It’s been a little while since my last post. This is not laziness on my part, in fact far from it; I just have literally had no free time to write. I took up blogging in part because I wanted to do a bit of creative writing and blogs gave me a way of being able to do so in handy half-hour snippets (you can’t really write a novel that way). In the past few weeks even those half hours have disappeared, but my wife has just dubbed me the “part-time part-time vegetarian” so I’ve taken the hint and got down to business.
We are always busy, and increasingly so as time passes. This has been a creeping process over several years, with some large increments when each of our kids arrived. But the last few weeks have seen a coincidence of circumstances which have left us, frankly, clinging on to our sanity by our fingernails.
Firstly, my wife has embarked on her teaching course, which I told you about a couple of months ago. As expected, she is absolutely loving it; but, as she is doing a teaching course alongside actually being a teacher, she has a huge amount of work to do (and being far more diligent than I, is not looking for corners to cut), and as a result is working most evenings from the moment the kids are in bed until midnight. Parallel to this, I am learning fast how to iron.
I’ve had no renaissance such as my wife has had but I have had an equal dose of excitement and uncertainty recently, as two things have disrupted my unfascinating-but-it-pays-the-bills working life. Firstly, a major project dropping out of the blue that has eaten up 50% of my time for the last couple of months (50% that I didn’t have either, meaning I’ve had to do the day job in half the time). Secondly, I (possibly unwisely) chose this particular moment to apply for a new job. Ultimately I was unsuccessful, but I got to the final stages (in fact none of the three final interviewees were selected, but I take no solace in that). In total I had three interviews of varying intensity, one presentation and a psychometric test. I think the psychometric probably found me out. What I hadn’t anticipated was how draining that process would be, and how hard I would find it to concentrate on my existing job while it was going on – and given it was six weeks between the first meeting with the recruiter and when I finally got wind of the decision, this was a long time to be splitting my energy in such a way.
The interview process is done and forgotten, and my involvement in the project is dwindling now, so I’m hopeful of being able to return to the previous levels of busyness shortly – just mad busy rather than flat out.
What all this has meant is that I am relying more and more on the fastest meals in our repertoire, a couple of which I have detailed below, and most of which involve pasta. We have found we are eating relatively often before the kids go to bed, in order to maximise the time available for work afterwards. This is probably good for us as normally we don’t eat before 9 and I understand it is unhealthy to eat too close to bedtime. So we are eating a less varied diet, but this is a necessary evil at the moment and I am going to take it upon myself to do a little Googling and try and add to our portfolio of very quick meals.
Just as soon as I have a spare minute…
Pesto & pasta (10 minutes)
Make some pesto as per my recipe for not-Trapanese pasta (which itself only takes probably ten minutes longer, to roast the tomatoes). Put more than the necessary amount of pine nuts in the frying pan though and leave the remainder in once the ones for the pesto have been taken out, and toast until golden brown. Cook some fresh pasta, and when cooked, stir through the pesto, pine nuts and a big handful of rocket. Top with some grated parmesan and fresh ground black pepper if desired.
Peppers pasta (25 minutes)
Put three peppers of differing colour and an aubergine, all cut into finger-thick strips (we find this works best if you layer the aubergine on top of the peppers to avoid it becoming too crispy) into a roasting tin. Top with olive oil, salt and chilli flakes (to your taste). Roast for 20-30 minutes at 200C depending on how you like the veg (I like them slightly caramelising – aubergine should be soft and no longer rubbery). Serve with fresh pasta.
Eggs hollandaise (20 minutes)
For the sauce: put two teaspoons of white wine or cider vinegar, the same of lemon juice and three of water, five black peppercorns and a bay leaf into a saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer to reduce by half. Cool and strain. Place with three egg yolks into a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk until thick and foamy (don’t let it get too hot). Add 6oz/175g of butter a small piece at a time into the egg mix and whisk in (you can also melt the butter first and pour it in a little at a time if you prefer). It’s ready when it’s the texture of mayonnaise. Add plenty of salt and pepper to taste. Serve over oven-bottom muffins, griddled asparagus and a poached egg. (Non-veggies can serve with thick-cut ham instead of asparagus if preferred, but I actually prefer the asparagus.) This is often considered a lunchtime dish or even a starter but we serve plenty of it as a main meal.