First meal home

Creamy chicken and cabbage wholegrain carbonara, with mushrooms and courgettes

  

Our son’s birth was classified as ‘normal’ (probably not the one word I’d use to describe the last 58 hours but hey ho) and after a few hours rest and a few checks we were allowed to go home early the next day. After a few trips putting the unopened suitcases and other paraphernalia back into the car I picked up my son in his little car seat, took my wife’s hand and headed for the exit. It was early Monday afternoon and after the solitude of the last few hours bonding as a new family, being shunted back into a busy hospital in the full swing of a working day was a real shock to the system. Clutching my new son tightly and feeling protective already we made our way out to the car park and set off home. My obsessive practicing of repeatedly putting the car seat into the car paid off as he clicked in first time and I felt another wave of love wash over me as I lent over him to do up his seatbelt and his baby blue eyes gazed straight up into mine. 

Driving home at 3.7 miles per hour I looked in the mirror and saw the two people I loved most in this world asleep in the back. They both looked content, despite the trauma they had both gone through just a few hours ago, and I made a promise to myself to do everything I could to make sure they always stayed so content. 

We hadn’t yet told anyone that our son had been born, wanting to keep that special moment as just a three going for as long as we could. 

Arriving back home I quickly tidied away the remnants of a few days earlier, half empty bowls of soup and cups of honey tea. I was amazed at how this time already felt like a lifetime ago and whilst Anni, still on a massive adrenaline high gave our new house guest a tour of our home (which he couldn’t even be bothered to stay awake for) I made us a creamy cabbage carbonara, full of protein and healthy vegetables. Anni hadn’t eaten properly for days so we needed something hearty to get her energy back and also for her to have the strength to start breastfeeding. 

We both wolfed it down in minutes and prepared to call the world, announcing our son’s safe arrival. We looked across each other at the dining table, both of us completely overwhelmed and not knowing how to express our thoughts at what had happened over the last few days. He slept on peacefully, this was going to be easy, right?


  

Method

-Remove the hard middle from the cabbage leaves, chop into slices and par boil for around 5 minutes. Remove, run under cold water (to lock the vitamins and nutrients in) and set aside to dry.

-Use the leftover cabbage water to boil your pasta. When this is cooked, again drain and leave aside.

-Chop the onion, season with salt and heat gently. After 2 minutes add the garlic.

-Chop the chicken breast into small pieces, season and add to pan.

-Dice the courgette and finely slice the mushrooms. Add to the pan.

-After a few minutes, when the vegetables are mostly cooked through, add the stock.

-Let the pan bubble away and when roughly half of the liquid has been absorbed, add in the pasta, crumbled feta, cream and juice of one lemon.

-Again, let the mixture bubble away again for a few minutes, then add in the cabbage and cook until hot again. Serve straight after.

Ingredients

  

-One chicken breast

-6-8 large leaves from a savoy cabbage

-2 courgettes

-handful of mushrooms

-one small onion or two shallots

-2 garlic cloves

-200g wholegrain pasta

-juice of one lemon

-50grams feta

-50ml single cream

-50ml chicken stock

Give me carbs damn you, part three

Spaghetti Bolognese topped with avocado

  

Everyone has their own spaghetti Bolognese recipe and this is mine. I’ve added red wine and cream to the meat for added flavour, and coated the Bolognese in paprika for a touch of spice. The addition of avocado not only works well with the creamy Bolognese, but is a great way of adding some more vegetables to a relatively meat-heavy dish. 


 Breastfeeding mums crave carbs and like so many dishes that we ate in those first few weeks, Anni absolutely inhaled this one. The challenge was to make sure that both my wife and son were also getting enough healthy food as well as carbs, and that’s why I like this dish so much.  

  

Method

-Dice the onions, seasons and cook on a medium heat. After 2-3 minutes crush the garlic and add to the pan.

-Crumble the mince and season well. Add to the pan and turn the heat up. If you have a mince with a high fat content you may want to drain some of it off. Cook the mince until browned.

-Meanwhile dice the carrots, celery and mushrooms and add to the pan.

-Stir in the canned tomato, tomato puree, beef stock, vinegar and brown sugar. Add a bay leaf, a generous amount of chopped oregano and a teaspoon full of paprika.

-Stir thoroughly, bring to the boil then turn the heat down.

-Cook for around ten minutes then add the cream and red wine, stirring thoroughly.

-Boil some salted water and cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions. Thinly slice half an avocado and set aside.

-Drain the spaghetti, pour a spoonful of olive oil over it and toss. Remove the bay leaf from the Bolognese and discard.

Serve the spaghetti on the plate with a decent spoonful of bolognese on top. Grate fresh parmesan and arrange a few slices of avocado on top.

