Balsamic roasted potatoes

Balsamic roasted potatoes

The last two weeks have been really weird.

Like, even weirder than usual, if you are me.

Two weeks ago I had one of those weeks where nothing terrible happens but the whole week feels like wading through treacle.

And I spent a teeny tiny bit too much time on social media comparing myself to the rest of the world and their shiny, swishy perfection and their white houses and toned abdominal areas and smoothie bowls.

And felt even worse.

But then last week, I went for a spray tan (I am currently in Portugal on a hen and thought the tan might disguise the lack of aforementioned abdominal muscles).

And well, I follow the rules.

I wore a slightly scuzzy maxi dress to avoid marking my good clothes.

And on the way home I did not wear my bra because it was lacy and push up and likely to wash all of the tan off my boobs and well my boobs are one of my better features and I want those looking tiptop at all times so I did not want patches of worn off fake tan.

Except on the way home I remembered I had to give a talk in a school.

And therefore had to do that in a slightly scuzzy maxi dress, with no bra on, and with my coat zipped up to the neck.

I managed to pass myself with the pupils and the teachers and my own sanity, but then when I got home my elderly neighbours insisted on taking me to Hillmount Garden Centre for a coffee.

In my scuzzy maxi dress.

Still no bra on.

And I shared this whole fandango on my Instagram stories and I literally have never had such a good response to any of the rubbish I spout on there.

I was doing a cookery demonstration at a show on Saturday and two complete strangers pulled up the sleeves of my jumper to inspect and see if the tan was worth it.

Apparently it was.

Phew.

And I came to realise that real life is OK and being a slightly ridiculous person is OK and sometimes carrying your bra around in your handbag might not be OK, but you can totally style it out and who even needs or wants to be shiny and swishy and perfect?

So I thought I would share a potato recipe with you.

Because these potatoes are a perfectly normal side, but with a Mrs P twist, and every time I post them on Instagram, everybody goes insane for them.

I really hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

~~~

Take some baby potatoes.

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Cut in half.

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Place in a pan of boiling water.

It will stop boiling as soon as you put the spuds on but if you apply heat it will start boiling again as if by magic and sorcery.

Or physics.

Whatever.

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After 10 minutes, drain the potatoes into a colander.

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Throw them onto a baking tray.

Then fire on some olive oil…

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Balsamic vinegar…

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And salt…

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Toss well, then bake for 30 minutes.

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Remove from the oven, and serve.

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Balsamic roasted potatoes.

Serves 2. Cooking time 45 minutes.

  • 150g baby potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch salt
  1. Half the potatoes and place in a pan of boiling water.
  2. Boil the potatoes for 10 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  4. Drain the potatoes and place in a baking tray.
  5. Add the oil, vinegar and salt, stirring well.
  6. Roast for 30 minutes.
  7. Serve.

 

Creamy garlic mushroom pasta

Creamy garlic mushroom pasta

I fell down a bit of an internet black hole the other day.

You know the type.

A quick scroll through Facebook while you drink and coffee, and the next thing is its two hours later and you are doing a quiz to find out what type of cheese you are and listening to your time capsule on Spotify and wondering about your life choices.

Anyway I ended up watching some video where they fed Italian Nonnas American-Italian food and literally could not stop thinking about Italian food and pasta for three solid days and sort of begrudged having to eat meals with my friends and family because all I wanted was my scrubbed dining table with a bunch of flowers and a pasta dish that had about four ingredients in it and a carafe of water and a big green salad and a linen napkin and I would savour every bite and it would be magnificent.

Today, at lunchtime, I managed to unlock that fantasy and the result was such a tasty lunch that I just had to share.

I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I did.

~~~

Put a pot of water on to boil.

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Anna Del Conte says it should be as salty as the mediterranean, and Ms Del Conte isn’t somebody I’d like to trifle with, so salt the water well.

Add some pasta.

I am a nerd and weigh my pasta because otherwise I end up with either two forkfuls or enough to half the neighbourhood.

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If you are using spaghetti, you need to do that poky thing so all the pasta is in the water.

For the uninitiated, that poky thing is merely posting your pasta with a wooden spoon until i is all below the waterline.

The pasta you see below needs a bit more poking action.

Cooking fundamentals with Mrs P.

You can thank me later.

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While the pasta is cooking, heat some oil over a medium-low heat…

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And slice some mushrooms.

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Add the mushrooms to the oil, and grate in a peeled clove of galric.

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Stir well.

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Cook that for 5 minutes.

Then stir in a couple of spoons of creme fraiche.

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Add a generous pinch of salt and a load of pepper.

I don’t have any Anna Del Conte quotes about pepper, but just be generous with the pepper, mmkay?

