The previous weekend I put a bench together - breeze blocks left over from the building work and a marble slab which had served as a hearth in the living room of no. 11. I managed to do that on my own, but need to enlist Stuarts help to move the mini greenhouse, so that it is nearer the kitchen – as ever, I’m planning for it to be full of pots of basil by the summer. Plus I moved the herb planter, so that it too is nearer the kitchen. I still hanker after a full-sized greenhouse – I feel like a child with a dolls house wanting a Wendy house – it might happen one day (though I never managed to get the Wendy house as a child.....). Still, the mini one is pretty good for seedlings and for growing a few things which are better under cover. I love that heady smell of lots of lush basil plants when I lift the lid on a summers day……
Another project which kept me occupied over two or three weekends (between the running and the kitchen activity of course) was giving a bit of a treat to three chairs we inherited when we bought no.11. We knew we would use them, but they looked a bit battered and unloved, so they got a light sanding, undercoat, a gloss top coat, with the seats covered. Stuart, being a lover of things Italian, had the idea that the chairs would look good in the colours of the Italian flag, an idea I quite liked, so went with that one. I like that Stuart is getting inspired now and again, though it would be nice if it translated lending a hand more often - he is getting better at the painting although I’m not sure about his upholstery skills!
Polenta with chilli, herbs, olives and a little cheese through it, served with courgettes, roasted tomatoes and French fig loaf was a reasonably quick one. Stuart doesn't like soft polenta, so I usually make it thicker so it can be cut and grill it or put it in a hot oven to brown.
The trusty stir-fry is an obvious one when time is short and the Napolitana lentil stew from Ross Dobsons 'Market Vegetarian' is another quick, tasty dish - green or brown lentils, onion, garlic, oregano, chilli flakes, tomatoes, capers, passata (or a generous amount of tomato puree), topped with olives and feta. While I was looking out this recipe, I noticed one Ross had for a spaghetti with butternut squash and sage - I fried up the squash, added garlic and sage before I went out to the running club one night, then heated it back through when I got back home and the spaghetti was cooking - perfect!
An aubergine and coconut dahl was another relatively quick dish - not as quick as the pasta, but not massively time-consuming either - a favourite of Stuarts, I served that with, naan (Stuarts preference to rice), turmeric rice, salad and chutney. A stuffed aubergine from 'New Vegetarian' by Celia Brooks Brown was interesting in that you flatten the whole aubergine with a rolling pin, being careful not to split it, then take off the top and stuff - here with a couscous mixture. It was a bit of fun making it and again, was quick.
|First, take a flattened aubergine...|
Of course, when I have had more time, it's being nice to not have to rush things - can't hurry a caramelized onion and broccoli quiche - that was one for a Friday night.
And of course, I couldn't neglect Chetna - I made her Tomato and Paneer Loaf again - that was another Friday dinner where the cooking was accompanied by a nice glass of red wine, and the loaf by roasted spiced corn, the remaining paneer in a marinade, chutneys and popodoms. Bliss!