Ingredients

  

-200g minced beef

-200g minced pork

-one large red onion or three shallots

-3 cloves of garlic

-2 carrots

-8 chestnut mushrooms

-one celery stalk

-one can of tomatoes

-teaspoon of tomato puree

-50ml beef stock

-30ml cream

-30ml red wine

-paprika

-one teaspoon of vinegar

-one teaspoon of brown sugar

-fresh oregano and one bay leaf

-200g wholegrain spaghetti

-half an avocado

-parmesan

A healthy wrap to eat with one hand, part one

Pomegranate, avocado and halloumi wrap (v)

  

As time went by we both became used to preparing food and eating with one hand, as we held our son in the other. During those first few weeks he hated being put down, and wanted to be as close to us as possible so anything we ate had to be easy to do so with just one hand. We both ate a lot of wraps during this time, they make great one-handed meals as they already self-contain all food meaning it was less likely that a piece of avocado would land on my sons’ forehead (although this still happened quite a lot to be honest with you).

This dish plays to my passion of mixing sweet and savoury, as the juicy bites of pomegranate go fantastically well with the salty halloumi and creamy avocado. I’ve also included toasted pumpkin seeds for added texture although they are also a fantastic superfood in their own right. All in all this is a delicious and healthy dish that either of us could make and eat alone whilst holding our son. 


  

-Cut the halloumi into slices and grill for 7-10 minutes, remembering to turn halfway through cooking. Set aside

-Toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan for around 3 minutes. Set aside. 

-Slice the avocado and roughly spread it across the wrap

-Sprinkle the pomegranate arils over the avocado

-Tear up the halloumi, place it in the wrap and cover with roughly torn coriander and pumpkin seeds

Ingredients

  

-one pack of halloumi

-one avocado

-arils from half a pomegranate

-tablespoon of pumpkin seeds

-a few sprigs of coriander

-one wholegrain wrap

Food she has missed, part one

Tiramisu

  

Apart from playing an (albeit minor) role in the creation of our son, the best thing I’ve ever done for my wife was to make her an entire dish full of Tiramisu when I was home on paternity leave. Tiramisu is Anni’s power weapon, her favourite dish, and by extension thing in the world. The food that she would have to order if it was on a menu, no matter where we were or what time it was (reference 11am tiramisu serving at a Moroccan/Italian fusion café in Marrakech. It wasn’t good).

From the outside in, pregnancy seemed to be at times the gift that kept on giving. Your eyes hurt? Oh, that’ll be pregnancy. You’re exhausted but can only sleep for four hours propped up by pillows? Oh, that’s pregnancy too. You laughed too hard and wet yourself? Pregnancy again. Add to that it seems to be that the only foods that you can’t eat are the ones that you really enjoy such as sushi, runny eggs or cheesecake. Why can’t it be that the only foods you can’t eat are the ones you don’t like anyway? Give up sprouts for 9 months? Oh, go on then, if I have to, but I warn you I’m going to go wild on sprouts when this baby comes out. Sproutarama.

To sacrifice Tiramisu for 9 months due to the raw egg content almost made Anni reconsider her choice to have children, so it was genuine tears of joy she shed when said dessert was delivered to her shortly after we returned from the hospital. One of my most beautiful moments during those first crazy few weeks was watching my son feed from Anni whilst she demolished half of a tiramisu straight from the bowl. Needless to say, it’s a dish I make regularly.


  

Method

-Separate the egg whites from the yolks, and place the yolks in a large bowl

-add the mascarpone, sugar and vanilla to the bowl and mix well until everything is well combined

-In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites together until medium peaks are formed. Using a metal spoon now fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture.

-Make the coffee and add the amaretto to it.

-Arrange the sponge fingers along the bottom of a flat-bottomed bowl or dish. Spoon the coffee over the sponge fingers ensuring that each finger gets a good covering.

-Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over the sponge fingers

-Place another layer of sponge fingers on top of the mascarpone and spoon over the remaining coffee. Then spread the remaining mascarpone on top.

-Dust with cocoa powder, cover with cling film and refrigerate overnight.