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Let that simmer for a minute or two, then drain the pasta…

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Mix in the mushrooms…

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And serve with a generous grating of hard Italian cheese.

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Scrubbed table, carafe of water, linen napkin and green salad totally optional.

But I promise it makes the food taste even better.

Enjoy!

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Creamy garlic mushroom pasta

Serve 1. Cooking time 15 minutes.

  • 75g spaghetti
  • 5 mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • Salt to taste
  • Italian hard cheese, to serve
  1. Bring a pot of water to the boil and salt well.
  2. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions.
  3. Heat the olive oil over a low heat.
  4. Slice the mushrooms and add to the oil, stirring well.
  5. Peel and grate the garlic, adding to the mushrooms.
  6. Cook the mushrooms for 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the creme fraiche, pepper and season well with salt.
  8. Simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the sauce is warmed through.
  9. Drain the pasta and mix with the mushroom sauce.
  10. Serve, with cheese to grate on top.

Honey chilli paneer

Honey chilli paneer

At the minute I am planning a return to China.

A return because I spent half of a very happy year teaching English as a foreign language in Nanjing Number One Middle School back when I was 18.

Which is fifteen years ago.

I’m not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty old right now.

I keep having snatched memories of the streets I walked and the street food carts I squatted at (I really wanted to say restaurants I ate in, but I was earning twenty quid a week and had to feed myself. Any restaurants I ate in were on the yuan of the bank managers I taught English to as a supplement to my paltry income).

I remember train journeys that lasted for ever (36 hours without a seat in -18 will leave you delirious with cold, it turns out), I remember visiting friends in other cities, I remember being the first white person most people I met ever seeing, and them being eager to touch my pointy nose, stroke my arm hair and marvel at my ability to use chopsticks.

But that was FIFTEEN YEARS AGO.

And there is so much I only half remember, really.

Was the hot bubble tea stand on the first or second corner before the Confucius temple?

What street was it where the English bookshop was?

Where was that river that the geography teacher who fancied me took me to? And more importantly, that hotpot restaurant he took me to afterwards, where we decided that neither my Mandarin nor his English were good enough to allow anything to happen ever? That hole in the wall cafe where the locals marvelled at the laowai and force fed us baiju we all ended up singing F4 songs and laughing about the whole thing until we cried?

I was trying to remember the youth hostel I stayed in in Shanghai and I was all like ‘IT HAD A VIEW OF THE BUND AND I GOT MY BELLY BUTTON PIERCED THE NEXT STREET DOWN AND HAD THE GREATEST BOAZI OF MY LIFE’ and I just couldn’t find it.

And then I managed to waste several hours online to and remembered it had been a converted military hospital, before finding out it was not loving its reputation as a backpacker’s hangout and is now a hotel than sort wants to be snazzy, but hasn't quite made the cut.

Fifteen years.

And because it has been 15 years, I am not claiming this dish has any kind of authenticity. The harshest of critics would probably call it ‘confusion’ cooking, this mash-up of Indian cheese with Chinese-inspired sauce.

But because it has been 15 years, I don’t care.

It has those Chinese principles I learnt all those years ago, of yin and yang, of balancing the spice with sweet, the crunch with sauce.

