With me and the kids home now, the grocery shopping bills are through the roof. They’re savages year round, hopefully it’s just a phase for me. There’s a lot of post school snack preparing going on, throwing fruit at them to ward off cries for treats, then giving in on the treats and of course serving up the inevitable dinners.
As an aside – a lot of stuff busy parents do gets greeted with responses of “super mum” and “I don’t know how you do it” responses. And it’s appreciated, believe me. Okay, so if you (I) post pictures on social media of your homecooked meal/children playing outdoors/you out anywhere with more than one of them, then you (I) are (am) looking for a response. And validation. And y’know; adult human contact through the day. But at the end of the day, it’s just what you do. You get on with it, and if it means baby in the sling while managing to put on some mascara, or breastfeeding while pouring bowls of cereal one-handed it’s just how it is. The new normal.
Dinners are mostly my responsibility now rather than halved between us. It makes sense – I’m here, he’s at work, and when he gets in we can all sit down together at a reasonable hour – it makes a nice change from us all rushing in at 6pm and only starting to prepare meals then.
That sounds more idyllic than it is; what keeps happening is he walks in just as I’m doing the last few things and the baby starts crying inconsolably. You see, her witching hour is approximately 4pm-10pm. Very handy. So I have to sit down to feed.
I shout instructions at him.
Toast the hazelnuts. No! A dry pan. Hot. Not too hot. I don’t know what number, just hot. Keep an eye on them though. They burn easily. Just quickly stir some mint into that yogurt, it’ll cool the sauce down for the boys. Don’t forget the broccoli.
Then I come in post-feed and the nuts got a bit burnt and the yogurt is still plain and the greens are in the microwave untouched. It’s not his fault, he doesn’t even know what I was trying to achieve (there’s usually no recipe to follow) and he is possibly is still wearing his bike helmet and being shouted at by the boys. But we’re muddling through. Incidentally, he got me a lovely cook book for christmas called The Definitive Guide To Cooking Grains Seeds and Legumes. I’m under no illusions that he was most likely sick of being presented with made-up quinoa and buckwheat dishes and thought that my dinner might be improved by some instructions.
When all is calm, I’m enjoying cooking. It’s a little breather and like I said, compared to working outside the home, it’s nice to have the time to do it even with the unsettled baby and having to sweep homework detritus off the kitchen table in order to fit a plate on there.
Confession time: I volunteer to clean up after dinner now too. The kids are entertained by their dad and I listen to a podcast and wipe counters while stomachs are temporarily full and the house is whinge-free.
So what have we eating this past month? Obviously more than this, but what I wanted to include here, first example aside, are four dinners that the grown ups, seven and four-and-a-half year olds will eat.
A month ago this was my lunch. It’s not the worst as veggie hospital food goes. All the food groups are covered, though I don’t like boiled eggs. It’s a bit disproportionate, what with the full block of grated cheddar and bucket of coleslaw on there, but look brown bread! It’s a far cry from the social media posts of burnt potato wedges that caused a scandal in the same hospital a couple of years ago.
This takes about 10 minutes to make. The kids love it and you can lash in whatever you have in the fridge into it once you’ve the base soup done. That’s approximately what Nigella says in the original recipe, except the word lash would sound way more seductive coming from her. It’s her Noodle Soup for Needy People. So here I used wholewheat noodles rather than her suggested udon (I don’t like them) and the spinach I had in the freezer rather than bok choi and the broccoli because I put it in everything I can.
Cook 150g of lentils – any will work here, firm brown or puy lentils, or red split lentils will work too. Puy are my favourite, but I cooked red ones for just 15 minutes for this recipe – they go soft very quickly. Drain and leave aside.
In another pan, sauté a chopped onion until soft, add a couple of cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, a teaspoon of cayenne and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add 5ooml of stock, 250g bulgur wheat, 12 chopped dates and salt and pepper.
Simmer for about 15 minutes, keeping an eye that the liquid is being absorbed but the bulgur isn’t sticking.
While that’s cooking, toast some nuts (I used hazelnuts) on a dry pan and make a yogurt dressing. I used a cup of full fat natural Glenisk yogurt and a quarter cup of tahini.
Drain the lentils and stir in a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lemon.
Combine the lentils and bulgur mixture and serve with a good dollop of yogurt dressing and some salad.
Garnish with the nuts, some sesame seeds and chopped coriander.
Very rarely do I make something and it turns out exactly like the picture in the book. But look! This Jamie Oliver curry paste recipe (I made the korma one) was just perfect, down to its’ little egg box home.
Having this lovely fresh paste frozen means I can makes healthy dinners from scratch easily and quickly. I always have tins of beans and lentils in the cupboard – kidney, black, cannelini, chickpeas and puy at the very least. There will also always be cans of coconut milk, a selection of nuts and frozen peas and spinach.
Soften an onion with a couple of the portions of this korma paste, chuck in some more veg with the coconut milk and chickpeas and you’ve got a very acceptable midweek quick curry. Top with toasted nuts. ALWAYS with the nuts.
Veggie Stir fry
A stir fry is a once-a-week staple. I make a variety of sauces, here’s one I make a lot –
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 2 tbs thick soy sauce
- 3/4 cup stock (I use Marigold reduced salt bullion)
- 2 tsp cornflour
- 1 tsp chilli sauce
Mix these five ingredients up together and add them to your stir fry – let it cook for a couple of minutes to thicken up. It’s that simple, and to be honest for me it puts to bed the idea the excuse that theres no time to cook a decent dinner. That doesn’t mean I always do it by any means, but you can get a stir fry on the table in 10-15 minutes.
Now, I promised cake.
Grapefruit and Yogurt cake.
Smitten Kitchen, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…
I follow SK on instagram and I swear I want to immediately make everything she posts, savoury and sweet. Because I always have both ruby grapefruit and natural yogurt I made this the day she shared it on instagram. it’s not super sweet (though I did cut down the sugar) and it’s amazing with a cup of coffee. A bit like a madeline, with some citrusy zing.
You can find the recipe here, and then lose yourself in the site bookmarking everything.