Thursday, 25 April 2013

Madeleines and lemonade

When my husband and I were first going out, I always used to worry that his female friends with children, or the wives of his male friends with children, wouldn't like me.

I was worried that they wouldn't like me because I was ten or so years younger and I didn't have children. I assumed they would find me annoying and resent my child-free state, my bouncy boobs, my very long, luxury hair that I had 45 minutes spare each morning to blow dry, style and finish with two coats of shellac.

But none of them did. They were all just charming and if I said stupid or ignorant things about children it didn't show in their faces. Not a flicker. Not for a moment. I assumed that if I was them I would find me irritating, but I was wrong.

Then I had a child of my own and I understood why they were all able to be so beatific.They looked at me and saw not a carefree young woman with life at her feet: they saw - consciously or unconsciously - a lamb to the slaughter. And the pity in their hearts for me translated effortlessly into a sunny kindness.

They knew this: either I would have kids and would have my ass handed to me by Mother Nature without them having to lift a finger, or I would not have kids and have my ass handed to me by the whole freaking world asking endless, rude questions about when are you going to and if not why not and don't you want them and shouldn't you get on with it? and can't you have them? and all that shit that people say to the childless like no-one has ever asked them any of those questions before.

They are mostly out the other side of little kids, are Giles's friends - their youngest children are about five and they all just go on holiday all the time and are whippet thin with amazing jobs and beautiful clothes. And they're all still nice to me and sympathetic and generous about the hassles and burdens of new motherhood.

And now it's my turn to be nice. I meet child-free people - both male and female - who, consciously or unconsciously, say blithe, tactless and ridiculous things about children, the freedom of their lives, the things they will or will not be doing in the future, the holidays they have been on and all that. And it's so easy to be nice about it all.

Because although I will soon be starting with a newborn all over again, I can start crossing things off the list: never have to be pregnant again, never have to give birth again, never have to breastfeed again, knicker area more or less in working order, (give or take a few patch-up procedures), back in old clothes, back working, baby sleeping through (ish), baby sitting up... I may have all sorts of unspeakable horrors in front of me but there is light at the end of the tunnel. And it's not a train coming the other way.

But you... I think, looking around at my childless peers approaching the twilight zone of their mid-thirties... you have got to do all of this, from scratch, if you want kids. And the end of fun, the end of your life as you know it when it comes, is so abrupt and feels so much like it's forever, (though it's not), that the pity in my heart allows me to genuinely enjoy, with you, your latest holiday, your skinny bum, your bouyant bosom, that light of blissful, ignorant confidence in your eyes.

I genuinely enjoy it with you as I genuinely enjoy the unfettered delight that my toddler takes in balloons, or seeing a baby rabbit, or receiving an ice cream. I can delight with you because, as with my toddler, I know that quite soon it's all going to be over and you're both, in your own ways, going to have to grow up in the most necessary and horrible way imaginable.

The view from the other side is, I know, delightful. Children are worth it if only because the early years with them can be so very ghastly that it makes you really appreciate life anew (the joys of which, in your late twenties and early thirties, may have become dull and commonplace). When your youngest child hits 18 months it is, I imagine, like being Scrooge and waking up to find that it's Christmas Day and you've got a chance at life all over again.

It is in contemplation of these simple pleasures that I have recently been making madeleines and lemonade for tea.

People coming round for tea is a thing that happens endlessly when you  have children. The morning is a time for adventure and activity, but in the afternoon, people slob about and have tea. I, especially, cannot leave the house most afternoons because we are in a phase of Kitty's nap-drop that means that she won't sleep at all during the day but now has a danger zone from 4pm onwards, where if she's in a buggy or a car she will pass out.

Anyway, if you are feeling generous towards your teatime guests you could make them madeleines, which only involves the purchase of a madeleine tray and the making of a very simple cake batter. They are good for tea because there is nothing more delicious than freshly baked sponge batter, but fairy cakes are stupid and you might not want to bake an entire massive cake.

I bought my madeleine tray off Amazon and I'm not that pleased with it, just between you and me. I think the shell shape it gives is unsatisfying and indistinct - even though it came highly recommended. Maybe you will have more luck with yours.

Then you make the following sponge mix - (courtesy of Michel Roux) - it is a very good, very easy mix, with no need to cream the butter and sugar. Mine came out brilliantly and I had Kitty sabotaging the whole thing, yapping at my heels shrieking "Can I have a go?" every two seconds, so YOU can certainly ace it.

