Every week I cook for two of my grandchildren aged 12 and 6. The older one is getting really good at eating anything and everything but the younger one is still at the stage where you must NOT contaminate anything he does like with something he doesn’t.

This week I decided on a cassoulet theme. Cassoulet is traditionally billed as peasant food from the south of France. It is basically white beans in a tomato sauce with all sorts of bits of left over bird (goose, duck) and garlicky French sausage added. You put it all in a casserole dish and scatter breadcrumbs mixed with thyme over the top before baking and browning in the oven. I didn’t have any bits of old bird about so went for child friendly drumsticks and chipolatas. Except I had to keep the latter separate from the cassoulet for one child which rather defeated the object of the exercise but no matter.

This is Thursday so what do I have left in my veg bag to serve with the cassoulet?. I must admit the combination of Thursday and kids usually means frozen peas but this week I manage something on a coleslaw theme. The food processor grating gizmo is invaluable. In go carrots, celeriac, onion, red cabbage (still lurking in the fridge since Xmas but seems OK), an onion and an apple. In a large empty serving bowl chuck in the following in this order all the while whisking with a fork – mustard, teaspoon sugar, olive oil, wine vinegar, mayonnaise, natural yoghurt, crême fraîche, salt and pepper. Then add all your grated vegetables and stir up. Add more yogurt and/or mayonnaise if necessary. It seems to take a lot of dressing. The meal was a reasonable success. As the oven was on I did potato wedges which were the hot favourite despite taking the least amount of time and effort. The cole slaw had a muted reception on the grounds of it being a bit pink. I was accused of adding beetroot. Sacré bleue!

It must be word association that means I can’t think about Cassoulet without thinking of Elizabeth Jane Howard. But then she did die last week which is probably why she is on my mind. I remember her name from childhood as being a famous author in the same league as Kingsley Amis. It was an 11 plus question “Who wrote Lucky Jim?” Then I found out through reading Martin Amis’ autobiography that she and Kingsley were an item. No wonder I had them in the same bag. Anyway, I listened to her story of the Cazalets ad infinitum when it was serialised on Woman’s Hour and got very muddled as to who was a good guy and who was a cad. So I bought my mum the trilogy (although I think it is 4 now) so she can read it and put me right. I thought a story about an extended upper class family before, during and after the war might be just up her street.

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