And it tastes, really, really good.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

~~~

Grab a block of paneer.

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Cut it into slices.

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Then cut those slices in half again, to sort of square them off.

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Sprinkle the paneer with cornflour.

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Heat some oil in a pan. 

I am lazy and hate using two different pans, so I used a little pan that would fit my sauce so I had to do the paneer in batches so I probably actually created more work than if I’d just used two pans and had to wash them both but those are my life choices and I guess I’m just going to have to live with them.

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Fry the paneer in the oil…

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Until nice and brown and crispy, then drain onto some kitchen paper.

Keep the leftover cornflour for later.

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Finely chop some garlic…

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And some ginger.

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Tip the oil out of the pan, and add a tablespoon of sesame oil.

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Add the garlic and ginger, stirring well.

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Add a heaped tablespoon of this stuff.

Those overhead videos you watch on Facebook but never actually cook will tell you to use sriracha.

Listen, I like sriracha as much as the next guy, but this stuff is the actual business, and possibly more addictive than crack cocaine.

You can also get it in the supermarket, or one called ‘chow chow chilli oil’, which is pretty amazeballs also.

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Add some soy.

It doesn’t have to come from catering-sized vessels.

I promise.

Add some black vinegar if you have been to an Asian supermarket recently, balsamic if you haven’t.

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Throw in some honey.

A breakfast club guest brought this for me that she got from her own actual bees? How cool is that?

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Add some Chinese cooking wine, and bring to a simmer.

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Then take some of your leftover cornflour, and mix with water…

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Before adding to the sauce and simmering for a minute.

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Tip the paneer into your sauce…

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Then stir well.

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Chop a couple of spring onions…

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Then sprinkle over the top.

Enjoy!

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Honey chilli paneer

Serves 2. Cooking time 15 minutes.

  • 226g pack paneer
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1cm piece ginger
  • 2 tablespoons cornflour
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey
  • 1 tablespoon chilli oil
  • 2 tablespoons black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Cut the paneer into slices, then these slices in half.
  2. Sprinkle the paneer with the cornflour.
  3. Fill a frying pan with vegetable oil, until it is 1cm up the side.
  4. Heat the oil over a medium heat.
  5. Add the paneer in batches, frying until brown and crispy, reserving the cornflour.
  6. Drain the paneer onto kitchen paper.
  7. Peel and finely chop the ginger and garlic.
  8. Add the sesame oil to the pan and place over a medium heat.
  9. Add the ginger and garlic to the pan, stirring well.
  10. Add the chilli oil, honey, soy and cooking wine to the pan and bring to the boil.
  11. Mix two teaspoons of the leftover cornflour with 50ml of water and add to the pan, simmering for 1 minute.
  12. Add the paneer strips and mix.
  13. Chop the spring onions and sprinkle over the finished dish.
  14. Enjoy.

Leek and potato soup

Leek and potato soup

I am totally giving up on relating blog posts to the weather.

It has been so bloody grim and so bloody dark and so bloody wet for so long that I thought I would share a lovely, Autumnal soup recipe.

Except now the sun has shone for two solid days and I have even had the legs out.

It is a very, very good thing I love leek and potato soup so much.

And this soup is lovely.

When the weather goes tits up again, it will be perfect.

~~~

Take an onion.

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Slice it.

You don’t actually need to be as neat as this, what with it all being made into soup, but the pressure of putting pictures on the internet must have gone to my head, or something.

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Melt 50g of butter.

I’m going to tell you a secret.

This is actually 59g butter.

The world didn’t end.

And extra butter is always good, right?

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Add the onion to the butter and fry for a while, stirring occasionally.

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Remove the ends from a leek…

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And slice it up.

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Then wash.

Listen, I an exceptionally lazy cook, but washing your leeks means no grit in your soup, which can only be a good thing.

Even if washing your leek does sound like a bit of a euphemism.

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Add the leek to the onion.

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And cook for about 5 minutes, until soft.

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Take 400g of potatoes.

I weighed these as well, what with potatoes coming in all shapes and sizes, and while I will tell you 400g, I actually used 397g.

Gasp.

The world did not end.

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Peel the potatoes.

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And cut into fairly thin slices.

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Add to the onions and leeks.

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Along with 1 litre of vegetable stock.

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Simmer for 15 minutes, until the potato is cooked.

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Add 150ml full fat milk.

You can use semi-skimmed if you really want, but full fat is so delicious I literally have no clue why the other stuff is so popular.

The other thing about semi-skimmed is it means the soup separates all funny if you freeze it and this doesn’t happen if you freeze full fat.

So my desire for the creamy deliciousness is backed by actual science.

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Blend up the soup.

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And serve with plenty of black pepper.

Enjoy!

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Leek and potato soup

Serves 4. Cooking time 30 minutes.

  • 1 onion
  • 1 leek
  • 400g potatoes
  • 50g butter
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 150ml full fat milk
  • Black pepper, to serve
  1. Slice the onion.
  2. Melt the butter over a medium heat and add the onion.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Slice and wash the leek.
  5. Add to the onion, cooking for a further 5 minutes.
  6. Peel and finely slice the potato.
  7. Add the to leeks and top wth the stock.
  8. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  9. Add the milk and blend.
  10. Serve, with plenty of black pepper.

Green lentil ragu

Green lentil ragu

SOMETHING AMAZING HAPPENED IN THE LITTLE PINK KITCHEN LAST NIGHT.

I mean, it didn’t look like it was going to be an amazing night 

It was Monday.

I had spent the day doing accounts.

I may or may not have had way too many Pisco Sours on Sunday night.

But I promise you, something amazing happened in the Little Pink Kitchen last night.

And if you were on the outside, looking in, it would have looked like the most ordinary night ever.

We shared a beer and had a chat.

Mr P took the dog for a walk and I made a ragu.

We ate and we talked about nothing much in particular.

Mr P did the dishes and I hung out a wash.

And then we sat on the sofa, the dog between us, me reading a book and his doing something really nerdy involving the research of upload speeds or something.

And it was amazing.

Why?

