The sleeping arrangements weren’t to either of our satisfaction. My father said she had to sleep downstairs in her basket in the kitchen and not upstairs with all of us because she was a ‘guard dog’. But Sophie didn’t like sleeping downstairs, she wanted to sleep in my bed. So under the cover of darkness she used to sneak out of her basket and run up the stairs and jump onto my bed where I would wake and be thrilled she was with me. But her metal discs around her collar would make such a noise as she ran up the stairs that my father would hear her and take her back down to the kitchen.
Soon my father became tired of running up and down the stairs at night and so he put Sophie on a leash so she was forced to sleep in her bed. I wasn’t happy that my special little friend could no longer surprise me with a midnight visit so I would ask if I could put her on the leash at night. I would look Sophie in the eye and she would understand that there was a secret between us. I would make it look like she was ‘on the leash’ but actually I wouldn’t property fasten the leash to her collar so Sophie would be able to make her escape. After everyone had gone to bed and be sound asleep she would make her escape and ever so quietly sneak up the stairs to join me. And every morning my parents would wonder how it was that she managed to escape from her leash.
But Sophie had many more uses besides keeping me company in the middle of the night. I didn’t like to eat as a child and was fussy over just about everything. I didn’t like boiled eggs especially if I saw a bit of white that was ever so slightly transparent, I didn’t like meat especially if it had fat or gristle or blood on it, I didn’t like anything cooked in red wine which was a problem seeing my mother was going through a French cooking phase, I didn’t like milk, I didn’t like cheese and I didn’t like seafood.
At meal times we used to have to sit on bar stools at an eating bar and of course it was expected that we wouldn’t leave the table until we had eaten everything on our plates. And that was a problem because there was quite often eggs or meat or cheese or milk or seafood on my plate. I trained Sophie to sit under my bar stool. She was not under any circumstances allowed to be fed at the table because my father said that was the worst mistake you could make with a dog. But I didn’t believe him. I would have Sophie under my feet every night and as I couldn’t leave the table without an empty plate and as she was always on the search for extra treats, I would carefully and silently lift my leg and when no eyes were upon me I would take the offending item of food, place it on my shoe, then slowly lower my foot to the ground and there Sophie and I would create a win/win situation.
Fortunately for Sophie, my mother didn’t often cook vegetarian meals meaning my very special friend was very well fed from my shoe for most nights of the week. Sophie would have been very disappointed (and hungry) if my mother had cooked this Winter Vegetable Tagine.
Winter Vegetable Tagine:
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: This is a very affordable vegetarian family meal.
- 1 tbs olive oil
- 2 onions, thinly sliced
- 2 lge carrots, peeled, cut into 8cm lengths
- 1 lge parsnip, peeled, cut into 8cm lengths
- 300g kumara, peeled, cut into 2cm pieces
- 300g butternut pumpkin, peeled, cut into 2cm pieces
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp ground saffron
- 1 tsp each ground ginger and tumeric
- 2 cinnamon quills
- vegetable stock or water to cover
- 400g canned chickpeas, drained, rinsed
- 2/3 cup (100g) dried apricots
- 8 soft, pitted dates
- 2 tbs honey
- 2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander
- 1/2 cup (40g) flaked almonds, toasted
- Harissa and couscous, to serve (optional)
Heat oil in a large flameproof casserole over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened.
Add carrot, parsnip, kumara, pumpkin, tomato paste, cayeene, saffron, ginger, tumeric and cinnamon quills. Pour in enough vegetable stock or water to just cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook gently for 45 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, apricots, dates, and honey. Season, then simmer for a further 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and the mixture is thick and soupy.
Scatter with herbs and almonds. Serve with harissa and couscous, if desired.
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