Michel claims this mix makes enough for 12, but I had too much for my 12-hole tin. I gave the remainder to Kitty to wipe all over herself, which she found amusing.

100g MELTED butter
100g plain flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
100 sugar
juice and chopped zest of one lemon (this is optional, but is very nice)

1 Preheat your oven to 200C. This is important - the oven needs to be really nice and hot when your madeleines go in

2 Grease your madeleine tray with some extra butter, then sprinkle with some extra flour and shake out the excess - never a precise job, this - just do your best

3 Whisk together the eggs and sugar. You can do this with an electric whisk if you like. We did it with a hand whisk - Kitty started it off and I finished it. Kitty was a bit useless so I gave it (but not her) a good solid beating towards the end, which worked fine.

4 Then add your other ingredients and give a firm, brief whisk to incorporate everything. Beat until just mixed - don't worry about the odd lump.

5 Leave the mix to sit for a few minutes to allow the baking powder to act before spooning into the tray

6 When filling your madeleine tray, fill to just under the top, so that when the sponge rises it just fills the dip, rather than spilling out over the top.

7 Bake for 8-10 minutes

You can dip madeleines into or drizzle with all manner of exciting things - chocolate, rose-water icing, orange icing - anything you like really. If you wanted to add extra flavours, maybe leave out the lemon element of this sponge mix as it might interfere.

For the lemonade

The cocktail mixer known as gomme, or sugar syrup, is what makes lemonade really easy. It is available from Waitrose or, I suspect, any bottle shop like Thresher's (do they still exist?)

Without gomme you have to do a thing where you simmer the lemonade and the sugar together so that the sugar dissolves and then let the mix cool down, which is a bore.

This is more, really, a recipe for citron presse, another French thing, with which I'm sure you're familiar, where you're given a load of lemon juice in the bottom of a glasss, a weeny pitcher of water and a bottle of gomme, with which to mix for yourself a refreshing bev.

What I do is squeeze a lot of lemons and limes (about 2 per person) into a jug, (using my excellent bright yellow openy-closey lemon squeezer, which I really recommend if you haven't got one already), then pour about an inch of lemon juice into glasses filled with ice cubes and a single spoon, top with fizzy water and then let everyone apply and stir in their own gomme from another jug. You could add a sprig of mint if you were feeling really caring.

Then we all sit around while I patronise everyone like mad, and they all take it because I've just made fucking madeleines and lemonade.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Mushroom sauce

A thing that drives me absolutely wild with rage is when new mothers are made to feel stupid for being neurotic about their childrens' health.

It's almost always only in the first year of the first child's life that mothers slightly lose perspective on health issues anyway; it is in those initial 12 months that you become paralysed with fear, able to talk only in a whisper because your breath has literally left your body with terror when your nine month old has a temperature of 101F.

Any temperature is fucking terrifying the first time it happens. And the first time it goes really high, like 104F or, SHRIEK!, 105F, you can feel quite demented with panic. Because it means your baby or toddler most probably has meningitis. Okay, only in your head. But those long dark nights with a feverish infant are long and they are frightening and you've never done this before.

So when anyone, whether they are a health professional or just any old person, suggests even for a minute that you might be overreacting, it's just not fair. It's NOT FAIR! Okay, I might not know how to react appropriately to a massive midnight nosebleed in a 13 month old, but can you calmly write 600 hilarious, correctly-spelled words about making brioche for a national newspaper in 90 minutes? No, I thought fucking not. Can you write a legal advice for a high street bank wishing to repossess a council property without gibbering with anxiety? Can you think of a brilliant marketing strategy for the "She-Wee" (the portable ladies' loo) with a straight face??? No. And no-one would expect you to be able to. So lose the fucking attitude, yeah, Mr Doctor?

At last, when your child hits about 18 months old, you have more or less seen the full range of horrors, you don't do a vertical take-off at every runny eye or neon snotfest. You have also heard of horrors from others of impetigo, scarlet fever, tonsillitis and kidney infections. You are aware. You have experience. But after that time you do occasionally see something you've never seen before and you're right back there, in that awful place, where you don't know how worried you're supposed to be.

Because if your child's leg drops off, or they go blind or deaf from disease, you will cope. Because it is your child and it doesn't matter what's wrong with them, you will look after them. In fact, if something ghastly happens, they will need you MORE you can be MORE devoted you can sacrifice MORE.

