Thursday 26th March
I wake up with a cold. It was the stress of yesterday’s drama club performance that’s done it. The house is freezing and the driving rain outside is not making it any easier to get up.
I put my dressing gown on and go downstairs to put on the heating. The cat races alongside me, determined to trip me up. He gets to the bottom, then meows violently as I try to get past.
I’ve really had enough of him. He brings nothing to the table, as far as this family is concerned, apart from constant pestering for food. I decide to actually do as the vet says and weigh his food out for the day.
I’m just pouring biscuits onto the scales when Daisy arrives in the kitchen. I congratulate her on her good acting the day before. She kindly returns the favour by suggesting that the speech I made to parents at the start of the performance was ‘boring and went on a bit.’ Maybe I could just say nothing and let them get on with the acting, she volunteers.
Brilliant. A cold plus ‘constructive’ criticism; what a way to start the day. I might just go back to bed now.
We drive down to school because I can’t face getting soaked. I break it to the kids that we might not be going for our post-swim tea at Morrisons tonight. Tom is going away for a few days and I think it would be nice to eat together.
Daisy begins to sob loudly. I’m not sure if it’s Morrisons or Tom’s departure she’s upset about.
“I don’t want daddy to leave!” she wails, “we need to do him a special last supper!” The Easter theme is permeating all areas of our life at the moment.
Daisy wants to choose what we have for dinner. I agree, but get in quickly that it’ll need to be vegetarian. Through her tears she suggests tomato soup. Not the first ‘last supper’ that would spring to my mind, plus I’m not a massive fan of tomato soup; it leaves a burning sensation at the back of my throat, or maybe that’s just the Heinz type?
As it is, I get my own way and make vegetarian shepherd’s pie for the first time. I have great memories of this dish; a classic of my sister’s.
The last time I ate it was in the scorching August heat of Spain. She and I sat outside in the shade, long after everyone else had left the table, chatting and eating spoonfuls straight from the dish, until we were so full we had to lie down on a blanket for a siesta.
This version has many changeable ingredients (lentils for chickpeas etc); but two things that give it real flavour are the red wine and the sun-dried tomatoes. They came in a jar, cheap as chips, from Aldi.
- onion, 1
- garlic, 3 cloves
- celery, two sticks
- leek, 1
- vegetable oil, 2 tbsp
- carrots, 2, peeled
- swede, 100g, peeled
- green lentils, 2 x 400g tins
- coriander seeds, 1 tbsp
- wine & stock, 500ml (I used 150ml wine, 350ml tomato & herb stock)
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- sun-dried tomatoes, 10
- flat leaf parsley, a handful
- 1kg potatoes (eg: Maris Piper)
- half a swede
- butter / Pure spread.
- grated mature Cheddar
- salt and pepper
Peel the potatoes and quarter them. Put them in a steamer. Peel the swede and cut into similar size pieces. Put into a pan of boiling water. Place the steamer on top and cover. Cook the swede and potatoes for approximately 20 minutes until tender. The swede may take longer, hence not cooking together.
Once cooked, drain the swede and mash it with the potatoes and a couple of tbsps of butter.
Meanwhile, thinly slice the onion, garlic, leek and celery (or get the food processor to do it).
Fry in the oil over a medium heat using your largest saucepan.
Cut the carrots and swede into small cubes. Add to the saucepan.
Crush the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar and add to the pan.
Cook everything through for a good ten minutes.
Roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Add these and 2 tbsp of the oil from the jar. Cook for a few minutes. Add the lentils.
Sprinkle in two tbsps of flour. Stir so it absorbs the juices. Gradually add the wine, stirring throughout . Add the stock as well, slowly.
Allow to simmer for ten minutes; the sauce should thicken.
Preheat the oven at gas 6 / 200 degrees.
Check the carrot and swede cubes are cooked through, then roughly chop the parsley and stir through. Pour into a large oven dish.
Place the mash over the top and add grated cheese.
Place in the oven for approximately twenty minutes until the topping is golden and crispy.