Friday 15 May 2009

Mothering, Stew and Bread

My daughter is a night owl – just like her parents. She sleeps so well in the morning and gets worse and worse as the day goes on. By evening both Sylvia and I are usually cranky. She wants to feed. I want to blog. I shouldn’t complain too much. She slept till 10am on Saturday. But this was after going down to sleep at 2am. I told someone about this sleep-in and they asked if I was waiting to feed her. Of course I was sleeping while she was. Last night she went down at 12.30am which is an early night for her.

I feel a wee bit shamefaced about this whinge. Here I am with a beautiful daughter (who sleeps 7 hours most nights at the age of almost 12 weeks) and we eat very well. Yet I want more. Just a little extra time to blog. I have the photos and recipes for many meals but I need time to pull it all together.

Too many days I feel foolishly optimistic. I am so sure I will be able to write a post and then there is the wail from the cot. I had thought I might be able to get this post written on Sunday for Mother’s Day but it is now Friday. I was determined to finish it in the morning but it is now afternoon and I am still writing it. The days seem to pass all too quickly.

Last week I had one of those days when even making dinner was a struggle. We had a dodgy leaking tap and called the plumber. My mum rang to see how I was doing. ‘Mum,’ I said, ‘The plumber is looking for the stop tap, E is visiting a neighbour who was mugged, I am feeding Sylvia and am midway through making dinner!’ Earlier that day I had been to the liquor superstore to buy beer for baking and I knocked over a bottle which broke and splashed all over me and the pram. Great, I thought, now I smell like a boozy mother!

Fortunately the soup I was making for dinner was easy and able to be paused while I was distracted by other things. But the three cheese and beer bread I had planned to bake just was not possible on that night. The next day I was determined to bake the bread and started in the morning when Sylvia was sleeping. I put it in the oven and went off for my shower. It all seemed to be going without a hitch until I checked the oven temperature. I accidentally had the oven on 150 C instead of 180 C. This was followed by a lot of angst in trying to get the bread cooked. Finally I had to go out and took it out, despite the skewer not coming out cleanly.

The soup and bread were both hugely enjoyed. This was all the more satisfying because I had altered both recipes. The soup was inspired by Nava Atlas’ Swiss Chard Stew with Tortellini and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. I changed the flavouring, added more vegetables and beans. I love ravioli and was pleased that using it in the soup made it last longer than just adding some tomato sauce and broccoli.

The bread also was slightly altered as I didn’t have the right ingredients. I substituted oatbran for flour on a whim because I found some oatbran that had been in the pantry too long, and when I went to use wholemeal flour I found the container almost empty. I didn’t have buttermilk so I used milk and lemon juice. (Ironically, I originally had planned the bread to use up yoghurt but by the time I baked it, the yoghurt was smelling dodgy and had to be binned.) And I used fresh herbs from the garden because they were there.

The bread was slightly oozy when it came out of the oven but was so full of cheese and flavours that this didn’t matter too much. We ate it with the silverbeet and ravioli stew, spread with chutney or promite, and accompanying tinned tomato soup. I took it to my mum’s on the weekend when I visited for mother’s day. It went well with a slice of spinach tomato and feta quiche (from Vegetarian Times, April 2009) that my mum had cooked. ('Did you notice I finished off the cheese bread your mum put out?' asked E when we were driving home.)

When I got home I found that my mum had filled the tub that I took the bread down in. I took a photo which doesn’t show it in its best light but gives an idea of it. It was full of quiche, some cheese and beer bread, scones, little gluten free cakes, and a wonderful date and pistachio slice. After a day with the family, I was glad to have her offerings for dinner.

Yes, my mum’s baking is impressive. Whenever we visit she has lots of great homebaking that she just whipped up. She even often brings some to my place when she visits. From her I learnt to love food and how to cook. She is not only a whizz in the kitchen but helps me out with gardening, housework and my children. I wouldn't have my herb garden without the little pots of herbs she brings me. She even has some kale in her garden for me. Both she and my dad have always been such a great example in enjoying life - they still go to films and restaurants, have holidays in the country and take an interest in current affairs and the arts. She is such a great support and inspiration. If I can do half as much as a mother as she has done for me, I will be proud of my achievements. (As you will see at the top of this post, I am not at all perfect.)

I thought Mother’s Day was a good opportunity to celebrate my mum but I want to extend my admiration and gratitude to all women. Not all women are mothers in the narrow sense that greeting card companies dictate. But I have received the gifts of inspiration, teaching and nurturing from grandmothers, aunts, sisters, friends, colleagues, bloggers and strangers. I much prefer the term Mothering Sunday to Mother’s Day so we can celebrate what all women give to others.

I am sending the three cheese and beer bread to Poornima at Tasty Treats who is hosting this month’s My Favourite Things Event, which was started by Bindiya. The theme is All Things Cheese.

