The winter blame game. With a beef, lentil and parsley pesto broth.

I am well aware that this is the second week in a row that I’ve written about illness. Generally I am not especially obsessed with the possibility of getting sick. Except that it’s now officially winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and as if a cosmic alarm went off, cue me coming down with a cold.

Actually, cue me and both of my children coming down with a cold. So not only do I feel like rubbish, I have to ignore my own ill health in favour of my children’s.

Anyway, this is not supposed to be a pity party. More an observation about illness, and the way people react to it. Particularly illness of the viral kind. Particularly my family.

Amongst certain members of my family, being sick comes with finger pointing and blame. They research, track and hunt down those responsible for their sickness. The seriousness of the crime of passing on a virus is reflected by the severity of the punishment. The ultimate scarlet letter – the virus is given the offender’s name.

It becomes “Jane’s Cold” or “Brian’s Stomach Bug” or “Hazel’s Strep Throat”.

Well after the original virus has gone, the offended party back to full health, the story of “Jane’s Cold” is retold again and again. With judgement attached.

“How could Jane have come to dinner/lunch/for a walk KNOWING that she was going to pass on HER cold?”

Because Jane is nothing if not an malicious, evil woman, who fully intended to share her disease with everyone she came into contact with.

Despite the fact that every visit to the supermarket puts you into contact with the germs from hundreds of hands that have touched their trolleys. Every trip to a shopping mall has you breathing the same air as thousands of others. Every trip on a plane, bus, ferry, in a taxi can leave you exposed. Your children come home from school crawling with God knows how many viruses, which you may or may not catch.

I’m quietly confident, that while Jane has a cold, there’s an even chance that you may not even have her exact cold. And even if you avoid Jane like the plague-carrying sickie she is, chances are you’ve just caught norovirus from the random who’s trolley you’ve just pinched in the supermarket carpark.

My advice? Wash your hands. Get a flu shot. Take vitamin C (although the science is a little sketchy here). Forget about avoiding people who might be sick and live your life. If you are unfortunate enough to get a cold, have some respect for others and keep it at home. Rest up. Drink tea. Get better. And thank God you’ve lived you life fully and that it isn’t Ebola.

And stay the hell away from Jane. That woman’s bad news.

BEEF AND PUY LENTIL BROTH, WITH PARSLEY PESTO

Last week I made lentils with Toulouse Sausage from L’Authentique, and had quite a few lentils left over. Cold weather and sore throats makes me want soothing, hearty, winter fare, and this beef broth ticks all those boxes, and was a great way to use up leftovers.

Make sure you use a casserole quality cut of beef here. Anything fancier will not have the flavour you need, and won’t respond as favourably to the slow cooking.

For the broth:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 kg gravy beef or other casserole quality beef, cut into chunks2017-06-03 08.38.20 v1.jpg
4 rashers bacon, sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, 2 sprig thyme, a few bits of parsley, tied together to make a bouquet garni
1 cup red wine
1 litre beef stock
500ml water
1 cup puy lentils
1/2 savoy cabbage, chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
salt/pepper to taste

For the parsley pesto:
1 cup walnuts
2 cups parsley leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Heat the oil in a heavy based soup pot.
  2. Add the beef and brown in batches until deep brown. Remove and set aside.
  3. Reheat the pan over a medium heat. Add the bacon, and cook until crisp and golden.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium/low and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are cooked.
  5. Add the bouquet garni, increase the heat to high and add the red wine. Allow to bubble up to cook off the alcohol.
  6. Return the beef to the pan and add the beef stock and water. Bring to the boil, reduce to simmer and cook, covered for 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, make the parsley pesto by putting parsley, walnuts, parmesan, garlic and salt in a food processor and process until reduced to a breadcrumb consistency. With the motor running add the lemon juice and olive oil and process until combined. It should be a liquid mix – add more oil if you feels it’s needed.
  8. Check the meat is very tender. If not, leave it for another 30 minutes or so.
  9. Add the lentils and savoy cabbage, stir and cook for another 30 minutes.
  10. Add red wine vinegar, return to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve drizzled with parsley pesto, alongside warmed crusty bread and lashings of butter.

 

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To the one I lost. With a roast kumara, carrot and miso soup.

I have two children. I may have already talked to you about them. One girl, one boy. We replaced ourselves perfectly.

I had always thought that two was the perfect number of children. One for each adult to look after. The family fits well in a car, with extra room for one friend. Perfect for a three bedroom house, or providing a convenient spare room in a four bedroom..

I was 32 when Rich and I married. Shortly after we moved from New Zealand to London to further our life experience, our careers, and to have children. We wanted to give our kids the opportunity to live in another country in their future lives, unemcumbered by the burden of visas.

I fell pregnant with Amelia when I was 34, and gave birth to her just after my 35th birthday. I was painfully aware of my age, had seen all the charts showing the increase in risk factors during pregnancy for women over 35. So we didn’t want to mess around getting pregnant again.

I never went back on contraception after having Amelia, and fell pregnant when she was 6 months old. I remember being on holiday in Crete not long after, being so happy and excited about this New being we were bringing into the world.

That one didn’t last. I miscarried at around the 8 week mark. I can hardly remember the details now, just that there was a lot of blood, then nothing. We were staying at a friend’s parents house, they were very English, and I had to pretend to be the perfect guest whilst going through the emotional agony of losing my second child. Watching the blood go down the toilet and wondering which part was my baby.

When we went back to London the visit to A&E confirmed what we already knew. I said to the doctor “well, there was clearly something wrong, so it’s for the best”. She said “I’m sorry, that’s not necessarily true. We don’t know why people miscarry”. She needed to work on her bedside manner.

4 months later, I fell pregnant with Oliver. My beautful son, who I have adored since the moment he arrived.

But I still mourn the one I lost. I’m crying while I’m writing this. I know the statistics for miscarriage. I know many friends and family members who have lost children of their own, often in far more harrowing circumstances than mine. It doesn’t stop me from missing, with all my heart, the one that I never got to meet. The one who has never hugged me, called me Mummy, who I didn’t see grow up into a beautiful little human.

I am thankful for the two we’ve had. My children are growing so fast and I love them more than life itself. I’m one of the lucky ones in that respect. There’s no guarantee that we would have tried for Oliver had our middle child survived. I can’t bear to think of that.

But I can’t help but think that two is not quite the perfect number of children. Perfect would be to have all three.

ROAST KUMARA, CARROT AND MISO SOUP

Serves 6

700g kumara, scrubbed and halved

700g carrots, peeled and ends cut off

1 large onion, skin still on, cut into quarters

Olive oil

Salt/pepper

2 litres chicken or vegetable stock

1/3 cup miso paste

1 tablespoon grated Ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

To serve:

6 rashers bacon cooked until very crisp, sour cream

  1. Preheat oven to 200C
  2. Place kumara, carrots and onion in a roasting dish. Drizzle with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour.
  3. Remove vegetables from oven and allow to cool until you’re able to handle. Scrap the flesh from the kumara skins into a large soup pot using a spoon. Cut the ends off the onions, remove the skins and add to the pot with the carrots. Discard the kumara and onion skins.
  4. Mix the miso paste into a smooth thin paste with a 1/3 cup stock. Add to the pot with remaining stock, and ginger.
  5. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Turn off heat. Add sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and extra pepper to taste.
  7. Using a blender, stick blender or food processor, blend the soup until very smooth, being careful not to burn yourself.
  8. Serve, garnished with bacon and sour cream if desired.