Sunday, 29 April 2012

6 things that my life would be too hard without...

What 6 things would life be too hard without? I like doing these sort of lists, and I have been thinking about ATO Mum’s since she posted it up a few days ago. I had the opportunity to crystalise my thoughts on the drive to my parents this weekend, particularly this afternoon as the rain lashed down and I was trying to use mind over matter to crowd out the sounds from the backseat and/or Rolling in the Deep for what must have been the 37th time (I mean, I like Adele as much as the next person – assuming the next person likes her quite a lot) but it can get a little repetitive…

I’d like to caveat this post as follows: I know that my life is pretty easy, and that without the things I am going to list, I would still have a lovely, comfortable life, so you’ll have to indulge me. That said, in no particular order, here we go:

would that my freezers were this organised...
The freezer: Actually, we have 3 – the drawers at the bottom of the fridge freezer, a standalone one that sits under the worktop in our ‘utility room’ and a ¾ size chest freezer in the shed. May be this is excessive but the freezer gives us the opportunity to buy meat in ‘half a pig’ or ‘a lamb’ quantities, and to store the bounteous produce that we manage to grow in the garden (or the excess that Allotment Junkie brings us). I’ll also freely admit that I am a bit neurotic about what I feed the kids (and us) and while I’m not averse to the odd fish finger or sausage, I would rather spend more time cooking from scratch than serving up pre-prepared stuff. The freezer allows me to cook in bulk when times are more relaxed, and then pull out meals when things are more chaotic. It’s going to sound really smug, I know, but for the last few years, I’ve nearly always made at least double of anything made of mince or that could broadly be called ‘casserole’. It does really take no more time, it saves time, and, I like to think, a least a little on our fuel bills. I’ll admit that I could be better at labelling what I stash, but I haven’t yet served up gooseberry puree instead of soup, which befell Allotment Junkie once.

Waterproofs: Yes, I know I’m thinking fairly short term, but I have a dog and he needs to be walked regardless of the weather. And we camp. I am currently surgically attached to my waterproof trousers. It’s not a good look, but a practical one.

Internet shopping: I have no need to visit the shops ever again. This generally can only be a good thing. We got rid of our second car a couple of years ago and although we have Daisy (see below), she spends 6 months of the year in a barn, and is fairly heavy on petrol so the internet shop/ supermarket delivery has become an essential part of my life. I cannot conceive of having to re-integrate a weekly shop where I visit a supermarket back into my life, and I do not miss it one little bit.

just looking at them brings me out in a cold sweat
Contact Lenses: I’ve worn glasses since I was about 5 for short sight. I had those hideous national health ones, which only added to my general geekiness as a child/early teenager. Then we moved house. I moved schools and got contact lenses – while this did not exactly spawn an ‘ugly duckling to swan’ transformation, it certainly did something for my confidence. As an adult, I have been though phases where I haven’t worn lenses, but I’ve gone back to them in the last few years and really, they are fantastic. No more steaming up when I come in from the rain or open the oven door, no more crying when I chop onions- It's just a problem if I forget to wash my hands after chopping chilli... 

Daisy the Camper Van: Well, obviously, not having Daisy would really make no difference to my day to day life and probably doesn’t count, but what she represents is escape from the shackles of the day to day, for us and the children, and without something to look forward to and plan, perhaps life would be too hard.
Gin & Tonic: need I say more?

Friday, 27 April 2012

Heading North - and a family recipe for Ginger Shortbread

So this evening after tea I am going to pack the dog and the kids in the car and head North to visit Allotment Junkie, Grumpy and, more importantly my brother and his family, who are over from Tanzania for a few weeks. They were all at ours last weekend for my birthday, but it was complete chaos, and we didn’t really get much ‘quality time’ together. The thought of braving the M1 on a Friday night fills me with fear and dread, but the opportunity to see my brother and his wife and kids is one that I can’t pass up. They live so far away – we haven’t made it out there yet, and I am well aware that as their kids grow up, I need to take every chance I can to see them– these are the kids who make funny grunting noises when they see sheep – they don’t see sheep that often, but hippos, on the other hand – 10 a penny. Hippos grunt. Hence the noise. It makes me realise quite how different their life is to ours...
sheep? or hippo?

Anyway, enough of that. I don’t actually get back to Yorkshire that often, and if we do, it’s usually a fleeting visit to dump Blue and Pink while we go and do something else. More frequently, though, Allotment Junkie and Grumpy come to us. So I am looking forward to spending 2 nights in my old bedroom. We will undoubtedly visit the National Railway Museum in York, and have a roast dinner on Sunday that I will eat far too much of. Just like always. The Husband has scout things to do so he is home alone. I have seen a double pack of bacon, which he thinks he's hidden, at the back of the fridge...

I have been feeling quite nostalgic recently, seeing all my old friends at my birthday party. Maybe it’s something to do with hitting that ‘40’ milestone. Who knows.

OK, so maybe mine didn't look quite like this...
I made Florentines for my birthday tea. When mum saw them, she commented that they had been a speciality of my great aunt ‘Narty’. It made me come over all peculiar to think that I had had an urge to make them for my 40th. I’m not suggesting anything wierd was going on, just that it gave me a strong feeling of being linked back to my family in its wider sense. Mum, Allotment Junkie, has also made 2 trays of ginger shortbread for the big day. This is a family recipe, also from Narty, and I thought I would share the recipe. You can tell it’s a family recipe because it’s a bit vague. I haven’t made it myself so I can’t tell you what size tin it requires, but I’m sure you’ll be able to work it out once you’ve got the shortbread crumbs...

For the shortbread: 4 oz butter, 4oz sugar, Pinch of salt, 7oz self raising flour, 1 tsp ground ginger

For the icing: 2 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of syrup, 4 tablespoons of icing sugar, 1 tsp ground ginger

Cream together the butter and sugar, sift the rest of the shortbread ingredients in with the creamed mixture. Mix first with a knife and then rub lightly with fingers until crumbly. Press into a tin and bake at 1600C for about 20 mins.

Melt the topping ingredients together in a pan, then pour over the shortbread while it is still hot and cut into slices before it cools.

I haven’t got a picture of it because it doesn’t look like much – and mostly beige – but it is delicious.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Oh goodie – a really good reason to share my birth stories with even more people – because let’s face it, we all love doing it. Pour a few drinks down my neck and I’ll regale you with my stories at the drop of a hat. Today, with no wine involved, I Blog it for babies :

Blog it for Babies logo
– and I’m pleased to be sharing my stories is because I’m here, alive to blog about my emergency C-Sections, and my children are running around, infuriating and amazing, and ALIVE. There are many women in the world who don’t have the option or the facilities available in the same circumstances, and who die – and their babies die – in childbirth.

