Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy St. Andrews Day, My Lovely Friends!!

Happy St. Andrews Day!

Ah, to take a breath without falling about in a wretched cacophony of coughing; to walk upstairs without collapsing at the top, legs stuck out over the last stair for the kids to find as they turn the corner towards me, they're shrieks of "MUMMY'S DEAD!!!" no longer ringing in my ear as I try to get up and tell them that I'm only really half dead....they'll still get their tea.

The big reveal is tomorrow. I shall put one toe, then another over my doorstep and venture into the big, bad, cold world to attend my yoga class. I think I understand, albeit slightly, what agoraphobics feel like; you get into a settled, uneasy routine at home and staying in makes you want to stay in and self fulfilling prophecies are born. In saying that, I can't wait to get out...I feel I'm escaping. The girls at yoga don't realise what a big treat tomorrow will be for me; there will be me, in a downdog, smiling like a crazy girl, whilst they look on, puzzled and grimacing, the same expression I usually wear.

Last Friday, approx. 10 days ago, just before I got ill, we had friends over for dinner. I made chicken with slightly spiced rice and a Mughlai cream sauce with toasted almonds. I served it with paratha. Beforehand, I'd put out some spicy onions and the lovely mango chutney dip I made at my party. These were served with pappadums and followed by onion bhajis.

For dessert, I made Nigella's Lemon Trifle Cake Thingy. My lemon cake was made in small tins and soaked with twice the amount of syrup as normal. A slice was plated and topped with raspberries, then topped with cream whipped with, amongst other things, Amaretto and lemon juice. Delightful.

Dessert without the cream as I was too greedy, once it was face!

The recipes will follow tomorrow as I have badges to sew onto a Cubs jumper and my sewing is like my singing voice.......

One of the drawings I was asked to do for Christmas gifts....just so you know I've not been entirely idle....

Friday, November 27, 2009

A journey and friendship

I am almost recovered but more importantly, things are getting back to normal. I didn't realise quite how much I liked normal til now. I hope my American friends had a really great and happy Thanksgiving yesterday and are rolling around on the floor, stuffed to the gunnels with turkey and all the trimmings.

Since it's Friday, I'll begin with my piece for the Loose Bloggers Consortium, a group of people united in a common word or phrase which each week, we get to write about. For my UK readers, it's like Loose Women, without the aggro. Check out the wonderful blogs of the other members:

Emerson, Lake and Palmer, The Sage from Pictures at an Exhibition.

The words 'a journey' transport my mind straight to the Emerson, Lake and Palmer song The Sage:
I carry the dust of a journey
that cannot be shaken away
It lives deep within me
for I breathed it every day

When I was a little girl, I always wanted to go on a magical journey; I was sure I had pirate blood and adventure is what I sought....arrr!. I loved to read and the story books, with all their bright colours and special people, always seemed to be "just over the hill and far away"; that appealed to me more than anyone could ever know. I longed to travel there, to be in the sunshine with gold paths, chocolate waterfalls, blue skies and women dressed in brightly coloured dresses, the children all blonde curls and friendly eyes.

I thought about it for a long time, wished it to happen but it never did. So, at the tender age of seven, I decided to take the matter into my own hands. I would go on that journey and search for this mystical place that would make me so happy and when I got there, I'd send for my sisters.

I thought about what I should take. Any notions of a knotted, spotty hanky round a gnarled stick were dashed as no such thing could be found anyway. After a long debate with myself, I realised what I'd known all along: I couldn't take anything for fear of being caught. I didn't want to take any chances as this journey was going to be the chance of a lifetime.

I was very nervous from the moment I woke up. I gnawed at my nails, as if the answer was in there somehow and glanced furtively at my parents over the breakfast table, knowing that they'd be able to look into my little kidsized brain and know immediately what I had planned. Miraculously, they didn't seem to notice and after an eternity, I was on my way to school. I'd calculated that not turning up to school at all was sure to cause problems, what with having a twin sister in the same class so my best bet would be at 'playtime' in the afternoon; I'd be less likely to be missed.

