As I lay in bed yesterday, serenely drinking my fourth cup of tea, I pondered what recipes I could share with parents struggling to cope with having the kids home 24 hours a day. The answer? I can’t. I have no clue what special hell you’re going through.
I know some parents are already climbing the walls faster than their little darlings can climb the furniture and are developing a whole new respect for the teaching profession. But I don’t have kids. Please don’t hate me. I am in loco parentis only to two cats, three hens and a bantam cock, which leaves me unqualified to give you advice on how to keep your children happily occupied. Not that this will stop me, of course. Feel free to punctuate your reading with hollow laughs and the occasional sneer.
Letting them cook splendidly messy things apparently works, assuming you have the ingredients in this time of shortages, and don’t mind adding to your burden by cleaning up behind them. I’ve seen a few pictures of people smiling in a carefree fashion while their kids create havoc in the kitchen and I am deeply sceptical, but then I don’t wear a halo or walk on water, either. It’s your house, go for it.
I thought about recipes for home-made sweets but most of them involve ingredients heated to volcanic temperatures (except coconut ice, look it up). There are umpteen cut-out-cookie recipes online and I think Nigella’s is the best. Grab yourself a set of dinosaur biscuit cutters and unleash Jurassic Park in your home, hopefully without the gory bits, but who knows with kids?
I’m quite partial to this recipe for apple flapjacks. It’s egg- and flour-free. There are rock cakes and fairy cakes if you do have the flour to spare. Easy flatbread pizzas mean they can assemble their own toppings. The food writer Sumayya Usmani has been tying geography lessons to what she cooks with her children for lunch, which is ingenious, and you can claim you’re also improving their manual dexterity.
Maybe give the older ones a notebook and get them to write and illustrate their own cookbook? It’ll probably last for about three recipes but it’s worth a try. Anything for ten minutes in which you can run away and have a shower in peace. Come to think of it, these days they’d probably be recording and editing their own TV programme instead. You never know, they might become the next YouTube sensation and they’ll be able to keep you in your old age.
If you have space in the garden or even a window box, you can get them growing easy things like radishes, lettuces and herbs. Peas germinate quickly, too, and if you don’t have much room you can always treat them as micro herbs and just eat the shoots. Marigolds (calendula oficianalis) and nasturtiums are fast-growing flowers and also edible (but check the packet).
It’s nearly Easter … dye some eggs? This links to an old article, so any competition will have to be kept in the family, but it details some handy techniques. Staying on the artistic front, my friend Jemimah Knight (log into Facebook to open the link) is producing the loveliest colouring-in sheets, which she’ll send if you ask nicely. Still waiting for her to do one featuring cooking chaos.
I’m running out of steam here, which is probably one thing I have in common with hard-pressed parents. Stuck inside my own home, I’ve been enjoying the leisure to cook other people’s recipes. I particularly enjoyed Lara Lee’s mie goreng from her soon to be published book Coconut and Sambal, reproduced here in the Guardian. And if you’re new to bread making, have a look at Lynn’s helpful post over at Ink, Sugar & Spice.
There are lots of good cooks and food writers offering ideas and how-to videos at the moment, but if you have any specific queries for me, feel free to drop me a message via the Ask Mrs Portly page at the top of the blog or get in touch through social media. Happy cooking. Keep in touch and stay sane.