Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Goat bucco

Goat! Tastes a lot like beef

I've done a thing that I feel bad about. Not bad, but I feel like a quitter. I've done a thing that makes me feel like I've betrayed the sister-motherhood a bit.

I've hired a nanny 5 mornings a week.

A lot of people probably assume that I have a full time nanny and a housekeeper and a driver because my husband once made a telly programme, but it's not that case. I have help, but like most people who can afford and want to have help, but who do not work full-time, it's patchy and makeshift.

I don't want too much because there are many tedious domestic and familial things that you ought to do yourself and there are many tedious domestic and familial things that I want to do myself. But I don't want too little help because the house would fall to bits and it would destroy my marriage.

So I used to have the odd bit of help in the mornings but I now have a chance to opt out of mornings altogether and, ladies, I'm grabbing it with both hands. I'm getting enough paid work to justify it, you see, and I'm gone -  NEEEYOWM! My chair is still going round and round. Kitty goes to nursery, Sam goes out to tear up Kentish Town High Street with the delightful and fragrant Mihaela and I answer to no-one but myself from 0930 to 1300.

And I am mostly okay about this decision, and push thoughts of failure from my mind, because I have done a lot of mornings of childcare and I've just bloody had enough. I could never make it work for me. My best mum friends don't live within wheeling distance and I never managed to get myself a cosy circle of mates to hang out with.

Mihaela, of course, has great teeming masses of nanny friends with their own delightful little charges and they skitter about from playground to playgroup like little buggy fairies and natter away and watch each other's kids, like it ought to be. It was never meant to just be me and the kid, staring at each other, both thinking "Well, this is dull."And if Sam picks up Mihaela's sing-song Romanian accent I will find it charming.

I'm still in sole charge from 1pm-bedtime, which is still hard work but getting easier now Sam is bigger. Kitty zips about knocking things over, squashing PlayDoh into the carpet and throwing potty-related fits and Sam sits on the floor, staring at Kitty with his mouth hanging open, going "Ger", and sometimes "Ah ba ba ba ba ba ba". (And sometimes he just whinges and whimpers and growls from 3pm-bedtime but let's not dwell on that.)

But I feel like a traitor. I feel like a cheat and a weakling - and also slightly neglectful - because I never thought I would get 5 mornings of childcare until Sam was at nursery, when he turned two and a half. I just thought I would mostly do it all myself until then, and only then kick back and deservedly relish my free mornings.

I know how hard all-day childcare is, especially with the under-2s. I know how demoralising and humiliating and boring it is. I've seen it with my own eyes and I don't want to do it any more. A half day, yes yes fine - but not all day. Please not all day!

It used to piss me off, those pieces in the paper quoting any parent saying "I have so much respect for stay at home mothers. I couldn't do it, I would go mad!" It struck me (because I am so angry and defensive about everything) as somehow deeply patronising, like stay at home mothers are aliens from the Planet Patient And Kind.

"What," I would think, "you don't think it sends me mad? You think I somehow have some intellectual thing about me missing that means I can deal with this better than you can?"

Why not, I thought, just be honest about it. You could do full-time childcare if you wanted to. You just don't want to. Don't dress up the fact that you don't want to look after kids full-time as some kind of delightful, chic little personal failing. Just say it. Just say "Full-time childcare is just too awful. I'd much rather look at spreadsheet for 8 hours a day."It's okay to say that! We're all friends here. (Up to a point.)

Some people, I would fume, cannot afford to go back to work because their salary minus childcare is a negative figure. It's not a choice! Some people, of course, cannot afford not to not go back to work (are you still with me?) because their salary minus childcare equals the mortgage. And there are a lot of people whose salary minus childcare equals the mortgage, sunny holidays, private school fees, snazzy shoes… And some people have to go back to work because if they took a few years out to look after kids their job would swiftly be given to someone else, the world would move on and when they did want to go back to work, they couldn't.

Anyway, Christ, I don't kid myself that the money I earn makes any difference to this house, but it justifies the extra childcare. If I'm not working, then it's only right that I take on most of the childcare. And I just can't take it anymore. There's nothing special or precious about me that means I am less good at childcare or that I ought to be exempt from it. I am reasonably good at it these days in fact - you learn to be good at looking after the under-5s like you learn everything else.  But I know what a full day of childcare means and the simple truth is: I really, really don't want to do it anymore.

Anyway so don't have a bloody go at me for chucking in the mornings because it works out well for you, too - I mean, those of you who actually like reading this blog rather than those people who read it and are then mean about it on Mumsnet (why are you reading?!) because it means that I will have a bit more breathing space to blog rather than spending every second having my photo taken looking fat for the paper. Sorry I mean doing my mega important work like writing about haircuts and what I had for lunch. I've gone crazy with the power of it all.

Are you still there?

Now come here, stop backing out of the door, take my hand and let's leap into the world of Cooking With Goat. Yes! I said it: goat. Not mutton, not kid. GOAT.