Blog it for babies is about raising awareness – and funds to support Save the Childrens’ Build it for Babies campaign: to raise money for selected equipment for a delivery room in a healthcare clinic in Bangladesh.
So let’s get on with it. Are you sitting comfortably?
Blue – 10 days over his due date. I was massive not only with bump, but bloated having consumed my own bodyweight in pineapple and curry, constantly needing to go to the loo from all the raspberry leaf tea, and exhausted from daily route marches all designed to avoid induction. It was not to be. Into hospital I headed at the duly appointed time.
I was hooked up to a monitor for 45 minutes at which point a midwife examined the trace and wondered aloud why every 10 mins or so the trace went a little bit mad, then back to normal.

“Can you feel anything?” she asked.

Off she went to fetch a friend. Teeth sucking ensued. “We don’t want to give you the gel because we think you are in labour already. How about a sweep?” I graciously acceded. She got down to business, hand up there and a puzzled look came over her face. “I think I can feel a bottom” she announced. One scan later, and indeed, my massive, 10 day late baby was breach and I was already in labour. I got given the NHS ‘options’. “Well, we could try to turn it, but we normally do that at 37 weeks and you haven’t got much room. You could try naturally (if you are completely and utterly stark raving bonkers), or we could do a section.”

“And when would you do a section?”

“When did you last eat?”

Off we headed to the appropriate room where I was prepped for a c-section. The Husband had to wait outside. We were nearly ready to go when an alarm went off somewhere else. Literally everyone, apart from the anaesthetist’s assistant, dropped everything and ran out of the room in the direction of the alarm. Pity the Husband waiting outside, who heard the alarm and saw 7 people stampede out of the operating theatre where his wife was supposed to be giving birth. He assumed I was the emergency...
Back on track. Spinal administered, lots of rummaging around (as someone had said it would be – like having the washing up done in your stomach) and the next thing I know, there’s a baby. Crazy.

Let’s now fast forward 2 ¼ years. 6 months pregnant with Pink, and Blue is diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at the age of – oh yes – 2 ¼ . During the next few weeks, when I am not thinking desperate thoughts about my poorly boy and trying to keep it all together, I have many conversations with the midwife(incidentally, the same community midwife who swore blind that Blue was the first breach she had ever missed... that and her quirky suggestions as to what a working mum could eat to keep her strength up during long business meetings aside, I loved her) and an amazingly sympathetic consultant. Would an elective c-section be better  - I wanted to have a natural birth, but logistically, in view of the chemo regime and everything else we were going through with Blue, there was a certain appeal to having it all planned. The consultant supported me on the natural front. Excellent.

A week early, I went into labour as Blue finished a particularly gruelling 4 hour chemo session on a drip. We were in the wrong hospital (45 minutes drive away from the right hospital) with nothing, not even the blood service bag containing the wherewithal to harvest stem cells in case Blue needed a transplant. We knew Blue was scheduled for more chemo back at our ‘home’ hospital (where I was also booked in) and was also likely to need a blood transfusion in the subsequent couple of days. We couldn’t get hold of my mother, or any of the standby friends and the contractions were coming every 4 minutes by the time we were ushered out of Southampton hospital (a paediatric oncology ward is no place to give birth).

The Husband made it to Basingstoke in about 30 minutes. He took me straight to hospital, Blue in tow. Once the midwives took me – and the whole situation – in, I was moved to a delivery room. Blue was still with us, and so I was trying hard not to make too much fuss, but it was pretty hard not to. After half an hour or so, with a plan in place for Blue, my menfolk left me to get on with it. I was strapped on to a monitor – the NCT lady had been very vehement about resisting this – but I was more worried about Blue and frankly, as you will see, it was a blessing.
The Husband returned at some point, blood bag and hospital bag in hand. The midwife came and went, as did the contractions. At one stage, a doctor came in and had 3 goes at putting a canula in to my wrist ‘just in case’. The bruises lasted for about a week.

The Husband kept disappearing. Although he didn’t tell me, Blue was threatening a temperature. At that stage in his treatment, anything above 38 meant we had to bring him straight in to hospital. The friend who was looking after Blue until my mum could get down to us (Leeds to Basingstoke in a thunder storm – I have much to thank her for) was ringing with regular updates. The poor man must have been going mental, while I was cursing his nicotine habit – did I mention that there was no gas and air left?

Anyway, back to the main action – when he was actually in the room with me, the Husband was paying close attention to the heartbeats registering on the monitor. He has more idea than I do, and could distinguish my heart rate from the baby’s. The baby’s kept fading. We called for the midwife. He insisted that she check. She told us it was fine, but to keep an eye. Round about shift change on the ward, we were listening to the heartbeats and the baby’s just dropped out. It didn’t come back. No one around – we had no option but to hit the big red button.

What seemed like hundreds of people appeared – kind of the reverse of what happened to me first time around. My waters were broken, there was meconium, next thing I know I was being rushed down the hall on a trolley, clothes flying. It was awful. The pain was intense, I was flat on my back and some child popped his head up next to me and said “Hello, I’m Ben, I’m your anaesthetist”. I recall that I uttered the words “Fuck Off! You are too fucking young , you are NOT putting me to sleep” and then carried on yelling about how important it was that they collected the cord blood - then suddenly, I saw stars, and oblivion. I expect Ben was thanking fuck for general anaesthetic.
I came to, and the Husband was holding our daughter. I can’t truthfully tell you that the stress disappeared as I gazed at her in wonder – from memory, he was telling me we had a little girl and I was bleating about more pain relief. I felt completely shattered and desperate to know how Blue was. But there she was, Pink. Alone with her later that day, I wrapped her, sleeping, on my chest, tucked her in with blankets around me and breathed in her smell. My daughter – alive.

I have read a lot of literature about the evil of caesareans, about how being on a monitor is akin to being shackled and how so many women feel cheated of natural birth after a section. Everyone feels differently about their birth experiences, and no doubt some c-sections are administered when not strictly necessary, but I look at my children and I thank God, truly, every day for the medical facilities that were available to me and my children.  

