Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Aubergine, Mushroom & Artichoke Bake (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

When it comes to having children, I’ve run a pretty lonely race. During their late twenties, my close friends were carving out careers, buying flats and going out on the lash.

Meanwhile, as they were out partying, I was discovering that if you’ll just put in the nine months of pregnancy, the NHS will let you get high for free. It’s a great big acid-esque roller coaster, but alas for every high there is a low. The hangover comes in the shape of sleep deprivation for at least the next two years and a small crying baby whose needs you may not feel capable of meeting.

When I had my first child, my lovely friends rejoiced. They sent cards and gifts and smiled the smile of those who can sleep until midday, read the papers when they want, go out for dinner on a whim and not have to touch anyone else’s poo.

When baby number two came along, all the lovely friends beamed all over again. They came bearing gifts, eyed the state of my house with alarm and marvelled at just how often a baby needs to breastfeed. Then they tripped out the door to have wall to wall sex, glug champagne in some trendy wine bar all the while wearing tops that exposed their taut, toned stomachs. Well, that's what they did in my imagination anyway.

With baby number three so close to number two, my friends were surreptitiously counting the age gap on their fingers, and their smiles had sagged into horrified O’s of alarm. I received worried phone calls and tender emails, are you coping? Are you ok? Can I help with anything?Their calls, emails and concern helped me through those hazy days of having three tiny children.

They thought they were safe for a while, then along came number four. I well remember the disbelief in my brother’s voice as I interrupted his bank holiday with the news that I was pregnant. Again. There was a pause, ‘When are you going to stop?’

So – now that I’ve stopped and I get more sleep – I was very happy to learn that two of my lovely friends are pregnant. Alas, one is half a world away and I’ll have to see her baby over the internet, but the other is very close to home. It’s still very early days, so I’m not allowed to get over excited, but I was looking forward to seeing her for dinner last week and giggling over her future.

I gathered all the ingredients into the house for our dinner, and even permitted myself to buy a little gift for the baby; it’s so easy to be thrilled about someone else going through labour and sleepless nights. I resisted buying wine and chose a lovely healthful juice for us both.

The afternoon was the usual blur of scurrying around whilst my toddler slept, mulling over our menu, chopping ingredients, getting the snack for the school run, then picking up the hungry children. After the three-hour, brutal home straight that culminates in all children in bed and a quiet house, I popped our feast into the oven and turned my thoughts to my soon-to-be-arriving, up-the-duff mate.

You know, one should always check one’s mobile on the day of a dinner. As I did some last minute tidying I picked up my phone.

5 messages.

The first was from my friend,

‘Still on for tonight?’ – smile, text back, ‘yes!’.

The second from my husband, ‘will be late home tonight’ - well that's hardly front page news.

Messages 3 and 4 were in fact missed calls, and message number 5 read something like this;

‘I’m really sorry, just so tired, can’t face dinner tonight, need to go home and sleep’.

Well, if you’re going to use pregnancy as an excuse to duck out of dinner, I’m probably a good person to text. How many times in early pregnancy have I sat through meals, nausea playing around my lips, fatigue threatening to push me off my chair?

With a deep sigh and a long lonely evening with just me and the washing stretching ahead (really, don’t feel bad), I replied,

Not to worry, no problem. It’s the progesterone making you sleepy; it won’t last long. Talk soon x ‘

Then I sat down to my feast all by myself. I even drank healthful juice instead of wine. It’s official, I am indeed a paragon. And thank the contraceptive Gods that I’m not up the stick!

Family Way Aubergine, Mushroom & Artichoke Bake (serves 2)

I'm sure it's really trashy to use tinned artichoke hearts, but I really love them! Also - culinary half wit - I don't know how to cook fresh artichokes. Oh the shame, why do I pretend I can cook? Do feel free to enlighten me.