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Ingredients

  

-1000ml of mascarpone

-6 tablespoons of granulated sugar

-6 eggs

-3 drops of vanilla essence

-two packs of sponge fingers

-one cup of strong coffee

-one shot of amaretto (optional)

-cocoa powder for dusting

A healthy wrap to eat with one hand, part two

Mango, halloumi and raspberry wrap (v)

  

Another very quick to make and delicious wrap that can be eaten with one hand, the halloumi works so well with the juicy mango and raspberries


  

Method

-Slice the halloumi into strips and grill for around 7-10 minutes, taking care to turn halfway through cooking

-Slice the fresh mango into stripes and place on top of the wholegrain wrap

-Slice the strawberries and scatter over the mango

-Remove the halloumi from the grill, tear into pieces and place in the middle of the wrap

-Decorate with the raspberries and chopped mint

Ingredients

  

-one pack of halloumi

-one wholegrain wrap

-one mango

-handful each of strawberries and raspberries

-a few leaves of fresh mint

He woke up the second we sat down to eat food

Roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup with a parmesan and thyme crisp and roasted pumpkin seeds

  

Like most babies, our son possessed a sixth sense that made him know the second his mummy and daddy left him in his bouncer, crept away and sat down to have a meal together for the first time in months. As the weeks passed he even perfected this ability so that now he was giving us around ten seconds of calm at the dinner table before freaking out, just long enough for both of us to think that tonight, yes tonight could be the night where we eat together. 

Not only did we therefore both need food we could eat with one hand, but also food that we could leave to stand for a while after cooking and that wouldn’t get ruined. Therefore, like in the first trimester we found ourselves eating a lot of soup. I even got so bored that I began to think of ways to make soup more exciting (ref: parmesan and thyme crisp below).

This soup uses a lot of peppers and sweet potatoes, both fantastically healthy foods we should be eating more of. Again, very easy to freeze in small portions and defrost when you need.


  

Method

-Heat the oven to 200degrees and line two baking trays with foil.

-Peel and slice the sweet potatoes into thin disks. Peel the garlic cloves and place in one of the trays along with the sweet potatoes. Mix with a little olive oil, the cumin, salt and pepper.

-Peel and slice the shallots, chop and de-seed the peppers and add to the second baking tray. -Mix in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and place in the oven.

-Roast for 20 minutes then remove from the oven, add the contents of both trays to 500ml vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

-Switch the grill on and line a baking tray. Mix the grated parmesan in with the chopped thyme and arrange into sticks on the baking tray. Grill until the parmesan has melted the remove from the oven and allow to cool.

-Heat the sunflower seeds in a dry pan.

-Blend the soup until smooth then pour into two bowls. Peel the parmesan crisps off the lined baking tray and chop into pieces. Sprinkle on top of the soup along with the sunflower seeds.

Ingredients

  

-2 red peppers

-5 sweet potatoes

-4 cloves of garlic

-2 shallots

-1 tablespoon of cumin

-500ml vegetable stock

-50grams grated parmesan

-a few sprigs of thyme

-two tablespoons of sunflower seeds

Food to cook in the time it takes to feed

Chorizo, chickpea and vegetables superfood

  

Much like everything else I did in the first few weeks and months after my sons’ birth, I cooked and washed up as if I had the countdown music playing out of huge speakers that followed me wherever I would go. Not only was preparing and eating food at speed now important but clearing up after became so too. I began to almost get emotional when I only had one pot or pan to wash up after dinner and so one pot dishes became an integral part of our eating habits early on in my son’s life. 

From a male perspective, what surprised me the most about my evenings at home after work with a new born was just how little time there was to do anything. Naively I thought that I’d get home, take the baby from Anni, we would have some dinner, laugh about our days and then she would go to bed early, I’d have some time with my son before going to bed too.

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

What I hadn’t realised was that in those evenings it seems that you have twice as much to do, in half the time. 

For the first three months of our son’s life he refused to be put down to sleep. This meant that I took him for a few hours each evening, so he could sleep on me whilst Anni got some much-needed time to herself. I’d usually get home by 7, and by 9.30 Anni had fed and gone to sleep leaving me with the baby. That gave us two and a half hours to cook dinner, eat, feed our son, do the washing up, prepare whatever Anni needed for the next day, put the washing machine on, shower and tidy up, all whilst one of us held our son. Add to that any sort of life admin and it felt like we were both sprinting around like headless chickens with no time to even talk to each other about our days. 

It was therefore essential that whatever we ate could be prepared, cooked, served and sometimes eaten quickly. This dish is a real winner as it’s quick to make, tastes delicious and can be eaten with one hand. It also meant that we not only had eaten a nutritious meal, but also freed up some more time to get stuff done. 

Holding our son on repeat whilst he slept for three months was tough going, but for me, those few hours each night where he would snuggle himself into me were the highlight of my day. It would take him a while to settle, but soon enough he’d be passed out on me, arms around my sides, head back, mouth open and softly snoring away. It felt like he was comfortable, happy and secure in our house and on me, and that was a wonderful feeling. There was also something magical about being the only one of the three of us awake at this time, as if I was watching over everyone. 