The thing that parents, mostly mothers on the frontline, cannot cope with is the idea that they have in some way been negligent. What keeps us awake at night is the fear that we should, right now, be in hospital, not just lying in bed listening to our baby coughing. What keeps us awake is the idea that we did not go to hospital because we did not want to panic unduly and then in the morning the child is fucking DEAD or irreversibly damaged and it is our fault.

I thought I had seen it all, I thought I had been so out of my mind with panic so often in the last two years, that there were no more panics left to panic. We've done non-blanching rashes, Noro (twice), nuclear fevers, sticky eyes, terrible falls headfirst onto concrete, bizarre nappies, massive nosebleeds and eczema.

But then last week Kitty's hand swelled up like a football and I completely lost my shit. It was a bite - maybe two bites, on her left had, which I am now convinced were contracted in the large sandpit of our local council playground. I can't be sure, though: the biter didn't leave a note.

Anyway she was bitten and her hand went red and swelled up. Then the next day the palm of her hand was covered in disgusting little blisters, which gradually filled with PUS - oh my god... the skin was taught and red and hard.

Disgusting skin infections are my thing, you know? I can deal with shit and puke no trouble - lucky because those are the effluvia you have most exposure to with small children. In fact I have animated discussions with Kitty's nanny about which - shit or puke -  we would rather clear up, (shit every time; puke splatters), but anything involving a rash or blisters or swelling, or pus or any sort of... growth... makes me really freak out.

But the worst thing about it was that I'd just never seen it before. And I was transported instantly back to that awful feeling - that feeling of what should I be doing? Making an appointment to see the GP in 8 weeks' time? Go directly to the Royal Free, do not pass Go and sit there for 3 hours in A&E only to be patronised by some bastard 22 year-old doctor?

What happened next is not important, but basically Kitty's hand was really gross for a few days and she absolutely refused to take the antibiotics prescribed for it, so I shoveled a lot of Piriton and Ibuprofen down her and it gradually got better. Meanwhile Kitty shamelessly held her swollen paw out to everyone she met, to see if they wanted to see her "itchy", not that at any point did the bite or infection seem to bother her. Only me. It just bothered me so much.

I had a similar novice-panic experience in the kitchen the other day. My husband has declared that he needed to go off carbs for a while as his weight is teetering on the edge of unacceptable - so I turned for only the second time in my cooking career to a poached chicken breast.

Regular readers of this blog will know that the essential thing with a poached chicken breast is to camouflage it as best one can, because a freshly poached chicken breast is about as appealing visually as a corpse freshly dredged from a canal. So you must smother it with some sort of fragrant sauce.

I didn't feel like doing some sort of vinegary hollandaise thing, so I decided instead, at the last minute, to do a mushroom sauce.

Only I didn't really know what I was doing. And I didn't have any fresh mushrooms. I turned for inspiration to a book called something like How To Be French, or I Love Garlic, by Julia Child, and in there was basically a mushroom sauce that I could just about knock up from the ingredients I had to hand.

And it worked surprisingly well and was terribly easy, although the actual assembly and cooking of it was not relaxing at all because it was slightly unplanned and I'd never done it before. It's just such a shame that there's no emergency service to deal with that.

Mushroom sauce
for 2

this would go well with either pork or chicken

2 tbsp dried mushrooms rinsed and rehydrated in some boiling water
3 tbsp double cream
about 200ml chicken stock - just out of a cube, I use those Knorr jelly concentrate thingies with Marco's face on them. I actually used the stock that I was poaching the chicken in
1 garlic clove
1 strip of lemon peel
1 sprig of sage - only if you have it
salt and pepper
1 glass shitty white wine, vermouth or leftover prosecco or anything like that. not sherry.
50g butter
2 shallots diced into teeny weeny weeny bits

1 Melt the butter in a small saucepan or frying pan and then add your diced shallots and fry over the lowest available heat for 10 minutes - do not let them catch or your sauce will be bitter and gross

2 Chop up your softened mushrooms and add to the shallots, cook gently for a further 4 minutes.

3 Now pour over your glass of shitty white wine and let this bubble away until there is barely any liquid left. Turn the heat down to low-medium and pour in the stock. Allow this to cook for 8-10 minutes before adding the cream, salt and pepper, sage sprig, whole garlic clove and lemon peel.

4 This can sit about and cook over a very low heat sort of indefinitely while you get the rest of your dinner together. If it's looking too low on juice, just add more stock.

5 Fish out the garlic clove, lemon peel and sage sprig before serving.


Monday, 15 April 2013

Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs

I have the most terrible habit of saving things "for best".