This blog post was written for Save the Children’s BlogitforBabies campaign. Every hour of every day, 11 newborn babies die in Bangladesh. That’s about one every six minutes. 1 in 19 children do not live to see their fifth birthday in Bangladesh because access to basic services such as healthcare is very limited, particularly in rural areas. For every 10 births in Bangladesh, 8 mothers have to give birth in their home without a skilled health worker present, putting the life of their baby at risk.

Please help Save the Children to raise money to build 7 new clinics in Bangladesh.

The new clinics in Baniachong and Ajmiriganj will reach 21,500 women of child-bearing age with family planning services; 3,000 pregnant women with antenatal care; 2,190 newborn babies with postnatal care, breastfeeding support for their mothers and antibiotics when they become ill; 2,218 infants aged up to one year, by helping their mothers to breastfeed and wean them safely and reducing the chance of life-threatening diseases such as diarrhoea and the risk of malnutrition and 43,600 people in the area with information on how to stay healthy and where to get help if they do become ill.


Monday, 23 April 2012

That's why you'll aways find me in the kitchen at parties...

At one stage on Saturday afternoon, my (as yet, child-free) youngest brother looked into our playroom and announced that the sight of approximately 35 18 month-11 year old children watching Tangled and sugar-loading on lemon drizzle cake and Fruit Shoots was ‘his worst nightmare’. I had to correct him and advise that his worst nightmare would in fact be when the TV went off, but the reason why I mention this is that we have a reasonable-size cottage (small rooms, low ceilings etc), and I had somehow managed to invite approximately 120 (give or take) people for my birthday party – probably half and half adults & children (again, give or take). There were children in the playroom, children playing football, children at the park over the road (with responsible older child – thanks Rowan!), children hiding out in the bedrooms and the cooler ‘children’ making the best of our ipod selection (Massive Attack and some old Ministry of Sound Ibiza albums were about the best they could come up with) in our sitting room.

I always find some welly boots add a certain je ne sais quoi...
On the other hand, us adults – all 60 or so of us were crammed into an area approximately 4m by 12m, made up of our dining room and decking – with the French doors open (for ease of access between the cakes and the fizz) and a gazebo keeping off the (thankfully infrequent) showers. Ok, so it wasn’t the kitchen, but in that fine tradition, we had all crammed ourselves into the smallest space possible. Believe it or not, the sun shone for most of the time, the bunting fluttered in the breeze, and if I do say so myself, I think it went rather well. A bit like a wedding without the commitment bit. My lovely, lovely Husband did a fab job with the fizz, Allotment Junkie, my brother and his wife, and my school friends were wonderful doing tea and topping things up and everyone was WONDERFUL. I have amazing friends and family - all of you - and I had a ball. Bring on 50 that's all I can say.

In case you were interested, this is what we catered – and ended up with literally one small plate consisting of 1 pumpkin cupcake, a few slices of fruit bread and 3 pieces of chocolate and walnut brownie – pretty good going, given that on Saturday morning I was worried that I didn’t have enough, and then just before everyone arrived, I was worried that there was far, far too much...

I decided that we ought to have a little savoury in the unlikely event of there being anyone there who didn’t like cake (I know, I know, but I do like to cover all eventualities, however unlikely), so:
4 loaves of bread made into smoked salmon sandwiches (used 450g of smoked salmon) and cucumber sandwiches (2 cucumbers) (thanks Hugh and Natalie)

750g puff pastry made into marmite and cheese swirls, raspberry jam and cheese swirls and ham mustard and cheese swirls (see below).

And now, the important stuff:
40 bottles of fizz (30 of prosecco, 10 of various - by that stage, I’m not sure anyone was really worried- brought by lovely guests)

70 mini chocolate ├ęclairs and 2 trays of ginger shortbread (thanks, Allotment Junkie)

60 cupcakes (various flavours) (thanks Catherine, Emmie, Kathryn, Louise and Ruth)

1 tray of exceptionally scrummy peanut and Crunchie rocky road type thing (thanks Louise)

1 fruit loaf (thanks, Rachel)

2 trays of lemon drizzle traybake, 2 of raspberry bakewell slice, 1 of chocolate and walnut brownie

30 florentines – an afterthought, but I’ve been desperate to bake them ever since I saw a Nigella recipe for them in Domestic Goddess, and first thing on Saturday morning before anyone else was up seemed like a good time as any...
80 teabags (yes, we did actually drink tea... then more fizz)

I didn’t take any  specific pics, but they're on the green plate on the right of the table, and in the interests of providing a recipe in this post, here’s what I did for the savoury swirls (with thanks to Sarah P, who gave me the idea ages ago):

Take 250g puff pastry, roll into a rectangle if not already rolled. Spread with e.g. Dijon mustard, top with chopped ham and grated cheddar, roll up long the long side, slice into rounds, approx 1 cm thick for dainty, 2 cm for chunky, place rounds on a greased baking sheet, whack into pre-heated oven (2000C fan)  for 15-20 mins till golden – job done. You can make these with almost anything – marmite and cheddar – good for kids’ parties - pesto and parmesan, tapenade (I nearly did this, but my French friends had bought me some particularly delicious tapenade as a gift and I was feeling selfish...), sundried tomato paste and mozzarella...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Not Quite Veg Everyday - but trying: Cheesy peasy puff turnover

So I had 2 options for supper this evening. Take it or leave it... oh no – that was yesterday when I dug out a venison and rabbit casserole out of the freezer. “What? A real dead rabbit?” Pink looked a little horrified. So much for smugly thinking you’ve explained to the children about the food chain.

Anyway, today the choice (from my point of view) was either chachouka or a new thing cheesy peasy puff turnover, from Veg Everyday – one of the ‘store cupboard suppers’.  The Husband was due to be entertaining Americans this evening. He had been bemoaning the fact, until I opened the supper debate at breakfast, at which point he decided that actually he might prefer to drive 2 hours back to Heathrow for steak. Can’t imagine why...

As all the rest of the meals for the week – until Monday in fact - are already in the freezer on account of the fact that I am catering for the masses, starting tomorrow with the arrival of my French exchange and her family (yes, we got on and yes, we’re still in touch!), peaking on Saturday afternoon with the cake and fizz fest planned to celebrate my 40th, and lingering on into Monday when my parents, one of my brothers (and family) and the French contingent leave – I thought I’d go for the cheesy peasy puff thing because it would give me something new to blog about and the oven was going to be on anyway for bread and cake baking.

