an honest description of a weekend of cooking (mostly) real food

The night before my wedding my bridesmaids presented me with a book they had made which included recipes and letters from my friends and it also had a CD in the back that had a video on it. The video included lots of wives I know giving their advice on marriage and I remember one of them saying that she couldn’t believe how much, as a wife and mother, she had to think about food. She said, “first breakfast, then lunch boxes, then dinner, then thinking about the next day and doing it all over again.”

I get it. In fact I’m LIVING it. Often, if I’m honest, I can resent it.

At the weekend I had that same dilemma I frequently have – shall we get a curry? But we’re not rolling in it… it’s not that good for us… I feel a bit rubbish after…

BUT it just turns up at the door and we can sit on the sofa with it all spread in front of us and watch something whilst eating tasty food. Epitome of comforting, delightful, relaxing Saturday evening.

Last Saturday I decided to attempt making a take away-like curry meal entirely from scratch. This included:

  1. Beef curry
  2. Onion bhaji’s and mint yoghurt
  3. Brown rice
  4. Naan bread
  5. Sag paneer
  6. Finally, I bought some poppadum crisps to make it a little bit more special (if all other special elements failed)

So, I decided to do this thinking, it will be fun and I will be guilt-free and proud after! Five minutes after making this decision I felt tired. Like, really tired. Ugh. Effort.

Here’s how it went:

  1. The beef curry went into the slow cooker to make less work later on. Unfortunately didn’t have quite long enough and so meat wasn’t melt-in-the-mouth tender. But it was tasty, just lacked a decent spice-kick. Perhaps should have gone with a tried and tested recipe.
  2. Onion bhaji’s… Usually one of my favourite elements of a takeaway and… EPIC FAIL. The BBC recipe let me down. I read it and thought, excellent – minimal ingredients, no deep fat frying. They were just clumps of onion rings that didn’t even fully cook so we were basically eating lightly fried raw onion. It was intense flavour, not in a good way. Needless to say I didn’t finish mine. Disappointed to say the least, I hate wasted effort and ingredients. But, I shall try again! We will prevail! The mint yoghurt was simply mint leaves and yoghurt blended and it was nice with the poppadoms.
  3. Brown rice. Erm, not much to say about this.
  4. Naan bread, went very well indeed though I just put poppy seeds on the top, would have benefited from more flavour. And it isn’t that fun kneading for eight minutes, FYI.
  5. The sag paneer was from a recipe we made at a Red Letter Day curry making and eating experience. I didn’t have paneer and despite the chef rushing through the “simple” instructions which involved suspending some yoghurt or something in a muslin in your pantry (hmm), I didn’t feel able to make it myself (lazy I know). But friends of ours once made it for us with feta cheese and it was very nice. Well it was a big success, very tasty and easy. Win.
  6. Oh I love the poppadoms. All I had to do was buy them and then open the packet.

I finished the meal largely guilt-free. Kind of proud. But not feeling like I’d had a delicious meal and ever so slightly glum about this fact. Practise makes perfect, I guess.

Feel free to laugh at the onion bhaji, it will stop it being a complete and utter waste of space. You may not even be able to recognise it as an attempt.
Feel free to laugh at the onion bhaji, it will stop it being a complete and utter waste of space. You may not even be able to recognise it as an attempt.

The next day it was Sunday, the food-for-the-week PRESSURE day. I stuck two bananas in the freezer so I could attempt an ice cream recipe I’d read about in the week. I then made nut butter so I could make these healthy rice crispy squares for the kids to enjoy. Not sure if you’ve ever tried to make it but it takes a while of blending nuts in the food processor. I did a combo of almonds, brazil nuts and cashews. Man, it STUNK. I felt sick for about an hour after. We had a special treat of being able to host an old friend who lives in London for lunch unexpectedly so I made dinner and also had a large vat of soup going for our church’s homeless project. The ice cream recipe involved blending frozen bananas and then adding a tablespoon of peanut butter and bada bing you have delicious creamy and healthy ice cream. We don’t really like peanut butter so instead I used my nut butter and… EPIC WIN!! The texture was so creamy and it was tasty and sweet. Just two ingredients!! Having experimented with a few healthy and sugar-free recipes that lacked the right texture, it was great to find a successful one that was also simple. So, I was well chuffed with that and our friend gave it a big thumbs up.

