Lunchtime perspective

So today is a shit day, and I mostly feel like making a bucket of coffee and sitting in a very dark hole, with a box of mint matchmakers and quietly rocking for a bit. If Kobe could just come along and chuck in some scraps at regular intervals I think I’d be quite content with that arrangement for a few days.

I feel as thought we have reverted back to life with a newborn, B isn’t feeling 100% and definitely not sleeping 100% (more like 15%) and I’m feeling a bit like a delicate flower that’s just been peed on by a large dog. I’ve taken this week off to catch up on life admin, studying, sorting out my hovel of a house and doing some Christmas shopping – as it stands I’ve bought 1 Christmas present (for myself), done 4 loads of washing and chased around after a small child. So I thought I would be really productive now I’ve finally got him to go down for a nap and… write a blog.

Oh, and my lovely mum also treated me to lunch today. We went to the Pink Cabbage in Mayfield, which is absolutely bloody lovely and oh so tolerant of tiny, noisy people who insist on making everyone within a 5 mile radius aware of their presence. Just to keep in line with the food chat, I had a toasted Italian sandwich consisting of loads of parma ham, pesto and cheese – delicious and definitely brightened up a bit of a bleak day.

While we were out, my mum got chatting to one of the ladies that works in there – you literally cannot take this woman anywhere without such an interaction occurring. Absolutely no stranger danger. When you’re in a hurry, it is hugely irritating. When you’re out for a leisurely, sanity saving lunch it’s actually kind of nice and makes me a bit grateful for the fact that she isn’t a moody old bat. Given the opportunity though, I’d tone her down a notch first thing in the morning.

So as I was wrangling Bodes from smearing his fingers everywhere, they got chatting about being a parent, as you do… and more to the point about being a mum, and how hard it is sometimes – I think they could spot the slightly desperate look in my eyes.

Which got me thinking about life as a parent when my mum was a young mum, so I thought I would weigh it up in the vein hope that by the time I’m finished I will be feeling slightly chirpier – I’m going for the grass is not always greener approach today to see if it works:

  • I was a bit of an arsehole as a teenager, currently Bodes is not…
  • Back then, parenting was a vocation and one that you had to be good at. There was no Facebook or social media to find other mum’s moaning about having a crappy day too
  • There was no Google – in the early hours this has been a godsend, although Dr Google really scares the shit out of me sometimes
  • There was certainly no Nescafe Azera
  • My mum doesn’t drink – enough said
  • There was no Sainsburys, or big supermarkets which meant a) no affordable childrens clothes and b) edible foodstuffs of the calorific variety were really expensive – she actually had to sew our clothes?! This took time, and I wasn’t always grateful – arsehole child once again.
  • We lived in Africa – que hot, chubby child who wouldn’t wear a hat
  • Costa didn’t exist – not in Africa anyway
  • No baby massage, so she never got taught how to massage a constipated tummy. This resulted in me having an earbud shoved up my bum when needed. Horrific for all parties involved.
  • No CBeebies – I’d struggle without Octonauts, let alone Bodes. Who knew swordfish can heat up their eyes?
  • No mobile phones – no sneaking off for a ‘poo’ to check your watsapp and Facebook
  • No ebay or next day delivery- actually paying full price for things, as well as having to leave the house to shop when all you want to do is stay inside in your pj’s with dirty hair, watching the Lion King

So actually, when you look at it like that… I’m over it. Mum, you raised a child in some pretty severe conditions compared to today’s standards.

Oh and literally, I have no idea how I nearly forgot this – non-disposable nappies. I am actually bowing down as I type.



It’s all down to the timing…

A very brief note on transforming oats into something utterly delicious, completely indulgent and totally manageable for the inept bakers of the world.

I very rarely venture into the realms of flour and baking soda unless I absolutely have to, and flapjacks are my fallback when we’re out of any shop bought naughtiness.

So here’s the recipe (more of a preparation guide to be honest), I feel this is perfect for a rainy Saturday.

Also, I don’t tend to add raisins. I hate it when the ones on top burn.

Oven on at 150-170, depending on whether you have a fan or not.

Grease and line a baking tin, I use one that is 9 inches x 9 inches

175g butter

175g dark brown sugar

150-175g golden syrup (go for 150g if you’re adding a handful of chocolate chips)

350g oats

Melt the butter, sugar and syrup together in a pan

Once that’s all melted and lovely, add the oats and give it all a good stir. Now would also be the time to add the chocolate chips, they will melt obviously. Or you could leave the mixture to cool a little before adding them.

Bake in the oven for about 35-50 mins, now this is the crucial point. You want them crispy on the edges but gooey on the inside. So keep an eye after 35 mins and whip them out when it looks set in the middle and caramalised on the edges.

Leave to cool, it’s oh so tempting to cut and eat the straight away – don’t. Hot sugar is haaaaat. They’re also easier to cut when cooled.

And then share them, or hide them and eat them all to yourself with a cup of tea when child/children are sleeping.


