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Baked aubergine

There are very few things I feel genuinely guilty about – especially when it comes to parenting. Sometimes I pretend to feel guilty, but actually I don’t. There are things that I do with Kitty that I know are not ideal, but I do them mostly knowing why I’m doing them and being okay with the consequences.

For example, Kitty probably watches more TV than she ought to at the moment, because I am so immobile I can’t sit on the floor and play Megabloks, or toss her in the air or chase her round and round the garden. But I am okay with the odd bad mood and screamy bedtime brought on by too much telly because I don’t really have a choice right now.

But there’s one thing I do, that I do endlessly, even though it makes me feel really guilty and I’m not okay with the consequences – and that is fucking about with my iPhone while I am supposed to be looking after Kitty.

I mean I love, LOVE my iPhone. It makes me about 70% more productive because I can do an Ocado order while hanging about waiting for something to boil, or reply to emails in the car while Kitty is kipping in the back.

But it also makes me, I think, a 70% less good parent because when I am supposed to be concentrating on Kitty, I am usually scrolling through Twitter. I also love Twitter, by the way. I think it is a brilliant resource filled with excellent people and endless, helpful information. Without Twitter this blog would have fewer readers and it would have been significantly harder (i.e. impossible) to sell any copies of my book, as most sales have come off the back of tweets and re-tweets.

At times, I think Twitter is the only thing that has stopped me from going mad during this most recent long, dark winter – but in fact I now suspect that it may have made everything harder. Trying to combine childcare with absolutely anything else – making dinner, ironing, working, Tweeting – turns something occasionally boring into a real chore just because you are suddenly trying to do two things at once.

Housework and childcare mostly have to go together but anything else that doesn’t absolutely have to be combined with childcare, shouldn’t. Especially the childcare of toddlers, who have a witchy sixth sense for when they are not your priority; it makes them incredibly nervous and liable to fling themselves down the stairs, or draw all over your Dune embellished pink suede loafers with green Crayola felt tip. For example.

And Twitter has just become a habit now, for me. In any lull I will automatically have a quick poke about and see what’s going on – because there’s always something going on on Twitter. But the compulsiveness of it now makes me feel a bit ill – staring into that tiny screen, poke, poke, poke. Not looking up, not looking around me. And Twitter sucks me into other areas of the internet that make my day jagged and stop-start, (mostly online clothes shops), rather than relaxed and linear. Rather than surrendering to childcare, I find myself fighting it. And it’s not working.

Added to this, Kitty has just got into the nursery at the top of our road and will start in September. Although I don’t feel remotely sad about it – she will love it and it won’t come a moment too soon – it does make me realise that we have a limited time left together and I should probably be more mindful of what I do with that time.

I don’t say all this to sound martyrish or holy: I am never motivated by anything other than laziness. I don’t want anything to be hard that doesn’t have to be – the Lord knows that life is full of necessary hardships without creating more for yourself. I want anything that can be, to be easy and convenient. Any fool, as soldiers say, can be uncomfortable. If I thought looking at my iPhone a lot made childcare easier, more relaxed and less onerous, I would do it. But when you’ve only got half a brain to start with, letting half of that half wander off into the internet is the equivalent of a brisk trepanning.

So last weekend I took Twitter off my phone and have a rule now that I don’t look at my phone at all unless I get a text message or a phone call, which is hardly ever. Twitter is reserved for when the nanny is here and I am working at my laptop. It’s much better already. When I get to the end of the day I don’t feel so twitchy.

I’m also allowed unlimited access to newspapers, magazines and my Kindle as a compensation. I have blamed my failure to do any reading recently on being pregnant, but it’s not that. It’s that I’m always on bloody Twitter. If Kitty is engaged doing something else, like messing about in the garden or drawing, I reckon it’s alright to be reading a book because it’s not so blinkering, so tunnel-visioning. And it doesn’t set quite such a ghastly example to Kitty that one ought to constantly have one’s face lit up by a blue screen, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, endlessly scrolling…. if she wants to grow up with her face in Kindles or newspapers – god rest their souls – that can only be a good thing.

Having Twitter on my iPhone also makes me a shit wife. Any second that my husband is not talking – and sometimes when he is talking, frankly – I’ve got half a mind on Twitter, which isn’t fair because my husband is not boring and doesn’t ask for much in return for providing me with a roof over my head and private healthcare, other than my complete attention when he is saying something to me.

Other than taking Twitter off my phone, I’m making amends to my husband by being supportive about the no-carb thing he’s doing at the moment. Cooking without carbs is a fucking chore, but I might as well get back into the swing of it as once this kid is out – if it ever comes out (despite my due date still being 5 whole days away) – I plan to diet myself out of existence. I want people to say “Oh my god she’s got so THIN!!!!”

Anyway, the other night I made for Giles a baked aubergine, which sounded absolutely disgusting from the recipe, but I was running out of ideas, (if we have another chicken salad I might DIE), and I actually managed, using a bit of store-cupboard cunning, to turn it into a really quite appealing thing.

I have used parmesan to top this, but equally you could use goat’s cheese. I, personally, ate this with some pitta bread because let’s not get too carried away – but Giles skipped it.

Esther’s low-carb baked aubergine of devotion

1 aubergine pp
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
2 heaped tsp capers
2 tbs pitted black olives
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 clove garlic, peeled
4-5 anchovy fillets (non-essential, if you are a hater… but if you are ambivalent, I urge you to give these a try – they will not make everything fishy and disgusting, they will just add a salty, savoury interest)
2 sage leaves (if you have)
1 tbsp vinegar – red wine for preference but any old shit will do
some plain yoghurt (again, if you have)
a few strips of lemon zest
1 small handful chopped parsley
1 handful grated parmesan per aubergine half

preheat your oven to 220C

1 Slice your aubergines lengthways and score through the flesh with a small sharp knife to produce a lattice effect. Then sloop over a lot of olive oil and put in to roast for 35 mins.

2 Meanwhile chop up on a board the anchovies, olives and capers. Gently fry in a small pan with some groundnut or LIGHT olive oil. Tear in the sage leaves and squeeze or grate over the garlic. Let this cook together for a bit until the anchovy fillets have disintegrated.

3 Now plop out the tomatoes into a sieve and shake over the sink to let the tinny tomato juices flow away (but don’t rinse). Add to the pan with the tomato puree and leave to cook for a few mins. Throw over six or seven turns of the pepper grinder. Now add a dribble of water – maybe 2 tbsp – just from the kettle and give it all a stir.

4 Now add a dollop of plain yoghurt if you have it, the lemon zest and the vinegar. Stir together and leave to cook very gently without drying out. The composition you are after is spreadable and juicy but not too wet. The consistency, I suppose, of bolognese.

5 Take the aubergines out of the oven – they ought to be a bit collapsed and blackened in places. Spread with the tomato mixture, top with whatever cheese you like then finish off under the grill.

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