There’s a clock that’s ticking above my head. It whispers and snickers a bit. It’s all knowing and isn’t afraid of indulging in a spot of schadenfreude. It may even tock with a slight German lilt. In fact I’m sure that’s what I heard the other morning at 4.18 am.

It’s reminding me that along with the glee of getting this far into growing a person – for all the smug, belly rubbing rotundity of sheltering something that’s now the dimensions of an eggplant inside, that each day is also moving us away from a place I like a lot.

With every night, pregnant with blearey eyed bathroom visits/ dead arms/pitching stomachs and crazy dreams it’s all getting  further from reach.

I’m preparing to say Auf Wiedersehen, like Von Trapp children lined up on a stair case. To sleep ins and sprinting to airports. To 38 course meals and 2 am trips to track down hot dogs. To being cavalier with both finances and physicality. In this new chapter we won’t choose where to spend our weekends based on where the sun is shining and the flights are easy. And our walls will probably be pocked with finger paintings, not maps and post it notes.

We have, in all honesty, had something of a ridiculous life for the past three years.

This time last year we were in Cyprus. We jumped at the chance to welcome four of their 320 days-per-year of sunshine and float in some clear blue waters  (The Hungry One also had to inspect a data centre there, but that’s not nearly as interesting – he’d admit that too).  It was before the Russians fled and the bail outs creaked.  I knew on this small Island that there was going to be halloumi. I knew Cyprus hosted the only divided capital city in the world. And then there was held the added allure of a trip coinciding with a holiday of some of our oldest friends.

The flights were blinkingly early, cheap and cramped. Over the course of the next four days we drove past sleepy sheep and frisky goats to find Aphrodite’s supposed birthplace, swam to a small island off the bay, went in search of the best fish taverna, devoured wads of cheese as squeaky as bathroom sponges and ate no fewer than four servings of moussaka.

Our friends had flown all the way from Australia in the back of a plane with their beautiful, blue eyed, olive skinned ten month old baby boy in tow. Over a series of meals we all kept him entertained with corners of pita bread and slippery segments of cucumber and pushed our glasses of pink wine into a creche in the centre of the table- out of the way of curious fists.

There they were on the other side of the world; so calm. So relaxed. So at ease with gadding about with a small person in tow. I was in awe (I still am).

They’re what I’m trying to remember while I’m panic-planning last ditch escapes in the next five weeks-  possibly Salzburg? How late is too late to go on a driving trip? The Black Forrest. How have we not made it to Baden Baden yet to eat authentic chocolate and cherry tortes?

While I’m cross checking spreadsheets- one with potential itineraries for a 11 day jaunt, the other with dates of midwives appointments I’m realising that maybe it doesn’t all have to end.

Maybe this could be just the start of some different kinds of adventures. But then there’s the voice inside. The one that has the same accent as the clock, that says ‘Nicht’. You, Tori. You with your love of precision and schedules, of automation and planning. How in the heck is that going to work?

And I know, to some degree, that it’s right.

Besides, there’s also a good chance that once the stowaway shows his face, the very prospect of packing yet another bag will be enough to make me scream.

So until then, while the clock ticks and me and my eggplant are snugly ensconced on the couch, chewing through yet another episode of Downton Abby there’s memories of Cyprus to keep us warm. And for additional comfort, there’s always moussaka.

It should be noted that bubbling pots of molten bechamel, lamb mince and oil sodden stratas of eggplant are not necessarily kindred spirits for a beach holiday. Something I should have kept in mind this time last year. But they are insanely delicious.

My favourite way to recreate the spirit at home (and in a slightly lighter fashion) is to use a panini press, or a good non-stick fry pan to grill the slices of eggplant, rather than breading and frying them. I prefer lamb mince, seasoned with tomato, a quill of cinnamon, oregano and a wee pinch of chilli- though you could substitute beef if that’s what you have in the fridge. The cap of  bechamel gains a cloud-like puff thanks to the buoyancy of an egg beaten in at the end. And the twist in this version? Fresh mint. All it takes is a few leaves bobbing about on top  to make you cock your head to the side and start to think differently.

Even if it’s just the logistics of travelling with a suitcase, a spatula- and a son.

Moussaka

Serves 4 (6 with a big green salad and some bread)

Shopping/foraging

3 medium eggplants/aubergines (or 2 large)
2 tbsp olive oil

Mince filling
500 grams of lamb mince
3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
300 ml tomato passata
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon quill
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 pinch dried chilli flakes (optional)

White Sauce
50 grams butter
50 grams flour (nb, if making this as a gluten free alternative to lasagne, be sure to substitute gluten free flour)
400 ml warm milk
1 egg, beaten
Salt to taste

Additional

30 grams pecorino or parmesan, shaved
1 small bunch of fresh mint.

Here’s how we roll

1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F.

2) Lop the top off the eggplants. Slice lengthways into slices 1.5 cm thick and drizzle with olive oil.

3) Use either a flat grill or a panini press to ‘toast’ the eggplant slices, until the outside are golden brown and the insides are soft.

4) Meanwhile, place a fry pan over medium heat and brown the mince. If there is an excess of fat that emerges from your mince once it has browned, now is the time to drain it off.

5) Add the garlic, tomato passata, bay leaf, cinnamon quill, oregano and chilli to the mince  and leave to simmer on a medium- low heat for 20-40  minutes.

6) In a separate saucepan make the white sauce. Melt the butter and sift in the flour. Stir to create a roux, cooking over a medium heat until it is a light fawn colour.

7) Pour in the warm milk and stir until it has thickened and you have a nice, lump free white sauce/bechamel. Remove from the heat and stir through the beaten egg.

8) Grease a baking dish, the size of an A4 sheet of paper. Lay one third of the grilled eggplant across the base, top to tail to help fill all the corners.

9 ) Top with half the meat and tomato sauce (minus the cinnamon quill- that you can discard). Layer  another third of the eggplant slices then top that with the remaining  meat and tomato sauce.

10) Use the remaining third of the eggplant slices to form a final a layer on the top. Scatter  that with mint leaves.

11) Pour over the white sauce and top with the parmesan/pecorino.

12) Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling.

13) Leave to stand for 10 -15 minutes before serving. It will be very hot. Serve with a green salad on the side.

 

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 23 Candied Grapefruit Peel and Dark Chocolate Cookies. Recipe here

Week 22 Roast Carrot and Hummus Soup. Recipe here.

Week 21. Spiced Pomegranate Meatballs with Mint and White Beans. Recipe here.

Week 20 Banana Berry Flax Muffins. Recipe here.

Week 19 Mango Pudding. Recipe here

 

Week 18 Sweet Potato, Red Onion and Feta Pie. Recipe here

 

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.