Leaving

Raising a child like Ari comes with its own set of duties. Every conversation is a study of existential responsibilities. I’ve known, always she is a special child and my greatest job is to deliver her to adulthood her gifts from the Universe intact and untainted. No pressure right.

Sometimes I wish we could have a conversation without it needing to be a lesson in how the world works and how it can be made better. She’s a serious child and my job of being her mother, deadly serious. I feel deep in my bones the future of the world or even just one individual who’s life she will change is at stake.

Recently my sweet kid changed schools. Being a uniquely soulful being she is still sad, so broken to have left her beautiful Nicho behind.

It’s hard explaining to her why I had to make the decision to take her away from her two very best friends who will be in her life forever that I know.
Two boys who share her creative mind and who’s games haven’t been the same since she’s been gone.

This is an extract of our conversation.

Ever since you we were born, before even, I knew you had a gift. Somehow you would change the world. The more I get to know you the surer I am. You will lead, you will invent or you will write something so amazing it will imprint on history forever. Of all my three children this is your path.

As your mother it is my job to give you every opportunity to make sure that happens. Your time at Nicho was to enfold you in its shield of love, nurturing and to create a big fish within a small environment.

It’s gift to you will remain within your heart forever but you had stopped growing. It was time to move on.

Now you are at a much larger school, a centre of excellence in academic achievement and I need you to give it a chance. Allow it to find its way into your soul.

You will always remember Miss Miller, and what she taught you. To try everything, never settle on a career until you are completely fulfilled, to be kind and loving always.

When you are twenty eight or thirty eight I will remind you of this conversation and again beg your forgiveness for breaking your tiny (huge) heart but I will ask you if I made the right choice for you my love. A girl that is so far already along her path that it makes me question my entire life led so far.

There’s so much hope riding on your little shoulders dear heart, my job is to help you bear it. Sometimes that hurts me more than you can ever imagine. I ask you to place your trust in me. I don’t ask it lightly and I feel the heavy weight of responsibility. Let me help you fly.

 

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Meaty thoughts

As I marinated my lamb this morning I wondered, indeed why do I still eat meat at all?

I’ve struggled a lot, over many years to justify it to myself and vegetarian friends. Today it became clear why for now, its the right thing, for me.

Quite regularly our family go vegan. I love the flavour, the brightness and the complexity needed to create a great vegetarian dish. Its certainly not lazy cooking. I can’t even say I do it for my body as the goodness of it has quite the same effect on my general well being as good quality steak which can do wonders. More its about the variety and possibilities in food.

I take pleasure in the consumption of meat & animal products and I am thankful for their ability to nourish my body and soul. However, I also know that every choice we make is a responsibility to those affected by it. There is a consequence. By eating meat an animal has to die. But we all die. It is not the death of the animal I take offense to, its the life they are forced to endure.

Animals in the wild hunt and eat each other in a perfect circle of nourishment. There is no judgement there. Until the moment of their capture and resulting kill the victim is a free creature. Happy to run, play, love. Humans have strayed so far from the hunter/gatherer path we have (mostly) lost the ability. From our fear of famine or even going without a single meal we hoard animals in numbers so great they are housed in cages and killed on mass.

This is the real price to eating meat, this cruelty inflicted upon another living creature.

I grew up on a sheep station and it gave me early insight into where my food comes from and how it looks, both alive and dead. There was a mutual respect between farmer and beast. Long before the free-range fad I needed to know where my food came from. How had the creature lived.

I’ve argued until black in the face that the cost of eating a cruelly reared, caged animal is far greater than the ticket on the plastic packet it comes in.  I don’t know when it happened that humans saw themselves as worth more than their four legged and winged counterparts but it’s an unsustainable way of thinking. Our planet can no longer take the over breeding of animals for food thanks to this obsession we have with stockpiling more than we can actually consume.

