A while ago we needed to talk about the curse of googling when growing a human. Now I think we might need to talk about the weeping.

Seriously.

I may be one small part English, but it seems I did not inherit a stiff upper lip. While I like to think of myself as generally a coper in the school of life, I am at one with the tears.

There were those nights driving home in my early twenties from disastrous dates, masochistically listening to ‘love song dedications’ and pulling the car over to have a good heaving sob. Back in my office dwelling days my work mates and I came to dub a phrase  for meetings that led to a TIT of  a day (i.e. tears in toilet).  And then there’s the fact that I emerged from sessions of both Armageddon and Pearl Harbour nursing migraines from over emoting  (in hindsight I think I can identify a dangerous trifecta in films featuring a young Ben Affleck, self sacrifice and a winsome heroine with dark brown hair).

But the weeping is something new. It’s something that’s only arrived in the last few weeks of the stowaway’s existence. It first showed itself in a happy fashion, as an echo after hysterically laughing at videos of goats yelling like humans. But now it’s morphed into a whole new dimension of pathetic expression- it’s a weak, mewling emotional key, that I had no idea was even part of my repertoire.

It’s like one morning I woke up to discover that someone took away my primary coloured emotional textas and forced me  to draw my feelings with weak snubs of dreary watercolour. Their texture is pappy- and the result? Both unimpressive and tedious.

We can ignore most of the details of  last Saturday’s catalyst. Suffice to say, it was more significant than a stubbed toe, but less ominous than a cancer diagnosis. Nobody’s dying or going to prison. It did however manage to be upsetting and unsettling. It was like having the wind knocked out of you, just when you thought you’d hit your stride.  Yet trailing soon after its discovery,  a tap was turned, and it was one which I just couldn’t turn off. There was no logic to be had. There was no reason in this hormonally induced pit. There were just free flowing, streams of salt water which would flood down my face. Pretty much all day. The best adjective for my state would be soggy.

The Hungry One, bless him, tried many ways to cajole me out of it. There was some attempted bribery with cake and coffee. There were kind forgiving words – in which I had to hastily remind him that saying nice things to a weeping person often will just makes it worse. And then there was an unfortunate two minutes in which he stepped into a precipice of raising that ‘getting this upset probably isn’t that good for the stowaway’.

I may not be an expert in anything pregnancy related, but I’m pretty sure there’s one thing nobody should ever say to an already dismayed mother-to-be; and that’s to point out that her distressed state might be harming her child. That’ll be an ice cream sundae of anguish, with an extra serving of guilt please.

I think it was at that point that I just let my chin fall to my chest and stay there for a while.

I’d love to be able to say it was the prospect of these sublime pies, made in honour of the source of hormonal upheaval advancing to the size of a sweet potato that cheered me up.

But really, like a strange King tide of feelings, the weeping just slowly ebbed away. In its wake I was calmer, a jot clearer and just a touch embarrassed (nb, there are also some solutions to the situation on the horizon- mostly courtesy of some tireless work from my amazing, amazing Dad).

So while we wait for a resolution to be completely confirmed, I’ve been distracting myself and embracing good things before any potential hormonal floods sweep through again (will they? will they?) Good things like knowing how to fix a front loader washing machine that stalls after a wayward tag gets caught in the drainage pump – saving the need to call a plumber. Like planning a do-over of our fifth wedding anniversary celebrations – after already ruining half of them with my glum puddles ( to mark the occasion The Hungry One gets to pick any two recipes from the book for supper. He’s anything, if not predictable. And so, tonight it’s schnitzels with Black Forrest strudel coming to the table).

And putting on a soundtrack that makes me (and hopefully the stowaway and its recently acquired ears) happy.

So, I present to you these Sweet Potato Red Onion and Feta pies.

There are a chorus of textures at play here; a sweet brittleness from a cream cheese pastry base, the squish of mashed roasted sweet potato and garlic- and above it a balance of small cubes of roast sweet potato, soft slivers of roasted red onion, pebbles of salty feta (pasteurised feta if you’re feeding it to those who are up the duff) and the bite of some toasted pine nuts.

