It’s five years since Bushey dad Nick Coffer started up his blog My Daddy Cooks and three since he released his first cookbook of the same name, inspired by his time in the kitchen with his then toddler son Archie. The focus of both was to provide readers with simple and healthy family recipes, no matter how small your kitchen or how chaotic your family life.
But since six-year-old Archie started school, a whole new aspect of family eating has opened up to Nick and his wife Jo – fitting in a young school-goer’s meals with three-year-old sister Matilda’s and ten-week-old baby brother Billy’s needs.
But Nick has got it covered, in his new cookbook, The After School Cookbook.
“Book one was me with a three-year-old, but I’m now the dad of a school-age boy, so the way we eat supper and the way we eat in general has had to change dramatically,“ says Nick, whose blogging and book success earned him a daily show on BBC Three Counties Radio.
“When you pick your child up from school at 3.30pm, it’s still a long way from teatime, and maybe they’re going off to Scouts or music lessons. We never had that problem before Archie went to school.“
Nick has devoted a chapter of his latest book to this “witching hour“, called Mind the Gap which, his feedback is telling him, is being devoured by his readers.
Another chapter created in response to Archie’s new status as a school pupil is 2 + 2 = 7.
“Jo will pick the kids up from school and say to me ‘By the way, his friend Daniel’s coming round’,“ laughs Nick, 41, “so that chapter deals with the whole notion of having to rustle things up quickly for a crowd of people.“
The whole book has been created by Nick thinking of what he would need himself, as a parent, from a cookbook. He breaks his meals down into two types – those you prepare before you pick the kids up from school and give to them when they get home, and those you cook in 20 minutes or less after getting through the door. Half of the recipes in the book are vegetarian, and all include ingredients that Nick uses on a regular basis that won’t break the bank.
“The book definitely reflects My Daddy Cooks having grown up a bit and our change of situation,“ says Nick, “but the most important thing hasn’t changed – that the food’s very good!“
The After School Cookbook by Nick Coffer is published by Hodder & Stoughton. Details: mydaddycooks.com
Pork chilli con carne
Serves 2 adults and 2 children
500g pork, cut into 1cm cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground oregano
A small bunch of coriander
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon chipotle paste, or less to taste (any variant of chilli sauce or cayenne pepper can be used, but you won’t get the lovely smoky warmth of the chipotle chillies)
400g tin beans (pinto, black or kidney beans all work here), rinsed and drained
200ml stock or water
Sour cream and grated Cheddar cheese, to serve
1 Pour a really good glug of vegetable oil into a large casserole on a medium to high heat.
2 Throw in your diced pork and cook until it has browned nicely on all sides. Then add your chopped onion. Keep stirring the pork and the onion for about 5 minutes until the onion softens.
3 Add the garlic, cumin and oregano. Finely chop the coriander stems, reserving the leaves for the end of the cooking. Add the chopped stems to the casserole, along with the tomatoes, chipotle paste and beans. Pour in the stock or water.
4 Cover the casserole, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for a further 15 minutes to reduce and thicken the sauce.
5 Coarsely chop the coriander leaves and chuck them in right at the end.
6 Serve with rice and top with sour cream and Cheddar.