I’d heard Dads always talk about how hard it was to return to work when they missed being at home, but now I really got it. By now we were well into winter, so I only ever really saw my son in the dark, and playtime was limited because we wanted him to sleep. I began to crave weekends where I could play with him all day long, and more importantly he could get used to me being around him.


  

Method

-Dice the onions, season and fry in a little oil. Slice the chorizo and add to the pan.

-Dice the courgette and mushroom and add to the pan

-Stir in the can of tomatoes and bring to the boil and then simmer

-Stir in the chickpeas, rosemary and half of the oregano

-Add the spinach and allow to wilt, then divide the mixture into two bowls

Ingredients

  -200 grams or so of chorizo

-one can of chickpeas, drained

-two shallots

-2 cloves of garlic

-one courgette

-one large handful of kale

-one red pepper

-2 carrots

-fresh oregano

Comfort food with a glass of wine, part one

Pea, mushroom, asparagus and chicken risotto

  

After more than nine months without drinking, for Anni never had that that first glass of red wine been more richly deserved. It was early winter, the nights were drawing in, there was a chill in the air and Anni wanted nothing more than to relax into a warming glass of Malbec and eat some comfort food after a long day looking after our son. 

Like almost every meal we were eating in those early days, risotto can be made ahead and frozen, and also eaten with one hand whilst one of us either nursed or held our son. The thick red wine works perfectly with the rich and salty risotto and within minutes of finishing both mum and baby were sleeping soundly leaving me to look after the washing up. Again. 


  

Method

-Bring the stock to the boil. Finely slice the onions, season and cook in the butter on a low heat.

-Peel and slice the garlic and add to the pan. Pour in the rice and stir well so it gets covered with the butter.

-Add the stock ladleful by ladleful.

-Dice the mushrooms and chop the asparagus, add to the pan.

-Meanwhile, season the chicken breasts and cook for around 12 minutes in a separate pan. Turn once.

-Continue adding the stock to the risotto until most has been absorbed. Taste: the risotto should retain a bite.

-Add the peas and grate in a generous portion of the parmesan.

- Remove from the pan and add the spinach: stir well.

-Cut the chicken into slices. Spoon the risotto into two bowls and arrange the chicken on top. 

Ingredients

  

-2 chicken breasts

-250 grams Arborio risotto rice

-500ml chicken stock

-two shallots

-two cloves of garlic

-two handfuls of frozen peas

-6-8 asparagus spears

-one handful of spinach

-3-4 chestnut mushrooms

-parmesan cheese

-25g butter

Comfort food with a glass of wine, part two

Chicken, bacon, leek and mushroom pie

  

You don’t get a much more comforting food than a chicken pie and this is a dish which goes perfectly with a glass of red.

My mum used to make this for my brother and I when we were growing up, and we would always fight over who had more pastry than the other. In fact at times I think one of us would even get a ruler out and measure each other’s’ portions. This competitiveness is a trait my wife also has and I always have to be careful not to give her less pastry then me or the measuring tape comes out. I don’t care if she is keeping my son alive exclusively on her milk, she’s getting exactly half of the pastry and not a millimetre more. 

Another great dish to be made and frozen, all you need to do is defrost thoroughly, cover with the pastry and cook for 30 minutes before serving. 


  

-Cut the leeks in half lengthways and then finely slice. Rinse thoroughly.

-Season the leeks and heat gently in a deep, ovenproof pan until softened. (if you don’t have an ovenproof pan, don’t worry, you can transfer the mixture to a dish later).

-Finely dice the garlic and add to the pan. Chop the bacon into small chunks and stir in

-Allow the bacon to cook so the saltiness of it seasons the rest of the dish.

-Finely dice the mushrooms and add to the pan, before doing the same with the chicken.

-When the chicken is 90% cooked stir in the soup, diced thyme and rosemary and simmer for a few minutes.

-Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. This is very important otherwise the heat of the mixture will cook the underneath of the pastry too soon. You could make this the night before if you really wanted to.

-When the mixture has cooled, heat the oven to 180degrees.

-Lightly whisk the egg and use it to brush the rim of either the oven-proof pan or dish.

-Transfer the mixture to the oven-proof dish if required, and cover the top of the dish/pan with the pastry.

-Wash the top of the pastry with the whisked egg, sprinkle with salt and freshly chopped thyme and rosemary. (the salt helps the pastry to develop a hard crust).

-Heat in the oven for around 20minutes, until the pastry has puffed up, and serve immediately.

Ingredients

  

-One roll of supermarket bought puff pastry

-two chicken breasts

-four rashers of bacon

-6-8 chestnut mushrooms

-3 leeks

-2 cloves of garlic

-one can cream of mushroom soup

-fresh rosemary and thyme

-one egg

Just make something quick, he’s wee’d all over himself!

