Sarah Adams is an American artist living in London who focuses her work on family portrait paintings. I recently had the pleasure of seeing her amazing work last month at her exhibition on ‘Family Dinners’ in Covent Garden. I was intrigued by her interest in family dinnertime (which quite perfectly matches our recent dinnertime series) and really liked the honesty of her paintings — she captures what dinnertime is really like for most families (see painting below — don’t you completely empathise with the emotions of that mother?!). Sarah is happy to commission her work if you’re interested in having your dinnertime captured. She also paints other scenarios (I’m hoping to commission a painting of my children on the beach! More about that later!) Visit her website for more details on commissioning a painting of your own. And here is her dinnertime story:
During the normal working week, dinnertime in our house signals the beginning to the bedtime routine – first dinner, then bath, then stories, then bed. It has never been that whimsical moment where everyone sits down together to enjoy each other’s company at the end of the day, smiling and passing bread.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve attempted to document our dinnertime experiences because I was confused to why it was not the idyllic episode my mum friends were claiming to have – ‘oh my daughter eats everything.’ ‘I make it fresh every night.’ I find it discouraging when you spend a lot of time preparing food that is not going to be eaten by a child who is going through a ‘beige phase’ – pasta, cereal, hummus, bread. In the recent past, dinnertime has been a chore.
At the moment we eat dinner in shifts most days with the kids eating around 5:30pm and us parents eating around 8pm. We tried eating as a family regularly a year ago, but the kids were 3 years old and 9 months old and we found it wasn’t very relaxing. It was difficult to have any sort of conversation even with the 3 year old – most of the time is taken up by encouraging the kids to finish their meal.
That said though, dinnertime is starting to be more enjoyable. The kids are just that little bit older and that much more interactive. Even though dinnertime during the week is still a mission, the weekend is for helping in the kitchen and skyping family abroad.
I find it easiest to cook a ‘one-pot-glop’ meal like meat lasagna where you know that there is meat and veggies in every bite. I find lasagna is mindlessly easy to prepare and there are always leftovers. Here is a recipe that I improvise with:
- 500g lean ground beef
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 sweet potato, chopped
- 1 courgette, chopped
- 1 x 680g jar of tomato passata
- 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
- 1 x 250g of ricotta
- 1 x 250g of mascarpone
- 1 cup of shaved parmesan
- 1 package (approx. 12 sheets) of no-bake lasagna sheets
Preheat the oven to 180/200 C. Find a 9 x 12 inch casserole dish.
In a large pan, brown the meat. Drain off excess fat. Add the all the vegetables – onions, garlic, celery, carrot, sweet potato, courgette – and the tomato passata and chopped tomoates. Simmer until the vegetables are soft. Use a handheld blender to puree the meat sauce so that vegetables are unidentifiable by picky eaters.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, mascarpone, and shaved parmesan.
Start to assemble the lasagna by spreading 1/4 of the meat sauce at the bottom of the baking dish. Next arrange a single layer of uncooked lasagna sheets on top of the sauce. Add another layer of meat sauce, layer with 1/3 of the cheese, add a layer of lasagna. Continue layering. Finish with a final layer of meat sauce, add mozzarella on top.
Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30-40 minutes. Uncover for an additional 15 minutes so that the mozzarella browns slightly – golden and bubbly.