Laura Marsden lives in Hatfield (UK) together with her husband Nick and her 3-year-old daughter Scarlett. Laura designs unique lifestyle accessories, all handmade and gorgeous (for kids’ rooms as much as for adult interiors), which she sells in her sweet boutique Lettie Belle. Here is her dinnertime story!
Food plays a big part in our family life, but having a 3-year -old means we don’t always experience meal times together. During the week, my husband usually gets home from work between 7-8pm. This is too late for dinner as a family, but he usually does story time. I sit with Scarlett at the table in the kitchen/diner while she eats dinner at around 5pm. She has a very healthy appetite, and snacks on fruit, nuts and raisins during the day (as well as odd treats). By dinner time she can be quite tired, so although she will sit down, it can take a long time for her to finish!
Luckily Scarlett will try anything and loves strong flavours. She prefers a choice of foods on her plate, rather than a one-pot dish. So, typically she will have pasta or chicken/fish/omelette with two types of vegetables such as home-made potato/butternut squash wedges, peas and she has cucumber batons with every meal! Some fruit, yoghurt or a lolly finish off her dinner with something sweet. We have recently gone through a phase of lolly-obsession, which made dinner rather prolonged! Scarlett loves to pick herbs from the garden to put on her dinner, and her Grandparents have a big vegetable/fruit patch so she has a good understanding of where some food comes from.
On Friday evenings, we are much more relaxed and we have a long aperitif with Prosecco and tapas-style dishes on the sofa all together. Scarlett will almost have a second dinner and picks at her favourite olives and chorizo happily whilst we all chat, and build Lego towers.
Nick and I eat together at the table after Scarlett’s story time. Lately bedtime is a bit fraught, so we often eat at 8.30-9pm. I cook during the week, and Nick cooks at the weekend. He is an experimental cook. He gives us exciting dishes using weird and wonderful equipment, which Scarlett helps him with-she is an expert egg cracker!
We often have a starter, then a main course. I have carried this on from eating meals made by my French mother, and my father being a French teacher and embracing every part of French culture. Though, when younger (1980’s) my sister and I ate standard chicken nuggets and chips when friends came over for tea, as a family and at the weekend it was different. We would have a salad/charcuterie starter, a main course and then cheese with green salad and dessert. My friends found this very funny and strange, though it was the norm for us. My mum’s home-made fries, gratin and vinaigrette managed to win most of them over! It was just fresh, simple food and not extravagant as it sounds. Mum still shops every couple of days like the Parisian she is. I love passing this heritage onto Scarlett, as well as the traditional English side which she enjoys at her paternal Grandparents. The best of both worlds!
At the weekend we have relaxed meals, the three of us or with friends/family over. As soon as the weather is nice enough we bbq some meat/fish and have with home-made bread and a selection of salads. Mexican wraps are also great for everyone to get stuck in. Home-made pizzas are great on the bbq too, and Scarlett enjoys putting the toppings on (and nibbling). These are our favourite meal times for catching up and relaxing. Eating outside is fantastic, when the weather is in our favour. We have dessert at the weekends, maybe a quick to make apple tart and Nick’s ice cream. I look forward to dinner times all week together as a family (soon to be of 4) in the near future.
We don’t eat out in restaurants much at dinner time, unless we are on holiday. These aren’t always relaxing outings as Scarlett doesn’t like sitting down for long. Although I want her to get used to this, I don’t see the point in making it a torturous experience for everyone. She loves food, cooking and family meals, and for now that’s enough for me!
Quick To Make Apple Tart
I don’t follow recipes generally (apart from baking), or always measure ingredients so I looked up another tart recipe to make sure the quantities were about right!
This serves about 6-8, and the tart is delicious cold so good for lunches the following day. Alternatively, use a smaller sheet and 1 less apple. Of course, you can always make your own pastry!
Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees C/Gas Mark 7. Core, peel and thinly slice the apples. Squeeze lemon juice over slices and set aside. Melt butter with cinnamon, squeeze of lemon juice, vanilla seeds and tbsp of caster sugar. Allow to cool.
Use sheet of pastry in rectangular shape it’s in (or you could use dinner plate to cut around as template for round tart). Do this on silicone/ normal baking tray as it is difficult to transfer otherwise once apples are on! Roll out a little thinner, prick pastry base to stop it puffing up. Make a little ridge around tart with your fingers, to make a crust. Put a few dots of soft butter on base. Layer apple slices in rows, overlapping slightly. Brush the butter etc onto the slices, saving some to brush on in middle of cooking. Sprinkle apples with caster sugar.
Bake for 10 mins, then brush on rest of butter. Cook for about another 10 minutes or until apples are golden brown. Allow to rest for about 10 mins. Serve with vanilla ice cream, or cream.