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Monthly Archives: March 2012

29th March: Bari Rice with Tandoori Chicken

Is there anything more shameful than a sunburnt baby? Well, not quite burnt, but rosy at least. It screams parental neglect doesn’t it. Well, let me tell you something about this little missy. She is becoming the feistiest, most stubborn little madam I have ever encountered.

Everyone said it would happen. Ooh, those two big brothers, she’s going to have to stand up for herself. And how! I have never seen anything like it. Therefore I am abdicating all responsibility for my baby’s deep suntan. She screams and writhes and kicks if you try to apply lotion. She pulls her sunhat off every 10 seconds and lobs it on the floor. If I bring her inside then she stands at the back door yowling and wailing until I’m sure the neighbours are going to call Social Services. And if Social Services see that suntan…..

I like to think she’s going to be Prime Minister, or something where she can use her natural ‘influence’. We went out for an ice cream at the weekend. She insisted that she wanted His full-sized adult chocolate cone. He tried to explain that, no darling, this was daddy’s. She primal screamed in his face, grabbed it, and used her vicelike grip to ensure He never got that cone back. It was hilarious. And alarming.

It’s a good job my kids all have lovely olive skin. It can withstand a bit of maternal inefficacy. ‘Jungle Juice’ is the term, most probably hideously un-pc, used in His family. The Big One has the highest amount of JJ. I was asked all manner of inappropriate questions about his origins when he was first born. Quite the cosmopolitan town we live in!!

For the JJ, we have His maternal grandma to thank. Or Bari as she is affectionately known. Talking of feisty little missies, we need look no further! I have rarely been as petrified of any living human in all my born days. Bari was born and raised in British India. We have tried to piece together the family tree, but it’s a little bit hazy. We think there’s some Anglo-Burmese, some Irish. Whatever, she was simply stunning in her youth, and we have her to thank for all the stunning beings that have followed since.

Coming over from India post-war, Bari had to be more British than the British, to ‘fit in’. She is heavily into etiquette, hence the terrifying times for me. “Not that spoon Susan” she’d shriek at a 17year old me. You’ve never known stress quite like trying to put some marmite on your toast at breakfast. A three step, three utensil process. I kid you not.

All this affectionately told, I hope you understand. A formidable woman, but formidably sweet at the same time. Some of my very best meals have been eaten at Bari’s. She was a fantastic cook. We used to starve ourselves on the way down to see her so that we’d have room for her homemade curries and trimmings.

Bari Rice is a staple in the family. It goes with everything, is delicious hot and cold. Sweat chopped onion in some oil, add some washed basmati rice and coat with the oil. Add stock, garam masala and turmeric. Add whatever herb or veggies take your fancy, I usually throw in some frozen peas. Bring to the boil then bake for 15 minutes in a low oven. Fail safe.

Today I serve it with a homemade tandoori chicken. Chopped chicken breast marinaded in yoghurt, garlic, ginger, paprika, garam masala and turmeric. Baked in the oven for 25 minutes.

It goes down a treat with my little brown berries. Must be the genes. Thanks Bari 🙂 9/10.

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25th March: Souvlaki Lamb kebabs

Well summer is upon us. Clocks forward so we’ve had the illusion of waking up after 7am instead of the usual 6. We paid for it this evening as the kids could plainly see it was broad daylight at bedtime. It was quite the mission to get them into their pits.

A warm day means, of course, the men in our village like to take their tops off and strut. Notice how it’s never the hot men though. Just the pink, apey ones. Their female counterparts dress in some questionable ensembles. But who am I to talk? I’ve bought a Playsuit of all things. Something a woman of my age should probably have thought twice about.

Summer means happy days in our house. My kids are of the free-range variety. A sunny day means I can lob them out of the back door to hunt for bugs all morning. Feed them outside, therefore no under table sweeping for me (my major domestic bugbear). They don’t wear as many clothes so the washing pile decreases considerably.