I couldn't concentrate all day, with my lack of jumping on demand culminating in the belt from the teacher, just before playtime began. With my hands stinging and a ringing in my ear, I fought back the fat tears, determined to carry out my plan all the more. As the other kids played 'Charlie's Angels' or 'Starsky and Hutch', I felt a pang as I was wearing my Charlie's Angels Jumpsuit that day but I said no when they asked me to join in and they soon left me alone.

I hung out by the Victorian railings, waiting for my opportunity to jump over the broken part of the wall. I gnawed at my poor nails some more and, with my little heart thumping hard against my chest, I went for it. I jumped over the wall in a Starsky type leap and ran across the road only to find a car hurtling towards me. As my life flashed before my eyes, I froze, right there in the middle of the road, like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights and the driver pushed on his brakes as hard as he could. That moment went on for a lifetime and all I could do was stand there, watching my fate unfold.

He had stopped just at my feet and I could see through the windscreen that his eyes were blue. He got out the car, shaking and asked me if I was ok. I nodded mutely and then sprang to life, panicked incase I'd been seen; I looked back at the school but nobody had noticed. I ran onto the pavement and all the way down the hill until I reached the bottom. I stopped for a breath and, since I had a penny in my pocket, I nipped into the dairy for a penny Dainty to sustain me on my long, and by now, quite arduous journey.

I slowly opened the caramel outside the shop and popped it into my mouth, enjoying the sugary taste and gathering myself as I did so. I looked up towards the school but no-one was looking for me so I continued down the hill. I knew which general direction to take as I could see the place I was looking for...the top of a hill, a flash of green and knew that it was over that and not so far away from there.

I found myself on the main road and walked along it, surprised by how busy it was since all the children were at school. No-one paid me any attention and I walked by the butchers, the bakers and the cafe, all unnoticed. A black cloud appeared overhead and it started to rain a little. I shivered and felt a little scared as I was leaving familiar territory, territory which I'd only faced with my mum or dad. I was determined however and, with my arms wrapped round me for warmth, I kept going.

After a while, daydreams running round my head of what I would eat when I got there, I started to hear screaming. I could see some kind of commotion up ahead and my steps began to slow as I saw a crowd gather. A cry, like a wild animal came from within the group and I caught a glimpse of a man, naked from the waist up, with blood over his chest and down his face. I stood still, mouth agape, looking at him. He had another man in his grip and it was wailing, like one great beast and unlike anything I'd ever heard before. Suddenly, and only for a split second, the man looked at me and blinked, and went back to his fight.

I stood terrified, sure he was coming for me next. I turned on my heel and ran back the way I'd come, crying and scared. The rain was heavier now and I didn't have a jacket. I didn't stop running until I reached home. I flew in the door, sobbing, trying to explain to my dad what had happened and he gave me a hug, dried my hair with a towel and told me to calm down. When I'd had some hot tea, I explained in a quieter voice what had happened and he looked at me with an expression of amusement and bewilderment; "where is this magical kingdom?" he asked. I went to the window and pointed "over that hill and far away". "Hen" he replied "that's Possil....that's no magical kingdom, you don't want to go there!" and then he roared with laughter, as did I although I had no idea what we were laughing about.

On feeling ill, I've become accustomed and I'm dead sick of it. S'cuse the pun. I emailed my lovely friend Shona for some advice on superfoods and she sent me some wonderful advice which involved eggs, vitamin D and sunshine. Yesterday, a day wherein I wallowed, feeling sorry for myself and crying "why? why me???" in my head, Shona, like the angel she is, turned up with a bag of goodies designed to put a smile on my face and a filling in my tum.

There was fruit too but Fraser ran away with it.

Irish Soda Bread...delicious!

The pepper was sliced and, along with the tomatoes, roasted with sea salt, pepper, Parmesan shavings, sprinkling dried chillies, squeeze lemon juice and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.


Leftover soda bread for breakfast with Parma ham and scrambled eggs. Mmmmm!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yet more sickness...

