This blog post doesn’t actually contain a recipe for Beef Stifado – I apologise, dear reader. I have, on many occasions, searched for a recipe online and had to wade through a lengthy blog where the writer sexes up a pasta bake for about 800 words, amidst some pre-oven shots that have been on a date with an Insta filter. When I eventually reach the holy grail that is the ingredients list, I feel like I’ve done a day at the farmer’s market with Nigel Slater. So, if it’s a recipe for Beef Stifado you’re after, just google it and set aside a few minutes for scrolling. Sorry.

Most days, I am haunted by the idea that I’m a Crap Wife because I’m too busy trying to be a Generally Alright Mum, and it’s pretty hard to do both. Excellent Homemaker doesn’t have a chance in hell, frankly. Sometimes I have wonderful ideas that can potentially elevate me to success the field of all three. One such idea was to factor in a brand new midweek supper, to be made from scratch, every single week. Fallback stir fry with chickpeas, be gone. No sauce jars here, oh no (except for pesto because it’s a shitter to clean oily basil from the blender blades).

I’ve developed rather a canny trick with my husband of a weekday morning, where I scuttle off downstairs and call over my shoulder for him to “just watch the girls for a sec while I have a quick wee”. Our bathroom is downstairs, it’s a retro concept. Anyway, I then fly around the kitchen like a whirling dervish doing the host of jobs that I can’t manage with a baby hanging off my boobs and a toddler putting my keys in the washing machine. Beef Stifado needs to cook slowly for 3 hours, apparently. Which makes it oven-destined at 2pm. Which means a construction time of 1.30pm. Not a sodding chance. I set about quickly boshing up a few onions and looking for the one jar of Mixed Spice out of the three in the cupboard that hasn’t yet gone off. I might also add that I’m in my underwear, because I don’t want to get cooking stuff over my PJ’s that were clean on the night before. “Underwear” is actually a breastmilk-stained crop top and my c-section recovery pants (my c-section took place three years hence). Stood half naked with both hands in my cake mixing bowl mashing together half a kilo of sinewy beef and 2 cans of chopped tomatoes, I’m quite the sight. Vaguely murderous, probably.

My husband appears, clipping on his cycle helmet and springing about with the enthusiasm of knowing he is escaping for the day.

“You can’t leave yet,” I hiss. “I’m making your dinner.”

“Um, it’s 7.25am. I actually need to go to work. Can’t this be done later, as we’re not eating for about 10 hours?”

Upstairs is suspiciously quiet, peppered only with the occasional squawk from Moo that suggests she’s being prodded by someone or something. “Just go. Just go.” Moo is whisked downstairs and deposited in her bouncer chair while Mouse takes assorted lids out of the Tupperware cupboard and pretends they’re ski shoes. I eliminate everything in the recipe that calls for a pestle and mortar, in the interests of time saving and child protection.

I eventually apply water to myself, dress, feed both girls, and we successfully vacate the house en masse to Do Things. 4pm arrives and I grasp my free Waitrose coffee with pride, knowing that I’ve almost made it through another day. I have two days per week which are not salved by pre-school or my mother-in-law, and they quite frankly do me in.

What is essentially cinnamon and beef casserole is just the ticket for the (unforeseen) hottest day of 2016 to date. “What is it?” asks my husband. “Beef Stifado. It’s Greek.”

“The meat is very tender…” he trails off, navigating through a ball pit of whole black peppercorns and knotting his T-shirt around his forehead like a sweatband. “I don’t like these mushrooms” announces Mouse, picking out hunks of green pepper and putting them 4cm beyond the boundary of her easy clean table mat. Moo is too busy sucking the smithereens out of my right boob to notice me retrieving diced onion from her clammy neck folds. Those right boob / dinner time pairings really do keep the DustBuster in business, such is the wobbly trajectory of my non-dominant hand to mouth. (Related tip: Never plan couscous if you’re due to give a right boob feed over dinner. It’s really not worth the mess.)

“Mummy, what we have for dinner yesterday?” asks Mouse. She means tomorrow – yesterday refers to any day, past or future, that isn’t the current one.

“Fish fingers and chips. If you’re really good for me while daddy’s at work, you can have an onion ring.” Boom.

-SJW May 2016

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