Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Extra special days

Now I am on maternity leave, the concept of weekends and public holidays shouldn't really make a difference to me as every day is a holiday, pre-baby. But days morph into extra special days when I have company. So my special week began on Wednesday night in the company of my mother-in-law, sister-in-law and husband for dinner, when I cooked them a hearty chorizo stew with spinach, garlic, smoked paprika, whole cumin and chickpeas and served it with hot crusty Turkish flat bread.

Thursday consisted of a gentle stroll around Finsbury Park (above) in the glorious sunshine with my mother-in-law, watching babies, identifying trees and taking lots of breathers on park benches. We then lunched at Ottolenghi in Islington, where I ate pork and beef meatloaf with roast beetroot salad and roasted peppers, and my mother-in-law ate salmon with broad beans and roasted aubergines. We finished our meals off with fluffy, sticky meringues. I love lunching here - the ambience is so relaxed and minimalist and friendly. The place is renowned for its salads and desserts and was founded by a Palestinian and an Israeli Jew. They've recently published a cookbook, which I promptly bought a signed copy of.

My mother-in-law then left and later, back at home, I cooked a dinner of orecchiette pasta with a sauce of pancetta, freshly marinated artichokes, garlic, fresh tomatoes, green olives and freshly grated parmesan (above) for M and we followed it with M&S lemon zest cheesecakes in front of the disappointingly anti-climactic season 1 finale of Dirty Sexy Money. Now that I am going out less, I am getting the time to watch more TV and DVDs, which (at the moment) is a real treat.

M had Friday off. While he ran errands, bought provisions and checked out a few art exhibitions in town, I spent most of the morning having my hair done at the Aveda Institute on High Holborn. Such pampering will be my last chance before Little Planet is born so I wanted to make the best of it. However, in the middle of my blissful treatments I received the texts that two of the women from my antenatal group whose babies were due end of May had already given birth. The news brought my 3rd June due date hurtling towards me and I was consumed with a tense mixture of excitement and fear: I really want to meet Little Planet face to face but am obviously afraid of both the birth and how I will look after her; I am also a little sad that what feels like a holiday – a self-indulgent period of me-me-me time – is coming to an end.

M met me afterwards and we lunched at our favourite Korean restaurant Bi Won, where I had my favourite bi bim bab bowl - a stew of vegetables, beef and chilli paste on a bed of rice and a raw egg broken on top, and served sizzling away in an earthenware bowl (above). This is comfort eating of the highest order and for me ranks alongside buttery mashed potatoes, thick, salty, hand-cut chips, and Alphonso mangoes in the comfort eating stakes. M slurped a kimchi and tofu soup. Then we strolled through a vibrant Russell Square in full, pink bloom (below).

Back home, M prepared the dough for pizza and did laundry (my hero), and then took a nap while I chilled under a blazing sun in the garden with my new favourite magazines - Parenting, Parents, Real Simple, Dwell and Junior. For dinner we ate the pizzas topped with our favourite tomato, mozzarella and artichoke toppings (with additions of black olives and anchovies for M) and then ended the night watching the gripping and complex Heroes, season 1, on DVD.

The Bank Holiday weekend was spent at home as I am too weary and heavy to do much out and about now as I enter my 39th week of pregnancy. M went for a run around the park and then to the gym. When he returned he planted coriander, parsley, thyme, sage and basil in pots in the garden (above). In the evening he cooked a mouth-watering Vietnamese meal of beef stewed with tomato, star anise and lemongrass from Andrea Nguyen's Into The Vietnamese Kitchen, which he served with stir-fried water spinach from a local Vietnamese supermarket that has recently opened and brown rice (below); and on a rainy Sunday he roasted lamb with rosemary (from our garden) and garlic for dinner and served it with asparagus and mashed chickpeas. We had Ben & Jerry's phish ice cream for dessert - my first time - yum!

We whiled away the rest of the rainy Bank Holiday chilling in the kitchen reading the weekend papers (below), reading novels (I've started Carol Shields' Duet - wonderfully descriptive evocation of the apparently mundane lives of two sisters - one a biographer, the other a poet), baking muffins filled with lemon zest and sultanas (recipe below), blogging, surfing the net, preparing and then taking delivery of our Ocado order (life-saving at this stage in my pregnancy when I can carry hardly anything), checking and re-checking my hospital bag and baby's things, checking we knew how the infant car seat works, and reading up as much as I can about water births as I am booked in to have one if all progresses well. And Bank Holiday Monday finished with M cooking Singapore prawns for dinner, made with fenugreek, fennel and tamarind (below). Hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend (at least those of you in the UK and US!).


childwoman said...

I absolutely love the pics. They are soo so lovely!!!! and I am hungry again!! :P

mumbaigirl said...

Wow, you do cook. I simply don't have the energy at the end of the day, so reallya dmire you guys. And that park in Russell Square-we may have passed each other-its a regular haunt!

SilentOne said...

Your blog makes me hungry !!!!!! keep coming back to look at these wonderful pictures.. even though I dont eat meat, these pictures tempt me to start eating :)

Planethalder said...

Both M and I come from families of cooks. We both had full-time, busy working parents (fathers and mothers) and yet homecooked meals each night were the norm.

The influence has lasted into adulthood. M's been cooking since he was 12 and I started cooking in earnest when I left home for university and had to cook my own meals as I was a strict vegetarian at the time.

M in particular finds cooking energising. Even though we both work long hours (M as a lawyer, me in advertising prior to maternity leave) and return home from work after 8 - M in particular closer to 9 - we end up eating rather late because we prefer to cook from scratch. It's a way of unwinding (more than TV).

It really does help that, as cooking and eating are such hobbies of ours, that we plan the week's meals every Sunday evening and have all the ingredients to hand.

Interestingly, virtually all the weeknight meals we cook don't actually take that long to prepare and cook.

Having said all that, perhaps we are just weird :-)

Sue said...

Hullo. Delurking to say that the me-me-me time does happen post-delivery. Just in unexpected, brief bursts.

Breastfeeding may take some getting used to, but there will come an hour when it'll be just you and the baby in your own private planet and then you have all your baby's attention and that'll be all the me-time you will ever want. Sorry to sound like an internet forward, but this does happen. :)

Planethalder said...

Sue, thank you for delurking. What a wonderful comment. Having me time with the baby is a wonderful, wonderful way of looking at it. I am so excited! Of course, in the same way that my husband enhances me my baby will enhance me, myself and I in immeasurable ways. Thank you for putting it in perspective.

日月神教-向左使 said...