Remember when you could fit all your worldly possessions into the back of a car? Hell, I can remember when I could fit all my worldly possessions into a holdall, and still have room for a packed lunch. Not so these days, when even an overnight trip leaves me hankering for a Volvo Estate (we have a Polo). I was thinking of this earlier today, as I sat and nursed Mini BB for the umpteenth time – did I mention I had had another baby? Yes, he arrived, with no little surprise – a couple of weeks ago, and has been alternately feeding and sleeping, mostly feeding, ever since. Anyway, as I nursed him I saw a couple unloading their possessions from a small car and carrying them into their newly rented flat. A flat which has the unhelpful postal address of the road I live on, despite being down an alley and clearly part of a house not actually on my street. Oh the fun I have had with delivery men.
Happy New Year! A little late in the day perhaps, but what’s a few days between friends? Also, it’s taken me a little while to get my head around the fact that it is January, not because of some insane new year’s resolution I have embarked upon, but because the BB family are shortly to welcome the arrival of a new, non-feline, addition. I say shortly, it is in fact very shortly, but I am in quite some denial about all this, so I shall confine myself to saying that miniBB should be here by the end of the month.
This then is partly to blame for my inaction on the baking front, if not the washing/cleaning/ironing/buying vast amounts of stuff I thought I already had but which turned out not to be very nice after two years in the attic front. In the past few days, however, with our bedroom beginning to resemble mothercare branch after a particularly vicious hurricane, I have felt the pull towards the kitchen for something other than the remains of the Christmas chocolates and have used the time to batch cook things for LBB to eat once the miniBB arrvies. Go me!
Following on from last year’s very yummy stollen bites, I thought I would make an actual Stollen. It wasn’t really much more effort than the no effort at all stollen bites (though I did make my own marzipan which must have added a good 10minutes of exertion) and the end result is quite impressive. I made this (along with the candied peel and nougat) for Mama BB who has never let me forget that last Christmas we brought only ‘two pieces of fudge and a couple of mince pies’ to the festivities.
So here it is, Merry Christmas, well almost. Only five more days until the orgy of consumerism and excess/celebration of the birth of Christ, is upon us. I had intended to make Christmas Spice biscotti, and indeed I did actually make it, but unfortunately I also burnt it. Burnt it beyond being edible in fact; even by me. So instead I opted for nougat, which is fairly simple and quick, but very, very sticky. And I’m not convinced I didn’t actually burn this too. Fortunately it tastes more dark caramel than mouthful of ashes, so I will press on with the recipe below.
I took LBB to the dentist recently. This did not go well. Perhaps I should have left it longer, but I was concerned for his teeny tiny toddler teeth following a prolonged period of tooth-brushing refusal. It’s not that he won’t go near a toothbrush (a flashing Thomas the Tank Engine or a whizzing Spiderman) or the minty toothpaste adorned with pictures of fish. Au contraire, at the mere mention of teeth he is up the stairs and in the bathroom pulling out his little plastic step and saying ‘out the way mummy!’. Once the toothbrush, suitably festooned with a smear of paste is in his mouth, however, it all falls apart. Which is to say that whilst he is content to suck at the toothbrush, any attempt to engage in brushing of some description is met with a fierce clamping of the mouth and shaking of the head.
I have tried cajoling him with promises of book reading, offers for him to brush mummy’s teeth, promises of songs (inevitably Wheels on the Bus) all to no avail. Quite why I thought taking him to the dentist would be the answer to my prayers I don’t know. Clearly it wasn’t. Not that LBB didn’t enjoy himself (at least until he was asked to open his mouth). There was the very expensive computer to try out, the big blue chair that went up and down at the touch of a button and best of all the water basin, the tap to which he quickly discovered could be removed resulting in a 2ft fountain of water spurting into the air and onto the floor. Oh happy days. Needless to say we’re back in 6 months…
I first made mincemeat last year, using a super simple recipe from Jo Wheatley. Like the one below it features absolutely no meat and quite a bit of alcohol. I thought I would ring the changes this year, however, and another one, mostly because it is similarly easy but also because it is from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess and I am most definitely #teamnigella.
