Magazine Rifle

I think it’s finally happened. My brain has completely turned to mush. I must have got my laptop out, switched it on and sat down in front of it to write a blog post about fifteen times. Every time, I sit there and fall into an internet wormhole of Instagram and Amazon. Or I just sit there admiring pictures of Ottilie on my fancy new iPhone X; the portrait function makes Tilly look even more cute!

Consequently, the list of blog posts I have to write is getting longer and longer. Good news if I was ever worrying about a lack of material, bad news if you are already bored of these rambling introductions.

I have begun a little project. Nothing earth shattering you understand. But it will free up the entire bottom drawer of the beautiful antique desk I am currently sitting at, which is pretty useful indeed. What, I hear you ask, have I got stashed in the bottom drawer of my desk?  Back copies of Olive and Good Food Magazine (yes, my life does revolve around food that much). I used to have a subscription and kept the copies until I’d gone through them and torn out the recipes to use. Below is a picture of the recipe holder I have all the recipes in from some of the backcopies. I can confirm that not one of these recipes has been cooked.

So for the next 25 or so weeks, at least 3 of our meals will be taken from an issue of either Good Food or Olive. An additional recipe will be chosen from the recipes already cut out.

If they are successful I can keep the recipes and use them again, if not they go in the recycling. At the end of each week the magazine goes in the recycling.

A thrilling endeavour, I’m sure you’ll agree. Well, actually, so far it’s been rather good. We’re on week two. Last week we used Good Food from October 2011. We had curried cauliflower florets, a tandoori chicken thing and a sausage casserole. The cauli and the chicken were nice, but I probably won’t bother with those again. But the sausage thing (that I obviously forgot to take a picture of) will definately be done again as it was lush.

Whilst not the most groundbreaking thing in life, this little project is breaking the monotiny of menu planning using the same old dishes and gives me a perfect opportinity to try new dishes out and widen my cooking portfolio!

How not to bake a whole cauliflower…

Well this is weird. Here I am, out of bed, showered, breakfasted and at my desk before 8.30am (well it was when I sat down). Ottilie’s got a cold which meant she snuffled and slept her way through most of yesterday and I assumed that would mean a terrible night’s sleep. But no. She slept from midnight through til 6.30am!!!! I woke up with my husband’s alarm and panicked, thinking the monitor had broken and she’d been screaming for hours, but she was still happily snoozing snottily. Consequently – I feel pretty champion today.

A world away from the black dog I just couldn’t shift yesterday. It’s ridiculous, I’m the one going on about fresh air and how it’s a gamechanger, yet on a beautiful Monday while I have builders and the house is a dusty mess; I’m the one who can’t bring herself to leave the house until the middle of the afternoon. I CHOSE to do the ironing, I faffed around and moved some piles of paper around all because I couldn’t face the outside world. It never fails to baffle and scare me what one or two too many nights with too little sleep will do to you – regardless how used to it I am by now.

Anyway, on a lighter note, last week I decided to attempt what should be a pretty easy thing of baking a whole cauliflower. Oh how wrong I was. That’s not to say it isn’t easy, I just totally ballsed it up.

How NOT to do it is below.

  • Carefully stir into a bowl of some Greek Yoghurt a delicate mix of spices that you have actually measured out for the huge success this recipe is going to be
  • Don’t bother to cook the spices in oil beforehand or anything – they’ll be lovely raw right??
  • Trim the cauli of it’s green leaves and gouge out its core.
  • Don’t bother to steam it, the Greek Yoghurt will cook it through – whatever
  • Plonk it on an oven tray and carefully paint the whole thing with your raw spice and yoghurt mix. Place in the fridge and forget about it until dinner time
  • Open fridge, realise you really should have covered the cauliflower so the whole fridge stinks of curry for a week
  • Read an online recipe that tells you to steam the cauliflower. Attempt a half-arsed steaming attempt in the oven with a puddle of water in the bottom of the baking tin (it doesn’t work)
  • Bake the Cauli for as long as you can stand it. Serve with some DELCIOUS fried shallot bits that you’ve sprinkled on top. By doing that you have almost litterally polished a turd.
  • Take one bite and realise the entire thing is raw, has the acrid taste of raw spices and all the moisture from the greek yoghurt has been lost into the heat of the oven and not into the cauli.