I think I have previously suggested that Hugh’s storecupboard might be somewhat differently stocked to mine (I haven’t yet found a recipe in Veg Everyday for 2 out of date tins of pineapple rings, something that might or might not be a can of Italian seafood salad and some lemon jelly circa 1995) but I may have been hasty. This is a great recipe and will definitely be reappearing on our menu.

hmmmmmm cheesy peas
I made it with my own modifications, and the kids just loved it. For some reason, Blue didn't mind the egginess (which I was worried about, I'll admit - I was even ready to offer HP sauce) and both he and Pink scoffed it down. Cue warm glow of good-mumminess all round. The only thing I would say is that making it in a rectangle like I did (Hugh makes a triangle but I'd rolled out the pastry before I read the instructions properly) meant that the 2 ends were short on peas and big on egg.

I did it with potato chunks also baked in the oven (heat up some olive oil on a baking sheet, spread out the potato chunks and turn them over in the oil and sprinkle with a little salt), and green beans.
In the end, the Husband appeared just in time to nab the last piece – he got an end which didn’t have any peas but some eggy cheesy filling. So much for steak - but as the kids had eaten all the potatoes, he got special privileges - oven chips...
Here's my version:
250g ready made puff pastry
100g frozen peas
50g mature cheddar

1 large egg

Pre-heat oven to 200c . Roll out the pastry (if it’s not already rolled) into a rectangle and carefully tip the peas in the centre, but spread along the length. Grate the cheese on top and some salt and pepper. Beat the egg, then brush along the edges of the pastry and then carefully pour all but 1tsp worth of egg carefully over the peas and cheese. It will run a little, so quite quickly fold up the edges of the pastry to cover the peas and make a parcel. Fold up the ends too and push down with a finger or the end of a fork or something depending on how pretty you want it to look. Brush the parcel with the last of the egg, place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 mins until golden brown.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Not Quite Veg Everyday but trying - Herby Peanutty Noodly Salad, 'Vegeree', and (oh yes) a yummy chicken casserole

So after the combined stress of Friday's duck incident plus the shoe shopping trip and yesterday's bakethon, I think I would have been forgiven if I'd fed the family on fishfingers all weekend. There's nothing wrong the fishfingers, I should add, but, ever the glutton for punishment, I forewent the easy option and carried on as planned.

Friday night, we had 2 of the Veg Everyday salads - the dressed lentils I've cooked before for the Husband and I, and also the herby Peanutty Noodly salad. This is a kind of Asian type salad, and very delicious. I followed the recipe to the letter, very easy and quick, and great flavours. I did serve it with some salmon (which I rubbed with a little sesame oil and soy sauce and baked in the oven ) because I needed to make room in the freezer for the cakes, so it didn't quite fit with the meat-free ethos, but then again, salmon's pretty healthy, the kids love it and we shared 3 portions between 4 of us. Blue wasn't too keen on the lentils, but Pink loved both salads.

I have to say that Vegeree on Saturday night was less of a success. Hugh advocates using roasted aubergines and courgettes to replace the smoked haddock. I love smoked haddock, but wass quite keen to give this a go to see what it was like. I have to admit that the Husband is fairly vocal in his dislike of aubergine - which generally acts as an encouragement to me to try and get it into the diet without him noticing - to see if I can somehow trick him into saying "Wow, that was lovely". He's even growing aubergines this year, and I wondered if this was evidence of some sort of aubergine detente, but apparently not. "I couldn't get them to grow last year" he responded through gritted teeth "so I'm going to MAKE the b******* grow this year if it kills me". So a question of personal honour rather than a change of heart on the aubergine front.

Anyway, back to the Vegeree. Sorry Hugh, but this is not the recipe to make him have a change of heart. I actually liked it. The rice cooked really nicely and I liked the flavour of the veg mixed with the rice, but I was alone. I'll accept that it didn't look particularly appetising, despite my best efforts - and I'd even fried up a leaning tower of poppudums to try and trick them all into getting excited about it. They were - for a minute...

Blue and the Husband managed to force it down with liberal helpings of Geeta's mango chutney (if you haven't experienced Geeta's, I urge you to try it sometime - I especially like the lime and chilli pickle) but Pink was pretty much immoveable. She picked at the rice and ate a couple of poppudums but no more.

Leaning tower of poppudums - sadly not fooling anyone

Today we had a lovely day. We took Daisy out for a picnic and a walk in Micheldever Woods near Winchester. The leftover salads from Friday evening were still pretty tasty, and I'd found some of the New York Crumb cake from a few weeks ago which I'd squirreled away on the freezer to supplement the otherwise fairly uninspired sandwiches (ham and tomato, cheese and watercress, nutella...) and the one bag of crisps I'd found.

I was hoping for a fairly stress free walk given that there are as far as I am aware, no duckponds in Micheldever Woods. Unfortunately, while there are no ducks, there are wild boar. I'll draw a veil over that particular incident, although you'll be relieved to hear that I didn't have to change the dinner menu to include pork.

On the menu this evening, chicken and mushroom casserole with cider - from River Cottage Everyday. It's an odd thing, but since focussing more on vegetarian food, I've found it harder to think of meat meals, so I was looking for inspiration. The added bonus of this recipe was that I had the cider on tap - home-brewed from our own apples, and not bad either.

Anyway, this is a mega casserole - fry off floured chicken pieces, and add to a casserole along with sauteed mushrooms. You deglaze the pan you browned the chicken in with 250ml of cider, add this to the casserole dish with the chicken and top up as necessary sp that the chicken is half covered. Add bay leaves and thyme and into the oven at 140C . I cooked mine for 45 mins, then turned over the chicken pieces and cooked for another 20 mins. Then the best bit - remove the chicken and mushrroms nad set aside then add 2 tsp of dijon mustard (the recipe says English but I find it too strong for Blue and Pink) and 5 tablespoons of double cream, whisk up then pour over the chicken and top off with some chopped parsley.

I served it with mash, steamed swiss chard from the garden and some spring greens (from the shop). Clean plates all round, a portion of casserole left to go in the freezer for the Husband to eat in a couple of weekend's time when I will be taking the children to my parents', leaving him to fend for himself, and, best of all, cream to go with some stewed apple for pud.

A great way to end the Easter hols. Back to the madness tomorrow...

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Biting off more than I can chew?

At some point during the last week, I realised that a week today there will be approximately 120 people at my house for what I was intending to be ‘afternoon tea’.

The phrase ‘biting off more than I can chew’ springs to mind.

I did KNOW this, but the full implications of this have only really hit home. I have invited people hence I will need to cater.

I googled ‘afternoon tea’. Dainty, individual bakewell tarts, slices of this and that. Sandwiches with interesting fillings. Cheese straws (apparently so). This, I am clearly not going to manage.

