Thursday, 21 April 2016

Simple spinach soup

I always say that in food, as in life, simplicity is a virtue. Simple days, simple pleasures are the best. A baby's laugh, the sun coming out from behind a cloud, a flower in bloom, these are beautiful things we do not need to fight or struggle for, simply appreciate. A daily practise of gratitude (in whatever form) can make you more aware of wonderful, everyday pleasures. Something simple to eat does not mean grabbing a packet of crisps though. A simple soup takes little more effort and is infinitely warmer, more nurturing...
Whenever I roast a chicken I use the bones and leftovers to make a broth. I stick whatever I have lying around in there. This time it was an onion, a carrot and a chilli pepper. After about 3 hours of boiling these together with the chicken carcass and a sprinkle of Malden sea salt, I strained the liquid and distributed it among various vessels: some for immediate use, some for the fridge, some for the freezer. You could, of course, replace the chicken broth with a good quality chicken stock. To make this particular soup, I fried some garlic along with the spinach and (once cool) I blended it with the chicken broth. To thicken I added a tablespoon of rye flour and some ground flaxseeds. I brought this back to the boil, seasoned with salt and white pepper and served with spinach trottole and crumbled feta cheese for a healthy, filling and delicious dinner.

Ingredients 

500ml chicken broth (chicken carcass, onion, carrot, chilli pepper)
250g spinach
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon rye flour
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
50g cooked trottole pasta per serving 
50g feta per serving 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Baked apples with cinnamon and brown sugar

If you have some old apples slowly shrivelling away in a fruit bowl somewhere in your house, this is a great way to use them up.
We had these baked apples for breakfast with yoghurt, baobab powder and pomegranate seeds. Yasin said it was a "magical" breakfast. It was, literally. Like something the fairies would eat. Simply, cut the apples (we had 4 Braeburn apples) in large chunks, cover in a tablespoon of brown sugar and reason of cinnamon and bake at 150 degrees for about an hour.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Chickpea and sweet potato curry with an egg poached inside it

Habits are funny things. They aren't easy to form, but they aren't as difficult as they first appear either. Sometimes they are painstakingly hard to break and other times painstakingly easy, yet they are one of the most important things in life. A bad habit can be detrimental to our happiness just as a good habit can shape our life in the most wonderful way. I now can't seem to get into the habit of blogging twice weekly, something that used to come very easily to me. Giving up eating processed sugar every day after the indulgences of Christmas is another habit I am trying hard to break and seems almost impossible to fully achieve. Although I am still eating sugar on most days, it's getting less and less. As a result of breastfeeding my appetite is larger than normal (and it's usually pretty big already), so I am replacing processed sugar with more of other foods. I am focussing on foods that can be more beneficial to Delfi, such as vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts, eating often and filling up so that I don't have room left for evil sugar. As tends to be with new habits - each day is easier than the last and before you know it, what seemed impossible a few weeks ago becomes second nature. I learnt this from practising Kundalini yoga, which is all about habits, and just knowing this is enough to change your life. Nothing seems insurmountable anymore once you know. This curry is packed with all the good stuff.  Some people say the spicy food can give the baby colic, other people say chickpeas and spinach are culprits, but I ate this for 2 days and Delfi was fine. Sweet potatoes are a super effective and healthy way to thicken curry, just make sure that they cook until they become mushy.
Ingredients

200g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
200g spinach
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1inch of ginger, peeled and chopped finely
1 inch of turmeric, peeled and chopped finely
1 green chilli
1 tablespoon garam masala
3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
1 egg per person
Salt
Rice to serve

Using a pestle and mortar or a blender make a blend out of the onion, garlic, fresh ginger, turmeric, chilli, garam masala and the oil. Fry this in a large pan for about 5min, adding a tiny bit of oil after a couple of minutes so that the spices don't burn. Add the chickpeas and cover with about an inch of water. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 20min, then add the sweet potatoes. Simmer for a further 30min before adding the spinach and the chopped tomatoes. Cook for another 10min then season with plenty of salt. Crack the eggs into the middle of the curry and cover the pan. Cook on a very low heat for about 3minutes. Serve with rice.



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 nappies 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 listen 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 of not taking them for me.

8. Overdue baby does not always mean big baby. We were told at 34 weeks she was 5.6 lb 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.