One of those days…and black beans.

The other day I found out in the morning that I was going to host our small group for tea (translate; a simple evening meal) that night because my friends had fallen ill.

I felt this very energising mixture; fortunate for the unexpected company when my husband was going to be out for a fancy meal with his work colleagues…and I was also just a bit apprehensive that I would have to manage the children’s meal, bath and bed on my own, and somehow try to create a welcoming atmosphere. It’s called EEEk!

But energy was flowing, so that’s a good thing. And in my mind I did a supershuffle of all the potential evening meals I’d planned for that week. And got lucky!! One of them was beautiful babylovesveg Popeye’s black bean stew….

This is the easiest meal to stretch and make a little more fancy for adults. Just multiply the quantities by however much is required.
Instead of tinned black beans, you can also use the much cheaper dried ones and just keep them simmering away for at least an hour or so before using them as the recipe suggests.

All you then have to do, when the kids are in bed, is;

slow fry some chorizo, as much as you think your friends will want,
cut some spring onions,
perhaps some fresh or dried chillies
and/or some cumin seeds
and/or some chopped fresh coriander

If you also want the stew to be a bit thicker and saltier, you can throw in some fajita spice mix, which will deal with both those issues.

When the guests arrive, throw your chorizo alongside its cooking oil into the bean stew and put all of the extras in small bowls, so people can pimp their bean stew according to their own taste.

If you’re as fortunate as me, they will bring a salad and some crusty bread, some wine and dessert, and the party can begin.

I cooked the rice twice, once for the kids, once for the adults. This can be a bit of a juggling act when you’re also ‘on bed time’, but if your oven is any good, you can also keep it warm in there, and there’s always the microwave!

Why I’m almost ready for Christmas

Are you one of those people who feel that unless they’ve done everything perfectly, the Christmas season (and really, what I like to call the superior preceding Advent season) somehow shouldn’t have started yet, because you’re a bit behind and might never catch up? I’m not talking about wrapping every present in matching wrapping paper and making sure you write more Christmas cards than last year and getting caught up over which supermarket’s turkey is the most ethically sourced (although these have also been my worries).

No, I mean the perfectly honourable reflections of the fact that you are a good middle class person with a conscience…getting an advent calendar with stories and pictures to cut out, lighting a candle on each advent Sunday, reflecting well enough on the coming of the King and what that should actually mean, baking the most meaningful Christmas bakes, making sure each neighbour you’ve disliked this year gets a bag of goodies, thinking really hard about each present you buy or ask for (as subconsciously you’re a bit guilty that we even do presents when what the world really needs is for us to be ethical and not excessive), making sure we do something fun and festive at the weekends that the children will remember in years to come, but also engaging them in some form of charity event because that’s important, too…I’m out of breath just writing this…

I’m one of those people. I want to do it all well. Desperately. But a very wise friend, incidentally, the one who also does Advent inspiringly well, once taught me the value of simplicity. How it applies particularly when you come to a shift in how you do the everyday. Simplicity means it needs to feel doable. Like we’re entering into the season with a refreshed sense of excitement. Of actual joy over the one who came to save us, not the guilty, better-feel-joyful kind. This is a joy that’s mobilising. And as I think about this, my perfectionist inner wannabe domestic goddess can go pheeew and deflate. The joy of my salvation will carry me through all the excitement, pain and potential of this season, because the King has already come. My soul is so saved. More each day. And that’s why, for me, Christmas can come this year.

More toast, please.

And “I’m still hungry!”

These are the phrases I hear around 53 times per day, by two out of my three children. And the third one will start doing the same once she’s graduated from the blissful “mamama” and “dadada” – stage.

So this blog is my “pièce de résistance” in the literal sense of the term. An attempt to capture beauty and meaning in the relentlessness of the ‘every day’, which, at our life stage, often appears to go on forever, and then some more.

And what else could it be about other than food: The daily battle for survival, satisfaction and, of course, sanity. If this battle is won, for example after a creative, exquisite, but not too indulgent meal with my love, with wine, coffee and pudding, I might find a sense of peace and hope for the future. If lost, say, when middling child rejects my elaborate efforts to make him appreciate his vegetables and just shouts “Daaaw, daaaw, daaw!” meaning “Toast, toast, toast!” it leaves me despairing over how mean and unrewarding my life feels, and I have to work hard to suppress the urge to throw the plate like the toddler would.

In looking for the moments that move me (and could be worth writing about), for better or for worse, I was drenched in joy yesterday, when said middle toddle, in yet another one of his “more, more, more daaw” moments, was offered a piece by his older brother, who is keenly aware of his own struggle for more…

What moved him to share his very last piece of bread, I wondered, knowing his stingy mother probably wouldn’t come out with another tray, but tell him to “wait 20 minutes to see if he’s really still hungry.” It could only have been love or the instinct to care for the younger, less mature ones that oldest siblings appear to adopt from a very young age. After all, he’s still only 4!

But maybe, only maybe though, he was able to let go of the bread because he’d received true satisfaction from my new favourite, our pink porridge. This I try my hand on when feeling generous enough to let dad have a lie in on a Saturday morning (yes, you heard me right, it is that way round in our household!).

For colour, secret vegetable and steaming creaminess on a grey and very early morning, it certainly does the trick and takes less than 10 minutes to make, even if you don’t have a food processor. Here goes:

Ingredients for 2 hungry kids and 1 adult, or 2 generous adult portions:

  • 1 raw beetroot
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 medium parsnip
  • 1 tsp mixed allspice
  • 3 tbsp porridge oats
  • 2 tsp mixed seeds, such as chia, poppy or sesame
  • 1 dash of orange juice
  • Any sweetener you feel you believe in, to taste

Blitz or grate the vegetables

Put veg, oats, spices and, if using, chia seeds in a pan

Pour over some hot water and stir over a low heat until you reach your desired texture, around 5-7 minutes

Sweeten with your chosen sweetening agent

Sprinkle over remaining seeds.

If it’s too hot and the kids or you are too impatient for it to cool down, use a bit of yoghurt or coconut milk to speed up the cooling and add some colour variation. There you have it,  I think it’s good for sharing.