Many parents do not relish cooking for their young children, who tend to be fussy and unadventurous — and that is not a great combination for a chef.
I remember when my two were toddlers. I would pore over recipes which supposedly were popular with even the faddiest. Daughter Lucy would try the dish and, usually, send it over the high chair into oblivion, accompanied by a polite but unnecessary “whoops, sorry”.
Now they are a little older, things are more fun. I go into experimental mode — occasionally with some success. Lucy, 10, will try most things although she remains a harsh critic. I recently served chops marinated in lemon, which went down as well as a king prawn at seder night. I also served up chicken in a mild Indian-inspired sauce which my eight-year-old son, Alex, loved until I made the mistake of telling him he was eating curry, at which point he changed his mind and asked for toast. Apparently the sauce had an “after-taste”.
However, the real joy of cooking for children is that, like most men, I still love to eat kids’ grub. For my birthday I received a pizza stone, which allows you to cook half-decent pizza in a domestic oven. My effort was compared with the output of a well-known delivery chain and fared well, although afterwards the stone itself looked as though it had been involved in a traffic accident. I also make my own burgers, chicken nuggets (er, schnitzel cut into bite-sized pieces) and a fish finger sandwich with a smear of ketchup which always hits the mark.
But when I ask the kids what they would like for supper, they invariably say “meatballs”, which makes me happy as it is one of my favourites, too. Sweat a finely chopped onion and a chopped garlic clove in some vegetable oil before adding a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon of ground allspice, a teaspoon of ground cinnamon and seasoning, plus a little extra water if the sauce looks too thick.Then take 800g of minced beef (or minced lamb or chicken) and mix well with 150g of matzah meal, a coarsely grated onion, salt and pepper. Roll the mince mixture into golf-ball-sized meatballs, drop them into the simmering sauce and cook gently for 30 minutes, or until done.
They serve four normal people, but at my place there’s just enough for one dad and two hungry youngsters.