...I've bored you silly with the trials and tribulations of the McGinn family sickness so I'll keep it brief. We, along with a lot of our friends and family, continue to get bought after bought of flu/virus related illness. My husband and son are suffering as am I, yet again. I shall return when fit, filling you in on all the superfood soups and roasts we've ingested, in our hope of staving off yet more bugs.

This has been our worst year ever and I'm hoping we never see it's like again. Til health brings us back from the brink....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Caught in the rain.

My husband insisted that I be there for 5.30pm on the dot. I was not to be late. So, knowing it would take me five minutes to walk round in the rain and the gales, I left on time. I was unable to even put up my brolly for fear of it blowing away in the storm. Windswept and wet, I knew he'd be at the corner waiting and a smile crossed my face as I ran the last few steps, finally reaching my destination....

He wasn't there. It was exactly 5.30pm and he was nowhere to be seen. So I began to walk. And walk and walk and walk. Eventually, the glare of the headlights caught me like the proverbial rabbit and he must have realised his fate, when he saw mascara running down my face, hair plastered to my head and the useless brolly, pathetic at my side.

A mug of tea has been made, a bath is being run and a contrite husband looks forward to being forgiven. Goodnight.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Award and Wordless Wednesday

I received an award from my lovely bloggy friend, The Confused homemaker ; check out her blog, it's great.

Now for some Wordless Wednesday...

Can I just say, the kids made it.....

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Grandpa's Birthday

My husband and father in law turned the tv on just now to watch a programme about how long a piece of string was. Seriously. It's party central over here. Sigh.

I then secretly found myself fascinated by the chat for all of five minutes when the discussions and answers ranged from '12 inches' to' infinite'. I have nothing more to add on the subject though. Without jumping from a window.

With three little children off again today, I decided to investigate; it seems between 40-60% of the children at the school have been off at least twice since September and are easily reinfected; their seems to be trouble building immunity. I looked at their diet; lots of fruit, vegetables, homemade food, fresh juices and water. What to do. Any suggestions, my worthy, clever bloggy friends? I'll be homeschooling them soon, at this rate.

Grandpa is 84 today. He had the choice between eating out or in and if in, braised beef with dumplings, mince and tatties, rigatoni al forno or another meal of his choice. He chose rigatoni al forno because he'd never had it before...he's a cool old dude...and a Victoria sponge for dessert. The meat sauce was prepared first and simmered for an hour before I started to make the bechamel sauce. So often, meat sauce is cooked quickly when it should be treated like a stew. Go on, you're worth it!

Meat sauce
The meat sauce could be made using my usual tomato sauce but I went for something a little different and a bit chunkier this time. I blended an onion and 2 garlic cloves in the blender and fried in olive oil for 10 minutes. I then added 500g minced beef steak and browned. A good handful tomato puree and two tins of chopped tomatoes were tossed in opened of course and after stirring and bringing to the boil, I added in a splash of good red wine....there is no point using something you wouldn't drink by the glass...and stirred once more, brought to the boil, added a sprinkling of sugar, salt and pepper and simmered on a very low heat for 1 hour with the lid on.

I checked the sauce after the hour, added a good grating of least a quarter of a whole one....checked the seasoning and sprinkled in a few pinches of dried herbs...oregano, thyme, bay etc. The lid was put back on as I got on with the bechamel.

Melt butter in a pan over a medium heat. I cut around a thin slice of butter per 100g of pasta to be cooked but really, truly, measurements don't matter with this sauce; the more butter, the more flour...the more flour, the more milk etc.

Once the butter has melted and began to foam, add the flour and stir constantly until a roux is formed (looks like a soft paste). Add a dash of milk and incorporate into roux. It may look a little curdled, don't worry, keep stirring! Keep adding milk, a little at a time, quickly stirring all the time. Don't panic! It may not look good but it will. Eventually, it will look like thick cream although you can make this thinner if you prefer...just add more milk. Once the desired thickness has been achieved, let it simmer for a minute, then add white pepper, some salt (I always use unsalted butter, check taste first before adding any salt if your butter is already salted) and a really good grating of nutmeg.