But the issue that arises is this. Aside from farming ones own table how do we do eat well and ethically in an urban setting? I believe the answer lies in re-honing the lost art of foraging for our food. Not content to find our meal in one brightly light supermarket but to search out the suppliers who have hand reared their product – animal or vegetable and built their business around equality between themselves and their product. It takes time and effort but so does anything good. Anything Real.

As consumers we can take care, eat less meat and find the pleasure in other forms of dining so that when we purchase for our family it’s high quality, free farmed, happy and allowed freedom from fear.

I believe you can advocate for animals and not be vegetarian, Ricky Gervais was a huge animal rights activist before becoming vego himself only recently. Perhaps that is part of my journey and one day I’ll eschew meat. For now I allow myself to enjoy it and I try everyday to be a better consumer of its gifts.

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My latest creation, a Moroccan Marinated Lamb Salad uses one small lamb blackstrap from my friends at Hunters Hill Free Range Butcher and easily fed two hungry adults. The secret is the balance of flavours to create a delicious, nourishing meal that satisfies every taste craving. The recipe is on my Instagram: ladymossloves

I’ve discovered www.freerangebutcher.com.au who deliver next day to Sydney and Central Coast. Check their website, they also visit plenty of farmers markets where you can sample their product. There’s a Bulk Buys and Best Sellers pack that is a what’s for dinner no brainer. I’d freeze it and use as needed. We eat meat no more than three times a week so it’s an economic way to buy ethically and save money.

For the vegetarians, this dish is full bodied enough to enjoy sans lamb, I’d replace with roasted and spiced sweet potato and throw a few chickpeas in for good measure.

Thoughts While Juicing…

It’s funny this business of juicing, juicing to lose weight, because I’ve never felt more at home in my body.

I no longer care that my thighs have (lots of) dimples and sometimes rub together when I walk which show when I wear my favourite thing, short white denim cutoffs.

Which I didn’t allow myself to wear for so long. But they make me happy. They remind me of being carefree and dusty in Bali, of wearing them over and over until they are grubby and of constantly slipping them on and off to swim.

I’ve stopped forgetting or simply not seeing that I have lovely hair, beautiful, happy shiny eyes and lots of other really nice bits that make up a whole me.

I have put on a few kegs recently and although I’m starting somewhat of a cleanse it’s more about realigning myself with the foods my body responds to. Not to “loose the baby weight” but to feel better within my own skin. For me.

I like nice things and I really like clothes and how they sit on a body well as if they were made for that person no matter the size. I have a tightly edited wardrobe that has a little give but is getting to the point where I’m choosing certain pieces over others. Which means a little restraint is in order.

Which is actually necessary for my body to function at its best. I feel tired and sluggish which says to me immediately more green juice, less wine. I’m craving sugary carbohydrates because let’s face it I have two kids and a baby – I’m tired. But my body needs me to help myself, to pump up the protein and good carbs – a chicken and avo toasted sandwich is in order.

I’ve finally learned to listen. It’s taken thirty five years but it’s happened and it’s a revelation. I no longer care what other women think of me because I realise it’s a lifelong image projection coming to them through the glass of a television, the pages of a magazine and now social media particularly Instagram.

And as for men, those dear sweet boys, they truly are from a different planet because they just don’t see us the way we see ourselves. They look for in a mate someone they can swim in the ocean with, climb mountains with, be ALIVE with. They choose strength – mental strength, a mind that’s free of this weighty burden we develop through years of unhealthy indoctrination. When a dude tells you he’s attracted to confidence believe him, because he’s telling the truth, it’s media that’s lying to you.

And it’s time to tune out.

In our own home we turned our TV off many years ago and watch the odd series or movie commercial free. The kids are allowed to watch something once in a while, something they really want, usually a movie as a family is their choice. I see a completely different attitude in our girl to the way I was at her age. I know it will last her entire life and I’ve given her a true gift.