Cooking with goat appeals to me (as much as any meat appeals to me these days, I am *this* close to becoming vegetarian) because it is not lamb. And goats are annoying.

This is not a thing to go out especially looking for, this is just a nudge from me to have a go at goat if you have access to it: you may live in an area where they sell it and have wondered what the hell to do with it. You can curry it if you like, but you can also treat it less fearfully and use it in this Osso Bucco-type stew, which goes like this:

1 large thing of goat, about 1kg, from the leg somewhere
1 large white onion
2 small carrots or one big one
About 300 ml chicken stock
3 sticks of celery
2 big cloves of garlic
some assorted herbs, whatever you can get your hands on: bay, thyme, MARJORAM?!
definitely a bunch of parsley
some lemon zest
1 glass shitty white wine

Preheat your oven to 140C

1 Chop up your veg and garlic really small into a mirepoix (if you don't know what this is, Google "Recipe Rifle + Mirepoix because the Search function on this piece-of-shit blog isn't working).

2 Brown your goat all over in a casserole dish (which has a lid) in some plain oil then remove to a plate.

3 Without cleaning the pan, sweat your veg gently in the same casserole for about 10 minutes. Then throw in your glass of shitty wine and bubble down until there is only a small pool of liquid.

4 Put the goat back in, along with any juices that have run off onto the plate it was sitting on and the chicken stock. Put a lid on then put it in the oven for 5 hours. YES YOU HEARD ME FIVE HOURS.

5 It shouldn't dry out because at that temperature it sort of can't - water from the veg and from the meat as well as the stock will create a self-sauce.

6 To serve chop a lot of parsley and lemon zest together and sprinkle over.

Eat while thumbing your iPhone because you're so fackin busy with werk, yah?

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Gwyneth Paltrow's lamb tagine

Here I am! Yoo hoo! Sorry, I know I'm late. There was this thing with a thing and then my phone battery died and then I locked myself out and it all just fell on my head.

Good New Year? No of course it wasn't. Ha! New Year is dreadful. What a stupid question. Well don't worry it's nearly February, the year has begun in earnest and we can all get back to whatever it is that we normally do.

I've got a peace offering for you to make up for my tardiness - a lamb tagine that I did out of Gwyneth Paltrow's book, It's All Good.

Everyone's got such a problem with Gwyneth!! I don't understand it. So she wants to live a semi-vegan diet and work out for 6 hrs a day so she doesn't look fat when she has to put on a size 0 dress and stand on a red carpet having her photo taken by 4 million people? That's her life and her choice, people. Speaking as someone who often has to put on a dress and be photographed for the paper looking fat, I understand where she's coming from.

And GOOP is just hilarious. Fact. Her nonchalance in recommending a $400 grey cashmere sweater to her readers because "it goes with everything" is simply a laugh out loud moment. No?

Okay whatever. I wasn't that crazy, in all, about It's All Good. I found the fact that they didn't bring out a British edition (so that all the measurements are in cups, spring onions are scallions etc) annoying. And everything requires about a million ingredients. And the pictures are just frightful, the food looks flat and boring - but the full-length photos of Gwyneth wrapped in a $550 goat hair Mexican blanket looking soulfully into the distance are a giggle.

I do absolutely love tagine and this is a really terrific one. I honestly ate my half of the pot in about 5 minutes. I am a fast eater, but even then. So do this! I don't know in what way this is supposed to be healthful and restorative (it certainly isn't vegan) but it is very easy and generally delightful.

Just don't go crazy and make the vegan brownies from the same book because they are just diabolically disgusting.

So here we go

Serves 4-6 if you are having rice with it. If only a salad then this serves 2.

1 handful chopped coriander
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2-inch nub of ginger, peeled
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2tsp ground black pepper
3 tbsp good olive oil
some sea salt
500g of whatever stewing lamb you can get your hands on
about 300ml chicken stock
a pinch of saffron if you have it
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
about 200g butternut squash, peeled and chopped

the recipe also specified 1 small preserved lemon, chopped up but I cannot STAND preserved lemon so I left it out.

1 Put the coriander, garlic, ginger, onion, cumin, pepper and olive oil in a blender along with a large pinch of salt. Blend this together and then thoroughly cover the lamb in it. Marinade for six hours, overnight, or as long as you possibly can. Even 30 mins will make a difference.

2 Preheat the oven to 160C and put the lamb and all the marinade into a casserole dish. Put it over a medium flame and brown all over. Sprinkle over the saffron if using and then add the chicken stock. Bring all this to the boil and stir to release any browned bits stuck to the bottom.

3 Cut a piece of greaseproof paper big enough to sit over the top of the pot, then scrunch it, wet it and set it over the lamb. Put the lid on and cook for 1.5hrs. Check occasionally that it hasn't dried out. After 45 min stir in the butternut squash and the chickpeas and keep cooking.

4 add more salt and pepper if you think you need it and then serve with more coriander sprinkled over the top.

Eat wrapped in a blanket, looking soulfully into the distance, thinking about the day when BOTH your kids will be at nursery all morning.