Mix the pasta into the bechamel sauce and then throw in half of the sauce. Mix well and pour some more on the top. Package up the rest for later. Add a good handful or two of grated Parmesan. We also added some cheddar and Gruyere. At this stage, we usually bake the pasta but everyone was champing at the bit and I just served it instead. This was 500g pasta and it will easily feed 8-10. We all had two servings and the rest was packaged up (two dishes full) for another date and frozen.

The kids helped to make the Vicky sponge and dad made the butter icing.

How do you know if your kids are feeling better? Just look at their faces.

And if in doubt, just watch them playing teddy bear picnics behind the couch.

I have so many fruit cake, bread and loaf recipes and this is one of the simplest. Most of the recipes for fruit loaf are simple and this one is boiled first. I made it for supper last night and so that there was some for breakfast for grandpa as a nice start to his birthday.

Feel free to swap the sugar for muscovado as this is lovely in this cake.

200g sultanas

250ml milk

200g sugar

125g Marg
(marg works well in this but feel free to use butter)
250g Self Raising Flour

1 egg

1 teaspoon cinnamon or mixed spice

Put sultanas, milk, sugar and marg in pan, bring to boil stirring all the time. Once it has come to the boil, turn off and remove from ring. Leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Fold in the flour and mix, add the egg and mix again. Pour into greased loaf tin and put in a pre-heated oven at 160 degrees for 1hr. Leave to cool before serving. How simple is that?

Helen's dessert....skinny cow lolly...actually delicious.

A gift from couldn't wait to open them and of course, disgusting. Hope you don't serve these in your restaurants, Barry!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Back to normality......?

I was looking forward to my post today; the food for the week, a receipt, under fifty pounds.. basically, normality. This being the winter autumn still...? of discontent when it comes to illness, I was naive to think it would be so. Lulled into a false sense of security, I floated to bed last night, with a list in my head of all I would achieve come Monday lunchtime. This list became null and void yet again when a small lass, shivering and sad, appeared by my bedside in the wee hours with a fever. One lass turned to two and, once again, I find myself with children home from school.

Calling the school up, I felt guilty, as if I'd somehow concocted an evil plan to keep them off, so that I could send them up some chimneys later. Its not that the school isn't lovely and they always respond well but it just seems to be every other week. I suppose this is what happens when you have three children. Soup for everyone!

But still... the cooking continues. Lentil soup, spicy onions, pakora, chicken noodle soup, breads, cakes and stews. This week, it will once again be soups and stews with a few pasta dishes thrown in for good measure. I'll be going shopping later, ensuring I take cash...a good little ploy to ensure I don't spend over the budget...and this is how the menu for the week looks:
Macaroni Cheese
Beef Stew with Dumplings
Haddock Chowder
Spaghetti and Meatballs
Rigatoni al Forno
Parsnip and Apple soup
Vegetable Soup and homemade bread
Hearthbread pizza
Tomato and Chilli soup
Fruit Loaf
Birthday Cake for Grandpa
Yet More Indian Food for Friday Night's Dinner with Friends

I tried out a new pakora batter. I mixed flour with bicarbonate of soda and made the batter thinner with a quick beating at the end to get a light, frothy but crispy coating; I tried it on onion rings which were ideal but this would work well with bhaji or any other pakora.
New Batter
100g plain flour
40g gram flour
1tsp salt, ground cumin, turmeric, bicarb
Half teaspoon chilli powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly crushed
*You could just use a pakora mix or, as I did, I added in a bit of both.
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons veg/groundnut oil
Oil for frying
Water to make a batter

Sift all the powdered, dry ingredients together and add the lemon juice and oil; it'll froth a bit because of the lemon juice reacting with the bicarb. Slowly, stir in water to make a thin batter, consistency of single cream. I beat this at the end for 30 seconds to air it as I believe that is what creates a crispy batter. Mix in onions (or veg of choice) and coriander seeds.

Heat oil, and test by dropping in a tiny amount of batter; it should immediately start to bubble and float to the top. Place tablespoons or more of the onion batter mix into the hot oil and cook until brown on both sides. I've videotaped my efforts for you to giggle at....

