Lara Soetekouw is Italian and lives in Fulham (London, UK) together with her three kids Giacomo (8), Livia (6) and Giulia (4), and her Dutch husband Arjen. She’s the owner of the brilliant online boutique Big Blue Cuddle, where at least 15% of the profits is directly donated to a charity — that’s shopping for a good cause! Here is her dinnertime story.
My husband and I both love food. We love shopping for it, we love cooking it and we love eating it. So naturally we try to instil the same love in our children. Consequently, our son (8) and 2 daughters (6 and almost 4), are dragged to markets and shops, are often happy to help out in the kitchen and are encouraged to at least taste everything we put in front of them.
I try to be adventurous in what I cook for them and give them a lot of variety. I dream of making them stir fry noodles, meet stews with fruit (e.g. pork with prunes), fish cakes, risotti and minestrone, and I do, but the reality is that last night’s leftovers, pasta al pesto and just-about-anything-with-hummus are big favourites! Especially during our hectic week.The kids take turns setting the table and every single meal ends with a piece of fruit and often a yogurt. The biggest challenge is to make them stay at the table until everybody has finished, particularly as we have both the quickest and the slowest eaters in the universe in the same family.
We have adopted the English schedule of feeding the kids around 5:30 (ridiculously early for Italian standards. “That’s snack time!” my friends tease me) and of having a quiet and civilised grown-up dinner for the 2 of us around 8pm when the kids are tucked in bed. My husband gets home from work only in time to read them a short story and kiss the children good night, if he’s lucky, but we take turns cooking our dinner (lucky me!).
On Sunday evenings, we all have an early dinner together and I have no doubt that soon we’ll start doing that more often. Though I must say that I really enjoy our quiet and civilised tête-à-tête, even if sometimes it means I have cooked 2 meals in one evening! On week-ends, I finally have the opportunity to experiment and involve the children in the cooking. I have now trained the 3 of them so well they can make simple fresh homemade pasta, such as tagliatelle or dinosaurs (using cookie cutters), almost without my help! I try to cook big portions so that there will be leftovers to serve during the week. During the Easter holidays, for example, we made falafels. I rejoiced at the idea of the children eating more pulses, and they had fun shaping them and rolling them in sesame seeds. I also made a leg of lamb, some couscous (full of raisins, which they adore) and okra beans, then the whole gorgeous meal was greeted at the table by a chorus of “I don’t liiiiiiike it!”.
Pasta con le zucchine (Pasta with courgettes):
A super simple recipe for don’t-have-time-to-cook evenings
- Cut 1 or 2 zucchini/courgette into cubes
- Add to a large pan of boiling salted water
- Boil for about 5 minutes than add the pasta to the same water
- When the pasta is cooked, drain everything and dress it with plenty of butter and parmesan cheese (and pepper for grown ups)
- Serve immediately
The zucchini/courgette will fall apart and become like a cream. How long you need to cook them before adding the pasta depends on how big you’ve cut them. Even with the courgettes way overcooked it is nice, so don’t worry too much about it. This has been a big favourite in our family, for both children and grown-ups, for generations.