Friday, 2 October 2009

a country mouse gets messy

It was another rainy day today, despite the forecast of sun, so Little R and I spent some time in the kitchen, drawing, making things and cooking. I love rainy afternoons at home. This is the little bead heart she made with ikea's version of hama beads (thanks, andamento, for that tip The heart is on top of country mouse's recent favourite items, two thick knitted pot holders, also from ikea, and fortuitously reduced to 99p.

This next photo is Little R making a shell jar. Having stripped the Morayshire beaches of shells we now feel obliged to do something useful with them. We used some of the Early Learning Centre air-drying clay to cover an empty jam jar then pushed some of the shells into the clay. Very Blue Peter. If all goes well we will varnish it tomorrow.

Tonight's tea was quite successful, and seasonal. It was a Sophie Dahl recipe from Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights (p.65) called Grilled Salmon With Baked Onions. I baked the salmon in foil at the same time as the onions were baking in an effort to simplify things and it worked fine.

I had some lovely salmon fillets ( from the farmers' market so used that, along with 10 large shallots, about 150ml light single cream and 50g grated parmesan, plus some lemon juice and butter for baking the salmon. You peel the onions then boil them whole for 20 mins (I found 10mins was enough really) then drain, put into a small ovenproof dish, pour over the cream, scatter with parmesan and bake for about half an hour. The salmon goes in about 15 mins before the end. I can see that it would have looked prettier and probably tasted better too had the salmon been grilled and crispy but convenience wins over prettiness for country mouse, and it did look a lot better than would appear from the unappetising photo of burnt yellow slop below, which I publish in a spirit of blogging integrity while resolving to learn to work my camera a bit better.
I didn't try to persuade Little R that baked onions would be delicious and instead gave her pizza and sprouts. She was very pleased to find that is it sprout season again as they are her favourite vegetable. I have a photo somewhere of her standing holding a huge stem of sprouts, almost as tall as her little self, looking like she'd like to eat them raw.
The previous night's dinner was also a success. After the fish-in-conflakes debacle I thought I'd have a go at homemade chicken nuggets and chips instead. I used the Netmums cookery book, Feeding Kids: 120 Foolproof Recipes. I have had this book for ages but have not really used it as I still feel that Little R should eat the same things we do within reason, just chopped up a bit smaller, and so I don't usually give her "kid food."

Anyway, I embarked on the recipe for chicken nuggets (p. 49) thinking it would be easy. Well, it wasn't technically hard, but boy did it make a mess and by the time I'd finished I'd used every pot in the place. Should you not mind mess and have lots of cooking equipment, then I recommend it as it was a big hit with Little R and DH.
You need 2 large chicken breasts, 2-3 slices stale or lightly toasted white or brown bread, 3 tbsps (I had used at least 8tbsp by the end) plain flour, 1 medium egg, beaten and thinned with a little milk, and a little olive oil. You first have to make the bread into breadcrumbs. This would be literally a whizz in a food processor but poor old country mouse doesn't have one so had to grate the bread by hand. What a drag that was. Then you put all the breadcrumbs into a big food bag, put all the flour into another and put the beaten egg into a bowl. Then cut the chicken into bite sized chunks and prepare for things to get very sticky as you shake the chicken pieces in the bag of flour, then dip individually (the only way it will work) into the egg then shake in the bag of breadcrumbs then place on oiled baking sheet and press more breadcrumbs on top with your egg-and-breadcrumb encrusted fingers. Pray the phone doesn't ring in the middle of this. That's them uncooked, below.

Brush with olive oil then bake for 15-20 mins at 180deg, turning half way. So far, then, I had used a sharp knife, a chopping board, a grater and a baking tray (actually a Pampered Chef pizza stone - cost so much I have to use it at every opportunity), so the washing up was under control; after my neurotic sterilising of every surface touched by raw chicken, that is. But while I was doing the chicken nuggets I was multi tasking, always a mistake, by making homemade chips as well. This involved a pot, another sharp knife, another chopping board and another baking tray, and so the pile of washing up grows.
The chips are a Lorraine Kelly recipe, from Lorraine Kelly's Junk Free Children's Eating Plan This is another book I've had for a while and plan to make more use of. It is really good for planning what to eat for the week as it suggests recipes for chicken/turkey days, fish days, bean days, vegetarian days, "you choose" days plus recipes for weekends, lunches and puddings.
Anyway, the recipe for chips is on p.141. You scrub some baking potatoes then cut into wedges and boil for ten minutes before chilling them again in cold water. You then use your fingers to toss them in a big bowl with a little olive oil (that's another bowl for the washing up right there, plus the pot for the 3 min boil) and bake for 25 mins at, she says, 220deg but I just put them in at the same time as the chicken and they were ready. Turn them a couple of times during cooking and the final result of all this palaver is shown below.
Can you imagine the state of the kitchen by the time this little lot was dished up? Adding on the 2 pots for the peas and sweetcorn, all I can say is thank goodness I've got a dishwasher, and thank goodness I don't have a full time job. There is absolutely no way anyone could cook this for their kids' dinner after a day at work. The hunt for EASY good dinners continues.
PS my dishcloth and fairy liquid fetish continues to flourish and I was able to console myself with a good bubbly session of worktop washing afterwards.


  1. Raining here too..... and big tears for Chicago today. We could have used the employment the Olympics would have brought...

    Glad u found some fun things to do.

  2. I need to try making homemade nuggets. I found a site that had an easy(clean!) recipe but cant remember! Yours look good thought but understand the mess factor!