I am a parenting cliche – I can’t tell you how many phrases come out of my mouth that make me sound like my own parents.. I am sure I’m not the only one who was told not to “play with your food” , but that is one phrase I won’t be repeating because I want my girls to understand and be curious about the ingredients we use, to try, to smell and to feel them first, and not just push them away. In fact, learning through play should be encouraged in all of us, in all aspects of life.
Momos with spring onion oil (pictured top)
I have always made dumplings with my eldest daughter (and hope to start making them with the littlest one soon), whether it’s these rustic momos or more finely pleated dumplings such as gyozas; dumplings are therapeutic and tactile, and a calming food to make. From peeling the ginger with a spoon and snipping the spring onions to mixing and kneading the dough, there are so many elements to making momos that children can get involved with. If you’re unsure on how to pleat them, you can find lots of videos online, but don’t worry if yours are not perfect: as long as the filling is totally encased, having fun is the most important part.
Prep 15 mins
prove 30 mins
cooking 1 hour
325g plain flour
¼-½ tsp fine sea saltor less for younger children
2 garlic cloves
4 tbsp vegetable oil
½ bunch cilantro
200g white cabbage
4 spring onions
1 tbsp low-salt soy
1 caster sugar
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Put the flour in a large bowl with the salt and make a well in the middle. Add 200ml tepid water and mix with your hands; if it’s a little sticky, add a touch more flour, but you don’t want the dough to be too dry, either. Knead for a few minutes, wipe out the bowl, then put the dough back in, cover with a tea towel and set aside for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Peel and finely grate the garlic and ginger. Peel and coarsely grate the carrot and cabbage (you can also do this in a food processor if you have one). Put a large frying pan or wok on a medium heat, add a tablespoon of vegetable oil, then add the ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for a minute. Add the carrots and cabbage, and stir-fry on a high heat for five minutes, until cooked down a bit but not overcooked. Spoon the veg on to a platter or bowl to cool, then chop or snip the cilantro and stir it through.
Trim and slice the spring onions. Put the remaining three tablespoons of oil in a small saucepan, add the spring onions and cook on a very low heat for five minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, sugar and three tablespoons of water, increase the heat slightly, and cook for five minutes. Take off the heat and leave to cool.
Divide the dough equally into four, then divide each piece into six balls. Line a tray with greaseproof paper. Place a ball of dough in the palm of your hand, flatten it out a little, then transfer to a lightly dusted work surface and roll into a 10-12cm round. Put the dough round back in your palm and spoon a heaped teaspoon of the cabbage mixture into the centre. Using your fingertips, fold over to enclose, pleat and crimp the edges, then pinch the top and twist it to secure in the filling. Put on the tray and repeat with the remaining dough and filling.
Put a steamer over a pan of boiling water. Line the base with greaseproof paper, pierce with a few holes, then put a few momos on top, keeping them spaced apart. Cover with a lid and steam over a medium heat for about 10 minutes. Remove and keep warm, then cook the remaining momos. Toss the momos in the cooled spring onion oil and serve scattered with toasted sesame seeds.
Persephone, the goddess of spring salad
This salad is inspired by my daughter of the same name (and those prawn pasta layered salads you get in service stations). In an attempt to get my daughter to eat more greens, I try to make it more fun by building salads in layers – with her help, of course. It’s easily adaptable to whatever your children favour: for example, if you know they are more likely to eat green beans than asparagus, then just swap. Love the sweetness of carrots? Add a layer, grated in the middle. Feel free to mix it up depending on your tastes, but the parmesan and egg mayo layer are musts. Above all, though, make it fun – even if they pick out certain elements, it’s a great way to get children used to mixing up flavours.
Prep 15 mins
cooking 35 mins
600g new potatoes
4 large eggs
1 large knob of butter
1 tbsp olive oil
A few mint sprigs or chives
175g podded peas
1 big handful baby spinach
sea-salt and black pepper (optional)
Put the potatoes in a large pan of cold water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the eggs to the pan halfway through. Drain the potatoes and eggs, leaving the former to steam dry in the colander for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, put the eggs in a bowl of cold water.
Cut the potatoes into 2cm chunks or slices, return to the hot pan and toss with half of the butter and a little olive oil. Finely chop or snip the chives, or pick and finely chop the mint leaves, and stir into the potatoes. Peel the eggs, chop into bite-sized pieces, put in a bowl and stir in the mayonnaise.
Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and roughly chop the spears. Put a large frying pan on a high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil, then fry the asparagus for three minutes, until charred but not overcooked. Transfer to a plate and squeeze over half the lemon.
Put the frying pan back on the hob, add the peas and enough boiling water from the kettle to cover, then bring to the boil and cook for three to four minutes, until tender. Drain, toss with the remaining butter and finely grate over most of the parmesan.
Put the spinach in a glass bowl and snip. Squeeze over the remaining lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, if using, then toss. Evenly spoon the dressed potatoes on top. Spoon over the cheesy peas, top with the egg mayonnaise and finish with a layer of the charred asparagus. Finely grate over the remaining parmesan and serve straight away.