Monday, September 04, 2006

butternut squash stew

SPOKE to The Fat Kid yesterday. She's not really fat, nor is she a kid. She is in fact my 23-year-old daughter. She should really be a bit portly, on account of the fact she's already had two kids. When she first told me she was pregnant with her first child, the vin monster, I had the screaming abdabs. "I'm not old enough to be a grandad!" I protested. It put me into a deep depression for at least five minutes, till I thought of getting the subbuteo out again, taking the offspring to see The Gas (my footie team) and dressing him up in the current England shirt. I even bought him a Wales rugby shirt, poor mite.
The Vin Monster is three and the latest recruit, Marley, is just over three months old and nearly as big as Vin. No handmedowns for Marley. When it comes to feeding the big boy, What I cooked last night will probably not go nearly far enough.
He's built like his dad, but I'm not going to talk about his dad, on account of the fact he and The Fat Kid split up a couple of weeks ago and I am not surprised. He's a selfish git. Sorry, as I said I'm not going to talk about it.
Anyway, The Fat Kid wants to move. Again. She only moved two months ago to Harlow from Southend, but is missing her old friends. She is nearer her mother and sisters now, who are already driving her mad. But that's families for you.
I love The Fat Kid, we have a special relationship. I give her money, she spends it. But that's ok because I wasn't around during her growing up years. In fact, it came as an almighty shock when the police told me that she had run away from home and wanted to live with me. I was happily living the bachelor life at the time with no worries.
She was 15. We hardly knew each other. I took a job in London so that as soon as she got bored or fed up with me she could just hop on the next train back to mum. She stayed.
We had a pretty rocky time early on, as she was Southend's version of Bonnie. Instead of Bonnie and Clyde it was Bonnie and Bonnie as her best friend Lizbeth was her partner in crime.
Quite often I would be returning home from work late at night on the DLR when I'd get a call from PC Biggleswade or DCI Johnson or whoever telling me they had someone in custody who claimed to be my daughter. Instead of going to bed I had to climb into the car and drive to one of the many police stations that she called her second home to get her out of the slammer.
It was mainly silly things like shoplifting but when she stole my credit cards and bought £42 worth of pizza and Hagan Das for her and her mates I finally blew a fuse. I left her in the cells all night while thinking how to tackle this major headache that had gatecrashed my previous serene life.
This was the plan. I surmised I was cleverer than her on the basis that she had spent most of her early years playing truant, and that nearly everything she thought she was doing for the very first time, I'd done many years earlier.
So, without her realising (and I STILL don't think she knows) I set about picking her new friends - a boyfriend who went to school every day, a new best pal with a mother who scared the hell out of all the local kids and a new social network of people I felt I could trust to keep her out of trouble. I got her into college to do an NVQ in Beauty Therapy and pretty soon we were getting on great.
When she decided she was old enough to go it alone at 19 I agreed - and months later came the call I was dreading. The "I'm pregnant" one.
Anyway, think I've talked The Fat Kid out of making any hasty decisions. I reminded her what a pain packing is for a start and told her I couldn't lend her the deposit on a new place. We'll have to see what happens.
Spent the rest of the day lazing about watching more Sopranos, catching up with Lost (I saw it earlier in the week but didn't remember a thing on account of the drunken Stones night). Both had shocking endings.
Making a trip to the kitchen I found a butternut squash in the pantry that had been there for about six weeks. Not sure what it will be like but decided to cut it up and have a look.
Lo and behold, these things seems to keep for ages on account of their tough skin.
So it's out with Aynsley Harriot's meals in minutes and a cheap, cheerful and extremely healthy dish, brilliant to replenish anyone who has had the kind of boozy week that I have.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Half tsp mustard seeds, half tsp cumin seeds.
half red onion (or whole onion if you prefer)
One large clove garlic, crushed
one red chilli (seeds removed and sliced)
2 tablespoons Madras curry paste
three large potatoes, cut into chunks
Pint veg stock
butternut squash peeled and cut into squares
two vine tomatoes cut into six wedges each
Tin of black-eyed beans
Salt and pepper
Two mini Garlic and Coriander Nans

Heat oil and add seeds until they start popping (careful the oil isn't too hot or its like coming under fire on a shooting range)
Add chopped onion, garlic and red chilli and cook until onion softens (3-4 mins)
Add Madras curry paste and potato chunks and mix together.
Add veg stock and bring to boil
Reduce to simmer and cook for five mins covered
Add butternut squash, bring back to boil and simmer for 15.
Add tomato and black-eyed beans
Add salt and pepper as you wish
Heat for another three minutes while sprinkling nans with water and doing under the grill about a minute each side.
Put nans on plate, poor over Butternut squash stew.
Any that's left you can freeze. I use those plastic takeaway containers, they're great.
Tried to stay up late to watch the baseball, but dozed off during third inning.
There followed a night of silly dreams. "Stop shooting at me, Simon Thomas, I'm fed up hiding behind this bus stop!"

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