Monday, 24 September 2012

The rise of the 'Pseudo' family meal

Question - what do you call a family meal where all of the family members are sitting around a table but not talking or communicating or even enjoying the meal together?  Answer - A pseudo family meal!

You’d never see this in France (quelle horreur!), but on my tour of the UK in the summer I was shocked to see families (in restaurants) all sitting taping away at screens:  Nintendo DS, Kindle or Ipads each in their own solitary bubble for (I kid you not) the duration of the meal.

Whilst family life has got increasingly busy surely it’s possible to make the time to sit down and eat at least one daily meal together? To switch off mobiles and electronic devices and focus on some good quality family time?  From a nutritional perspective this is such a good chance to talk to children about what they are eating - where it’s from, how it’s been cooked, whether they like the taste (or not!), the balance of nutrient it contains etc etc.  This is precious information which they simply do not learn at school and therefore we, as parents and roles models need to provide them with these essentials.  Nutrition aside, meal times are also the perfect time to talk to your children about their day at school, their friends and how they are feeling in general.  I’d be the first to say that mealtimes are not always easy - there can be drama, tears, tantrums, arguments and fights, but this is all part and parcel of being a family.  Some of the best memories I have when growing up are all based around the kitchen table, the laughter, the jokes, the delicious food and the huge amounts of wine....

The pseudo family meal is a horrible invention as it is pretending to be something it is not.  A meal where everyone is looking at a screen is not proper family time.  Can you imagine our children hosting dinner parties in 20 years time with a) food ordered in as they have not learnt how to cook b) everyone taping away on their Ipads 30 as they have not learnt the art of good conversation.  It’s bleak, it’s horrible...! 

So, mums and dads, kids and kiddies, let’s all try to make an effort for the all so important traditional family meal.  Dads - surely you can put your blackberry down for 20 minutes even if you are expecting important emails.  Mums - putting your current status on facebook as ‘enjoying a lovely family meal’ is a bit of a contradiction in terms if you are spending the whole mealtime FBing and tweeting.  Kids - the DSs will still work if you put them down for 20 minutes!  Let’s aim for quality family time based around sharing tasty family meals.

On that note, a family meal menu for you, which is also seasonal.

Chicken breasts with creamy mushroom sauce
Roasted pumpkin
Steamed Broccoli


Coconut Rice pudding pots
Apple and blackberry compotes


Chicken Breasts with Creamy Mushroom Sauce

You need 1/2 - 1 chicken breast per person depending on appetite.  I flattened the chicken breasts with a rolling pin and then left them marinating in white wine and fresh chopped tarragon for 30 minutes.

For the sauce

500g or so mixed chopped mushrooms ( I used girolles and cepes)
3 crushed cloves of garlic
Chicken stock (about 300 ml)
Sherry ( about 30 ml)
Creme fraiche (about 2 large spoons)
Chopped parsley

Remove the chicken breasts from the marinade and pat dry and dust with flour.  Fry in a mix of butter and olive oil until cooked.  Place in a baking dish and keep warm in a low oven.

Fry the mushrooms in the same pan used for the chicken.  Once cooked add crushed garlic and the stock.  Let the stock reduce down a little bit then add the sherry and creme fraiche.  Season and scatter with the parsley.  Pour over the chicken and serve with a smile! 

Coconut rice pudding

Very easy!  100g pudding rice ( I used a brown short grain rice), 400ml coconut milk, 200ml water.  Note that you could a) also use normal milk and that b) the coconut milk depending on the type you use can be slightly grey in colour.  This is also nice for breakfast. 

Place all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil and then let it cook gently until rice is cooked (about 15-40 minutes depending on whether you use white or brown rice).  Sweeten to taste with honey, brown sugar or xylitol.  Serve with the compote.  

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