Wednesday 20 November 2019

Date-night ditching for far better company

When Himself bails out on the mandatory parental date-night, Sophie White is forced to rebound, and in doing so, remembers whose company she prefers

Cauliflower Risotto with Parmesan and mushrooms
Cauliflower Risotto with Parmesan and mushrooms

Sophie White

When I was expecting, many people offered advice. I smiled tolerantly through lengthy admonishments from my mother about not doing my pelvic floor exercises - how could she even know? Apparently she knew.

Through speeches from my brother-in-law - only a few months into parenthood himself, and therefore spoken without a trace of irony - about how it is the best thing you'll ever do.

My bedraggled friend, who accidentally took the 'rack 'em and stack 'em' approach to baby-making, just kept reminding me that breastfeeding was not an effective form of contraception.

My attitude to most of this advice was pretty cavalier - I didn't take any of it on board, because it was all too abstract for me to really comprehend. My response ranged from disgusted - perineum massage; to amused - at Himself's face when I told him about perineum massage; to confused - they nap for 18 hours a day, yet you never get any sleep?

The one that confused me most was when well-meaning acquaintances counselled about making time for each other before the baby comes along. "Sure, we're sick of each other," I thought, "why else are we making a new person?"

After the baby arrived, Herself was suspiciously enthusiastic about babysitting to enable the supposedly essential "parent date." I later realised her agenda - one eye was firmly fixed on the potential future grandchildren that would surely be the product of some parent-date-induced giddiness.

The date night had a nice touch of novelty to begin with. In the early months, we were like survivors of some mild atrocity, who had been in hiding underground, emerging into bright sunlight, blinking and marvelling at how the world had just carried on without us. We sat on the Luas, staring out at the post-Christmas shoppers going about their business as if the world had not just fundamentally and irrevocably altered.

We were giddy over glasses of wine on a Tuesday night. I even put in a bit of effort - I had a shower and wore some very uncomfortable shoes. We had a lot to say to each other, usually about Yer Man, and inevitably, by the time the mains arrived, we were scrolling through pictures of him on the phones.

Recently, just hours before a date, plans were unexpectedly thwarted when Himself was felled by one of his customary weak spells. At first, I was deeply irritated, as the babysitter was booked and I really felt that he was kind of hamming it up - his symptoms were vague and abstract - just to get out of having to go anywhere.

After I slammed the door to the bedroom, leaving him to his deep sighing, heavy breathing and other side-effects of faux illness, I realised that with Himself out of the picture, I was free to do whatever I wanted. On a date, there is an element of democracy in that both people must agree on the proposed activities. I realised that as I was effectively on a date with myself, I could do whatever I wanted.

This led to this surprisingly healthy take on a risotto, a dish Himself would never eat, half a bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape and revisiting the Sandra Bullock oeuvre. I told Herself that I will be instating a weekly 'selfie date' from now on, and gleefully watched her face fall as all hope for more grandchildren diminished.

Cauliflower Risotto with Parmesan and mushrooms

Serves 2.

You will need:

1 teaspoon butter

Half an onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, sliced

125g (4oz) mushrooms, sliced

100ml (3½fl oz) white wine

300g (11oz) cauliflower florets

150g (5oz) tinned chickpeas, drained

100ml (3½fl oz) stock

60g (2½oz) Parmesan cheese, grated

Generous handful of rocket

Balsamic vinegar and olive oil, for drizzling

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over a medium heat and add the finely chopped onion. Sweat gently for a few minutes, then add the sliced garlic and the sliced mushrooms to the pan. Saute until the mushrooms are nicely coloured.

Increase the heat and cook for a few minutes, then add the white wine and simmer until the wine reduces. Blend the cauliflower florets in a food processor or grate them by hand until they resemble rice. Add them to the pan. Using a food processor or a hand blender, blend the drained chickpeas, then whisk in the stock and add this mixture to the pan. This will give a lovely creamy texture to the risotto. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes, then stir in the grated Parmesan. Share the risotto between two bowls and top with the rocket, drizzled with a little of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

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