Recipe: Dough balls

Every Friday, the children get dough balls for tea. It’s the end of the week, they’ve eaten well all week, mum’s exhausted and the kids are hyper knowing that the weekend’s here.

So I keep tea simple. I mean very very simple. Dough balls for the children and pizzas for the adults. It’s a great recipe to use if you want fuss-free Saturday nights too.

These dough balls I’m talking about are like the ones you get at Pizza Express. You know the ones, the scrummy overpriced dough balls, which go for something like £5 for 6 balls.

This recipe can make 20 dough balls and 2 adult-sized pizzas.

500g strong white bread flour
handful of wholemeal flour
10g dried yeast
pinch of salt
1 tsp of sugar
80g of coarse semolina flour

Mix it all up with 300ml of warm water or until a nice doughy texture is achieved. Cover bowl with towel and leave aside to proof.

I’d make the pizza dough Friday mornings, which takes about 20-30 minutes. Leave it to proof all day. Either roll the balls before picking the kids up or after the school run. It’s so quick it doesn’t really matter. If the kids tire of dough balls, the dough’s turned into pizza instead.

Twenty dough balls for tea is plenty, which they have with garlic butter (a tiny squirt of garlic paste mixed into butter) or rosemary sauce – they can’t get enough of it.

It’s not that nutritious a meal, but the kids eat so well the rest of the time, I think it’s fine they have some fun finger food once a week. It’s just bread and butter if you think about it.

How I got round tea time tantrums

Wait until the meal finishes before you light up

Tea time always strikes fear in me. As the hour hand creeps towards 5pm, my heart slowly reaches a standstill. The terrible hour is nearly upon me. Where the children, if not fed on time, rip into each other with a kind of vehemence uncharacteristic of them. Tears, screams and malicious shoves are par of the course.

Then we hit critical point where it’s mum versus children. Equally tired, I have to play peace negotiator, cook tea and do general domestic chores (which I hate by the way). Shouting and barking ensues. From my direction of course. Many a time I have reached out to that glass of wine in a bid to soothe frazzled nerves.

Low blood sugar levels and end of the day tiredness makes for a deadly cocktail. We’re all ready to kill one another by 6pm.

So about three weeks ago, I decided something had to change. Or I risk going stir crazy living every single day – for the rest of my life or until the kids left home – like that.

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The most stressful part of my day

An egg in an egg cup in the little-endian orie...

5.55pm is the most stressful time of the day for modern mothers, according to a piece in the Telegraph.

That is the point when millions of mothers are usually rushing around trying to cook dinner in time to ferry the kids to their after-school clubs. Bath time – or 7.15pm – was the second most stressful point in a mum’s day, with the kids’ bedtime at 8.45pm coming third.

That three hours is a mine field. Sometimes when all’s going well, it’s heaven on earth and I feel like I can do anything. When all goes awry, I just want to tear ALL of my hair out.

In my household, tea time preparation begin at 4.30pm or 5pm if there’s been after-school club activity. Tea normally takes about 45 mins to cook. Or it all depends on what’s on the menu which ranges from boiled egg (when I am truly rushed for time and the kids are all over me chewing my arm off from hunger) to red lentil curry.

Let’s say I take the average 45 mins. In that time, the younger would get increasingly fractious and the older would moan about how he’s about to die of hunger. Mum (me) would respond by stirring the pot harder and louder. Lesson to oneself: this does not cook the tea any faster. My blood pressure is going up, and normally shoots through the roof around bedtime.

So I’ve decided, in the hope of having a smoother 3 hours, 45 mins is too long for tea preparation and I’m going to have to better the time. No, prepping tea is not a 100m dash, but I think time’s better spent larking around with the kids than sweating over the stove. The challenge is to still dish up hot delicious nutritious food but in a shorter time.

This week, I tried a few things:

1) Cooking more on one day (say Monday), and turn the leftovers into another dish the next day. Or use  leftovers from our dinner.

2) Make healthy snacks (like breadsticks and dip) which the kids can have on the way home from school.

3) Give younger her bath while tea’s cooking. By the time she’s done, her tea would have cooled to her preferred temperature.

4) Give kids a malt drink like Ovaltine before they go to bed. It’s meant to help them sleep.

5) Keep to the same routine everyday so the kids know what to expect. Surprises can turn bedtimes into war zones.

And just when I think I’ve cracked it, the kids will throw me a curve ball.