I was in an absolutely foul mood the other weekend - pretty much all weekend. My husband would say "how could you tell?" because he thinks I am always in a foul mood, even if I am smiling, wearing a yellow top and handing him a plate of food. I suppose as far as he's concerned even though I might look alright and normal I could suddenly turn at any given moment - I can switch in an instant, like a pirate captain, driven insane from the heat and the rum. He is not entirely wrong.
Anyway I really was in a bad mood. I have, recently, genuinely been counting my blessings in a really excellent and mindful way and finding very little to complain or be annoyed about: the children are okay - (not ill, both walking and talking, sort of sleeping on and off), I have written and published two books, Spring is round the corner and so on. But the other weekend I just lost it. The children were both driving me insane with their constant bloody falling over and wailing and breaking things and spilling things. Just fucking pull yourself together you stupid clumsy ninnies!!!!
I am not proud of myself. But the fact is that small children are often very annoying, especially if you are trying to get them to do anything other than eat Nutella toast in front of Bing Bunny. If you are trying, for example, to get them both dressed for a cold trip out to the zoo you have to find patience in a really Zen place not to lightly chuck both of them out of the window before you've even located their trousers.
Just to illustrate, often when I am dressing Kitty, reaching round her from behind to make it easier to push little wiry legs through leggings, or do up a bright green zip, Kitty will give a little jump and headbutt me in the nose or elsewhere in the face. Occasionally in the throat.
Why she does this insane little hop at the most critical and dangerous part of my getting her dressed I do not know - I have asked her, but she just looks at me with her massive eyes and says nothing. (Huge-eyed silent staring is Kitty's absolute number 1 tactical move. There's nothing you can do about it). Anyway all I know is that if I don't say firmly "Do not jump," as I am getting her dressed, then she will.
There are a million things like this that the kids do - if you give them a cup of water - any water, anywhere, any time, they will fumble it and spill it (which is why they are only allowed 2cm of water). If there is something on the floor within 10 yards of Sam, he will fall over it and land on the floor on his chin and cry until Tuesday.
Unless you respond to something she has said Kitty will say it over and over again: "But then the octopus has the green one one. The octopus has the green one on. The octopus has the green one on. Mum. The octopus. Has the green one on. The octopus has the green one on. Mum. The octopus has the green one on..." Doesn't matter if you're trying to talk to your husband, or you're reading Sam a story or having a quiet moment in the WC. If you do not acknowledge that the octopus has the green one on, that's all Kitty will say for the rest of the weekend.
Oh god I'm being so mean, I must stop it. Don't encourage me! No I really must stop now or I never will. It's not their fault that they are so small and annoying. My own mother has made it plain that I was exactly the same.
It was probably me, anyway - not them. I was extra tired because last week I went completely mad and had TWO dinner parties. We have not had a single one for at least a year and then two. Mental. I say "dinner party", we had people round for dinner, twice. And the thing about my life is that it is totally survivable - even enjoyable - as long as I am asleep, sober by 10.30pm absolute latest. If I am up twatting about with friends and then fussing with the dish washer and clearing up and then in bed at midnight I am an absolute monster for days afterwards.
So the solution is: no more dinners - only lunches or brunches. And I can't say I'm especially sad about that. I'm sure my kids will be delighted.
It does mean though that you don't get as much of an excuse to cook mad and unneccessary things, like these profiteroles, from Jane Hornby's absolutely terrific, brilliant and essential baking text: What to Bake and How To Bake It. If you are starting out baking, or want to give someone as really, really useful baking book, give them this. It's a really properly friendly, lovely thing. Jane loves you, she cares about you, she wants you to make nice cakes. It's just great. Buy it!
These profiteroles are definitely a faff to make, but they work, if you feel like making them.
As usual, this is not Jane Hornby's exact recipe
Makes enough for 6
For the pastry
125g plain flour
1 tsp sugar
For the chocolate sauce
200g dark chocolate (personally I thought this was a bit bitter, next time I will use 100g dark and 100g milk) cut into small bits
150ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
For the filling
300ml whipping cream
1 Sift the flour, sugar and salt together on a piece of baking parchment (you need to whoosh the flour into hot butter later all in one go, using the parchment as a funnel)
2 Put the butter and water in a pan and heat it gently until it has melted. Once the butter has gone, turn up the heat until it is at a rolling boil. Get a wooden spoon ready and then whoosh your flour into this as soon as you reckon it's boiling and start mixing hard, off the heat. It will go lumpy and then smooth out. Stop beating when the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.
3 Let this cool however you like - on a windowsill or whatever. But wait for it to cool.
4 Beat the eggs together in a measuring jug. Put the dough in a bowl then add the egg a bit at a time and beat it in - you can use an electric hand whisk for this (I do) or a bowl mixer or whatever if you are Nigella.
5 Preheat the oven to 220C (fan 200C) and then line a baking tray with baking parchment. You can either spoon or pipe the dough onto the tray. The blobs ought to be about walnut-sized. If you get any big sticky-up bits, you can smooth them down with a wet finger like they do on Bake-Off.
6 Bake for 10 mins, then turn the heat down to 200C (fan 180C) and cook for 20 mins or until golden brown and crisp. Once cooked, cut each 'role lengthways but not all the way through. Leave to cool. You can leave these for 24 hours if you like. Fan oven owners are at a rare advantage here as fan ovens dry absolutely everything to a desiccated husk, which is in fact the effect one is after with these.
7 You can fill these shells with the whipped cream up to 2 hours before you want to serve them - any longer and you run the risk of them going soggy.
8 To make the chocolate sauce bring the cream and milk to a simmer in a pan, add the chocolate, vanilla and salt, then take off the heat and stir until smooth.
I tried to assemble these in a beautiful pyramid (see pic) but it was a dreadful, nervatious faff to do, so my advice is to fill them with cream, put three or four in six individual bowls ahead of time and then on serving, dribble over the chocolate sauce.