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Feasts for all, no matter how fussy your children are! BRILLIANT NEW BOOK BY MIRROR'S STAR COOKERY COLUMNIST NADIA.

Awww, the joys, horrors, highs and lows of feeding my "little darlings" over the last 11 years has been challenging, to say the least!

I'd always imagined in my young, free and single (rose-tinted glasses) days, that once I was married and had my own children, feeding them would be a like a scene from a fairy story.

I would let my imagination run wild as I pictured myself floating around with long, multi-coloured, braided hair and a billowing kaftan.

I'd whiff of home-baked bread and stewed apples, I'd be able to henna-tattoo their arms at the same time as making my own pasta, and play guitar and the tambourine while simultaneously making chutney, jam and pickles!

I'd scoop my hungry little darlings up into my arms and gently lower them into their high chairs, hand-made and beautifully carved by their Adonis-like father. I'd then lovingly spoon my home-made lentil soup with a flourish of bonebuilding tofu and wilted spinach into their perfectly smiling rosebud lips.

And they would, of course, love every mouthful... Cut! Yeah, right! The only part of the above fantasy that in any way comes close to reality is (of course) the being married to an Adonis bit (wink, wink, Mark!). The rest, well, it didn't quite make it beyond pipe-dream status.

Feeding my little darlings was (and still is) so far removed from this imagined idyll. The reality goes something a little more like this: struggles, fights, rows, negotiations, strops, slamming doors, tears, squeals, prayers, bribes, threats, lies, blackmails, exaggerations, explanations, broken crockery, fork injuries, thrown vegetables, burned potatoes, punched husbands, hair-pullings...

Need I go on?

With that said, these are my top recipes to keep them quiet and have them begging for more.

NB: All recipes featured here make enough to serve two adults and two children.

Extracted from Nadia Sawalha: Fabulous Family Food, published by Macmillan at PS20, available on October 9. Photography by Mark Adderley and Nicky Johnston.

PERFECT PIZZA BASES

It is almost impossible to avoid frozen pizzas - they cook so conveniently from frozen and are tasty enough to please the hordes. So, if you can't beat 'em... make 'em fresh. Cook these bases in a frying pan then cool and freeze in-between sheets of baking paper.

MAKES 6 SMALL OR 3 MEDIUM BASES

1 sachet (7g) dried active yeast

1 tbsp sugar

325ml warm water

500g strong white flour, plus a little more for dusting

2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing and frying

5g salt

1 Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water. Stir the mixture until both the sugar and yeast are fully dissolved. Leave this mixture for about five mins, by which time you should see little bubbles on top.

2 Tip the flour into a bowl and add the olive oil and salt. Pour in the yeast mixture and combine using a wooden spoon. Then tip the dough out on to a clean surface lightly dusted with flour.

3 Knead the dough for at least five mins - it should become smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into a ball and place in a large, clean bowl lightly greased with olive oil. Cover with a clean tea towel or clingfilm and place in a warm area for 90 mins. The dough should double in size.

4 Tip the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead again until the air has come out. Divide into three or six equal-sized balls and leave on a lightly floured surface in a warm place for 20 mins.

4 Roll out each ball to 13cm or 23cm in diameter, depending on the size you want.

5 Use enough oil to cover the base of a non-stick frying pan and place over a med-high heat. Place the pizza bases, one by one, into the hot oil. Fry in the pan for three to four mins each side, then put on to kitchen paper to remove excess oil. Leave them to cool and separate by sheets of baking paper.

6 Take each pizza base and wrap in clingfilm and tin foil before stacking in the freezer.

EGG 'N' STREAKING SOLDIERS

Egg, bacon and bread. Need I say more?

SERVES 4

uncut white loaf

4 thin rashers smoked, streaky bacon, halved widthways

vegetable oil for frying

4 large free-range eggs

salt and pepper

1 Firstly, you will need four 2-2.5cm-thick slices of bread with the crusts removed. Then, cut each slice of bread into three wide fingers and twist a piece of bacon around the length of each one.

2 Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add a little vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, cook the bacon bread fingers by frying on each side until they are nice and golden.

3 Meanwhile, put the eggs into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over a high heat and immediately start timing. Boil for three mins for a very soft runny yolk to dip your gorgeous soldiers in to your heart's content.