Fresh Air Fanatic

This is an apology. From us new Mums to our parents. I’m sorry for kicking and screaming when you sent us outside to play. I’m sorry for the whines of ‘do we have toooo?’ And the stamps of ‘I hate you, it’s so unfair’ when you kept us outside helping with the gardening for entire Saturday afternoons in the middle of winter. And the whinging that we just wanted to play one more game of Bamboozle on teletext or watch Philip Schofield and Gordon the Gofer in the broom cupboard (that sounds a bit wrong).

I get it now.

At the ripe old age of 34 I have finally discovered the benefits of fresh air. I now really understand how fresh air can almost make or break a day for me and Ottilie.

I reached a low point in my hormones, emotions, tiredness etc on New Year’s Day this year when Ottilie (who was about 7 weeks old) hadn’t slept or fed well for a few days and we were both exhausted and I was too frightened to leave the house in case she started screaming and I couldn’t feed her or there was nowhere to change her. So by New Years Day I was a mess. I just couldn’t function. I sobbed while making breakfast, I couldn’t hold a conversation with my husband without crying. I wept in the shower. For no reason that I could understand. I felt like I was wading through treacle, the simplest task seemed almost impossible ask. And I just couldn’t see how, in any way, things would get better. My husband offered to take Tilly for a long walk while I had some time to myself. So I took myself to the cinema, I’ve not been to the cinema since 2013!

I don’t think I can class this as a high point in my life, sniffling and silently crying at 4 o’clock on New Years Day on my own in a cinema surrounded by families watching Mary Poppins.

Anyway, long story short I messaged one of my new mum friends while sitting through the seemingly endless pre-film adverts. And she suggested a walk to talk through stuff.

We did two, maybe three rounds of Wandsworth Park the next day and I felt like a totally different person. I slept well. Tilly slept well. Tilly fed better because I felt better. It was like a cloud had been lifted off my shoulders.

My New Years resolutions were set. To go for a walk at least 5 days a week and to make sure I walked 10,000 steps a day, 7 days a week. I have stuck to that pretty much since then.

Come rain or shine I will take myself and Tilly out for a walk. Even if it’s Baltic and blowing dogs off leads, we’ll trudge round a park for 20 minutes. But most days we’ll be out walking for an hour or two. Especially as Tilly is awake for longer now, it seems to stimulate her mind as she loves looking up at the trees and sky from her pram, and consequently sleeps better at night.

Right now as I write this I am suffering the consequences of no walk today (Tilly is asleep thankfully). But it’s 1am and i can’t sleep. I can’t switch off. I’m dreading the next feed. I know I’ll be shattered in the morning, so instead of trying to sleep again I have lain here fretting about stuff for over an hour. I just feel really crap and I fully put it down to a lack of fresh air.

Tomorrow will be better. I have a busy day that involves a lovely long afternoon walk!

Bit of a step away from the usual blogging style but I wanted to attempt the odd different subject from time to time. Let me know what you think or if you think i should just stick to food!!

Courgette and Halloumi Fritters

We’ve all got that item in the fridge for emergencies. It’s the item that pretty much never goes off. Theoretically easy to cook and will make an easy dinner. My Mum always has a tub of Elmlea in her fridge that can be whipped out at a moment’s notice and a vat of creamy comforting pasta with plenty of bacon and chopped up vegetables can be made on a quiet cosy Sunday evening. I’ve tried to keep a tub of cream in the fridge for just such emergencies, unfortunately I succumb to the desire for a carbonara far too quickly, so it never hangs around long. Yes, I know you shouldn’t put cream in a carbonara. So instead, we have a block of Halloumi.