Lazy Ragu – for lovers of the trusty slow cooker

One of my favourite memories of my Dad is during my Uni years; I actually think it was my last year and I was in slight (major) dissertation panic and living off red bull, 3am library visits and of course, ¬£1 vodka shots. He had the truly brilliant idea of posting me a slow cooker, filled with freshly baked banana muffins… 1 of my 5 a day as well as a vague attempt at encouraging me to vary my food group from carbs and liquid. Perfectly logical. This has to go down as one of the best parcels I have ever had delivered to my door – receiving baked goods in the post is simply genius and that little slow cooker has done me proud. Not so much while I was at Uni as you can imagine… but certainly the last couple of years and it’s nothing fancy but I absolutely love it (this has just massively shown the impact child bearing has had on me).

I think anyone with a child/children whether you are working or not will get the need for easy dinners because quite frankly it all just gets a bit much sometimes. Although I have to say that work can be a welcome break, I can live on the edge a little… drink cups of tea above 37 degrees and put them down where I want to, I don’t need to clear a 5 mile radius at a height of at least 1.5 metres to ensure safety at all times. Plus, I don’t have to share my lunch and I can eat it like a normal person… chew it, and put it down for a bit without fear of a grubby little hand reaching up and grabbing it like some sort of food ninja.

Again… I’ve digressed slightly but where I was going with that one is that this recipe is great to come home to and opening the freezer after a tough day and finding this ‘ready made’ is like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I know you’ve got to do the grafting initially, but there is also a tiny bit of smugness to be had with this one when you open the freezer and shock yourself with being organised.

This is definitely one of my all time comfort foods and I love that despite it being a household staple in most families, everyone’s tastes slightly different. My Mum’s is still a great contender and if she’s offering, and it means we get to eat, chat and leave then I’m generally very happy with that arrangement.

I thought about how I could make spag bol a little more indulgent and I figured bacon and possibly sausages were the answer to this – two ingredients which simply have to be consumed on a regular basis¬†(I know, they’re meant to be really bad for you now but everything in moderation/good quality yadayadayada). Plus, you can hide some secret veg in there and the little people of your household will never know. Hold the salt until you dish up (the alcohol will cook off) and freeze a few mini portions. This is the dogs whatsits on a drizzly winters day with garlic bread, wine and crap telly. Oh, and obviously a good amount of cheese, parmesan preferably.


So my version goes like this, it made us two batches and some portions for Bodes:

1 pack of stewing/casserole beef – approx 500g

Glug of olive oil

1 pack of bacon lardons, preferably smoked

Couple of pork sausages if you’ve got them, chopped up in rough chunks

1 onion chopped

1 carrot, diced as finely as you can manage.

Couple of handfuls of chopped mushrooms, leave these out if you’re not a fan

At least 2 cloves of garlic, depending on how much you love the stuff. Add more if you like.

500g carton of passatta

A generous glass (half bottle) of red wine

Basil (fresh if you’ve got it) or a good shaking of the dried stuff

Oregano, same as the basil.

Pepper, be generous again.

Splash of balsamic vinegar, this is like the Italian version of Worcester sauce.

Couple of tablespoons of tomato puree

Fry off the onions in the olive oil on a medium heat until they start softening, then add the garlic, beef, bacon, sausages and carrots and brown this all off. Chuck in the red wine and let it reduce down for a bit and then put it in the slow cooker with all the other ingredients and set it to a low heat and leave for at least 3 hours or until you can take out a bit of beef and it’s tender and delicious and falls apart.

Give it all a good mix to break up some of the beef and other bits and pieces and serve with fresh pasta if you’ve got it, and a really generous sprinkling of parmesan. Mmmmmm.

A bit like lasagne, this is really good left until the next day.

We love it, add your own tweaks… and let me know your thoughts.

Buon appetito!

Hangover prepping

We went out for dinner last night, with friends and there was not a feral child in sight. It was amazing.

This had been organised for some time and no word of a lie, the prospect of this evening has seen me through a few dark days recently. As most parents will tell you – mostly Mum’s actually because my husband still has an uncanny knack of turning a few quiet beers into ending up in some weird rave warehouse in Lewes – random nights out with a child are pretty much like going to soft play and all the children adhering to their allocated, age appropriate areas whilst maintaining a calm disposition – they just don’t happen.

As a treat, we got taxis last night, there and back. So novel and so deserved I feel. Which obviously meant that we needed to withdraw some cash to pay old drive. Despite having several cash points in the near vicinity of the high street, Waitrose was the chosen option, by two of the husbands I’ll add. Which meant that in order to withdraw said cash, a purchase needed to be made. Not chewing gum, or a lottery ticket say. No, no. Cans of G&T and bottles of cider. One each for the journey. I haven’t ever seen my husband skip, but I’m pretty sure there was a little hop and a shuffle out of Waitrose at the sheer excitement of this actually being a thing we were doing, a cheeky pre-dinner appetiser if you will. Now I’m not going to lie and say that I was really unhappy about this because actually, it was bloody brilliant. I felt like just for a moment, we were back being 18 and care free. Classy I know, but do it every now and then. It was great.

