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Friday, 26 July 2013

Summer Bruschetta

I have a confession to make.
You know the whole “I’m going to be a kinder, gentler, more patient person?”
That lasted all of one day.
Today, I’m back to being selfish, impatient and rude.
Life’s more fun like that, don’t you think?
Just kidding folks, just kidding!

I mean, you all know what a sweet, cherubic angel I am, the very picture of kindness and gentler than Grace herself…
But when the kid woke this morning and asked for “pasta” for breakfast, I had to seriously give it my all to stop from flipping like a pancake on a smoking griddle. Know what I mean?

Anyway, we’re making Bruschetta today. Which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe.
So if you’re looking for complicated cooking folks – come back later. Like in 3 months. Which is when it will get cooler. I hope. Because it’s 34 degrees and I can’t do complicated in 34 degrees. I can barely do anything in 34 degrees. TBH, the only place I like 34 degrees is on the beach with a Margherita in my hand. In London? Not so much. London, you see, is not built for 34 degrees. The trains are stifling, the buses are stifling, the supermarket is stifling. I hardly know how things stay alive in there. Not alive alive, but you know what I mean. Anyway, to make a long story short – if you’re wondering how all of this is relevant – I can’t step into a supermarket without feeling like I’m going to collapse in less than 5 minutes straight onto a bed of curly lettuce...
Which basically means I have no ingredients with which to cook the complicated stuff.  For supplies these days, I’m relying on my friendly neighbourhood Waitrose delivery guy, but then when I order online I do only the basic stuff – you know, bread, eggs, milk, tomatoes. The complicated stuff I gotto pick out myself. I just do. It’s written.

So therefore we’re making Bruschetta today. Which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe.
(Did I say that already?)

By the way, on a side note, I must tell you that while London can’t cope with 34 degrees, the British can’t really cope with 34 degrees either. They’ve all gone a little mental. I mean there are guys at work wearing hot pants and flip flops. And I am SO not exaggerating. I’ll take a picture one of these days, seriously, and show you. I can’t comment on the women, mostly because there’s like five women in the entire office. Which is why I work where I work. I like men. Yeah baby. Just kidding, just kidding. But yes, there are really only like five women on my entire trading floor. One of whom is me. And trust me, I’m not wearing hot pants and flip flops to work. Though maybe I should one of these days. Just for giggles. No? Bad idea? Ok, bad idea.

Anyway, another reason why we’re making Bruschetta today, (which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe) is that its gonna take me a bit of time to get back into the swing of things after my hiatus. And on that note – thanks TONS to the folks who wrote in about how much they missed this nonsense I spew. Seriously, thank you. I missed writing this nonsense I spew too, but I promise you my hiatus (I like that word, I think I'm going to use it all day) was for a very valid reason. Not the usual “I got busy” and “work’s been too hard” and “I’m so tired” stuff.  I had a truly valid reason. Which I’ll tell you later because I think we’ve already gone too much off track on this fine and sunny morning.

So, I think it’s about time to get to what we’re really doing here today.
The answer to which – if you had ANY doubt at all – is that we’re making Bruschetta. Which I’m warning you is a super simple recipe.

But stay with me. Some good things are about to happen to you very soon.
Because, Bruschetta is amazing.
Just amazing.
It’s the very essence of summer.
A mouthful of tomatoes and garlic and basil – all cool and fresh and utterly delightful.
Words cannot express how refreshing this is on a hot summer’s day.
NOT more refreshing than a Margherita on the beach…
But close.
Really. Try it and you’ll see how soon it becomes an integral part of your emotional well-being.

Here’s what you need:

- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 75g red cherry tomatoes
- 75g yellow cherry tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- Handful of basil leaves
- Pinch of cayenne pepper, for a little kick
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 whole French baguette or Ciabatta loaf – basically any bread with a flattish, open surface and a crisp, floury crust.

Here’s how you do it:

In a small pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add crushed garlic and stir until golden and aromatic. I love garlic. I absolutely do. It's one of those things that can make anything taste good. Remember that, seriously. The next time you're cooking and you taste what you're cooking and go "ho hum, I think this needs a little something" - try garlic. Please. I'm telling you. 

Anyway, set it aside and allow to cool. And save the extra olive oil you've cooked it in please - we need it!

In another bowl, halve the red and yellow tomatoes lengthwise and combine with basil, vinegar, cayenne, salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil & garlic mixture on top and mix through thoroughly.

Now cut the bread into slices in a way that maximises surface area, like 1cm thick. Add some more olive oil to a pan and brown the bread slices on both sides. Yum yum yum.  There's really nothing on earth like the smell of baking or browning bread. It makes my head spin. Anyway, we're done. Mainly because now I need to eat. So, to serve, spoon the tomato mixture over the slices of bread and dig in.

Told you it was a super simple recipe. 
Low on effort, high on taste
No time prepping = lots of time eating
Just the way I like it!

Cheerio folks!
See ya soon xx

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese. Just Because...

