Welcome to Mum&sons

My two eldest boys challenged me to start a cooking blog with simple recipes that we can cook together - and my youngest one has now joined in. I am hoping they pick up some cooking and photograph skills... or that at least they learn to design and run a blog.


This is a very traditional Spanish soup from the Castillian region. It does not look great, but the taste is wonderful. A quick starter for a winter day - and for no money at all.
You need:
2 cloves of garlic (chopped very thinly)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
500 ml of hot water
2 table spoons olive oil
some stale bread
1 egg
25 gr o Spanish or Parma ham cut into little cubes (this is optional)

Put the olive oil on a pan with the garlic and heat it over medium heat. If you are using the Serrano ham add the ham now and let it fry for a couple of minutes. When the garlic is about to become golden (2 minutes maximum) add the paprika. Let is fry for 10 seconds and add the water and the salt. As soon as the soup starts to boil, let it simmer for 3-5 minutes and then take it off the heat. Beat the egg and pour it slowly over the soup while stirring constantly. Then add the stale bread. We do not like the bread too soft, but if you prefer it this way you can let the soup and bread simmer for another 5 minutes.

The children can help with all of it. Mine dislike the smell of garlic on their hands. If they touch the garlic put their hands under the cold water tap and let the water run while asking them not to rub their hands. The smell should go within seconds.


This is really interesting for children to see. You just need to get double cream into a glass jar with a lid (fill it only to three quarters of the jar or so). Keep shaking it for 10 minutes: first you will see that the cream thickens and becomes like a really heavy paste; after a little bit longer the texture changes completely and you get a solid ball of butter floating in clear liquid.  Get rid of the liquid (it is bitter) and put the butter under tap water to get rid of any remaining bitterness. You can eat this immediately afterwards. The kids thought this was a 'science experiment' rather than cooking...


We got the idea for these cupcakes from an Annabel Karmel recipe (slightly adapted). These are for a school cake sale. You need:

For the cupcakes:
125 grs of butter,
125 grs of sugar
125 gr self-raising flour
2 eggs
2 table spoons milk
optional: half a teaspoon of vanilla or lemon extract

For the decoration:
one tub of royal icing
a marshmallow per cupcake
a sugary snake cut into a long strip per cupcake
silver buttons
an orange piece of candy, sugar or chocolate button per cupcake
liquorish or similar for the hats and little bits of black sugar icing for the eyes 

Mix all the cupcake ingredients in a food processor and mix well. Preheat the oven at 200 degrees. Put the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for 20 minutes. This should make 12 cupcakes.

You can do the decoration just by looking at the picture...


This is a great way to preserve tuna. You can use it in salads, omelets, empanadas or just eat it on its own with crusty bread or toast. You can use a similar technique with partridge or even with chicken breasts.

You  need
700 gr tuna (preferably in one or two thick steaks)
a bit of flour
one onion
4 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
16 black pepper corns
a couple of springs of thyme
a pinch of paprika
250 cl olive oil
100 cl white wine
100 cl red wine vinegar

Salt the tuna. Dust it with a little bit of flour and fry it in olive oil over very high heat. As soon as it is golden on both sides take it away and reserve it in a deep pan. In the same oil fry the onion (cut in small slices) the four cloves of garlic (whole), the thyme, bay leaves and pepper corns. When the garlics are golden add the paprika and then the white wine and the vinegar. Pour it all over the tuna. Bring the pan with the tuna back to the heat. Cook on very low heat for 30 minutes.

You can keep this cold in the fridge for 5-6 days. You can also put it in sterilised jars once it is completely cold - this will last for 3-4 months.

Tuna is a bit off-putting for children as it is intensely red when it is raw. I could not even get the kids to approach it - they helped filling the jars though once the tuna was cooked.


We have bought some delicious olive oil from a friend farmer in Spain and have since tried a few recipes with it. This is a very moist and light cake.
You need:
4 eggs
175 gr sugar
150 ml olive oil
145 gr plain flour
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
grated rim of one and a half lemons
3 tablespoon of pine nuts

Preheat the over at 175 degrees.
Mix the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer or by hand until the mixture looks pale. Add the olive oil while you continue mixing (it is better to add the oil in little bits as otherwise the mixture could curdle) Add the grated lemon rim. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder and sift it on the mixture. Fold it in carefully so that you do not lose the air in the cake mixture. Put it all in a greased mould (we used a rectangular one but a round one is good too) Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and let it all bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes.

Children can help with all the steps. Mine love pine nuts and they munched most of them before we could scatter them over the cake.


This could not be more simple.
You need:
- halloumi cheese (2-3 slices per person)
- pomegranate seeds (2 table spooons)
- chopped mint (1 teaspoon)
- olive oil

Heat a non-stick frying pan until it is hot (do not add any oil) Add the halloumi, wait for two minutes more or less and turn the halloumi slices around, wait for another two minutes and take it out. Scater the pomegranate seeds and mint on top and pour some (good) olive oil. That is all.

The children liked the colour of the halloumi but found it way too salty. They liked the pomegranate seeds though.



This is our second try with mushrooms - still unsuccessful. The children helped to prepare the dish but refused to eat it. They eventually tried some of the stuffing, but even that was not praised.

You need:
- one portobello per person
- salt
- olive oil
- breadcrumbs ( 2 table spoons per mushroom)
- 1 clove of garlic ( grated)
- parsley (lots)

Salt the mushrooms on both sides. Fry them for three minutes on each side in a non stick pan with a couple of table spoons of olive oil. Put them on a roasting tin. Separately, mix the breadcrumbs, olive oil, garlic andparsley ( the mixture shoudl be wet, so keep adding olive oil until you have the consistency of mud). Put a bit of teh mixture on top of each mushroom and grill it under the hotest temperature of your grill for three to four minutes. You can also add some cheese on top if you wish (either the melting sort of just parmesan)


My children like this on its own as a winter dessert, with yogurt, cream, with pork chops...