Downside? They go completely feral. Filthy fingernails, pelting eachother with garden detritus, a bit of Greco-Roman wresting on the trampoline. The boys also wap their bits out and wee wherever they stand. I blame Him for this last one. He initiated something called ‘The Widdly Woo Corner’ when the Big One was potty training. It stuck, much to my horror. They also don’t quite seem to understand that everywhere we pass or visit isn’t one big Widdly Woo Corner. Cue many an embarrassing outing for me.

The in-laws came for lunch today. A belated Mothers Day. We sat outside drinking fizzy cocktails. My mother-in-law, not your seasoned drinker, shows off her newly acquired armoury of swear words. Most incongruous if you know her. Think Julie Andrews gone to the bad. Amusing nonetheless!

I make us some Lamb Souvlaki. A favourite summertime lunch for us. It reminds me and He of lazier, easier days spent zipping about on scooters in the Greek Islands. (I did warn you earlier that we’d had a charmed life!). They sell these on most street corners for about a euro.

I marinade the lamb in sea salt, garlic, lemon, olive oil and dill. Then pop the meat onto skewers before barbecuing. Then add some homemade tzatziki and a lovely Greek salad whipped up by my sous-chef. A rather successful raspberry cheesecake for pud.

Sitting there, supping cocktails, eating our Greek feast, with the sun on my face, I almost feel like my 20 something self on holiday. Almost. Happy days 10/10.

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21st March: Shrekky Sausage Pie

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?? Living as I do, away from family, most of the calamitous events of my day go wholly unwitnessed. Friends may see a few mishaps at the park or on a day out. I try and relay it to Him when he returns to the homestead, but much is lost in translation I suspect. No one ever really sees the true horror of my day to day.

Today was horrific. A morning spent refereeing the wrestlers. A trip to the local country park for a picnic with friends. The Baby sits angelically in her buggy, the Fusspot has a tantrum about not having his scooter with him, in spite of his earlier tantrum when I tried to bring said scooter. The Big One scoots off and leaves us for dust. The perennial dilemma. Which child to save? Fusspot is steadfastly holding his sulking position, refusing to walk, the Big One is now a dot on the horizon. I’m screaming his name like a woman possessed. I’d like to think he couldn’t hear me. Amazing that every other soul there could though. I looked like a crazy woman. I run back to get the Fusspot then pelt after the Big One, hollering all the while. Clearly the angelic baby was abandoned in her pushchair. Thank heavens I was there with a friend. A two man job this.

I realise kids run off. I know mine are generally rather good, but what irks me most is the effort it took to get us to that point. Kids dressed, all the usual morning chores, picnic made, change bag packed, car loaded. Probably the most galling thing about this mothering lark is the fact that you can be so organised, work like a trojan, do everything that needs doing to the best of your abilities. And still always look like the most chaotic nutter in a park full of people.

Probably the most magical effect of this lifestyle I’ve chosen is the metamorphosis of my dear husband from an (admittedly wonderful) above average bloke from Blackpool, to an actual real life Superhero! I am thinking of hiring some buglers to fanfare his return home each evening. I practically swoon into his arms…before legging it and leaving him to it for half an hour.

An Ogre-ish mum needs pie. Grrr. Sausages baked in the oven. Meanwhile, a sauce made from leeks, garlic, spinach, creme fraiche and mustard. Mixed in the cooked sausages. Put into pie dish and covered with ready rolled puff pastry. Milk wash then baked for 25 mins. Some small roasties to go with.

Tonight I’m off out with some friends. A bit of a playgroup reunion. As we sit mainlining Sauvignon Blanc, nothing much need be said. Like a ‘nam veteran, sometimes it’s enough just to be with others who understand. “The Horror” 7/10.

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16th March: Mama’s Meatballs

Does anyone shop in a certain budget supermarket? I go through phases of thinking it’s a good idea. It is remarkably cheap. But, oh, the indignity of it.

For starters, they don’t do a double trolley. Ergo, both boys are free. Bad news.

Secondly, it’s full of the grumpiest old people known to man. People who would clearly drive 10 miles out of their way to save 20p on a loaf of bread.