Mexican sea bass with wholegrain rice, avocado fresh mango, sweetcorn and a wholegrain tortilla

  

I treasure bath times with my son, I really do. If I leave work bang on time and speed walk to the station I can make it home just in time for a 10-minute splash about before bedtime. By now, Anni and I were in a good routine where I’d have a bath with him, then she’d take him, give him a massage and feed before putting him in his cot whilst I made us dinner. Three months in and we could finally put him down to sleep (after a bit of a fight). It was working, just and even though I didn’t get to spend that much time with him each evening, we were all eating well and getting the minimum amount of sleep we needed. 

One cold winters’ evening when he was about two months old I planned to come home from work, give him a quick bath and make a hearty dinner for Anni and I. Rushing in the door I gave my family quick kisses before running a bath, stripping off and diving in. (This way I also got to have a quick power bath to myself each day whilst Anni got him ready, oh the luxury!). I lit some candles, put the Lion King soundtrack on and eagerly awaited my son’s arrival. 

Splashing about with him I watched his little eyes widen as his body made contact with the water and listened to him gurgle as we squeezed a sponge over him. I felt all of the worries of life and work fall away, at the end of the day. This was all that mattered.

After about ten minutes his eyes began to get a bit droopy. Bath times are tiring for babies and we didn’t want to miss the boat for him getting a good night’s sleep. As Anni got herself ready to feed him in our bedroom I lifted him out of the bath, lay him on his towel on the changing mat and turned around to get his clothes, already salivating at the food I was going to cook for us later. 

A stupid mistake.

I heard loud screams and quickly turned around to see my son urinating (quite strongly) into his own face. Obviously, this was not a pleasant experience for him, so he also decided to scream and cry at the same time, whilst dousing his newly cleaned body in his own urine. Anni rushed in, with that look in her eyes that mothers get when someone else makes their baby cry, picked him up and gently hugged and cooed him.  The poor little guy needed not only another bath to clean him again but a lot of hugging and reassurance from the both of us as well. Dinner would need a rethink, so instead I just made some rice and seabass, which is so quick to cook but more importantly I also learnt a very important lesson about bath time. 

  

Method

-Boil the rice, drain and set aside

-Squeeze the juice of one lime into a pan, season the seabass and cook skin up for around 3-4 minutes. Then flip the fish over, add the butter to the pan and cook for a further 2 minutes, spooning the butter over the seabass. Set aside

-Slice the mango and avocado into strips and arrange on the wholegrain wrap

-Finely dice the coriander and add half to the cooked rice, along with the sweetcorn.

-Spoon the rice onto the tortilla and then cover with the seabass. Sprinkle the remaining coriander over the top of the fish

Ingredients

-two portions of seabass

-150g of wholegrain rice

-half a can of sweetcorn

-one mango

-one avocado

-juice of one lime

-fresh coriander

-knob of butter

-one wholegrain wrap

-one lime

Food for when the grandmas come over

Lemon roast chicken, roast potatoes, garlic and pine nut broccoli, orange and oregano cooked carrots

  

As well as being pillow-in-chief for my new born son, my role during paternity leave expanded to include head of security and it was my job to keep all visitors at bay until Anni, my son and I had all spent some time together and got to know each other. Looking back now I found my paternity leave to be such a special two weeks of my life that I wouldn’t have changed it for anything, so I’m glad we left a few noses out of place and asked friends and family to visit when our son was a few weeks and not days old. 

The exception to the above rule was made for both grandmothers who were an amazing help. Anni’s mother in particular, who lives overseas was fantastic, as she subbed in for me by coming to stay immediately after I had returned to work. One Sunday when both grandmothers were here I wanted to make a big hearty meal for them as a way of saying thank you, and this roast chicken was what I made. Like the best family meals I just put everything on big plates in the middle of the table so that we could all share. 

I’ve added a few twists here, conscious of a breastfeeding mum. The pine nuts in the broccoli are packed with vitamins, magnesium, fibre and iron whilst the added vitamin C from the orange juice increases Anni and baby’s vitamin intake.

  


Method

-Remove the chicken from the fridge and heat the oven to 220 degrees.

-Chop up the lemon, shallots and garlic into large pieces and place inside the chicken along with the rosemary.

-Make criss-cross light marks across the chicken using a sharp knife, and season well with salt and pepper and a little olive oil.

-Cook the chicken on 220 degrees for twenty minutes, and then turn the oven down to 180 degrees and cook for a further 20 minutes per 450grams (depending on how much the chicken weighs). Remember to baste the chicken in its juices every 15 minutes or so.