You could always substitute frozen puff or shortcrust pastry – even roughly gathered filo would work, but there’s something meditative about making the pastry by hand that’s very soothing. Fold the edges of the pie up carefully, pleating one segment over the other until all of the contents are well protected. Brush it all with egg wash and bake. Meanwhile, put on some James Taylor and Ray Charles, singing about a very different kind of sweet potato pie – and for the sake of everyone around you- try and get a bloody grip.

Sweet Potato, Red Onion and Feta Pies

Makes 2 pies. Serve with some green salad.

Shopping/foraging

Cream cheese pastry (or substitute for 300 grams of shortcrust pastry)

1 1/4 cup plain flour
60 grams cold butter, cut into tiny cubes
50 grams cold cream cheese
pinch of baking powder
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp of iced water (or frozen vodka)

Pie fillings

1 medium sweet potato (400 grams), peeled and cut into chunks the size of playing dice
3 garlic cloves
1 red onion, peeled and cut into eighths
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp pine nuts
80 grams of feta (probably best to make sure it’s pasteurised if serving to pregnant ladies)
3 sprigs of thyme
1 egg, beaten for egg wash

Here’s how we roll

1) To make the pastry either whizz the cream cheese, butter, flour and baking powder in a food processor until it resembles small pebbles, or rub together with cold fingers in a bowl. Dribble in the vinegar and water/vodka (a vodka bottle from the freezer is excellent for pastry- as it chills harder than water and all the booze will bakes out in the oven). Blitz together until it just comes together into a ball, or knead gently. Turn out onto a floured bench and work briefly with the heel of your hand until you have a cohesive ball of pastry. Divide into two, flatten into discs and wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

2) Preheat the oven to 160C/320F.

3) Place the sweet potato pieces, garlic cloves and onion in a baking tray, trying not to crowd everything too much. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Bake for 40 minutes, until the sweet potato is soft and the garlic cloves easily slip out of their skins.

4) Turn the oven up to 190C/375 F.

5) Take 1/3 of the sweet potato and the garlic cloves (minus their skins) and place in a bowl.

6) Mash together until you have a smooth paste. This will be the ‘glue’ that will help fix the other fillings to your pastry base.

7) Line a baking tray with baking paper.

8) Roll your pastry out to two circles, about 3 mm thick. Place a side plate over the top and use it to trace a neat circle with your knife. Transfer onto the baking tray.

9) Spread half of the sweet potato mash into the centre of each circle of pastry- leaving a 3-4 cm  border all the way around. Arrange the remaining sweet potato pieces and onion over the top of the sweet potato mash. Sprinkle with thyme, crumbled feta and pine nuts.

10) Brush the border with egg wash and fold the sides up, bit by bit, pleating in one direction as you go. You can use egg wash to help seal the pleats. Repeat with the other pie.

11)  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is crisp on the bottom, the pine nuts have toasted and the feta has softened. Serve warm with a green salad.

Forty Weeks of Feasting

Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far.

Week 17 Red Pepper, Chicken, Onion and Date Tagine. Recipe here.

Week 16 Avocado Mint Salsa with Pea and Mozzarella Quesadillas. Recipe here.

Week 15 Orange, Polenta and Rosemary Cake. Recipe here.

Wk 14 Lemon Creme Fraiche and Parmesan Pasta. Recipe here

 

Wk 13 Clementine/Mandarin Curd. Recipe here.

Wk 12 Plum and tomato tartines. Recipe here

Wk 11 Sprout and mushroom gratin (in which we come out of the closet). Recipe here

Wk 10 Date tart. Recipe here

Wk 9 Roasted grapes with baby chickens. Recipe here.

Wk 8 Raspberries and elderflower spritz. Recipe here.

Wk 7 Blueberry pancakes. Recipe here

Wk 6 Lentil and ginger soup. Recipe here

Wk 5 Sesame Miso Crisps. Recipe here

Wk 4 Poppy seed scrolled loaf. Recipe here.