I kidnapped my mother. It was the only way.
I told her to call off all engagements and cancel other arrangements. She protested. They always do. But I was insistent.
Mum is not far off being an octogenarian, entertains ceaselessly, runs around like an Olympic marathoner, subscribes to causes, plasters heavily underlined op-ed articles all over her refrigerator, has strong opinions on just about everything, has a wide range of very eclectic friends, wears only op-shop clothes and has a million cookbooks going back to 1950; yet tears out recipes from Epicure and puts them in a bulldog clip in a dog-eared wad about two inches thick on the kitchen wall too near the stove.
The problem is two-fold. First, her wide range of eclectic friends have been so well treated by her hospitality over the years that they continue to avail themselves of the pleasure. Second, my mother is wearing out. Arthritis and a spinal problem, while not exactly slowing her pace (she will die tearing around after someone, probably a grandchild if she doesn't die in a housefire caused by the Epicure recipes igniting) are limiting her ability to carry, lift and perform the many functions a multi-tasking almost-octogenarian mega-entertainer needs to perform.
What do you do? I feel like having her phone diverted in order to screen her calls and tell people it's time they stopped inviting themselves over for dinner.
So in desperation, the plan to kidnap her. I dragged her off to the coast for the long weekend. She enjoyed it, of course; but she's her own worst enemy: she tried to wash dishes, clean, fold washing etc, and to stop her we practically had to tie her down.
We managed to get her out to the Blairgowrie cafe each day and force-feed her on foccacias and giant scones with jam and cream and slices of cake the size of the ships that go past and gourmet burgers and breakfasts of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and avocado and baked beans and spinach and mushrooms, all on slices of toast the size of surfboards.
Then we took her back to the beach house and force-fed her on home made dinners. She eats like a bird. It was difficult but we managed.
She went home happy.
The phone was ringing.
Roast pumpkin and chicken risotto with blue cheese.
I made this on Saturday night.
Chop your pumpkin into one inch cubes and roll around in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper to coat. Roast twenty minutes. Meanwhile, heat some chicken stock to a simmer. In another pan, poach a couple of cubed chicken thighs in some more stock.
In between fending off your mother who is trying to help instead of relaxing, gently saute a finely chopped onion and two scored garlic cloves for five minutes and then add the rice - arborio, carnaroli, whatever. Stir through to coat the rice in oil. Add more if necessary.
Now add the stock a little at a time and stir through. Add half a cup of white wine progressively as well. Everyone knows how to do this, so I'm not going into any more detail except to add that good quality cookware is as essential as technique when cooking risotto. It will stick within seconds in a poor quality pot; while a good, heavy-based pot gives you more flexibility in timing and you can even give the rice a good stir, turn it down as low as possible, lid the pot and walk away and it will turn out just fine.
Towards the end, stir through the roasted pumpkin, the chicken, half a cup of grated parmesan and some parsley. Top with blue cheese. Pour a red wine. Make your mother drink it.
We made one concession to allowing her to to 'help'. She read about a thousand books to William and Thomas. Everything from Margaret Wise Brown to Beatrix Potter to Richard Scarry to the Rev. W. Awdry.