-Boil a pan of water, peel the potatoes before cutting them into large pieces and adding them to the water. Season well. Boil for about 10 minutes and then drain, shaking the potato-full colander which creates the fluffy style you’re looking for.

-Pour a little oil, the garlic, shallots and rosemary into a deep baking tray and then empty the potatoes into it. Mix well to ensure the potatoes get covered with a little oil, and then season again. Place the potatoes in the oven about 45 minutes before you want to remove the chicken.

-Bring another pan of water to the boil. Peel the carrots and cut into slices before adding to the water. Cut the broccoli into florets before adding to the pan and bringing to the boil.

-After the broccoli has boiled for about 2 minutes, drain the pan and run cold water over the vegetables in the colander. Allow to drip dry and set aside. Part cooking the vegetables allows you to lock most of the vitamins and nutrients inside and means you get a vibrant coloured vegetable.

-When the chicken is cooked (you can test this by inserting a knife underneath the wing and checking that the juices run clear), remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the juices from the chicken over the roast potatoes and continue to cook, now on a higher heat of 200 degrees.

-Crush the garlic for the broccoli. Line a baking tray and place the pine nuts inside. Heat for a few minutes before removing, adding a little olive oil, the broccoli and the crushed garlic. Cook for about 5-7 minutes.

-Melt the butter in a pan, pour in the orange juice and then cook the carrots in this mixture for 2-3 minutes. Chop up the fresh oregano and add to the pan. Reduce the orange juice and then remove from the heat.

-Remove the potatoes and broccoli from the oven, carve the chicken and serve immediately. 


Ingredients

  

For the chicken

-One medium-sized chicken

-One lemon

-One onion

-4 cloves of garlic

-A few sprigs of rosemary

For the potatoes

-4-5 jersey potatoes

-4-5 sweet potatoes

-4 cloves of garlic

-One onion

-A few sprigs of rosemary

For the carrots

-6 large carrots

-The juice of one orange

-A few sprigs of oregano

-15g butter

For the broccoli

-One head of broccoli

-Two to three tablespoons of pine nuts

-two cloves of garlic

Breakfast juices when you’re sneaking out the door to work

Melon and mango soup with fresh mint (v)

  

I have to admit, our son did sleep pretty well through the night when he was first born. He needed one of us to be close to him, but apart from that he would always let us get around 6 hours each a night. He would wake between 5 and 6, want to know that we were there, and then sleep again until around 7, after I had left for work. 

Each morning before I left, I’d leave a pre-breakfast snack next to the bed so that when they both woke and Anni needed to feed she wouldn’t have to worry about also making herself some food. A plate of chopped bananas and apples usually did the trick, alongside this delicious melon and mango soup with fresh mint. Stupidly easy to make and full of vitamin C, great for her and the baby.


  

Method

-Chop the melon into small chunks. Peel and do the same with the mango. Add both to a blender/food processor.

-Squeeze the juice of one orange into the mixture. 

-Keeping one or two leaves back, tear up the mint and add to the mixture. Blend to a smooth consistency.

-Pour into a bowl, top with the mint and serve.

Ingredients

  

-Half of a cantaloupe melon, seeds and skin removed

-One large mango

-Juice of one orange

-6-8 sprigs of mint

When your son has pooed through 3 layers and won’t settle

Chilli con carne topped with hummus

  

Thank God I pre-packed the freezer full of meals before Anni gave birth because there were times when they were an absolute lifesaver. Such as when your son manages to poo through three layers of clothing and is just so distraught about it that he just won’t settle. Apart from being quite impressed I felt so sorry for the little guy, who was so traumatised that he wanted nothing more than to be held by his mum for the rest of the evening.

That’s when meals like this really come into their own. I had the chilli frozen, so I just reheated it, boiled some rice and added a dollop of homemade hummus that was in the fridge. Chilli con carne is another carb-heavy meal but the kidney beans, chickpeas and beef are also a great source of protein. Once again, it’s also a fantastic dish to eat with one hand.


  

Method

-Finely dice the onion, season and cook on a medium heat in a little oil.

-Dice the garlic and add to the pan.

-Season the mince well then crumble into the pan, turning up the heat.

-Cook the mince until well browned, then dice the carrots and add to the pan.

-Add the tomatoes, a squeeze of tomato puree, the stock, a tablespoon of paprika and half a teaspoon of chilli powder. Bring to the boil and then turn down to a simmer.

-Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the brown rice as per instructions.

-Cook for around 10-15 minutes until most of the sauce has been absorbed into the mixture, then stir in the kidney beans.

-Taste and add the cream as required depending on the amount of spice.

-Drain the rice and place on a plate. Spoon a generous portion of the chilli over the rice and top with the hummus.