You only need apples and a little bit of water - do not add sugar.

Peal, core and chop eight apples (in big chunks). Put them in a pan with  little bit of water (4-5 table spoons) Put the pan over medium heat, wait until the water boils, then cover the pan with a lid, reduce the heat to minimum and wait for 5-8 minutes. Then turn the heat off but keep the lid on for 15 minutes more or less. If you want a thin sauce you may want to mix this in a food processor, but we like it with chunks.


We found this recipe in a Martha Stewart podcast (we did not use the accurate US cup measurement but provided you keep the proportions rights it should work)
You need:
2 cups sugar
2/3 cups corn syrup
1/4 cup water
food colouring (we used red)
a few drops of lemon or orange oil (optional)
lollipop sticks
sprinkles or candies to decorate

Put the sugar, corn syrup and water in a pan over medium heat. Stir it until the sugar is dissolved and it boils. Then stop stirring but let the mixture on the heat for 7-8 minutes (if you use a jam thermometer it should reach 150 degrees. If you do not have a jam thermomether then drop a little bit of the caramel in a glass of water - if it hardens immediately then it is ready)
Now you need to work fast: put the mixture in a measuring jug. Add the colouring and oil and  mix it all without stirring too much. Pour dollops of the mixture over a silicon sheet or a greased baking sheet (greased with sun flour oil in advance). Press the sticks  and the sprinkles or decorations in. Wait until the lollipops get hard and cool down (just a few minutes)

The children found the caramel making process most interesting, as it looked to them as a physics experiment. The caramel is super-hot so please be extremely careful (it is a good idea to have ice cubes nearby in case you spill some caramel on your skin by accident). The main problem with this recipe is that it is impossible to stop the kids from eating the lollies...which are pure sugar of course...


Eat this with hard cheese or with cream cheese on toast.
You need:
4-5 quinces
1 lemon

Cut the quinces in chuncks (we do not peal nor core them) Boil the quinces in water. When they are soft drain off  the water and puree the quince meat with a hand food mill ( see our recipe for tomato sauce). Weight the pureed quinces and put them back in the pan. Add the same weight of sugar. Bring this to boil and then let it all simmer for 10-15 minutes until the paste gets dark brown (15 minutes more or less). Take the pan off the heat and  add the juice of a lemon ( to taste). Put the paste on a rectangular pastic or tin box and let it cool down completely . It should become solid after 1 hour or so. This lasts well in the fridge ( for a couple of months).

We did this so that the children would get to know what a quince was like. One of them thought it was a pear and tried a bit of raw quince - not very pleasant!


This is a bit laborious but very delicious. The dish can be done also with cockles, scallops or dry salted cod.

You need:

For the filling:
2 big onions (in thin slices)
half a green pepper (cut thinly)
4 'piquillo' peppers cut in strips
2 cans of tuna (in oil or spring water)
2 hard-boiled eggs (chopped in slices)
4 table spoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons of vinegar

For the pastry
500 gr plain flour
1 glass dry white wine
1 glass olive oil approx
1 teaspoon paprika (sweet)
1 teaspoon salt
30 gr butter
1 egg (beaten)  

In a deep frying pan heat the olive oil. Add the onions, the green pepper and the olive oil. Let it fry over low heat for 20 minutes more or less until it is caramelised and translucent. When it is cooked, drain the excess oil and reserve it. Add the tuna (in little flakes) the eggs and the piquillo peppers. Add the salt and vinegar, fry for 2 minutes and reserve.
For the pastry: put the flour in a bowl with the salt and paprika. Mix it. Add the wine. Then take the reserved cooking oil and add it to more olive oil until you fill one glass. Add the glass of oil to the flour and wine and mix it all well with your hands until the dough does not stick to the bowl (1-2- minutes only).
Cut the butter into 10-12 small cubes. Make holes in the dough with your fingers and 'bury' the cubes of butter in them. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Line a tray with baking parchment and 'paint it' with olive oil.

Cut the dough in two. Over a floured surface extend the first half and put it onto the tray. Make holes over the whole surface with a fork. Put the tuna filling on top. extend the other half of the dough and put it onto the filling. Seal the sides with your fingers and make holes with the fork again. Paint the empanada with the beaten egg.

Cook over a preheated over at 200 degrees for 45-50 minutes (until it becomes golden).  Eat this at room temperature. 

The children helped with the pastry. They were a bit bored with the filling but they dutifully tasted it and aproved the final result. 


This is an easy Sunday lunch or supper.

You need:
- loin or joint of pork (score the skin)
- salt, pepper, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, a teaspoon of fennel seeds, half a teaspoon of oregano.
- 2 table spoons of olive oil
- water

With a pester and mortar crush the salt, pepper, coriander and fennel seeds and oregano. Rub this on the pork on all sides ( try to get this into the scored fat as well)
Put the pork on a roasting tray. Add the olive oil on top and put some water ( 1 glass) on the tray.
Roast for 15 minutes at 250 degrees ( in a preheated oven) and then lower the temperature to 150 degrees. Leave it in the oven (you do not need to do anything to it) for 2.15-2.30 hours.
Let the pork rest for 20 minutes or so outside the oven before eating it.

We added some chopped pumpkin with salt and a little bit of balsamic vinegar 45-50 minutes before taking it out of the oven. You can add also carrots, potatoes, red peppers or aubergines.

My children only agreed to touch  the raw pork and rub the spices in it after I promised they could have most of the crackling, but they seemed to enjoy it after they started doing it.


