It’s been a very, very busy October and we are all getting used to being back at school and work after the long hazy summer holidays. It really was a very warm dry Northern European summer and we all biked to the beach and made the most of the North Sea. But the last week was dragging a bit, and I noticed some family members too keen to watch screens a little too much. I often struggle with the concept of being an urban parent, and think back to my own childhood, growing up on a dairy farm in rural New Zealand. No google, no ipads, no shops, not much money, little telly but much gardening, baking, harvesting. haymaking and many trees to climb. Some loneliness, boredom and a bit of isolation too. It wasn’t all rosy but it was outdoors and there was some hard graft involved as well. It doesn’t take one person to run a farm, it takes a whole family. I will honestly admit being an urban parent is one of the most challenging jobs I have ever taken on, but I imagine being a child of these times also brings many dilemmas and stresses as well: with the media many have, it’s like having a world in your room. I do so long for all the temptations of the city to disappear and all the junk food to be transformed into wholesome home-baking and cooking. I ask myself if we really need Bubble Tea? And what exactly is it anyway? And I am very sure we don’t need MacDonalds and Burger King at all. I’m positive that we don’t need the latest phone or H & M hot fashion item. October is my unshopping month, where I buy nothing new except food, and it is wonderful how not shopping frees up your days! Yet, how do I convince my urban kids that life is not about shopping or the latest media device when our whole system is built on consumption, over-consumption and a throw away culture? That will be an ongoing job for me and us all I guess. But if I find it tough being an urban parent, I can only guess what it’s like to be a parent in the shadow of war? I can only begin to slightly imagine being forced from my home, all my belongings destroyed, fleeing guns, the march of conflict threatening all those I love and care for. Now, that makes my concerns vanish into a puff of misty autumn air! As I write this I know that millions of children and families are living in a never, neverland of camps, surrounded by barbed wire and just managing to get through the day.
However, before you stop reading, and sigh heavily, can I just share this – that in the midst of all the very bad news that darkens both the Middle East and Africa, sometimes there’s a ray of bright glad hope. I met one in fact at The Hague Talks at The Young Justice: Kids in Conflict programme, marking the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Amid the horrifying statistics on disease, death and abuses all around our world, there is an NGO that seeks to bring some well-needed joy/distraction/education for those living in damaged communities. How? By using dance, music and a form of martial art that hails from Brazil. The NGO is called Bidna Capoeira, and I interviewed its founder, Tarek Alsaleh for http://www.dutchbuzz.nl asking him, if there was any way in which we could help. He said very humbly “Well, you could bake a cake.” Have a look here to understand the work he and the volunteers do in Jordan and in other places in the world https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eW5kp4BlTOE
Anyway my friends and I decided to do just that! We baked a cake or two, made some bread and dips and had ourselves a lovely afternoon tea, while remembering how lucky we were to be in a home, in a peaceful nation, able to discuss our lives, our worries, our joys while raising some funds for a wonderful cause! I suggested that everyone make something vegan just to add a small challenge and we enjoyed an astonishing avocado and beetroot cake and some divine Palastinian breads. Now for a recipe! But before you try these breads out and they were delicious (thank you Basma!) do have a look at their website http://www.bidnacapoeira.org to see how it works and changes lives. Maybe you will want to have an afternoon tea for them as well. By the way if you are in The Hague, I will be at the BSN Winter Fair on November 29, selling homemade chocolates to raise some more money for these fab teachers! And as always, let there be there cake and much chatting with it…….by the way we made over 200 euros with our little high tea! Hopefully it will make some small difference to a child somewhere!
One of our favourite things on the day was this lovely bread which we dunked into humus and other dips! Very yummy. Carola’s vegan ANZAC biscuits made with coconut oil, also went down a treat. And that chocolate cake, well, that’s for next time….. This is the vegan version by the way. Usually, some yoghurt is used instead of water.
Ingredients 5 cups of flour (1 whole wheat, 4 white flour) + 2 tbsps of sugar + 2 sachets yeast +pinch of salt + 1 generous teaspoon baking powder + 3/4 cup vegetable oil (preferably olive oil) + 2 cups of warm water.
Place warm water in a warm mixing bowl and add yeast. Stir to dissolve and let stand 3 minutes. Add salt and sugar and stir through. Add flour and olive oil and mix, using hands until you can knead the dough without it sticking to your fingers. Add more water, if needed. Knead into a ball.
Wash and dry hands and remove the dough to chopping board. Knead the dough, occasionally dusting with a little flour, until a firm, smooth dough is formed. This will take about 15 minutes.Place the ball of dough in a lightly oiled mixing bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 2 hours)
Then cut the dough into large or small balls depending on what you wish to do with it: make smallish buns or use it for pizzas. Roll out the balls and place them an oiled oven tray. Rest them for 5 mins. then add a table spoon of a mixture of olive oil and Zaater. Spread it over the dough and pop into a hot oven they go. 10 mins should be enough to cook them but keep checking. If you don’t run to Zaater, a wonderful middle eastern mix of wild thyme, sesame seeds etc, then I suggest a mix of ground cumin, coriander and maybe some black onion seeds!