Ingredients

  

-400g mince

-2 carrots

-400g can of kidney beans, drained

-paprika

-chilli powder

-one can of tomatoes

-tomato puree

-50ml beef stock

-one onion

-2 cloves of garlic

-splash of cream

-50g hummus

-200g brown rice

We’ve made it to the end of the day food

Spicy king prawn, mushroom and courgette aglio e olio

  

As weeks turned into months, I went back to work and Anni began to go out more and more with some of the local mums in our area, life began to get back to normal a bit. Life was good. Our son was healthy and beginning to smile at us and Anni was exhausted but beginning to get some of her life back. However, getting to the end of each day often felt like an achievement in itself sometimes and frequently we would both just collapse into bed amazed that we were somehow keeping this little human alive. 

I wanted us to continue eating well, for Anni to still get the carbs she needed for breastfeeding but for us to also eat foods that gave us energy rather than made us lethargic. Prawns are fantastic powerhouses of protein and energy, perfect for tired parents in the weeks after birth and courgettes are also full of lots of vitamin C, so this dish really is an energy injection on a plate.


  

-Boil a pan of salted water and cook the spaghetti per packet instructions.

-Finely dice the garlic and heat gently in a pan with some olive oil. Season and add the chilli flakes.

-Cut the courgettes into small even pieces and add to the pan. Do the same with the mushrooms.

-Add a few spoonfuls of the salted pasta water to the pan and stir well.

-Drain the spaghetti when cooked and stir in to the pan.

-Add the prawns and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the prawns have turned pink all over.

-Divide into two bowls and top with fresh chives.

Ingredients

  

-200g king prawns, de-headed and peeled

-200g wholegrain spaghetti

-two courgettes

-8-10 chestnut mushrooms

-one shallot

-three garlic cloves

-a teaspoon of chilli flakes

-fresh chives

We are still we food

Creamed spinach, mushrooms, grilled chicken, baby potatoes, tomatoes, rocket pesto, minted peas

  

Another thing I did not realise before having children (apart from how many things there were that I did not realise) was how each day felt like you had to just get your head down, keep swimming and just get to the end. Anything achieved outside of your routine of eating, sleeping, changing nappies, playtime and general housework felt like an enormous achievement.

As life began to return to a sense of normality (ha!) both Anni and I craved to do things once again that made us who we were. For Anni this was having a few hours on her own to go to an exercise class and meet a friend for coffee and for me, it was taking my time over making a nice meal rather than defrosting one I’d made weeks previously. Starting to create a routine meant that Anni could now take some time to do something for her, and I could spend a bit more time in the kitchen.

There’s a lot of good stuff happening on this plate; the minted peas with lemon have such a fantastic sharp taste which works beautifully with the creamy spinach, and the pesto roast potatoes is a great way of adding some vegetables to a carb-heavy dish. A lovely weekend lunch dish to take your time over preparing and eating.


  

Method

-Cook the potatoes first: Heat the oven to 200 degrees, cover and slightly oil a baking tray. Remove the potatoes from the bag and give them a thorough rinse. Tip into the baking tray, pour over a little oil, add a roughly chopped clove of garlic, season and mix well. Roast for around 40 minutes. Five minutes before removing the potatoes, add the tomatoes to the tray and continue to roast.

-Whilst the potatoes are roasting, mix the pesto. In a hand blender, add the rocket and spinach leaves, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper and a god glug of olive oil. Whizz into a paste, adding more olive oil if the pesto runs dry. Set aside.

-Take one chicken breast and butterfly it. Season and place in a lined and lightly oiled baking tray. Roast the chicken in the oven alongside the potatoes for around 10-12 minutes, turning once. If the chicken is cooked before the potatoes, remove and wrap in foil to keep warm.

-Heat a little oil in a pan, dice the garlic, season and cook on a low heat. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the pan. Pour in the cream and lemon juice and reduce down.

-In a separate pan heat a little olive oil and then add the peas. Squeeze over the lemon juice and stir in.

-Place the spinach on top of the mushroom mixture and allow to wilt down. 

-Arrange the spinach on the bottom of the plate and cover with the chicken breast. Pour over the mushrooms and a little of the cream sauce.

-Place the peas in a bowl, garnished with a few sprigs of fresh mint.

-Remove the potatoes and tomatoes from the tray, stir in the pesto and a few rocket leaves.

