Friday 28 July 2017

Family Date... and some savoury bread and butter pudding

Brunch parties are the new dinner parties for parents of young children, says Sophie White, who has at last found an enthusiastic couple to date; platonically, that is

Chorizo already contains salt
Chorizo already contains salt
Sophie White

Sophie White

When babies are small, they are incredibly portable. Parents of young babies, take note: this is the easiest it will ever be to go out socialising.

The child is not yet walking, crawling, rolling, throwing or exerting their will in any way. Even their cries are quieter at this point and, therefore, more likely to be drowned out in the din of a busy restaurant. So quick - get out for a meal while there is still time.

Once they are a bit older, another obstacle arises when suddenly you become wedded to the tyranny of the bedtime ritual. You could be out, having a perfectly nice evening, when suddenly you realise the time and have to dash home for bath, book and bed. It's a bit like having a curfew. This is why we do a lot of entertaining at home these days. The extra people around amuse Yer Man, and he puts on a good show for others.

In particular, he loves one of the Bitchherd's partners, Dan. Dan is basically Yer Man's hero. The child could be in the middle of a screaming shit-fit, but if Dan walks in, he visibly pulls himself together, as if he's thinking, "Can't let the side down in front of Dan, must be cool".

Of course, parenting in front of a group of non-parents can be quite stressful. Non-parents are a lot more cautious and hands-on with children than actual parents are, so they kind of expect you to really closely supervise your child. Whereas when socialising with other parents, they understand the kind of bargaining and picking-of-battles one must do to achieve any kind of harmony with young children, so the atmosphere is a bit looser. The children roam free like a wolf pack, consuming and destroying all in their wake. While the parents enjoy whatever brief moment of reprieve is being provided by the kids playing with a wine-bottle cork or a used nappy.

To this end, Himself and I doggedly pursued another couple with a child so that we could have them all over for family dates. Very Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, but without the swinging. We road-tested the 'family date' with Couple-with-a-Child recently, and it was completely chaotic and a great success.

It's awkward when entertaining non-parent friends, as Himself and I pass Yer Man back and forth between us while serving food and drinks, but neglect to produce cutlery. Then we get confused about who currently has the child, only to find the child has escaped to the other room and is eating an orchid.

Not a relaxing environment for the Bitchherd and their plus-ones, whereas Couple-with-a-Child barely notice - presumably as they are just relieved to see parents more inept than themselves.

It was one of those rare moments when parenthood was just how I had always imagined it would be before Yer Man was born and started calling the shots. If you didn't look too closely, it was like an afternoon out of one of those aspirational and deeply irritating Instagram accounts were everyone is wearing matching clothes while doing family craft hour or some bullshit.

This is the best hands-off meal for lazy entertaining. Put it all together the night before and refrigerate for more ease.

Savoury Bread and Butter Pudding

Serves 4.

You will need:

125g (4oz) chorizo, peeled and chopped

140g (5oz) mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

200g (7oz) sourdough bread

150g (5¼oz) pecorino cheese

2 handfuls of baby spinach

10 eggs

400ml (14fl oz) milk

Freshly ground black pepper

Dressed leaves, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190°C, 375°F, Gas 5. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat and add the chopped chorizo, the sliced mushrooms and the finely chopped rosemary. Fry for a few minutes until the oils are released from the chorizo and the mushrooms are cooked.

Cut the sourdough bread into rough chunks. Line a 26cm (10in) springform cake tin with baking paper. Toss the chunks of sourdough bread together with the chorizo, the mushrooms and the rosemary in the pan and tip everything into the pre-lined cake tin. Finely grate the pecorino cheese and add it to the mixture along with the baby spinach.

Whisk the eggs and the milk together with some freshly ground black pepper; there is no need to add any salt as the cheese and chorizo are already quite salty. Pour the egg and milk mixture into the cake tin, pushing down any of the bread chunks that are poking up.

Allow it to stand for about 10 minutes so the bread can soak up some of the liquid. Bake for 40 minutes to an hour, until the pudding is firm and nicely golden on top. Serve with dressed leaves and a crisp white wine.

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