BISH AND KNOCKERS

This was named by my youngest, Kiki-Bee, as she couldn't say fish and gnocchi. Mark and I love to have a tomato salad with this - of course, the girls would rather leave home than eat a tomato salad.

SERVES 4

3 slices of stale white bread

2 tbsp plain flour

salt and pepper

1-2 free-range eggs, whisked

2 tbsp lemon juice

4 sustainable white fish fillets (such as haddock, hoki, pollock)

a couple of glugs of vegetable oil

400g gnocchi

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/Gas Mark 6. Put the bread in a blender and then pulse into breadcrumbs. Place on a plate.

2 Put the flour on another plate and season with salt and pepper. Pour the eggs into a shallow bowl.

3 Sprinkle the lemon juice over the fish then roll in the flour, dip in the egg and then into the breadcrumbs. Put on a greased baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 mins or until breadcrumbs are golden and the fish is cooked.

4 Ten mins after you have put the fish in the oven, heat the oil in a frying pan, add the gnocchi and fry both sides until golden. Serve with the fish and any veg you can get your little darlings to eat!

NUTELLA-STUFFED PANCAKES

My husband has such an intense addiction to Nutella that if he gets wind that there's a jar of it in the house, he eats the lot with his bare hands. Both daughters have inherited the same addiction. So as a treat on birthdays, this is what my little brood of addicts get from their Mama/Missus.

SERVES 4, MAKES 8 PANCAKES

225g plain flour

1 tbsp baking powder

2 tsp caster sugar

300ml milk

2 large free-range eggs

vegetable oil spray for frying

Nutella!

1 Put all the ingredients, except the oil and Nutella, into a blender and blitz until you have a smooth batter.

2 Heat a non-stick frying pan and spray with a thin film of oil. Put a spoonful of the pancake mixture into the pan and then a little blob of Nutella in the middle. Spoon a little more batter over the Nutella to seal it.

3 Once you see bubbles forming, and the batter drying at the edges, flip it and cook on the other side.

4 Put on to a warm plate while you finish cooking it all. And there you have it - my family's drug of choice!

PS: Sliced bananas go rather well too.

PRETTY PESTO PASTA

Right, I am going to be honest. The girls love this dish but hate pine nuts so I sprinkle them on mine and Mark's at the end - oh, and no olives on Maddie's either!

SERVES 4

600g pretty-looking pasta

2 avocados

juice of 1 lemon (or more, taste and see)

zest of 1 lemon

6 tbsp pesto, heaped

2 x 200g tins tuna in oil, drained

handful of green olives

4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

black pepper (optional)

1 Cook the pasta as directed and while it's cooking, peel and cube the avocados and put in a bowl with the lemon juice and zest.

2 Add the pesto, drained tuna and olives. Now add the pasta and give a good stir before sprinkling with the pine nuts and some freshly ground pepper. I like a green salad alongside mine, but no one else does... Grrrr.

CHEESY EGG 'N' BACON MUFFINS

Forgive my shameless showing off here, but I think I've been really clever with this recipe!

SERVES 6

6 free-range hard-boiled eggs

150g pancetta, cubed

300g plain flour, plus a little extra to dust

1 tbsp baking powder

1 large free-range egg

100g strong cheddar cheese, grated

200ml milk

50ml olive oil

good pinch of salt

1 Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/Gas Mark 5. Line 6 large muffin tins with paper cases. Dust the hard-boiled eggs in a little flour (this helps the mixture to stick to them) and put aside. Heat a frying pan and cook the pancetta until it starts to brown (don't brown too much as they will cook again in the oven). Take them off the heat and set to one side.

2 Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, cheese, milk, olive oil and salt.

3 Fold the egg mixture into the flour bowl with most of the pancetta. Fold for no more than 10 seconds as too much folding will give you tough, misshapen muffins.

4 Then, place a small spoonful of the mixture into the bottom of each case. Sit the hard-boiled eggs on top, then spoon the remaining mixture over the top.

5 Sprinkle with the reserved pancetta and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until risen and golden brown.

CAPTION(S):

FRUITY Apricot fun with Kiki-Bee
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 1, 2014
Words:1662
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