Last week my Thursday evening plans got cancelled. By plans – I mean a spin class and by cancelled I mean, none of my NCT mum tum friends were going to go. There was no way I was going to go to my first spin class since 2017 on my own. So I pretended not to notice the spare bikes on the booking page and told myself it was fully booked! This did mean that Jim wasn’t going to have the homemade Lasagne portion in the freezer and that I was going to have to come up with something pretty jolly delicious to make up for it.

It wasn’t actually a total disaster. If you don’t have a spiraliser you can grate the courgettes or use a peeler to make ribbons.

Serves 2

3 Courgettes

1 tsp fine salt

1 x 250g block of halloumi

2 x eggs

10-15 fresh mint leaves

1 tbsp Ricotta (optional – I had some leftover from a something else)

A pinch of nutmeg

Serve with pan-fried asparagus & tomatoes

  • Spiralize (or grate) the courgettes and place in a sieve over a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and leave weighted down for 20 minutes or so until some of the water has drained out of them – I didn’t do this bit because I couldn’t be bothered and the fritters I made were almost impossible to turn over as there was so much water coming out of the courgettes
  • Once this has happened – quickly rinse the salt off courgettes in water and place them on some kitchen towel for a few moments
  • Place the courgettes into a bowl and grate in the halloumi
  • Finely chop the mint leaves and add to the bowl of courgettes along with the nutmeg, two eggs and ricotta if you’re using it
  • Mix it all together so all the ingredients are combined
  • Season with black pepper. You shouldn’t need to add any salt as the halloumi is quite salty already
  • Heat up the oven to 100 degrees and prepare an ovenproof dish with a layer of tin foil or greaseproof paper for the fritters
  • Over a medium and in a non-stick frying pan, place a dollop about the size of a small muffin in the pan and squish it down a bit, so it resembles a patty
  • After a few minutes using a fish slice turn the fritter over. Don’t be tempted to turn it too soon otherwise it’ll all apart like this lovely specimen
  • Once browned on both sides (it’ll take around 5 minutes on each side) place each done fritter in the oven proof dish and keep warm in the oven
  • Once they are all done, keep the pan warm and place the asparagus tips in with about 50ml of water – this helps them cook through instead of just charring on the outside. once the water has evaporated off add the tomatoes and some salt & pepper until the asparagus are cooked through and the tomatoes are beginning to fall apart
  • Serve and bask in the reflected delicious carbless dinner you’ve made in about 20 minutes (except the salting bit)

 

Slow-Cooked Gammon

IMG_1857

Oh don’t you worry, the irony of calling myself ‘The Modern Wife’ while I am on maternity leave, doing (almost) all the washing, ironing and cooking, is not lost on me. As I sit here wondering if, while Ottilie is sleeping for about three and a half seconds, I can get the ironing done, have some breakfast (despite it being 2pm) or actually complete a blog post, I am fully aware that I am currently light-years away from my work-focused career driven self and living something akin to a Stepford life. Albeit with a much wider waistline and even shorter attention span than I had before, though the tendancy to malfunction is generally quite high.

It’s no longer 2pm – it’s now 10pm two days later…

This recipe is something I cook probably every other week and have done for a while now. I used to buy shredded ham in the supermarket for sandwiches to take to work, but the packet has shrunk so much and the price stayed the same that it’s just not worth it. For the record, this a really, really un-photogenic recipe, so I’m sorry in advance.

Makes enough for lunch for one all week in salads, sandwiches or wraps. Or probably 3 days worth of sandwiches for two, with a bit leftover to chuck in some pasta or an omelette.

You will need a slow-cooker for this recipe

The best time to do this is early evening so you can leave it overnight.