Looks have zero currency for Ari. She is aware she’s a beautiful child but it means nothing, less than nothing, in fact she’s appalled that someone might only like her for how she looks. It has connotations of an evil Disney villain and to anyone who suggests she has Princess Hair watch out! She looks at me with disdain when I present her with a new outfit and asks why she didn’t get Lego like her brother.

I’ve since learned my lesson there too. She knows it gives me pleasure to dress her so she tolerates it but there’s a strict limit to her congeniality. It must be comfy and utilitarian. Shorts and a tshirt are best. I add sparkles when I can.

She eats when she’s hungry, eats what she likes and what makes her feel good. She has never overeaten and felt sick from it, doesn’t fantasise about fast food or “just a little treat”.

What has taken me a life to learn she already knows. Society can not tell her what is best for her, because she understands it’s already within her power to be good to herself, to Love herself. For the things that matter – her heart not her thigh gap, her charity not her possessions and her ability to create, not watch it play out in front of her on the telly.

I used to read my favourite Roald Dahl quote “if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely” and think that’s wonderful, how nice, as if I was going to be like that one day. Someday. Probably never.

Now I believe in it. Just LIVE by it. And as with everything, once you believe it simply happens.

My daughter is my greatest teacher. And I am beautiful because of her. And for the very first time in my life I don’t need to be told so, I know so.

 

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Consuming. Lunch and stuff.

 

This is my Thai Cauliflower Rice. It’s an absolute bitch to make which means I retreat inside my head and think for awhile….here is what I thought about while I was pulsing vege.

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Being someone who really REALLY likes nice things, my ongoing journey to enlightenment is the struggle between how much I have vs how much I want.

Living in Sydney comes with its own set of challenges, everything is so shiny here, the sun’s always out and it can be hard to quantify how many in the world have far less than they need just to survive.

I’m constantly challenging myself, fighting to control the magpie side of my personality instantly attracted to pretty happy things, the part that stamps her feet and shouts I want it Daddy I WANT it now!

I don’t believe it’s wrong to work to surround ourselves with beautiful objects but we must remember that beauty is found in so many things we can’t buy. And to love something because it stirs our soul not because a girl we follow on Instagram has one.

We can’t strive to make the world a beautiful place if we can’t appreciate beauty itself, but one must remember, there is a price to all things. A consequence to filling our rooms with stuff just because we are empty vessels.

And I’m not perfect, nowhere near. I get sucked in by a $15 star light just as much as the next person. But I remember the real cost to it. The the environment, to the people making it and I treasure it just as much as my expensive paintings and see it for its real value, how much does it make me happy this pretty little object. Because one day it’ll be landfill and I have to shoulder that responsibility so I’d better make use of it, be sure and love it hard, not throw it away when I get bored.

So I try everyday to find satisfaction in the simple things just as much as the grand scale. I buy once, buy well and take care of everything that enters my home. I teach my children the responsibility of consuming and how to find joy in our family as a whole without the trappings of constantly buying things. Mostly I try to remember that even the very rich don’t have what I do. The precious happiness I carry in my heart, the luck I had to be paired with my husband and children and the gift of finding the fun in the simplest activities.

Going without can be a great teacher. If we look at it as a gift. I would never have learnt to appreciate what I have if I hadn’t done it tough for many years. I have freedom of choice, over what I eat, what I wear, the places I visit and that is wealth. Such wealth compared to so many. And I realise I’m rich beyond my imaginings. Right now I have two dozen eggs in my fridge, extra milk, meat, wine, my hot lunch! And that is far more than too many people in the world right now have to feed themselves with. Such wealth.

There are choices I’ve made for me, for my family. If I worked we could have lots more stuff, a house, another shiny new car. But I wouldn’t have time. The time I’ve had home with my kids that I decided was what I wanted. I’m lucky, I didn’t need to work for us to live, to eat or pay for shelter, it was only for things we wanted and we wanted this more. This free time.

It is hard, constant work for someone like me but it’s worth it. The reward is the feeling that comes with being always grateful, satisfied and slowly realising I already have everything I need.

