When is a chain restaurant, not really a chain? When it’s Jamie’s Italian. Especially when it is kids eat free!
I’ve never really felt like Jamie’s was merely another faceless high street pasta joint, it has always been slightly set apart in my mind, probably because the man at the helm is such a familiar face in all our lives, not to mention a game changer in the lunches of countless school kids.
One cuisine I can always be confident the kids will wolf down is Italian so it’s a really safe bet for us to go to any Jamie’s restaurant and not have food issues.
As you all know though, eating out as a family can be so stupidly expensive, especially when you add in a great pud once the last pieces of penne have been devoured hungrily.
That’s why this summer, throughout the entire duration of the holidays Jamie’s Italian has #kidseatfree to give our purses a bit of a break. He is a bit of a champion with this and I see so many other restaurant brands following suit – what a great help to us parents for a very expensive six weeks!
To help launch this cracking deal, we were recently guests at Jamie’s Cookery School in Westfield, White City – a place as vast as it is diverse. Choc full of every store we need and big enough to let the kids run around exploring without being squashed and getting cranky!
Well, except on Saturdays – choc-a-bloc!
This summer, kids can learn to cook free when an adult place is booked – what a treat!
The real bonus in this visit was that we got to spend the afternoon with none other than the legendary Gennaro Contaldo and cook up a storm, Jamie’s style. A more charming gentleman I’ve yet to meet!
On the menu was the ever popular spaghetti and meatballs and the kids got to make the whole thing from start to finish! My kids were over the moon at the thought of this as it would be the most ‘grown up’ dish they’d made to date.
What followed was an utterly fun afternoon, alongside other fabulous bloggers such as the Scummy Mummies, Lizzie Loves Healthy and the fabulous Sereta from Kikkablahblah, to name but a few.
We let the kids loose and under the expert eyes of the team, headed up by Gennaro and they did us proud!
Here’s the recipe for Jamie’s ‘secret’ 7 tomato sauce in meatballs – any of you brave enough to hand over the cooking to the kids – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
MEATBALLS – INGREDIENTS
1 onion (roughly 100g) 1 heaped teaspoon organic tomato purée 700g organic beef mince 1/2 a bunch of fresh basil (15g) 80g breadcrumbs
1. Peel and finely chop the onion, then place in a non-stick frying pan on a medium heat with a little olive oil. Fry for 5 minutes, or until soft, stirring regularly 2. Stir the tomato purée into the pan, cook for a couple more minutes, then turn the heat off and leave to cool 3. In a bowl, cover the breadcrumbs with 80ml of water, and leave to soak 4. When the onions are cool, add to the breadcrumb bowl with the mince. Pick, finely chop and add the basil leaves, and a little pinch of salt and pepper 5. Use clean hands to scrunch and mix everything together, then divide into 40 balls. They should be 18g each – weigh the first couple and you’ll get the hang of it 6. Any meatballs you’re not using straightaway can be kept in the fridge for up to three days, or portioned up between zip-lock bags, labelled, dated, and frozen for future meals. Simply defrost in the fridge overnight
SECRET SEVEN VEGETABLE SAUCE – INGREDIENTS
1/2 an onion 1/2 a carrot 1/2 a sweet potato 1/2 a small butternut squash 1/2 a swede 1/2 a courgette 1 clove of garlic olive oil 1 teaspoon tomato purée 1 fresh bay leaf 200ml organic vegetable stock 1 handful of spinach
1. Peel the onion, carrot, sweet potato, squash and swede,then chop into 1cm chunks with the courgette. Peel and finely chop the garlic 2. In a large pan on a medium-low heat, sweat the chopped veg and garlic in a little olive oil for 10 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally 3. Add the tomato purée and cook for 3 minutes, then add the bay leaf and a pinch of black pepper, and pour in the stock. The stock should just cover the veg, but you can top up with a little water, if needed 4. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the veg is very soft 5. Finely chop and stir in the spinach, and leave to wilt for a few minutes 6. Use a hand blender to pulse the sauce until coarsely blended. Taste and season with a little sea salt, if you like, then leave to cool 7. Use what you need, then portion up the rest in zip-lock bags, label, date, and freeze, where it will keep happily for up to one month before cooking