This is a straightforward winter (heavy) lunch meal.
You need:
150 gr chorizo cut in 1 cm slices (try to buy good chorizo as the cheap versions are full of fat)
250 gr potatoes in chunks
2 table spoons in olive oil
a clove of garlic (cut thinly)
1 onion (cut thinly)
1 tb spoon of sweet paprika
Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan (do not make it too hot, just a little). Add the garlic and wait for a minute or so until it is golden. Then add the onion - reduce the heat and let it fry for 10 minutes until the onion is translucent ane a little golden. Then add the chorizo and wait for 10 minutes (if you want this with less fat heat the chorizo for 30 seconds in a microwave oven first) Afterwards add the potatoes and continue frying (over medium heat) for 10 minutes. Add salt and the paprika and cover the whole lot with water. Continue heating the pan until the water boils and then reduce the heat. Let it simmer for 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft and the sauce becomes thick. Serve.
It is very easy for the kids to help with this. We practiced cutting the potatoes in chucks by chipping them rather than making straight lines - they enjoyed the noise they made.  Chorizo is always a winner with my children.


This can be served as a snack or a starter. Kids (and adults) simply love it. If you are feeling really indulgent get a baguette, put inside the fried squid and add a dollop of mayonnaise - this is the famous 'bocata de calamares' from Madrid. Seriously yummy.

You need:
- around 200 gr squid cut in rounds or sticks ( see picture). Fresh squid is obviously ideal, but frozen squid(already clean and cut)  also does the trick ( it has less flavour though)
- salt
- breadcrumbs
- olive oil
-1 lemon

Put a really generous amount of olive oil on a frying pan and heat it until it is almost smoking. Meanwhile add the salt to the squid and then dust the squid with the breadcrumbs. Put the squid in the pan, reduce the hit to medium and fry them quickly (around one minute or a minute and a half on each side - if you overcook them they will become tough and rubbery). Squeeze a bit of lemon on top and serve immediately .

Some people add garlic, parsley or chili, but this masks the squid flavour.

My children  refused touching the squid  ( I can see why). We tried dusting the squid inside a plastic bag and they thought that was a bit better - still they found the raw squid texture pretty revolting. None of this put them off from eating the whole lot once the squid were fried.


If you only try one recipe from this blog try this. It comes from my grandmother and it is delicious. It is my 9 years old son's favourite dish.

You need:
lamb steaks (one per person - this recipe is for 5 persons) It is best with leg steaks.
flour to dust the steaks
1 and a half cloves of garlic
1 table spoon of chopped parsley (preferably flat)
1 glass of white wine
1 glass of water
peas (they can be frozen)  - 100 to 150 gr
3 potatoes cut into not to small cubes (see picture)
olive oil

Salt the steaks and dust them wit the flour. Fry them on a pan on a generous amount of olive oil until they are a little golden on both sides. Put the steaks aside.
Discard half of the oil that you have used to fry the steaks.
Heat the remaining oil. While the oil is heating up, mash the garlic and parsley with a pestle and mortar and add it to the glass of whine. Add it all to the oil and wait until there are bubbles on the surface (1 minute or so). Add the water, wait until there are bubbles again. Add the steaks and let it all boil for 45 minutes over slow heat. Add the peas and let it all boil for another 5 minutes.
Separately fry the potatoes on olive oil until the are golden. Add them to the lamb and let them boil for a final 3-4 minutes.
This dish, as all stews, tastes better after a day.


This is a very traditional Spanish dish/snack. I rarely have enough patience to make them but two of my aunts are the 'queens of croquetas', so the kids have been practicing with one of them. We made them with (serrano) ham but they are delicious with chicken, prawns or boiled egg.

You need:
1 l milk (full fat or semi skimmed)
4 tb spoons olive oil and more to fry them
1 leek chopped thinly
3 table spoons of flour 
300 gr of serrano ham chopped very thinly (parma ham or equivalent is also good). You can do this in a food processor (for other kinds of croquetas substitute the ham by 300 gr of boiled or roast chicken, or 200 gr of raw prawns, or 4 boiled eggs)
2 slices of mild Cheddar cheese (or Edam, Gouda or equivalent)
a pinch of nutmeg

To coat the croquetas (this is just indicative - add more if you need it):
1 glass of flour
1 beaten egg with 1/2 glass of milk
1 glass of fine breadcrumbs

Heat the oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Add the leek, reduce the heat and cook it for 10 minutes until it becomes translucent. Stir in the flour and continue stirring it for 5 minutes until the flour is golden. Separately (in the microwave if you wish) warm the milk and pour it into the flour mixture. Cook, stirring continuously, for about 2 minutes. Take the pan off the heat. Now, this is the trick for smooth velvety croquetas: with a hand held blender bled the mixture well for 3-4- minutes.

Add the ham, salt and the nutmeg. Take the pan back to the heat and keep stirring until you have a thick bechamel sauce (this should take another 4 minutes more or less). As you take the pan off the heat add the cheese. It should melt immediately. Stir it all once more, pour the mixture over a shallow dish and let it cool for at least one hour (or overnight)

Put three dishes in a row. Pour the flour on the first one. On the next one pour the beaten egg and the milk. In the last one add the breadcrumbs.

Pick a spoonful of the mixture (it should not be sticky - if it is, then let it cool a bit longer). With your hands mould the mixture like a kernel or a cylinder. Keep doing this with the rest of the mixture. You should get 45 to 50 croquetas.

Roll the kernels/cylinders in the flour, then in the egg and milk, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Put the croquetas on a tray (they should not touch each other) in the fridge so that they get firm before frying them. The croquetas are even better if you freeze them at this point - they last for 2-3- months in the freezer.

In a small deep frying pan or in a fryer heat olive oil over strong heat. The oil should cover the croquetas. Add 5-6 croquetas (you need to fry them in badges) Reduce the heat to medium and  and fry for 2-3 minutes until they are golden. As you take them out put them over a kitchen paper lined tray to get rid of excess oil. Serve them immediately.

