Saturday, 30 January 2016

10 useful things every new mother should know

This is a little list of the more useful stuff I learnt in my first month of motherhood, inspired by the useful list someone sent me before I gave birth. Remember, when you go home with your (first) baby in your arms, you are basically clueless. Many people will bombard you with opinions but not many people will give you advice that's actually useful. I'm writing this list while it's all fresh in my mind - my baby is 6 weeks today - in the hope that this will mean it's relevant to new mothers (unlike some of the advice you get from people who gave birth years ago).

1. Those little nightmare vests that you can't get over the head without a struggle can actually be pulled down.

2. Most nappiest have a yellow stripe that turns blue to tell you if they need changing. 

3. You don't have to become obsessed with making your baby sleep. Babies sleep for 14-18 hours a day. We do have a particularly good sleeper though so perhaps that's something to do with babies that wake up more often. It helps to feed them lots during the day and particularly before bed (an hour if on-off feeding just before bed does it for us) At 6 weeks Delfi sleeps in 4-5 hour shifts during the night and naps during the day for shorter periods of 1-2 hours. This is completely manageable.

4. Babies don't cry all the time. I really thought they did and imagined I was going to be pushed to the brink of sanity. This hasn't happened (as yet). If I had to take a guess at what makes our baby so calm and peaceful it would be yoga and meditation - a little bit every day during pregnancy. Baby loves to listem to shiva chants and watch me stretch and meditate.

5. It helps having the baby at arms' length. Delfi doesn't need to cry to wake me up, we just wake up in the night together. The first month she was in a pod in the bed, which is not recommended apparently (the one thing the health visitor was not too pleased about) yet we all loved. Many people told me that it was not a good idea, that transitioning to a bed would be hard and it was, but only for me. Delfi didn't mind at all.

6.  People who do not have babies do not want to hear poop stories, as hilarious as they might be. I remember saying to my partner just before I gave birth how being surrounded by shitty nappies was going to be horrible. In actual fact, it hasn't bothered me one bit. There is some kind of poo paradigm shift when you become a new parent, but do remember that your non parent friends still believe that poo equals disgusting.

7. Drugs during labour do not mean that your baby will have problems breastfeeding. Some drugs can make some babies drowsy perhaps, but I had 2 shots of diamorphine and an epidural for my emergency ceaserean and she came out smacking her lips at me and nursing within half an hour of coming out. I was led to believe that taking drugs affects nursing ability. Even the health visitor said "oh she's so responsive you can tell it was a natural labour. You didn't take any drugs did you?". Er, yes I did, there was no question if not taking them for me.

8. Overdue baby does not always mean big baby. We were told at 34 weeks she was 5.6 and would put on 0.5 lb a week. I was expecting a 8.5 lb baby and I got a 6.7 lb baby that was exactly 2 weeks late. I enjoyed my 2 weeks of waiting time, even though everyone else seemed worried and annoyed at the delay. Different countries have different due dates, don't let yourself be pressurised by anyone.

9. Anxiety does drastically increase, as do constant irrational worries. No matter how cool you think you are, the first month you are responsible for keeping a tiny, helpless human alive, you will worry. All the time. If the worry is unmanageable and making you depressed then you need to see your doctor, and don't let them fob you off. Your feelings do matter.

10. Babies have a lot of folds. You may miss one when washing/drying baby and the skin is so delicate it may shock you when you find that bit. It was under one arm for me. Don't worry, their skin heals very quickly too. Camomile baths help, as does coconut oil and sudocream. 



Saturday, 23 January 2016

Spicy quinoa and halloumi salad. Thoughts on motherhood and the year ahead.

January is always about intention setting for me. By the same token it's about looking back at the year that's just been, reflecting on what happened and why. What were the seeds planted and what may be learnt. One very important seed grew into a beautiful baby girl that's sitting in front of me right now, falling asleep happily while staring at the fairy lights. She's just wonderful and has opened my heart in unexpected ways. I was never sure if motherhood was for me, but an unplanned pregnancy and miscarriage in 2014 revealed a part of me that was ready to be a mother. It's funny how different things look in hindsight, when you're not longer just a bug in a rug, but can appreciate the whole tapestry. Even very painful events can be useful. Motherhood is a whole new world. You learn new things every day on this journey and I will compile a list of the more useful stuff I've learnt shortly, for people that are about to embark on it.
Another reason why last year was so important was my cookbook, due to come out next Summer. The world of publishing is new to me and getting book deal has been both a dream come true and a challenge. It reminded me that things worth having don't necessarily come easily, yet also that if something is meant to be then those doors do open for you. That its always better to be swimming with the tide. So this year I will focus on swimming along, being kinder to myself (and therefore others) in the process, trusting what happens, being more conscious and present in the moment while gently shaping my future. The book will definitely still be a focus this year and this is an example of what it will feel like. It will be a whole new perspective on Polish food, and show another side of my homeland, a side that's dreamy and romantic. We're not all about meat and potatoes, you know.
The world of motherhood brings with it many anxieties, many unresolved feelings and issues from one's own childhood. It's an ideal opportunity to face oneself and to let go, if you take it as such. I am therefore very focussed on being conscious and calm right now, to not take too much on. Yet I am enjoying cooking. Nothing elaborate, just simple, healthy food like this quinoa and halloumi salad.
Ingredients (about 4 portions)

