Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Weary Week

Many apologies for the sparse nature of blogging around these parts. It has been a horrible 10 days or so. Rob brought home a nasty little virus that proceeded to wreak its virally havoc throughout the family. It hit Elisha the worst: I was so worried about his breathing that I took him to the doctor. The doctor examined him and promptly called for an ambulance, which bore us off to the hospital blue lights and sirens blazing. Miraculously, we were only at the hospital for seven hours. A cautious doctor wanted to admit him but there were no beds. There was talk of transferring him to another hospital (miles away) but thankfully the demigod they brought down from the paediatrics ward agreed that as his condition had stabilized (thanks to oxygen and steroids) he could go home, provided we promised to call an ambulance if things changed at all. Within 48 hours he was his usual bouncy self, praise God, by which time I had gone down with it!

We are trying to be disciplined and have early nights since there is no guarantee of sleep after midnight - the virus has temporarily altered all our body clocks it seems and we are waking at all sorts of odd hours. We try to be in bed by 9.30pm (Rob and I, that is) but the hour between 9 and 10 must be the fastest hour of the day and bedtime has been sliding towards 11 or 11.30pm. Disastrous!

Monday, September 10, 2007

We'll Go Gathering Nuts In May

Well September actually. Last Monday I decided to take a walk with the boys, down the hill to meet Daddy at bus stop on his way home from work. It isn't a rural walk - 'down the hill' means walking down the side of a major road - but there is always something to see or find (you know the kind of things boys like to pick up: feathers, stones, sticks, unmentionable things). It is quite a little nature corridor, for all the cars screaming past. The road was dug out of some fairly old woodland and the last vestiges of it overhang the side on which we normally walk (our allotments are behind houses on the other side).

As we ambled along, I stopped to pick up the feather that had dropped from Elisha's hat and spied treasure on the grass. Small, very green but unmistakably ... a cobnut. We continued on our way to meet Rob and on the way back made a comprehensive search of the grass verge. The squirrels had gotten there before us and of the 20 or so we collected only 6 or 7 actually had nuts inside them, but I was thrilled. Cobnuts are a variety of hazelnut that grows particularly well in the UK, traditionally in the county of Kent (where we happen to live). I had never seen them growing wild before. We'll mark the spot and remember to come back before the squirrels next year, we told ourselves.

'I have a surprise for you!' Rob told me, a couple of days later on his return from the allotment. He had discovered a cobnut tree growing not far from our plot, in part of the 'common' hedgerow. He only noticed it because he had dropped something and saw the nuts on the grass. Their husks are green so they are hard to spot unless you are up close. He went out the next night with a bucket! We stripped them, but left them in their shells and the tally so far is 6 pounds in weight. Treasure indeed. Nuts are not cheap to buy and properly stored these should last until Christmas - if they get the chance! I haven't found an empty one yet either. Their taste is like a hazel nut but fresh and 'green' if you know what I mean. They will dry out and get more 'nutty' and you can also roast them.

I wish my Mum was here to see them. I remember her telling me many stories about growing up in the East End of London in the 1920's and 30's. She often mentioned that in the summer large numbers of men and women (either unemployed or on the annual factory shutdown) would travel down to the market gardens and farms of Kent to go 'hopping': picking the hops needed for the breweries. She never went herself. Her father considered the work too hard for a young girl and the moral climate in the tent communities that sprung up to house the workers far too lax. Her older brothers went though and brought back souvenirs - enormous 'hopping apples' and cobnuts, both of which were a great treat and never forgotten. At one time Kent 'The Garden Of England', was full of, amongst other things, cobnut orchards or 'plats'. As I've said, the cobnut grows well here and is naturally hardy and pest resistant. You would think there would be a market for them, wouldn't you, but most of our hazelnuts in the shops come from Turkey or even China. It can't be right. 'Our' cobnut tree seems to have been overlooked by other allotment holders and squirrels alike and I wonder how many others are in this area unidentified. Our eyes are peeled.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Hmm, start homeschooling and fall off the blogsphere.

On Monday we had:

Cold Roast Lamb
Gajar Aloo
Chocolate Cake

On Tuesday:

Chicken Mayonnaise Salad
Jacket Potatoes

And tonight:

Hot Chocolate

Monday was a repeat of Saturday because, well, it was just so nice. This time I added some cabbage to the recipe and used more potatoes and carrots. I wanted to have some leftovers for lunch - delicious with an egg on top. The chicken salad on Tuesday was made with some leftover roast chicken, chopped celery, spring onions, carrots and apple plus lots of mayonnaise and some curry powder. As for tonight, I'm afraid that Thursday evening feeling came a day early!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Eccles Cakes
Chocolate biscuits

Um, well, yes... We just weren't hungry tonight. The boys had something slightly nutritious - peanut butter and jellyjam sandwiches and grapes. Rob had the eccles cakes (his favourites and marked down to just 19p for 2 in the supermarket), I had the chocolate biscuits. Lots of hot tea for both of us too.

Much to think about tonight. Tomorrow is Isaac's first 'official' homeschooling day. We have some fun things planned, but Isaac's parting shot on going to bed was: "I don't want to do school at home. I shall stay in bed all day and not get up at all!"

Saturday, September 01, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Cold Roast Lamb
Gajar Aloo
Hot Chocolate

I do so love meals that are as simple as this: cold meat, leftover from yesterday and something interesting on the vegetable front that can pretty much be left to cook by itself. And I love Indian food!

Gajar Aloo (Carrots & Potatoes) is a variation on a recipe from the wonderful Cooking Like Mummyji by Vicky Bhogal. The original is Gajar Aloo Mattar, the mattar being peas, which I did not have, and also contains lots of lovely fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, unobtainable in these parts. I didn't have any ground gram masala, so used curry powder instead. All these alterations made it far from authentic but the spirit of the book is one of 'adapt and innovate'. If you like Indian food, I highly recommend it. It contains recipes for the sort of food that you would eat if you went to stay with some Punjabi friends for a week, rather than the sort of thing you might eat at a restaurant. It also gives a fascinating insight into the life of the Sikh community in the UK.

Here is the dish I ended up cooking - enough for two greedy people or four as a side dish with other things.

2 onions, chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, chopped
oil to cook them in
1 tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp curry powder
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated
Tomatoes from 1 tin of plum tomatoes, drained and chopped up
As many potatoes and carrots as you want (we used about 6 medium sized potatoes and 10 tiny carrots - potatoes, peeled and diced, carrots sliced)
Butter, to serve

Cook the onions and garlic in the oil until golden. Add salt, tumeric, curry powder and ginger and stir well. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until it looks shiny and the oil begins to separate a bit. Add the potatoes and carrots and stir well to coat. Add 1/4 - 1/2 water, cover and cook until the veg is tender (about 15 mins). Remove lid to evaporate any excess water and stir in a large or small pat of butter as you feel so inclined.