Midnight feasts

Isn’t it interesting how most treats are a night time indulgence? Post-dinner, once the kitchen is gleaming and quiet it is time to creep unashamedly back to raid the fridge and prepare the illicit snack that will satisfy those nightly cravings. Food becomes furtive and the recklessness of a pre-bedtime munch encourages us to believe it has never tasted better.

Children’s literature has a lot to answer for when it comes to naughty nibbles; characters rebel against teachers or parents by smuggling food into their dormitories for midnight feasts or picnics out of sight of the adults. The diet of literature on which children are raised include Famous Five, Malory Towers, The Worst Witch and Harry Potter, written by authors who are known for their loving detail when it comes to a table laden with British grub. The treats are an abundance of sensuality – cream cakes, cake studded with boiled fruit, a bowl full of golden syrup, and crumpets oozing with honey.

Instead of a night, I seem to have indulged in a week of treats. This isn’t new to be honest.

Fiona donned her apron and her culinary goodness, producing piping hot bakewell tarts, heaving with golden frangipane which hid molten pools of raspberry jam at the base. Fiona, my mum and I scoffed down a pie each just standing at the cooling rack, jam dripping onto our fingers. Said jam, although gloriously warm and sticky, ended up dribbling down my jumper, and then later I discovered it in glistening blobs in more hard to reach areas, including my back and my hair.

My sister and I also shared a clandestine mug cake the other night. The choice was between Angel Delight (we had an infatuation with this packet mix as children – how we got so excited about instant chocolate mousse now distresses me, even though we evidently haven’t grown out of it yet) and chocolate microwave mug cake. Our mum bought us matching mug cake mugs (yes, that is a thing) for Christmas one year, a shameful tactic encouraging us to make her more mug cakes, which are illustrated with the instructions. Fiona took it upon herself to make the decision and mug cake it was stuffed with a dollop of Nutella which then whizzed around the microwave in two minutes before serving with Greek yoghurt.

To accompany our biriyani dinner earlier in the week I baked a tray of samosas. Full of soft sweet potato, chilli and ginger, the delicate strips of filo were tricky to fold, not helped by the lashings of melted butter either. Once baked in the oven, however, the pastry pockets were crisp and golden, and satisfyingly crunchy as we tucked in with generous helpings of mango chutney.

Feta, pea and watercress filo parcels nigellaeatseverything.com

And now, Sunday; after a lunch of beef stew and dumplings followed by, my favourite, bread and butter pudding with custard, the afternoon usually requires lying on the sofa cradling a food baby. By dinner time, though, as food is never far from my mind, a small snack is inevitably on the menu, a mere morsel as we watch a TV drama. Usually, this consists of something easy – a sandwich or even a bowl of cereal – but tonight I continued the filo theme. These parcels, the recipe for which describe them accurately as pillows, are stuffed with peas, feta and shredded watercress and are surprisingly refreshing (most likely because the ingredients are completely out of season, but who doesn’t want a mouthful of sunshine on a late winter’s day). Complementing the peppery watercress is a freshness from lemon zest and mint while the peas are sugary sweet amidst the crumbled cheese. The perfect addition to a midnight feast (although they might be a bit out of place at Malory Towers where it was a jolly good show of ‘tongue sandwiches with lettuce, hard-boiled eggs’ and ‘gingerbread cake fresh from the oven’).

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