I do it with almost everything: clothes, shoes, bags, accessories in general. The nicer and more expensive something is, the more I am inclined to hide it away reverently and just look at it from time to time, rather than use it and risk ruining it.

It stems from my strict protestant upbringing: we rarely had anything new, everything was hand-me-down, except shoes and underwear and I was once bought my own set of new pyjamas when I was about nine. It was a dark blue shorts and t-shirt set with stars on the shorts and a little owl sewn on the t-shirt and I loved it.

My parents never had anything new, either, despite having plenty of money (the whole thing was entirely cultural). Sometimes my mother would order my father a new shirt or some socks from a catalogue called James Meade when his others had literally fallen to rags, (they were then cut up and hemmed to be used for cleaning windows), but that was it.

It's a perfectly honourable way to live one's life and a perfectly responsible way to bring up children. Accumulating loads and loads of shit you don't need, or showering your children with endless new things, is terrible and the general sense that what you've got is fine has left me well-equipped to deal with the financially perilous life of a freelance writer.

I don't want or need that much stuff, which is good because there is no pay day blow-out for me, there is no sense that I work hard so why shouldn't I drop this amount of money on that gewgaw that I like so much just because it is pretty - because although I work hard, I earn practically nothing. So anything that I really, really want that I cannot afford is bought for me by my husband for a birthday or Christmas present.

None of this stops me from coveting luxurious things like mad, like anyone, I'm just less likely to buy them.

If I am allowed to bulk-buy Dove deodorant, toothpaste and Timotei shampoo on my husband's Amex, I am happy. The toothpaste tube in my childhood home had to be absolutely squeezed down to the last tiny scraping before a new tube was purchased from Boots. But it does mean that when I do buy or get given something really special, I don't want to use it. I just want to look at it and marvel that it is mine! All mine!

Aside from the result that I never wear my nicest clothes - and wonder why I look a fright - recently, this attitude has also had the most terrible effect on my face.

My face has always been a bit of a problem. The main complaint being recurring, terrible spots that lingered well into my late 20s and were only finally cured by switching to a Pill called Yasmin and having a baby. Something to do with hormones, don't ask me details - I don't have a full understanding of it.

Anyway, since my spots finally disappeared, I haven't really given the skin on my face a second thought. Having spots is so awful, so all-consuming, painful, embarrassing - causing despair, rage, frustration and ultimately shame at being so shallow - that when you don't have them any more it is tempting to luxuriate in not washing one's face for days, leaving the house without a make-up bag and only having to own one ancient Rimmel concealer for covering up the occasional under-eye shadow.

So despite having a cupboard-full of incredibly expensive skin preparations purchased from newspaper office "beauty cupboard" sales (where big-name lotions and potions are sold off for, like £3) and sourced from goodie bags sent by various magazine features editors who felt sorry for me, I never used any of them. My face looked fine! Now I didn't have zits, my face could basically do no wrong. Why did I need to use an Elemis tri-enzyme facial resurfacing wash? Or an Estee Lauder night repair eye cream?

I slapped Aveeno moisturiser on my face any time after I had remembered to wash it with soap and occasionally scrubbed at my T-Zone with Freederm gel wash, unable to get out of the habit of using something spot-fighting.

For a long time it didn't matter. But in the last 12 months, something terrible has happened. My face has become baggy and blotchy. My nose, once my pride and joy, completely straight, unobtrusive and non-shaming, started to swell. It was sort of permanently red, with angry flares blooming from the corners of the nostrils in the direction of my mouth.

I looked like an ancient alcoholic, or as if I permanently had a bit of a cold. Make-up didn't really conceal it for long and, anyway, with a toddler and then being pregnant again, I really wasn't fucking arsed to mess about with foundation and concealer in the mornings.

What with my pregnancy facial oedema adding to this general car-crash, my face has recently been a cause of really quite a lot of distress for me - for the first time really since my spots disappeared about four years ago.

I had a couple of essential-oil and whale-music facials with therapists who didn't really say anything about the condition of my face and so I just carried on as normal, all the while these expensive products sat in my bathroom cabinet, untouched.

Then I went for a semi-medical facial at !QMS (sic), a very smart skincare place in Chelsea, on a freebie for work. The facialist nearly screamed when I told her that I used Freederm. And she gave me really quite a ticking off when I told her that I had given up washing my face at night because I was too tired.

