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I have real problems sometimes with finding meals that both my boys will eat.

DB1 is a real ‘simple foods’ kind of a chap. He likes generally likes his food plain and simple (though strangely, has a real penchant for curries.) DB2 is totally the opposite. He likes foods dripping in flavoursome sauces and ‘soggy’ foods like pasta bakes and risottos.

Catering for both tastes is a continual issue, and it was causing me some real problems, and inevitably, I was finding myself relying on a small selection of ‘favourites’; meals that I knew both would eat. Because we worry, don’t we…us mums. We panic that they aren’t eating as much as they should, that they’ll run out of energy, and (let’s be honest here) we also have palpitations of dread at the prospect of them refusing tea then waking up at 1am, crying because they are hungry. (Or is that just my two?)

Part of this whole healthy eating challenge for me was trying to get both of them into foods that they claimed to ‘not like’. Sounds harsh, doesn’t it. Honestly, Im not some draconian tyrant who continually force-feeds my kids only foods they hate! But just every so often, to throw something into the mix, see how they get on, and get them used to all foods, not just the safe foods, is probably quite a shrewd move I reckon.

Tonight’s meal is a bit of an experiment. I’ve cooked ‘Mouse’ risotto (cheesy), many times. It’s a safe option (at least for DB2). But Popeye-mouse risotto (yep, you guessed it, with the inclusion of some spinach!) is a totally new one that I’m doing ‘off the cuff’. So, this could be a complete unmitigated disaster. If it is, I’ll let you know at the end!

Popeye-Mouse Risotto

You will need:

1) 350g arborio rice

2) approximately a litre of vegetable stock. (keep extra water to hand in case you need more)

3) A third of a glass of white wine. (optional- the alcohol does burn off, but it’s entirely up to you whether you use it or not)

4) Some spinach. Ideally fresh, but I’m using frozen (far cheaper!) I’m also using green beans, technically you can feel free to be creative with the veg you add!

5) 1 onion

6) 2 cloves of garlic

7) olive oil

8) ground nutmeg

9) A nice cheese for the topping (I’m using cheddar and Parmesan)

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How to do it:

1) Finely chop the onion and the garlic. Whilst doing so, boil a litre of water in your kettle to make up the vegetable stock.

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2) In a large saucepan, heat about three tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and fry gently until soft. Whilst doing so, make up the stock in readiness, and as the onions get close to being soft, add the wine and leave to simmer for a few minutes. Resist the urge to neck the wine directly from the bottle, tempting though it may be.

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3) Add the rice to the wine/ onion mix and stir fry for a few minutes to let the rice absorb the oil.

4) Gradually start adding the stock, stirring at regular intervals to prevent sticking. Wait until the rice looks as though it has nearly absorbed it all, before adding more (this will stop you adding too much!)

5) When the rice looks ‘nearly there’ but still has moisture in it, add any veg that need cooking, such as my green beans. Leave the spinach out for now! As a general rule, risotto rice will take about 15 mins to cook, but it can vary.

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6) Right near the end, add the spinach to wilt it. Stir it in, then drain off any excess fluid. Whilst this is going on, pre-heat your grill to medium high.

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7) Pour the risotto into an oven proof dish. Grate cheese generously over the top and sprinkle with ground nutmeg.

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8) Pop it under the grill for a few minutes to allow the cheese to melt and turn golden.

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9) Serve with crusty bread!

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Total Cost: Incredibly cheap, as I used frozen veg. About £1.50 in total. So, about 40p a head.

The Verdict? My opinion: turned out lush! Really really tasty. And the baked cheese and nutmeg lends it a gorgeously rich flavour (without the cheese, it might be a little on the bland side.) The boys verdict was very surprising. I was anticipating DB2 would polish the lot, which he didn’t (I don’t think he liked the colour!) but DB1, who I thought would spurn it entirely, ate about half of it, and said he ‘really liked it because of the cheese’. This, for us, is a huge, huge step forwards on the risotto front!

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