Monday, 6 July 2009

Homeschooling Bean and Polenta Vegetarian Sausages (Egg free, Dairy free, Gluten free)

Every now and then I think that I might quite enjoy home schooling my children. I fancy that I would adhere to a wide-ranging, liberal curriculum that would take the form of light seminars designed to equip my children for life. The emphasis would be on self-discovery, tolerance and giving Mummy plenty of time to herself.

Last Summer I decided to do a home schooling dry run. First up was a trip to the bakery (‘Life Skills; Buying Provisions‘ and ‘Language Acquisition Module 1; French‘). In the true spirit of home schooling, bucking trends and fostering autonomy, I decided to let the three elder children go in on their own (‘Cutting the Cord; Never Too Young For Independence’). When they reappeared with the baguettes, my eldest was smiling broadly,
‘Look Mum! With the change I’ve got exactly the right money to buy four lollipops at 30 centimes each, that’s a total of 1 euro 20 cents, can I go and get them?’

I beamed. Here was home schooling in action, times tables being used in a real life application. It had meaning and relevance, it was how education should be. I dispatched her to buy the lollipops forthwith. The lesson on ‘Tooth decay; You Can Never Brush Too Much’ would come later.

Next up was a trip to the wood (‘Physical Education Tom Sawyer Style’). It was hot and I’d forgotten all the water bottles and the pram for the 2 year old (‘Humans and Fallibility; What That Means to Me’). Still, we got off to a flying start as all four children watched moorhens (’Nature in Action; Moorhens’), examined animal footprints (’Nature in Action 2; Animal Footprint Detection’) and played Pooh Sticks (‘Random Forces of Nature; Currents and Swirls’).

But the rot set in on the return journey. We were hot and tired, the two year old was demanding the pram, I had lost all enthusiasm for walking four children in the woods, and the thought of home schooling and doing this day in and day out seemed ridiculous. I was very glad to get them all home and park them in front of the telly. (ICT; Why Television is Invaluable‘).

A bit of lunch revived me (‘Medicinal Benefits of Red Wine at Lunchtime; One Woman’s Theory’) and we decided to play Snakes and Ladders (‘Socialisation; An Introduction to Turn-Taking’). I thought I might work in some simple adding and subtracting with the die, and focus on ‘Learning to Win - and Lose - With Grace‘.

Yeah well, that idea didn’t fly. The two year-old drained the last reserves of my patience by taking everyone’s counters, the eldest sulked when she wasn’t winning, and the remaining two bickered incessantly. In the end it was home schooling Mum who threw her toys out of the pram and refused to play (Humans and Fallibility 2; Puerile Behaviour in The Adult’). Within minutes the telly was back on, I was in front of the computer, and we were all enjoying home schooling a lot more. (Life Skills 2; How the Path of Least Resistance Can Work For You’).

I did rally later in the day, by letting the children go in the swimming pool (‘Physical Education 2; Gross Motor Skills’ and ‘Voice Therapy; Shrieking’). The sun shone down on us, the children were happy, and home schooling Mummy thought that if every day were like this she’d be tanned and tranquil. Alas the complacency was short-lived, one of the children assaulted another with a boogie board (Introduction to Crime; GBH and Beyond), and I ordered everyone out (Proverbs and Idioms; Pride Comes Before a Fall’).

I decided that home schooling was for mugs and set about making tea whilst fortifying myself with red wine (‘Stay at Home Mums and Red Wine; Sowing the Seeds of Alcoholism’). I figured that ignoring the children was the best policy and I engrossed myself in trying a sausage recipe that had been wandering around in my head (Pig In The Kitchen; The Inspirational Story of My Life, Vol I‘).

Astoundingly, my idea worked, and during my time in the kitchen, somehow the children had stopped bickering (’Radical Parenting Part 1; Ignoring Your Children Really Works'). We ate outside in the sun, and they ALL wanted more sausages. I was rather ecstatic at this point because it is so rare for all four children to like my trial recipes (Radical Parenting Part 2; Like it Or Lump It - The Food Approach That Really Works’).

Later that evening when my poppets were all in bed (Radical Parenting Part 3; It’s OK to Scream At Bedtime') I had a long, hard think about home schooling, could it be for me? I weighed up the pros and cons, and decided that I was quite simply not up to the job
(Life Skills 3; Know When To Stop’). Mainly because I love it when they are at school and I have space in my head for me, me and me (‘Confessions of a Selfish Woman, Part 1’), and also because they are lucky enough to thrive in mainstream schooling (‘Mainstream Schooling; It Worked For Me’).