Stop using that disgusting Freederm shit, she said (I'm paraphrasing). It's for teenagers! You are not a teenager you are nearly 33! And wash your face twice a day with something mild. Then she laid on me a skincare programme from !QMS that looked just too overwhelming and complicated for me to consider buying even one thing.

And I knew - I knew full well - that at home at had drawers and drawers full of beauty-hall grade facial unguents that I had put away, saving "for best".

I went home, threw out my Freederm and - more shaming - Clearasil and have been ploughing through probably about £1,000 worth of products. It's only been 4 days since my facial and already I can see some of the damage subsiding. What the fuck was I thinking?

The same principle often applies to food. So often you think let's just have museli and toast, or let's just have soup and cheese, when actually there's no reason not to have smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

My husband and I have recently taken to having people round for brunch on the weekend, because we are too exhausted and ratty by 1pm on a Saturday or Sunday to consider having people round for either lunch or dinner.

Giles is dispatched to Panzer, which is a European (i.e. Jewish) deli/grocery place in St Johns Wood to get too much smoked salmon, some cream cheese and bagels. We lavish 90% of the salmon on our guests and then gorge on the 10% at breakfast the next day.

Some restaurants manage to get this very simple breakfast horribly wrong by cooking the salmon, so you have a kind of kedgeree, minus the rice, with the cooked eggs and the cooked salmon. Yuk. Absolutely not. What you must do is just cook your eggs and lay them alongside your premium-grade smoked salmon. Lemon juice and pepper on the salmon is essential.

I even read, somewhere, that salmon is terrific for one's skin - and the Lord knows you can't put that away in a cupboard for best. Well, not for long anyway.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Anchovy butter

I think I may have run out of things to say. This is a bit worrying as I'm supposed to be writing another book. I've actually got to write this one, as well, from beginning to end. All brand new.

Yet as I sit here, watching the delightful April snow falling outside my window, drinking a Frijj chocolate milkshake and luxuriating in the Aeron desk chair I have stolen out of my husband's office next door, I find that I have nothing to say.

There's just nothing on my mind. Actually that's probably not true. I'm thinking about those Philpott children, who, when they were pulled out of the fire, turned out not to wear pyjamas to bed. They wore their underwear, or jeans, or their school uniform. I mean, I'm not thinking about it in some kind of Earth Mother I-love-all-little-kiddies type way, it's just been bothering me.

What else. I'm still pissed off about being pregnant, but I can't possibly go on about that anymore, because even I'm bored with thinking about it. Anyway, the end is in sight - May 8 is my due date - and with any luck the little sucker will be early. so that's getting on for exactly a month. Four weeks. I can do that.

The thing I'm not really thinking about, which I thought might bother me more, is that Kitty's sleeping has gone completely up the wazzoo.

I've never really talked about Kitty's sleeping before, which is unusual in any parent who writes words down for a living because normally all they can think about is how their flipping kids keep them awake all night. But Kitty always slept fine. More than fine. Freakishly fine. She went to bed at 7pm and didn't make a sound until 7am the next morning.

This was not a thing I was going to actually say out loud to anyone, because who the HELL wants to know that someone else's child sleeps okay?!?! (I didn't even want to hear about how well other people's kids sleep when mine was still sleeping.) You only want to hear that everyone else's kids are the spawn of Satan too and that on reflection you don't have it that bad.

Anyway ha ha ha the joke's on me, because since Kitty turned 2 she's basically woken up once or twice a night every night. Sometimes, like right now, she's bunged up and can't breathe, which wakes her up and at others she's just wailing in her sleep (I know because I lumber in like an elephant, hair standing on end, having heard a bloodcurdling wail, only for her to be lying down, the wail subsiding to gentle snores). And sometimes she just sits up and chats loudly "Ooo! It's all dark! Where's my sock? What's that noise? OH! the GRAND old DUKE of YORK...." Sometimes I am already awake with my charming gestational insomnia, sometimes she wakes me afresh. It's always delightful, either way. (It isn't.)

But the interesting thing is how quickly you get used to it. How being slightly under-slept all the time becomes normal. A lack of sleep or broken sleep used to be the thing that frightened me most about having children but now it's happening to me, I find that it really isn't that big a deal, despite a lack of sleep being terrifyingly ageing. But this has only opened up a new and exciting shopping venture for me in the anti-ageing creams aisle of Boots.

The only genuine downer is that now during the week my husband sleeps in the spare room so he's not all broken and baggy when he's trying to work and he then takes over from me at the weekend. And I quite miss him. Even though he snores.

