Today was the last day of term. Which meant that this afternoon I had two very tired little boys on my hands who weren't overly bothered about bouncing on the trampoline or going for a walk in the sunshine. We'd already done snakes and ladders until even they were bored with it (which takes some doing). We'd coloured in the paving stones outside the backdoor with fat coloured chalks. And we'd listlessly pushed a few cars around the carpet.
I decided that cooking dinner would be a good thing to do. It would be educational for them. It would keep them occupied. And it would mean that dinner would be ready early which in turn meant bedtime could be early. And luckily, I'd planned to make a dinner that took quite a bit of time with lots of little tasks that they could help with. Lamb in pita bread with tsatziki and grilled aubergine.
I'm a big fan of teaching my children how to cook - the sooner they can do it, the sooner I can put my feet up in the evenings with a big fat glass of wine while they slave over a stove. So we started out by roasting some cumin, coriader and mustard seeds - all of which we'd had a good sniff of before tossing them in the pan, with son 2 nodding sagely at each, offering his opinion like 'yummy', 'spicy' and 'smelly'. They found the roasting process fascinating, particularly when the seeds started popping. We then took turns using a pestle and mortar to grind them up. It started well but we ended up with a light dusting of aromatic spices across most of the kitchen.
We then cut the lamb into slivers and they took turns sprinkling what remained of the spices over the lamb and squeezing honey and lemon over it. Again, what started out well soon ended up with two small boys covered in honey from fingertips to the backs of their ears.
Moving swiftly on, we sliced peppers, onions and aubergines which absolutely had to be put in a bowl the minute I'd cut a single piece, which meant tiny fingers flying in underneath the sharp knife to make sure that they got to grab the next bit to go in the bowl.
Having survived that, we moved onto making tsatziki. Son 1 just wanted to eat the cucumber. Son 2 was frustrated that the odd piece of grated cucumber fell outside the bowl and insisted on pushing each piece through the top of the grater. We then had another tussle over who was going to scoop the yogurt in, who was going to squeeze in lemon, who was going to crush the garlic and who was going to grind in the salt and pepper. By the end of it we all looked like walking piles of Greek dip.
I decided that it would be safer for them to set the table while I cooked the food so that we didn't end up with pan fried small boy instead of lamb. They seemed to be managing well and the cooking went ahead at full steam, only interrupted by son 2 who kept wanting to know when it was time to do the pita bread, fondling and mangling it while waiting for the go ahead to pop it in the toaster.
I decided he needed another job and asked if he could take some teaspoons to the table for us to use in the houmous. He readily trotted off and did this. I was then trying to grill aubergines, stir-fry lamb, fry up onions and peppers and toast pitas all at once so enjoyed the peace I was afforded for a few minutes after the frenetic cooking afternoon. Until I realised that it really was too quiet.
I went into the dining room. There was son 2. With the utmost concentration on his little face, scooping houmous out of the pot and putting large dollops of it on everyone's plates. Except that he hadn't quite managed to get the plates. And he had used two teaspoons per person, discarding the dirty, houmous-dripping teaspoons as he moved his scorched earth policy across the table. There was houmous everywhere. On the backs of chairs. On the fronts of chairs. On the carpet. In his hair. Even a glob on the ceiling, obviously from a back flick. He was so incredibly proud of himself. It was heartbreaking.
'Put the spoon down and step away from the houmous,' I said. 'But I'm helping mummy,' he said holding a dripping spoon aloft. Like a scene from Hill Street Blues or CSI Miami, I held myself absolutely still and repeated the request loudly and clearly, ready to pop a pistol out of my pocket at the slightest wrong move. Slowly he lowered the spoon and my imaginery SWAT team swooped in, handcuffed him and hosed him down. Actually, he just toddled back to the kitchen and mangled the pita breads some more.
I was right, it did make the afternoon fly by. I however feel like I've once again done fully body contact cooking and the kitchen looks as though a small police force has shot up a tube station. Suffice to say, that I washed dinner down with some wine. It is weekend after all.