Rainy Day Cooking

Weather not playing ball? Emily Kerrigan from Modern Family Food brings us five easy recipes for Rainy Day Cooking to make with the kids


Photo © Emily Kerrigan/Modern Family Food

Simple cheese straws
Both recipes make about 20 and take 20 minutes

Modern Family Food has yet to meet a baby, child or grown-up that doesn't like cheese straws. The sesame and poppy seed versions are a cinch and teach kids to separate eggs and rub butter into flour to make an easy dough. The tomato twists are even easier because they use ready-made puff pastry. Both freeze well and can be warmed through in the oven for finger food, birthday parties or after the kids' bedtime with a G&T. For the seeded ones, make sure you have the butter at room temperature before you start.

Sesame or poppy seed straws

125g cheddar
50g plain flour
50g wholemeal flour
100g butter
1 egg
a handful of sesame seeds
a handful of poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Lightly grease a large baking sheet and cover it with baking parchment. Grate the cheddar - kids find this easiest to do in a box grater.

2. Mix the cheese together in a big bowl with both types of flour. Cut the butter into cubes and show them how to rub it into the flour mix with their fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs (if you want to speed things up, you can do this with a pulse in a processor).

3. Show the kids how to separate an egg. Reserve the egg white for glazing then add just the yolk and mix (still in the processor, if using) until it forms a dough. Flour a surface and roll the dough with a rolling pin until it's about 5mm thick. Cut into straws with a sharp knife (adults only) and use a slice to transfer to your baking sheet.

4. Brush with a little of the egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds or some of both. Press them down a little with the back of a teaspoon so that they don't fall off and bake for about 10 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight tin for 3-4 days or freeze and reheat from frozen.

Tomato twist straws

30g Parmesan or cheddar
250g sheet of ready-made puff pastry
1 tbsp tomato purée

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Lightly grease a large baking sheet and cover it with baking parchment. Grate the cheese - kids find this easiest to do in a box grater.

2. Flour a work surface then roll out the puff pastry until it's roughly 5mm thick and 25cm long. Spread with the tomato purée (or use our superfood pesto if you have some to hand).

3. Cut into straws with a sharp knife (adults only) and sprinkle with the cheese.

4. Hold at each end and twist into spirals (little kids might find this a bit fiddly) then pop on your baking sheet. Press the ends down a bit so that they don't untwirl and bake for 10 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight tin for 3-4 days or freeze and reheat from frozen.

Photo © Emily Kerrigan/Modern Family Food

Roasted tomato passata
Takes 50 minutes Makes a 750ml jar

It only takes a minute to whack a tray of tomatoes in the oven before blitzing in a processor - but a batch of this is beyond useful. At its most basic, it's a pasta sauce that you need never again buy in a little tub. Move up a level and you've got a pizza (or muffin pizza) sauce, the basis for a ragu or lasagne or a sauce for meatballs. And you won't believe how much tastier your version is than anything shop-bought. The chilli doesn't make it too hot for kids, it just gives it a little twang.

1kg ripe tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp oregano
½ tsp dried crushed chillies
½ tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6. Help your kids roughly chop the tomatoes and pop in a roasting tray. Crush in 2 cloves of garlic and add the oregano, chillies and sugar.

2. Give it all a good mix then drizzle over the olive oil. It doesn't need to be the good stuff - save that for salad dressings.

3. Roast for 45 minutes then blitz in a food processor. Keep for up to 3 days in the fridge in a jar with a lid or freeze batches in ziplock bags to defrost when needed.

Photo © Emily Kerrigan/Modern Family Food

Easy no-knead loaf
Makes 1 loaf Takes 1 hour 45 minutes

This simple dough is made in one bowl (or even with the dough hook of your food processor) and requires no kneading. It's not for bread-baking purists but it still makes a cracking loaf - the cooked bread is springy on the inside with a crispy top, lending itself well to everyday sarnies, toast or dipping-in-soup duties. Once you've tried it, you can start to mix up the flour (try a seed and grain bread flour or a malted one), throw in some walnuts or raisins, or sprinkle with poppy or sunflower seeds. Whatever you fancy. Welcome to Modern Family Food's hassle-free home bakery.

butter for greasing
300g of strong white bread flour
150g granary or wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 sachet of instant dried yeast
about 325ml of warm water

1. Fill and boil the kettle before you start getting anything else out. Use kitchen paper and a knob of butter to grease a 900g loaf tin. Make sure you grease the corners and rim.