BECAUSE WE DIDN’T HAVE TO DO ANY DIY AND THERE WAS NO DUST ANYWHERE AND I DIDN’T HAVE TO FIT ANY INSULATION OR GO TO IKEA OR SCRUB A FLOOR ON MY HANDS AND KNEES.

And, after the DIY slog we have been through, this really, truly, properly is actually amazing.

A totally ordinary September evening.

So I decided to share this recipe, for a simple, weeknight ragu.

For those totally ordinary evenings that really do deserve to be celebrated in their own way.

~~~~

Heat some oil over a low heat.

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Finely chop an onion…

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and add to the oil...

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With a pinch of salt to stop it burning.

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Peel and finely chop a carrot.

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Cut the ends off two sticks of celery...

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Then finely chop that.

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And add the vegetables to the oil, stirring well.

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Cook over a low heat for 10 minutes.

The reason for the long cooking time is flavour, by the way, not just because I’m some sort of chaffy nonce with notions about making you spend ages in the kitchen.

Promise.

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After that has all cooked nicely, peel a couple of cloves of garlic.

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And finely chop.

The finer you chop, the more garlicky the end result will be.

Mr P tends to take leftovers for lunch, so I didn’t go too fine.

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Add the garlic to the pan, and stir well.

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Then throw in your lentils…

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Some tomato puree...

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Some stock...

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And some red wine.

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This particular wine was what I managed to persuade a random bouncer to sell me after all those pisco sours on Sunday night.

(Well, we had to go for emergency Chinese food and of course I decided we needed wine because I am wired to some sort of cornflake and should just have gone home and drank tea and eaten toast but instead I ate cucumber salad and didn’t actually drink any of the wine I had gone to such efforts to obtain because even after too many pisco sours I have food standards like a massive wab.)

Anyway, moving on.

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Let that bubble away for 25 minutes.

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Then stir in some balsamic.

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And serve with pasta and as much cheese as makes you happy.

Enjoy!

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Green lentil ragu

Serves 4. Cooking time 40 minutes.

 

  • 250g green lentils
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 750ml vegetable stock
  • 150ml red wine
  1. Heat the oil over a low heat.
  2. Peel and finely chop the onion, before adding to the oil.
  3. Peel and finely chop the carrot, and add to the pan.
  4. Finely chop the celery, and add to the pan, stirring well.
  5. Cook the vegetables over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the lentils to the pan, along with the stock, tomato puree and red wine.
  7. Cook for 25 minutes.
  8. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and serve.

 

 

 

Broad bean risotto with crispy fried courgettes

Broad bean risotto with crispy fried courgettes

So I was really excited about writing this recipe because it uses the very best of Summer vegetables, which is nice.

And the days of those vegetables are numbered so I was going to show them one last hurrah, as it were.

Except then I peeled my broad beans and they were a really strange purple colour.

Like really strange.

Like I thought they might have ben left languishing in the fridge for a bit too long strange.

But then last week I showed you what you can do with basil that is looking limper than a limp thing, so I pressed through.

Except I couldn’t stop thinking about my funny broad beans.

Perhaps they really were off?

Perhaps I had some very strange type of broad bean?

Perhaps they were actually going to KILL ME?

I can now confirm that I consumed this risotto 24 whole hours ago, and I’m not dead yet.

Purple broad beans are my new thing, obvs.

Enjoy!

~~~

Chop an onion as finely as you can be bothered to.

I always think I chop onions really finely and then when I see proper chefs do it, I realise my shortcomings in this life.

Then I realise it all goes down the same way and I don’t have Gordon Ramsey hitting me about the face with a loaf of bread or whatever it is happens in professional kitchens to ensure everybody who works there can chop an onion finely enough.

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Heat some oil in a pan.

Realise that you would last approximately 13 seconds in a professional kitchen because you would be beaten with sticks to get you to snap out of a world where you spend so much time thinking about whether broad beans should be purple and what type of bread Gordon Ramsey beats his juniors up with.

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Add the onion to the oil with a pinch of salt.

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Do not think of unnaturally purple vegetables.

Do not think of Gordon Ramsey.

Do not think of bread.

Just cook the sodding onion.

Peel and finely chop a garlic clove.

Again, as finely as you can be arsed.

Unless you at genuine risk of being beaten up with a loaf of bread.

In which case I would probably forgo making a risotto and just get Chinese takeaway.

But that is maybe just me.

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Add the garlic to the onion, along with the risotto rice, and give it a good stir so it is all nicely coated in oil.

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Add a glass of white wine.

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Now, to do this properly, you put a pot of vegetable stock on to boil, and keep it on a low simmer as you slowly add it.

I slowly add it.