250g Quinoa
2 Corn on the Cob, cooked with the corn taken off the cob
1 Avocado, chopped
1 Courgette, shaved
Halloumi, sliced

Dressing

Juice of 2 limes
3 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon Ghanan Shito sauce (or some chilli oil and fish sauce)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa and allow it to cool, while you prep all the other vegetables. Do use corn on the cob rather then the sloppy corn in the tin for this salad, it's worth the effort. Mix everything together with the dressing once cooled and allow to stand for about 15min while you fry the Halloumi until golden. Finish off with some black pepper. This salad benefits from standing around for a while, while it infuses with the flavours and its even better the following day.




Monday, 14 December 2015

Super healthy Polish sauerkraut soup

Sauerkraut doesn't sound terribly sexy I know. Yet it's one of the healthiest things you can eat due to its vitamin C, mineral and probiotic content. The juice from the cabbage is a brilliant hangover remedy, my dad assures me, although I haven't tried it myself. I do, however, crave this wintery soup from time to time.
I have limited the amount of pork that goes in to just some good quality lardons (from Ginger Pig of course) and used a beef rib for the stock. Since I've been working on the book I have realized how vague my recipes can be. It's because I see cooking as something that's adaptable and not an exact art, yet I can see that being vague often confuses perfectly simple matters, therefore it's something I've been working on and I hope my recipes now reflect this.

Recipe

2 litres water
500g sauerkraut
1 beef rib
150g lardons
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 carrot
1 parsnip
1 onion, peeled and charred over stove
1 celery stick with leaves
2 bay leaves
5 allspice berries
5 whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin
White and black pepper

Cook the rib with the carrot, parsnip, celery and onion with the bay leaves, allspice and peppercorns in the water for at least 1 hour, preferably 1.5 hours.

Remove the vegetables and beef, add the potatoes and sauerkraut. Add the cumin. Cook for a further 30min.

Meanwhile, fry the lardons on a frying pan until slightly crispy. Add these to the soup for the final 10min.

Season with black and white pepper. The soup doesn't need salt as the sauerkraut is already salty.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Matcha and marshmallow cake: an alternative Christmas cake

Otherwise known as the "Waiting Cake". I am more than 1 week overdue now and even though I know my baby will make an appearance soon I am feeling under pressure to start already. I like my hospital (Whittington) and all the staff I've met are lovely, yet I can't help noticing that everyone is very keen to get this baby out as soon as possible. Why? Surely, the baby should come when it's ready and not when everyone else is ready. Sometimes, it feels like our culture/society has got it's priorities wrong. I watched "Birth Story" recently and it's made me feel very hippy about the whole process (or perhaps it's just reinforced my natural hippiness). I've managed to put off my sweep until Monday, so that gives our little girl the weekend to get going. In the meantime, I am trying to relax so that I'm not hindering her with anxiety or fear. Breathe, meditate, eat. Of course, this is the problem - when you feel rushed, you aren't naturally relaxed. There is something inherently relaxing about baking though, especially when you go freestyle. This cake turned out quite Christmassy with it's soft green sponge and snowy white logs. It would work very well in cupcake form too.


Recipe

100g butter
50g coconut oil
150g plain flour
150g icing sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 heaped tablespoon matcha powder
1 tablespoon plain yoghurt/ soured cream
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Icing

100g mascapone
50g icing sugar
1 teapsoon matcha powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
Marshmallows to decorate

I used my favourite method of baking, which is to melt the butter and coconut oil first in a pan, then combine it with the sugar and then slowly to soft the flour in while mixing all the time. About half way through adding the flour, crack the eggs in and carry on with the rest of the flour and cream of tartar. Finally, stir in the match powder, vanilla and yoghurt. I put in some marshmallows at this point too, but they just melted into the cake rather than create chewy bits, so I don't think there's much point in doing that. Bake in a small loaf tin that's been greased with coconut oil or butter. You can of course replace the coconut oil with more butter if you don't have any - I like to make my cakes a little bit healthier by using some coconut oil. Of course, matcha is crazy good for you too. It takes 30min on 180 degrees C. Allow it to cool before icing and decorating.