Being able to have people over whenever is one of the reasons I bought a house (a related reason was to have a Spare Room), and so, since June…

… we have had families by on their way home on Sunday nights, and friends stopping in late on Tuesdays to help finish the snickerdoodles, and others staying over on weekends, and neighbours bringing their own cups of tea and missionaries being drafted in for dinner between flights out of the country.

My family used to keep a piece of paper blu-tacked to the inside of the cup-cupboard door. It was a chart, with a list of all the regular visitors down one side and then a column for how they liked their tea and how they liked their coffee. I may have to start one for what people can’t eat. In the last few weeks I’ve managed to push the gluten intolerant towards our (very good) local pizza shop, tried to serve spinach to the people who are allergic to it, and suggested honey-mustard-chicken to a vegetarian. And then there are the vegetarians who are vegetarians for budgetary reasons but quite like meat when they can get it. For some reason I can remember the vegans, but I always forget that these particular ones will eat butter if it’s in cookies.

I haven’t fed people regularly before, but I want to be able to feed my guests, and not expect one half of a dinner party (that term used loosely) to eat something different from the other half, or something substituted, or with bits picked out, so I have now made a point of asking before I invite people over!

Fortunately the culinary culture I’ve grown up in picks from all over the world, so it is possible to find new recipes to try which aren’t ersatz-meat, but I hope all my guests derive comfort from the fact that – whatever they can or can’t eat – they are all being equally experimented upon! I grew up on bean burritos and have been making cream-cheese pancakes for a while, and have discovered that french toast (with syrup please – it’s not a savoury!) makes gluten free bread palatable.

Last night was a quick chilli-sans-carne: garlic, chilli, lentils, red kidney beans, crushed and diced tomatoes, tomato paste, the least subcontinental spices (I’m buying them as I go and so far have only needed them for dhal and cookies), capsicum and mushrooms (served with sour cream and cheese), with corn bread. It should all have been finished in 1/2 hour but I didn’t turn the heat up all the way on the stove (trouble talking and thinking at the same time) so it took a bit longer.

There are a lot of cornbread recipes out there which don’t use regular flour, and I’d like to test-drive some because hot cornbread with butter and chilli is amazing, but in the meantime here’s our standard one. You can make it in muffin pans or in a baking dish or a long narrow bar tin as I did with half a batch last night, OR you can make chill (con or sans) carne and put it in a baking pan and pour the batter on top and bake it like that.

Preheat oven to 200 Celsius.

Mix wet ingredients:

  1. 2 eggs, beaten
  2. ¼ cup oil
  3. 1 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients:

  1. 1 cup flour
  2. ¼ cup sugar
  3. 4 tsp .baking flour
  4. 1 cup cornmeal (polenta)

Mix together, spoon into greased tins and bake 20-25 minutes

Work and other events continue, but I’m enjoying playing house!