17 November 2012

the award for 'dinner least attractive to children' goes to...

Embarking on my random recipe at 5pm on a weekday night, with The Boss bouncing off the walls and The Dragon Baby babbling on his mat, was not a recipe for domestic harmony.

The rules for this month's challenge found me randomly selecting page 117 of Nigella Lawson's How To Eat, and a recipe for aubergine moussaka. But, as she points out "This is a Lebanese version, very different from the traditional Greek". It's basically aubergine stew.

While I use it now and again, I'm not a huge fan of How To Eat. This might have something to do with the complete lack of photography (which in this case is probably just as well, because a photo of aubergine stew isn't bonny). I'm not wild about the prose style either, because sometimes you have to work quite hard to find the actual recipe. But, gripes aside...

I couldn't buy baby aubergines or pomegranate molasses, and I couldn't be arsed soaking pulses. So I used big aubergines and canned chickpeas. Oh, and since we do actually still seem to be griping, I didn't peel the aubergines "to look like like Edwardian circus tents". (Really Nigella? Really? Give me strength.)

Bugger it, ground-level babbling has turned to wimpering, but we're too far in to stop now. Dance my love, dance to amuse your brother, dance like a dervish!

She says the aubergines smell like a grocery shop. I know what she means.

Bugger it again. Nigella wants the tomatoes rinsed, peeled, seeded and quartered. Not. on. your. life. They'll be roughly chopped if you're lucky. (And isn't all the flavour in the seed jelly and skin anyway? Why on earth would you chuck them?)

The wimpering has turned into wailing. Sing sweetie, sing to him like our lives depend on it!

It's all getting a bit fraught, and rather noisy, but here's the bit I was looking forward to: adding the cinnamon and allspice. Nice festive smells will make it all better.

But hang about, the combination of vegetal grocer aroma and Christmassy spices equals... what is it? It's very familiar... YES! It's that gag-worthy section just before the checkout at the garden centre where houseplants and artificially scented candles combine to form a collective speech bubble above everyone's heads saying "why the hell is all this odourous tat in a garden centre when all I wanted was a bag of compost?".

I don't really want to eat the stew-formerly-known-as-moussaka. And very forcefully, neither does The Boss. She says it's too brown (pronounced 'braaaaan' invoking her cockney sparrow heritage) and it's hard to disagree. I end up having to make a more child-friendly alternative. While the poor Dragon Baby cries himself hoarse.

It tastes absolutely fine, with couscous and yoghurt, but I'm too scarred by the whole experience to ever consider it again. And there are many, many better things to do with cinnamon and allspice at this time of year. Just please don't put them in a frakking candle.

liebkuchen, my contribution for my first visit to a local baking club last night, and a much better way to use cinnamon


  1. Nigella does use some "interesting" flavor combinations. I once tried a recipe that used pork chops in a cream, mustard and hard cider sauce but apparently not at all like the hard cider I brought home from the store. It was absolutely awful. Gag. I stick with sure bets from her collections now.

  2. hhmmmm... it's a tough one isn't it? Nigella can make it all seem so beautiful but when it comes down to it it really is all about the taste right? I applaud you for your tenacity... I'd have sent the baby back ages ago... (only joking!) thanks so much for taking part even if it was a difficult one, it's all about the taking part eh? xx

  3. hehehe... so funny. love the lebkuchen.

  4. LOL!! My children wouldn't have eaten that either, and tbh, I'm not sure I would... I have How To Eat, and its one of my least used cookbooks - the recipe for kids meatballs in it is delicious, but no photos?!! that's not a cookbook!

    Your cinnamon creations look far more up my alley!

  5. oh dear... sounds like you had a tough time with this recipe. I agree with Dom. hope you have recovered now :)

  6. Your post had me giggling the whole way through - but that recipe doesn't sound fun at all!

    I hate cookbooks with no pictures, it seems so wrong to me. Although I do like ones with lots of prose, I'm more likely to read a cookbook than cook from it though!

  7. Eugh at that smell, thank goodness you're way beyond morning sickness!

    Lovely lebkuchen, and baby giggles ... much better :)

  8. ah hee hee ha ha, so funny, my goodness. and ending it all with fish sticks or are those chicken? :)

  9. Thanks for the laughs - you are so right!!!

  10. You mean, there are actually real recipes in that book?

    Lol xx

  11. I love this post - haha, I'm sorry you weren't fond of your random recipe!

  12. Had such a laugh reading this - very glad I wasn't the only one with a RR horror this month! Sure that means we'll both draw something really lovely next month...

  13. You crack me up! By the end of the post, I wasn't sure I would want to eat this either, but I was sure that I will be coming back again and again to enjoy your wit and warmth. One of my favorite parts of participating in Dom's challenging is visiting all the blogs and finding new ones I love.

  14. What a fantastic post - I'm just back there (and not liking it!!!!!)


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