Kids like helping with making the kernels and with rolling the croquetas. Do not let them approach the frying pan as the oil is too hot and it will splatter if accidentally some of the mixture gets out of the coating.

I do not know any children who do not like croquetas.


You can serve this with olive oil and vinegar or with mayonnaise ( see 2 minutes mayonnaise sauce post). If you use mayonnaise then this is called 'little Russian salad' (ensaladilla) in Spanish.

You need:
3 big potatoes diced (small cubes)
3 carrot (also diced into small cubes)
3 hand fulls of frozen peas
4 cornichons (cut into tiny pieces)
8 green olives (also cut into tiny pieces)
4 tinned red peppers (cut into small pieces)
1 tin of tuna (into small flakes)
you can also add if you wish a couple of boiled eggs cut into small cubes ( we did not use them for the picture below)

Boil water in a pan.Using a steamer (we have a stained steel fan, but you can also use a Chinese steamer) steam the potatoes and carrots in salty water for 10 minutes ( you can also just boil them for 7-8 minutes  but the texture will not be as nice). Boil the peas  for 3-4 minutes. Mix the potatoes, carrots, peas and all the other ingredients. Taste it as you may need to add a bit more salt at the end. You can serve this  (with olive oil and vinegar or with mayonnaise) with a simple green salad as a main course for lunch.


This sauce is really healthy. You can have it with prawns, green salad, radishes, boiled eggs or (small) pasta.

You need:
1/2 onion
1 red pepper
1/2 green pepper
half a clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1 hard-boiled egg
olive oil (plenty)
white or red wine vinegar ( to taste)
In a food processor chop thinly the onion, peppers, garlic, parsley and the hard-boiled egg white. Dissolve the egg yoke into a little bit of olive oil. Add this to the vegetables. Topple it with more olive oil. Add the salt and vinegar and serve.

The children did it all, except for boiling the egg. They like this with prawns.


This is very simple. The kids can help to dust the sardines but do not let them approach the frying pan as the oil often splatters.
You only need:
4-5- sardines per person. Small ones are best. You can also do this with anchovies, though they are more expensive.
Olive oil
Put a generous amount of olive oil into a frying pan. Heat it until the oil is about to produce smoke. Add the salt on the sardines and dust them in flour. Put them on the olive oil, reduce the heat to medium and fry the sardines on both sides ( this only takes a couple of minutes on one side and a minute on the other one). Serve immediately.


We are in Spain for a few days, so the kids are now cooking with their granny and various aunts, all of whom cook much better than me. With so many people in the kitchen the kids are not doing much, but at least they are learning by watching while they mess around.

We will have an 'all Spanish theme' for the days to come and we thought the best way to start this is with a paella. I never cook paella, but it is one of my mother's signature dishes.

There are many ways to prepare paella and you can try various combinations that should all work well (all chicken; all vegetable, all fish, fish and meat, fish and chicken, all chicken, squid and veggies...). Two main things to avoid though: do not cover the paella with herbs (nobody does this in Spain); and never, just never, put chorizo in the paella (I cannot explain why, but it is simply not right)

You will need:
olive oil
one onion diced
half a green pepper and a red pepper diced
two gloves of garlic ( unpeeled)
1/2 tomato (preferably peeled) diced
100 gr Spanish ham diced into small cubes
a handful of frozen peas
10-15 clams
1 squid (or 6-7 frozen squid rings) chopped into small bits
1 mussel per person
1 slice of chewy fish (tuna, conger or monkfish) chopped into cubes
12 raw prawns
1/2 tsp parsley chopped thinly
500 gr rice (we normally use a handful of rice per person and one more for the pan). The rice should be round, not long. In some Spanish shops you can find Calasparra rice - this is the 'pata negra' of the rices.
1 bay leave
saffron (three to five stems)
A bill shallow pan or paella dish

Boil water ( 2 glasses) in a pan, add the clams, cover the pan with a lid and let it all boil for just a minute. Take the pan off the heat, sieve the water through a colander and reserve it. Discard any clams that have not opened up. Repeat the same process with the mussles.

Peel the prawns and boil the fish bone and the shells of the prawns for around 10-15 minutes. Sieve the water and reserve it. Discard the fish-bone and the shells.

Cover the pan in olive oil (1 cm depth more or less) and heat it (medium heat). Fry the onion, peppers, tomato and garlic (in this order) for 5 minutes. Then add the ham, the parsley and the bay leave, reduce the heat and and keep cooking it for another 5-7 minutes until the whole things becomes soft, slightly translucent and gooey. Increase the heat to medium, add the squid and then the fish and keep cooking it all for another 5 minutes. Finally add the prawns, the peas and half a lemon (whole, not diced). Keep frying it until the prawns take a coral colour and the lemon gets brownish.

Then add  the rice and the salt and move it all a little bit with a spoon. After a couple of minutes (when the rice starts getting translucent) add the water of the clams and the fish bone and shells.  Dissolve the saffron into half a glass of boiling water and add it to the pan. You should end up with 1 cm of water on top of the rice, so add more water if needed until you reach this amount. Let it all bubble and cook for 18-20 minutes. If you wish you can do this last step in the oven  (preheated at 200 degrees). As soon as you add the water to the rice you should not touch the rice anymore or you will end up with a sticky mess rather than fluffy rice.

Five to eight minutes before you take the pan off the heat add the clams  and the mussels (see picture below). 

Take the dish off the heat, cover with a clean cloth and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. The rice should be a bit 'al dente'.  Serve immediately.

Marmalade pudding

This is yet another Nigella recipe (but without glazing). You can get the  'proper recipe' in her (wonderful) website. My 7 years old son cannot get enough of this. My 9 years old son would not even try it, though he enjoys making it.
You need:
250 gr soft unsalted butter
75 gr caster sugar and 75 gr light brown sugar ( though 150 gr of any would do too)
150 gr marmalade
225 gr plain flour
4 eggs
half tsp bicarbonate soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 orange: zest and juice

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and mix them well. Pour over an oven dish or tin (previously buttered). Cook for 1 hour with a preheated over at 180 degrees (the original recipe calls for 40 minutes but it always takes us at least 20 minutes longer) until the whole mixture is set. Let it cool down and eat while it is still warm.