So anyway, dinner was amazing. The Hurstwood near Uckfield, I would really recommend it. I had serious food envy though, I actually thought fish and chips over steak would be a good idea. This was a total fail on my part, and never again shall I be so foolish. Life lesson: where there is steak, eat it.

We also pretty much managed to clear the entire area surrounding us. I think this was due to the fact that we were all so excited to be out it was pretty much like 4 year olds at a party with one of the infinite icecream machines, except we’re adults and there was a fairly infinite supply of alcohol. Had it not been for the minor detail of returning home for babysitters and said children, I’m pretty sure we would have been in TJ’s dancing like twats and getting a MacDonalds drive through on the way home, it was a very close call.

These days, a night out also requires a high degree of organisation in order to deal with the next day. Luckily though, we got off pretty lightly. In fact, we shipped B off to the in-laws and it’s pretty much felt like we’ve been on holiday minus the chaos of an airport and locating passports.

So back to the food… You know you get these end of the world people who prep for the inevitable apocalypse by drying out parsnips and stuffing them into air tight bags? Well I’m a ‘hangover prepper’. Naturally I did this on Saturday morning. This involved purchasing the obligatory eggs, bacon, sausages and English muffins – when we are totally past the point of no return we just head to my Mum and Dad for the Sunday cure. It was absolute heaven to wake up to that this morning, and knowing I could eat the whole plate to myself was even better.

I’ve also gone slightly American and embraced the need for junk food when feeling a little fragile; braised pork ribs in coke, smothered in sticky BBQ sauce. I’m a little bit excited about these. Totally unhealthy but completely needed. I’ll report back on how they turned out. I’m pretty pleased with the level of forward thinking that I’ve employed with this one.

So to close, my top tips for going out minus child in tow and surviving the inevitable hanging out of one’s backside:

  1. Ship them out, not permanently but just allow yourself to relish in a lazy morning. They don’t happen often and all parents deserve them every now and then.
  2. Food, Food & Food – you know you’re going to want delicious morsels when trying to wrangle a toddler. Give in to the shit. It’s so good every now and then.
  3. Get a cab, and go on… Grab a can for the way – it’s dark. No one can see.

Homage to hummus and pitta bread

I’ve got a confession to make…

I may have squeezed a ready made, shop bought Ella’s Kitchen food pouch into a tupperware container to make it look like I’d made it myself.

Now I did this because we were living at my parents while our house was being rewired and I had given them to B in his lunchbox for nursery about 3 weeks on the trot and felt it was only a matter of time before I was called up on this. Part of me was slightly embarrassed for being so deceitful, the other part of me thought it was actually pretty genius and wondered whether I could get away with it for a few more weeks. You’ll be pleased to know I didn’t follow through with that thinking and actually pulled my finger out and went back to sorting proper lunches again.

I don’t think I’m alone in lunch struggles with a toddler though? It would seem that at this point sandwiches are just a bit of a push because that situation where the bread gets stuck on the roof of their mouth and then you have dig it out and get all gross seems to happen quite frequently and I just feel it’s a bit undignified for the poor bugger. So sandwiches are out and he is also now past the point of wanting mushed up lunches so I found myself having to look at alternatives.

As a side note, I’ve noticed I get a bit jealous of his lunches but also feel turning up to work with a packed lunch fit for a toddler would be slightly inappropriate… when I’m not cheating and pretending the box of goodness is wholesome and homemade I try to give him a bit of a variety with it being the spice of life and all that. Then I look at the lunches I have, usually a shit soup or some beans on toast and the reality of motherhood hits me – I’m officially a parent, my child eats better than I do.

So anyway, the solution to my lunchtime problem lies in the form of a simple, pocketed item known as the pitta bread.2015-11-02 15.20.54

They’re manageable in terms of grippage, they can be filled with all sorts of different things such as cheese, marmite, jam etc. and you can even hide a bit of cucumber or tomato in there if you’re feeling brave. If you’re wanting to feel even better about yourself you can get the wholemeal ones, Mum points… tick.

If you’re feeling particularly culinary you could even attempt to make mini pizzas, I did this once… they tasted great (I thought) but they were possibly a push too far for Boden at the time and I think I got a bit ahead of myself in the weaning stakes – you generally need teeth to eat them.

My go to though is hummus… I’m pretty sure I spend a small fortune on the stuff but Boden seems to absolutely love it and to top it off generally finishes with a very gratuitous garlicky belch. That and he feels the need to smear it through his hair as some form of edible hair gel.

So to all my fellow mum’s out there, never be ashamed of fobbing off shop bought food as your own – We’ve all done it (I think). And opt for pitta; the handy, healthy and grippable food stuff.

They’ve changed my life.