Friday, October 17, 2008

Pesto Pea Pikelets for Ghouls and Goblins to Gobble



These small bright green morsels with their Halloweenish hue are the result of a bed haired kitchen experiment that I conducted before fully awake. As most scientists will tell you, an experiment is a precise and calculated thing, conducted with the dispassionate froideur of the academic. With this in mind, I must retract and say instead, that it was just experimental - not an experiment in the scientific sense - as I was unaware of the passage of time between waking and finding myself at the stove armed with a cast iron pan and a batch of very green gloop in the blender.

There are some things that are possible to cook whilst still semi conscious - porridge, scrambled eggs, smoothies. Anything requiring more than a passing acquaintance with knife, boiling water or delicate timing should be left well alone until the caffeine has kicked in. So these babies, entirely formed by the blender and a gently hot frying pan, are a perfect stroll into wakefulness for me.

My troll-like appearance felt very apt however as I bent over the stove and flipped little green hot cakes onto the cooling rack. I mentioned to Fin that these would be perfect for Halloween and we started imagining a whole meal of garishly coloured foods - pumpkin puree, bleeding beetroot and quails egg eye balls. I imagined for a moment the looks on his friends faces were we to serve up such a supper - pure horror! Yes, their faces would register the horror of those who have seldom confronted a vegetable in its nude and unadulterated state. Those children who come for supper and ask politely, 'what's this?' whilst pointing at green beans, or squash or even broccoli, before pushing said vegetable resolutely aside and asking for some of the pasta I keep in stock for truculent veg avoiders.

Well you can't win em all I guess. But these pikelets are a great solution to the veg hiding conundrum that many parents are faced with. While I don't advocate subterfuge as a solution to bad eating habits - children can struggle with change in any form and vegetables need to become familiar tastes and textures before they are prepared to put them in their mouths and chew.

Of course, the most important thing is to eat lots of vegetables yourself. What child could resist trying a bit of something that you are groaning with pleasure over? I'm not talking, 'When Harry Met Sally' here - but enjoying vegetables yourself can be the key to turning your kids onto them. I rue the day Finley pinched some expensive asparagus from my plate because I was eulogising over it. He had previously rejected every offer of asparagus as one of the things he definitely did not like. One bite of the buttery spear he'd pinched and the rest made their way swiftly onto his plate before I could shout, 'Stop thief!'.

It generally won't be the first time you present a vegetable either - no matter how appetisingly prepared. Children need to see something quite a few times before it becomes acceptable. If you don't have aubergine once a week it will be regarded with suspicion until it becomes familiar. If they only ever get a small portion on the side of their plate, a bowl of salad is a scary proposition. Crank it up gently until they are eating exactly what you do and you'll slip past the guards before they have a chance to slam the breaks on.

I don't need to sneak vegetables past Fin anymore, but I do like to include them in breads and pancakes as a lightener, balancing out the dense protein of eggs and nuts with a little healthy fibre and nutrients, sweetness and flavour. These pikelets are a lunchbox staple. I vary them with whatever I have handy; coconut, peanut butter, squash, carrot, beetroot, banana, pesto, parmesan....... Each time with a little experimental wonder on my face as I observe the changing textures and tastes wrought by the different addition. They mostly benefit from being kept simple flavour wise and making sure you add enough ground nuts to get a soft dropping consistency. Beyond that, it's just a case of bunging it in the blender and dropping it in the pan - scary bed hair is an optional extra.

Pea Pikelets

This is a method for you to fly with, not an exact recipe.

About 1 cup of veg or fruit that is mashable (cooked peas, squash, carrots, beets, banana)
1 large free range egg
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cider vinegar or lemon juice
ground nuts (almonds, cashews, hazels..) - enough to make a soft dropping consistency
pinch sea salt

Put the veg or fruit in the blender with egg, vinegar, salt and bicarb and whiz until smooth.

If you want to add grated parmesan, pesto etc add it now.

Add spoonfuls of ground nuts and blitz between each addition until the soft dropping consistency is reached.

Heat a heavy frying pan (skillet) and pour in a small amount of oil. Don't have it too hot, or the sugars in the veg or fruit will burn before the pikelet is cooked. Drop spoonfuls into the pan, leaving room for turning.

Cook for about a minute until golden brown on the bottom but not set on top - lift one gently up with a pallet knife to see.

Flip with the pallet knife - some skill is required here and cook for a minute or so on the other side, until that is golden brown too. Cool on a rack, or eat them hot from the pan with creme fraiche and crunchy salad leaves or pumpkin puree, or bright green pesto!