Something happened to me today.
Something extraordinary.
And wonderful.
And permanent.
And yet it happened in the most ordinary of circumstances.
Which is probably why it’s worth writing about. Or maybe it isn’t. Let me know?
So, I was driving my son to school this morning as I always do. We were taking the same route, at the same time, in the same car. All perfectly normal. All perfectly mundane.
When suddenly a small voice from the back seat pipes up: “Mama, you’re coming back later? You’re coming back for me?”
And I almost crash my car.
Because momentarily I find I have lost control, hit, by the poignancy of the question; the sheer simplicity with which it is uttered.
My little boy, my child, this precious piece of my heart, doubts – actually doubts – that I will come back for him?
I choke back emotion and say quickly in my cheeriest voice: “Of course my darling. Of course I’m coming back for you – I want my Ranbir back!”
I take a peak then, secretly, in my rear-view mirror and see his little face, tense with anticipation, relax into a smile. He makes an almost inaudible happy squealing sound, and the knot in my throat just tightens further.
And it dawns on me – right then, right there, in the middle of the road, stuck behind a garbage truck – just how easy it is to be selfish in this complex and ever-evolving saga that is the parent-child relationship.
And when you strip away the nonsense, how easy I have it, compared to him.
I'm not, by any means, denying how hard motherhood - or parenthood - is. Of course it is. It’s the hardest thing most of us have ever done - the unending second-guessing, the self-doubt, the debating on end, over choices pondered and decisions made – and then that defining question: Am I a good mother (or father?) How do I really know? (You don't!)
And yet we do it, parenting, each in our own way.
For it is that one thing in life that is learned but can never be taught.
But still. Despite this. Despite all of this, today I realise how easy I have it.
How easy it is to view the world from the lens of an adult – all powerful, all-knowing.
How easy it is to stand in that position of power and demand that a child – innocent, ingenuous, all-trusting – obey you blindly.
How easy it is to underestimate their emotions and bark orders at them: “eat, sleep, go to the toilet, come here, go there, stop whining, do this, do that, play with your toys, tidy up your toys, we’re going out, we’re going back home.”
And how difficult. No, how utterly impossible, inconceivable even, it would be for me to be in this place that he is in right now.
This place where his entire existence rests on the trust he’s placed on me, his father, his little world, to be there for him, to look out for him, to protect him. This place where everything he does, his every action, is essentially out of his control. This place where he never really knows – with certainty – when he will be fed next, when he will be asked to sleep or wake or dance or play. When he will be left with the nanny, when he will be taken along. When he will be cuddled. Or kissed. Or shouted at. And why?
And – at the deepest, darkest core of it - this place he's at, where he is unsure, still – if I will, if I intend to, If I want to come back for him.
And I marvel at the essence of it all.
Because - old or young, three or thirty three - we are really all the same. And Ranbir - in his own way - has done nothing more than to have asked that eternal question, the one we grapple with from the day we are born to the day we die: Am I loved?
And so, with that, just those two simple questions posed to me by a three year old from the back-seat of my car, I find myself touched – profoundly. And I resolve to be a kinder, gentler, more patient human being.
Because that’s what this little person expects.
Because that’s what this little person deserves.
Because that’s what being a mother means.
And so it’s Spaghetti Bolognese tonight.
Because he loves it
And I hate it
I mean, face it – there’s absolutely nothing I can say to talk up the nutritional value of Spaghetti Bolognese. There’s  meat. And there’s carbs. Lots of it. And… ummm, yep, that’s it. Ok fine, I put carrots and real tomatoes in my version – but if you’re shaking your head and smiling to yourself right now, you’re absolutely right – who am I kidding?!
And so, it’s a dish I have vowed to keep out of my kitchen and off my son’s plate. But sometimes you have to reverse the roles and do what they love.
And really while nothing would make me happier than for my child to live on a diet of broccoli and green beans, nothing would make him happier than Spaghetti Bolognese.
And so Spaghetti Bolognese it is.
Just to see the sparkle in his eyes
Just to see the smile on his face
Just to hear the sound of his laughter
Because that’s what being a mother means
Because I love him
Because I want him to know it
Here’s what you need:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 whole red onion, diced
- 4 grated carrots
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 800g chopped fresh tomatoes (depending on the size of the tomatoes)
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1kg lean minced turkey (or lamb or beef)
- 2 large glasses of red wine (yes, yes, it’s really ok but if you’re that picky, just  skip) (don’t then be asking me how my child sleeps through the night…)
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (2 if you like it spicy)
- 2 tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp dried basil flakes
- 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
- Drizzle balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 800g dried spaghetti
- Lots of freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Here’s how you do it:
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add grated carrots and onions and garlic and cook until softened. Increase the heat and add in the minced meat. Cook for a few minutes until brown, gradually stirring it into the carrot mixture.
Now, pour in the wine and boil until it has reduced in volume by about a third. Reduce heat and throw in oregano, basil and bay leaves.  Now add the fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire and balsamic vinegar and stir well while the mixture heats.
Season well with salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and simmer the Bolognese sauce over a gentle heat for 30 mins to 1½ hours, whatever you need, until it's rich and thickened.
Serve with Spaghetti and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.
Yeah – there’s a reason they love it J