Category Archives: domestic goddess

The Week Before Christmas

Oh, it’s been all go here this past week. I spent a fun day Christmas shopping in Brighton last weekend. The weather was mild, the sun shone and Christmas cheer was on offer.

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Then, of course, there’s the present wrapping…

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…and the decking the halls…

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Followed by the trifle-making, of course (Nigella’s recipe).

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Waiting for the custard to cool…

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…to be assembled on Boxing Day for a lunchtime buffet. Oh yes, of course, I’ll post that too.

 

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Gingerbread Men (and Friends)

My nephew Hankenstein and I were tasked to make gingerbread men. I Googled a recipe (thank you Tate & Lyle http://www.lylesgoldensyrup.com/kitchen.php?recipe=35 , and assembled all the ingredients (to bake one must organise).

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I pre-heated the oven (to bake one needs a hot oven), and we mixed all the ingredients together (well, Hankenstein poured and I mixed). Then I threw flour all over the countertop (much to H’s delight) and we proceeded to roll out the gingery dough. I got out the gingerbread man cookie cutter, but H felt some dinosaurs would add a unique touch. Then the other cookie cutters began, as if by magic, to appear — bells, Santas, stars, snowmen, holly… because, as H said, “The gingerbread men would be lonely without friends”.

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H cut them all out and I spread them out onto the baking trays…

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…and then we watched them turn golden brown in the oven.

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A production line ensued, with the spicy, sugary smell of freshly baked gingerbread cookies filling the kitchen.

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Then, it was the fun bit (or, really, the next phase of fun) — icing them! Well, to ice means for Auntie to decorate while H squirted icing into his mouth.

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Then it was time to taste them. Because to bake gingerbread men (and their friends) means to eat them, fresh out of the oven.

If It’s Friday, It’s Cous Cous Day

Every Friday is cous cous day in Morocco. Forget about the spoonful of the nutty grain as an “accompaniment” to your main meal. No no no. Cous Cous is the big meal of the Moroccan week, eaten mid-day on Fridays either before or after a visit to the mosque.

Berber Angel let me help her last week while she prepared the big meal — and it does take some hours, believe me.

First, you take the meat or chicken with sliced onions, chopped tomatoes and spices — salt, pepper, powdered ginger, a smidgeon of saffron if you have it and a glug of olive oil and vegetable oil and put them on the hob in a large pot with a cover to cook on medium heat. After ten minutes add some water about 2 to 3 cups or so. Let it all simmer and sizzle and infuse into a lovely golden sauce.

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Next, you peel and cut up the veg — red squash or pumpkin, marrow, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, parsnip, and zucchini. Put the carrots, parsnip and cabbage in the pot. Slice the carrots, parsnip and zucchini rather than chopping them into chunks. Don’t add the other veg yet — they’d just fall apart!

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Now you get to the cous cous. You need a lot. A whole bag. Think big. You la’re feeding an army here. Pour it all into a really large bowl…

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…with a bit of vegetable oil and water…

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…give it a mix…

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…and a good sift…

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…and smooth it all out.

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Then pour it into the top of the cous cous pot (or into a steamer on top of the pot of simmering meat and veg)…

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…and cover it to let it steam.

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Let the cous cous steam for about 10 minutes then pour it out into your large bowl and fluff it all up. Beware – it’s hot! It didn’t bother Berber Angel but I would have had to use spoons.

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Time to put the potatoes, squash and zucchini into the pot of simmering meat and veg.

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Put the cous cous back in the cous cous pot and set it over the simmering meat and veg for another 10 minutes, then pour it back into the bowl and fluff it up again, adding a dash of vegetable oil. Pour it back into the cous cous pot and let it steam another 10 minutes. No short cuts on this! Add some chopped up coriander to the meat pot for these last 10 minutes.

Go have a cup of tea. Then come back in 10 minutes and pour out the fat and fluffy cous cous into your serving dish or dishes.

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Add the meat or chicken to the centre…

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…and add the veg, arranged nicely around the meat to cover it up. Spoon the golden sauce over it all.