The recipe is one I’ve adapted from JS Health guru Jessica Sepel. I love her philosophy to food and she definitely changed my life and the way I eat. Check her out.

Just Best Friends

My earliest school memory belongs with my friend Beshira a little Muslim girl. She used to sit in the library during scripture and after we became friends I started joining her. Religion never did anything for me and I didn’t like the idea of her being lonely so I told my teacher I wasn’t allowed to do scripture either.

Other than this I never knew there was anything different about us. We were best friends and she was the sweetest of girls. Never got caught up in bullying or the rubbish that little girls get up to of hurting each other and being unkind.

She may have eaten different food or disappeared for prayer time but I was never aware of it. We were just kids.

I can’t count how many times in my life I’ve had somebody try to indoctrinate me in the teachings of Jesus and yet never once has anybody approached me to pull me into the Muslim faith. I understand that religious orders fear for my soul and that their job is to convert, I’m ok with that I just politely say no thanks.

As an ethics teacher at Ari’s school I see Christian lobby groups try push us out of schools day after day for interfering with their attempt to educate our younglings. This I’m not ok with but I use the brain I was given.

And I realise that you know what, just as our country is never going to be 100% Christian, it’s not going to become an Islamic nation either. We cannot live in fear of something that is just not going to happen. We cannot persecute a religious faith because of a crazy few just the same as we can’t accuse all Catholics for some of the terrible things that have been done in their name.

I spent most of the evening upset by the illegible, misspelled rantings of the Reclaim Australia group who scare me far more than the people they hate. Calls for hangings, rapes and more were spewed out to anyone who disagrees with their message. I hate Facebook for bringing this toxic venom onto my page but it’s out there in my country and can’t be ignored.

As a third generation Australian, my family fled Germany during the Second World War. They were not Nazis and had as much hatred of Hitler an anyone. If we were to listen to groups like RA we would vilify them simply because they were German, couldn’t speak English and chose to socialise with their countrymen after a terrible ordeal.

I’m so tired of the fear and hatred in this country that I don’t even want to live here anymore. I’m glad that my friends are good people who believe in the rights of others not only the ones that speak English and drink beer. You guys are the ones I think about when I get upset. I hope things change and I try not to fear that they won’t because fear is what causes these messes in the first place.

Anyway thanks to my friend Beshira. Without knowing it our little friendship gave me many gifts that have hopefully made me into a person of true measure.

Cauliflower is the New Black

So I’ve done a little life change, lost a bit of weight and taken up running again after a very long hiatus that included the birth of two children.

The problem with being a foodie aside from the gradual and unavoidable weight gain is the absolute obsession with all things buttered and breaded. Lady Moss simply can’t find satisfaction in serving chicken and salad for lunch, steamed vege and fish every night. There is no passion and creativity served by reheating something in its plainest form adding nothing in the way of flavour or festivity.

We decided within two weeks to find a way to inject fun back into food even if it couldn’t be in the form of cream or cheese.

Last nights experiment  was a new take on a very old Rainbow Lane favourite, Moroccan Lamb Shanks with Couscous. I was inspired by a lovely Sydney food blogger Jessica Sepel and her use of cauliflower as an alternative to carbohydrates to soak up the juices from any dish you’ve prepared. If it could be made into rice and mash surely I could roast it into couscous and if not, the lamb shanks would be tasty enough with a head of broccoli I had prepared with garlic and almonds.

It took a full head of cauliflower to serve four adults with plenty left over for lunch the next day. Note that I was experimenting so amounts of spices etc are sadly lacking from my recipe but I find that’s the best way of cooking on a windy winters afternoon. A beautiful dish for entertaining, this could all be prepared in advance and brought to table for guests to help themselves.

Moroccan Lamb Shanks 

One lamb shank per person rubbed with ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Heat a heavy based pan until smoking and dry fry your shanks on all sides until nicely caramelised. You want to remove as much oil as you can while injecting flavour. Remove the shanks and discard all excess oil.

