Friday, March 31, 2006


Wrote an article today on making summer smoothies - a way of using up ripe fruit, when there is an overabundance of it. Waste not all this nature's bounty. To my shame, when I return to the kitchen, I have to eat my words - the previously perfect mango has disintegrated into a pool of pulp in the fruit bowl - too past it even for processing into a smoothie. I'll still post the article though - what is life if not full of aspirations that one cannot always stick to!

Talking of aspirations - I'm reading 44 Scotland St by Alexander McCall Smith - enjoying it, it's full of well painted characters, pithily brought to life. One of them is the archtypal pushy mother with a "gifted" 5 year old, poor thing, who can speak Italian and play the saxophone, he gets into trouble for writing graffiti in the kindergarten toilets, in Italian, so couldn't blame anyone else. So far one is smiling along with the author. It only jarred on me when he mentions that the boy is down to go to the Rudolf Steiner School where the Guardian is read out in assembly every morning...!

Now my experience of Steiner or Waldorf schools, my seven year old is at one, is that that sort of intellectual elitist pushiness is completely the opposite of their philosophy, where children develop at an age appropriate pace and enjoy learning because of it...maybe the author got muddled with Montessori (now I'm the ignorant one, I don't have any personal experience of Montessori) or just picked an alternative education system without knowing so much about it......still a good book though.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Baking heat

It's supposed to be autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. A time to heave a sigh of relief that the dry heat of summer is over and cook solid warming food again for the family. No more salads, that the children don't eat anyway; have a rest from stir-fries which they are getting tired of, after twice a week all through the summer. Get out the stewing beef from the freezer and prepare for it to cook slowly through the afternoon, pervading the kitchen with warmth and appetising aromas. That was the idea this morning anyway - the mists were there..I sent the children off to school wrapped up in fleeces, then half way through the morning the mist burnt off and we have a scorching afternoon on our hands. The last thing I feel like cooking now is a beef casserole and I'll be too hot to want to eat it unless it cools off dramatically this evening...but the beef is busy defrosting, I can't sling it back in the freezer without the threat of salmonella, I have no alternative to feed the family get on and cook. I'm also committed to baking for my daughter's end of term festival so it looks like sauna time in the kitchen today.

The beef casserole is simple: a matter of chopping vegetables, browning the meat, throwing it all into the pot with the end of a bottle of wine (or the beginning if you're opening one specially, which is a great idea because then the cook is morally obliged to sample its quality during the cooking process) and then leave it to simmer for a few hours either on a low heat on the hob or in a low oven

(a brief interlude, torn from my writing by an altercation involving a wooden train connecting with a sibling's forehead, resolved with an Arnica pill)

the baking is more complicated, our plans are ambitious: my five year old daughter wants to make cheese biscuits by herself - we use Nigella Lawson's recipe from How to Eat - works a treat and the children can mostly make them themselves; I am going to make a bread filled with raisins and spice called an Easter Crown, which looks impressive and is also delicious and then some ginger oat biscuits too.

A few hours later..... all the above achieved....the kitchen is visible only under a fine layer of flour, grated cheese and onion skins, every possible container has been used, the sink is piled high but the evening is cooling down, a gentle breeze wafts poetically outside. We will abandon the kitchen, cart the table outside and eat our stew there as the sun sets and the stars come out - maybe if I don't turn the lights on in the kitchen, I'll be able to forget about it until tomorrow.