The day after the launch of Lorraine’s book was Carl’s birthday. To celebrate, I organised a family dinner at a restaurant we have been to quite a few times and I have previously let you all know about. We like it because it’s casual, great for children, is BYO and inexpensive. Later that day, Arabella let me know she had just realised she had a shift at the Buena Vista Hotel where she works.
‘But it’s your father’s birthday. And what about the family dinner?’
‘I know, I’m sorry. I didn’t know I had to work tonight. I’ve tried to swap but one girl’s twisted her ankle and another isn’t coming in because she’s vomiting’. Who would employ teenage girls!
‘Well did you pick up the present?’
‘Yes, I’ve got the gift voucher’. Arabella and Archie decided to each give Carl a gift voucher to his favourite menswear store. Combining their pool of cash would mean Carl could buy more than one trouser leg.
So I phoned the restaurant and said there would only be four of us. Then Archie phoned from uni and said he was bringing a mate home for dinner. ‘But Archie, we’re going out for your father’s birthday’.
‘Oh, where are we going?’
‘To the Thai restaurant’.
‘Oh, good. I’ll get Webb to meet us there. What time?’
‘Six because otherwise it gets too late for Alfie. Did you pick up the gift voucher?’
‘No, but I’ll get it on my way back from uni’.
So I phoned the restaurant and told them there would be five instead of four. At 5.45pm Carl still wasn’t home and he should have been because he’d been to a conference that was finishing at five and it was only a half hour from home. I called his mobile and he told me he was locked in the car park at The Star where he’d attended the conference. ‘How can you be locked in the car park?’
‘I was trying to get out but my ticket wouldn’t open the boom gate. The machine’s stuffed. Some voice spitting out of the machine told me to park and then walk to another level where I’d find their office and I’ve had to get my ticket validated and I’ve been locked in here for 40 minutes.’
‘Oh, okay, well we’ll go on ahead and meet you at the restaurant otherwise we’ll lose our booking’. Archie and Webb were already at the restaurant. I hurried there with Alfie. When I arrived, Archie showed me he had bought the gift voucher. I looked at it. ‘Archie, you went to the wrong menswear store. That’s not the one your father ever goes to’.
‘I thought that’s the one you said’.
‘No, you got it wrong. You should have gone to the same store Arabella went to’.
‘Oh, well is that a problem?’
‘Of course not. He can buy one trouser leg from this store and one trouser leg from Arabella’s store. It’s perfect’. Then Carl arrived and we had our family dinner minus our daughter and plus one of Archie’s mates. When the bill arrived I said, ‘Come on, let’s go home and have some birthday cake’. And Carl’s face lit up.
‘Did you make me a cake?’ Ahhh, not exactly. Because the night before when I was leaving Lorraine’s launch, she kindly said I could take some cake home with me. I didn’t want to cut into the actual ‘book cover’ so I sliced a wedge from the side of the cake and actually ended up with the book’s spine with the author’s name.
I don’t think Carl could quite believe I was giving him a second-hand birthday cake with another person’s name on it. I thought it was a fitting end to a lacklustre birthday.
Speaking of leftovers, as you know, I baked a ham on Mother’s Day. As luck would have it, there’s a lot leftover. I made this pasta that’s very creamy but has no cream!
Dairy-Free Creamy Ham and Mushroom Pasta
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: I didn’t need to buy any ham and the other ingredients cost me less than $10.00.
- 1 tbspn olive oil and 1 more tbspn of olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped (or crushed)
- 400g can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 500mls chicken stock
- 300g leg ham, thinly sliced (I cut mine into batons but sliced ham from the deli would be fine but look for off-cuts. Sometimes delis have off-cuts of ham from the bone they are selling cheaply)
- 300g button mushrooms, wiped with damp paper towel and sliced
- 400g spaghetti (or penne would be good too)
- a bunch of chives cut into desired lengths
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cannellini beans. Heat-through then add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and blitz with a stick blender until smooth and creamy.
In a frying pan over medium heat, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Throw in the ham and mushrooms and shake about until heated through and the mushrooms have softened slightly.
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add a tspn of salt and the pasta. Cook until al dente, drain and return to the saucepan. Pour over sauce and ham and mushroom mixture. Add chives, season and stir until incorporated.
Plate up! Serve with some crusty bread, a green salad and a glass of crisp white wine if desired.
And by the way, that second-hand cake was absolutely delicious. It was made by Whimsical Cakes and was two layers of chocolate mud with a wicked chocolate cream in the centre, a chocolate ganache covering followed by rolled icing. There were no leftovers.