Day 153

Level 2 Chi Kung.

Rain persisting down so, sore from yesterday’s gardening, I decided that today should be more of a cruisy indoor day. The colder weather has obviously flipped that switch in my head which turns off my inclination towards fish and salad type meals and makes me want to fill the house with rich savoury soups and stews. I made stock from the carcass of last weekend’s roast chicken a couple of days ago, so this morning while I waited for Dashi’s bus to arrive, I prepped the huge bag of carrots I got at the market on Monday and simmered them in the stock. Then, since Nick’s new eating plan permits all vegetables – even starchy ones – I roasted some butternut squash for him to snack on. At 1 pm I had to go to Katie’s school to be a parent helper. It is the first time I have had the opportunity to do this and Katie was very excited. The project this term is a kind of cross between a rag rug and a tapestry, depicting St George and the Dragon. It is the brainchild of Nina, a truly indefatigable mummy who organises the school fair, the endless bake sales, and the inevitable raffles, and still finds time to make all the costumes for the Christmas pageant. And who the Head Teacher never ever thanks… Last year I sat in the audience of the Christmas pageant while Mr Roach raved on about how much money the fair had raised, how the school had got an ‘outstanding in all areas’ Ofsted rating, and how marvellous the pageant had been, and then individually thanked all the staff who had participated, and DIDN’T thank Nina or any of the other parents. Mind boggling. Anyway, I was walking out the door to go and do my parent-helper thing, when it suddenly occurred to me that they were bound to have the crappiest scissors known to man, so I went back upstairs and collected both my big powerful left-handed dressmaking scissors and my small sharp embroidery scissors. I was so glad I did – I was definitely the envy of the other mummies on the fabric cutting table. The session was meant to finish at 2:15 and I had planned to fill in the time before pick-up at 3:20 sitting at a sunny table in a cafe near the school, with a flat white and a magazine. But no, chaos as bloody usual: 2:15 came and went with no sign of winding down or packing up. I finally excused myself at 2:55 so that I would at least have time to grab a takeaway coffee and drink it walking back to the school. I know it seems ridiculous, particularly when these days there is nothing to stop me going to a cafe any day of the week, but I really felt quite bitter at being deprived of my decadent hour.

Home again and onto making one of my favourite winter meals – a dish that was originally called ‘peasant stew’ but which I re-named ‘rich peasant stew’ when we were living back in Christchurch and I discovered what aubergines cost there (since only a fairly rich peasant could afford to make it). It’s fairly simple – though a bit more of a faff now that I don’t have three ovens – basically you bake aubergines, tomatoes and capsicums in the oven, leaving the capsicums in until the skins blister and char and adding anchovy fillets to the roasting tomatoes. Then you peel the skins off the capsicums and toss the whole lot into a casserole dish with your browned lamb. Throw in a couple of peeled and quartered onions and some courgettes and mushrooms if you have some to hand, then put the whole lot in a very low oven until everything is soft and yielding and the meat is falling apart. Roasting the veg beforehand may seem like an unnecessary extra step but it concentrates the flavours marvellously, adding a rich mellow quality to a dish which could otherwise be a bit boring and watery. Once it was ready to go in the oven, I got back to my soup – whizzed the carrots with a handheld blender and then tossed in a huge bunch of fresh coriander and whizzed it again. Most recipes for carrot and coriander soup seem to use coriander seed – but if you have fresh coriander it is even better. Yum.

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