Turning a meal into a feast

It’s often too easy for me to lose perspective and forget gratitude. Life is busy and full and sometimes it feels overwhelming. I all too easily forget how fortunate I am, that my life is busy and full because of the many lovely people and opportunities that have come my way in the last few years. I forget how much I prefer it this way to a life that often used to feel lonely and empty. I start to feel that life is one set of problems after another demanding my attention. When I feel like this I need to slow down, look around me and look again for the things that I am thankful for and there are plenty. I find writing gratitude lists a useful habit at times like these and can recommend it to anyone feeling a bit underwhelmed by what they feel they have and overwhelmed by what they feel they have to cope with. My lists change from day to day, they generally include the big things like health and family along with an ever changing appreciation of small things that make the world more lovely like unexpectedly bumping into a friend or a new tablecloth or a sunny autumn afternoon.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” Melody Beattie

I’ve had a week where I felt almost swept away by worry and confusion. Thankfully a friend’s good counsel has got me back on track and everything in my head has once again begun to assume its proper size. I sometimes worry I sound smug on here, I hope not, I’m just very thankful that my life is the way that it is today. Anyway, today I’m grateful for a lovely, supportive husband, a freshly painted kitchen, people taking the time to read this blog and the discovery of a dish that pretty much combines stew and scones – two things I already liked very much individually.

Creamy chicken cobbler (adapted from here)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced and washed
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 375g pack of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • ½ chicken stock cube
  • 300ml boiling water
  • 300g frozen peas
  • 75ml single cream

For the cobbler

  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 small free-range egg, beaten
  • 75ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan200°C/gas 7.

Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat.

Add the onion and leek and gently fry for 5 minutes, until soft.

Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

Add the chicken and thyme and brown the chicken all over.

Stir in the flour, cook for 30 seconds, then crumble the 1/2 chicken stock cube into 300ml boiling water and stir in the peas and cream.

Season well.

In a bowl, mix together the cobbler ingredients and season.

Turn out onto a generously floured surface and gently roll to about 2cm thickness.

Use a cutter to cut rounds (just like if you were making scones) and sit them on top of the chicken stew. Brush the cobbler pieces with milk and then bake for 15-20 minutes, until cooked and the cobbler is risen and golden brown.

Good company and an inspiring challenge

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Today’s been a lovely day. My friend Jo and I took our littler ones and went for a long walk in the autumn sunshine. We first met when we were both pregnant with our older children, both boys and both now in their first year of primary school. Jo now also has a wonderful, bright, chatty daughter and I have my sweet wee 4 month old baby boy. Good company and conversation built on the solidarity of shared experience meant that our walk was over all too soon and I’d managed the excellent trick of exercising without noticing.

A new Greek deli has opened at the bottom of Byres Road and we had a lovely chat with the friendly owners. I bought a spanakopita to munch as we walked and chatted. It was delicious even if the baby, strapped to my front in his carrier, ended up covered in a light dusting of filo shards. He’s fairly used to it – an occupational hazard of being carried everywhere. Further on we stopped for coffee and a scone at Kember and Jones and I coveted every one of the loaves. I resisted until another day as I knew we would never eat it today and it would be a tragedy for bread that nice to go to waste. Nearing the end of our walk we stopped into KRK in Woodlands Road where I bought some beautiful little aubergines for the curry I was planning.

It does me good on so many levels to get out in the sun and walk and talk. As the dark of winter starts drawing in I know I need to get out in the daylight as much as I can, to shore me up against the long nights that are coming. Sunshiny food, fragrant and warming, was the perfect end to the day.

Aubergine, coconut and tomato curry

Some of my best friends are vegetarians. Really. They’re kind enough to persist in reading my recipes on here and encouraging me despite the fact that for those amongst us who don’t eat meat it’s a bit of a thankless task. I had been feeling vaguely guilty about this anyway when my pal Fi commented on my last meaty blog post to Facebook “I dare you to make something vegan!” What could I do but accept that challenge?

I almost completely succeeded – until I added a dollop of natural yoghurt right at the end! To be fair, this was for the boy’s portion (he’d made me promise that next time I did a blog he’d get to “eat the photo”) and it worked well to cool it down a wee bit for him. It’s entirely optional so if you’re vegan rather than vegetarian it’ll still be good without it.

I won’t ever give up meat entirely but I would happily eat less. Making this recipe has inspired me to introduce my household to at least one meat free evening meal a week. I’m crazy for anything that’s a pulse at the moment so some brown chickpeas (also in my chicken double chickpea curry) made it in here too. Pulses are a fantastic veggie source of protein and with them in there I didn’t miss having meat at all.

About 600g of aubergine – I used 1 large and 8 smaller ones but 2 large would be fine
2 medium onions
2 generous handfuls of cherry tomatoes – about 250g
1 tin coconut milk
1 tin brown chickpeas
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
2 fat cloves of garlic
1/2 – 1 chopped chilli depending on how hot you want it
1 teaspoon of medium curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
8-10 cardamom pods
2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Finely chop the onions, garlic and ginger and fry them in a little oil over a low heat. Once they are started cooking, put a lid on and leave them on the heat to soften for 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile cut the aubergine into large chunks and cook it on a griddle pan or under the grill until it starts to brown.
Smash open the cardamom pods to get the black seeds from inside. Throw the outsides away and use a pestle and mortar to crush the seeds slightly.
Make a space in the middle of the onions and add the cardamom, cumin seeds, turmeric and curry powder to the pan. Let the heat toast them until the fragrance begins to release then stir them through the onions.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan along with the tin of coconut milk and the chilli.
Add the aubergine to the pan and cook with the lid on for half an hour until the aubergine is lovely and soft.
Add the drained, rinsed chickpeas and cook with the lid off for a further five minutes.
Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with rice and Indian bread.

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Sunshine and scones

It’s a beautiful crisp autumn day here, my favourite kind. I took a wander along to the farmers market along the road and couldn’t resist one of these amazing fruit scones. I love butter, I could probably sit and eat it with a spoon (I don’t, I do have some restraint!). One of my favourite ways to eat butter is slathered thickly, cold from the fridge, on top of a fruit scone. It has to be thick enough that you leave teeth marks.

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