1 x small smoked gammon joint (usually sold in 750g portions)

2 x sticks of celery

3 x garlic cloves

1 x onion

1 x bouquet garni

Rosemary sprigs 

150ml cloudy apple juice (optional)

4 x whole peppercorns 

1 tsp mixed herbs 

1 tsp dried sage (optional)

You can add or remove some of the veg above, it’s totally up to you. I tend to use what’s lying around in my fridge and isn’t likely to get used up in a meal.

  • Roughly chop the vegetables in to large chunks and chuck them into the slow cooker, skins and all. No need to peel the veg – the skins add to the flavour
  • Snuggle the gammon in amongst the chopped vegetables
  • Fill with water until the ham is fully immersed.
  • Set the slow cooker to its hottest setting for 5-6 hours.
  • Once the 5 hours are up the cooker will stay warm until you switch it off. This is why I doing this early evening, then you can leave it overnight and switch it off in the morning
  • After around 12-14 hours in the slow-cooker switch it off at the wall and leave the gammon in the water to cool completely. I found that if I took it out while it was still hot it seized up and was tough and difficult to shred
  • Once cooled, remove the gammon from the cooker and place on a board. Remove any of the fatty outside – this doesn’t taste nice when it’s been slow-cooked! 
  • There are two ways of shredding the gammon. Either, take a couple of forks and shred it like they do in a Chinese restaurant with the crispy duck. Or, using your hands, separate the large parts of the meat and gently squash it in your fingers. You will see the way the meat falls apart and it will be easy to separate into large or smaller shreds depending on how you like it.

This is such good value, it costs around £4 and in the last week I have used it in 2 wraps, 1 breakfast, 1 salad, 2 dinners, some went into my husbands Sunday night pasta and I also adulterated a piece of cheese on toast with it.

Also – buy one of these things for your kitchen. Mum always uses one when she’s cooking steak at home, so I thought I’d give it a try. Somehow, without replacing it with a horrible vanilla and magnolia smell it dramatically reduces the smell of cooked ham when you go downstairs for your coffee in the morning!

Chateaubriand Birthday Dinner

I’ve been writing this post for a week so far. Sitting down to type after a busy day mothering, cleaning and trying to figure out how to loose my ‘mum tum’ while eating a salmon and philly bagel, it turns out, doesn’t work particularly well.

It was just the two of us last weekend. It’s a bit early to have guests, Ottilie isn’t in a routine yet, so dinner is never when we plan it to be. If we’d had guests around we would probably have spent the whole time apologising about the lateness of dinner and getting stressed that Tilly hasn’t gone to sleep yet, she would then probably not settle because we’re trying to do it in a hurry. We would end up drunk, tired and hungry. Not to mention feeling guilty about blaming the baby and guilty about subjecting our friends to a front row seat of new-parent-neurotics. Phew. No. Just the two of us.

Here’s how I cooked the Chateaubriand. It may have been more luck than judgement that it ended up so delicious, but I need to show off somewhere and this lovely blog post is the place. Serve it with oven chips (the homemade deep-fried chips I did were just not worth the hassle) and spinach that I wilted in the residual heat of the pan so it soaked up the beefy goodness. A temperature probe is essential for this recipe, there is nothing worse than buying an expensive piece of meat and over cooking it so it is tough as old boots.

2 handfuls of posh mushrooms (girolles / oyster / portobello)

A bag of spinach

500g (ish) Chateaubriand

2 sprigs of rosemary

A large knob of butter (a tablespoon if you really want to measure it)