I am setting great store by the fact that there will be alcohol – in a fit of organisation a couple of weeks’ ago, I got this organised at least. With a wistful nod to our beautiful weekend in Venice (did it really happen?), we will be quaffing Prosecco. The helpful wine merchant is also going to provide glasses. Phew.

Tea? A quick word with the ‘facilities manager’ at school – the wonderful Mr H – has secured me loan of the PTA’s water urn. A friend of a friend will lend me her collection of tea cups and saucers. I am on the scrounge for teapots – I have 2, but I’m not sure this will really be enough...

And cake. Cake for 120 people.

The Husband evacuated the children and left me in the kitchen this afternoon.
spot the rogue ingredient...

 I love him. (The Husband - not Gordon)

2 tray bake bakewell tarts, 2 traybake lemon drizzle and 1 tray of chocolate and walnut brownie (from Domestic Goddess) later and I feel calmer. And almost in control.

 Allotment Junkie is going to make some chocolate ├ęclairs and ginger shortbread, and some of my lovely friends are going to bake 12 cupcakes each to fill 46 cupcake holes in my Lakeland cupcake stands.
I have been stashing smoked salmon when it's come up cheap and so there will be sandwiches. There will also be puff pastry swirl things - something a friend showed me: very easy. I'll post about them later in the week...


Now, about the weather...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Shoe shopping


So small - yet so much stress. How can that be?

Bad dogs and Bam Bread

So the day started badly when Fred decided to “do one” while we were on our walk, and ended up in the forbidden ponds. When he finally responded to my best “come here you bad dog” voice, he reappeared with a duck, which I had to prise from his jaws (fortunately it flew away: dead would also have been OK – I was dreading the “limping around clearly fatally injured and needing to be dealt with” option – even if it might have meant duck for tea.). To cap it all, I incurred the restrained and very British wrath (no swearing, ‘please do try to keep your dog out of ‘our woods’...)of the posh lady who lives in the beautiful house above the ponds. This is, of course, all my fault, for foolishly thinking that it would be OK to have a dog that has been bred to work, and keep it as a pet, but let’s leave the recriminations behind. Besides, I have bowed to the inevitable and dug out the number of a dog training school that I have been meaning to call for ages...

I was feeling slightly frazzled by the time I got back – bearing in mind that this was all before 9 a.m. – so it was a good job I had some Bam Bread ready and waiting for me.

This is a super delicious, and definitely healthy, loaf cake, my latest Baked in America triumph. Honestly, they’re not paying me to write this, but the book is just full of great things. (Actually, guys, if you read this, it’s my birthday next week – hint, hint...)

This particular confection ticks all my boxes: it is, as ever, easy to make, it is full of healthy things – mashed banana, apricot, nuts, All Bran – yes All Bran – I never baked with All Bran before, but I wonder why not. It got kind of crunched up so you wouldn’t know it was All Bran unless you’d actually baked the cake and added it to the mixture, and it adds a kind of nuttiness to it. I should hold up my hands and say that I quite like All Bran anyway, but if you don’t it shouldn’t put you off making the cake. Finally, it’s not too sweet. I was feeling that with some of the other cakes I have made from this book that there was perhaps a smidge too much sugar – not that it stopped me, you understand, but the feeling was there. However, this gets loads of sweetness from the apricots, and it’s lovely.

In what must be a first, I actually had ALL the necessary ingredients – no substitution required, and unlike the lemon drizzle loaf, and the oatmeal in a slice, it didn’t sink. It took quite a bit longer to bake than the specified 50-60 mins, so I ended up covering it with foil to stop it burning, but other than that it was great.

So, children dispatched with responsible teenager to the park for the morning while I work, coffee on, cake in hand – and relax. But only for a short while – school shoe shopping this afternoon. Better make sure there’s some left for the recovery from that little expedition too.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Bunting my way...with 'language'...


This is NOT a craft blog, but seeing as how many of my evenings recently have been taken up with bunting (have  I mentioned that I'm nearly 40? No? Party planning is in full swing), I thought it would be appropriate to diversify from my usual musings. I have my doubts as to the wisdom of this, as my efforts can only be excruciatingly rubbish in comparison with those of the fabulously talented crafting bloggers out there (you know who you are and I bow down to your greater expertise and skill), but then I thought that there’s always room for someone else’s approach, so here it is:

Bunting – the Recipe Junkie way.

the fall out from over-bunting
Materials. For bunting, you need material for the ‘flags’ and bias binding, plus pins and thread. By far the worst part of bunting is cutting out the flags, so you can avoid this by buying remnant sample books with handy squares of material in co-ordinating colours which fabric shops no longer want. I also had some other material at home which matched so I cut up a few token additional squares for interest. Alternatively, you can be lucky enough to live close to someone who totally ‘over-bunted’ for her daughter’s birthday party, and who gives you the left over (triangular) flags that she cut but just couldn’t face stitching on to any more bias binding. Result!

I bought the bias binding from a very cheap shop in Basingstoke (classy, me) with a discount because I bought a whole roll. 2 in fact – one in turquoise to match my remnants haul and one in white.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have flags presented to you thus, there are plenty of patterns on the web for bunting templates (other templates are available, this is just one I found if you’re interested. Actually you might want to follow their instructions too...)

Some people make their bunting double sided, but I say, when it’s flapping in the breeze, the cake is good and the fizz is, well, fizzy, no-one’s really going to notice.

This is the 'wrong side' up -honest
Attach the flags to the bias binding. There’s no other word for it – this is T-E-D-I-O-U-S – especially if you don’t have enough pins to do it all at once, like me. Anyway, the way I do this is to have the bias binding folded sides up and then unfold the top strip, tuck in the flag, fold back down and pin. This reduces the need for any kind of hemming (not that I was going to hen anyway – this is bunting, for goodness sake). If your material has a ‘wrong side’ you could make sure it’s the wrong side uppermost as you’re pinning like this so that all the flags are the same side on, although see comment above related to double sided bunting.

I expect that the proper thing to do now is to tack the flags on and take out the pins, but I prefer to skip this step and play pin roulette with my sewing machine. If you’re hand stitching (really?? You’re going to hand stitch all that bunting? You are bonkers!) then it’s not so much of a problem. I probably should tack but it takes up so much time... So out with the trusty sewing machine – it’s OK, I have a licence to drive one provided I only do straight lines.