2. Put both flours, the salt and sugar and the yeast in a big bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Measure out your water (it should be warm but not still boiling) and pour it all over the flour mix. Turn your spoon the wrong way up and mix it all together to form a ball. Kids find this easiest to do if you put a folded tea towel under the bowl to stop it spinning. If the mix looks very dry, add a splash more water; if it is too sloppy, add a sprinkle more flour. You can do all of this second stage in a mixer with a dough/bread hook if you have one.

3. Now tip the dough into your prepared loaf tin and push it into the corners. Leave it under a clean tea towel somewhere warm for an hour until it has doubled in size.

4. Preheat your oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas mark 5. Pop the tin in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown. Tip onto a wire rack and tap the bottom - does it sound hollow? If so, it's done; if not, give it another 10 minutes.

Photo © Emily Kerrigan/Modern Family Food

Instant sorbet with homemade ice magic
Makes 1 small tub Takes 5 minutes

In the time it takes one of you to set up the Scrabble board, the rest of you can have made a homemade fruit sorbet, with no added sugar and next-to-no washing up. If you were a kid in the Eighties you will remember Ice Magic – chocolate sauce in a squeezy bottle that immediately turned solid on hitting cold ice cream. Disclaimer: if you're going to make this in 5 minutes you'll need to have prepped your fruit in advance and got it frozen, ready and waiting in the freezer.

Mango version
400g mango, cubed and already frozen in a freezer bag
1 lime

Strawberries and cream version
400g strawberries, hulled and already frozen in a freezer bag
100g mascarpone

Ice magic
100g dark chocolate chips

1. Boil the kettle. Get the kids to decant the chocolate chips into a mug. Pour a little hot water into a plastic measuring jug and put the mug inside the jug so that the chocolate begins to melt.

2. Get your chosen fruit out of the freezer and whizz briefly in a food processor until it turns into sorbet. Zest in a little lime for the mango version and add the mascarpone for the strawberry version. Pulse again to combine and quickly scoop into cones or bowls.

3. Get a teaspoon and stir the chocolate which will now have melted. Remove from the jug by the mug handle (mind the hot water and little fingers) and drizzle over everyone's sorbet; it'll crisp up and go solid, just like the original Ice Magic. Any leftover sorbet can be frozen for another day (get it out of the freezer a while before you want to serve it so that it's soft enough to scoop).

Makes 1 jar Takes 45 minutes

Many granola mixes (and most breakfast cereals) that you buy at the supermarket are loaded with sugar. It's easy to make your own granola, sweetened only with naturally sweet maple syrup. It'll keep for a fortnight in a kilner jar or tin - plus this way you and the kids get to tailor which nuts, seeds or fruit go in it. You can do all the measuring for this in a mug which makes it great for little kids - it doesn't matter if you're a bit inexact with amounts - just keep an eye on it in the oven and make sure you don't forget about it and burn it. A great one to make on a Sunday morning in your pyjamas.

3½ mugs rolled oats
½ mug sunflower seeds
½ mug flaked almonds
120ml maple syrup
80ml olive oil
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
½ mug of raisins

1. Heat your oven to 150°/300°F/Gas mark 2 and spray a rimmed baking tray lightly with oil or line with baking parchment. Take your favourite mug and measure out about 3½ mugs rolled oats then throw them in a large mixing bowl with ½ mug sunflower seeds and ½ mug flaked almonds.

2. Now stir together 120ml maple syrup with 80ml olive oil and ½ tsp vanilla extract in a plastic measuring jug then pour over your oats mixture. Add ½ tsp ground cinnamon plus a pinch of salt and stir.

3. Pour the mix onto the tray and spread out in an even layer before baking for about 40 minutes. Check on it on and off to make sure it's not burning and stir with a wooden spoon. When it's cooked it'll look nice and toasted - remove from the oven and stir in ½ mug of raisins. Leave it to cool before packaging it up.

Want to vary it? Let the kids pick their favourite dried fruit add-ins from chopped dried apricots, dried cherries or bashed up banana chips, or switch the flaked almonds for pecans or walnuts, or the sunflower seeds for pumpkin seeds.

All recipes and photo © Emily Kerrigan/Modern Family Food

Find out more

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