It was my birthday this week, a fact which I was more than happy to ignore but the Boy seemed to have missed that particular memo. I walked into his room in the morning and was greeted – very very sweetly – with an off-key off-word rendition of “Happy Birthday” (“Happy To You TO YOOOOOO”). This continued for the rest of the day, into the next, and on, through the week. I thought he’d burst with excitement when we had be-candled birthday cake that evening, and now every bout of “To You” is preceded with dire warnings about the “hot hot cake, be very careful Mummy”. It didn’t stop him eating it however, or blowing out the candles. Twice.
We decided to celebrate my ever decreasing youth with a visit to London Zoo. Yes, in December. In fact on what I suspect was the coldest day so far of winter. Undeterred by this minor hassle, we also decided that, in order to get the most out of the day, we’d have to skip the Boy’s lunchtime nap – the first time we’d ever deliberately done so. Guess there’s a reason we’ve been loathe to be so flexible, and that reason became very obvious somewhere in the reptile building, when the Boy lay down on the (wet, manky) ground and screamed loudly enough to frighten the cobras.
We made it home in almost one piece, and somewhat randomly, the hippos have been the only animals which have stuck in the Boy’s mind since then. Every night when I ask him what he wants his story to be about he says “Hippos, sleeping in the very hot water” (and then “cock” – which was slightly disconcerting the first time; when I enquired further he said “cock mummy, cock. Hen.” Ah.) My imagination isn’t vivid enough to come up with a story any more exciting than one about hippos falling asleep in very hot water and waking up all wet (“and they all lived happily ever after with the cock”) but he doesn’t seem to mind.
Since I started to write this – sometime last week, maybe the week before, I don’t quite remember – I have been battered by Tempted Fate, with the Girl getting another bout of horror illness, necessitating further hospital visits (but no stayovers, thankfully) and the Boy on another round of antibiotics. We’ve somewhat lost our sense of humour about it, and are back to the early days of just longing for a stretch of six hours’ sleep. By all accounts this is a rite of passage for parents of two – parents of one can generally isolate their nipper from nasty bugs so avoid the more horrible horrors – in which case, I feel fully initiated. The attending registrar gleefully told me that we could expect further reoccurrences every three weeks or so until “about March”, so that’s something to look forward to. My Happy To You notwithstanding, I feel like I’ve aged considerably in the past few weeks. God knows what sort of creature I’m going to look – and feel – like by March.
Because of all that, I’ve barely had time to eat, let alone cook, this month. The following is what appears more than anything else in my (rapidly diminishing) repertoire. Made in bulk – nothing more of an endurance than opening more than one can of tomatoes – it can be frozen, either in large containers for your own future use, or in mini ones for smaller people (whereupon it’s defrosted likidy-split in the microwave and added to any starch-base –pasta, gnocchi, potatoes – with grated cheese* for a very quick and easy oh-God-it’s-ten-past-five toddler’s dinner.) It’s without doubt the easiest, most delicious tomato sauce – and while it doesn’t require any livening up (being a feisty little thing in its own right), you can get creative with all manner of added ingredients (seafood/fish being the most obvious).
Dead Simple Tomato Sauce
You need (for 2 -for more, just increase the ingredients accordingly):
- A clove of garlic, finely sliced
- A few basil leaves
- Some olive oil
- A tin of plum tomatoes – whole, preferably, but chopped is fine
- Salt and pepper
Pour a few glugs of olive oil into a saucepan.
Add the sliced garlic and a couple of basil leaves.
Put over a medium heat until the oil starts to sizzle a bit.
Tip in the tin of tomatoes, and break up the whole tomatoes (if using) with a knife or wooden spoon.
Bring to the boil, then turn heat right down. Partially cover with the lid of the pan, or put a splatter-proof mesh over the top.
Leave to bubble away for about 15 mins.
Add more basil leaves (torn or chopped) and some salt and pepper, to taste.
Voila. Serve as is over pasta, or liven up with parmesan, other grated cheese*, or other grilled protein.
*A quick word on grated cheese. To demonstrate my absolute descent into house-slutdom, I now buy ready-grated-cheese. I know. Revolting. Except... it isn’t really. I concede that the addition of potato-starch to a one-ingredient convenience is somewhat concerning, but when you’re holding a baby, stirring tomato sauce into pasta and barking orders at a toddler, opening and shaking a bag is really and truly alot easier than the usual block-n-grater option. And all ready-grated cheeses are not created equally – go for the most expensive one and honestly, it tastes good. Well, good enough for the Boy. Natch, we grown-ups don't touch the stuff...