With the wrong side uppermost and the pinned side on the right, machine down using zigzag stitch, slowing down as necessary to remove the pins. This takes practice, but I’m an expert now. Anything to avoid tacking.
Guess who ran out of the nice co-ordinating thread she found?

If, like me, you run out of thread on the bottom bobbin, don’t worry, just do the whizzy thing to get some more thread on the bobbin, rethread (I know, it’s a pain) and carry on. The same applies if you run out of the nice coloured thread you found at the bottom of the draw where you keep anything vaguely sewing related, and have to revert to white. And anyway, see comment above etc...

If you do find you have to restart stitching for some reason, just restitch back over a centimetre or 2 of the last lot, just to hold it in place. Then you can just cut off the ends of the thread without having to do any fiddly finishing off.

Turn the bunting over and stitch another zigzag line on top of where the second fold of bias binding is to hold it all down and make a line of pretty stitching. Take care not to stitch the flags onto themselves, and watch out for ‘tension’ – apparently it makes the stitching go funny and sends you leaping for the instruction manual, with much language, to work out what’s happening (not that I’d know, of course...)

And voila (as they say in France):
Amazing what you can do with some sample squares...

...or your neighbour's left overs...

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

It must be summer - I'm making meatloaf

Daisy in one of her favourite spots
It must be nearly summer, because I have been making meatloaf again. Not just any meat loaf – probably the best meatloaf ever, and my failsafe camping standby. I haven’t been camping yet, I hasten to add, but the Husband took Blue and Pink away for a night to check out Daisy after her long winter indoors. It froze, but they had fun.

 I had intended to send them on their merry way with one of these in Daisy’s fridge, but given the temperature, fish and chips was probably a better option, and also I ran out of time. However, I had the necessary, so I made the meatloaves the next day anyway and they are now nestled in the freezer waiting for the next trip.

I got the recipe from an old Good Food mag (August 2010 to be precise) and it’s on their website: Cold meatloaf with squashed tomato and red pepper salsa . It totally encapsulates my approach to camping: It’s dead easy. It can be made in advance and in bulk and left in the freezer until needed. I usually make 2 at a time, and line my loaf tins with foil before filling them with the mixture, leaving enough spare so that it’s easy to remove the cooked loaves from the tins and wrap them up for easy freezing once they’ve cooled down. The salsa cooks at the same time as the loaves and is truly delicious – you can add more chilli or remove it depending on the mouths you are catering for and it tastes fabulous whatever.

I usually make an enormous potato salad and may be another salad to take and we invariably end up eating this first time round on Friday night somewhere down the A303 heading for Dorset or beyond. Occasionally we’ve made it to the weekend’s location for a reasonable time, in which case it’s simply a matter of serving up – nothing more required (maybe a cup of tea if it’s chilly, but I usually find my first van G&T of the weekend does the trick – although if we’re still en route, it’s strictly a cuppa tea).

 There’s always enough left over for lunch on Saturday so provided there are plenty of rolls knocking around, there’s no need to do any more, and the salsa will last for the Saturday evening BBQ, as generally will the salads which I usually take in plastic boxes (no scurvy for us). Makes life very easy.

I often find that these ‘ideal for camping’ or ‘ideal for picnics’ recipes are never quite as ‘ideal’ as they suggest – the same issue of GF had some ploughman’s rolls which I really didn’t rate (interestingly, I couldn’t find them on the website), but this meatloaf is really the business.

I’m always on the look-out for good camping fodder so any suggestions, leave me a comment – we’ve got plenty of trips planned this summer so I’ll be waiting to try them all out!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Dog walking in pyjamas - I must be turning purple

Do you know that poem about wearing purple? I love that poem. Allotment Junkie has it pinned up in her kitchen. I think I need it too. This morning, I took the dog for a walk in my pyjamas.

To be fair, I was wearing boots up to my knees and one of the Husband’s big jackets, so there was very little actual evidence of pyjama, but probably enough to tell if anyone looked closely enough.
Fred by the river (and no, there are no pictures of the pyjamas)
First, let me explain something about the dog. Fred the 3-legged springer spaniel. The ‘3 legged’ kind of gives it away. He broke his leg when he was a pup and it didn’t heal so in the end it had to be amputated. You’d think a dog with 3 legs might take more care of himself, but no, not Fred. Not only does he continue to injure himself with alarming regularity, he doesn’t seem to notice, and would carry on regardless. We have a dog friend, Murphy, who will very earnestly and insistently make you aware of any war wound he is sporting at any particular time, but Fred seems to have some kind of mechanism that shuts off pain. I would say it was a mechanism in his brain, but I’m beginning to doubt that he has one. He’s been on restricted walking for the last couple of days after he cut his paw while we were out for a walk. This has not been good for the garden, the children’s buckets and footballs or the chickens as he has taken to running at them (they are in a big run, fenced with temporary fencing at the moment) and skidding to a halt into the fence, sending them scattering. He’s also been eyeing up the ducks on the river with even more interest than normal.

This morning, I was up and about early, trying to get things done. He was racing up and down the garden barking at me while I was hanging out the washing, not likely to endear me to the neighbours seeing as it was just after 7. His paw is on the mend, and it was clear to me that a walk was the only option. I was already kitted up in the boots and jacket on top of the PJs for washing hanging and bin putting out (it’s freezing but gloriously sunny this morning), and I just kind of picked up the lead and went.

I’m not sure if I should be worried about this. Does it matter that I went out in my PJs anyway? I mean, we’re not talking skimpy, but button up brushed cotton with spots. And is it a slippery slope to wearing purple, or a ladder of achievement, marking a life well lived, of setting a good example to the kids, and having  people to dinner? Some of the purple markers are already in evidence in my life anyway - I make the most of samples – I find a trip to the Winchester farmers’ market of a Sunday can keep the kids easily topped up on slices of sausage, chunks of cheese and all those crackers to try pickles and chutneys with, but that’s another story – and hoard pens.

Is anyone else purple? Or even slightly mauve?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Does infidelity pay?

I have a confession. I have been unfaithful. Last Friday, the Husband went out to the pub and I snuck to bed early for a cosy threesome with two new men. Even when the Husband and I were planning our romantic weekend in Venice, I was contemplating the possibility. At the same time as I was ordering my Rough Guide, I was tempted and fell... And of course, it led to no good.