Mashed vegetables

This is way too simple, but my children just loved mashing the veg. They would have gone through kilos of potatoes and carrots if we had them. We also tried with potatoes and spinach and they liked not only mashing but also, surprisingly, eating them.
You need :
5 potatoes
4 carrots
25 gr butter
2 tablespoons double cream or creme fraiche
olive oil
Boil the potatoes and carrots (together) in salty water. When they are very soft, drain the water, add the butter and cream and mash the whole lot. Drizzle the olive oil on top... and done.


This is a 'last minute' cake which comes from a Nigella recipe for banana butterscotch muffins. It works for both tea (covered in icing sugar) and  breakfast. If you ice it lightly with Royal Icing or with chocolate ganache and put sprinkles on top, it becomes a birthday cake.
You need
3 ripe bananas
125 ml sun flour oil
2 eggs
250 gr plain flour
100 g2 caster sugar
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder

Mash the bananas. Mix the eggs and the oil by beating them together with a fork. Add the sugar. Separately mix the flour, bicarb and baking powder and add this mixture to the eggs, sugar and oil one. Beat lightly still with a fork. Add the bananas. Pour it all into a greased (with a bit of extra sun flour oil) round tin and bake it in a preheated over at 200 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Children like mashing the bananas and beating with the fork. The cake is not dense, so if you let the kids icing it keep an eye on them or you will end up with more icing and sprinkles than cake itself.


This is a really fast (and also very healthy) dinner. My children love fish, but even if yours are not too into it they will normally be more inclined to taste it if they have helped to prepare it. You need to be strict about them washing their hands after touching the fish or they will end up with food poisoning.
you need:
- a fillet of white fish per person. We tried tilapia, but you can try any other white fish as well.
- 1 onion cut in small cubes
- 2 lemons: one cut in thin half moons and another one whole.
- a table spoon more or less of chopped parsley ( we use flat, but curly is fine too)
- salt
- olive oil
- half a glass of white wine.

Preheat your grill at maximum temperature. Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with a bit of olive oil. Put the (salted) fish fillets on top. Sprinkle on top the cut lemon, the onion and the parsley. Add a bit of olive oil on top. The a the juice of the other lemon and the wine. Put in the over for 10 minutes (check after 7 minutes as the temperature of the grills vary  lot). The fish is ready when the flesh is white, not translucent.

My children like this with rice but it is nice with boiled or roast potatoes too.


This tastes great on toast for breakfast (as an alternative to butter and jam) and it is also so very pretty. Weirdly my sons thought this was too 'girly' - so despite they liked seeing the change in colour and texture they did not like the final colours. They have never refused pastel-coloured cupcakes in the past, so it may be that they simply do not like the taste altogether.
You need:
- 600 gr butter - room temperature
- a handful of dried apricots
- a handful of shelled pistachios and a pinch of salt .
- 150 gr blueberries boiled (together with 1 tablespoon of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar) for 4-5 minutes over very low heat until they get a syrupy consistency.

In a food processor mix 200 grs of butter with the dried apricots. Put the butter over a rectangle of cling film and wrap it as if it was a sausage or a giant sweet. Put the butter in the fridge until it is chilled. Repeat the same steps with 200gr or butter, the pistachios and the salt (this is the combination that tastes best). Finally, blend the boiled blueberries in a food processor, add the butter and mix well. Chill as before in the fridge.
This lasts for a couple of weeks in the fridge.


This takes no time at all. Very nice side dish for white fish.
You need:
- one onion cut thinly
-butternut squash in small cubes (around 250 gr for 4 people, though this is just indicative)
-rice (any rice will do, even long grain, no need to bother with expensive arborio rice). You need a small (coffee) cup per person.
- water: two (coffee) cups per person ( i.e. twice the volume of rice)
- a little bit of olive oil
- salt
- a bay leave
-optional: a nob of butter; a tablespoon of creme fraiche; parmesan cheese.

Heat the oil in a pan over moderate heat. Add the onion and butternut squash and fry it all for 7-10 minutes until the edges start getting darker. Then add the rice and fry it (without any water) for another 2-3 minutes, stirring it regularly. Now add the water ( it should produce a nice sizzling sound) the salt and the bay leaf. Stir it all a couple of times just to break the coat of the rice and simply wait for the amount of time indicated in the rice packet (most rices now need only10 minutes).  When it is ready take it off the heat, cover it with a clean cloth and wait for a couple of minutes before serving it. If you wish you can add (just before covering it) a nob of butter, or a spoon of creme fraiche or some parmesan cheese (or any combination of these three), though kids would barely notice the difference.

Rice is a nice dish for the children to cook as it almost always comes out great. They like stirring the rice but be careful with the hot water.


Very simple comfort food.  We did it with plums and apples but you can do it with any other soft fruit. It is very nice with strawberries, but then cut down the flour to 170gr, the butter to 85 gr and use only white sugar (60 gr)
You need
- 10 plums
- 2 apples
- 250 gr (plain) flour
- 100 gr butter (room temperature - cut in cubes)
- 2 tbspoons white sugar
- 85 gr soft brown sugar
Cut the plums in quarters and the apples in eight pieces. Put them on a baking dish and sprinkle the white sugar on top. Now put the brown sugar, butter and flour in a food processor and pulse it (6-7- times) until the mixture becomes like breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the fruit and bake in a preheated over at 180 degrees for 40 minutes (until the top is golden and the fruit has bubbled up).