Silverbeet and Ravioli Stew
(adapted from Nava Atlas’ Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons)
serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cups water
2 tsp stock powder
400g tin of tomatoes
400g tin of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 zucchini, chopped
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped
3 bay leaves
dash each of cinnamon, cayene and smoked paprika
375g fresh roasted veg ravioli
½ bunch silverbeet (chard), 10-12 large stalks, chopped
½ cup semi sundried tomatoes, chopped
grated cheese to serve (optional)

Heat olive oil in stockpot. Fry onion, garlic, carrots and celery on low heat for about 10 minutes. Add water, stock powder, tomatoes, kidney beans, zucchini, tahini, herbs, bay leaves and spices. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Add ravioli and silverbeet stalks. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Add silverbeet leaves and simmer 5 minutes. Add semi-sundried tomatoes and heat another couple of minutes. Remove bay leaves. Serve with a handful of grated cheese on top if desired.

Three cheese and beer bread
(Adapted from Cooking Bread)
makes 2 loaves

5½ cups white flour
1 cup oat bran (or wholemeal flour)
2 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ cup chopped fresh herbs – I used rosemary, parsley, sage, chives and thyme
1½ cups milk
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups (500ml) room temperature beer
½ cup tomato juice
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 beaten eggs
2⅓ cup or 7 oz gruyere cheese, grated
⅔ cup or 2 oz parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 cups or 6 oz cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 220 C. Grease and line 2 loaf tins.

Mix the cheeses and set aside 1¼ cups of cheese. In a large bowl combine the flour, oatbran, baking powder, salt, mustard, herbs and remaining 4¾ cups of cheese. Mix to combine.

In a separate bowl combine the beer, sour cream, tomato juice, eggs and worcestershire sauce and lightly whisk together. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix till just mixed. Do not over mix. Mine was quite a soft mixture.

Pour the mixture into prepared loaf tins. Sprinkle the cheese that you set aside earlier. Bake at 180 C for 50 -55 minutes or till done (mine were in at 150 C for 40 minutes at then another 50 minutes at 180 C at the bottom of oven – not recommended!) Allow to cool in the tins for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

On the stereo:
The Best of Mozart


  1. As a Mum I totally understand the concept of not enough hours in the day. I wish I could tell you you will get less busy, I thought I would be once mine all headed off to school. Sadly I seem to be busier than ever!

    But motherhood never ceases to be amazing, that's for sure!

    Love the 3 Cheese and Beer bread. It sounds delightful!

  2. I can totally understand that feeling of not enough hours in the day and I dont even have children!!

  3. I am amazed you find as much time to blog and cook such lovely dinners as you do! I'm not a mom, but I can only imagine how much work it is.

  4. Oh Johanna, don't do yourself down! Your food looks amazing and you put most of us to shame with your creativity AND the frequency of your blogging! That stew sounds particularly tasty and I do like the thought of all the oozy cheese in the bread, too. I'm sorry that things are sometimes hard to juggle though. I can only imagine how ful-on motherhood must be, and it sounds as though Sylvia keeps you on your toes with her hours! I'm glad to see that she shares your love of giraffes already though :)

  5. That looks great and I commend you for having time to blog when you are so busy with baby!

  6. As Lisa said, I'm amazed that you find time to blog and cook and do all these things! The soup and bread look delicious. I love the photo of Sylvia's little leg! And the giraffe on her outfit.

  7. I too am amazed that you are still able to keep blogging! I am enjoying your bread and your stew, well virtually anyway. They sound great. You always manage to make really appetising dishes that are right up my street.

  8. Thanks Vegetation - I don't doubt that it will get busier as she gets more lively - but it is full of wonder and fun to see all the changes

    Thanks Flower - as I wrote this post, I was aware that it is not as though I had lots of time to spare before being a mother - so I appreciate that children aren't the only reason for feeling time-poor

    Thanks Lisa - actually I seem to have more time to cook at the moment but it is less predictable

    Thanks Lysy - I think it is a case of don't feel sad because I have so little time, but feel glad that I do find time to cook and blog! Motherhood is full-on but it is great to have some distractions like my blogging. And I am always happier when I am eating well

    thanks Lorraine - she has made my life busy but at least she sleeps some of the day - it makes me try to be more organised when she does

    Thanks Ashely - yes, you will not be surprised to hear she has quite a few giraffe suits and toys

    Thanks Holler - I am only too glad to be able to keep blogging - and that we share great taste in food :-)

  9. Ah, so wise, darls. Mothering Sunday for all the women of the world, I say.

    Sylvia: that little foot of yours is incredibly beautiful.

    Johanna, I think you're doing remarkably - fantastically, in fact - well, though I've no doubt you are bone-tired!

  10. That stew sounds just heavenly! And of course the bread does, too. I had to laugh at the image of you as a boozy mom--too funny!

  11. Thanks Lucy - I am not always bone-tired, I am happy to say but often around 1am I feel very tired if she is not sleeping!

    Thanks Ricki - I laughed too - once I was out of the shop and over my mortification!


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