Every day I wake up with a feeling so oppressive I can hardly breathe. A feeling of not being able to go another day. Just get up I tell myself. You’ll feel better once you’re doing something I tell myself. Every day is just about surviving then every night I exhale in relief that I lasted another day. Before the dread sets in I’m going to have to do it all over again tomorrow.
Chef tried to load more memory onto my computer and broke it. That was a month ago. It’s strangely liberating and terribly debilitating all at once. (I’m using his to write this.)
All the boys are back at school with great teachers and an exciting year ahead.
My head is currently “ok” but I’m worried about Chef and his head which is making my head a bit precarious. Work and money, nothing out of the usual.
Mum has been taking little weekends away to catch up with friends and see new places. I’m so thrilled for her. She’s had news of a possible trip which would be thrilling for her. Great to see.
Something’s wrong with my right hip.
There was a pile of crappe in the hallway that had been gathering friends for the better part of a year. I cleaned it all up, threw most of it out the week before last. I may still walk up the hallway making a conscious effort to walk in the space that had previously been occupied.
This week I was brave and approached someone I went to uni with looking for some more freelance work. It’s all looking very promising which is good for my head and calming my breathing. Again, work and money.
It’s raining here, slightly cooler but outrageously humid (my kryponite) so dinner tonight is roast chook and veggies followed by an apple and rhubarb tart I whipped up.
How are you?
This week I’m finally getting to write about when I met chef Ben O’Donoghue a few months back. It was actually a PR event and the first I’d done in more than a year. Technically we were there to talk about how effective Fairy dishwashing liquid and dishwasher tablets but it provided the perfect opportunity to eat sweet, spicy, sticky pork for breakfast.
I’ve loved Ben’s cooking from a lifetime ago when he did a series in the UK called The Best. He, along with Paul Merrett and Silvana Franco, would each cook to a certain theme – the best sandwich, tasty fish suppers, cool salads – then their dishes would be presented to a group of punters who’d choose their favourite dish. They did an Australian version, which Ben was also in, but it didn’t have the same vibe as the UK one.
Anyway, I love his style of cooking and he’s about to open new digs in BrisVegas so if you’re up that way you’ll need to go and check it out.
Things I did differently:
- Ben uses 100gm of horseradish in the sauce – I felt it was way too much so just used a heaped tablespoon
- I have made the sauce and left out the horseradish and rum and it is still a very tasty sauce
- Play with the amount of chilli flakes but it does mellow. My non-spicy eating children love it. I’ve settled on using 2 teaspoons.
Twice cooked pork with bbq sauce
Adapted from Ben O’Dohoghue
- 1.2kg pork belly spare ribs (also called rashers)
- enough coca cola to cover
- 2 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ bunch coriander
- 1 long green chilli
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup malt vinegar
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 50g creamed horseradish
- 100ml rum
- Put the pork into a baking dish and pour enough coke over it to cover it
- Add the star anise and cinnamon stick and bake at 180C for about 1½ hours, turn it half way through
- Once it’s cooked pull it out of the oven and leave it to cool slightly. You can leave it in the cooking liquid but then discard it once you move onto the next step.
- Combine the sugar, vinegar, saucem cinnamon stick and chilli flakes in a saucepan
- Bring it to the boil and simmer into really quite thick
- Add the horseradish and rum and cook for another five minutes or so
- Liberally smear the bbq sauce all over the pork
- Heat a chargrill pan or you can grill them in the oven
- Cook them long enough that the marinade is caramelised – some burnt pits are fine! – then turn them over and do the same.
- Serve with rice or even an Asian-style coleslaw
- You should have a bit of the bbq sauce left for next time or to smear on sandwiches
Yesterday afternoon we bundled all four boys into the Berry Bus and went for an outing to Ikea. This was due to a somewhat impulsive decision of mine that the state of chaos in the little boys’ room was no longer tolerable and we had to bring my solution to fruition. Why yes, it does involve an expedit shelving unit, what of it?
Let’s just take a moment there shall we. Afternoon traffic, check. All four children, check. Ikea. CHECK. Chef’s been feeling pretty blue of late so you can imagine what a salve this was for his soul.
On arrival everyone was issued with a pencil. Compulsory. And then, as they say, it was on. Felix instigated a game where he would call the name/colour of a lounge and then the first brother to the seat won. He’d keep a tally on one of the pieces of paper you’re meant to write the aisle and shelf of your desired product. You know the one, where you work it all out, write it all down, get to the warehouse bit to discover an empty shelf. Of course he didn’t just keep a tab on victories, there were categories for LOSER and CHEATER. Good times.
