RECIPE: Trinidad style Macaroni Pie

Trinidadian Macaroni Pie
Macaroni Pie

As unlikely as it might sound, Macaroni Pie is a staple dish of Trinidad (where my parents are from). This is my version of the caribbean classic.

While it can be served as an indulgent main for 4-6, in Trinidad it’s more commonly cooled then chopped into squares as a party/BBQ/beach snack.

While certainly no health food, it’s calcium rich so good for growing kids and breast feeding mums (in both cases, chillies optional).

For a slightly fancier¬†version, use a homemade¬†B√©chamel¬†sauce.¬†I suspect evaporated milk was considered¬†more convenient to store at home, in a country with ¬†a hot climate and¬†frequent power cuts…

Always a big hit, this is the ONLY way to eat macaroni ‚Äď in our house at least. ;).

INGREDIENTS:

Pie
500g Macaroni
2 eggs
250g cheddar cheese (or similar), grated.
400ml tin evaporated milk (can be doubled for extra rich version)
1 onion
150g Bacon (about 6 slices)
2-4 Chillies (2 gives little kick, but more the merrier)
Olive oil

Crust
Breadcrumbs (about 2-3 slices worth, crusts removed)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoon(s) black treacle
1 teaspoon English mustard (powder)
1 tablespoon demerara sugar

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180c.
  2. Boil macaroni VERY al dente in salted water. Drain & cool.
  3. Fry bacon in olive oil until all fat rendered. Remove bacon, retaining fat/oil in pan. Mix in the crust ingredients with the oil in pan. Finely chop bacon.
  4. In a small blender, mince onion and chillies with a little evaporated milk to loosen up mixture. Mix in lightly beaten eggs, then salt & pepper.
  5. Combine this mixture with macaroni. Stir in bacon, the rest of the evaporated milk and most of the cheese, retaining some to sprinkle on top.
  6. Pour everything into a greased oven dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top, followed by crust mixture.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
  8. Leave to cool/set for at least 15-20 minutes, but best served next day cold.

Ideal accompaniments include tomato ketchup, or usually served in Trinidad with Tabasco sauce.

Trinidad Style Macaroni Pie
Mmmmm
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The Phantom Disney Princess

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“Disney Princess Leia” by bewareitbites

There’s a phantom menace lurking within Disney. She’s a princess who’s smart and confident, friendly and loyal, rebellious¬†and brave. She’s¬†a strong¬†leader, from¬†a realm far, far away. She’s a wonderful female role model for our children, but you won’t find any figures, costumes, tops, lunch boxes, or backpacks with¬†her on at the Disney Store. Princess Leia became the property of¬†the House of Mouse¬†following¬†their $4 Billion purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012.¬†Unsurprisingly, given Disney¬†are the masters of merchandise, Star Wars goods are abundant in¬†the Disney Store. However, it’s also abundantly clear that as far as Disney is concerned, Star Wars is a boys only galaxy. The lack of Leia¬†came to my attention earlier in the¬†week, with this exchange on Twitter between Natalie Wreyford and the Disney Store:

So¬†Disney, who¬†paid $4 billion for the Star Wars brand, and who¬†generate billions each year in selling fantasy princesses to little girls,¬†are seemingly¬†ignoring their brand new ‘space fantasy’ princess. What’s up with that? I asked¬†Disney store customer services why they have no Princess Leia products for sale. First I tried the UK store, who politely pleaded ignorance:

“…we don’t have any information on Princess Leia products at this time”.

Not much help. So I went to the source, DisneyStore.com. This was their reply:

“I’m very sorry but the Princess Leia merchandise you are interested in purchasing is no longer available in DisneyStore.com. While we make every effort to anticipate the inventory requirements of our Guests, merchandise may sell out at different rates.¬† Regrettably, this is very difficult to forecast.¬† Due to the popularity of some character families, one item may sell out more quickly than another within the same character family.¬† Specific merchandise may be reordered and is then re-launched on our site as quickly as possible.¬† Some items may sell out due to varied reasons and may no longer be offered in our Store.¬† We apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this may cause.”

