Sunday, 28 July 2013

Bad parenting, and the perfect Baba Ghanoush

I really should be a better mother. Recently I have got so used to being on my own during the days that I am finding myself getting properly grouchy after 9 days of school holidays. Granted it has been a gruelling schedule and we haven't had much downtime as yet. I need to find my groove: need to mellow out, need to ignore the bickering, stop planning such elaborate meals (did I really want to joint a chicken and make it into a tagine this evening when it was actually the children's bath time and they were trying to put on a play?), get a bit more positive. And if in doubt maybe some earphones and an iPod could be good if I feel like I'm going to blow.

Looking good on the art front though. The deckchair exhibition at Clevedon Pier is fabulous, really beautiful, and by a bit of a fluke my deckchair is, to my eyes, in pride of place compared to all the others, between two windows: it had to be moved out of reach as within the first half hour it became clear that everyone felt the need to touch it. The felt has been reproduced so well that people really thought it was 3d. It actually looks better than the original. I have been to see it twice and have a feeling I will be drawn back there very soon. I also might be taking part in two more exhibitions coming up soon, although I will ironically be on holiday for both: one by Clevedon Art Club from August 10th to 24th, at Clevedon Community School, and one at the Tithe Barn in Nailsea, a one day pop up gallery on August 24th. I am quite relieved to have these to take some of my framed pieces to, not least because I was starting to think about whether I had the nerve to see if I could sell my Brittany beach picture to a nearby gallery while we are staying in France, but now I have somewhere far less scary to take it, and a place where I am possibly more likely to sell. Let's hope.

Cooking has been interesting recently even if a bit stressed when intermingled with requests to help with mask making and breaks to referee fights. I made a huge, really huge chocolate cake in the shape of a Moshi Monster for my now 6 year old's birthday party, so that it almost looks like I am a good parent to an untrained outsider:-

If you are interested, I got the recipe from Belleau Kitchen and a very fine chocolate cake recipe it is too, although a) it was as big as I could possibly make in my very biggest bowl (and that's BIG) and I had enough extra mix to make an extra loaf sized cake to put in the freezer, and b) it was so lovely and moist and soft that it was a pig to cover with a layer of butter icing before I put on the ready to roll icing. It's weird how you need to have a cake with a rather stale and dense consistency to make a really decent child's birthday cake. This one did have a bit of lumpiness about the surface of the finished article because I just couldn't get the buttercream layer entirely smooth. But it just about held together and was extra good for having a layer of vanilla butter icing and Bonne Maman Berries and Cherries jam in the middle for a hint of Black Forest.

I discovered the secret to a good Baba Ghanoush the other day. If you haven't had it, it's an amazing creamy, smoky aubergine dip from the Middle East. A bit hummus-like but more dreamy. And I think it wins a prize for being the dish with the most beautiful name ever, doesn't it sound lovely? Years ago I tried to follow a recipe for it by putting a whole aubergine in the oven but it was just plain sad. But the lightbulb moment came when we bought a new barbecue recently. For years we have put up with a pathetic excuse of a barbecue from Ikea. The results have been so poor that I have found myself wondering about the masculinity of my other half from time to time. But not any more: we have turned to the testosterone-fuelled world of the Weber and I do like a bit of testosterone. Weber are so manly they even have their own app full of recipes and hints and tips and although I despised myself for it I couldn't resist downloading it. And it was there, for the first time in years, that I saw a mention of the rather effeminate-sounding Baba Ghanoush. And it turns out that barbecuing is the secret. As you are barbecuing other things, or even afterwards, while you're eating more meat than any human needs, put a whole aubergine on the barbecue and let the skin blacken. Turn it several times so that it's shrivelled and blackened and soft on the inside. I actually forgot about our aubergine and retrieved it sheepishly the next morning. This is my adapted version:-

Baba Ghanoush

1 aubergine, barbecued (see above) and cooled
1 dessertspoonful tahini
A good squeeze of lemon
1/2 a clove of garlic, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
A pinch of ground cumin
A pinch of smoked paprika

Peel the skin off the aubergine (you should be able to do this with your fingers but a knife might speed things up). Chop it up roughly and whizz up in a blender with all the other things. You can add some chopped parsley too if you have some. Chill it for a while to let the flavours mingle. Serve with some hot pitta breads and with some other mezze if you are feeling like making a meal of it. Wow.

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