It’s a family affair

Jane Kennedy.
Jane Kennedy.

My name is Jane Kennedy. I cook for seven people. Every night.

I have five kids and one husband, and even though I love cooking for my family, to be honest, sometimes I find it absolutely painful.

Photo of LASAGNE CARBONARA, featured in One Dish, Two Ways by Jane Kennedy, published by Hardie Grant Books, Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Hardie Grant Books. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Two Ways.

Photo of LASAGNE CARBONARA, featured in One Dish, Two Ways by Jane Kennedy, published by Hardie Grant Books, Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Hardie Grant Books. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Two Ways.

And I know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s stressful. It’s not so much the cooking bit... it’s the coming-up-with-ideas bit that does mine and, as I’ve discovered, other people’s heads in.

It doesn’t matter how many kids you have; one, four, ten... I’m bailed up all the time in the supermarket by weary, anxious mums and dads asking me the same question: ‘What’s the one meal I can cook for kids and for grown-ups?’

It’s easy cooking for adults. We love spices and chilli and herbs and zest, and can dress up a boring piece of chicken or fish or steak in a flash. But kids don’t like spices and chilli and herbs and zest. At least, most kids don’t. Not all mine do.

Green bits. Orange bits. Hot bits. Weird bits. These all get a big thumbs down in my house. And even though you may think they’re being ridiculous or dramatic when they say ground black pepper is ‘hot’, it’s ‘hot’ to them. So there’s no point wrecking an otherwise delicious meal kids would have eaten with a careless twist of your pepper grinder.

Undated Handout Photo of ZUCCHINI & CARROT FRITTERS, featured in One Dish, Two Ways by Jane Kennedy, published by Hardie Grant Books. See PA Feature FOOD Two Ways. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Hardie Grant Books. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Two Ways.

Undated Handout Photo of ZUCCHINI & CARROT FRITTERS, featured in One Dish, Two Ways by Jane Kennedy, published by Hardie Grant Books. See PA Feature FOOD Two Ways. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Hardie Grant Books. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Two Ways.

So how do you feed everyone and keep the meal-peace?

When the kids were very small, I used to cook two shifts of food. However, the banality of a 5.30pm mealtime-slot finally led me to cook one dish for them, and one dish for us. We could then enjoy (and look forward to) a peaceful, tasty, meal with a glass of wine at a decent dinner hour. Ah... good times.

But pretty soon, I realised I needed to shake that frying pan only once a night to keep my sanity. And I accepted the fact my entire family should probably eat at the same time, preferably in the same postcode, possibly at the same table.

There was, however, one thing I knew for sure. There was no way I was going to start eating ‘plain’ food just to keep the kids happy. I refused to ‘dumb down’ my taste buds.

Undated Handout Photo of APICOTTY LAMB TAGINE, featured in One Dish, Two Ways by Jane Kennedy, published by Hardie Grant Books. See PA Feature FOOD Two Ways. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Hardie Grant Books. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Two Ways.

Undated Handout Photo of APICOTTY LAMB TAGINE, featured in One Dish, Two Ways by Jane Kennedy, published by Hardie Grant Books. See PA Feature FOOD Two Ways. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Hardie Grant Books. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature FOOD Two Ways.

So I gave myself a challenge. What if I used the same base as a meal for everyone and simply jazzed it up or down? Serve the base of the meal to the kids - unadulterated - if you like, but add spices and flavours and herbs to the adult version. One dish; two ways?

My book (which, funnily enough, is called One Dish, Two Ways) is the result, and here are three recipes to please the whole clan...

LASAGNE CARBONARA (serves 4)

6 prosciutto slices or very thinly sliced bacon rashers

40g butter

Salt

1tbsp white vinegar

6 eggs

4 fresh lasagne sheets (10cm long)

Grated Parmesan, to serve

Ingredients for adults:

Splash of white wine

Squeeze of lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chilli flakes, to serve

Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

In a non-stick frying pan, cook the prosciutto or bacon over a medium heat until crispy. Remove from the pan and keep warm. Add the butter to the pan and keep warm over the lowest heat.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil over a high heat. Add the vinegar and reduce the heat to low-medium, to maintain a gentle simmer.