Speaking of my husband, he made the most amazing thing over the weekend, which you must try. It was an anchovy butter, which I know for some of my picky-eater readers is probably about as appealing as eyeball stew or chilled monkey brains, but for anyone willing to give it a crack it is not some yucky fishy horror, it is just incredibly, like, I don't know what the word is - I suppose savoury is it. It's just very savoury and terrific. And I am really not that crazy about anchovies so you can approach this with confidence.

We put it all over a lot of purple sprouting broccoli but you could have it on any leafy green veg to liven it up or it would also be absolutely terrific on steak, a firm white fish like halibut or on french beans.

"the thing to be careful with is not to dollop in onto greens and leave it, because then the butter melts and you are left with an unsightly brown mess sitting atop the veg (as i discovered), so whack it on top of purple sprouting or french beans where it looks all nice, then toss it in," cautions Giles. 

It's also very simple and very flexible in terms of amounts.

So take about:

100g butter at room temperature
1 tbsp capers
1 fresh red chilli, no seeds
5-6 anchovies

Then the easiest thing to do is chop everything except the butter up together and then mash the butter into this spicy mix using the side or a knife or a spatula.

Monday, 1 April 2013


I decided to go perfectly nuts about Easter this year. I don't know why. I think maybe it's because this winter was so long and hard - as winter always is when you have small children. I remember asking next-eldest sister what the hell you do in winter with toddlers and she said "You pray for bedtime."

Anyway, so Easter to me has been a sort of beacon of sunshine. Everything would surely, I thought, have cheered up by the beginning of April. And then we had the coldest March since the the last ice age, or whatever. And people kept on saying "Three more weeks of blizzards, three more weeks of arctic winds" and I became more and more grimly determined that my Easter egg hunt and lunch, held today on Bank Holiday Monday, was going to be the Easteriest Easter celebration anyone had ever seen.

So I invited round eight people and three children, giving us 10 adults and four kids in total. Mad. MAD! Then I went on Amazon and Ocado and bought about £1,000 worth of decorations, saved packing straw for my quail's egg display, sent my husband on a scourge of North London for the last available branches of cherry blossom, painted eggs, mass-purchased daffodils and ordered legs of lamb the size of Caribbean non-extradition islands.

And it actually went okay. I mean, it was chaos and the mess and noise was quite, quite indescribable, but the lamb was nice. It was boned, butterflied, stuffed and rolled and I have included the recipe at the bottom, but you will have to wade through my smug series of photographs first. Ha ha!

Easter tree decoration

Quail's eggs with saved packing straw decoration and celery salt. You can make your own celery salt by baking celery leaves for 10 mins in a hot oven and then crushing the dry leaves with sea salt. Or you can just buy it.

The lamb - in the chaos I forgot to take a photo until it was mostly gone :(

I had millions of these foil windmills in the garden and they looked fucking brilliant

Ok guys so everything I find is mine and everything you find is mine and anything left unattended is also mine

For the lamb:

You need a boned and butterflied leg of lamb from a butcher. I got mine from Frank Godfrey in Highbury - don't even ASK me how much it fucking cost I'm still trying to get over it. Okay it was £50!!!!!

Our lamb was 2.5kg.

You also need some string to tie it up.

For the stuffing:

1 tbsp capers
3 garlic cloves
6 anchovies
1 bunch parsley
some olive oil
2 tsp mustard
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 220

1 Chop all the stuffing ingredients together, loosen with some olive oil.

2 Spread the lamb with the mixture and then tie it up the best way you can see how.

3 Improvise some kind of roasting rack to lay the lamb on and then pour three large wineglasses of water into the tin. This does two things 1) stops the fat from burning in the pan and turning your kitchen in to a smokehouse and 2) makes a gravy, should you want one.

4 Put the lamb in the oven for 30 mins at 220 and then for 1 hr at 180. It rested for about 30 mins. My husband thinks that this was overdone, but I thought it was great.

To cut down as much as possible on stress, I made alongside this couscous and tzatziki, just so that it didn't really matter when things were ready, it could all hang about for 20 mins this side or that of eating. If you are doing a lot of veg with a roast, this isn't possible and it can all get quite panicky. Not that I didn't have, by the way, a massive freak-out at 9am anyway where I nearly screamed at my husband but managed not to.

So happy Easter! This is all of course no bloody use to you now as it's all over, but you can come back and have a look next year.