The school holidays are killing me. The Big Sister is dino-stomping on my last nerve. I adore her inquisitive nature and her tenacious approach to life; but as luck would have it, I'm not strong enough to survive life in the cross-hairs of her quest for knowledge.
Not everyone dreads the holidays. Every year when the shops roll out their Back to School sales before the bin man’s done the after Christmas pick up, my Mum says how sorry she feels for kids going back to school. “Some mothers couldn't wait for their kids to go back to school”, she says. “Not me", she says, "I loved having you home.”
I am some mothers. I cannot wait for kindy to resume next week.
I read somewhere else that the average four-year old asks 473 questions per day. I suspect this is an underestimation. The constant interrogation is killing me. Wikipedia includes listening to children screaming is a form of torture. I concur. If I'm subjected to many more days of this and I’ll give up the internet banking password, the keys to the liquor cabinet* and anything else the tag-teaming sisters demand. I'm a mediocre mother and I'm down with that.
Mum, however, is somehow impervious to the endless questioning torture and she cannot hear the dog-whistle pitch of my girls’ screams. Perhaps she received some special training during her stint with the (then) Women’s Royal Australian Navy.
Recently Mum looked after the kids for us while Bearhands and I had a kid-free break. Not only did she manage to keep them all fed and clean; she enriched them too - trips to the park and the library. She even used her smart phone (!) to send us a picture of the three of them at the beach. My mother is a freaking over achiever!
I’d love to tell you that she’s a lousy cook, but she’s across that as well. She makes the best moussaka on earth. Here's the recipe.
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
600g lamb steaks, diced
1 brown onion, finely diced
400g tin diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste (homemade is awesome)
½ cup dry white wine
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
⅓ cup plain flour
1L milk (approximately)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
100g parmesan cheese
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and garlic and cook gently until translucent. Turn up the heat and add the lamb, cook until browned. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, wine and spices. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for twenty to thirty minutes, or until the sauce is reduced.
While the sauce is reducing, slice the eggplant. Brush the slices with oil and grill until lightly browned. Turn and repeat for the other side. Remove from the griller and cool.
Make the béchamel sauce. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the flour and cook stirring until the mixture bubbles and thickens. It’s important to really cook the roux (butter and flour mixture) or your sauce will have a floury flavour. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the mixture boils and thickens. Stir in the nutmeg.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a baking dish (or for individual moussakas, six ramekin dishes). Line the base of the dish with eggplant slices. Then add the lamb mixture, adding any remaining eggplant to the top. Top the dish with béchamel sauce and grated parmesan cheese.
Bake for 45 minutes.
Alternatively if your house is anything like Casa de Cooker at dinner time; bung it in the oven, bath the kids, commence the bedtime negotiations, then turn it off and keep it warm in the oven until sometime in the next few hours!
My Mum is a little bit terrifying, but don’t let her military training discourage you from stealing her awesome recipe. It’s so good that when I ordered moussaka in Lygon Street, I was disappointed.
I think Mum is wasted as a grandmother. I'd love to see her foray into foreign relations. After an hour with Mausie, Kim Jong-un would be begging to phone his mummy, apologise and promise to keep his room clean!
do you enjoy the school holidays?
does your Mum cook well?
should we send my Mum to sort out North Korea?
* as if we keep the grog locked up!