I'm not one for "family-friendly" food. I think I might have said before that this whole "family-friendly" schtick really pees me off; I'm not even sure what it's supposed to mean other than an assumption the entire family is only happy if eating gristle nuggets, limp microwave chips and bowls of ketchup. It's as patronising and demeaning as it is irritating, and even more so when you happen to have a child who - I kid you not - will order fish and chips with peas and spend happy hours peeling off the batter to get to the fish and scoffing it, eating the peas, leaving a beige collation of cold chips and batter on the side of the plate. Service staff have been known to raise their eyebrows in a questioning "Seriously?" before tentatively asking if everything was alright - because if the batter and chips are left, what could have been eaten? I tend to balk at those places, tbh.
Actually he's a fantastic eater full-stop but that's because I really believe in what I'm doing and I'm really stubborn. I don't honestly recall having bought fish fingers, nuggets or anything of that ilk, EVER, but that's not to say they're wholly bad; some - my own family included - have called me mean, as if I'm depriving him of some obligatory sensory experience necessary to validate the life of a 3 year old, but he was already occasionally having those things at school, so I don't see why I should narrow his palate profile - which sounds as if I just made it up and I did - by serving the same at home. If we have burgers, we tend to make them; we have sausages, just not with chips, and we only tend to have chips if we have steak or fish....
Also - and I will get to the recipe in a minute but bear with - I have to tell you about a recent triumph which has everything to do with persistence and patience and nothing to do with bourgeois snobbery AT ALL. MCD Jr has always loved smoked salmon, to the point he used to make my sister gag with the alacrity with which he shoved it down, but over the last year decided he no longer liked it. So we said nothing, kept buying it occasionally, offering it and telling him the story of how he ate it "when he was a baby" and hoped he'd change his mind. Finally, a few weeks ago, I was putting some out for lunch and asked him as usual if he'd fancy some. MCD Jr thought solemnly about it for some seconds then asked if he could. Then ate a slice in much the usual fashion before announcing it was once more acceptable to his palate and he now liked that AND little prawns. Next challenge: mussels.
So the thing I cooked last night was not "family-friendly" but it was the sort of thing I tend to cook and expect everyone to eat or go hungry, which is sort of the rule in our house. It was Spanish-style because I had some chorizo from Aldi and some Serrano ham and I wanted to do fish because I always want to eat more fish. I found some Cape Hake in M&S which was marvellous, but you could use any firm white fish. Also feel free to lose the ham and add mussels, clams or even bacon if you want. The meat is optional but you need to substitute the flavour punch. Also, add olives and capers if you like it really piquant. I just always have to fish them out onto my plate and last night I couldn't be bothered.
Also, I know it's a bit odd to only use 2 tinned toms out of a can but I didn't want exactly the same richness of tomato as we had in the pasta. You could use chopped fresh tomatoes instead quite easily.
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
1 courgette, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp smoked paprika
8cm piece of chorizo, finely sliced
1-2 slices Serrano ham, finely chopped
Glug of white wine or even dry sherry if you have it
Handful small new potatoes, quartered
400g tin butter beans, drained
2 tinned tomatoes (save the rest of the tin for a pasta sauce or something....)
300-400ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
300g white fish
Sweat the vegetables in olive oil until golden and soft, then add the paprika, chorizo and ham and cook until the fat runs and turns it reddy. Add the wine, potatoes and beans and stir well and simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the toms and chicken stock and bay leaf, season and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Chop the fish into decent sized chunks and slide in for 10 mins or until cooked. Check the seasoning, sprinkle with parsley and serve in deep bowls with good bread.