Create a bed of vegetables on the bottom of your roasting dish (I used my Le Cruset) – onion, celery, carrots, 3 cloves garlic and a thumb of chopped ginger before placing the shanks on top. Pour over a tin of crushed tomatoes and half a tin of water.

Cover the lot in foil or a lid and place into a preheated 180 degree oven for at least three hours.

Keep an eye on the meat and once its coming away from the bone all dark, thick and juicy throw over some more chopped carrots, sweet potato and chunks of red onion toss the pan juices over them to lubricate. Place into the oven uncovered to crisp up the outside of the meat, turning it halfway through until the vegetables are tender and soft.

Cauliflower Couscous – so delicious its criminal.

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Take a full head of cauliflower and chop onto fairly small florets. Include the stalk in this.

Pulse through your food processor in several batches. You want a crumbly consistency which can only be achieved by not overloading your machine. It will actually look like couscous grains.

I used a tagine to dry fry mine, you could use a pan just ensure its nice and hot. Resist the temptation to add olive oil, you are wanting to add a nutty flavour to the cauli by caramelising it, you want the pan to colour it up and dry it out.

Add salt and continue turning the grains for a good twenty minutes if necessary.

In the meantime soak a good pinch of saffron threads in 4 tablespoons water. Add this to the cauliflower along with a 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, coriander and cinnamon.

In a separate hot pan, dry roast a nice handful of almond flakes until nicely toasted.

Chop up a handful each of dried dates, apricots, cranberries and spring onions. You could add anything you like here, currants, sultanas whatever you fancy!

Once the cauli-cous is done pull it off the heat and throw over your lovely fruit and nut mix. Check seasoning, add lovely chopped coriander and you’re done!

I like to serve with a side of greens simply steamed to crunchy perfection. Let guests help themselves to a haunch of meat, soft juicy veges and your healthy, gluten free couscous. Make sure you pour over a few spoons of pan juices.

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If like Lady Hunt you are vegetarian, the couscous is a completely vegan option on its own.

Our guests included two very fussy men-folk with zero interest in fancy health food. Both not only couldn’t tell the difference between regular couscous and the cauli-cous they didn’t stop shovelling in forkfuls to ask.

A huge success if you ask me!

In a Past Life

Lady Moss used to be a stylist. Not that you’d know to look at me, I’m like the plumber with the leaky taps and prefer sweats to skinny jeans, Havianas are my shoe of choice even in winter. But, give me five minutes and I can supermarket sweep you into a brand new wardrobe. I only wish I could write as well as I can dress you because my passion certainly isn’t fashion I just happen to be good at it.

After a Friday Ladies Lunch that ended at 10pm, I was convinced to rethink my position and take on a few makeovers. I won’t say clients because I couldn’t bear to accept money from friends, rather a new rug from a designer friend will go down very nicely indeed. Oh yes.

It got me to thinking about the change in season and my perennial mummy uniform. I simply exchange a black singlet for a long sleeve black top, throw on leggings and occasionally boots. In this town we pull out thongs for a downpour, they dry faster than wellies.

I’ve taken a leaf out of my own style manual and started preparing an outfit the evening before, photographing it for Instagram approval more than once. With the temperature at long last falling below sweltering one can begin to think about layering and even throw on the odd light-weight scarf as the sun begins to drop over the Harbour. The addition of a new pair of heeled lace-ups gets me in the mood for tights and tartan.

If you’re at all inspired to do the same, reach into the depths of your robe for something not seen in awhile and mix it up according to the season you are moving into. Photograph a few outfits as a reference and see how uplifted you feel in the morning rush putting on an outfit as apposed to a uniform.

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Rainy Summer Days

Its been a lovely lead into Autumn this week and the busy homemaking that goes with forced indoors play. Lady Moss has been lighting scented candles in every corner, recreating the spicy smells of Christmas with a few leftover apple, cinnamon and clovey favourites mixed with a few new purchases of Moir Honey Nector. This amalgamation of foody, syrupy goodness has certainly got us all excited about the new season.

