There are skills I must gain in the next five weeks.
I could be wrong on these, but my instincts are telling me the following:
I need to learn how to maintain sufficient sanity on minimal sleep (def: sufficient sanity; enough that at the end of the day everyone is alive). I need to learn that it’s ok if dinner is reheated lamb ragu with white beans, five nights in a row. I probably need to learn to ask for help when I need it. And I need to stop workshopping potential names for the Stowaway with people (nb, for anyone who is concerned, we may be calling him Sven in utero, care of his Swedish origins, but that’s not currently ranking highly on the list). The best advice I got on that issue has been ‘say nothing until it’s all done’. Quite rightly, everyone will will have an opinion. For every person who nods in assent at things on the shortlist and says ‘oh, that’s lovely!’ there will be another who wrinkles their nose and tightens their jaw. And unlike New Zealand, Australia doesn’t have laws which prevent certain babies being called certain things to use as a guide. So with that in mind I could potentially name the child # Haschka. Though a life as Hashtag Haschka may be a little challenging.
So we find ourselves back at the drawing board.
All of which is proving tricky for an open-book-sharer-people-pleaser like me.
At this junction; things are getting real. There’s now something roughly the dimensions of a cabbage in a convex in my middle.
I can’t really see my toes, let alone paint them myself. When I take photos, there’s a strange eclipse of a shadow that dips into the frame. It took me a while to figure out what it was. It’s not a moon- it’s my belly.
Then there are stickier things that I need to get my head around. I’m sure at some point I’ll need to learn how to clear the nasal passages of wee ones using a strange squirting device that looks like a prop from Romper Room. I need to learn how not to wretch when I see a blackened stump of a belly button. And I need to learn how to swaddle.
I like the idea of swaddling. I think many days I’d like to be swaddled. Wrap me up like baby origami and posit me somewhere safe. Just tuck me in a corner and keep me warm and dry. And perhaps make noises like a vacuum cleaner in my ear. That should help calm me down.
While I pass the nights making comfort food to stock the freezer and practising wrapping small objects, I’ve clocked on a terrific way to multi task (multitasking being another thing that new mums seem to be particularly adept at).
In honour of the advent of the cabbage, I’ve turned to cabbage rolls. Traditionally stuffed with mince and rice, these small bundles of mildly spiced filling are wrapped in softened cabbage leaves and nestled in together. There’s tomato sugo for a blanket and a pillowy top of sauerkraut and sour cream for bite.
Instead of rice, I’ve opted for a slower carb route with quinoa- and I’m a fan. It brings a certain nuttiness and infantile softness to the centre of the rolls. It’s comfort food at its best. And after some dedicated time in the kitchen, I’m now happy to report that my swaddling skills are getting better every day.
1 Dutch oven/ lasagne dish with foil. 1 stockpot. Paper towel.
1 head of savoy cabbage
500 grams of veal mince (can substitute for pork or beef)
1.5 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 cup of cooked quinoa (half a cup of raw quinoa with one cup of water. Bring to the boil, cover and boil for 10 minutes. Remove lid and stir and leave sit so all the liquid is absorbed).
1 tsp chilli flakes
680 gram jar of tomato passata/sugo
To serve: sauerkraut and horseradish creme fraiche – 2 tsp of grated horseradish mixed with 1.5 tbsp creme fraiche.
Here’s how we roll
1) Preheat the oven to 180C/350 F and boil the kettle.
2) Cut the base off the cabbage and pull the leaves off, one by one. Place the leaves in a stock pot and pour boiling water over them. Allow to sit for a minute to soften, then refresh under cold water.
3) Mix together the mince, 1 tbsp of the paprika (reserve the other half a tablespoon), parsley and garlic. Season well with salt and pepper. Fold through the cooked quinoa and mix well to combine.
4) Pour half of the tomato passata into the base of a Dutch oven. Season with half of the chilli flakes.
5) Start creating your cabbage rolls. First cut the woody base of the root stem from the centre of your blanched leaves. Discard.
6) Place 1.5- 2 tablespoons of the filling in the centre of the leaf.
7) Roll the top of the leaf down over the filling, then tuck in the two sides and continue rolling until you have a neat little parcel.
8) Place seam side down. Now repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
9) Nestle the rolls on top of the passata in your Dutch oven.
10) Pour the remaining passata over the top and sprinkle with the remaining paprika and chilli flakes. Place the lid on the pot and bake for 1 hour. After an hour remove the lid and bake for another 30 minutes to help the sauce reduce.
11) Serve the cabbage rolls with sauerkraut and a splodge of horseradish creme fraiche.
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.