Today Little Monkey and I went to look around a primary school. The deadline for admitting that he is rapidly approaching school age is looming and despite my best efforts to hide behind the couch, cover my eyes and pretend it isn’t happening; it is. My Little Monkey is soon to be a Medium Sized Monkey.
The school we looked around was fine. Nice, even. It’s not our first choice but it’s a lot better than others we’ve seen. On the way home Little Monkey asked if he could make his own tea. This is not an unusual request, he loves cooking and baking and generally making a mess in my kitchen and I’m usually happy to let him. It has occurred to me over the Christmas holidays, while we have all been at home that Little Monkey, although happy to cook and can reel off the names of a million fruits or vegetables, is in fact quite a plain eater.
He has his firm favourites: pasta with sprinkle-sprinkle cheese, garlic bread, ‘normal pizza’ (margarita to you and me) beef casserole, fish fingers with peas and sweet corn and a roast chicken dinner. He’ll have carrots and broccoli with most things but other than that, persuading him to try a new flavour is a battle.
So, in my new quest to blog more, eat better and more cheaply, I embraced this request and turned it into an opportunity to get something exotic into him. Well, exotic by his standards anyway; yellow peppers.
Peppers are a staple in our house, they get chucked into or onto anything; pasta sauce, pizza, curry, chilli, salad, but Little Monkey considers them ‘too spicy’ (his stock phrase for anything he doesn’t like) and if he sees one hiding in his meal he will act like I’ve laced his meal with arsenic and is immediately suspicious of everything else on his plate.
On the way home we chatted about what he wanted to cook. He reeled off a few things he fancied but as its Friday and Big Shop day is Saturday the cupboards are a tad on the empty side. We decided on pasta sauce because, in his words; ‘daddy plays football today and he likes pasta after football.’
We set to. We chopped (I chopped, he pretended to chop with his plastic knife) we mixed, we stirred, we crumbled and we ripped and we heated and we poured and 20 minutes later, we had a pasta sauce that he actually wanted to eat. And he did. We added spaghetti and sprinkle-sprinkle cheese and ate the whole bowl. Panda had some, daddy had some and mummy had some and the rest is frozen into Monkey-sized portions.
So here it is; Little Monkey Pasta Sauce.
An onion (we used a red one because they’re a bit sweeter and Little Monkey likes the colour of them)
Half a yellow pepper
3 basil leaves
A carton of passata
A vegetable stock cube
A splash of oil (we used rapeseed)
Broccoli stalk (I like to use the broccoli stalk in stews and casseroles and soups, its gives the flavour of broccoli without turning to foamy green froth when it breaks up, the stalk has a similar texture to squash when cooked)
A clove of garlic
Let your small person stand on a chair to reach the work top. I stand with the cooker on my right and him on my left, Panda somewhere off to stage left in his highchair, shouting at Iggle Piggle.
Put the kettle onto boil and chop your broccoli stalk into Monkey sized pieces. Chuck them into a pan and pour the boiled water on top. Let them simmer while you prepare everything else.
Splash a bit of oil into another small pan and heat.
Finely chop the onion and stir into the oil. Once the initial spitting has died down, let your Monkey stir the onions.
Finely chop the pepper and while you squish and chop the garlic, let your Monkey put the pepper into a bowl ready to put into the pan.
Add the pepper and garlic to the pan (your onion should be translucent by now).
Get your Monkey to rip up the basil into a bowl and crush a veggie stock cube up with a spoon.
Add the passata to the pan and then toss in the basil and the stock cube.
While this all bubbles away, rescue the broccoli stalk and stir that in too, then toss your pasta into the broccoli water.
10 minutes later serve it all up with some sprinkle-sprinkle cheese.
I definitely think that by letting him have (almost) free reign in the kitchen and make his own food he has the confidence that its not laced with arsenic and everything I tell him is in it, actually is, with nothing hidden. We even took a picture to ‘show the people who read your computer pages how they can make it too’.
So there you go, dear readers. Enoy!