I went to Fi's house with Jo on Thursday evening and took some hearthbread; it was tasty but I realised this is always better reheats beautifully and remember to add a drizzle more olive oil when you take it out the oven...also, remember just how garlicky it is. The original recipe calls for 3 heads of garlic....yes, 3!!! I use one, roasted beforehand but this is still a lot of garlic! Beware. That's all I'm saying....

I made thank you cards last week, to give out to my friends and family who very kindly bought me wonderful gifts. I used an image of the flowers my friend Ann sent me; they really were incredibly beautiful....the flowers, I mean.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

French Onion soup...honest!

French Onion Soup; palate sticking, rib tickling, hot, beefy, steamy, tasty bowl of wondrousness. This soup will warm the cockles of your heart, make your wee cotton socks curl up with delight and bring joy and happiness to the world. Kumbaya, my friends!

Soup. Such a wee word for such a huge dish. I think soup is severely underrated; the smell of a potful as you enter the house on a cold, dark, winter's night, the warmth emanating from the bowl as you hurriedly pull off your jacket, the bug fighting properties of all those vegetables and onions, the heat from the occasional addition of brandy or wine, sitting down with your family, fresh bread ready to be buttered or croutons dripping with cheese as the steam flows upwards in a question mark, wondering why you haven't started yet and then that first, glorious taste when you place that spoon to your lips and sip. Ahhh. Fabulous. The wondrous joy of there always, always being a second bowl and maybe even a third. And it's cheap! Oh how cheap. Cheap, healthy and tasty.
Soup-make a pot today!

French Onion Soup with Croutons


1½ lb (700 g) onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 oz (50 g) butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 level teaspoon granulated sugar
2 pints (1.2 litres) good beef stock or beef/lamb (I sometimes use half lamb, half beef)
10 fl oz (275 ml) dry white wine...good wine, not Buckfast.....
2 tablespoons Cognac
salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the croutons:
Baguette, cut into 1 inch (2.5 cm) diagonal slices
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

To serve:
8 oz (225 g) Gruyère, grated

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C).

Put the pan on a high heat and melt the oil and butter together. When very hot, add onions, garlic and sugar. Stir occasionally and cook until the edges of the onions have turned dark – this will take about 10 minutes. Then turn down heat to its lowest setting and leave the onions to carry on cooking very slowly for about 30 minutes, by which time the base of the pan should be covered with a caramelised film...if it's not, don't worry, cook for another 10 or so minutes and then continue.

Pour in the stock and white wine, season, then stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the base of the pan well. As soon as it all comes up to simmering point, turn down the heat to its lowest setting, then go away and leave it to cook very gently, without a lid, for about 1 hour. All this can be done in advance but, when you're ready to serve the soup, bring it back up to simmering point, taste,check seasoning and add a couple of tablespoons of Cognac. You don't have to of course, this is optional...but not for me!

Whilst the soup is cooking, make the croutons – begin by placing the bread slices, garlic and olive oil into a bowl, and mix well. Place onto a solid baking-sheet. Bake them in the oven for 20-25 minutes till crispy and crunchy.

When the soup is ready to be served...check seasoning once again, I usually find I need more salt and freshly ground pepper at this point....warm the tureen or soup bowls in a low oven and pre-heat the grill to its highest setting. Then ladle in the hot soup and top with the croutons, allowing them to float on the top of the soup. Sprinkle the grated Gruyère thickly over the croutons and place the whole lot under the grill until the cheese is golden brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Alternatively, leave croutons on tray and sprinkle over cheese and heat that way. Sprinkle some grated cheese into the soup bowls, top with croutons and voila. A bowl of mouth watering, tasty, wonderful soup for the cold dark nights.

This is a Delia Recipe...thanks Delia!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

French Onion Soup....not.

Blogger can kiss my......ahem. I'm rather annoyed. I spent an hour posting my French Onion soup recipe with pictures and despite saving every few minutes or so, booger...sorry, blogger threw my efforts into the ether to be consumed by greedy, evil net demons. I want to splat someone with a bowlful....virtually of course. It's too late to repost, my vision starts to go around 11.30am and the very small glass of red wine has kicked in, so it'll have to be tomorrow.

