Chotto-Ma is a month away from her 3rd birthday, and boy, is she talking her way into it!
She could teach a BBC reporter, with a long-standing career, a thing or two about exhaustive reporting, with a keen eye for detail. And, how to keep everyone updated on current affairs. The entrance of an ant through the garden door, and it's journey thereof. The state of the weather, with emphasis on cloud cover and wind speed. That corner of the room which needs re-hoovering. A new smell wafting in from the kitchen. Nothing sneaks past her radar.
When she wakes up in the morning, and I mean, the second she wakes up, she's on alert. This is no groggy little girl, rubbing her eyes. The day's begun, and she must get on with it immediately. Within minutes, she's in our room, reporting her night's dream, which is an inch shorter than Homer's Odyssey. We burrow deeper into our duvets.
(But today's dream was so lovely that it made me grin into my pillow, and the grin woke me up. She'd dreamt that we were having a picnic on top of a rainbow. That's a nice story even for 6 am.)
The rest of the day is a well-directed documentary, and Chotto-ma is its narrator. The commentary could be about the biscuit she dips in her tea. Her pressing need to meet Oliver Jeffers. How her shadow can change from short and stout to long and lean. Or about her conversations with real people, and with stuffed animals.
Yesterday, however, that commentary came to a sudden stop. There sat Choto-ma, without a word. In utter silence. And all because of an Apple & Cheese Strudel. Just out of the oven, crisp and golden on the outside; soft, cheesy, creamy and appley inside. There we sat, Ma, Baba, Chotto-ma, D and I - our mouths full of beautiful, warm strudel.
When the plates were all empty, her sweet talk flowed again.
"Yummy yummy, Ma".
Cheese & Apple Strudel
250g cream cheese, at room temperature
55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
2 apples, peeled and diced
4 sheets filo pastry
100g butter, melted
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cinnamon powder
Icing sugar, to dust
Preheat oven to 180°C.
In a pan, heat on tablspoon of butter. When the butter starts bubbling, add the diced apples. Stir on medium heat till the apples are soft. Transfer apples to a bowl, and add the walnuts and cinnamon. Give it all a good mix.
In another bowl, beat together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.
Place filo sheets on a clean work surface. Cover with a clean tea towel, then a damp tea towel (this will prevent it drying out). Brush 1 sheet of filo with a little of the melted butter. Top with another filo sheet and brush with a little melted butter. Continue the layering process with the remaining filo sheets and melted butter. Spoon the apple-walnut mixture along a short edge, leaving an 2 inch border on three sides. Top the apples with the cream cheese. Fold long edges of fillo over filling, then starting at short edge, roll up to enclose the filling. Place on tray. Brush with any remaining melted butter.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until strudel is golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside for 30 minutes to cool to room temperature.
Dust the strudel with icing sugar and cut into slices to serve.