These people hate children. The Big One plays a game whereby he sees how many people he can get to wave back at him. There? Nada. Niente. Zip. Miseries.
They sort of hiss at the boys if they wander in front of their trolleys. Their glower says “get out of my way you little git, you’re going to make me 10 seconds late to get my cherry bakewells….and stop waving at me”.

The checkouts are hell. You load up the conveyor belt, the grouchy till man pelts your goods at you as fast as he possibly can, you then pay and wheel your stuff over to the bench where you get it all back out again to pack. It’s a workout. A really crap, demeaning one.

This time, the Fusspot was posing some of his life-pondering questions, very loudly, as we waited in the queue. I was limbering up, getting ready to have my weekly shop thrown at me in record time. And to pay (admittedly a very reasonable sum) for the privilege. He sticks his hand down my top and loudly proclaims, “milk comes out of your boobies”. “yes son, milk did come out of there” says I in panicked whisper. Bakewell Doris is glaring at me. “you grow babies in your tummy” he shouts. “yes darling”…”YOU MAGIC MUMMY!!”. I can’t be sure, it may have been a trick of the light, but I think even Doris cracked a smile…

To food, meatballs tonight. Another Nigella one this, and a real winner with my brood. Beef and/or Pork (I prefer just pork) mince, mixed with Parmesan, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, oregano. Rolled into small balls and cooked in a tomato sauce. The sauce is onion, garlic, oregano, thyme (I obviously sneak in some carrot), cooked in olive oil and butter. Add passata and a bit of milk before adding in the meat. Served with spaghetti.

The boys do a most excellent Lady and the Tramp impression, and all three devour the whole lot.
That’s magic. 10/10.

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14th March: Homemade KFC

Did a little bit of sick come into your mouth when you read the title?? I’m really sorry…
I’m not some sort of nutritionist. I like making nice things of course, but I also like eating crap.
KFC is just nasty. I do know this. But I’ve been hooked on the stuff since the buckets were red&stripey and it was called by its full name. So that’s probably not going to stop anytime soon.

He comes from a big family. He will eat literally anything. By His telling, this is because if he didn’t, someone else would hoover up his tea and he’d be left hungry.

Two exceptions….can you tell where I’m going with this one?….

Parsnips, although to be fair he still eats them anyway. And fried or breaded chicken. Gives him indigestion apparently??

I know you’re wondering ” why did they even get together?”. Somehow we managed to work around the fried chicken problem. That said, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t rear its head once in a while.
I’ll be pregnant, or hungover (never both I can assure you!). My body screams for some deep fried salty goodness. “I’ll just make us some pasta” he says, all pious.
“NO!! It just won’t do” I scream like some petulant 4 year old. Invariably he tells me to drive and get myself some, but he’ll be fine with pasta. I may sob a bit. Then we have pasta. Harrumph.

I’d read a Guardian article a while back, about how the ’11 herbs and spices’ secret had been leaked and had been meaning to try the recipe for ages. I had taken the sprogs for a day out, fully intending to stuff them full of rubbish at lunch, but they defied me and asked for sandwiches and fruit. More fool them.

This did mean, however, that I could defer the junk stuffing til tea…so I decided to go for it.

The chicken pieces are poached in milk for 20 minutes, then coated in the secret herby flour, then fried for 2 minutes until crisp and brown.

They looked just like they ought to. Happy happy me! Two bonuses of doing it yourself are that you can use ‘nice’ chicken, and you can keep dabbing it with kitchen roll to remove some of the alarming amounts of oil.

I serve it a la colonel, with chips, sweetcorn cobs, coleslaw and beans. And the verdict? Very very nice. Not quite there, but that may be because I substituted at least 3 of the 11 ingredients for what I had in my cupboard. I also left out the MSG. I will enjoy tweaking it over time.

But what of Pope Pius, I hear you cry? I couldn’t quite face feeding the baby fried chicken – so her and her peculiar daddy had the intended chicken casserole instead. He’s at the pub for the evening – not so healthy now are we dear?

Salty crispy yumminess: 8/10.

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9th March: Peperonata Pizzas

It has to be said that my day to day life doesn’t often tally up with those cloying tv ads depicting life with preschoolers. Quite often, I am in a state of near collapse…. ”She’s gonna blow!!!”. Those mums on the telly, with their glazed, euphoric expressions are obviously superhuman…or heavily medicated.

