Can’t Cook, Can’t Cook.


When Flea was younger, she had a nanny who would religiously prepare a week’s worth a delicious, home-made meals for her, and put them in the freezer for me to defrost and re-heat as needed.

If you’re reading this Natalie, I really think you should ditch your girlfriend and move to Lancashire. It’s not far, and it only rains 350 days a year.

Anyway, since we lost the nanny, cooking has been my responsibility. And that’s why Flea says things like:

“Zara says that when pasta has black bits in it like this, that  means it’s burned and you shouldn’t eat it.”

“Mummy, we had the most delicious thing at school today. It’s called… pastry. Do you know how to make that?”

“What’s THAT? Please may I have a sandwich? Or some bread?”

So when Bird’s Eye invited me to spend the day with a proper chef in a proper kitchen and get some tips on cooking from Chef Paul and nutritionist Amanda Ursell, I owed it to my child to attend. I met Chef Paul from Birds Eye, and grilled him (not literally, obviously, I don’t know how to turn a grill on, for starters) for his top tips on cooking for people who can't cook.

So, what did I learn? Even posh chefs burn their pans if they try and cook meat in them, apparently, which made me feel much better. Although posh chefs have people to scrub their pans, so don't sneak them into the outside bin, like I do. Other top tips:

TIP 1: Chef Paul says you don’t need to stand over a risotto while it cooks unless you want to look uber-professional and cheffy. If you know your cooker well, he says it’s fine to leave it to simmer down gently, providing you’re using a non-stick pan. This is good news for me, as I’ve basically burned every risotto I’ve made since having a child.

TIP 2: To make a really fast risotto, cook the rice in vegetable stock and garlic, then a couple of minutes before the end, drop in half a bag of frozen peas and some finely chopped herbs. Finish with some parmesan cheese.  Tastes amazing, and almost idiot-proof.

TIP 3: When you buy jars of sauces, tip them into ice cube trays and freeze them. Apparently this is what professional chefs do, and means rubbish people like me avoid that ‘using half the jar then leaving what’s left in the fridge to go slowly mouldy over the next six months’ thing.

TIP 4: The healthiest meals are like traffic lights and incorporate something red, yellow and green. If like Flea, your child doesn’t eat red stuff (Flea hates ketchup, peppers, tomatoes, chilli and beans of any description) apparently orange is almost as good. Thank God for carrots, then.

TIP 5: Children often are more sensitive to bitter tastes and don’t like cauliflower and broccoli, along with other cruciferous vegetables. A good way to get these eaten is to put them into a cheese sauce. If your kids also like blue cheese, there’s a truly revolting-looking recipe for Zombie Brains on the Birds Eye website.

I also met one of the families taking part in Birds Eye's 100 challenge, which has invited 100 families to take part in an online community and try out healthy eating recipes, new products and lifestyle challenges. I chatted with retired teacher Peter Turnbull and his wife Jane who joined us for the day – it was amazing to see how involved Peter and Jane had been in the project over the past few weeks, uploading videos and blogs and photos. With my professional hat on for a moment, more brands should be doing stuff like this.

Group Shot

[Disclosure: All travel expenses for the day were met by Birds Eye. I also ate loads of free risotto.]


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 21st October 2010 / 1:20 pm

    Cruciferous is a great word. So, what’s for dinner tonight?

  2. 21st October 2010 / 2:41 pm

    Tops will only eat cauli cheese with gravy. Fine by me lol.

  3. 21st October 2010 / 3:47 pm

    I’m crap at cooking for the kids… they’re so damn fussy (Max in particular with his only-eats-certain-dry-foods sensory issues), it’s nigh impossible for me to make one meal for all of us! *sigh*

  4. 21st October 2010 / 7:46 pm

    Wow – sounds like an amazing day. I really like the traffic light tip too – fab idea 🙂

  5. FeeHorne
    21st October 2010 / 8:06 pm

    love the red yellow green thing. Do potatoes count as yellow perchance? And I mean real potatoes, not chips!! My 2 LOVE brocolli – does that make them weird?!!!

  6. Lorraine The Party Times
    21st October 2010 / 10:19 pm

    sounds like you had a wonderful time!

  7. 21st October 2010 / 10:04 pm

    Flea is sort of flexible but just doesn’t like stuff that I would otherwise use a lot of – mushrooms, tomatoes, onions… kids, eh?

  8. 21st October 2010 / 10:05 pm

    Amanda was really lovely, when I move back to Sussex I’m going to stalk her and she can be my single Mum best friend.

  9. 21st October 2010 / 10:05 pm

    It was great – cooking tips never go astray!

  10. 21st October 2010 / 10:05 pm

    I think they’re yellow – just add a bit of tumeric.

  11. MrsW
    23rd October 2010 / 12:29 am

    I had the weirdest kids – they would sit side by side in the double Tesco trolley and shout “YAY! BROCCOLI!” they loved the stuff – dunno where I went wrong with the third one…. he’d be a challenge for any healthy eating programme.

  12. 23rd October 2010 / 3:47 pm

    I’m lucky, son’s favourite vegetable is spinach. I’m going to have to look up cruciferous though, it’s terrified the bejesus out of me

  13. Emma
    24th October 2010 / 5:36 pm

    I’ve been sat staring at your.. ahem.. chest.. trying to read what your top says! Yes I get distracted easily.. so umm.. birdseye.. fish fingers? peas?

  14. Vic
    24th October 2010 / 5:37 pm

    I’ll be round for risotto at 6!
    Loving the new design btw, very swish!