Let me say straight off that my sister named this post. It wasn’t my idea to put myself in the title, but she insisted. I’m not altogether sure whether it’s a compliment or a dig – after all, she was likening my style of cooking one evening to George’s method of creating a medicine for his Grandma in Roald Dahl’s story of George’s Marvellous Medicine:
George had absolutely no doubts whatsoever about how he was going to make his famous medicine. He wasn’t going to fool about wondering whether to put in a little bit of this or a little bit of that. Quite simply, he was going to put in EVERYTHING he could find. There would be no messing about, no hesitating, no wondering whether a particular thing would knock the old girl sideways or not. The rule would be this: whatever he saw, if it was runny or powdery or gooey, in it went.
It all started with a fridge full of leftovers. There was half a chunk of cooked beef brisket, a slightly bendy parsnip, the bulb end of a small and apparently seedless butternut squash and a couple of boiled potatoes. Because of my inability to keep tabs on the contents of the vegetable drawer when in a supermarket, there were also about three separate bags of carrots, all in various degrees of freshness.
It all needed using and O wasn’t around to judge, so I decided to throw everything together into a sort of parsnippy, potatoey, carrotty, beef stew. With a tiny bit of butternut squash. So what if it’s Summer?
The tiny amount of butternut squash that I could add to the stew became even smaller when I discovered the seeds clustered in the very end of the bulb. Lucy became rather excited at this point and rescued the seeds from where I’d scooped them out onto the pile of peelings designated for the compost bin. In a moment of brilliance, she doused them in olive oil, sprinkled them with sea salt and roasted them in the oven until they turned golden and puffed. Wow. They were absolutely delicious, each seed exploding in your mouth with an intense, toasted popcorn flavour. From now on, I’ll be buying butternut squash for the seeds alone!
It was then that things started to become more complicated. A couple of the girls’ friends from the village popped in and commented hungrily on the tasty smells coming from our kitchen. I took pity on them and found myself inviting them to stay for dinner. Uh-oh. What had started out as a meagre stew for my sister and me now needed to expand rapidly to satisfy the appetites and expectations of four ravenous children as well.
Carrots. Kids like carrots and I had a vegetable drawer full of the things. I chopped them all up and added them to the pot. I also poured in a tin of tomatoes for good measure. As I stirred the stew however, I had a growing feeling of unease. No way were the children going to eat this. It was far too lumpy. All those carefully diced vegetables and finely sliced onions just weren’t the sorts of things I could imagine disappearing quickly from the plates of these girls.
The Magimix food processor comes in handy for moments like this. The stew transformed into broth at the push of a button. Instead of serving it with mashed potato, I could now present it as a pasta sauce. No problem.
Only there was a problem. It wasn’t until after I’d added the beef to the mulch that I realised it was still too grainy – I hadn’t blended it for long enough, and now it was too late to tip it back into the Magimix for another attempt. I looked for a more hopeful second opinion, but Lucy agreed. No way were the children going to eat this.
That was why things got messy.
I know it doesn’t look good, but sieving the whole mixture was a master stroke. The liquid that drained from the lumpy, gooey mulch was smooth, clear and perfectly flavoured with a balance of carrot, tomato, parsnip and butternut squash. Far from having cooked up something destined only for the dustbin, we had created an award-winning pasta sauce.
Fortunately, the girls thought so too.
It doesn’t happen very often in my experience of cooking for children, but what better endorsement is there than plates like these?!
The only downside was that Lucy and I were left with a pan full of mush for our dinner. Yum.
This was when Lucy came up with the title for this post. She watched me pull a random selection of spice jars from the shelf and dump the powders indiscriminately onto the top of the mulch.
“Great,” she commented. “Kate’s Marvellous Medicine.”
I gave it a stir, shoved it in the oven and ignored it until the children were in bed.
It was a tasty one, too. Even Lucy said so, which is quite something considering that she had witnessed the madness of the whole evening’s cooking process!