But start by crumbling in a stock cube…

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Then adding my water in 100ml amounts.

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Cooking until it is absorbed.

Then re-boiling the kettle and adding another 100ml of water…

And so on.

It works for me because I am lazy and life is short.

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While that is bubbling, and between stirs, pod your broad beans.

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You can totally use frozen as well.

Might save freaking out that they are going to poison you or something.

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After 10 minutes of cooking, add the beans to the pan.

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They will need about 6 minutes of cooking.

Keep stirring!

Then take one regular sized courgette or two mini courgettes…

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Lop the ends off…

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And cut into thick slices lengthways before adding to a pan where you have heated some oil, and frying for a couple of minutes.

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Flip over, and fry on the other side...

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Before draining the courgette on kitchen roll.

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When the risotto is cooked, stir in a couple of tablespoons of grated hard cheese…

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Then serve the risotto...

With the fried courgettes on top.

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Not least to mask the weird purple colour.

Enjoy!

Broad bean risotto with crispy fried courgettes

Serves 2. Cooking time 25 minutes.

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch salt
  • 120g risotto rice
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • 400g whole broad beans
  • 2 small courgettes
  • 2 tablespoons grated hard cheese, such as Gran Moravia or parmesan
  1. Finely chop the onion.
  2. Heat half the oil over a medium heat, and add the onion and salt.
  3. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until translucent, before adding the garlic and risotto rice.
  4. Stir well, then add the wine.
  5. Add the stock to the pan in small increments, until almost fully absorbed. I find it easier to crumble in the stock cube, then just re-boil the kettle each time I add water.
  6. Pod the broad beans.
  7. After 10 minutes of cooking the rice, add the beans and cook for a further 6-8 minutes.
  8. Chop the ends off the courgette and slice thickly lengthways.
  9. Heat the remaining oil over a medium heat and fry the courgette slices for 2 minutes either side, until golden brown.
  10. Drain on kitchen paper.
  11. Stir the cheese into the cooked risotto, the serve, topped with the courgette slices.

 

 

Fresh pesto

Fresh pesto

Last week I was rejuvenated by this ‘writing a blog’ malarky.

So rejuvenated I trotted off to market, wicker basket in arm, to pick up some fresh, seasonal produce with which to delight and entrance my legions of fans.

Which was MARVELLOUS.

In my head.

Back in Belfast, AKA the real world, we ate like normal humans who work a lot, and had the odd curry, or stir fry, or risotto.

And then I could ignore it no more.

The pot of basil.

Sitting on the window ledge, looking all forlorn.

Yes, I had strewn some leaves across a salad.

Yes, I had tucked some basil into a really quite splendid mozzarella toastie.

But also yes, I had most of a pot left.

And it was looking kinda droopy.

So instead of relegate it to the brown bin, I actually decided to turn it into some dinner.

It was not as exciting as the fantasy in my head where I managed to delight and entrance you all.

But, at the same time, it did use up that slightly sorry looking pot of herbs.

Which is exciting enough, really.

Enjoy!

~~~

Take as much of a pot of basil as you have left.

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I TOLD YOU I LEFT MINE UNTIL THE REALLY DROOPY STAGE.

Stop judging me already.

You do it too.

You just don’t put pictures of it on the internet.

Which is probably a lesson I should learn.

Take a couple of tablespoons of pine nuts.

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And put them in a dry frying pan over a low heat for just a few minutes.

Keep a close eye, because they do burn.

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And I might manage to salvage some kind of dinner out of extremely droopy basil.

But burnt pine nuts are beyond me, apologies.

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Grate some Gran Moravia or parmesan or pecorino. 

I use Gran Moravia because it is veggie. You use whatever makes you happy.

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Put all of these things in a blender with some freshly ground pepper…

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And a slug of your best olive oil…

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Blitz a couple of times.

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Then stir through cooked pasta. I added peas for health in, if you use fresh pasta, what must be the easiest dinner in the land.

Enjoy!

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Fresh pesto

Serves 2. Cooking time 10 minutes.

  • 80g basil
  • 50g pinenuts
  • 50g hard Italian cheese
  • 125ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Few grinds fresh black pepper
  1. Place a frying pan over a low heat and add the pine nuts, stirring for a few minutes until browned.
  2. Place the pine nuts in a blender with the basil.
  3. Grate in the cheese.
  4. Add the oil and pepper to the blender.
  5. Blitz, until well mixed.
  6. Serve, stirred through hot pasta.

 

 

 

Warm hummus with spiced aubergine

Warm hummus with spiced aubergine

This is the point of the post where I should reminisce about travel across the Middle East, feasting on this delicacy with the locals after a long day traversing the desert by camel or something.

To be completely fair, it was inspired by a long journey across Mid Ulster, by transit connect. 

Which is probably even more uncomfortable than a camel.

Although does have DAB.

Swings and roundabouts I guess.

Anyway, after traversing Mid-Ulster I traversed the middle aisle of M&S Ballyhackamore where I was offered the opportunity to liberate myself of several of my hard-earned nuggets of gold in exchange for some hummus I could put in the microwave and make a ‘meal’ out of.

Oh how I laughed.

Except I couldn’t get the idea out of my tiny little mind.

WARM HUMMUS?

HUMMUS?

WITH EXTRA TASTY BITS?

WHAT IS THIS MAGIC AND SORCERY?

I MUST EAT IT IMMEDIATELY.

But rather than liberate myself of my hard-earned nuggets at my local convenience store, I made my own version.

And it is pretty damn amazing.

I suggest you try it immediately.