Kids like doing this (and they actually enjoy mixing the butter, sugar and flour by hand rather than in a food processor). If you help them a bit with the chopping and the oven they can do this dish from start to finish on their own.


Perfect for a lazy cold afternoon. It is (and looks) full of calories but at least you are getting some vegetables in.
You need:
2 carrots, 1 large onion and 2 sticks of celery cut in small cubes (alternatively you can buy this at the supermarket in the prepared vegetables section - it is called  'sofrito')
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (in their natural juice)
10 sausages
a tbspoon of creme fraiche (optional)
4 slices of cheese (mild cheddar, edam, gouda, or equivalent)
Preheat the oven at 220 degrees. Put the vegetables on a baking tray, add the salt and cook them in the oven for 15 minutes.  Then add the sausages and put them back in the oven for around 25-35 minutes or until they start getting golden on one side (this really depends of how thick the sausages are). Turn around the sausages to the other side, add the tomato of top (mixed with the creme fraiche if you are using it) and put it all back in the oven for another 20-25 minutes (until the sauce gets a bit thick). Just before serving the dish, put the cheese on top of the sausages and put it all under a hot grill for a couple of minutes (until it all gets dark golden).
Serve with pasta, or beans or just on its own.
Kids can do most of this but you need to supervise them really closely and help them to get the tray in and out of the oven as it does get dangerouslyy hot. 


A very summery dessert. We made this for a family celebration (slightly adapted  from a Nigella Lawson recipe) and it disappeared in seconds.
You need
four egg whites
250 gr sugar
a pinch of salt
one tsp of cornflour
250 ml double cream
a punnet of strawberries
one tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1.5 tablespoons icing sugar

Beat the egg whites with the salt for a few minutes (with an electric mixer or by hand) until they form hard peaks. add the sugar - one spoonful at a time while you keep beating. Sprinkle the cornflour on top and fold them carefully over the egg whites. Draw a circle on a piece of baking paper and pile up the mixture on top of it. Bake it on a preheated over at 180 degrees. As soon as you put the egg whites in the oven turn it down to 150 degrees. After an hour more or less just open the door of the oven and let it cool down completely ( preferably overnight)
Invert the meringue pavlova over a plate. Whip the cream and pile it on top. marinate the strawberries for 20 minutes with a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and 1.5 tablespoons of icing sugar. Put the strawberries on top of the cream. You can also do this with many other fruits; raspberries, nectarines, blueberries, etc.

Preparing this with the kids is fun. They love piling up the cream and the fruit and they could hardly keep their hands off the meringue. They really like seeing how the eggs change in colour and texture - I failed to be able to answer all their questions as to why they go from runny liquid to hard foam and then crunchy (yet marshmallowy) meringue but I promised them I will update my physics for the next time we try this.


This looks much more complex than it is. It is done in a matter of minutes only. It is a nice dish for both adults and kids with a bit of white rice on the side. You may want to avoid the peppers  for the children as some think their flavour is too strong.
For one person you need:
- a stake of cod (around 50 grs)
- olive oil
- one clove of garlic
- 1 roasted pepper (we use tinned peppers, preferably Spanish 'piquillo' ones which are widely available in supermarkets, though Italian tinned peppers are good too)
 - 2 tbsp of tomato sauce (preferably home made - see recipe in sauces' section - tinned unflavoured tomato sauce is also good)
- 50 ml white whine
- salt
- white flour
- parsley

Slice the garlic and fry it for 1 minute in the olive oil (do not let it get too golden). Take it aside. Salt the cod steak. Dust it with the flour and fry it for 2 minutes on each side (medium heat) in the same oil where you fried the garlic. Add the tomato sauce on top and then the white whine. Add also the peppers on top and then the garlic. Sprinkle a bit of chopped parsley on top and let it simmer all over low heat for 3 minutes. That is all.

As with all fish the kids need to clean their hands really well after touching the cod. One of my sons refused to touch the cod but after we dusted the steaks with flour they became much less intimidating...   


This is simplicity itself, but beware because the crackers are addictive.

You need:
-250 gr strong white flour
- 500 ml sparkling water
- 100 ml olive oil plus a bit more to drizzle over the crackers at the end
- 1 tsp salt
- half a tsp of black pepper
- rosemary (chopped) and sea salt

Mix together the flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper until you get a pancake-like  batter. We did so with a hand held blender but you can also do it easily by hand.
Preheat the over at 200 degrees. Line a tray with grease proof paper and spread a very thin layer of the batter on top. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until it turns golder/brownish.
As you take it out of the over sprinkle on top the sea salt, rosemary and drizzle it with olive oil. Let it cool (if you can) and eat.
The children really liked preparing this and they thought we had reached restaurant standards - there you go!


This is a very typical soup from the south of Spain. It is a bit like a thick gazpacho, except that the gazpacho is done with cucumbers while in the salmorejo there is nothing but tomatoes. My children eat this as a cold soup in the summer but they also like it on top of crusty bread, preferably with a bit of ham on top.
You need:
- 1 kg tomatoes (as red and ripe as possible)
- 200 gr stale bread
- 200 ml olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- salt
- red wine vinegar

Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Put them in a bowl with the bread, the olive oil and the peeled cloves of garlic. Mix it all well with your hands squeezing a bit the tomatoes. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it marinate for at least 3 hours. Then get rid of the cloves of garlic and blend all the other ingredients in a blender. Add salt and vinegar to taste. Serve with little bits of cured ham or with chopped boiled egg or just on its own.

The kids like helping with all of this and particularly enjoy squeezing the tomatoes and the bread. It is indeed a very satisfactory feeling.


