Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Monkfish curry

I have become obsessed with a book called French Children Don't Throw Food. I'm sure you've heard about it; it's by an American journalist called Pamela Druckerman who moved to Paris, had children and wondered why they were such snarling brats compared with the quiet little bonbon-ish children of her French counterparts.

She did some investigating and turned her findings into this book, which, if like me the two things you find most abhorrent in the world are badly-behaved dogs and badly-behaved children, is utterly gripping.

The secret, she says, is that the French just sort of ignore their children and let them get on with things by themselves. They are not constantly in their faces, trying to entertain them They do not rush over to their child at the first squeal of frustration. They practise "La Pause", which is the moment where you stop and think "Is that a cry of distress? Is my child actually hurt, afraid or upset? Or is she annoyed because she can't get the star-shaped wooden thingy into the square-shaped hole and will recover herself in a moment? And should I therefore just continue to hang up this washing and not run over there?"

They also don't really tell their children off that much. When they do, they make it count - but they don't tell them they are naughty. They say something along the lines of: "NO! We do NOT lick shoes. Non, non, non!" and they consider it part of the toddler's education, teaching them not to lick shoes because they are dirty, rather than a terrible curtailment of their freedom of expression - or as discipline.

Anyway, I could go on but I won't because we'll be here all day. But the upshot is that I have been implementing this advice as much as possible and although I can't say that Kitty is now a model child, at the very least I have ceased to feel even remotely guilty when I leave her bumbling around alone with her toys for 45 minutes while I lie on the sofa eating mini-eggs.

On an entirely separate note, I made the other night a really fantastic monkfish curry and it was terribly easy. I had a lot of monkfish knocking about from a trip to the farmers' market over the weekend and it felt like a curry night.

It utilised a curry paste from Jamie's 30-Minute meals, minus a few things I didn't have. We are eating a lot of fish and vegetables at the moment because my husband and I have both got terribly fat in the last few months and seeing as we're neither nice people nor useful to society, the least we can do is be thin.

Monkfish curry

2 monkfish tails (or any other firm white fish), cut into chunks
1 knob fresh ginger
1 red chilli seeds in, don't be pathetic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 heaped tsp tomato puree
1 tsp tamarind paste (if you have it)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 mini cans cocnut milk (you can get these from Waitrose, or 1 large one will probably do)
1 tsp coriander seeds, (if you have)
2 tbs groundnut oil

1 Put all the ingredients for the curry paste into a whizzer and whizz. In 2 tablespoons of groundnut oil fry off the paste for about 5 minutes.

2 Add the monkfish chunks and some sad old veg (baby corn/sugar snap peas etc) you have hanging about if you need to get rid of it. Stir this round until the monfish looks opaque on all sides, but don't cook for longer than 8 or so minutes.

3 Add the coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes until everything is very hot. If you had some fresh coriander, you could stir this in or sprinkle over at the end, but who ever has fresh coriander?


  1. I don't have kids, but that sounds like an interesting book. Really enjoyed reading this post, and the curry sounds delicious!

  2. Ooooh, excellent. I ordered this (the book, not the curry) from Amazon yesterday, which I am putting ALL my hopes on for making my life a calmer place. Concerned however that I will also have to take up smoking (I don't smoke) and wearing navy blue cashmere (I have no money and lots of moths, both of which make cashmere ownership tricky) to fully succeed with it. Hmmmm. Fingers crossed, because if this fails I'm going to be one of those people who goes to jail for ebaying their children.

  3. That was how we were brought up in the 70's and what I turned to when I had children. I have always found good advice in what 'my Mum would have done'. I survived and my son NEVER threw food and we are most definately not French!!!

  4. Love this post :)

  5. Great post Esther (great book too - although I lived in France for a time and it definitely has its share of snarling brats!).
    Will give this recipe a whirl, looks tasty.

  6. You are a goddess. Love your comment about being thin. I hesitate to use the acronym LOL as it makes me sound like a twat, but it did indeed make me laugh out loud.

  7. I can imagine monkfish in a curry being fantastic, nice and meaty and not falling apart.
    As for the little French brats, they are probably good in public but are all a nightmare when in their own houses and no one can see or hear. Plus they love their dummies on the continent so probably shove that in when they start to play up.

  8. I was telling my dad who lives in France about this book - he couldn't stop laughing and said in his experience the French kids far outweigh us in terms of brattishness.

    He also said rather than "le pause" you often see French parents casually smashing their kids heads against the wall in supermarkets. Nice!

  9. I often wonder how modern children will ever get the space to develop a sense that they have a life of their own, rather than just as an extension of their parents. The helicopter parenting has to stop. The world is not that dangerous and your child is more likely to do well at school and in the world with some independence rather than 19 after school activities and no time to relax, imagine and contemplate. As long as they are not endlessly parked in front of the telly, time alone with their toys is probably as useful developmentally as having Mummy putting on a three ring circus - and Mummy gets a life beyond being someone's Mum. And the curry sounds delicious!


  10. I regularly ignore my 3 small children for long periods of time. leaving them with a pile of pens/glue/scissors/old loo rolls/the hamster etc while I hide in the kitchen with the laptop reading this blog and stuffing crisps silently into my mouth.

    The upshot of this is that they are very good at playing on their own, and sorting their own fights out. Not bad for 3 under 5...I am also often complimented on their manners (but they are definetly NOT sucks, thank god).Partly because I have always believed that you can get away with a lot in life if you are polite (or indeed thin..)

    Anyhows, the curry sounds delish and if I can tear myself away from my new slow cooker which is the best thing ever, I shall give it a whirl.
    Laura x

  11. "who ever has fresh coriander?"=> me! Oe benefit of living in a shabby neighbourhood in North London is the amazing Tukish selling fresh herbs for pennies. Never more than 2 minutes away from fresh dill, parsley, coriander, thyme, sage - you name it. Bring on the Ottolenghi!
    (sorry, nothing to say about kids)

  12. Laura I love the "silenty stuffing crisps" image... so that the little tinkers can't hear and bomb into the kitchen going "Mummmeeeee, can WE have some?"

  13. I once read that the greatest talent a parent can have is the ability to eat a whole packet of crisps in complete silence with one's head inside a cupboard. Whoever said that was a genius. And right. My kids have sonar hearing when it comes to crisps.

    Love the blog x

  14. Made this with prawns and it was quick and very yum so thanks