So #1 teenage son has just completed his first GCSE examination. Gulp. It was Maths.
His revision feels like it started some time in the last decade and I’ve honestly never seen so many past papers pass over one desk. Quite a marathon in printing if nothing else. Back in the day when I was doing GCSEs, we were pre-internet (was there really a human existence before the world wide web?) so past papers were available from a box in a cupboard in the classroom and all that hideous post-exam discussion (what did you get for question 6?) was over and done with by the time you’d walked home (because didn’t we all walk then?). But oh how it’s all changed.
For a start, there’s a huge range of past papers available to download – with model answers – and after the first paper has been sat, there’s even Maths
geeks enthusiasts who predict the questions that will appear on the second paper and write practice papers accordingly. So many opportunities to be supremely well prepared.
But it’s the degree of post-exam discussion that’s the biggest change from back in my day. Oh the power of social media.
Within hours (maybe even minutes) of the exam kicking out, there was a hashtag trending on Twitter – #EdexcelMaths – where the students were piling in to share their comments* about the faintly ludicrous nature of some of the questions. There were 200,000 tweets in total. That’s a lot of chat –
If Raksha wanted to get to Horton on time she should’ve left earlier #EdexcelMaths
Why did Jane bother cutting her cheese into two different cuboids if she wanted the same volume #EdexcelMaths
Karl has just raised £10 for charity. Now he feels EPIC! #EdexcelMaths
* All expletives have been removed to protect the sensitive.
And then of course there was Hannah and her sweets – the question which made it onto the discussion table of the BBC, The Huffington Post and into my favourite read, The Guardian. Gotta say, here in the Page Maths Collective, we were happy with Hannah’s sweets and weren’t overly flummoxed by n²-n-90=0, but the grain and hopper question … that took a little longer.
So the build up before (and the post mortem after) these exams has been a busy old time for #1 teenage son, but for me … well I’ve had a a ball. On the one hand, the Maths has been a blast. Honestly. It’s the geek tendency in me. But on the other hand, it’s also been really fulfilling because I’ve been able to lend a helping hand to my big, strapping teenage son who, in every aspect of his life, is getting more independent by the day. Yes – I’m still his taxi driver and his personal chef, but to be honest, apart from that he’s pretty self sufficient. Having him ask for help on quadratic equations, a vector or two, some algebra or the odd proof has been a joy (as well as a satisfying intellectual challenge). In terms of next year’s syllabus, my knowledge might be a little more shaky, but right now I’m there.
Maybe it’s a Mum thing, but being able to help and assist my children always feels good – I guess we’re wired that way. And as they get older, the opportunities get fewer and fewer – until ultimately they’ll be helping us. It’s that circle of life. But right now, I’m #1 teenage son’s ‘go-to’ for taxi driving, food AND maths. So I’ll enjoy the moment.
And in terms of the food part, here’s one of his favourites – Baharat Chicken Flatbreads.
The baharat spice is the sprinkling of magic here. The word simply means “spice” in Arabic and it’s an all-purpose seasoning used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Although the particular blend varies by region and household, it always includes black pepper and typically has cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, among other spices. The flavour is aromatic, warm, and sweet, and even a pinch of baharat can add depth and flavor to soups, tomato sauces, lentils, rice pilafs, and couscous. Baharat is widely available but if you struggle you can always mix your own.
For these flatbreads, the chicken thigh meat is tossed with crushed garlic and a sprinkling of our magic spice before it’s quickly stir fried. A simple yoghurt and mint dressing and a tangle of herbs and thinly sliced cucumber and you’re all set to get stuffing those flatbreads. Napkins at the ready.
And here’s why my big, strapping #1 teenage son loves these Baharat Chicken Flatbreads (and why I’m sure you will too) –
- This is quick and easy and can be thrown together in a flash when you’ve got a bunch of starving children/teenagers/adults (or all of the above) champing at the bit.
- All that protein will keep the hunger pangs at bay – well, until the next meal at least. Or maybe the next snack.
- There’s a healthy pile of salad veggies in this dinner and that has to be a good thing. And a tasty one too.
- The handheld nature of a stuffed bread makes it ideal fodder for a TV dinner.
- Having a casual dinner with friends + a few beers? This would be perfect. You’ll need to get a production line going in the kitchen to stuff the breads but that’s all part of the fun. A few beers and everyone feels that they’re an accomplished chef anyway.
- This is a great dish for preparing ahead. Prep the chicken, the salad and the dressing, then later it will only need a quick stir fry and you’re ready to combine and go.
- And if there’s any leftovers, they’ll make great sandwiches for the next day – even on a soft roll, if you’re out of flatbreads. And there’s no need to reheat the chicken either.
So there you have it #1 teenage son. Well done on your Maths. It’s finished now so you can kick back and relax. Maybe Hannah will share some of her sweets with you. I’ve enjoyed being able to help you and long(!) may my mathematical prowess be sufficient. You can always lean on me for a home cooked dinner and the odd taxi ride, but come to me laden with some juicy mathematical challenges to get my teeth into and I’ll be grinning from ear to ear.
- 6-8 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless (approx 800g)
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 heaped tablespoon baharat
- salt and pepper
- 1 small bunch of mint, leaves removed
- 250g plain yoghurt
- juice of ½ lemon
- pinch of salt
- a few handfuls of baby spinach leaves
- 2 small cucumbers or ¹/3 large cucumber, thinly sliced
- a small bunch of coriander, leaves removed (or roughly chopped if it's easier)
- a drizzle of olive oil
- 6-8 flatbreads - I used arabic breads (similar to pitta breads) but wraps would be great too
- Slice the chicken thighs into finger sized strips and toss in a bowl with the garlic, baharat and a little seasoning. Put this to one side while you do the rest of the preparation.
- Finely chop a small handful of the mint leaves and combine with the yoghurt, the lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Check for seasoning.
- Now get your herbs and leaves ready (the rest of the mint, spinach, cucumber slices, coriander) so that you are ready to go as soon as the chicken is cooked - a line of bowls holding the prepped herbs and salad veggies works well.
- Heat the olive oil in a wok or a large frying pan and stir fry the chicken until it is cooked through and golden brown. While this is cooking warm the flatbreads if you need to.
- The cooking is all done now and we move to construction ... Stuff the breads with the cooked chicken and the tangle of leaves and drizzle with a little dressing. Now grab a napkin and dig in.