We have had a bit of a break due to the school holiday but we are now back on track.
French toast is a favourite of my 6 years old son for breakfast. You need:
4 or 5 slices of stale bread
200 ml milk
1 egg
half a teaspoon of vanilla essence
Beat the egg, milk and vanilla essence. Soak the bread slices in this mixture (do not let them soak for too long). Put a bit of butter on a pan over medium heat. When the butter is melted fry the soaked slices until they are golden (turning them so that they get golden on both sides). When you take them out sprinkle some sugar on top and serve. You can serve them with all sorts of fruit, but berries work particularly well here.


All you need is:
a hand held blender and a tall beaker.
1 egg
200 ml sunflower oil (you can do it with olive oil but then it may taste a bit bitter)
1 tbspoon vinegar
a pinch of salt

Put the egg in the tall beaker. Add the oil. Cover the egg with the blender without moving the blender for 30 seconds. It really is important that you do not move the blender at all. You will see how a think ribbony mayonnaise starts appearing at the bottom of the beaker. Start moving the blender up really-really slowly. If you do it slowly enough the mayonnaise will never curd. When the blender is at the top of the beaker you can then move it up and down with no worries. Add the salt and vinegar and blend again (you can now do this fast) and job done.
You can add anything to mayonnaise: mustard, garlic, tomato ketchup, tabasco and orange juice for cocktail sauce, capers and cornichons for tartare sauce...
The kids can add the ingredients to the beaker but do not let them handle the blender or you will end up with lots of curd sauce...


This is a Spanish classic dish that comes from an Italian classic one. In fact when Spanish people say they will 'cook pasta' this is what they normally refer to. My grandma went as far as boiling the pasta in the tomato sauce itself - I thought my Italian friends would be horrified to hear this, but I have found out that in the old times this is how pasta was prepared in some parts of Italy.  Children love this dish, no mater the age.
You need:
 - dried pasta (preferably penne) (a handful and a half per person)
- plenty of water
- tomato sauce ( preferably home made - see recipe in sauces' section)
- grated cheese
- chorizo cut in cubes (around 30 gr per person)

Boil the pasta in the water (with salt) following the packet instructions and drain the water out of it. Mix it with the tomato sauce. Separately fry lightly the chorizo (without oil) for 2-3- minutes or alternatively put it in the highest setting of your microwave oven for 45 seconds. Discard the (considerable amount of) fat that oozes from the chorizo and mix it with the pasta. Add grated cheese on top.


Delicious for breakfast or tea. The lemon curd bubbles a bit out of the muffins and gives them a nice twist.
You need:
- 75 gr butter
- 250 gr self raising flour
- 60 gr sugar
- 25 gr ground almonds (if you do not have this at hand  replace it with 30 more gr of self raising flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 egg
- juice and grated zest  of a lemon
- 100 ml milk
- lemon curd

Mix the flour, ground almonds, bicarb, baking soda, lemon zest and sugar. Separately mix: the butter melted, the lemon juice, beatten egg and milk. Mix both mixtures and strt them lightly (ideally just with a fork). Spoon the mixture on muffin paper cases (you will get 11-12 out of these quantities) filling them to 1/3 of the case. Add a teaspoon of good ( shop bought) lemon curd on each of them. Then spoon the remainign mixture over the curd so that you (almost) fill the cases. Bake in a preheated 200 degrees oven for 15-20 minutes.
Like with any baking the kids love helping with these... and eating them afterwards.


Not very healthy, I know - but I had to redeem myself after the mushrooms fiasco...
This recipe comes from Usborne's Beginners Cookbook. One of my kids received this as a present once from one of my friends. The biscuits look and taste messy and homemade. And there is something really satisfactory about the jam bubbling  all over the biscuits while they are in the oven.

You need:
225gr self raising flour
100 butter
100 sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
Jam (peach, plum or strawberry)

Preheat the over at 200 degrees. Mix the flour and cold butter (cut into small cubes) and rub them with your fingers until they become like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar. Then add the beaten egg with the milk and stir until it becomes a ball of dough.  Make small balls with your hand (you will get 16 more or less) and put them over a floured baking sheet pressing them down so that they become like little burgers. Make an indentation with your fingers in ehe middle of each biscuit and put a little bit of jam on top. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. You need to let them rest on a wire rack for 5 minutes after your take them out of the oven so that they get hard and the jam sets.

The kids do most of this on their own but unless you supervise how they put the jam on the biscuits they will make a huge mess, so beware!


Encouraged by the kids's determination so far to eat all they had cooked, I had a go at mushrooms. It was a failure all over: they hardly touched the mushrooms when they were raw; they thought they became even worse once they were hot and developed a darker colour; one of my sons tried just one tiny piece; the other said he wanted to vomit just by looking at them... I definitely need to do something sugary next...

Regardless  of my kids' taste these are really nice either on a piece of toast, or with a french omelet.

you need:
- 250 gr mushrooms  (sliced but not too thinly)
- 1 clove of garlic (crushed)
- 1 teaspoon of finelly chopped parsley
- 50 gr bacon ( cut in little cubes)
- 1 tbsp red vinegar
- olive oil (2 tbsp)
- salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil (medium heat). When the oil is hot, add the bacon, reduce the heat and wait until the bacon is golden ( 3-4 minutes). Increase the heat and immediately add the mushrooms, the crussed garlic, parsley and red vinegar. Wait for 5-7 minutes until the mushrooms are darker but develop a nice gloss,  add the salt and pepper (if you add the salt any earlier they will get too watery) and serve. You may want to add a little bit more olive oil on top (just a few drops) to make them even glossier.


Kids love these and it is fun for them to make them. They take no time at all and look great too. They have tonnes of sugar though, so do not let the kids make them too often.
You need:
23 gr flavoured jelly (we used raspberry)
 25 gr neutral jelly
150 ml fruit juice (we used apple juice)
75 gr sugar
Put all the ingredients in a small pan and heat the mixture for 10 minutes, removing it from time to time with a spoon. Do not let it boil. While the mixture is getting hot, oil well silicon moulds with sunflower oil (we used moulds to make ice cubes). You really need to oil the moulds well or the gums will not come out smooth. Pour the mixture over the oiled moulds, wait for 3-4 hours ( no need to put this in the fridge) and unmould. You can roll the gums in caster sugar but they are very nice on their own too.


