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How to make mealtimes child's play with quick, easy and tasty dishes

Cooking for the family can be a total bore. In between working and parenting duties Claire Spreadbury tackles Annabel Karmel's Busy Mum's Cookbook to see if you really can create kid-friendly food in a matter of minutes.

Guilt is something many mums suffer immensely from. In today's busy world, it's so hard to find time to do everything you should for your kids - including cooking from scratch. And it's so easy to reach for the fish fingers and waffles and give little ones a lunch you know they'll love.

But with even a tiny bit of time, you'll be amazed at what you can whip up in the kitchen.

To prove the point, Annabel Karmel has unveiled her latest batch of recipes, splashed deliciously across 220 pages in her new book. There are quick recipes, ingredients-based ideas, dishes for entertaining - from pasta bakes, to cakes and steaks - there's pretty much everything you could ever need to feed a family at any age.

But the difference with this latest release - The Busy Mum's Cookbook - is that you really don't need hours on end to cook up these delicious storms.

So there are the 20-minute recipes for people (like me) who don't have the time (or inclination) to cook. Just the other week, I was cursing for agreeing to 'do' dinner the evening before a 10k race (something else to try and squeeze in and feel guilty about), because I wanted a pasta dish that wasn't too heavy. By the time the kids had gone to bed, all I wanted to do was slump in front of the telly and watch The Voice.

So what did I do? I turned to page 44 and whipped up Karmel's Mushroom And Broccoli Pasta in about 20 minutes flat.

There are oodles of quick and easy dinner ideas to get kids excited - the Sweet Potato Curls (though, granted, mine looked nothing like the ones in the picture) make a brilliant alternative to chips, the Frittata With Cherry Tomatoes is "the best frittata in the whole wide world", according to my three and six-year-old, and the Apricot, Pecan, Raisin And Chocolate Cookies are easy for little hands to make - and taste so good, you'll struggle to keep away from the biscuit tin.

Feeling inspired? Try these easy Annabel Karmel recipes for size.

Roasted vegetable galette

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

1 aubergine, cubed

1 red pepper, deseeded and diced

2 red onions, peeled and sliced into thin wedges

3 tbsp olive oil

3 small courgettes, halved lengthways then sliced into crescent shapes

375g packet ready-rolled puff pastry

A little plain flour, for dusting

1 egg, beaten, for brushing

3 tbsp sundried tomato paste

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 x 240g packets mozzarella cheese, sliced

75g Cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and black pepper

SERVES 8

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6, and put a baking sheet in the oven.

Put the aubergine, red pepper and onions on a baking tray. Toss with the olive oil and season to taste.

Roast for about 20 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Add the courgettes, then roast for a further 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface to a rectangle, roughly 35cm x 28cm. Score a 2cm border around the edge with a knife. Pierce the centre of the pastry several times with a fork and brush with a little of the egg wash.

Place on the preheated baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from the oven, press down the centre within the scored line, spread with the sundried tomato paste and sprinkle with fresh thyme.

Arrange the cooled roasted vegetables on top.

Season, arrange the mozzarella slices on top of the vegetables and sprinkle over the Cheddar.

Brush the border of the pastry with a little more of the beaten egg.

Bake for about 10 minutes, or until browned on top and golden and crisp underneath.

Remove from the oven, slice into eight rectangles and serve.

Apricot, pecan, raisin and chocolate cookies

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

100g unsalted butter, softened

100g light soft brown sugar

1 large egg

150g porridge oats

75g self-raising flour, sifted

Pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

50g dried apricots, roughly chopped

50g raisins

25g pecans, roughly chopped

100g dark chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

MAKES 20

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4 and line two large baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter with the sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy, then add the egg and beat again. Fold in the remaining ingredients until well incorporated.

Shape the cookie dough into 20 balls.

Place on the prepared baking sheets, well spaced apart, and press down slightly to flatten.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden but still slightly soft in the middle.

Leave to cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chicken goujons wrapped in Parma ham

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

2 large skinless chicken breasts

7 slices Parma ham

2 tsp runny honey

For the sauce:

200g creme fraiche

2 tbsp fresh green pesto

Squeeze of lemon juice

Salt and black pepper

MAKES 14 GOUJONS

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6 and grease a baking tin.

Place the chicken breasts on a board. Cover them with cling film, then bash them with a rolling pin until they are slightly thinner. Remove the cling film and slice each breast into seven goujon-shaped strips.

Cut each slice of Parma ham in half. Wrap each goujon in a piece of Parma ham, then place on the prepared baking tray.

Drizzle over the honey, then roast for 10 minutes, until cooked through and crisp.

Mix together the creme fraiche, pesto and lemon juice and season.

Serve hot (heated through in a small saucepan) or cold with the crisp goujons.

Tastes great served with baked potato or sweet potato wedges.

  • Annabel Karmel’s Busy Mum’s Cookbook is published by Ebury Press, priced £20. Available now

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