Crack the eggs into six small cups. Give the water a good circular stir, then tip one egg at a time into the centre of the swirling water. Simmer the eggs until the whites are white and the yolks remain soft (about three minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs to a clean tea towel to drain.

Bring another saucepan of salted water to the boil. Reduce to a medium-high heat and cook the sheets of pasta for two to three minutes, or until just tender. Remove the pasta with a slotted spatula, allowing it to drain for a few seconds.

Lay out the pasta sheets on four warmed plates and top with one poached egg each for the kids and two eggs each for the adults.

DISH ONE: Top each of the kids’ plates with a slice of the prosciutto or bacon and one-third of the butter. Serve with some grated Parmesan.

DISH TWO: Heat the frying pan with the remaining butter over a high heat and add the wine and lemon juice. Let it bubble for one minute, then remove from the heat. Divide the sauce and the remaining prosciutto or bacon between the adults’ plates. Season with salt and pepper and serve with Parmesan, chilli flakes and fresh parsley.

APICOTTY LAMB TAGINE (serves 6)

60ml olive oil

1 onion, finely diced

2 small carrots, finely diced

600g diced lamb

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1tsp ground cumin

1/2tsp ground ginger

1/4tsp saffron threads

1/2 cinnamon stick

1/4tsp ground allspice

1tbsp honey

80g dried apricots, cut into quarters

2 stoned dates, cut into quarters

1 vegetable stock cube

1 small butternut squash, cut into 2cm cubes

Squeeze of lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

185g dry couscous

Ingredients for adults:

2tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

2tbsp chopped coriander leaves, plus extra to serve

2tbsp toasted pine nuts

Grated zest of 1/2 an orange

1/4tsp ground chilli

Chopped red chilli, to serve

Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat.

Cook the onion and carrot for three to four minutes, or until the vegetables have softened.

Add the lamb and brown all over. Stir in the garlic, cumin, ginger, saffron, cinnamon stick and allspice, and cook for two minutes.

Add the honey, apricots and dates, crumble in the stock cube and pour in enough boiling water to cover the meat - about two cups (500ml). Stir and bring to the boil.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes. Stir in the squash and simmer for 20-30 minutes more, or until the squash and lamb are tender.

Meanwhile, prepare the couscous according to the packet instructions. Add the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper to the couscous and combine.

DISH ONE: Serve out some couscous onto the kids’ plates and top with the tagine.

DISH TWO: Stir the parsley, coriander, pine nuts and orange zest through the remaining couscous. Stir the ground chilli through the tagine and serve on a bed of couscous. Garnish with the fresh chilli and coriander.

ZUCCHINI & CARROT FRITTERS (makes 16 fritters)

185g plain flour

2tsp caster sugar

1tsp salt, plus extra to serve

1/2tsp baking powder

1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 large eggs, separated

1 cup milk

30g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1 large zucchini (courgette), peeled and grated

2 carrots, grated

3 spring onions, chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

Large handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Peanut oil, for frying

Ingredients for adults:

1/4tsp ground cumin

1/4tsp ground coriander

1/4tsp chilli powder

125g Greek-style yoghurt

Squeeze of lemon juice

Chopped red chilli, to serve

Chopped coriander leaves, to serve

Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, egg yolks and milk. Add the butter and whisk again.

Combine the zucchini, carrot, spring onion, garlic and parsley and add it to the batter.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold into the zucchini and carrot mixture in two batches.

Preheat a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat and brush it with peanut oil. Using a ladle, scoop the batter into the pan. Cook for two to three minutes and flip.

Cook for a further two minutes and remove to a plate lined with paper towel. Continue until all the batter is cooked.

DISH ONE: Sprinkle the fritters with salt and serve to the kids.

DISH TWO: Mix together the cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, yoghurt and lemon juice. Serve the fritters with a dollop of the spiced yoghurt and garnish with the fresh chilli and coriander.