I feel a bit like a dog chasing its tail at the moment... and here was me thinking that I'd have a lot of time on my hand with my husband enjoying four weeks of gardening leave! Wrong. Him being at home means that there's even more work as we tackle those "little" projects that we've been meaning to take care of for months... converting the baby's room into something that feels like a nursery, rather than a laundry room cum dumping ground with a cot stuck in its centre like a bit of an afterthought. Or finally taking the courage to throw a lot of what we boxed up in our last move into the garbage so we can use that room in the attic as what it was meant to be: a bedroom. With a bed in it. Not tons of boxes, empty cardboard, a pile of suitcases and anything that doesn't really have a place in this household.
Add to that the fact that my youngest is growing up at a pace that I cannot keep up with and is crawling up the stairs and cruising along the furniture at barely eight months when other babies think they deserve a round of applause when they finally manage to sit upright for 2 seconds... so I am pretty much spending the day on my knees seeing the house at a new (and not very attractive) angle - it's like doing exercise after years of being a couch potato or having a few children and discovering muscles you never knew existed! Spend a day on all fours and suddenly there are problem areas you'd never notice otherwise: I am not talking about my physique here, I am talking about cleaning in places I've been ignoring (because the minute your tiny tod is pulling his hand out from under the cupboard and does what babies do best, namely stick said hand straight into his mouth before you can reach for a wetwipe and clean 3 cm of grime off his chubby fingers, you suddenly realise that sweeping under the furniture does have its advantages, no matter how hard you're trying to resist) and of course, there's a lot of child-proofing and thinking ahead to do. You'd never have thought that an umbrella leaning against a radiator could be a potential hazard, but as soon as a baby that can barely crawl insists on pulling himself up on it, you know you've got some work to do.
And after cooking three different types of veg and fruit for the baby and another dish fit for a ravenous school boy at every mealtime, all intentions of whipping up a five-course meal for the grown-ups in the family have vanished in the haze. No wonder, then, that there's an awful lot of fast food being consumed in this household lately - but not of the kind you think... no matter how much we have adapted to life here in England, I still can't stomach the typical dinner options from your local chippie or the Chinese take-away around the corner - I'd rather eat a fried shoesole (mind you, last time I checked, that's exactly what the guy coming out of "Melbourne Chinese Food Take-Away" must have ordered) than resort to that! No, when I say fast food, I mean something that doesn't involve hitting the shops late at night, but throwing a meal together from whatever your kitchen cupboard spits out. This sort of pantry cooking can be done at any time of the day, of course, but I bet you're also at it late at night when you've come home from a long day at the office or on after a Sunday spent pottering about without regard for supermarket opening hours...
More often than not, in this house such meals are likely to consist of spaghetti with oil and garlic, a quick omelette with truffle salt or, if I'm lucky, a portion of lasagne that I had frozen because I always make enough to feed an army! The only thing about quick fixes is that no matter how fast they must be to throw together, they also must satisfy you on more than just one level: you want them to be tasty, but also aesthetically pleasing so that they cleverly hide the fact that they are, well, not much more than an afterthought... or they'll have you running off with the next Häagen-Dazs that crosses your path.
Last week, I found some cannellini beans and a jar of capers, luckily I had some shallots at home and some over-ripe tomatoes which I slow-roasted while I was finally doing my tax return... and with a piece of sourdough bread that was maybe a little past its prime but still tasted great toasted, I had myself a tasty snack! What is it that you throw together on such occasions?
Other tasty quick fixes on thepassionatecook:
Three-bean salad with spicy salsa verde (October 2005)
Cannellini bean, salmon & caviar canapés (May 2007)
Pear & camembert bruschette with rocket, fennel & hazelnut salad (April 2005)
Goats cheese and tomato bake with garlic crostini (January 2005)
Ham & shitake oeufs cocotte (April 2007)
Cannelini bean bruschetta with capers and slow-roast tomatoes
12 cherry tomatoes on the vine
2 x 440g tins of cannellini beans (drained and washed)
3 medium shallots (finely sliced)
2 tbsp brined capers
9 tbsp good-quality extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp vermouth vinegar (or mellow red wine vinegar)
1 tbsp thyme leaves
4 large slices pain au levain or other artisanal bread
1 clove garlic
First, place the tomatoes in an oven-proof dish and put in the oven at 150C. Roast until they're wrinkly, slightly tanned and cracked open, about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, do your tax return, clean out a cupboard or complete other such commendable tasks, then roughly chop half of the beans, combine in a bowl with the whole beans, capers, shallots, thyme leaves, 3 tbsp of the olive oil and the vinegar. Mix well and season to taste.
Toast the bread slices. Crush the garlic clove into the remaining (6 tbsp) of olive oil, season with salt and leave to infuse until ready to serve.
Brush each bread slice with some of the garlic oil, top with a quarter of the beans and three of the tomatoes. Serve with a salad on the side.