So anyway, Big Respec’ to you fabulous Home Schoolers, and when you’re not doing Kumon Maths and visiting art galleries, maybe you’d like to try making some Vegetarian Home Schooling Sausages? In fact, whether you home school or not, do have a go at my sausages, they will thrill your heart.
(‘In the Footsteps of a Guru; How Pig In The Kitchen Changed My Life).
Homeschooling Bean and Polenta Sausages (Makes between 15 and 20 sausages and you can freeze them) The mix is best made a couple of hours before you need to use it.

I do so love Polenta. In fact I love any food that you can mould and shape, it’s like using edible play dough.

I’ve made these often since the home schooling débâcle, you can slip in any finely chopped or grated veg you fancy, so branch out and stray from my recipe (Experimental Cooking Part 1), but just don’t blame me if it all goes wrong (‘Bucking Modern Trends; Refusing to Accept a Litigious Culture’).
200g polenta
1 can red kidney beans
1 small courgette
1 small carrot
2 cloves of garlic
2 mushrooms
Olive oil to fry
1 medium potato/ 1 small sweet potato
2 tbsps yeast extract
1 tbsp mixed herbs / thyme/ whatever you like
50-100ml red wine (or a bit more, up to you)
Between 350 and 500ml boiling water
  • Finely chop the carrot and potato and put into a large frying pan or saucepan
  • Roughly chop the courgette, mushrooms, garlic and herbs and add to the pan
  • Douse with olive oil and set to fry over a medium heat
  • Whilst that’s doing its thing, drain the kidney beans and boil the water
  • After about 5 minutes, add the drained kidney beans, red wine, yeast extract and about half the water to the pan. Stir and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes
  • Turn off the heat, and use a hand blender to whiz it all up into a paste. Either put it all into a jug and do it safely, or tilt the saucepan/frying pan this way and that until the blender is submerged and you can blend without spattering hot stuff everywhere (Living on the Edge; Cooking Like a Nutter Part 1)
  • When the vegetables and the beans are blended, turn the heat down low and add the polenta. It will be way too thick and you’ll need to add some liquid pronto. Keep stirring with a wooden spoon until it thickens and the polenta starts coming away from the edge, about 10 minutes (maybe more, taste it, it shouldn‘t be gritty). Add more water as you see fit, but you’ll need quite a stiff mix for the sausages, so do it gradually
  • When the polenta mix is cooked, remove it from the heat. Be warned, during the next part you’ll probably scald your fingers (Living on the Edge; Cooking Like a Nutter (Part 2) and Loving It)
  • Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment
  • The best way to do the next part is to use a piping bag with a sausage sized nozzle. If you don’t have one, cut a sausage-sized corner off a plastic bag (don’t think of nasty chemicals in plastic reacting with your warm food)
  • Spread a big dollop of your polenta mix onto a cold plate, and brush the surface with olive oil. Then either using your hands (ouch!) or a spoon, scoop the mix into your plastic bag and ‘pipe’ your sausages onto the baking tray. You can also make the sausages by allowing your polenta to cool some more and rolling the mix in your hands to make sausage shapes, that’s the really fun way, but you have to work quickly so that your mix doesn’t set before you’ve used it all up
  • If the mix is a bit warm, the sausages might ‘sag’ a little and not be perfect and cylindrical. Don’t worry too much, as they cool down the mix sets and you can re-shape them a bit
  • When you have used up all the mix, leave your sausages to cool completely. Although at a pinch you can cook them straight away, it has been done before
  • If you want to freeze them, you can do so at this stage, just layer them with baking parchment
  • Cover the base of a frying pan with olive oil and heat it. When it is hot, carefully transfer your sausages to the pan and let them sizzle. They can be a bit fragile and temperamental, so it is best to leave them to fry and go brown rather than keep turning them. When one ‘side’ is done, roll them over and do the other side until they are crispy and brown
  • Remove from the pan and place onto a plate covered with kitchen towel (to drain off excess oil)
  • And there you have it! Sausages! That’s marvellous isn’t it? And all because of home schooling. Sort of.

© Pig in the Kitchen 2009