Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Meals to eat together - Smoked Mackerel and beetroot salad ***with a poncey ingredient alert***

Do we eat together as a family? Well, I guess, yes, we do try.

We tend to eat breakfast together in the week, mostly grunting at each other (me and the Husband), fending off accusations about what is or isn’t in the packed lunches that day (me and the kids), and running through what each child needs for the day ahead (this is mainly aimed at Blue – we are trying to teach him strategies to help him take responsibility and make sure he remembers his kit. We’re playing a long game here).
breakfast chez Recipe Junkie -


Breakfast at the weekend is slightly more disparate, but while we eat lunch apart during the week (although the Husband and I occasionally get a Monday lunch together if he works from home too), at the weekend, we will nearly always lunch together. Evening meals too.

During the week, the evening meal has been moveable. When the kids were smaller, they would eat earlier, and we would eat later, for sanity’s sake if nothing else. These days, a number of things have conspired, and we do often manage to eat together:  As the kids have got older, and do more after school, the evening meal has by necessity shifted to later - usually somewhere between 6 and 6.30. By happy coincidence, when the Husband is not away, he tends  to make it home at around that time, so I can play the happy housewife and pretend that I’d planned all along for us to eat together.

I do mostly enjoy eating with the kids, not just because I am usually ravenous by then. Don’t get the impression that we sit round like the Waltons every night, all sunshine and smiles, but after the general dispersal when we get in from the school run, it’s good to regroup, and chat about things, after it’s all had a chance to filter down. I do firmly believe that you can’t just rely on your children volunteering information about what’s happened during the day, or what’s worrying them, and you need to make opportunities available where you are encouraging them to talk. Lots of stuff comes out at teatime, and I am pleased that we have this time together, even if some of the time, the Husband and I feel like we are dishing out table manners ‘advice’ and nothing else.

Looking ahead, I’d like to think that when I am living with hormonal teenagers, it will be so ingrained in our family rhythm that when all else is hell, we can still sit down as a family once a day. (And if you are parenting teenagers already   I don’t want to hear it. Allow me to carry on in blissful ignorance for now, and then tell me you could have told me so in years to come when I am tearing my hair out.)  

 What you will also have probably guessed is that also makes my life hugely easier, if I am only cooking once – especially as the kids are now very much eating the same food as we are. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes, the Husband doesn’t make it home in time, and then, I eat with the kids and because we don’t have a microwave, he gets it cold. Poor man.

the eggs are for cakes, in case you were wondering
Meals that work really well for this kind of arrangement, then, are salads, and last night was a case in point. Bookclub was at ours, and the Husband was later than normal leaving work, so I ate with the kids so I could get on with important gin drinking and crisp eating literary discussion (The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville if you're interested) and left him a pretty plateful all ready to eat. 
This was also a good recipe because I had 3 beetroot and salad leaves (lettuce and rocket) from the garden, and I can smugly pronounce that the kids enjoyed the finished meal as much as we did (although I must confess that Pink got hers dished up without beetroot or the dill on top.

There is a poncey ingredient alert attached to this recipe, I'm afraid. I got the inspiration from a Good Food recipe, when I was looking for a meal that included oily fish. I bought caraway seed ages ago to make Hugh F-W’s caraway shortbread at Blue’s request. Having used that 1 teaspoonful, the jar has lain untouched at the back of the herbs & spices cupboard, along with the Asfoetida (bought following a hot tip from Thomasina Miers to counteract the Jerusalem artichoke ‘effect’ – it didn’t work) and some mace blades, the reason for which is lost in the mists of time... This recipe won out last night because it gave me the opportunity to use some more of those little seeds in the dressing. The recipe said ¼ tsp for double the amount of oil & lemon juice, but I was thinking in terms of using some more up, so I pushed the boat out, and went for a whole ½ tsp...

Smoked Mackerel and Beetroot salad
(serves 2 adults & 2 children with an adult lunch box portion left – guess what the Husband took to work today...)

Ingredients: 500g new potatoes, 3 medium sized beetroot, 1 ½ packs smoked mackerel fillets, ¼ cucumber, sliced in ‘half moons’ (slice once lengthways, then slice along, if you see what I mean), 6 sliced spring onions,  a small pack of dill, juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp olive oil, ½ tsp caraway seeds

Method: if you bought (or harvested) raw beetroot, you need to cook them, either by boiling for 45 mins-1hr depending on size, or you can wrap in foil and roast if the oven’s already on. Once cooked, and cool enough to handle, peel the beetroot. Put the potatoes in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil then simmer till cooked (did I really just tell you how to boil potatoes?) – 15 to 20 mins should do it.

When the beetroot and potatoes are cool, slice into thick slices/wedges and put in a bowl. Flake the mackerel in and chuck in the cucumber slices and chopped spring onions.

Finely chop the dill, sprinkle over the top, then whisk the lemon juice, olive oil and caraway seeds together, pour over the salad and toss everything together. Serve with green salad.


  1. That looks good - may have to try this one - poncey ingredient allowing!

    1. good - and dead easy, and you don't need to use the caraway seed to be honest if you feel like keeping it real...

  2. I'm blushing as you seem to have somehow found a random photograph of me and my beautiful (matching) family enjoying our breakfast!

  3. My dad makes a salad like that, its lovely! Glad to hear that other book clubs are like the one I'm in, we have a basic rule that if someone isn't half-cut they're probably pregnant ;o)

  4. Wow, this sounds fab. I will definitely make this as we are big fans of smoked mackerel (oh, ouch, my lapsed vegetarian conscience!) and beetroot.

    1. well, it is very healthy! Better a bit of smoked mackerel than a Macdonalds...

  5. Hello Recipe Junkie, I've been been added to a Versatile Blogger thingy, I've 'nominated' you. (Sorry, it's quite time consuming!)

  6. Meant to say. do with it as you will but I love your site so you were my first choice! Hope your having a good weekend. Going to make your cake now...

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