So there I was, tucked up with Simon Rimmer (The Accidental Vegetarian)
and Plenty (Yottam Ottolenghi)

The Ottolenghi book is beautiful – I will read it and read it, but it was The Accidental Vegetarian that really got me going, in particular a recipe for gnocchi with a ragu and garlic mushrooms. I’d been eyeing up the Veg Everyday recipe, but was seduced by the throw away comment by Simon that the gnocchi could be frozen. With half an eye on the fact that in a couple of weeks I will be hosting ravenous hordes (well, my French exchange and her family and my parents) and a tonne of floury potatoes languishing in my veg drawer, I couldn’t resist. Double quantities…

After a busy morning in town doing jobs with the kids, I got home ready to set down to work to find that the reliable teenager I’d organised to entertain the kids for the afternoon had got her days mixed up so I spent a stressful few hours working while the kids ‘entertained themselves’ (read – watched TV till their eyes turned square and started to bleed), and then we regrouped in the kitchen to get on with it.

”It’ll be a breeze! It’ll be fun!” Famous last words.

I’d already boiled the potatoes (whole and unpeeled) and peeled them. Next to mash, mix egg into the mash then add flour and seasoning.

check out the ridges
Blue broke the second egg all over himself, and retreated to his Asterix books. Pink lasted a little longer. I realised that I didn’t really have a big enough bowl to mix the double quantities (we’re talking mash from over a kilo of potatoes and 900g of flour) but soldiered on. Kneading. Hooray. The instructions said knead until dry to the touch. In the end I chucked in a bit more flour and pretended I’d got that far. You can imagine, though that it was taking far longer than I’d imagined, just because of the bulk of dough I was dealing with. The rolling out and cutting up, then the boiling, refreshing, draining and patting dry. Very labour intensive. In other circumstances, I would have probably enjoyed it, but it was getting late, there was flour everywhere, the  kids were getting fractious, and at the back of my mind was the fact that at 7.30 the Husband was hosting the scout leaders and various hangers on to start planning this summer’s camp. Pink was helping by finishing off the gnocchi with the back of a fork to put the ridges in it. Slowly. I was desperately trying to be encouraging, but I was really feeling up against it and as if I had just bitten off more than I can chew – I was definitely feeling like the thrill of the new was not worth it…

In the end of course, it all came together. The gnocchi cooked, the ragu was easy and delicious (I had made it at lunchtime), the garlic mushrooms to finish it off were delicious (no mystery – sliced large filed mushrooms, olive oil and garlic). The thrill of a new meal to feed the family.  And I have enough in the freezer to feed a small army. Will I stray again? Almost certainly: Hugh – you have competition.

Anyone who doesn’t like peanut butter, look away now.

One of the lovely things about the holidays is that I don’t have to worry about what school requires. In particular, I get very het up (what? Me? Get het up?) about how they go about advising us that we have no idea how to feed our children. Any communication that comes out about packed lunches is aimed at the ‘lowest common denominator’. I know this, but I still feel patronised by the exhortations to try and include a piece of fruit, and not to include chocolate. I think I give my kids good lunchboxes, but I do always try and include a piece of cake or a biscuit though, because that’s just being a good mummy as far as I’m concerned. My main constraint in this department, though, is the total ban on nuts in school. I waiver between being totally understanding about this and being totally annoyed by it because my kids love nuts and they are a good source of nutrition for them. But on balance I’d prefer it if I didn’t cause another child to have anaphylactic shock, so I go with it.

All the more reason so have a nut-fest during the hols, then, and I have been itching to bake these peanut butter cookies from Baked in America for ages. No way could I have made then during term time so they could sit around in the biscuit tin, calling to me while everyone else was at school/work. They wouldn’t have sat around for long...

The cookies are very straightforward to make – cream butter, peanut butter and sugar together, eggs, vanilla extract, flour – stir in peanuts. The mixture is scrummy (always a good sign).  

I recently acquired an ice cream scoop so I felt very pleased with myself scooping out as required by the recipe – my scoop is clearly not as big as theirs, but the uncooked cookies were still massive. I don’t know how big their baking trays are but I needed 3, and made 13 cookies (13 is lucky in Italy, and in baking, don’t you know – let’s have none of that superstitious nonsense here).

The unbaked cookies need 4 hours in the fridge. Mine ended up being in there over night, and I forgot the sprinkling of granulated sugar on top before baking, but apparently no harm done. They baked to instruction (no sinking for these babies) the kitchen smelt heavenly and they are totally scrumptious.
Good job the kids are at home to race me to the biscuit tin.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Not Quite Veg Everyday - but trying: Pinto bean Chilli

Well, who'd have thought it? Hugh's Pinto bean Chilli appears to have been a big hit.

I was not really expecting it to be a success, and in time honoured Recipe Junkie fashion, I had a tense couple of conversations in the run up regarding what was on the menu. I was so worried that I even let Pink roll out some of the flat bread dough and managed to keep cool instead of getting irritated about the flour. On the work surface, on the flour, in her hair...

The best thing about the recipe is that it's very, very easy. Loads of veg too. The only slight complication was that I was intending to use dried pinto beans because that's what I had (not canned), and I kept forgetting to do the overnight soaking thing. We were supposed to have this last week...

However, that doesn't matter now, because I finally remembered to soak the beans last night, and I made it and the kids enjoyed it, AND I used green chilli. I have been leaving out chilli in things recently to get the kids used to tastes without being put off by heat, but I had 4 chillis left from the chard and new potato curry, and as that hadn't turned out too hot, I thought I'd use them rather than leaving them to shrivel at the bottom of the fridge. I was making double + quantities to put a meal in the freezer for when we have loads of house guests in a couple of weeks' time, so I didn't use quite the number of chillies I should have done given the quantities in production (wimp) but some nevertheless, which is nmore than none. I negotiated a tense moment during the meal when the Husband asked directly if there were any chillies in it. I answered 'No', in what I hoped was my best 'Yes' voice, but I'm bit sure he got my meaning.

Anyway, served with magic flatbreads, some shredded lettuce and some creme fraiche heading for it's overdue date (no sourcream) both Blue and Pink enjoyed it. In fact, in the bath, Blue actually said it was "pretty good actually". I was feeling fairly chuffed when he added "it tasted quite...meaty". Hmm not sure who won that one.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Another list... anyone have any goals for April?