~~~

Grab an aubergine.

LOL at the connotations of its emoji.

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Slice the end of the aubergine off.

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And then slice the aubergine lengthways into slices as thick as a pound coin.

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Peel two garlic cloves.

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Cut the green stalk off a red chilli.

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Chuck them in a blender with some salt…

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Sugar…

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Oil…

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And balsamic vinegar.

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Blend it.

Blend it real good.

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Then use a pastry brush to brush it all over your slices of aubergine.

I know, I know, I don’t usually have the patience for a pastry brush either and go for the splash and dash approach and then have actual life regrets when my aubergine isn’t all crispy and tasty in some places.

Learn from my mistakes, people.

Learn from my mistakes.

And also, give me some praise for how evenly these slices are coated, kthnxbai.

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Then put in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until cooked.

When that is in the oven, start off your hummus.

Chuck a tin of drained chickpeas into a blender (M&S did manage to get some of my hard earned cash)…

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With a clove of garlic…

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The juice of half a lemon…

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Some tahini… 

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Some cumin…

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As well as some olive oil, salt and water.

Blitz it up.

Blitz it good.

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Transfer the blitzed hummus to a dish and cover with foil, then put in the oven for 10 minutes to warm.

Remove the hummus from the oven…

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Top with the aubergine slices…

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And serve, with a green salad and some flatbreads or pitta to dip.

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~~~

Warm hummus with spiced aubergine

Serves 2. Cooking time 20 minutes.

  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 aubergine
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 red chilli
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Cut the stalk off the aubergine and slice into thick slices lengthways.
  3. Peel two cloves of garlic, chop the stalk off the chilli, and place in a blender.
  4. Add the sugar, half a teaspoon of the salt, 2 tablespoons of oil and the balsamic and blend.
  5. Brush the mixture evenly over your aubergine slices, and lay flat on a baking tray.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.
  7. Drain the chickpeas and places in a blender with 2 tablespoons oil, the cumin, the juice from half a lemon, the tahini, half a teaspoon of salt and the final garlic clove, peeled.
  8. Add 150ml water and blend well
  9. Transfer to a serving dish, cover with foil and bake for 10 minutes, until warmed through.
  10. Remove the hummus from the oven, top with the aubergine slices, and serve.

Creating space, and building the Little Pink dining room

Creating space, and building the Little Pink dining room

Over the years, I have written a lot.

Too much, some might say.

I share recipes and I overshare insecurities and I have filled you in on every detail of Mr P and I’s kitchen renovation and this is probably what makes me so very happy to show off our new dining room to you.

A dining room of which I am stupidly proud.

Stupidly so.

Because it was my very own idea to knock these rooms together, to create this amazing space, and we have actually done it.

Ourselves.

We have used a builder for heavy lintel fitting, we have a gasman, we paid someone to fit the granite in the kitchen and got somebody to pour the screed over the underfloor heating so we are working with a perfectly level surface.

Everything else has been us.

Everything.

Building walls and fitting insulation and hauling doors into place.

Painting everything in sight and upholstery and plumbing and electrics.

All of this, and so much more to create this dining room.

A dining room of which I am stupidly proud.

Stupidly so.

We turned an old window into a door and opened up an old door fitting to create another set of patio doors (yes, of course we sodding fitted them ourselves).

We fitted one hell of a lot of insulation.

Ourselves, natch.

I actually got some weird infection from this and lost my voice for a solid week.

Eventually the plasterer arrived.

So we laid a beautiful, yet practical floor.

I found Soferia, an online supplier who could make snazzy new covers for an old Ikea sofa.

And painted everything in sight.

I taught myself how to upholster.

We created a bookshelf which runs the whole length of the room and houses my quite sizeable collection of cookbooks.

WE BUILT A SODDING TABLE.