Ingredients

  

For the chicken:

-One chicken breast

-two handfuls of spinach

-6-8 mushrooms

-2 cloves of garlic

-fresh cream

-juice of half a lemon

For the roast baby potatoes with rocket pesto:

-200g baby potatoes

-8 or so vine tomatoes

-two generous handfuls of rocket and spinach leaves

-two cloves of garlic

-salt and pepper

-olive oil

For the peas:

-150 grams or so of frozen peas

-3-4 sprigs of fresh mint

-juice of half a lemon

-olive oil

Food it doesn’t matter if you drop on a new born

Habas con jamon (Broad bean, pea and bacon salad)

  

There were times, I’ll admit, where some bits of food that I was eating did find their way on to my son’s head. I’m not proud of this fact, and I could blame it on the fact that we couldn’t put him down and so everything, including eating had to be done whilst holding him, but the truth of the matter is that I’m quite a messy eater anyway, and this got worse now that I was also eating and holding a small human at the same time. 

I spilt soy sauce on his brand-new hat (and by extension, head) on going to our favourite sushi restaurant for the first time since Anni got pregnant and she also dropped a piece of banana on his forehead during one very early morning feed, and the list goes on. 

I therefore thought it a good idea to think about what food we could both eat where if, god forbid a tiny piece found its way onto our sons’ head, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. So, no sizzling beef, no spaghetti carbonara, no boiling soup and definitely no fondue. (‘Oh wow, how did you get that huge scar on your head?’ ‘My parents spilt boiling Gruyere on my face when I was 6 weeks old’).

The odd lukewarm pea or broadbean? No worries there. 

This is a delicious dish stolen from Spain, easy to make and full of good carbs, folate and vitamins. The taste of the peas and beans mixed with the salty bacon or ham is wonderful. Serve with some crusty bread to mop it all up with after, just be careful with the crumbs.


  

Method

-If using whole broad beans, steam over water for 7-8 minutes before de-shelling.

-Cook the beans in a little olive oil before thickly chopping the bacon/lardons/chorizo and adding to the pan.

-Cook for a few minutes, letting the saltiness of the pork infuse the beans then add the frozen peas.

-Add the juice of one lemon, remove from the pan and place in a bowl. Top with fresh mint.

Ingredients

  

-Either one can of shelled broad beans, or 500g of broad beans

-4-5 slices of bacon or 200 grams of chorizo/lardons

-handful of peas (frozen is fine)

-fresh mint

-juice of one lemon

Food to feed the feeder

Halloumi, spinach and herbs scrambled eggs

   

Quite often I would end up making food, and then feeding that food to Anni whilst she fed our son. It was a bit of a weird feeding circle, and one where I never ended up eating, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone.

Food that was easy for me to feed to Anni was important. This is a lovely and healthy light lunch dish, one that I fed to Anni on many occasion as she fed our son.


  

Method

-Slice the halloumi into strips and grill until cooked all the way through, about 7-8 minutes. Remember to turn halfway through cooking. Set aside

-Slice up the courgette and heat on a low flame for a few minutes

-Meanwhile whisk up the eggs and dice the parsley and coriander

-Add the whisked eggs to the pan and stir well until scrambled

-Add the spinach to the pan and allow to wilt

-Tear the halloumi into pieces, add to the pan and top with the coriander and parsley

Ingredients

  

-200g (about one pack) of halloumi

-3 eggs

-one courgette

-handful of spinach

-a decent handful of coriander and parsley

Making sure you have a decent lunch

Homemade hummus, lemon-grilled chicken and chopped vegetables

  

I know that when I first went back to work the days must have felt pretty long for Anni. In those first few months our son wanted to be held close all of the time, which made it very hard for either of us to do anything that required using two hands. That meant it was quite difficult for Anni to make herself a good lunch during the week, or for me to do the same if I was looking after my son and she was having a few hours off.  

I started leaving some pre-chopped ingredients out for Anni so she could make herself a decent and nutritious lunch without having to worry about cooking whilst holding our son. Every few days I’d make a batch of hummus to keep in the fridge, and for this meal I also chopped up a load of vegetables, kept them in tupperware and also cooked a chicken breast. She could have the chicken cold or just whack it in the microwave for a few minutes, something either of us could both do with a sleeping baby in our arms


  

Method

-Season the chicken with salt and the lemon juice, grill for around 12 minutes remembering to turn halfway.

-Whizz up the chickpeas with the cumin, tahini, paprika, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. 

-Cut up the vegetables, arranging them nicely on a sharing board.

-Cut the chicken into strips and sprinkle with fresh rosemary.

Ingredients

  

For the hummus

-One can of chickpeas, drained

-two tablespoons of tahini

-juice of half a lemon

-glug of olive oil

-one teaspoon of paprika

-one teaspoon of cumin

-one chicken breast

-juice of half a lemon

-fresh rosemary sprigs

-A selection of vegetables: carrots, avocado, red pepper, cucumber and rocket leaves