6 cloves of garlic
5 great big mushrooms
1 medium aubergine
2 tins artichoke hearts
3 tbsp olive oil
salt, black pepper, chilli flakes, dried mixed herbs or a fresh herb of your choice
1 tbsp gluten free yeast extract
500g passatta

For the topping:
150g quinoa
100g sunflower seeds
100g pumpkin seeds
Salt, pepper, herbs and dried chilli flakes

  • Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  • Dice the aubergine
  • Cut the mushrooms into thick slices, then each slice in half
  • Finely chop the garlic
  • Place all of the above into a large ovenproof dish
  • Open the tins of artichokes and drain away the juice (i'm wincing as I write that, but my shame is not as great as my fetish) . Add to the dish and mix everything together with your hands
  • Put the 3 tbsps of olive oil into a bowl. Grate in lots of black pepper, go easy on the salt (heart disease, raised blood pressure, but tastes so good), add a big dose of chilli flakes (if you wish) and a good scoop of dried / fresh herbs. Stir with a spoon, then pour the seasoned olive oil over the vegetables
  • Mix it all together with your hands until the veg is coated in oil. You may need an extra glug of oil if it seems a bit dry
  • Put the tbsp of yeast extract into a large bowl. Pour in about 3 tbsps of passatta and mix to a paste. Add the rest of the passatta and mix it all around. Pour the passatta over the vegetables and mix until everything is covered
  • Cover the dish with foil and place it in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes
  • Caress your swollen uterus, then move onto the next part.
  • Put the quinoa, seeds and seasoning into a blender and blitz until you have a crumb-like texture, this will be your topping. That was easy wasn't it?
  • When the veg has had 20 minutes, take out the dish, and stir everything. The mushrooms and aubergine should have added their juice to the passatta and all will be looking good
  • Replace the foil, reduce the oven to 180 degrees C and put the dish back in for about another 25-30 mins. You might want to check it after 20, you want the aubergines to be soft but not mushy
  • When the veg is cooked, remove the dish from the oven and remove the foil.
  • Turn on the oven grill
  • Scatter the quinoa and seed topping over the surface. If you wanted, you could scatter some whole sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds over the top, why didn't I think of that when I cooked it?!
  • It should only take a minute or two to brown the surface under the grill, do be vigilant and don't get distracted by checking your mobile or something
  • You could serve this with lentil rice, or just a green salad. Both are yummy
© Pig in the Kitchen 2007

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lady macleod said...

A funny and sweet tale. Oh I remember that first trimester! I have been at 27,000 feet on Everest and felt less tired!

What a good friend you are to inflict no guilt. I wish I'd had someone around with your (ah hum) extensive experience when I was preggers!

Reluctant Memsahib said...

Fabulous post. But if you started so early leaving friends first charmed, then agog then horrified that one kept popping babies out - you can hope that people will regard you in awe one day as you present a 16 year old as your own. My, they'll say, how young she looks (because they're too polite to enquire as to your age and will assume you were part of the well after-30 trend). That's the theory anyway ...

Potty Mummy said...

Great recipe PITK; I love augbergine and (f)artichoke (is that kind to a pregnant woman, I wonder?) so will definitely be trying it.

I must admit, I was in the 2nd wave myself, and can still remember being shocked by how much 1st trimester pregnancy takes it out of you. Why did nobody tell me? Oh right, they did. I just was too busy having a good time to listen - although I'm afraid that somewhere along the line I missed out on the taut belly and wall-to-wall sex you mentioned...

Suffolkmum said...

Loved this. You do wry humour so well. I was part of the second wave too, but so wish I'd done it earlier - can't quite remember the wall to wall sex, lie-ins and taut stomach now - I'm sure it happened, once ... great recipe too.

Elsie Button said...

i loved the 'it’s so easy to be thrilled about someone else going through labour and sleepless nights' line. it's so true.

you are pretty amazing though - four children close in age. i am terrified about having a second baby. One is bloody hard work! How do you do it? When you've been through the hard work, stress, teething sleepless nights once, how do you put yourself through it all again? i hope i get over this feeling, because i think i would like to have more. i admire people with more than one baby so so much.

Anonymous said...