That said, today was one of those rare, magical days where everything went well. All kids, and me, on sparkling form. The big one draws me an amazing picture. A rare event I can assure you. Of course there are a few minor fisticuffs over that one particular car that you can’t distinguish from any other but which they are seemingly prepared to fight to the death for. Sigh. You can’t have everything.

We donned wellies and strolled down the canal picking wild garlic. The sun shone, we all smiled and spring was truly in the air. We got home for lunch and the fusspot wolfed down a bowl of courgette and brie soup. I almost wept with gratitude. A lovely trip to the park to see friends in the afternoon sunshine. A happy happy day.

We decide on pizzas for tea. If you don’t already, then please have a go at making your own pizza dough. It’s so quick and easy, and tastes much better than anything you can buy. I use the recipe in Rachel Allen’s ‘Bake’ book which always works well.

The kids love to make the dough. It doubles up as an activity to take their minds off CarWars for 20 minutes. Result.

I need to sneak some vegetables in so I use some Peperonata that I’d made a couple of days earlier for a disastrous tea date. Don’t ask. Moodies, vomiting, tears. It was horrific. Not a magical day that one.

The sauce is basically red, orange and yellow peppers, leeks and garlic – sweated down in some oil for about 20 minutes. I then add some tinned tomatoes, sugar and basil and simmer for a bit before mashing. Great on pasta (add sausages and mushrooms), as a ‘ketchup’ or, like today, on pizzas.

We roll out the pizza dough and smear on plenty of sauce. I’ve no mozzarella so Red Leicester will have to do. Then into the oven for 15 minutes. “Me…me made this mummy. It’s wonderful” says the fusspot. Well said my boy. 9/10.

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6th March: Green Eggs and Ham

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Me and He have just returned from a spectacular weekend in Rome. Without the offspring to boot. It was a Christmas present, which seemed an age away at the time, but which came round very quickly. It was like an out of body experience heading to the airport on my own. I got myself a fancy cocktail and read my book, uninterrupted. The whole time I expected a hand to appear on my shoulder – “I’m terribly sorry madam but there’s been a mistake. We’re going to escort you home now. Please do not try this again”. But no, I got away with it, and landed in the warm evening sunshine to be greeted by my smiling husband. It all feels like a dream now. The nicest dream I’ve had in ages.

But Rome. What a place! Amazing sights and smells round every corner. And by goodness do the Italians know how to eat!

We used to live in France. The French know how to eat! I was trying to weigh up which country does it better. It’s a close run thing, but I think the French still have the edge for me. I am willing to concede, however, that I have eaten a lot more meals in France than in Italy. And a lot more ‘home-cooked’ ones at that, which always taste better in my opinion.

I’ll just have to keep going back to Italy, and possibly even befriend some big Italian mama, before I can say case closed!

Was I feeling inspired to rustle up an authentic Roman feast? Not really. I think I was feeling pretty peeved to be back to the old grind. My lovely mum had cooked us a most delicious pork and bean casserole for our return, so that delayed my moodie for a night at least.

The fusspot enjoys eggs. And cheese. A foolproof winner in our house is baked eggs. Is this called coddled??

I butter little ramekins (those ones you get free from M&S). Line them with ham. Smear the ham with some, yup….you guessed it, Spinach! Crack in an egg. Top with a dollop of creme fraiche (plus mustard for us grown ups). Then some grated emmental cheese. Gruyere works well too. Or whatever you’ve got in the fridge.

Pop in a hot oven for about 10-15mins until the cheese is bubbling and the eggs are to your taste. If I can be bothered, I make my own potato wedges to go with it, or some toasted ciabatta fingers.
Today I cannot, so it’s oven chips all the way.

Must get my cooking head on and plan some more imaginative meals. Must try not to be grouchy about being the house Frau once more, instead of the cocktail-supping jet setter.

And as we wrestle the bambini into their pyjamas, a rueful little smile. We’ll always have Rome.
8/10.

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