1 tbsp light olive oil

  • Take your chateaubriand out of the fridge well in advance of you cooking it so it comes up to room temperature.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees.
  • Lightly rub the meat with some light olive oil and season with salt and pepper. I used a salt grinder from the Garlic Farm on the Isle of Wight that has salt, pepper and dried garlic in it – highly recommend it, you can order online.
  • Heat a non-stick pan so it is super hot and place the Chateaubriand to sear on all sides. You’re not looking to cook it through, just brown the outside.
  • Once the meat is browned, pop a knob of butter in along with the rosemary sprigs and fry for a further couple of minutes.
  • Place the whole thing into the oven for 15 minutes taking out every 5 minutes to baste the meat with the butter from the pan. Each time you take the meat out, test the temperature at its centre with your probe – once it reaches 45 degrees (if you like it rare) you don’t need to put it back in the oven.
  • Place the pan on a high heat on the hob, chuck the mushrooms in and fry for 5 minutes keeping everything moving all the time
  • Remove the meat and place it on a board to rest, at this point it’ll be around 55 degrees and while resting it’ll go up to around 63 – 65 degress which will take the meat to rare
  • Brown off the mushrooms and place them on your serving dish
  • Using the residual heat of the pan wilt the spinach and place on the serving dish next to the mushrooms
  • Carve the meat and serve with the chips and a smug, cheffy smile

Salmon & Avocado Tian

Maternity leave. Now that’s a misnomer if ever I heard one. Until now, if I was ‘on leave’ from work I was generally found working on my best beached whale impression by the pool of some Italian Villa. Or I’d be recovering from a self induced ‘oh no, no, it’s not a hangover, I’m just a bit tired’ incident after a evening of over-excitement in the pub.

I’m not complaining, oh no. I’ve never been more tired and emotionally brain befuddled in all my life, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I mean the husband and I have kept a baby alive for 10 weeks now. She’s doubled in size and is even smiling at us on a pretty regular basis, so we must be doing ok right?

Given that my current wifing style is about as un-modern as it gets I thought the first recipe of the year should be a bit of a throwback to a refined version of the recipe I put on my old blog 9 years ago. It’s also the one that the lovely lady who wrote to me used for her Christmas lunch.

2019
2011

Serves 4
(As a starter)

3 Ripe avocados
The juice of 1 lemon
120g Smoked salmon
1 tbsp Creme fraiche
2 tbsp Cream cheese
1 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
A pinch of Cayenne pepper
Salt & Pepper
Toast to serve with it

The mixtures can all be made in advance and then assembled when you are ready to serve, or when your 10 week old has FINALLY decided that sleep might be a good idea.

  • Roughly chop the salmon and put it in a bowl with the crème fraiche, cream cheese, parsley, ½ the lemon juice, a pinch of cayenne pepper. Season. Mix together.
  • Finely blend the avocados with the remaining lemon juice until it is a smooth paste. The lemon in the mixture will keep it from going brown.
  • Take a 2.5 inch pastry cutter and place it in the middle of the plate.
  • Dollop some of the avocado mix into the ring and spread it to the edges. Gently top it with the salmon mix. When you’re ready to serve take the cutter off and voila. Done.
  • Serve with toast or, if you can be bothered, some Melba toast to add some crunch to the dish, otherwise this dish is a little too denture friendly.

If you don’t have several of the same size pastry cutters, next time you have a small tin of beans, cut the top and botton off give it a good clean and keep it. Then you’ll have two or three which will make plating up quicker and make the dishes more uniform. Just please don’t cut yourself on the tin!

The Modern Wife is back…

I’m back!

As if it wasn’t hugely obvious, I’d kind of given up on the blog.

I’ve written about six different introductions to this which is the first post in many many many months, all of which sound about as heartfelt as a politician’s answers on Question Time. So, I’ll just furnish you with the simple reasons for my absence. In 2018 the husband and I decided to start a family. Techinically we decided in 2017 and started, well, ‘bonking with intent’ I believe is the phrase, last year (I wonder if my Mum will read this). It was a very easy pregnancy, until about two thirds of the way through when it wasn’t.

Ottilie was born in November and now I am one of those people who spends their time telling anyone who will listen about how tired I am and what colour my daughter’s poos are. We have been so lucky, even though she was a teeny tiny little squidglet of a baby (1.8kgs) she’s been incredible and pretty cool, calm and collected, unlike her mother at times!

