I have been making this recipe for years – it is so simple and so tasty that you can’t really go wrong. If you’ve never tried it on your children, I urge you to – in my experience, adults and children alike love it, and what’s more, it’s good for you – mackerel is an oily fish full of VIP Omega 3. Some recipes over-complicate mackerel pate, I think all you really need is mackerel, soft cheese and lemon juice. It really is that easy.
You’ll find smoked mackerel in shrink-wrapped packs in the chiller in the supermarket; I opt for the non-peppered one as it can be a bit strong, and the children prefer it without peppercorns. Once you’ve skinned the mackerel, this can be made pretty much one-handed as you just stick everything in the food processor. Which then goes in the dishwasher. Joy. The other great thing is that it freezes beautifully, so you could make double and keep some for next time. More joy.
Mackerel pate is great served on toast for lunch or a snacky tea, but it also works brilliantly as a dip; children (and dinosaurs) love dunking carrot batons, red pepper strips, cucumber sticks, breadsticks, strips of pitta bread and Kettle chips into it, too.
200g smoked mackerel
100g light cream cheese
Juice of half a lemon
Twist of black pepper (but not if you chose the peppered smoked mackerel)
What to do
1. Remove the skin and put the mackerel fillet in a food processor with the cream cheese and the lemon juice and a twist of black pepper.
2. Blitz until combined and taste; if you feel it needs a bit more lemon juice add another squeeze.
3. Serve as suggested (dinosaur optional).
It goes without saying that there are plenty of useful gadgets on the market for the one-handed cook, but if you’re anything like me, you probably don’t want more clutter in your kitchen. (So says the woman who discovered a Lego man in the dishwasher basket earlier.) When it comes to gadgets, therefore, it pays to work out which ones are actually worth having and which ones you can relegate to the bin. With this in mind, I’ve decided to regularly share my Hero Gadgets – the ones that actually work and that are essential for making a decent family meal (IMHO).
The first of these is the chef’n ez squeeze one-handed can opener, as pictured, which I bought in Sainsburys and can be purchased online here from Divertimenti. It truly is a Hero Gadget in my view; you simply push the little button to open the thing, slot it on to the top of your tin, and then – with just one hand (yay!) – you squeeze the handles together, up and down, until your lid is practically off, at which point it sticks to the magnet and you lift off the whole thing. So simple. So pleasing. It works every time. And, to top it off, you can stick it in the dishwasher. (Surely the inventor must be a mum?!)
Last weekend we took the children to Pippins Farm in Kent for Apple Day. We picked apples, played games with apples, watched apples being pressed, drank apple juice and sampled some delicious apple cakes. They certainly know how to work a theme down there.
Inspired by something I tasted on the farm, I have created these. They are on the naughty side, I admit, but they can be made in stages, and I managed to whip them up quite quickly last night once the Gruesome Twosome (as I affectionately call them) were fast asleep. Perfect for a Halloween cake sale or autumn coffee morning. The children love them.
(My son’s little ghostie friend came to see what I was up to.)
Toffee Apple Crumble Muffins
The ingredients list may look rather long, but I promise you these are easy. First off, simply whizz up your crumble topping and set to the side, it can even be made in advance and kept in the fridge for when you need it; and any left over can be frozen for next time. The dry ingredients (bar the apples) can be weighed and mixed in advance, for example while baby sleeps, to get a head start. You’ll need a 12-hole muffin tin, lined with paper cases.
For the crumble topping
150g plain flour
75g caster sugar
Simply pulse together in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. (Don’t worry about the odd lump.)
350g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
150g caster sugar
½ tsp salt
2 eating apples, cored, peeled and cut into small dice (the only faffy bit, I promise)
50g raisins (a couple of handfuls)
100g unsalted butter, melted (use the microwave)
2 eggs, beaten
200ml plain yogurt (I use Yeo Valley natural)
1 tin Carnation caramel for cooking
- Make your crumbly topping in the food processor and set aside. Preheat oven to 170°C/150°C fan/325°F/gas 3
- Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a large mixing bowl, stir in the sugar and the salt. (At this point you could set your mixing bowl to one side to carry on later if you don’t have time to do everything now.)
- In a separate, smaller bowl, mix together the melted butter, the eggs, the plain yogurt and the milk.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together (one-handed if needs be!). Fold in the raisins and the diced apple. Do not overmix and don’t worry about lumps.
- Divide the mixture among the 12 cases, and sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon on top of each one. Next, using a teaspoon, dollop some caramel on top of each one (see photo below) and then finish off by scattering over the crumble topping. Bake for 25-30 mins (check after 25).
Dollop on the caramel as so:
Over the last few years I have become adept at doing stuff one-handed, with a baby nestled in one arm, or a toddler perched on my hip. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I’m a one-handed expert: from unfolding, setting up and pushing the pushchair, to hanging out washing (takes ages but can be done), putting on make-up, typing emails… you name it, I’ve probably done it. Jobs that would be quick and easy with two hands become just that little bit slower with just one. But, as a parent, you gradually learn to do stuff one-handed, because frankly, if you don’t, nothing would ever get done.
One area where you have to learn to cope one-handed fast is in the kitchen. I want to share some of what I’ve learnt to help other mums (and dads!) with useful tips, advice and recipes for the whole family, to help make life a bit easier and help family life run smoothly.
So, here’s my lovely logo. I am already tweeting away at http://www.twitter.com/onehandedcook – look out for my daily tip!