Hello lovely friend

I am so sorry ! I didn't realise you had gone through all that trouble for me !! I got home that night, dragged myself into bed after forcing down some unpalatable vegetables and wondered how the hell you had coped being pregnant with 3 young children to look after. Well done you star. I won't let you down on Monday, I promise. Even if I am feeling really nauseous, I will be there !

Akelamalu said...

They were just jealous! ((wink))

Iota said...

Oh that tiredness... I remember reading in my pregnancy book "some women say that they experience a tiredness they have never felt before" which still simply didn't come anywhere near it. I had a very sympathetic GP who signed me off for weeks on end just so I could stay in bed and sleep. I loved her (but still felt rubbish and tired the whole time, even in bed).

You could have texted me "qck, cm over now, dnnr 4 2 redy due 2 un4seen circs, pls brng wine" and I'd have been there.

Alisa said...

Fresh artichokes can be steamed like most other vegetables. But to be honest, in recipes, stick with the cans! By the time you extract all those artichoke hearts and nibble on about 100 leaves, oh my. Yes, artichoke hearts in cans are well worth it in my opinion : )

New Mum in Town said...

lovely looking recipe, can't wait for our oven to work again - I too share your liking for easy access artichoke hearts and don't have a clue how to dismantle a real one. I'm also feeling slightly smug at being the other side of pregnancy and watching friends go through it themselves. A short-lived smugness though, until we start trying for no2.

rilly super said...

PITK darling, you mustn't worry about what your apparently free and glamorous friends are up to. You've got four children and I bet some of your chums haven't even had sex that many times you know, or had half the exotic drugs you've experienced...

Krista said...

That looks delicious. I just wish my kids were as enthusiastic about the quinoa as I am.

And, cooking those mysterious artichokes is quite simple...

Buy fresh. Cut off stem at about an inch from flower. Cut them in half and scrape/scoop out the spiky center (called the choke). Easy way to cook them is to place them open-side-down in a large skillet with some water and lemon juice and simmer on very low heat for about 40-45 minutes (making sure they don't dry up).

To eat, just peel off each leaf one at a time and scrape the "meat" of the inner part of the leaf with your teeth (my kids love this task). The closer you get to the center, the more there is to eat on each leaf and the more tender the leaves are. Then, the prize is in the center, where you get to eat the whole thing.

My guess is that a pressure cooker or steamer basket would work as well. And, I'm not sure how easy it is to scrape out the choke after cooking (in case you wanted to cook them whole), but you'll want to get that thing out of there, because it really isn't a pleasant texture (think cactus quill on your tongue).

Casdok said...

Lovely post!

Lucy said...

This sounds fabulous, though my uterus is not swollen but I can improvise there (and breathe a sigh of relief!)... great post :)

Brom said...

I enjoyed reading that "Not all from the heart, but from all those other bits as well" post. Honest, that's the word for it.

Frog in the Field said...

Pig, brilliant!
babies are fab, but you describe the household hell very accurately.
Top tucker too! Going to try this tomorrow

Marianne said...

What a very kind and patient friend you are. Although I really hate it when people cancel at the last minute, and I've gone to some trouble for them, I would probably have done the same. Must be the convent girl thing again.

Dianne said...

Can you invite me round for dinner and cook this please .... it looks gorgeous!


muddyboots said...

kids, well they do grow up & taller, but what would we do without them eh? had harry at home & he's still here!

elizabethm said...

Have missed your blogs for a few days but so glad I found my way back for this one. I was the first of my friends to have kids too and remember acutely the sense that we had to struggle to get each other's worlds - or more accurately that they had to struggle to get mine. Kids grown now and lovely.
sounds like you are a great friend.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I was smack bang in the middle. After the first wave and before the second. The first wave couldn't be bothered as they'd been there and done it. The second wave were mainly jealous that I'd managed to bag a husband and get myself impregnanted!

At that point I realised the NCT was our last hope! Aarghh - the memories.

Jess P. said...