The sun is shining, the kids are at home milling round my ankles, what better time than to do something positive and list my 5 goals for April. Kate’s got some, I should have some. Here they are:

Organise a ‘garden’ party. April is THE BIG MONTH. Forget the Jubilee, forget the Olympics. 2012 is the year, April is the month, Sunday 22nd is the day that I am finally 40. Having attended several other 40th parties I thought long and hard and decided that what I really wanted to do was to have a garden party. By which I mean tea and cake and fizz in the garden. There may be the odd sandwich thrown in for good measure. So far I have sourced tea cups and a water boiler. Allotment Junkie is going to make me little finger sized chocolate eclairs (yum) and ginger shortbread. That’s as far as I have got. I have fabric offcuts to make bunting (£1 for as much as you can stuff into a bag from the boxes under the offcuts table at C&H Fabrics in Winchester). I have several packs of smoked salmon stashed away in the freezer for sandwiches, and I have any number of baking books tempting me with their various delights. So I need to plan which cakes, work out which fizz (it will be cava, I expect) source glasses, teapots, some of those gorgeous card cake stands from Lakeland, and bake myself into oblivion. Oh yes, and find myself a gorgeous, grown up dress to wear. And some shoes. Yeah, right.

Get some new trainers and get back running. I didn’t run. Ever. Unless chocolate was involved. Then I did. A neighbour incited me to sign up for a 5km Race for Life. I bought some trainers. I set off over- eagerly and managed about half a mile before I collapsed in agony and walked home. But I persevered. I did a 5k, then the next year a 10k. The year after (2010) I did the Great South Run – 10 miles, averaging a 10 minute mile (I’m built for comfort not speed so I was happy with that). I raised money – for cancer research and for the local paediatric oncology centre where Blue was treated for his leukaemia. Then my back decided it didn’t like running. And the 3 legged dog injured himself. But I feel like the time is right to try again. A couple of weeks ago now I went up to the local football fields and did 2 circuits, running the long sides and walking the short sides, but it felt good, despite the holes in my trainers and the fact that half the sole is now worn down. Hence, I need new trainers.

squiffy eyes yet?
Finish my quilt. The Husband gave me a kit for Christmas. It’s a great present and has kept me occupied for weeks but here’s the rub. In my naivety, and having watched one too many Kirsty Allsopp programmes, I decided to HANDQUILT round the pattern. It’s a kind of 60s/70s floral style and the Husband chose the material because it will look good in Daisy, the campervan. I was going to finish it for the end of March – Daisy tiptoed cautiously out of her winter quarters on Sunday – but is the quilt finished? Is it hell. I mean – hand-quilting? Round approximately 20 flowers??  What on earth possessed me???  I also suspect that I am putting off the bit I really can’t get my head around – how to do the border. I have a plastic triangle and some instructions that might as well be written in Mongolian for all the sense I can make of them.  If anyone can put me out of my misery and explain in English what the hell I am supposed to do, I will be eternally grateful. Otherwise I’ll just make it up.

I NEEEEED a walk.
Survive the Easter holidays. It’s true. I spend at least the last 3 weeks of term (if not longer), hating the endless and relentless routine of school, and other activities, bemoaning how exhausted the kids are, dealing with the fall out. Then the holidays come. Yippee, free from the shackles that bind us... except we’re not. I still have to work (from home – but while that’s wonderful in term time as I can do all the schoolie bits and catch up in the evening if necessary, in the holidays, there’s no way I can fit in 6 hours a day without the help of everyone’s favourite babysitter, Madame Television. And then I feel guilty.). The dog still needs walking (and we’re not talking a quick trot round the park, oh no, my boy needs A WALK.). I set myself totally unachievable list of things to get done...

Stop setting myself unachievable lists of goals. Sheesh. Parties, quilting, running?? Who am I kidding.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Not Quite Veg Everyday - but trying: nettle soup, courgette and rice file pie and oven dried tomatoes

I’ve been bemoaning the fact that my mission to eat less meat has gone somewhat awry during the last couple of weeks, but today I made it back on track big time.

Don't they look lovely?

I’ve been wondering about nettle soup on and off for a few years now but never had the confidence to just do it, but there it was, in the Saturday Guardian – St Hugh and a recipe for nettle soup. We have a garden full of nettles, so I donned some gloves and the scissors and set off to harvest the finest nature has to offer. I did as I was told and just picked the tips. The dog was very interested – he once stung himself in the eye in the self same nettle patches and has been fairly wary since, so he probably couldn’t work out why the human who does all the sensible things in his life like walking him, feeding him and removing ticks, was engaged in something so hazardous.  

Nettles? Nasty things

Anyways, I had everything the recipe required apart from leeks, but because I needed a battery for my scales to work out if I had enough nettles, I trotted off to the co-op. No batteries, so I pilfered my neighbour’s scales – she was reading the same nettle soup article. Spooky...

green soup
The picking over, washing and stalk removing was a bit of a faff but it’s a dead easy recipe once that’s done. The soup was a gorgeous bright green colour. Both Blue and Pink were keen to try (result in itself), although Pink decided against the addition of the yoghurt (as did the Husband). And it was TOTALLY DELICIOUS. The only drawback - my washing up gloves clearly weren’t thick enough as I got stung through them while I was doing the washing etc and my fingers are tingling as I type, but definitely one to repeat.

Blue was worried though. “Don’t we normally have a roast on Sunday?” he pondered. Obviously drawing his personal line in the sand there. “Well, we’re not having roast, we’re having pie” I explained, neatly sidestepping the issue of what exactly was going to be in the pie. However, mention of pie was clearly enough to satisfy him. I’m not sure he was expecting it to be courgette and rice filo pie which is what in fact it was. Another Veg Everyday recipe, really easy to put together – grated courgette, grated cheese, long grain rice, dill, parsley and a couple of eggs, in a filo case. The courgette liquid cooks the rice inside the pie case. I was a little sceptical that this would actually happen – it’s the sort of thing that normally goes wrong for me, but it worked.

By the time we’d finished at the allotment got home and I’d actually got it on the table, though, Blue and Pink were both knackered. “What’s in the pie?” asked Pink. “Well, I don’t like courgette”. Grrr – annoys me so much when they say that. “But I will try it” she added, graciously. I resisted the urge to thank her in my most sarcastic voice, gritted my teeth and got on with serving it up.

You know, I think it actually looks like what it's supposed to...
It was really lovely. We had potato salad, watercress, the oven dried tomatoes from Veg Everyday, and some hideously over food-mile’d mangetout peas. A feast indeed.

Sad to say, Pink tried and didn’t like, and Blue manfully ate it but said it was OK if he had it with the potato salad. A shame really because the Husband and I both enjoyed it (at least I think he did). So not one for family meals again at the moment, but perhaps by the time the garden is full to burst of courgettes the kids will have changed their minds. Here’s hoping.