Today I was writing up some recipe articles for a client and found the words “kids love it…” tripping nonchalantly off my keyboard, as I assured readers that cottage pie is a really kid-friendly dish guaranteed to smuggle vegetables past the green detector into their child’s diet.
Later this afternoon, as I perspired over a hot stove (the weather was actually hot today for a change), making a chicken pie, I realized how inaccurate that generalization really is.
About a month ago I tried out the chicken pot pie recipe from Nigella’s Feast, which her kids apparently consider the highest treat possible.
"Great," I thought, "finally a way of using up cold chicken left over from the roast other than in sandwiches."
It is always the thighs and legs that get left. My family are almost exclusively white meat eaters; even Youngest, who I used to rely on to eat one drumstick, has now turned her back on it and competes with the rest for the coveted slices of breast. So stuck with all this perfectly good leg meat a pie should be the ideal answer…and Nigella’s kids love it, so mine should too.
It’s quite a bit of work with a béchamel sauce and pastry to prepare but eventually, with a fanfare, I produced a golden pie from the oven and bore it proudly to the table.
It was a resounding flop with the kids, who picked off the pastry and left the filling, looking suspiciously at the bechamel as if it were concealing a dreaded poison. The adults were left to enjoy the pie on their own and it was actually pretty good, lasting for lunch the next day too.
I tried it again today, undeterred by the groans from the children when they detected my foul intent.
"I’m using a different recipe," I assured them, "without the sauce."
I’d had a brainwave that I thought would get past their radar. Why not cook the potato dish they all love, without baking it, and mix it with the chicken as the filling for a pie; a bit of creaminess from the potato bake, chicken tucked in between and some green peas for sweetness, none of that scary white sauce stuff to put them off.
Well… it was better. Our son ate the small slice I served him without complaint, afterwards saying he took big bites 'cos you couldn’t taste it so much. Youngest even had a tiny helping of seconds and Middle Daughter ate the pastry and potato and left the chicken. But it’s still a far cry from Nigella’s big treat for her kids.
So I hereby resolve in future to strike those words from my recipes. All I will say about cottage pie and such like is… "MY kids love this, so it’s possible that your kids will, but don’t bet on it."