Felt like a lot of¬†cut & pasted standard response copy there, but essentially they’re inferring¬†that they used to have Princess Leia merchandise but they¬†have run out. Well, it’s a case of Star Wars: The Phantom Merchandise then. While it’s possible there may have been the odd niche or specialist third party item, I don’t recall seeing any significant Leia goods on sale there. But, it’s also not true¬†that nothing is currently available.

What’s in (Disney)store?

The Phantom Disney Princess Leia
“Vader’s Little Princess” by Jeffrey Brown

There’s a¬†Princess Leia as Mona Lisa tee¬†on sale. Oh wait that’s an adult tee. And it’s also sold out. Perhaps that’s¬†the missing merchandise they’re referring to? Hang on, there is another Leia product on sale. Unfortunately we already own it, but fortunately it’s good, and in fact it was my daughter’s way into Star Wars – Jeffrey Brown’s ‘Vaders Little Princess‘. While obviously written from the skewed perspective of a father of sons (which Jeffrey is) it’s still a fun and witty introduction to Leia in the galaxy far, far away. My daughter frequently implores us to read it (and ‘Darth Vader and¬†Son‘) to her. She particularly enjoys¬†it when I read Vader’s dialogue into¬†a saucepan¬†– to give it that authentic metallic Vader feel.

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A 1977 original Kenner/Palitoy Princess Leia figure. Our children deserve better than relying on these.

One day she¬†discovered my old Star Wars toys (I was trying to put them in the loft), and has had them out to play ever since. No prizes for guessing who her favourite figure is. Hint – she has headphone hair. My daughter would love to have more versions of Princess Leia to play with than my tired looking¬†35 year old Star Wars action figure. I don’t understand why Disney are dropping the ball on this one. Are they really so¬†blind to the idea that¬†there’s¬†a market for Princess Leia¬†merchandise?

The Phantom Menace of Disney Princesses

It appears the main¬†problem is that Disney are defining¬†Star Wars as a boys brand –¬†it¬†is prominently featured¬†under the ‘Boys’ tab in the Disney Store, and nowhere to be seen in the ‘Girls’ section. Perhaps¬†they¬†are worried¬†that¬†the inclusion of female characters will damage what they see as the brand’s¬†gender clarity. But it could ¬†also be a matter of vision. Maybe Disney¬†really don’t see the potential in this stylish kick-ass galactic princess? The common wisdom is that Disney¬†created their¬†insanely popular Princess line.

Except they didn’t. We did.

As Peggy Orenstein tells it in ‘Cinderella Ate My Daughter‘, the idea of the Disney Princess line came to an exec when he noticed kids dressing up as (non-licensed) Disney princesses, and realised they weren’t making a cent from it. The rest is history, and our current Princess dominated reality. But the lesson here is that if Disney¬†spot a potential buck to be made, they will¬†respond¬†with product. So perhaps, if we create enough chatter and feedback, they will do something about it. Tweet¬†them at¬†, email them at guest.services@disneystore.com or service@disneystore.co.uk, share photos of your little ones dressing up as¬†Leia, or playing with Leia dolls – especially anything unlicensed that Disney¬†won’t make a cent from. Because, like Woodward & Bernstein, Mickey Mouse will follow the money.

(FYI: If singing really is the key to being a good Disney Princess, then Leia has that covered :S)
//

The hopeless Mr. Mom

At some point in the¬†at-home parent’s life, they¬†may likely reflect on whether their¬†partner would do a better job of it¬†than they currently are.

This thought occurred to me whilst rushing my daughter to the hospital emergency room.

Swallowed hairclip
I know a young lady who swallowed a hairclip. I don’t know why.

We had recently arrived home after a trip to the supermarket. I left her strapped in her buggy while I put the shopping away. I figured it was the safest place to leave her. Ha!

As is the way of the little one, she discovered a flaw in my plan, which involved her mouthing, choking on, and then swallowing her metal hair clip.