Oscar was dawdling as is his want so this was really none of his concern. That left Jasper and Grover, two peas in a pod when it comes to character allocations of competitiveness and the need to win. Grover, who’d actually fallen asleep in the car (unheard of) was too tired and emotional for such shenanigans and it only took ONE round of this game for him to be in tears and on a hate vendetta against Felix.
Let me just reiterate that this all transpired in the lounge section where you’re so barely over the threshold you can still breath air from the outside world.
The crying and sibling hating carried on for most of the progress through the Ikea Interminable Maze of Organised Hell. In fact, the only thing that really caused its cessation was the world of jumbo trolleys in the warehouse. Of course then, engaged in activity that could possibly end in pain or being maimed, they were as thick as thieves.
We managed to avoid the cafeteria – I don’t care what you say, those meatballs are nasty – and ended the whole experience with dumplings, which we all know make everything better.
Welcome to the first of a new weekly series! The Chef and I will see me cook a recipe from my cookbook library. It could be a dinner, maybe a breakfast or something sweet, the idea being to a) use my cookbooks more thoroughly and b) show how a recipe plays out for a normal human.
This week I’m (finally) cooking from Jamie’s 15 minute meals. Yes yes, we all know the drill, 15 minutes when you have a staff working for you but my attitude is less the amount of time it takes you and more cooking with fresh ingredients and trying recipes you otherwise wouldn’t. This didn’t take me 15 minutes but it definitely took me less than 30. Probably closer to 20.
All my normal eaters ate it and loved it. Even the lentils. Jasper, the not normal eater, ate and loved the chicken. Small mercies. Jamie serves it with a warmed loaf of bread to soak up the juices and I strongly urge you to do the same (I wasn’t going to bother but thought, no, do as the recipe says). It rounded out the meal beautifully. Next time I’d probably use some pita or flat breads.
Things I did differently:
- I used an extra tomato and was glad I did
- He seasons the chicken with 1/2 tsp cayenne, I used about 2 tsp of smoked paprika instead
- I used streaky bacon instead of pancetta and fried it off separately after cooking the chicken whereas he adds it to the pan of the almost cooked chicken. Streaky bacon is the short bit of the bacon, my Woollies stocks the D’Orsogna brand variety of it and stocks it in the meat section of cured meats, not with the other bacon (for reasons I am yet to understand).
- His recipe uses a bunch of asparagus that he cooks off with the chicken at the same time as the pancetta, I didn’t do this.
Spiced chicken with bacon & spinach lentils
Adapted from Jamie Oliver, 15 Minute Meals
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- olive oil
- 2 x 400g tins of lentils
- 2 tomatoes
- 200g baby spinach
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 4 heaped tbsp natural yoghurt
- 4 x skinless chicken breasts
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1 handful fresh thyme (or other fresh herb of your choice, tarragon would work nicely)
- 6 rashes streaky bacon
- crusty bread
- Peel your onion and carrot and blitz in a food processor with the rosemary
- Put a glug or two of oil in a fry pan with high sides and start sauteing
- Get a really large sheet of baking paper out on your bench. Scatter over a generous amount of salt, pepper and the paprika. Rub into the chicken all over (if you’ve been generous there’s enough for both sides and a good rub into the chicken).
- Fold the baking paper over the top of the chicken (I told you it needed to be a big sheet) then get a rolling pin and bash it to about 1.5 cm thick. (I didn’t do it thin enough so it took longer to cook for me)
- Get another fry pan on with a glug of oil then add the garlic cloves, the herbs and the chicken. Fry for about 4 minutes on each side until nicely golden and cooked through.
- Back to the veg in the other pan, add the two tins of lentils with the water they’re in (ie don’t drain them) and the tomatoes which you’ve chopped up roughly (I just blitzed them to chunky in my little mini blender as I’d already using it for the onion and carrot. Put the lid on and leave to simmer
- Roughly chop the spinach in the food processor – you don’t want it pulverised so just pulse it until it’s shredded but not moosh. Add to the lentils with the red wine vinegar.
- Lift the chicken out of the pan, you might need to give it a wipe down before cooking the bacon and then fry off the bacon.
- Put the lentils into a wide lipped platter (it’s runny so don’t go and use some flat platter contraption) and dollop over the yoghurt, give it a little swirl through.
- Cut the chicken up on an angle and place over the top then put the bacon on top of that.
- Serve with crusty bread or pitas.