I mean, I had done some research and thought it might be possible, so we went to E&A reclamation in Ballymena and got some beautiful old floorboards (shout out to Cliodna and Charlie for being lovely and encouraging my harebrained ideas). and actually turned them into a FREAKING TABLE (another shout out to Ana White, without her plans this simply would not have happened).

I managed to get the Philippe Starck Ghost chairs I have been dreaming of FOR FIFTEEN YEARS shout out to the girls at Maven).

We managed to turn my Grandfather's worklamp form Shorts into a reading light.

I found some beautiful leather cabinet handles.

And here we have it.

The most beautiful dining room, and one of which I am very, very, VERY proud.

Look at it.

And I wish I could leave this there.

If I left this there, I might be able to diversify into ‘lifestyle blogging’ and get invites to farrow and ball events or something.

All I would need to do is namecheck the designers and the offers would come rolling in, I am sure.

Except I can’t.

Last year, when we attacked the kitchen renovation with gusto, I had just left my full time job. I spent the first full month of self employment actually building the physical Little Pink Kitchen.

And that was tough.

I worked, and worked, and then, when Mr P got home from the office, we worked some more.

I taught myself how to fit kitchens and build walls and tile awkward shapes and plumb in dishwashers and level units and SO MUCH more.

It was so hard, but ultimately extremely rewarding and worth the slog and when we got the chance to show it all off, it was MAGNIFICENT.

After we finished the kitchen, we, understandably, stopped with the whole DIY for a while. We had used up our enthusiasm and money, so we hug a plastic sheet between the kitchen and what was to be the dining room and got on with our lives.

I established a food business that was to go on to win an award.

We got on with our lives, and went to the pub and saw our mates and went for long walks with the dog and read books.

After a while, it became clear that we really needed to sort out the second part of this Little Pink Kitchen, and so we knocked through to create an opening two giant french doors, and spent a very sweary weekend fitting them.

We filled the space in the new dining room with dust and ladders and insulation.

We filled the living room with boxes of packaging, and catering flasks, and the table for the breakfast club.

We filled the study with yet more packaging, and the giant saucepans, and all of our paperwork.

We filled the room we were using as a living room with the camping stuff, and legs for our new table, and boxes of art that needed some space.

Space.

There was none left anywhere for people.

We had a sofa, but on one end of it was some sample of skirting board.

We had a bed, but it shared a room with the box of crap you need when you have a dog, like leads and poo bags and old pig’s ears.

There was wasn’t even anywhere to sit and drink a cup of tea.

Space.

We had none.

And over time, this started to really start to affect me.

Every lunch order that descended involved rearranging the chaos to find boxes.

Every breakfast club that happened involved rearranging the living room to look presentable.

Every day of filming, or picture for a magazine, or meeting about a job, involved rearranging everything, just to give the illusion of being vaguely in control.

After I had done my deliveries I would have to rearrange the office to find a space for my laptop to try and do some work, but there was never enough.

And so, as I started to lose space, I started to lose my spark.

I struggled to think of ideas for menus and had to feign enthusiasm for work.

Personally, I struggled to see the point in making any kind of effort with anything, and wore the same scruffy clothes for weeks on end.

I started to struggle to respond to even basic queries, and as a result, probably lost work that I will never gain back.

I even stopped responding to my friends, and there are probably a few who still think I hate them.

In the afternoons, there was wasn’t even anywhere to sit and drink a cup of tea.

Space.

I had none.

Mr P had none either.

And this took its toll on our relationship.

Our relationship.

My anchor and rock and reason to be was, well, rocky.

The bickering, the spats, the arguments that went round and round in circles to the point where we both wondered if any of this was worth any of that.

It was horrible.

One night, I had a vivid fantasy about taking to the van and driving off into the distance to a place where there was no stuff and only wide, open space and cursed Mr P for helping me build this life where I had to spend my time surrounded by stuff and with no space.

And there wasn’t even anywhere where we could sit, and talk things over properly, and drink a cup of tea.

Space.

You get the idea.

We had none.

And through all of this work, that had been the hardest thing for me.

No space.

I haven't slept much for the last few weeks of finishing, I have contracted a throat infection while fitting insulation (I mean, I wasn’t able to speak for a week), I have fitted a fancy floor, I have taught myself how to BUILD A SODDING TABLE, none of which is easy.

But this lack of space, to live and work, and drink my tea, has been the hardest of all.

And that makes me me all the more delighted to show it off to you.

Because we now have space.

We have managed to create space for awesome breakfast clubs…

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For sitting down with a cup of tea...

And celebrating the fact that together, we have made this with our own hands and swear words and not sleeping for more than four hours a night for the last month.