The realisation of what was happening remains the¬†most horrifying experience of my life – and I’ve been run over by a¬†lorry.

So in the haze of frantically calling for medical assistance, rushing her to hospital, amidst it all, I also had an overwhelming feeling of guilt.

I think we can all agree that a key aspect of the at-home parent’s role, is to keep their child safe. Well, this was a big fail, with potentially catastrophic results.

I was especially apologetic to my wife.¬†We¬†had swapped at-home roles¬†some months previously. I felt like the embodiment of the hopeless¬†‘Mr. Mom’ clich√©.

But our attending¬†doctor told me a story that was weirdly reassuring, about changing their¬†daughter’s nappy¬†and discovering 4 metal screws in it, amongst the other ‘contents’.

Of my many childhood injuries I could detail for you, the most stupid was when I decided that my mini-golf club looked like a pole vault pole, as well as a snorkel. So I combined the two. Ouch. I can still remember the¬†flap it created in¬†the roof of my mouth (Ugh…).

I recall another childhood story a friend told me: You know the way you suck pen tops to create a vacuum, and then stick it to your tongue? As a child, she decided power leads had similarly enticing cavities in them. So she did the same thing with one. That was plugged into the wall. She regained consciousness on the other side of the room.

As parents we can only go so far in ensuring our children’s¬†safety. Bumps and bruises are all part of growing up. Sometimes our children will stray too far from the frontier¬†of curiosity into reckless stupidity. But they’ll never learn the line unless we let them discover it themselves, hopefully without too much damage.

The fact is I have never tried to pole vault with a golf club in my mouth ever since childhood. And fingers crossed, my daughter’s days of swallowing hair clips are over too…

Haggis Pie, with Neeps and Tatties top

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A thing of beauty: Haggis Pie, with neeps and tatties top

In the build up to Burns Night this year, I got rather excited at seeing Haggis on sale. We had recently returned from 4 years in New Zealand, where they don’t allow Haggis to be imported. The local made stuff is awful, and has no right to be called Haggis.

I attempted a Haggis meatloaf instead (recipe to follow), which while tasty was still no substitute.

Back in the UK, seeing proper Haggis on sale was great, so I purchased a few extra to freeze – not realising that in the intervening years supermarkets had started to stock Haggis all year round.

They’re there taking up vital freezer room – room needed for all those batch cooked toddler meals, and the hot weather¬†of summer is approaching so I figured I needed to do something with them quick.

While scouting around for other ways to use them,¬†I thought about combining the neeps & tatties¬†element with the Haggis, into a Haggis Neeps and Tatties pie. Delia had the same idea too, so I used her recipe as an inspiration, with a bit of added Nigel Slater, and a dash of me…

Serves 3

Haggis Pie, with Neeps and Tatties top

Ingredients

  • 1¬†x 450g Haggis
  • 400g Swede
  • 400g Floury potatoes
  • 100g Spinach
  • Knob of butter
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 30g Cheddar

Method

  1. Cook Haggis as per instructions (usually about 1hr 15 mins in oven). Slice open and allow to cool.
  2. Chop swede into chunks, and boil until tender (about 15-20 mins). Then mash with an added knob of butter (this might be best done in a small food processor). Set aside.
  3. Peel potatoes (reserve the peelings) and chop into chunks. Boil potatoes with peelings (adds loads of flavour) either loose or in a muslin ‚Äď until tender (about 20 mins). Drain, discard peelings, and dry the potatoes – either by leaving in pan covered with tea towel and lid, or in an oven at low heat for about 10 mins. Mash with a potato ricer and add butter or oil. Beat with a wooden spoon till light and fluffy.
  4. Tear spinach leaves, and stir into the potato mash. Set aside.
  5. In a buttered baking dish, smoothly layer with the haggis, then swede, then potato. Top with the grated cheese, and then bake in oven at 200¬įc¬†(180¬įc fan ovens) for about 40 mins, or until top is a lovely golden brown colour.

