Esther Walker is unwell. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, I know – but it’s true. I’ve had bronchitis. Okay not actually confirmed bronchitis, but that’s what I’ve been saying. In fact it was just a non-specific chest infection but when I say that it sounds like there’s something wrong with my bosoms. I reckon it was pneumonia, just between you and me. I don’t know how much worse you’d have to feel than I felt for it to be pneumonia. I’ve had a pain, you see, a pain in my lungs.
Anyway it’s taken ages to get better. Usually you get the antibiotics and 24 hours later you’re springing about going shopping. But I went to bed on Sunday night and only really got out of bed again on Thursday morning. It was enjoyable in a way – an uncomplicated, straightforward illness: chills, fever, head-to-toe aches, sweats, pain in the chest, dizziness, delirium, all of that. Not just tired, fed-up, run-down, burnt-out. Actually like fucking dying.
I lay in bed inert and unresponsive as other people looked after my children. Occasionally I would try to focus my hot, blurred eyes on my phone and would wonder why no-one was asking me any questions, how life in the house was carrying on quite so merrily without me. But I didn’t get too upset about it, just slipped back into a semi-coma gratefully.
And what I’ve got for you now I’m back from the dead is a thing that’s going to annoy you because I know you don’t want me to write about cakes and sweeties anymore. But the thing is that those are the NEW things that I am cooking.
I am indeed cooking savoury things like a motherfucker at the moment, but it’s all for Sam who has in the last three weeks started raging through food like a starving wolf.
I always used to find people who talked about how much their children (usually their sons) ate quite annoying, as I sat in front of Kitty coaxing her for hours to eat one more tiny weeny thingy of lamb stew. “Oh was Kitty fussy? We’re lucky,” they would say. “He just ate everything from the start.” And they say “lucky” but what they meant was “it’s because we’re such fantastic parents”. I mean, that’s probably what they meant. THEY SAID IT WITH THEIR EYES.
But now we all stand about and marvel at the food disappearing into Sam’s gob. It’s like a sideshow at a circus. Watch the enormous monster baby eat! Down goes a massive spoonful, and another, and another, and another! Like a waste disposal unit. I have decided that in order to fit it all in, the first bit of food must start to be digested and be making its was out of his tummy before he’s finished the bowl of whatever.
But it’s nothing I’ve done, you understand? Just like it was nothing I did that made Kitty able to exist for weeks at a time on nothing but air, sunlight and three bottles of milk a day. And it’s not because he’s a boy, because I know plenty of baby boys who hardly eat anything – because they don’t need to right now. Because they’ll do more growing later, thanks.
It’s just because Sam is massive and getting massiver by the day – he’s six months old and wearing Kitty’s old blue dungarees that she wore when she was over a year – and he will probably go on to be massiver. (Or maybe he will halt at five feet nine inches when he is twelve years old.)
People always act like it’s such a bloody marvellous thing to have a big baby who will eat the world and that having some strapping six footer son is just the gold standard. Whatever Sam ends up being is fine by me, but I don’t mind men under six foot. My husband is five feet nine inches tall and I think he is the perfect height. I can look him in the eye. When we embrace I don’t end up with my head under his armpit. At parties when I want to say something mean about someone I don’t have to climb a ladder to whisper it in his ear. He doesn’t constantly bump his head on things and complain about legroom on airplanes.
My point is that a consequence of Sam eating so much right now is that getting together enough food for him is an issue. (Don’t get me started on clothes!) If Kitty’s hungry I can make her a make her a sandwich. If Sam is hungry he needs something to be cooked and blended. HE WON’T EAT THOSE STUPID ELLA’S POUCHES. Every time I turn around it’s time to make another enormous stew, or enough cheese sauce for 8 pots of macaroni cheese. I think of life with Sam when he is a teenager (Insha’Allah) and really hungry and see entire loaves of bread and pints of milk disappearing in minutes before my eyes.
But I can’t think that you are interested in my recipe for lentil puree. And the new thing I made recently, as I slowly crept out of my bronchial hell, was a chocolate ganache.
I made one of these before and it wasn’t very good. But I have subsequently realised that the recipe was a bummer. So I made it again on the instruction of Paul Hollywood himself (I texted a question into a radio show! I KNOW!!) and it came out just absolutely perfect.
So this is what you do. To cover 12 fairy cakes you need:
100g best chocolate (for kids, milk chocolate probably best – Waitrose do one called Menier, very nice)
100ml double cream
1 knob of butter
(NB – chocolate ganache is always just equal quantities of chocolate and cream – mls to grams.)
1 Chop the chocolate into reasonably small bits and put in a bowl.
2 Put the cream in a small saucepan and heat until it is nearly boiling. Pour over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted. This takes a while, you need to stir all the time. You can bung it in the microwave for a few seconds towards the end if the chocolate has really stopped melting in. Don’t whisk it!! Because you will get unattractive bubbles, as I did.
3 When it has all melted in, add a knob of butter, for sheen.
4 Pour over your fairy cakes and decorate. This doesn’t actually set firm, like an icing, it’s always a bit gooey and sticky. And hurrah for that.
Have a great weekend.