Archive for March, 2010


Monday, March 22nd, 2010

This is a post for Karen’s pimp my menu project

Yes yes, roast chicken. Not a pimped menu, but a staple; I love a meal that makes three (at least: roast on the Sunday cold-with-veg* on Monday, sandwiches for lunch and I always but always make stock; just call me Martha). However, I decided to tart it up a bit this weekend. Not a total success in that the children were highly suspicious of the spicey bit, even though I omitted chilli of any description, and Tamsin doesn’t like couscous this week, but there was plenty of unmucked-about-with chicken meat to satisfy their carnivorous tendancies – I have odd children – and broccoli on the side is always safe. And followed with a rice pud so there weren’t too many complaints overall.

Anyway. I took one chicken, defrosted rapidly in the sink because I forgot until I was already in bed on Saturday and couldn’t persuade myself to do the sensible thing and go back down to get it. I put a halved lemon inside and poured olive oil all over then coated the skin in a crushed-up mixture of sesame, coriander and cumin seeds, salt, pepper, and orange zest. It’s a bit of a Jamie recipe done from memory (so possibly little resembles his). In the oven at 200C to roast in a normal fashion. An hour before it was due to come out, added a cut-up red pepper and a couple of quartered red onions to the tin.

When it was ready I hoiked out the chicken, poured off most of the fat and squeezed the lemon bits into the tin. I added about 300 ml water and brought it all to the boil then poured it into a saucepan to which I added 250 g couscous, some chopped dried apricots and cranberries, the chopped-up onion and pepper, some salt and a bit of crushed coriander seed. 5 mins with the lid on over a very low flame, and bob’s your uncle.

*Sadly never nice bubble-and-squeak-type veg because, regardless of how many roast potatoes I make, we never fail to eat all but one.


Friday, March 19th, 2010

This is a post for Karen’s pimp my menu project
yum yumCameron has been away this week, so I am excused cooking beyond that of the basic fishfingers and chips variety necessary to sustain life. Thus, this week I give you biscuits with a slight smirk in Karen’s direction as she rolls her eyes at those missing the point.

The recipe was on the back of the green and black’s bar I scoffed in a fit of low blood sugar one afternoon at 4 (secretly in the kitchen, having made the children have fruit). They are a bit fall-aparty and the chocolate chips are unnecessary and frankly not that nice (I used plain, of which I am not fond;  milk might be a different matter). The biscuit part is very nice though. As follows :-

Prepare shortbreads 1 and 2 as below; rest them in the fridge for half an hour. Roll them into rectangles approx 1 cm thick and put s/bread 2 on top of s/bread 1. Scatter 100g chopped chocolate over the top (I really wouldn’t bother) then, using greaseproof paper to support it, roll them together like a swiss roll. Squish and squeeze with your hands into a sausage about 22cm long* then slice with a sharp knife into 1-cm-thick rounds. Bake at 150C for 25 minutes; cool on a rack**.

Shortbread 1: 150 g plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 50 g caster sugar, 125g unsalted butter. Mix in mixer until a dough.
Shortbread 2: 125 g plain flour, 25g cocoa, 1/2 tsp salt, 50 g caster sugar, 125g unsalted butter. Mix in mixer until a dough.

*This is where the sums go a bit wonky as 22 cm divided into 1 cm slices will clearly make 22 biscuits; the recipe says “makes 14”. I got 18.

**If you do this immediately, not only will they completely fall apart, the melted chocolate swirl drips out and welds the bisctuis to the rack. I suggest cooling on the greaseproof paper.

Pimp my menu: curry

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

This is a post for Karen’s pimp my menu project

Ok, so I wasn’t going to include this because the spices came out of a packet, which felt like cheating, but then Karen said it could be anything you don’t usually cook, thus granting me permission to include all sorts of readymade jars and microwave meals. Maybe not entirely within the spirit of the thing, but hey. I might tell you all about an asda pizza or something next week.

Last summer, I hosted a “Jamie at home” party, at home*. It left me with several packets of spices in the cupboard, each nicely wrapped in cardboard with a shopping list and instructions. The chicken one was lovely but they are very spicy, and my children do not eat anything spicy (which is the main reason they – the mixes, not the children – have been in the cupboard for so long; I am not somebody who chooses to cook two separate meals very often.) That said, Saturday night is curry night so I decided to try the lamb rogan josh. This cooking from a packet malarky is easy and fun! Marinate lamb in a mixture of brown spices and yogurt; use food processor to blitz onions and peppers, cook with rest of brown spices; add lamb, simmer. Put yellow spices and rice in rice cooker.

Unfortunately it looked like nothing so much as cat sick with yellow rice. Eaten with closed eyes, it was surprisingly tasty. Could have done with some veg.

*without Jamie.

Sling when you’re winning

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

You must tell the mums! Tell them! I was urged by our oh-so-hippy ex-GP. (He now runs the village farmers’ market and is gung-ho about unpasteurised milk and passionate about the village pig project.) I’m not entirely certain which mums he means, given that surely anybody who was interested would be quite capable of googling – these days there is an enormous array of websites dedicated to the black art of what I refuse to call babywearing – or approaching me on the street; an event that occurs about once every 3 weeks. (In between I am approached by elderly people who wish I would carry them.)

With hindsight, I should have started selling baby slings when M was tiny: if only a fraction of the people who enquired actually went on to buy one from me I’d still be well ahead. There just weren’t the options then; these days there are millions of different sling designs and manufacturers and websites. Unlike some dedicated shoppers, I only have four slings, and one other passed briefly through my hands before being sold on. The one in this photo was our first; bought in Japan (and look, here is baby Maggie in it), it is an Israeli-design stretchy wrap. A sling of some sort was essential in Tokyo, where subway stations often had two or three flights of stairs and no lift (and I learnt from bitter experience that you could stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs looking plaintively at your buggy for a really long time before anybody offered to help.) It’s just about 6 metres of black jersey with a pocket at the front and rings to fasten the ends together. Cameron’s sling of choice, as it is fast and easy to put on; my favourite for a tiny baby. The stretch means you can put the carrier on first then put the baby in – so great for a newborn who might pop up and down over the course of a day – but also makes it less supportive so it isn’t so good once baby is heavy.

My current favourite for Jenny is a didymos, a woven wrap (no photos of this one yet but it is stylishly black and silver). I wrap it in almost the same way as the stretchy, but around the baby as it doesn’t stretch to accommodate. I like it very much but wish it too had rings to fasten as I end up with a bulky knot at the back when I tie it.

Number three is a maya wrap, which I have yet to put Jenny in. I did use it for a newborn Tamsin but it really comes into its own for older babies and younger toddlers; I keep it in the back of the car, or carry it if we go for a walk, as it is so easy to just pop them in and out. I dislike the one-shoulderedness of it and am aware you should swap sides but like my handbag only really feel happy with it over the right side.

I’ve just come to number four and realised with a blush that actually we seem to have five. Blame baby brain even if it no longer officially exists. My fourth style of sling is a meitai, basically a square of fabric with four strap attached to the four corners (you can get meitais with wrap-style straps, padded straps, unpadded straps, head rests, rain covers… mine is just basic.) It’s pretty, in pink spotty satin, and I like it best to put babies on my back. In principle one can wrap onto one’s back but I don’t find it that comfortable; the meitai just feels right. (This is Tamsin again.)

(Lastly, I have a second woven wrap; it’s a turquoise and silver gauze which is supposedly cool for summer but was fundamentally bought because it is pretty. The only photo I have of this one – the curse of being the family photographer – is appallingly hippy.)