Allow to rest for 5-10 mins, then serve with extra veg of choice, such as steamed carrots.

Are You a Feminist?

Many men are confused about whether they are feminists or not. Here’s a flowchart to help you.

Flowchart: Are you a feminist?, are you a feminist, minimise, feminism

“The Tiger Who Came To Tea”. Or did he?

“I haven’t made dinner, there’s no food in the house, I haven’t washed our daughter, and all the booze is gone. It was the Tiger. Honest.”

 

“Pink is for Girls”

Pretty in pinkPink is a girls colour. Why do people think it shouldn’t be? Girls love to dress in pink, to play with pink toys,¬†to have pink rooms filled with pink things –¬†it’s just a fact that pink is for girls. They still have plenty of choices – just as long as it’s in pink.

While it’s unlikely that¬†girls do indeed have a predilection for pink, the marketing-industrial complex¬†is very clear: “Pink is for girls”, and they keep churning out their wares targeted at them.

It’s all too easy to have or buy our girls¬†‘plenty’ of pink things. The big problem is one of smallness – the focus of what these things are remains relatively narrow, and this is potentially limiting our girls imaginations, opportunities, and ambitions. It’s for us as parents, and our children themselves, to set any¬†parameters – not those trying to sell us things.

I completely buy into this line of reasoning. I avidly support the aims of campaigns such as¬†Pink Stinks and Let Toys Be Toys. I like to think I am very studious about not buying pink things for my daughter.¬†¬†I am very clear with family & friends,¬†‘Please don’t buy her anything pink’ (she still gets pink pressies of course, and we are very grateful for peoples’¬†generosity!).

Anyway, I’m a total hypocrite, because when I see cool things for my daughter – that also happen to be pink –¬†I’m powerless to resist:

Farrah Fawcett
To cool not to dress her in…
And again...
…and still going many months later.

And how can I complain about a pressie tee like this:

We love Spidey...
We love Spidey…
...so much it's exhausting.
…so much it’s exhausting.
Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Supergirl hat from Wellington
Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Supergirl hat from Wellington

And always on the lookout for apparel with cool & confident female role models,¬†this hat ticked all the boxes – well, apart from the non-pink one. And it just went so well with that cardigan…

Tricky eh? So despite all my great intentions, far too often I still ended up dressing my daughter like this Рnot what I intended at all when the great parenting adventure began.

And she’s not even at pre-school yet. I’m guessing it’s only going to get much worse when peer pressure kicks in – currently her cultural icons include Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, Princess Leia, Toy Story, and Totoro. ¬†I fear it’ll be all Angelina Ballerina and Peppa Pig before too long. So I’m beginning to think I need another front of attack against pink. Or do I?

In my early teens, I happily wore my pink Pringle¬†jumper, or a pink tee¬†under a suit jacket (the Sonny Crockett look). It was the eighties, and that was the style (as much as a teenage geek knows about style). But as the nineties dawned, I felt like a fool for wearing a ‘girls’ colour, and I swore an oath – I really did –¬†to never wear pink again.¬† And I haven’t.

As the years marched on, I pitied those fools who came into work with a pink shirt, or the people with grown up jobs wearing pink ties. I wouldn’t even wear shirts that were red and white patterned – because from a distance, they looked pink.

Pink was a girls colour, and I didn’t want to wear a girls colour.

Except pink ISN’T a girls colour. That underlines this whole issue. It’s just a colour like any other, and perhaps I need to embrace that rather than always fight it.

I think it’s time for me¬†to break my oath, or make a new one: I need to wear pink.

In fact, I would like all men need to wear pink, and it would be great if parents could dress our sons in pink too. If the all-powerful marketing-industrial complex is going to continue to tell our girls that pink things are the only things for them, we need to subvert that. One way is encouraging our boys Рand men Рto play and dress pink too.

So I at least need to add pink to my wardrobe. Because pink isn’t a girls’ colour. It’s just a colour like any other. I reckon it might even suit me. Like it does my daughter.

//