Although Sydney is barely affected by the colour changes that go with the descent into winter, our little foursome will soon grab a basket, fill it with soup, scarves and gloves to make our annual trip to Mt Wilson to celebrate the falling leaves and turning dark earth. In the meantime we are enjoying the last of our tomato crop, not that one has time to use them as they are mostly gobbled up on route from garden to kitchen along with the very sparse offerings of the strawberry patch.

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I’ve finally discovered Pinterest although I can’t seem to stop calling it Pin-interest but thats just me. Should anybody besides Mossy be interested in what I have on my bag lust and crafts to make lists,  feel free to take a look at Ladymmoss.

I was inspired by blog.mandylynne.com to create felt sleep masks for Ari’s little friends’ birthday last week. A very tidy hour or two spent cutting felt beside the King as he drew sea monsters and mummy with three legs. As all of my homemade gifts seem to be, these have been well loved already and it truly gladdens my spirit that a little gift made from the heart wins every time over yet another box of lego or plastic tiara.

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I drew these freehand, using the ideas from mandylynne and decided to hot glue the pieces together rather than sew for an invisible finish. I may have blown up my glue gun but that is definitely a story for another time. Such a simple craft to make, Ari and The King have decided they would like to make a pair for themselves. Anything to make littles sleep right?IMG_5373[1]

In other Rainbow Lane news, no I didn’t give up alcohol for a month please…. we made pork dumplings! Yes dumplings! My beloveds and I spent a stormy Sunday afternoon making these from scratch. Dough to Whoa. We used Poh’s recipe and took plenty of photos to share with you all. Fabulously easy and delicious to make they are a great way to get the kids cooking and eating. A very similar consistency to playdough you are killing two birds with one stone by combining cooking and playtime!

And with that reminder of food, Lady Moss is off to refill the wine glass whilst stirring a Beef Ragu in Milk with Polenta that has been merrily bubbling away on the stove these past few delightful hours. Be sure that I’ll let you know if its any good!

In Honour of Those We Love The Most

Be Joyous Dear One. You still have time to make the worlds most Magical Pudding. My Nanna Ruth’s.

In my house growing up, this luscious mix of fruit, sugar, brandy and tuppence was stirred by one and all, wishing as we went. Normally on a frosty country Saturday afternoon in June, the Rothheudt kids would wait in line for their turn to grasp the wooden spoon. Tiny muscles heaving I and my three brothers would merrily tumble that glorious mix, often sticking in a finger for a lick whilst mama’s back was turned. Lady Moss managed to get ours put away five weeks out this year, but really you could do it now with no harm done to flavour whatsoever.

I still remember many of my wishes, fervently uttered under a heady cloud of brandy and spice and I am glad to speak them still. Happiness for my family, health for my brother and that he never spend a Christmas in hospital and would Santa please remember I wanted twin My Little Ponies. Strangely enough I always ended my request with a whispered Amen, a habit that has remained a constant presence and comfort to me, more still as a mother.

This special recipe fills me with much joy to share Dear Reader. Please see it as a gift to cherish, from me to you. I proudly carry my Grandmothers name, her cake making ability, her obsession for absolute quality in shoes and her greatest lesson, strength. She has taught me that, no matter the heft of the burden, I can always dig deeper and find more courage to hold steady.

I recount this recipe in ounces for that is how it has been handed down to me:

8oz sultanas

8oz currants

4 oz dates chopped

4oz raisins

1 cup water

1/2 cup (very loosely measured) brandy

1/2 cup brown sugar

4oz butter

1tsp bicarb

You will also need at least one other to share the load, for no other reason that noone should be alone at Christmas.

Day One:

Wash and dry fruit, place in a tray and liberally drizzle with brandy. Leave this for at least 24 hours.

