Having survived the whirlwind that was December, we, that is, I, decided, to welcome in January by having a weekend of doing absolutely nothing – not even getting dressed if at all possible. I checked the weather (wall to wall rain, so perfect) instructed my husband to buy double papers on both days and settled down with a big pot of tea and an even bigger box of Lindor.
What I had completely failed to appreciate, however, is that it being the first weekend in January, the papers were awash with patronising, sanctimonious, New Year, New You bollocks – features in every section falling over themselves to tell you how you can be a better, shinier, healthier you. I don’t know how I could have forgotten about this – the papers have been churning out the same old shit in January since the dawn of time, or at least since the dawn of The Green Goddess – but it was enough to put me off my chocs (that last bit – total lie).
I’m not sure which are more tiresome – the articles which promise you 10 new ways with chia seeds (don’t bother, they taste of nothing and have the texture of frogspawn) or those which aim to improve you on a more profound level, in body, mind and soul. I skim read a handful of the latter, the most salient points of which seemed to be:
Find non-accusatory ways of addressing problems in your relationship Share responsibility for the problem, find a joint solution, said the article. All well and good, but what if the problem is that your lazy-arsed husband has been sitting on his backside for three days straight watching the test match, while you have been taking multi-tasking to a new level, trying to find space for all the new bits of toot that the kids have accrued, while shoving bleach down the toilet and cooking a (slightly ambitious) three course meal before the guests arrive for dinner? I don’t want to share the problem or find a joint solution, I just want him to put the bins out, without me having to ask once, let alone three times. And as for being non-confrontational, I suspect that even if I had asked him terribly nicely, the tone of my voice would betray my latent rage.
Try not to shout/nag your family See point above, but also when, for the umpteenth time, you have asked your teen to turn off the X-Box and get dressed because it’s nearly dark outside, or the 9yo to unravel his dirty pants from the numerous pairs of jeans on his floor and deposit them (but not the jeans that have only had one outing) in the laundry bin, it’s very difficult to not do this in a shouty voice. Plus, I think it’s good for my offspring to witness the full spectrum of human emotions as displayed by me: slightly worse for wear at New Year (9yo: “Mum, I could tell you were drunk because you were hiccuping and then you walked into a wall”); blubbing into my popcorn at the end of the new Star Wars movie (that music gets me every time); sulking like a five year old when I (always) lose at Monopoly (a.k.a. argument-in-a-box) despite a teensy weensy bit of cheating when I am the banker. Plus, they shout and nag at me far more than I do at them, so there. Fair game.
Make your home a calmer place HA HA HA HA HA.
Be kinder to yourself Sorry? I’m a woman and a mother. Crushing guilt and self-loathing are non-negotiable terms of the contract, no?
Anyway, I was just about to hurl the whole lot into the recycling when an article about this (right) caught my eye. A diet, promising weight loss of half a stone in seven days, while not giving up (at least not completely) carbs, wine, chocolate, and most importantly from my POV, cups of tea. All I have to do to shift the Christmas poundage, and a couple more to boot, is drink lots of kale juice and eat meals based on foods which will trigger some sort of weight loss reaction deep within me. Too good to be true? Perhaps? Am I a complete sucker? Almost certainly. And a hypocrite? Definitely, considering previous comments about supping kale. But I had the diet plan downloaded on my kindle (so no one will know, except me, and now, you) quicker than you can say the word ‘gullible’.
I have not started the diet yet because my fridge is still rammed with festive foodstuffs and the back garden with booze (no doubt getting a daily spray of cat pee) which I can’t possibly throw away, because that would be wasteful and immoral, and anyway the bins are full (and were 20 mins after the bin men came on Saturday). I’m also currently too scared to go near the bastard, sorry, bathroom scales to get a start weight, which is kind of essential if I am to measure the efficacy of this regime. So more of this next week, but in the meantime some more ideas for using up those slightly tired looking leftovers.
I cooked guinea fowl for eight on New Year’s Eve and because I always think it’s best to over-cater on such occasions, I ended up buying an extra bird to make it four in total. The upshot, inevitably (especially since two of the eight are still quite little ie. aged nine), was a stack of leftover meat. So I got my emergency pack of ready-made puff out of the freezer, made a quick stock out of the stripped carcasses, chopped up whatever veg I had left in the bottom of the fridge and threw it all into a pie. I also cheated, as you can probably see in the picture above, by baking the pie tops separately as I’m fed up with the whole lot collapsing in a soggy mess in the pie dish, thus ruining everyone’s tea and potentially weekend depending on how shouty I’m feeling.
This is a very slapdash recipe as this is how I tend to approach leftovers, so don’t worry too much about weighing and measuring, just keep tasting your mixture and adjusting until it’s yummy. You could use chicken or turkey here, or if you have leftover lamb, omit the creme fraiche and maybe add some chopped mint, or if you have beef, use stout or red wine instead of white and again, leave out the creamy stuff.
Serves 4 with some filling left over – good in a baked potato or on mash the next day
- about 750g-1kg leftover meat, picked over and roughly chopped. My leftovers included several rashers of streaky bacon which I had used to bard the breast of the birds while roasting so they went in too
- large knob of butter
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, crushed or grated
- 2 sticks of celery finely chopped
- 1 leek finely sliced into circles (a chopped carrot would be good here too but I’d run out)
- 1 heaped tbsp of plain flour
- 1 tsp of English mustard
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- wineglass of white wine
- enough stock to almost cover all the above ingredients without drowning them, about 400ml (that’s a total guess)
- dollop of creme fraiche or glug of double cream
- zest of half a lemon
- couple of bay leaves
- couple of sprigs of thyme, or alternatively a tbsp of chopped tarragon
- salt and lots of black pepper
- 500g pack of all butter puff pastry
- beaten egg to egg wash
For the filling
- Fry the onion, celery, leek and carrot (if using) in the butter in a pan over a medium heat with the lid on for about 10 mins until soft.
- Add garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add the flour and both the mustards, stir to coat all the veg and cook out for about 2 mins.
- Add wine and reduce for a couple more minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked away.
- Add the chopped meat, the bay and the thyme sprigs and stir.
- Add stock gradually so the meat is almost covered and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add a bit more if it needs loosening.
- Add creme fraiche or cream and simmer very gently for another couple of minutes.
- Add lemon zest, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Add a squeeze of lemon if it needs more acidity. If using fresh tarragon, add it now.
For the crust
- Take pastry out of fridge 20 mins before you intend to use it.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C fan.
- Roll pastry out on a floured surface to about 5mm thickness.
- Cut out your lids – I cut around a saucer – and place on a baking tray (I put some baking paper down first to save on the washing up).
- Score some lines across the top of your lids to make a diamond pattern (see pic above), brush with beaten egg, then bake in the oven for 15-20 mins til golden on top and bottom.
Serve a ladleful of filling, with the crust plonked on top, with mash and peas or whatever makes you happy. Then consult your other half in a non-aggressive, non-confrontational manner about whose turn it is to put the stinky carcass bin out.