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