Cooking for Simpletons

Dairylea 055

If you’ve landed on this blog looking for cooking tips, then there are three things you need to know about me:

  • I burn pasta at least once every week
  • My child eats cereal in a cup for breakfast, in the car, on the way to school
  • Every single time I boil an egg, without fail, I have to refer to Mrs Beeton

So I’m always excited to be invited to events where there’s an outside chance I might become a less rubbish cook.

This weekend, we were invited by Dairylea to go to The Cookery School in London for a cooking class with professional chef James Tanner and nutritionist Azmina Govindji, along with fellow bloggers Jo Beaufoix, Mummy from the Heart, All About the Boys, New Mummy and Mumra.

The session was actually pretty amazing – James and Azmina both offered really accessible advice and tips, and I came away with half a dozen recipes and a load of tips that even I can apply to everyday life. Here are my 7 favourites:

  1. Dairylea today is made with cheese, milk, butter and a little emulsifying salt – this is a chemical thing that binds the liquids together and makes a ‘spread’. My new life’s ambition is to see what happens if you mix emulsifying salt and Chianti. 
  2. If you’re worried about getting enough nutrition into kids, then a good rule of thumb is to offer three natural colours in every meal – and let the kids choose what to add to make up those three colours.
  3. Don’t fret if your kids won’t eat Bran Flakes and demand Coco Pops – for young children, lack of iron is far more of a concern than a bit of sugar, and fortified cereal is also a great way to ensure your kids get enough milk. If you are using low-fat cooking generally, then Azmina recommends giving your children full-fat milk as nutritionally it’s far superior to skimmed or semi-skimmed.
  4. Kids should eat one or preferably two servings of fish a week, and it’s worth remembering tinned tuna doesn’t have the same omega content as fresh tuna or tinned salmon. Most kids like fishcakes and a great tip is to shape the fishcakes then put them in the fridge for half an hour – they will firm up and won’t fall apart when you cook them.
  5. You can make home-made fish fingers and chicken goujons by slicing fillets and coating with breadcrumbs – a good alternative to plain breadcrumbs as a coating is dried polenta, which you can mix with breadcrumbs. If you don't eat dairy, rather than dipping the fish or chicken into eggs before coating, try squeezing them with lemon juice then coating them.
  6. When you’re making burgers or meatballs, try and buy mince with a low fat content as this meat is less likely to swell and lose its shape during cooking. Also, allow the meat to come to room temperature before you shape the meatballs or burgers, as the mixture will bind together more successfully.
  7. If you’ve cooked too much pasta, then you can tip the leftovers into a plastic food bag with a teaspoon of olive oil and leave in the fridge for the next day. Then you just need to refresh it quickly in water before serving.  

Disclosure: Dairylea paid our travel expenses to attend this event, and provided lunch and a gift bag containing vouchers and product samples.


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. 7th February 2011 / 10:42 am

    Brilliant tips, especially the ones about the beef burgers and fish cakes. I never seem to get anything to bind properly, no matter how much egg I use, so I’ll be giving this a try next time we make them.
    Thanks for sharing.

  2. 7th February 2011 / 12:39 pm

    I know you’ve done numbers 4, 5 and 6. I would say 7 but why save burned pasta?

  3. 7th February 2011 / 7:52 pm

    Having just had a ridiculous day of ‘not eating’ from my 5 yr old, this is a very helpful post. You also reminded me that after stressy fights about food, a bottle of Chianti is exactly what mummy needs to restore her nutritional balance. Cheers.
    p.s. the wish upon a star post was so lovely.

  4. jan coyle
    10th February 2011 / 2:07 am

    I thought you would like to know – Mrs Beeton couldn’t cook, she was a bored housewife who’s husband encouraged her to write down her servants tips, hints and recipes. While she was occupied with this he was able to carry on his womanising ways. She actually died of syphallis which he had infected her with. She proably couldn’t boil an egg either.

  5. Aly
    10th February 2011 / 6:56 pm

    I don’t think my kids have had Dairylea.But I always buy full fat milk even for me and I’m considered weird for doing that.Fish I fail miserably at, I love it and but the kids don’t.I have tried fish cakes but never with polenta, reallly like the lemon juice tip as Kieran is allergic to egg.The kids have left over pasta for their packed lunches with chopped tomatoes, cucumber, sweetcorn and ham mixed in.Never knew that about Mrs.Beeton.Thanks for the inspiration

  6. Toys Educate
    1st March 2011 / 11:10 pm

    Are you sure she could’t cook? Her book has 900 recipes.