Here's my artichoke steaming recipe:
Snip all the pointy ends off the artichoke so you don't stab yourself while eating the leaves later.
Put it in a glass pie plate with a little water (1/4 cup or so). Place pie plate (and artichoke) in microwave and cook for 3-5 minutes. If you can pull a leaf away from the artichoke easily, then it is done. I serve this with a dip made out of sour cream (now it's Tofrutti Better than Sour Cream) mixed with curry powder. Just nibble the soft part at the bottom of each leaf. Finally you'll get to the heart. Take off all the fuzziness and throw it away. Under that is the good part.

Mya said...

Hey Pig,
As usual, a delicious looking platter on offer chez toi. And healthful juice to accompany it? Are you sure???!

Mya x

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Lady M, thanks for visiting. I couldn't inflict guilt on this friend, she knows too much about me! Her revenge would be horrid.

RM, i am liking your theory. Once i've had some expensive highlights done to cover the emerging grey hairs, I think your plan could work!

Potty Mummy, you've got me worried, are artichokes bad for pregnant ladies?! Just be so thankful the pregnancy tiredness is OVER!

Suffolkmum, thank-you. I'm SURE you had a taut stomach and wall to wall sex, everyone did whilst I was pregnant and breastfeeding!

Elsie B, thank-you for kind comments. There is no easy way to keep having babies (hold the front page!), my trick is to have them close together, then you've never got to a 'calm' period and you've been getting up in the night for so long, it would be strange not to. I couldn't have older 'civilised' children and then go back to squawling, pooey nappies. Although maybe i would be less manic if i HAD have done that. And believe it or not, you do FORGET about all the bad bits!
Good luckx

Dear dear Anonymous. You are well and truly forgiven!

akelamalu, good point!

Iota, nxt time will txt. U r right 'bout tiredness. U hd fab Doc! thx 4 stopping by :-)

alisa, phew, glad i'm not the only one who does cans!

NMIT, thanks for coming over. Cans are the way forward, I do hope your oven is better. Alas, pregnancy smugness comes before the positive urine test!

rilly super, I fear i have misled you about my drug use. I've simply listened to other more daring friends describe their trips...

Krista, MWAH! (cyber kiss), thank-you for enlightening me. I saw some lovely looking 'chokes yesterday, I may give your method a whirl.

Casdok, merci!

Lucy, thanks for visiting, just stick a pillow up your shirt and remember the 'good old days' (hmm, there's a myth)

Brom, thank-you!

FITF, thank-you too! Yes, babies are fab, but increasingly I find them fab in someone else's uterus or over someone else's sick-covered shoulder. HOpe the recipe worked out.

Marianne, oh i'm not that nice really! You're right, I would find it hard to get truly pissed off, i would just end up feeling guilty for being so...definitely the catholic thing.

Dianne, you are very welcome for dinner, just not this saturday as i'm off to the rugby!

Muddyboots, Harry must love you a you just feed him your lovely ice cream? No WONDER he's still there!

elizabethm, I've not been to you either, forgive me! It is hard when friends don't have children, they start telling you long stories and look a bit bewildered because your attention span only lasts 2 minutes, or you have to suddenly whip your boobs out. But i'm looking forward to doting on their babies!

A@LF, ooh, that sounds hard, no-one really understood you! At least the NCT was there, although I always found those ladies rather intimidating...

JessP, thank you for your recipe! I'm feeling quite motivated to try some artichoke cooking, it sounds rather erotic, all that undressing and nibbling!!!!

MYA, hello love, yes, the healthful juice is true. But not to worry I made up for it in a blissfully sozzled way this weekend, what a match is coming up this saturday! Wish we could go together!!!!!!!!

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

NCT - Intimidating?? Really??! That's one word for it! Though I am still friends with a few of them, one in particular is now a great friend. We went on to have our second children 6 days apart. We joke they were a bet made after one too many gin and tonics! From memory it's actually what happened...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Hello Amanda, well just a little...a few of us ended up formaing a breakaway 'boozy lunch' group. We never got quite so drunk as to bet each other to have children! Respec'

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