We have made some space.

And, if you are ever struggling a bit, you can totally come round.

We have space now.

This is doing it yourself.

This is doing it yourself.

I am standing in front of the food hygiene inspector, telling her we will have a finished floor within the next few weeks.

I am hosting a breakfast club, and praying no guests want to actually see the Little Pink Kitchen.

I am hoping, praying, willing with all my might that doing it all ourselves will be worth it.

This is doing it yourself.

I am planning the other half of the room, the dining room.

I am using the Ikea 3D planner.

I am excited about doing it myself.

This is doing it yourself.

I am helping the builder hoist the beam into place.

I am making cups of tea and heating sausage rolls.

I am trying to imagine the room that this will become.

This is doing it yourself.

I am putting a wash on.

I am connecting the temporary plumbing supply.

I am causing the heating to switch off by plugging the washing machine into the power.

I am very cold on this bleak November day.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am welcoming a photographer in to take pictures of the oh-sp-desirable Little Pink Kitchen.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am dismantling my spare fridge, just so that there is a dust-free cupboard for my packaging.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am being filmed by a crew, who dare not point their cameras at any part of this house other than that one finished bit.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

This is doing it yourself.

I am putting my filthy work clothes on after a solid 12 hours of actual work.

I am pointing a torch up the chimney.

I am pulling the liner down.

I am covering everything, everywhere in dust.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise our washing machine finally has a home.

This is doing it yourself.

I am finding soot in my ears.

I am cleaning door frames, and window frames and boxes.

I am coughing.

I am coughing.

I am coughing again.

This is doing it yourself.

I am busy.

I am tired.

I am making tea in our kitchen.

I cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

I sit on the floor, with the dog.

This is doing it yourself.

I am opening the box.

I am remembering how carefully I packed the box, how well I wrapped it, to make sure its contents would be free from dust.

I pick out a container.

I notice the soot.

I sigh.

I wash my hands, and pick out another container.

I notice the soot.

I remember the door handles.

I look at the soot.

I remember the protective sheet.

I look at the soot.

I try to remember a time without soot.

This is doing it yourself.

I am helping Mr P fit insulation.

I am determined to end this chaos.

I am sawing, and sticking, and spraying expanding foam.

I am breathing in the dust.

This is doing it yourself.

I have lost my voice.

I cannot garner the attention of the receptionist when I am delivering lunches.

I am coughing up insulation.

This is doing it yourself.

I am on a billboard.

I am in a magazine.

I am achieving all of my business goals and more.

I still cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.

I am overwhelmed.

I am unable to reply to even basic queries.

I am losing work.

I envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I am aware I will be dealing with this for months to come.

This is doing it yourself.

I am lifting plasterboard into place.

I am remembering that I have been doing this for weeks, months, lifetimes now.

I am drilling holes and filling them with screws.

I am planning sockets and switches and lights and shelves.

This is doing it yourself.

I am in the reclamation yard.

I am so pleased the guy working there thinks my plan to build a table will work.

I am ordering legs.

I am researching pocket holes.

This is doing it yourself.

I am ordering fabric.

I am choosing light fittings.

I am thinking about paint.

This is doing it yourself.

I am surrounded by things.

I am working while crouched on the bedroom floor.

I have no space to unroll my yoga mat.

I envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I still cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.

I order the dining chairs I have been dreaming of for the last 15 years.

I am finally able to afford them because we are doing it ourselves.

This is doing it yourself.

I do not know where the sauce pots are.

I can only find knives, not forks.

I need forks.

I hum Alanis Morrisette, and think that perhaps one day, I will look back on this day and smile.

I envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I wipe the tears from my face.

I give a presentation about running a successful business.

This is doing it yourself.

I write the date the plasterer can come in permanent ink on the wall.

I plan out what lies ahead.

I think of the necessities, like electrics and plumbing.

This is doing it yourself.

I still have a business to run.

I still can only find knives, not forks.

I still envy Mr P, escaping this chaos in his office.

I still cannot find anywhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.

I am rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

I am welcoming another film crew into the building site.

I am in awe of their shiny hair.

I am apologising for the mess.

This is doing it yourself.

I don’t want to drink wine.

I don't want a bath.

I don’t want to make jokes.

I am bored of rearranging the house, trying to find somewhere, anywhere, for this stuff to go.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise I can’t do it all on my own any more.

This is doing it yourself.

I accept offers of help, of space, of cups of tea.

I drink wine.

I have a bath.

I start responding to those messages I ignored.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise the fog is lifting.

This is doing it yourself.

I realise that in a few short weeks, I will have somewhere to sit and drink my tea.

This is doing it yourself.