There should be no kitchen (or freezer) without this. We have been discussing how many dishes we could prepare with this sauce and have counted no less than 15 from pasta with tomato and chorizo to cod with tomato and peppers, meatballs, lasagna or peas with tomato. You can prepare 3 or 4 kilos of tomatoes at the same time and freeze most of the sauce. It lasts a couple of months in the freezer and around a week and a half in the fridge.

You need
2 kg of tomatoes (either fresh or canned - in winter it is better with canned tomatoes anyway)
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
3 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
olive oil
you also need a hand food mill (this is very useful also for vegetable pures, mash potatoes and baby food). You can buy them for £18 at John Lewis or for £13.27 in Amazon.

Coat generously the base of a large pan. While the oil is heating cut all the vegetables into large chunks. Once the oil is hot add all the other ingredients. Let it fry for 10 to 15 minutes and then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and let it bubble for 1 to 1.15 hours. If you are using a pressure cooker you only need 25 minutes. Blend all the mixture with the hand food mill. Taste it and adjust the seasoning. If you let it bubble for the indicated time the sauce should not be acidic. However, if you think it is not sweet enough you may add a teaspoon of sugar (or even better, add a carrot next time you prepare it)

The children love getting the sauce through the mill - but beware of this because your kitchen may end up looking like a battlefield!


This is a really simple salad to make and a good way for kids to start getting used to dressing as the bread will cut the acidity of the vinegar. You need:
2 tomatoes (cut in cubes)
1 cucumber (cut in cubes)
1 pitta bread (put it in a toaster so that it becomes crunchy and then tear it into small bits)
2 table spoons of olive oil,
1 table spoon of vinegar
All you need to do is to m ix all the ingredients and serve.
For some weird reason my children only eat salad if they prepare it so I always ask them to mix the ingredients and add the dressing. They can almost do this on their own... but remind them to wash the vegetables first!


You can eat this sauce with pretty much anything: all types of pasta, rice, grilled chicken, roast fish, as a dip with raw vegetables... or simply over a piece of crusty bread.
You need:
50 gr basil ( if you want to make it cheaper use 50 gr basil and 25 gr spinach instead)
a handful of grated cheese (ideally parmesan, but for a cheaper version use strong cheddar)
a handful of pine nuts
half a clove of garlic
olive oil ( 1 glass and a bit more to cover the sauce after it is ready)
Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend them well. That is all.
You can store this for a week and a half in the fridge covering the top of the sauce with some olive oil (around 1 cm) to prevent discolouring.
The children can do this on their own except that you need to supervise them while they use the blender.


This is an everyday soup that you can prepare with any vegetable leftovers. All in all it takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get this done.
We did the one below with what we happened to have in the kitchen, namely:
3 carrots
1 onion
1 leak
1 clove of garlic
half a yellow pepper
three leaves of swiss chard (both the green and the white bits)
2 table spoons of olive oil
750 ml of water (no need to bother with stock - it will be less flavoursome but more healthy)
salt and pepper
1 bay leave
you can add a couple of potatoes, or a courgette, or green beans, a bit of parsley... you name it.
Heat the oil on a (deep) pan over medium to high heat. Add all the vegetables cut into cubes (not too small). Add also the bay leave and the salt. When it starts getting golden add the water (we added it cold but if you are in a hurry just add hot water from the kettle) When you see the first bubbles reduce the heat to low, wait for 10 minutes and then take the bay leave out and blend the soup either with a hand blender (easier) or in a normal blender. Add more salt if needed and some pepper. You can serve this soup with a bit of cream, or with croutons, or with some boiled egg cut into small cubes on top.

The kids can and did help with all of this but they need supervision as the water gets very hot. They like experimenting with vegetable combinations that would work well. Carrots, onions, courgettes and leeks are our current winner.


These are fun for the kids to make and they cheer up any rainy weekend afternoon. We tried various recipes but the best (by far) was the recipe from James Martin below (slightly adapted). You need:
75 gr butter (room temperature)
225 gr self raising flour
50 g sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp milk
a pinch of salt
Pre-heat the over to 220 degrees. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers until the whole thing looks like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar . Beat the egg, milk and yogurt together and add it to the mixture. Mix it all with a knife and then at the end with your hands. Roll the dough into a 3 cm circle and start cutting out the scones with your cutter. The scones should look tall and thick. Put them on a greased baking tray (we used a silicon tray from Lakeland instead) and brush a bit of yogurt on top. Sprinkle a tiny bit of flour over the scones and bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve with cream and strawberry jam.
The kids did most of this but they particularly enjoyed cutting the scones with their mini-cutters.


One of my sons has been studying the World Wars at school and as a result we have been looking into food they ate at that time. We found in a book (Baking Magic) a recipe for Anzac biscuits which were apparently  cooked for the soldiers in Australia and New Zealand during the First World War. They are a sort of a cross between a biscuit and a flapjack. The kids thought they were yummy - so not sure I managed to convey to them the feeling of 'post-War tough times' as I wanted to but at least we tried...
You need:
100 gr oats
150 gr plain flour
100 gr soft light brown sugar
115 gr butter
50 gr dessicated coconut
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp hot water
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees. Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Heat the butter and golden syrup until the butter is melted. Separately, mix the hot water and bicarb and add it to the butter - this produces lots of foam. Put this foamy butter over the flour mixture and mix it all well. Make little balls of the mixture with your hands and put them over a baking tray (lined with baking paper) ensuring there is some space between them. Bake for 10 minutes. Let them rest on a wire rack for a few minutes after you take them out of the oven. Enjoy.