There are things that are strangely comforting when you’re knocked up.

It becomes comforting to be kicked up under a rib. Particularly after your now-head-of-cauliflower-sized stowaway goes silent on you for a 12 hour stretch. That happened late last week. Like a stealth submarine, he just blipped below transmission level. After a few hours I started to nurse a nugget of concern. After 12 hours I was poking pretty hard trying to wake him up. And then a casually outstretched toe gave a jiggle up near my rib- a small apology of sorts. It seems someone was just having an extended nap.

I wouldn’t mind an extended nap.

Things have been a little…hectic. They’ve been hectic because this just happened.

Somehow in the midst of everything we packed up and snuck out of London.  We took a ride in a big jet plane. We’ve come back to Sydney for a spell. And it’s here, in the lemon yellow light of Australia that we’re going to usher the stowaway into the world.

Here are a few other comforting things; it’s good at this stage of pregnancy to be able to source a medical certificate to give you permission to fly. Not the easiest thing to do when dealing with the NHS, who, despite all of their valour, won’t think twice about cancelling an appointment made 1 month prior the morning before you leave, with no replacement offered. That was a fun day. But when a stern faced Cathay Pacific check in clerk eyeballs your bump and demands to see a signed piece of paper before issuing a boarding pass- it’s a sweet source of relief to know you eventually got one and it’s nestled next to your travel insurance paperwork in a blue striped travel wallet.

It’s comforting to get off a plane at the other end of a journey. Less so to pick up a honking cold en route (my kingdom for pseudoephadrine cold and flu drugs).

And it’s particularly comforting to have friends and family who haven’t seen you knocked up until now say  lovely things like ‘gosh- you don’t even look pregnant from behind!’. There’s not a belly-rific woman in the world who doesn’t enjoy the sound of those words.

Because let’s be a bit honest for a moment- we all knew there was a risk. With the genetic blessing of once- marshmallow-cheeks and propensity in this journey for cakes and baked pastas, there was every chance that I was going to truck it out here. Bless him, The Hungry One even had the gumption to put it into words ‘I thought you might get really enormous. But you haven’t. I mean, there’s a baby, but I thought….’

At which point Fat Albert did a dance across his subconscious. (nb, this was all said with great affection and love).

I probably have dishes like this one; made in honour of the stowaway’s graduation to brassica dimensions to thank for some of that relative restraint.

It’s a mind meld of two of my most beloved childhood dishes; macaroni cheese and cauliflower cheese. Except here’s the winning kicker of it all- there’s not much fat. There’s no butter. There’s not even any milk in this version. There are plenty of versions of mac and cheese out there that could sink a plane with their saturated ballast.

Here the gilding, lily-white sauce blanketing all of the noodles is made from nothing more than gently steamed cauliflower that’s blended into a luxurious cream.

Sure, there’s a bit of cheese, for flavour and stick- but considering the relatively scant amount (150 grams in total), and the fact that this can probably serve 6 with some bread and a big bitter green salad on the side, I think we’re way ahead of the curve.

To add a bit of adult exoticism, I like to drizzle it with some truffle oil just before serving. It’s musty and funky and plays up the slightly kinky twang of the Gruyere. Though if you’re not breathing into a bag over the price of strollers in Sydney, feel free to splash out with real shaved truffle.

I’m currently adding  this baked dish to a long list of things that are soothing. It joins in with being made a cup of tea by my Mum, hearing broad Australian accents in pharmacies and knowing that I’ve hit the downward slope of a journey.

If little roasted kernels of bronzed cauliflower playing hide and seek among soft noodles, a deceptively light-but-rich-cream and a blanket of cheese aren’t your thing, then I probably lost you a few paragraphs ago. But if you’re anything like me, life doesn’t get much better  than sitting down with long lost friends and family to a tubby bowl of this- and then feeling 30 minutes later an emphatic thump of thank you-for-the-carbs from a wee one who’s  hitching a ride inside you.

This is the stuff the good life is stitched from (as well as the knowledge that it’s going to be a while before you have to fold yourself into the confines of an aeroplane seat again).

 Truffled Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Serves 4-6 with a big salad of bitter leaves

Equipment

1 large stock pot. 1 saucepan/Dutch oven. Optional, 1 large casserole dish. Microplane/cheese grater.

Shopping/foraging

1 medium cauliflower, leaves removed, cut into small florets and stem sliced into coins (around 1 kg)
300 grams of macaroni, or other pasta shape
100 grams of Gruyere/tasty cheese- grated.
30 grams of parmesan, grated
Salt, pepper and truffle oil to taste.

Here’s how we roll

1) Add half of the cauliflower into a pot with 1/2  a cup of water. Add a lid and stew over a medium heat for 15 minutes, lifting occasionally to stir and ensure that nothing is catching. Stew until the cauliflower is tender.

2) Add two cups of water, a good pinch of salt and simmer for ten minutes more with the lid off, stirring occasionally.

3) Use a stick blender or a food processor to blend the cauliflower and water until you have a smooth cream.

4) Put some salted water to cook the macaroni on to boil. When it is at a rolling boil add the macaroni and cook for 4 minutes. Then add the remaining florets of cauliflower and cook for another three minutes or so- until the pasta is cooked to just al dente.

5) Drain the pasta and the cauliflower florets and set aside.

6) Preheat the oven to 200C/392 F.

7) In a greased baking dish/lasagne dish or Dutch oven combine the macaroni and cauliflower florets with the cauliflower puree. Add the grated Gruyere/Tasty cheese and stir to combine.

8) Dust the top with the grated parmesan.

9) Bake uncovered  for 15 minutes. If you prefer more of a crunchy crust, grill the top for five minutes additional.

10) Sprinkle with black pepper and drizzle with truffle oil before serving alongside a big salad of bitter leaves.

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 30: Broccoli, Lemon and Pine Nut Loaf Cake. Recipe here.

Week 29: Red Cabbage, Fennel and Pear Slaw with Pork Chops. Recipe here.

Week 28: Coconut and Almond Bread Pudding. Recipe here.

Week 27: Szechuan Pork Noodles with Smacked Cucumber Salad. Recipe here.

Week 26: Jicama, Chicken and Cashew Salad. Recipe here.

 

Week 25: Corndogs. Recipe here.

Week 24: Eggplant Moussaka. Recipe here

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.