when they’re let out of their run to roam & peck around the garden.
5. No vet fees! (If one gets poorly we’ll ‘Do the Deed’ of dispatching in a calm & relaxed manner).
6. Eggs galore!
7. When they’ve gone past their laying best we will ‘Do the Deed’ & use the chicken or duck to its full potential with no waste.
Yes! to those of you who are shocked. We would kill & eat our chickens & ducks. They will have had a fantastic life, lots of space, a wide varied diet & top quality care from our Kids. We even sat MissT down & showed her a video on YouTube of a lady dispatching of one of her chickens in a calm & humane way to give MissT an idea of what would happen & she was totally fine with it. I think she even asked ‘Could it be used in a curry?’.
So every morning the care of our chickens & ducks is carried out by our Kids. Our Kids aren’t perfect. Every now & then one of them will come out with the protest ‘Do I Have To!?!’. We tell them firmly ‘Yes you do, otherwise when we next have eggs for tea you will not get anything’. This soon gets them in gear, getting their wellies on & trotting off down the garden.
I have to admit it is easier with 4 kids. One does the food, one does the water, one releases the animals & they all check for eggs. Yup we’ve had a couple of dropped eggs but over-all it goes smoothly.
The chucks & ducks love seeing the Kids & will happily follow them around or be handled or stroked by them. In return our Kids have great respect for them & have learnt so much, such as, they love warm porridge when the weather is freezing, they’re a bit partial to left-over pasta, how to introduce new additions & ducks eat frogs (yup that was a bit traumatic)!
After over a year of keeping chucks & ducks the excitement of discovering a newly laid egg or actually seeing one laid has never lost its novelty…& I don’t think it ever will.
They all have their own personalities too. Matilda, Monsey & Strudel keep themselves to themselves & love it when it rains. Donkey & Buttercup are easy going & friendly. Stuffin’ is very loyal & will follow the kids all over & loves being fussed. Flossie….mmm…yes Flossie. She is a law unto herself. I’ve never known an animal kick up such a fuss just because a sparrow has landed on a branch near the coop. Or because one of the others is perched where she now wants to perch.
Put it this way, if chickens had PMT then Flossie would really need to stock up on the evening primrose oil!
The Kids are back at school which means we’re back to the dilemma of “what shall we give the kids for their lunches?”.
Except it’s not really that much of a dilemma. As a family that cooks a lot of food, we just cook… more!
Neither Kit nor myself have the patience to be making sandwiches for four hungry children every morning & to be honest I don’t think that eating bread every day in that quantity is a particularly good idea.
So, we are setting our Kids up in readiness for the life of a student! We find it so much easier to pack them off to school with a container of cold curry, rice and a dollop of yoghurt or a wedge of cold pizza. We’ve even sent them with leftover Beef Pie, mushy peas & gravy!
All you have to remember is that when you do cook, cook that little bit extra.
Our Children have never complained about having leftovers & always look forward to the delights that lie within their lunch-bags. The Teachers (and Caretaker who sometimes gets roped into the lunchtime supervisor role) always comment on how lovely the food our Kids take looks. At times it seems they are quite jealous & complain that they’ve only got manky sarnies for their lunch!
We recommend getting a load of plastic take-away containers in for pack-ups as they are ideal for portioning leftovers into and refrigerating or freezing until needed. We get ours from the Chinese supermarket – a pack of 250 usually sees us through a few years!
So if ever you are looking at a recipe and think crikey! That seems like a lot! Just think of the hassle it will save you of having to make up the kids lunches… or even your own!
After a week of banged heads, broken teeth, teeth going through lips, split chins, bumps and grazes I’ve decided never to take our Kids out of the house again!
Trying to get 4 children (one badly injured) with 4 scooters on a bus with only a £20 note to pay the bus fare with so that we can get home, get in the car and get to the dentist to fix Lil’MrM’s tooth was, I have to say, a bit of a trial. Why do these things always happen when ‘Ome’s not there??!!! I’m good at these kind of situations when it’s someone elses kids but I panic & crumble when it’s my own. But to give the Kids their dues, they were fantastic whilst Mummy had a total breakdown. Oh the joys of being a parent!
I then retreat into my veg patch, large glass of wine well within reach and thank the last of the garlic, the sorrel, beans and courgettes that need picking, the beetroot and swede that have survived their late start and flowering pumpkin plants for not causing me any grief, stress or tears.
I have to admit I did feel a bit tearful when I decided I’d have to chop down the borage plant. It almost signals the end of summer.
It was so easy to grow it was astonishing. From 1 plant hundreds of flowers have been picked since May and added to salads, frozen in ice cubes and ice lollies, added to drinks (Pimms for us!) and generally used as Pick-Your-Own snack for the kids. Happy memories of summer.
It’s not all sadness though because when cut down, chopped up a bit and dug into the veg patch it will serve a further purpose by enriching the soil in readiness for more plants to grow as strong as the borage was.
Come next spring I can guarantee borage will be the first on my list to be sown in time for warmer weather, water fights and ‘Ome Made Pimms on the lawn!