So, Monday morning: snacks for the week. My son was at preschool and all I did was think about and prepare FOOD. I made these rice crispy things, which include rice crispies (go figure), rice malt syrup, nut butter and vanilla powder. I tried to double the recipe but didn’t do it properly. I often do this; think I can mess around with a recipe, chuck in as much as I fancy, and get the same results. When I was first making these sugar-free things and taking them to my Dad I would always have some sort of excuse for why they weren’t ‘quite right’… “well, I didn’t have this type of flour so I used this other type I guess that makes it drier”… “I used too much oil to compensate for this which I decided not to include which is why it is making the greaseproof paper transparent”…

It makes me think of Ross in Friends when Rachel’s boyfriend buys her a birthday present that isn’t from the list she sent out… “Stick to the list. Always. Stick. To the list.”

Anyway, the rice crispy mix didn’t come together so I tipped it into the bowl again and added more wet stuff. Saved it, kind of.

Did the kids shovel one down and beg me for another?

NO. They nibbled one and the eldest announced, “I can’t like it.” The youngest just set it down and refused to try it at this and all the other times I pushed it at her face throughout the day. Ungrateful so-and-so’s.

It is a real challenge sometimes to eat clean and healthy, which simply involves cooking EVERYTHING. I mean EVERYTHING, myself. But why is that a challenge or something to feel resentful of? Yes, it’s hard work but it’s almost as if I feel as though it shouldn’t be so time consuming. In Jamie Oliver’s new book he writes about travelling to the places in the world where people frequently live to 100+ and what he learnt about their lifestyles. They ate clean fresh meals with plenty of vegetables and lean meat. They didn’t have strict or intense exercise regimes they were simply active throughout their day. They grew their fruit and veg and kept some animals. They literally worked for the actual food they put on their plates by tending their gardens. Making a salad didn’t comprise of opening the fridge, then opening a bag and tipping the contents into a bowl. It required walking around their gardens cutting off lettuce leaves and picking tomatoes. Meal times involved community, taking time over the meal and socialising, allowing your gut to digest and spending time with people. Food for the soul as well as the body. So I’ve realised that I just need to realign my perspective and make a choice to find it all fun. It’s OK that food consumes plenty of my time, it’s actually key to robust future health. Being thoughtful about it, making it a priority, modelling good food choices to my kids and savouring each meal and the time it gives me with family and friends.

Another win for me this week has been drinking more. As it gets colder I don’t want to drink a lot of water. Each morning I have been putting fresh mint leaves and a slice of an orange in a teapot and working my way through most of it. It is delicious and refreshing and it tastes nice cold too.

Well, off I go… to prepare food.

“Sussex free-range scrambled eggs with butter and parsley* laid on top of freshly baked toasted seed loaf*.”

Otherwise known as: scrambled eggs on toast (*bread from Tesco, *parsley omitted due to don’t have any and can’t be bov’d).

If anyone has any great sugar-free snack ideas I’d love to hear them.

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10 comments

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  1. Rachel

    This made me laugh out loud – mainly because I don’t enjoy cooking. I enjoy cooking for me but not the other fuss pots in my house. I’m afraid I gave up and play the ‘life’s too short card’ which it is. I’ve been ill since I was 8 years old and had to be on a strict diet and fluid restriction for several years. I do believe in being healthy but I do also love takeaway curry and sweets. I don’t have the will power to resist the foods I love. Looking forward to those pancakes. I reckon we should have a recipe sharing Facebook page – recipes that are realistic. I do get so bored cooking the same thing over and over. Your curry looked delicious by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Where I Write

      I agree with the life is short thing. Jamie Oliver has two new books, Superfood and Comfort Food and he says cook from Superfood during the week and Comfort Food at weekend because you can only sustain a generally healthy lifestyle if you are able to enjoy some treats and the food you love as well. We do get curries but can’t afford take out as much as the urge presents itself (which is probably a good thing) hence my decision to embrace the effort involved in the lifestyle we want to have (which is not for everyone). Looking forward to seeing you guys, Joe is the pancake chef and has perfected it! x

      Like

  2. pamnichols

    Jeni I remember making that little video or message, whatever it was , for you hen night. And who could have foreseen the kind of picky customer that says “I can’t like it.”
    Made me laugh thinking of him and his chubby cheeks (with no food in them)
    x x x WELL DONE for all your efforts my friend

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jo McCall

    Hi have been catching up on your blog, this one made me laugh I always feel like its another meal time, or I’m wondering what I’m making for the next meal. I have tried a few sugar free biscuit recipes recently with no success except for lining my bin. I also nearly killed us all the other night by wanting to add a little spice to a risotto and not reading the pot properly which said ‘hot’ chilli powder. Even when alfs was more yogurt than risotto he removed it from his tongue which he stuck out and went ahhh ahhh ahhh. Oh dear toast all round!

    Like

    • Where I Write

      Oh I’m sure I’ve dropped a load of chilli powder into something accidentally! Then added more chopped tomatoes… Didn’t really take the edge off much! The failures are gutting I have to admit. Thanks for commenting x

      Like

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