Goldenballs

And so, with back to school comes a return of the dreaded lunchbox. Another chore to add to the evening - or worse yet, morning - routine. In order to make the experience more of a challenge I tend towards obsessive health freakishness and insist on making life a thousand times more difficult by ensuring all snacks are home baked, no sugar allowed...and so on, until my head explodes. I so resent the overpriced, palm-oil filled, totally un-nutritious snacks so aggressively marketed to us mas, pas and kiddos, (and yes, this includes all the attractive organic carrot puffs and rice cakes) that I mostly refuse to buy them. The inevitable outcome is that I'm constantly caught short on the snack front, and there's only so many grapes, raisins and satsumas you can shovel down them. SO, on the off-chance I'm not alone in my predicament, I thought I'd have a stab at some easy, nutritious and lunchbox-friendly recipes. 

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Arancini

leftover risotto (of any flavour, though I used Beetroot - and the best beetroot risotto recipe in town is this one) 
an egg
breadcrumbs (you can buy these or stick some vaguely stale bread in the food processor)
Rapeseed oil, 500ml - 1 litre

 

So you've made a delicious risotto, yippee! But if you're anything like me you have made a bit too much to be eaten at one sitting, but too little to feed the whole family another meal. We always end up with one small tupperware full, languishing in the fridge. Not any more... 

Arancini, which means "little oranges" in Italian, have got to be one of the least time consuming, most enjoyable ways to use up leftovers. Proper, traditional arancini back on their home shores tend to be stuffed with ragu or mozzarella, and you are very welcome to do so too, but regular old balls of any kind of risotto are just fab. The risotto is best if it's been left in the fridge overnight to get really stodgy. Heat oil to 170-190 degrees (best if you have a thermometer to check, but if not then give it about 5 mins and then chuck a breadcrumb in and make sure it sizzles instantly.) Then you simply roll the risotto into little balls, dip them to coat with beaten egg, roll them in breadcrumbs and deep fry. The whole process takes no longer than ten minutes, and is nice and quick to tidy up. 

Considering they are filled with parmesan-smothered rice, these are understandably bloody delicious hot, but they are fantastic cold in a lunchbox too. Nice and filling, nutritious and reliably devoured. Even Indiana polished them off, and she likes to attempt survival on milk and bananas alone. And apart from the bit in direct contact with sizzling hot oil, they are a great one to make with kids, who love smooshing the rice into balls...or any shape they like! 

 

leafy goodness

So pleased with how my Thanksgiving decorations have turned out... I've made a zillion chains for our pop up dinner. I drew a maple leaf onto some foam board and then cut out about 20 at a time from Pablo's IKEA drawing paper roll. After sewing together 40 per chain, I folded them back into a stack and dipped them in orange, pink, brown and green inks and popped them on the radiator to dry. So quick! What to do with them for the rest of the year...

Bear is my only comfort (and other scarves)

My super talented painter friend Tahnee has just collaborated with Mercy Delta to produce these lustworthy silk scarves, each featuring a print from her Impressions Of A Wind Up Bird series. Her paintings are so very beautiful, I can't think of anything nicer than wearing one. Except maybe owning lots. They are available *right now* from Matches.

Springtime in Tokyo MIGHT be my favourite, but actually I'm far too indecisive to choose...

Springtime in Tokyo MIGHT be my favourite, but actually I'm far too indecisive to choose...

beware the bears

Soggy Monday seeking out a cake decorating shop that sold meringue powder as I've got to make a Mexican sugar skull for a cake project coming up (more on that later...) After an obligatory iced bun and a bit of a splurge in what turned out to be cake decorating paradise - sprinkles EVERYWHERE ohmahgahd - we stumbled upon a shabby but well kitted out very 80s very English playground. It was just what we needed. 

paint. scoot. stew.

Transient

The morning was all about a pirate ship mural - complete with glittering sharks and whales of course. We managed a brief bit of outdoors before the rains descended again and it was time to do some serious cosy cooking. We've just signed back up with Abel and Cole for weekly veggie boxes which is forcing me to be a bit more creative with our meals or risk a fridge full of neglected kale and radishes (ok there might still be a few neglected radishes about...) What does one do with a kilo of cavolo nero? THIS: top tip for a delicious dinner full of a squillion veggies and tasty enough even for a three year old boy who distrusts any foods that stray to far from beige is the following recipe from the flawless River Cafe. I'm sad to say I've only managed to eat at the restaurant once - and my god it was delicious, but it's all the way in Hammersmith! - but I've spent countless hours dribbling into their various recipe books, which are filled with basically EVERYTHING you never knew you wanted RIGHT NOW. Their Winter Minestrone is wholesome and chunky and just what you needed. Promise. This recipe pretends to be for 5 but we are 2.5 and a baby and we polished it off in one sitting. 

Transient

winter (autumn?) minestrone

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 large red onion, coarsely chopped
1 head celery, coarsely chopped & keeping the leaves
1 whole head garlic, cloves peeled
1 kg swiss chard, leaves shredded & stalks roughly chopped
large handful fresh parsley, chopped
400g tin peeled plum tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 kg cavolo nero, stalks removed and leaves shredded (you can substitute savoy cabbage)
410g can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
approx 700g boiling stock - chicken or veg
a few sprigs of winter herbs, chopped (I used thyme)
freshly grated parmesan
olive oil to drizzle

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan - Le Creuset or similar is ideal if you have one. Slowly fry the carrots, onion and celery until soft and dark. This takes absolutely ages - I'm pretty sure I had these going for almost an hour, stirring very occasionally, and they caramelise a bit eventually which is what you want. Add the garlic, chard stalks and half the parsley and stir in tomatoes. Simmer for 10ish mins until reduced. 

Add half the cavolo nero, half the chard leaves, 3/4 the beans and the stock, which should be already boiling. Bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer 30 mins. Resist the urge to add more stock unless you really need it - the soup should be super thick. Add the remaining chard and cavolo nero and blanch briefly to keep them as bright green as possible.

Puree the remaining beans in a blender with a bit of cooking liquid and stir in with the rest of the herbs. Serve hot with lots of grated parmesan and a drizzle of oil. DIVINE.

happy autumn!

happy autumn!

fallout

Autumn has suddenly swooped in! We've had blustery days and cold rain, the leaves are falling... Pablo is finally justified in his almost-year-round questioning of when pumpkins will start appearing outside people's houses. Also a great excuse for some snazzy autumnal threads on the squids... I forgot how well babes rock hats!