Tuesday, 13 February 2007
Happy Birthday To You, Squashed Tomatoes and Stew
My daughter turned into a 'terrible 2' at the weekend, and what a weekend it was. Three lots of parties to cater for, including one pre-school packed affair that was harder than I ever anticipated. Just how do you fill the small stomachs of a load of crisp and sweet loving darlings whilst maintaining your determined approach to feeding children reasonably healthy food?
I decided that it was going to be almost impossible, so the obligatory crisps did make an appearance at the table. So did that condiment so beloved of kids, tomato ketchup. I tried ever so hard to balance it out by putting out my version of tempting treats; mini root vegetable rostis which seemed to go down well, healthy sandwiches in wholemeal bread, potato wedges and the 'highlight' of the day, the design your own pizza awards where I tried to get the kids to cram as many vegetables as possible onto their own bespoke pizza. Sweetcorn eyes anybody?
Despite spending the rest of the day prising pieces of half chewed trodden in food from my carpet and finding the odd bit of pizza in places where pizza should never be, the day was a success. No tears were spilled over the fact that chicken nuggets, sausage rolls and potato faces were not on my menu. I kept the E numbers down to zero by avoiding any multi-coloured sweets and pop. Any I succeeded in getting them all to eat courgettes and mushrooms via my rostis and pizzas. But no party would be a party without a cake.
Here is a cracking cake that gives you a sugary hit required at any birthday party, as well as some of your '5 a day' requirements. It is nothing new or fancy, but it makes for a really good alternative to the usual chocolate caterpillar with E packed treats or for the need to smother your birthday cake in a full packet of icing sugar. Even the mention of carrots and orange did not deter the hungry mites from walloping it back, although I resisted telling them all about the mascarpone and orange zest coating.
As I watch my daughter grow and become generally cheekier by the day, I think I can be happy with my contribution to her current liking of food. It is always a test trying to get them to eat something different and maintaining a healthy stance, but no test is greater when birthday time comes around and your house is besieged by a variation of children's diets. But this weekend is testament that it needn't be a trip down to Iceland for a fun packed crap packed selection box of disasters for the top shelf of the oven. Just think a little, be brave and go with your conviction. And ensure that if all else fails, the cake delivers....
Carrot and Orange Cake with Sweet Mascarpone
225g Caster sugar
175g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Mixed Spice
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 Orange, juice and zest
100g Ground almonds
300g finely grated carrots
For the coating
250g Mascarpone cheese
1 Orange, juice and zest
50g Icing sugar
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180 degreesC, GM4. Grease and line two 18cm sandwich tins with removable bases.
2 - Beat the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Sift in the flour, baking powder and all spice. eat in the eggs, orange juice and zest and the almonds until thoroughly combined. Finally, mix in the grated carrots.
3 - Divide the mixture equally between the two tins and bake on the middle shelf for 30-35 minutes. Test with a skewer, if it is clean it is cooked. Turn out onto a wire rack and cool thoroughly.
4 - To make the coating, beat together the mascarpone cheese, icing sugar and juice and zest of the orange. Smear half onto the centre of the cake and the rest onto the top, like one big sandwich. Decorate with anything you like, just like I did.