Naturally, being a Nigella recipe it’s not actually hers; and in fairness she never claims for a second it is. In the book it’s called Hettie Potter’s suet-free mincemeat, which pretty much gives the game away. Moreover, I get the distinct impression that when making mince pies Ms Lawson would probably just add more brandy to stuff from a shop (Fortnum and Mason’s rather than Aldi I would expect). That said, I take the view that if you’re going to make mince pies rather than buy them (and you are surely?) and you are doing the pastry yourself (a doddle with a food processor) or even if you aren’t, you might as well go the whole hog and make your own mincemeat. It’s really no hardship and it fills the house with wonderful Christmassy aromas. Stick on Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You and you’re away.
In case you missed it, the Sunday before last (November 24th) was stir up Sunday. This is apparently the ideal time to make Christmas Pudding (and I imagine Cake) because it allows the flavours (read alcohol) time to develop before the big day. Needless to say there was no stirring up last Sunday chez BB; but fortunately my friend Cara (she of the Chocolate Digger Cake fame) found time this weekend (better late than never) to make Christmas Pudding. I would anticipate that, as with most things I find, the lack of an additional week’s flavour development could be adequately compensated for by more alcohol.
Note: this recipe does require the use of a slow cooker, but I am fairly certain you can use a saucepan instead, I’m just not sure of the timings. But hey, that’s what the internet is for.
Flush from the success of zoo bread (a success not since repeated sadly) I thought I would have another go at making vegetable-based food for LBB. He really loved the feta and spinach filo parcels made a while back, and filo pastry is super easy to use if not make. As it happens, I’m way too lazy to even think of attempting to make it. Plus I do not have an empty 3 metre table in my kitchen and arms of a similar length. I’ve seen Bake Off, I know the sheer effort involved in making filo pastry and I’m simply not going there. Ever.
Anyway, this recipe, which I knocked up fresh from an actual full night’s sleep (oh nirvana) and knowing I was off to the cinema that afternoon for the first time in about a year leaving LBB in the capable hands of Mr. BB (aided by a ridiculously huge chocolate brownie it turned out), bears only a passing resemblance to the original one on the BBC website, but the end result seemed to go down well with LBB. Even if he did think it was cake. As with the sourdough bread I had baked the previous day, if it comes out of the oven it must be cake.
I am ill. Again. Still. It’s hard to tell. I feel as though the last six weeks have been one continuous wave of cold/flu/nausea, interspersed by intermittent days/hours of not feeling at death’s door. It doesn’t help of course that LBB is also ill. Not vomiting or endlessly evacuating his bowels thank goodness (the dreaded D&V has yet to grace our happy home and long may it stay that way), but a low level draining poorliness that, like the Duracell Bunny but without its charm, goes on and on and on.
On the rare occasions when LBB has been properly poorly he lies prone on the sofa, runny of nose and sad of face and my heart goes out to him in his little drugged-toddler state. He’s also quiet. Not this time. Too poorly to go out and do all the things we normally do to prevent us both from losing the plot, not poorly enough to sit on the sofa watching endless Pixar animations.
Following some very testing mealtimes chez BB, I am beyond excited to report that this weekend I have successfully smuggled a total of five different vegetables into LBB without his noticing (carrots, cabbage, spinach, leeks and courgettes since you asked. He noticed the peas and sweetcorn, however, although admittedly I did just shove these on his plate and let him get on with it. Unsurprisingly rather a lot made their way onto the floor). How was this amazing subterfuge achieved? Through the medium of potatoes mainly (fishcakes and bubble and squeak), but also through the wonder of vegetable parathas, or zoo bread as they are now known in our house, after the place where they were first sampled (Mr. BB’s approach to toddler snacks is nothing if not ‘outside the box’).
For those of you still awake, and I appreciate that this may be a somewhat limited audience, weaning and then food battles with small people being of interest only to those currently experiencing them, and probably reason enough to pay over all that money to the NCT to have someone else who will listen to you moan for literally months about what your child will and will not eat (generally cake and everything else), I can confirm that vegetable parathas are also palatable to those of a more mature disposition, though you may want to spice it up a little (or a lot).