In the meantime, I received a blogger award.....yeah!, I hear some of you cry.... bugger off, Helen McGobby, I hear the rest of you cry, this French onion soup is never going to happen, is it, you wee Scottish... person.....from my lovely friend over at AC's Scrapbook. The award is the Honest Scrap Award and I am obliged, therefore, to list 10 honest things about my wee self.

1. It's already taken me 10 minutes to think up two honest facts about myself; is that because I've already told you everything?
2. I'm happy turning 40; it's another year closer to the kids growing up and having their mum around...
3. biggest fear is not being around for my kids whilst they are still young. But we all have that fear, don't we?
4. Despite my reputation to the contrary which in this country, isn't a bad thing, I really don't drink that much at all.
5. I never feel intimidated by other people which isn't always a good thing as I've found out to my peril.
6. I don't like going to the cinema with friends incase I have to silence kill them for talking; this is the only time you will see evil in my eyes.
7. I'm really, really scared of the Daleks. *shiver*
8. I check under my pillow for spiders every night. Once, Brian placed a little picture under there of a wee spider with a speech bubble saying "Boo!" and a big stupid smile on it's face. A little bit of Brian died that night....
9. I won the lottery...all six numbers once. For two minutes, I was a multi-millionaire. Unfortunately, it was an April Fools Joke by my quite-frankly-I'm-surprised-he-is-still-alive husband who expertly pulled it off. Oh yes.
10. I jump out of my skin at least three times a day, much to the amusement of my family; always ready to fight and defend, you see.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Feeding thirty at forty for more than fifty.

Although it seemed I was organised, little things came to take up my time; they have a way of sneaking up on you, unannounced, wanting immediate attention and becoming silently but stealthily all consuming. Little things are in fact, humongous things in disguise.

With this in mind, my party and the weekend celebrations were wonderful, if not entirely to plan. Fortunately, ever since my wedding when I was but a mere slip of a lass at 26, I learned the lifelong lesson that "the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley" translation: the best laid plans of the big and the small can go awry, no matter what you do. It was a great wedding but things went awry ; things I couldn't change, things I couldn't know; I went with the flow as I realised quickly that that which cannot be changed must be accepted. Plus nobody would ever tolerate a braying, bridezilla beastie in my family and they'd soon begin plying me with whisky.

Having spent weeks on the children's rooms, my plan was to spend another few weeks on some home improvements, painting and organising, in time for the party and Christmas, as is the way of women and men everywhere. I wanted the house fresh, spotless and myself rested, having spent a leisurely few days cooking, with possibly some light dusting and a polish the day before. Of course, this was before swine flu hit me like a brick wall and floored me for several weeks, but still, I recovered well enough to continue.

That's when the little things came; a day off school here and there as the children became ill, unexpected visitors. A leak, a break down, a mistake and a job. All these things led to things going ever so slightly not to plan. Thursday, my 40th birthday, I let it all go and was woken to tea in bed, flowers, gifts and was taken for breakfast by Shona where I consumed pastries and lovely coffee before heading to the spa for my massage. My sis and I floated out of our treatment rooms, happy and relaxed as we got ready to go to The Dining Room on Bath Street for lunch.

Susan and I had the pate starter while Louise, Susan's friend went for the soup. I had expertly cooked salmon with a sweet chilli dressing but still looked longingly at the chicken with black pudding mash on the girl's plates until Susan took pity and gave me some to taste. Both the salmon and chicken were lovely and was washed down by a nice bottle of the house white.

Susan and Louise headed to the hotel as they'd booked rooms for the night because her party was being held there. I wandered round a few shops on my way to the train station, where I was to find myself stuck for ages due to a random flower petal hovering over the line or somesuch nonsense but the wine had had a pleasant, soporific effect and I sat staring at the pigeons until the train eventually arrived.

The entire family, including my mum, father in law, big sis, Brian and the kids all went to Di Maggios for pasta and pizza before heading over to Susan's party. The DJ played some good old classics and the place was packed with those helping her to celebrate. We stayed for a while, leaving early for a party but late for the kids and headed home, contented and tired.

