Recently we’ve been eating rather a lot of tagliatelle. Tagliatelle with sweetcorn, peas and bacon. Sometimes twice a week, and maybe again at the weekend. Oh, and fruit tarts too. Lots and lots of fruit tarts. That’s what happens when one of your kids makes it through to the finals of a young chef competition. You have to get in an awful lot of practice.
But since this family loves pasta and we’ll eat just about anything topped with pretty, summer berries, this was no great hardship. And it was so good to see Mia grow in confidence as she practised and practised her dishes again and again, making absolutely sure she got her timings just right so she could pull of a two-course meal in under an hour. No mean feat when you’re nine-years-old.
Last term at school, Mia decided she was going to enter the Bristol Healthy Schools Young Chef of the Year contest, an initiative run by our city council in partnership with Bristol Food Connections and open to all school-aged children across Bristol. I was thrilled Mia was up for this and I was keen to support.
We had fun looking through cookery books together to come up with ideas. Mia finally decided on a tasty dish of creamy tagliatelle with bacon, peas and sweetcorn (largely because that’s what we had in the fridge), followed by puff pasty tarts (shop-bought pastry – don’t worry, I’m not teaching my kids how to make puff pastry from scratch!) smothered in lemony creme fraiche (we started with mascarpone but Mia decided it was too rich) and topped with juicy raspberries, blueberries and strawberries.
We took photos of her finished dishes and duly sent in her competition entry just in the nick of time before the deadline – we have a terrible tendency of always leaving things to the last minute. Mia was so excited a few weeks later to find out she’d made it to the finals – with the chance to cook her dishes again at the Bordeaux Quay cookery school.
Mia had an incredible time cooking with the other finalists at Bordeaux Quay, although she was pretty nervous in the days running up to it. She could cook both dishes now on her own, but needed help lighting the gas hob and draining the pasta water, and she was worried that on the day adults wouldn’t be able to help her at all, so that played on her mind a bit. But Mia needn’t have fretted, as there were plenty of adults on hand, all of them very lovely and very keen to help when needed.
She didn’t win the top title but Mia did come joint second (with all the other participants!) and she did successfully complete two delicious courses without her mum, dad or even big sister anywhere in the vicinity – which I’d say is a major triumph. Great cooking Mia!
And if you fancy rustling up Mia’s tasty tagliatelle or summer fruit tarts, this is how you do it. It’s easy as child’s play…
Tagliatelle with bacon, sweetcorn and peas
small knob of butter
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
150g smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
200g frozen peas
200g frozen sweetcorn
50g Parmesan, grated
100ml double cream
In a large frying pan, heat the butter and oil and gently cook the onion until soft and translucent.
Add the bacon, turn up the heat a little and fry for a few minutes until the bacon starts to brown and go crispy.
Add the peas, sweetcorn and Parmesan. Give good stir, and then mix in the cream. Cook for about 10 minutes over a low heat.
Meanwhile, cook the tagliatelle in boiling water for 10 minutes or as per the packet instruction, then drain. You may need to ask an adult to help you here!
Mix the tagliatelle into the creamy sauce. Enjoy!
Summer fruit tarts
375g ready-rolled puff pastry
100 g raspberries
250g mascarpone cheese or creme fraiche
1 lemon, zest and juice
honey to drizzle
Preheat to 200°C / fan 180 °C /gas mark 6.
Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Use a heart cutter (or any shaped cutter you want) to cut shapes out of the puff pastry – you should get at least 8. Score each one with a skewer, all around the circumference about half a centimetre in from the edge, to create a raised rim during baking.
Lay the pastry hearts on the tray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Leave to cool.
Place the mascarpone or creme fraiche in a bowl, and mix in the grated lemon zest and juice.
Use a teaspoon to flatten the middle of the tarts, leaving a raised rim. Discard any crumbs, and place on a serving plate.
Top the pastry tarts with mascarpone or creme fraiche, and decorate with berries. Finally, sprinkle with torn mint leaves and drizzle liberally with honey, and serve.