Day Two or Three (depending on the size of your brandy hangover):

Place fruit, sugar, butter and water in a pot over medium heat.

Stir until the sugar dissolves and then simmer for 8 minutes.

Remove from the stove and stir in bicarb. In front of an audience of Littles is best for an impromptu science lesson.

Leave this to cool.

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Day Three:

1 egg

1 cup plain flour

1 cup self raising flour

1 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine the dry ingredients and whisked egg into the luscious fruit mixture.

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Gather your family, friends, neighbours, courier around to each make a wish as they stir. If you can get your hands on a few vintage tuppence they make a thoughtful addition and a nod to the past.

Feel free to add another generous slug of brandy should you like. Lady Moss likes to. Very much.

We use a porcelain pudding bain in Rainbow Lane, mostly for sentimental value but you could use anything that will snugly fit your mixture and allow it to steam. Cover well with baking paper, two layers of foil and tie with kitchen string.

Place in a large, deep pot and fill to 2/3 with water. Steam this four hours long before placing at the back of your fridge to sit and ripen until Christmas. Try to abstain from opening the wrapping a pinch for a smell. Ha I dare you.

On the day you serve, (assuming you could wait til Christmas) steam for a further two hours before you gather all around to cheer as you yet again drench in brandy and set alight your creation.

To serve, pour over good quality cream, custard or Hard Sauce which simply put, is butter, icing sugar and brandy amalgamated into a mass of heavenly goodness when spooned on top of a hot pudding.

Amen.

 

Very Busy and Important Elf Work

The days are rushing past now in a flurry of activity and pre-Christmas fun, much like the swirling snowflakes in Ari’s snow-globe and we are happily swept up in it.

Busy crafting, baking, wrapping and twining, we are strangely enough, also trying new recipes that require hours of preparation and time spent communally stirring the pot as if we cannot bear to be dragged away from the stove right now.

Last week it was Heston Blumenthal or as Ari affectionately calls her idol “That Crazy Heston” and his Perfect Spaghetti Bolognaese. A triumph of exquisite flavour, with such length and breadth on the palette that it could be tasted a minute after swallowing each delicious bite! It was of course well toasted with corresponding wines from generous friends and finished with Uncle Jamie’s Mulled Wine.

If you only create one new thing this December make it this recipe. Spicy and sweet with a deep crimson hue, its Christmas in a glass, or bottled if you need last minute gift ideas.

A very simple process of creating a red wine sugar syrup before adding a few decent bottles of red, it was a welcome reprieve from the intensity that is a Heston recipe. I couldn’t get/be bothered with clementines and so used green apples instead – they worked a treat.

In a pot place the peel of two green apples, one lemon and one lime. Add 200 grams of caster sugar, 6 whole cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 3 fresh bay leaves, 8-10 grates of nutmeg, 1 vanilla pod halved, seeds scraped and a partridge in a pear tree.

Pour over your half decent chianti or red wine, just enough to cover and boil until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has taken on a syrupy consistency, about ten minutes. This will give you the flavour base to then add the rest of your two bottles of wine and 2 star anise. Simmer very gently for about five minutes just enough to heat through but not cook off the alcohol, clearly that would be wrong.

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Sorry there isn’t a picture of the finished product. I was too busy ooohhing and aaahhing over it….

Amongst it all, Lady Moss found the time to create a dazzlingly pink winter wonderland village of gingerbread for Ari’s teachers. We cooked all from scratch this year and will happily do the same again next year its just that delicious and easy to work with using the Sweetopia recipe.

Lady Moss took a day to complete each stage and although I felt for awhile my life was gingerbread, the outcome was five dreamy wee cottages and one romantic renovators delight. One finds that Royal Icing (recipe also from Sweetopia) and cellophane cover a multitude of sins that we look forward to creating dozens more next year. Before you mutter certifiable, remember I prefer to think of it as low down on the OCD scale.

I’m sure you’ll agree they did turn out to be rather quaint.

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