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To eat it the Moroccan way, set the platter in the middle of a table and grab a spoon. Eat the cous cous first, then the veg, and finally the meat. Moroccans scoop the cous cous up in their fingers and roll it into a small ball and pop it into their mouths. Whenever I’ve tried this it’s ended in my lap to the great amusement of everyone. I eat with a fork and knife. Fewer cleaning bills that way. Eat what’s in front of you — the hostess divides the meat up amongst all the diners when you get to that point. Dig in!

Berber Baking Party

The neighbours were having an engagement party, so Berber Angel and I joined the ebb and flow of Berber women next door as we baked up a storm.

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Habiba poured something fragrant onto a plate. “Qu’est ce que c’est?” I asked Berber Angel. She put some in my hand and motioned for me to chew. Ahhh! Caraway!

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There was much rolling and pounding of dough…

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…and chit chat…

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…and more mixing and stirring…

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…and bread making…

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…and decorating…

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…and cookie-making… (hundreds, I tell you! Berber Angel doesn’t do things half-way!)…

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…and delicious things to eat at the party.

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I’m going to have to get Weight Watchers on speed-dial when I get back home.

Barbecue Italiano

Tootsie and family are in Canada on holiday so I’m using their house in the country. 🙂 I had the Italians over for the weekend for a barbecue. The garden was ready, pool and all, and the sun was shining.

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Drumguy texted me a list of veggies to buy for veggie kebabs (aubergine, courgettes, peppers, mushrooms) and while Winehippie cut up the veggies…

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…I made up my famous sherry marinade for the chicken kebabs (a big glug of sherry, another big glug of olive oil, a chunk of scored ginger, a head of peeled garlic, salt , peppers, chunks of chicken and whole mushrooms — try it, you’ll love it!).

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I’d picked up some barbecue coals while I was out — not realising that it was the slow-burning stuff (meh — even if I’d  noticed, I wouldn’t have known the difference). Poor Drumguy. He struggled getting it lit. It huffed…

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…and it puffed…

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…Winehippie and I munched on veggie crisps and drank wine while I learnt a lot of really great new Italian words.

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Then I called a cab and we raced to the Co-op to buy some super fast-lighting coals. Okay, so now I know. I picked up an extra two bottles of wine because we were working up a mega thirst.

Then it was barbecue time!

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And eating time!

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The afternoon blended into evening and we lit up the chiminea…

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…ate the home-made tiramisu (which was outstanding!)…

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…laughed, and argued and drank numerous bottles of wine until it was time to turn in.

The next day, after a breakfast of my famous scrambled eggs (I am a scrambled egg Jedi Master), croissants and coffee, we headed out into the fields of Sussex for a Sunday morning stroll…

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…before heading back to London for the new week ahead.

Reading and Baking

I had a day to myself yesterday where I didn’t have any client meetings, pressing work, and no novel to work on. I went for a jog then came back to Tootsie’s and looked through the books on her living room shelves and found exactly the book I was looking for, but didn’t know I’d find… Stephen King’s “On Writing”.

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Eureka! I’d been planning to buy it myself, and there it was — right in front of me! So, after I showered I settled down on the sofa and started to read. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had the time to just stick my nose into a book and not come up for air until my stomach rumbled from hunger. But that’s exactly what I did. Then, at around page 186 I noticed I’d forgotten to eat breakfast and was well past lunch. I wandered into the kitchen and was taken with the urge to bake something. It was a bit chilly and rainy and I felt like filling the house with the warmth of something delicious and home-made. I rooted around the cupboards and the fridge and found everything I needed for strawberry shortcake. Newly picked English strawberries exuding the scent of grass and rain…

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…and all the homely ingredients for an afternoon of baking.

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I measured and sifted and stirred and floured and rolled and baked. What a simple pleasure! The rain pattering against the window pane, and the kitchen filling with the warmth of the oven and the heavenly smell of baking shortbread.

I sliced the strawberries and sprinkled them with sugar and let them steep and sweeten  in the fridge. I whipped the cream. Then, after supper, I assembled the surprise dessert and we all, Tootsie, Wineguy, Hankenstein and I, tucked into our home-made strawberry shortcakes.

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A good book and a good dessert. Life doesn’t need to be complicated.