13 October 2015


Most people spend the entire 40 weeks of your second pregnancy telling you how hard it is with two, much like they spent the whole of your first telling you about all the women/babies they'd know who have died or been seriously disabled by childbirth and in my case, all the major fuck-ups your hospital have made. Now I don't want to sound awful but apart from the first-six-weeks-eating-every-hour-and-a-half fiasco Jim has been a really lovely baby. Yes sometimes he sleeps through, sometimes he doesn't and he throws-up. A lot. All the time. But he smiles, and he sleeps and he's funny and he laughs and his big brother adores him. So I'm pretty smug and lucky over here.

I was told I'd forget how to breastfeed. I didn't. Told that Ned would hate him. He didn't. Told that I would never wash again. I do, even if I have to listen to one of my children being cross with me while I do it. I have, however, completely forgotten how to wean.

Ned was known to be a bit of a screamy baby. Hours were spent bouncing in front of the speakers blasting out Motley Crue, Refused and Jay-Z which was one of the few ways to stop him shouting. But man that boy would eat. Anything in a bottle was downed like a darts player on a tight schedule and when it came to weaning after the initial week of not actually knowing what to do with his mouth he would eat whatever came near him on a spoon. Or in an Ella's pouch. My friends marvelled at my wonder baby and his eating.

Not Jim. He eats. But not all his bottle all the time, not all in one go and I keep forgetting to wean him. Some days he has something then I'll forget for a week. I've had to become really focussed on it and I'm thankful that I signed up to an Abel & Cole delivery box years ago which means that, due to my terrible eating habits, there is always something around to puree. I just can't remember what to feed when, what to do with the bottles, when to aim for dropping one. It's as if all knowledge of how to get your child from liquids to solids has fully left the building. It's like it was never there. So of course, it's back to the books. Re-reading the trusty Annabel Karmel's New Complete Baby & Toddler Meal Planner feels like the first time. It's amazing Ned is not just walking round with a bottle of formula.

I've also bought, on recommendation from a friend, River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook, I'm hoping will give me ideas for things that Ned can eat (whether he will or not...) that I can puree for Jim further down the line. So far Jim's had pear, baby rice and porridge. This afternoon we're having parsnip. Fingers crossed something will come back to me soon.

7 October 2015

Jamie Oliver's Chicken and Squash Cacciatore

Having a conversation on Twitter the other day I realised I had no shame in admitting I love Jamie Oliver, yes sometimes my hand twitches with the urge to give hi a little slap but I can say that about most people and they don't consistently make cookery books that I love.

I went to Bree's house and she had the new Jamie Oliver, Everyday Super Food. I had added it to my Amazon wishlist but one look at hers and I bought it (half price in Waterstones) on the way home. Not that it is full to bursting with things I want to cook (I look to Jamie's 15-Minute Meals for that) but because I am trying to lose weight, I need a healthier diet, I live with a man who needs man food, but of the slimming variety and Everyday Super Food seems to have that all covered.

The Chicken and Squash Cacciatore with mushrooms, tomatoes, olives and bread is a good example of this. It's just not really my sort of thing, in fact I hate squash so, as suggested by Jamie, I substituted it for the mildly more bearable sweet potato. But it was delicious, filled us up and Joe cooked it. Successfully but not taking hours. So here it is. I didn't take a photo, I left out the olives and resisted the urge to have it with pasta and had one slice of bread as per the recipe.

I sometimes think Jamie's portion sizes are a little on the small side. This did both of us and a huge leftovers lunch for Joe the next day so it would do 4 but make sure you have bread and pudding. In fact, if you are so inclined this is a great one to cook with a view to having the leftovers for lunch the next day, it is filling and reheats well.

Chicken and Squash Cacciatore

Serves 4

1 onion
1 leek
4 cloves of garlic
2 rashers of smoked pancetta
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
olive oil
2 fresh bay leaves
½ a butternut squash or 600g sweet potatoes
100g chestnut mushrooms
2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes
250ml Chianti or other good red wine
4 chicken thighs, bone in
8 black olives (stone in)
200g seeded wholemeal bread

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. The recipe says it takes 1 hour 20 minutes and I'd agree with that, an hour of it is cooking time.

1.  Peel the onion and cut into eighths, trim, wash and slice the leek, peel and slice the garlic.

2. Place a large ovenproof casserole pan on a medium heat. Finely slice the pancetta, pick and finely chop the rosemary leaves, then place both in the pan with 1 tbsp of oil and the bay leaves.

3. Stir regularly for 2 minutes, then add the garlic, followed by the onion and leek. Cook for 10 mins, stirring regularly.

4. Meanwhile, chop the squash or the sweet potato (wash first) into bite sized chunks, leaving the skin on and discarding any squash seeds. Jamie chops the stalks off the mushrooms and adds all to the pan with the squash/sweet potato.

5. Remove and discard the chicken skin (we didn't) and add the chicken to the pan. Pour in the wine and let it reduce slightly, then add the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon. Half fill each tin with water, swirl about and pour into the pan and mix it all together.

6. Destone the olives (we left them out completely), then poke them into the stew. Bring to a gentle simmer, the transfer to the oven to cook for an hour or until the sauce is thick and the chicken falls off the bone. Season as you wish and serve with bread to mop up the sauce.
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