I’m really hoping I can get back into this blog. I was really inspired and flattered by an e-mail I received on Christmas night from a lovely lady called Felicity who told me a recipe I put on my old blog had saved her Christmas lunch! Pretty cool for a blog I started as a distraction from an unhappy job ten years ago eh?!

So here’s to 2019; new year, same old me but carrying a smidge of additional baby weight but with a re-newed interest in this blogging thing.

Until next time…

Pasta with a side order of Irrationality

I work in what I believe is the greatest profession there is. Hospitality. Which invariably involves dining out or at least drinking out several times a week. But. Since being preggas and not being able to drink, I’ve not really been out.

Not only have I not been out, I’ve let this lack of social life gnaw away at me. To the point where I found myself silently, ferociously resenting my husband for going out, or having a few glasses of wine with friends at home. Until it bubbled over last week into a massive unreasonable, totally irrational pregnant rant to anyone (except my husband obvs) who would listen. So, I’ve basically just been this loathsome, introverted moody bitch at home recently – I’ve known exactly what was wrong and why, but apparently saw no reason to tell my husband.

The worst part… I don’t even want a sodding drink. I currently have zero taste for most wine. So I’ve been silently loathing my husband, poor bloke, for doing something totally normal that I can’t currently do, but don’t actually even want to do.

Hormones suck. I mean it’s utterly ridiculous. Finding yourself crying in the bogs at work because you have no social life, but in reality, are too tired to even dream of going for a drink anyway. Bonkers.

But last week I did it. I dragged my sorry self-centred arse out for dinner with a friend. And didn’t draw breath the entire evening. My poor friend, just sat there while I rabbited on about anything, everything and nothing. All with a massive smug smile on my face because I was defying what I’d talked myself into believing was what you are supposed to do when preggas which is to stay home, go all Stepford Wife and nest.

If there was anything that could cure my introverted loathing of my self-inflicted lack of social life it was going to be a tiny, truffle scented Italian restaurant. And the new Lina’s Stores place on Greek St is utter perfection. So noisy you have to yell across the table and so cramped that it’s like a game of Tetras to get to the loos. But with food so perfect each mouthful has you doing that eyes closed, dreamy faced thing. Oh, and I had a glass of wine. It wasn’t very nice, pregnancy’s fault not theirs. Have the gnudi which are green lumps heavenliness that I could have eaten about 3 plates of.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to dreaming about wine that I don’t want.

Situation Update.

There have been a few changes in the Modern Wife household since I last wrote. I thought I hadn’t written anything since 2017, but it turns out I attempted some healthiness in February. Rest assured good people, it didn’t last long!

However, as I sit typing this post I am surrounded by 5 decorators, 1 plumber, a chippy and a sparky as the builders complete their final day here in our beautiful house. We moved out in January for ‘a couple of months’ to do ‘some work’ on the house. Or at least that is what we told ourselves and everyone else. On returning to the house after a couple of week’s work, being able to see from the second floor to the kitchen it soon became clear two months out wasn’t going to be enough.

Anyway, 6 and a half months later we moved back in to a nearly finished house and today’s the day they finish (almost). Snagging next week then we will have our wonderful house all to ourselves.

So that was change one.

Change two is a little more life changing, and about as lifestyle changing as it gets. We thought it was about time we tried for a baby. I’ve been on the contraceptive pill for over half of my life and I’m over 30, so the statistics all show it was going to take a long time for my body to get back to whatever normality is needed to become a baby-maker. So, we settled in, bought all the ovulation kits known to man, downloaded all the tracking apps and buckled up in for the long haul of monthly suspense and disappointments. We got lucky. A couple of months later, my post-work bottle of wine days came to a temporary end. I’m fairly sure the partying til 3am days are now at a permanent end.

And here we are. Five months pregnant. Surrounded by frantic builders (no they’re not frantic, of course they aren’t, builders are never frantic, despite any form deadline you put on them). Still trying to do it all and struggling like you wouldn’t believe to figure out all this stuff out.