The Friday, despite my best intentions, more Little Things came and we arrived at our friend's, Ricky and Irene's house late for the planned fireworks party. We stayed only a few hours but despite the amount of things I wanted to get done on my return, I was too tired and conked out at the sight of my lovely, beautiful bed.

We worked hard all Saturday and the house was transformed into a mellow, candlelit abode with flowers everywhere, and the smell of spices, curry and mint filling the street. As everyone arrived, we hadn't quite finished making all the cocktails although there was a table full of pink, green and yellow drinks. We calmly answered the door and greeted our lovely guests with hugs, drinks and chat, then frantically ran to the kitchen to make more French Martinis, Mojitos and Champagne cocktails. The table was laden with spicy onions, mango dips, poppadums, spicy almonds, chilli snacks, pickles and rice crackers.

The pakora-chicken which had been marinated in yoghurt and spices, mushroom and potato was placed in the oven and the onion bhajis too. I had made a yoghurt dip to accompany them and it looked delicious. By the time I went to try some, it was all gone, surely a good sign; this made me happy and I hope it was nice. As I went to heat up the curries, I suddenly realised something as I searched for my bread: I had missed out an entire afternoon of preparation and it slowly donned on me that I had crossed it off the list, in my tired state on Friday night and that, in fact, there was things still to do.

After the initial cold shiver from my head to my toes, I thought about it for a moment to understand what had not been done; no bread...I was to cook paratha, poori and peshwari naan...I hadn't finished my lamb sauce although the lamb was cooked and I hadn't even tasted the korma. The chicken stew was refrigerated before cooking had been finished and my chickpea stew was nowhere to be found. This was a freakin disaster! I took a few deep breathes and spoke to Brian:
Him: "There is plenty of food; do you have time to cook at least the bread now?"
Me: ""
Him: "Is there rice?"
Me: "Yes, lots"
Him: "Then we're fine".

With that, I served two large bowls of rice, lamb curry, which had enough lamb in it to feed a small army, what with four legs of lamb being cooked, with tasty enough sauce, despite it not being finished to my liking, tender chicken korma, again, it was finished by the time I got to the table which I was again happy about because I can assume it was good, having never made it before, Rajasthani chicken, baked after marinading twice and a nice vegetable curry with my own sauce served with mushrooms, courgettes, onions and homemade muttar paneer (cheese).

The tikka bites, chicken stew, chickpea stew with dumplings, breads and tomato and cucumber salad did not get served. The best laid schemes o' mice and men....

Once the food was served, I poured a large glass of champagne and settled in with my friends to talk, laugh and enjoy their company. A good time was had by all. I had managed to prepare fruit petit fours; strawberries, raspberries and tangerine slices dipped in chocolate, some with nuts or coconut in little petit four cases for a wee dessert before moving on to Sam's amazing birthday cake which she had made for me.

The moral of this tale: don't try to make this amount of food a few days before; cook it, freeze it and leave it weeks before, bringing from the freezer 36 hours before serving. Keep one day...the day before...entirely free to cook those things which are better fresh; the dips, the onions, the bread. Don't look at lists whilst tired. When asked to attend a party the day before your own, just say no. When it goes wrong, don't say too much after your initial outburst of "where the HELL IS THE BREAD?!?" and smile and enjoy because, as I learned many years ago, what you can't change, you just need to accept. Plus none of my friends would have tolerated my whining and would have force fed me champagne to shut me up.

Some of the beautiful flowers I received

I do have to add that the Sunday was total bliss; nursing a little hangover, I lay on the couch napping ,watching The Wizard of Oz with the kids, Brian waking me from my various slumbers with bacon rolls, Lucozade and Irn Bru, mugs of tea and chocolate. When ready, I opened my beautiful, wonderful gifts and Brian pottered about all day, cleaning up the mess. It was like Boxing Day; Christmas is wonderful but Boxing Day is for the mums.

Unfortunately, not a lot of pics were taken of the food, despite me reminding the photographers of my food blog...yes, you! But still....

All recipes to follow, including the elusive French Onion Soup; a picture, just to tease.