Bert’s perfectly happy to go back to school after the Christmas break, so long as he can have another hundred years off first. I feel the same.
Today, we walked around the park with Ray, and Bert talked to me with his characteristic laconic earnestness about the problems of swimming (‘water gets up my noz-holes even when I wear my gobbles’). There is a bittersweet gorgeousness to a small child – not just in their malapropisms and bun-plump cheeks, but in the sense that they are not properly living within time yet. They sit solidly in the moment, and everything else is a hundred years away. It feels like there’s a wormhole rush of time around their stout little beings, and your future nostalgia whips you in the face as it passes at speed. It makes some moments so icily sweet that they give you brain freeze.
When we got back in, Bert put back on the pyjamas he’d reluctantly taken off to walk the dog and I put this in the oven and made cheese on toast. Bert ruminated on how cheese on toast was probably Ray’s favourite thing in the world (‘but he eats horse poo and his breath is so bad it makes my ears hurt’) and we made owls out of toilet roll middles and penguins out of Actimel bottles.
1 red pepper, sliced
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper
Brown the sausages in a little olive oil in a large saucepan that has a lid. Meanwhile heat the oven to 150. When the sausages are nicely coloured, add the red and orange peppers and the tinned tomatoes, swilling the tin out with water and adding maybe a quarter or a third of that to the pot. Season and bring to a fast simmer. Pop the lid on and slow cook in the oven for 3-4 hours. The sausages will be soft and tender (a winner with four-year-olds – ‘I cut it without a fork, Mum!’) and the sauce rich and sweet. You may need to ladle a little oily liquor off at the end (depends how fatty the sausages are, perhaps?). Serve with mash and corn on the cob, and a game of Bird Bingo,
Grumpy face. Got even grumpier in the few seconds after this photo was taken.
I looked at the fish pie mix in the fridge, thought about yet another fish pie and felt uninspired. This is a simplified version of a bouillabaisse.
1 glug olive oil
1 dessert spoon butter
1 onion, chopped
2 big garlic cloves, crushed
A few tarragon leaves, chopped (or some dried tarragon)
1 yellow pepper, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 dessert spoon tomato puree
1 pinch saffron
Salt and pepper
1 fish pie mix (salmon, cod, smoked fish)
Squeeze of the juice of half a lemon (another good reason to have a G&T later)
1 dessert spoon of butter
Melt the butter and oil and then cook the onion and garlic gently till transparent, then add the tarragon, veg, saffron, seasoning, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes (and half a can of water from the tap). Bring to the boil and then either simmer for 40 minutes or so, or slow cook (I put my in the Aga slow cooker for 3 hours). At that point, puree it, add the lemon juice and extra butter and tip in the fish, cooking till it’s tender – about 10-15 minutes.
We had ours with bread and butter.
Served 3.5 as a side dish
1 small aubergine, diced into 1cm cubes
2 medium-large tomatoes, diced into 1cm cubes
1 small onions, diced into reasonably large pieces – about 1cm cubed
1 large red pepper, diced into 1cm cubes
2 cloves garlic, crushed Olive oil
Chopped oregano – leaves from a couple of sprigs, chopped
Fry the onion and garlic till soft then add the rest of the veg, diced into equally sized pieces. I was basically aiming for the same quantity of each veg, so start with your aubergine and attempt to match. Stir through the herbs and a dash more olive oil and simmer on a really low heat for as long as you have – a couple of hours at least.
I did it in the Aga simmering oven, where, I saw on Facebook, a friend used to keep their baby lamb as a child. Either it really is a very cool oven or that baby lamb was beautifully slow cooked. Or both.
We had ours with roast lamb (which the last story makes me feel a little queasy about) and had there been any leftovers, I planned to give it to Bert for lunch with some alphabet pasta in some sort of homage to tinned seventies childhood food.