I’m guest posting over at Woogsworld today about the trials and tribulations of internet dating. Go read it!
School’s back today. We’re on the homestretch to Christmas people. We’re in for a scorching couple of days which somehow seems appropriate.
But let’s take a moment to talk about lunchboxes. There are parts of the world where you don’t need to pack your kids a lunch. CAN YOU IMAGINE!? I hate it with the heat of a thousand suns.
The worst part is trying to not become pray to food brand marketing but once you say no to the snack packs, back off to the muesli bars and no way jose to anything with sugar you’re basically sending your kids to school with twigs and bark.
I know more virtuous people than I who make up batches of things on the weekend, freeze them then pop them in lunchboxes but whenever I’ve done that the kids never eat it. WHAT IS WITH THAT?
Anyway, I made this Smitten Kitchen recipe the other day and three of the four of them ate them. Into high rotation they go!
Go well my friends, Term 4 awaits!
- 1 cup wholemeal flour
- 1 cup plain flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 115g butter
- ½ cup caster sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
- ¼ cup brown sugar - extra, for topping
- Preheat oven to 220C and line a 12 cup muffin tray
- Mix all the dry ingredients together
- Cream the butter and the sugar
- Add the egg
- Add the buttermilk - it will probably curdle so don't fret
- Fold in the dry ingredients and then the apple until it's all just combined (it's a chunky batter)
- Put big heaping spoonfuls into the twelve muffin cups
- Sprinkle the extra brown sugar over the top
- Bake for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 200C for a further 10 minutes
- Cool in the tin for 5 minutes or so and then turn out onto a cooling rack.
Quick and easy steamed buns to serve with pork or stir-fries
The first time I saw this recipe I refused to believe it was so easy. It comes from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals book and I’ve used it time and time again. He creates a great chicken dim sum recipe with them but the buns were a bigger hit than the chicken in my house. There’s a great cucumber pickle he served with it though which I’ve put below.
The main thing to remember with these is to not over mix them. Jamie does it in a food processor (for speed basically) but I generally do it by hand because washing a food processor is a bastard of a thing I actively try to avoid.
Think of it – loosely – like a scone dough. Bring it together, form a log, portion it and voila!
- 1 400g tin coconut milk
- 2 heaped cans full of SR flour
- Good pinch of salt
- Tip the coconut milk into a bowl
- Add the flour and salt and bring together into a dough
- Tip onto a floured benchtop, roll into a log, then break into 8 even pieces
- Place each piece into a muffin case and put them into a bamboo steamer, they should be quite snug
- Put a wok over high heat and fill about 10cm deep with water, bring to the boil
- Put the steamer over the top of the water and cook for 10 minutes
- IT'S THAT EASY
- 1 telegraph cucumber (or 2 Lebanese cucumbers)
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
- Peel the cucumber into long strips using a vegetable peeler or slice very thinly
- Mix with the soy and vinegar
- THAT'S IT!
An easy recipe for dongpo pork, pork belly slowly cooked in soy, rice wine and ginger
I have a group of friends that range from school days, through university and up to Twitter who try to get together once every four to six weeks to have dumplings. We call ourselves the Twitter Lunch Club, TLC for short, which is appropriate because sometimes emergency dumpling summits are held if one of us is in crisis.
One of the dishes we have at our favourite dumpling establishment is this pork dish, served at room temperature which is covered in this thick, sweet, addictive sauce. I can’t recall what it’s called on the menu, we sit there and reel off dish numbers to minimise delay in getting food on the table.
But I’m here to tell you I have replicated it. I’m certain it will take me a couple more goes to perfect it but sweet LORD it is good.
As with basically everything I cook it is not technically hard but this one does take time. I actually did it over two days because I realised after I’d started I’d really left my run too late.
This recipe for dongo pork (best name ever) comes from my current favourite cookbook, Adam Liaw’s Asian Cookery School. He won Australian Masterchef a few years back and has done so much to make Asian cookery more accessible to those of us wary of the wok.
I bought my pork belly from an Asian butcher, their pork is always far superior to what you get at a skippy* one.
- 1kg pork belly
- 1 tbsp peanut oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- ½ cup dark soy
- ½ cup Shaoxing win
- 4 tbsp yellow rock sugar (or caster sugar, which is what I used)
- 1 tbsp Chinese tea leaves, steeped in one cup of hot water (I had Jasmine so used that, Adam says its optional)
- 5 cm piece of ginger, peeled, sliced and bruised
- 4 thick spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths (I didn't have any so used an onion)
- rice or steamed buns to serve
- Place the pork in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer for 10 minutes
- Drain, rest until cool enough to handle and then cut into 7x5cm blocks
- Heat the peanut oil in a wok or frypan and brown off the pork in batches (I did this in my Le Creuset)
- Bring the sauces, wine, sugar and tea to the boil (Adam uses a claypot but says a Dutch oven or good heavy based saucepan will work)
- Add the ginger and spring onions
- Add the pork (Adam said skin side down but mine would play fairly so I ended up just dumping it all in) and then top up with water until the pork is covered
- Bring to the boil then simmer for around 2 hours or until the pork is very tender (I would recommend here making sure the pork is always covered in enough liquid as some of mine dried out a bit)
- Remove the pork with a slotted spoon and set aside
- Turn the heat back up and reduce to a thick glaze
- Pour over the pork and eat immediately with steamed buns or rice
You must make it immediately!
* Skippy, as in Skippy the kangaroo = anglo
So a year ago today Chef told me he was unhappy and didn’t love me any more. Surprise!
He was gone four days later after a long weekend away to be
on his own with ‘friends’. He was completely packed up and out of the house within the week, taking with him the boys’ playstation and xbox1.
So there was my worst case scenario playing out before my very eyes. Something I had vowed would never happen to us was happening to us. I realise how naive it was for me to think I would have a say in something as important as my marriage ending. To this day there’s never been a proper discussion about it just text responses and one word answers. And I think that was one of the things that upset me the most, 23 years, 4 kids and he didn’t think we were worth fighting for.
So he gets a shiny new life with a shiny new
foetus partner. I would not swap out of the messy, hard, joyous complicated life for the world but I must say it stings a little. I wonder if she is getting a better version of him? One who doesn’t sleep all the time or sit on his computer rather than opting in to the life going on around him. Does he do washing? Does he not let all his clothes just pile up in a mountain beside his bed? Does he make dinner or clean-up after it without having to be asked? Does he not leave massive skid marks in the toilet? Does he do any housework in their pad? How on earth can he think seeing his kids for 4-5hrs a week is being a good dad?
And then I realise I too had a better him once. God he used to make me laugh. Remember the bed shark? In the car, turning left, does he still think to himself ‘I am going left’ and smile in memory of the time he was telling me to go left, left! and I wailed ‘I am going left’ as I sailed on right. Does he remember the stupid licking game we used to play where you’d try to catch the other off-guard and lick their face? Or the time we were camping and went for a bushwalk that became the scene from Survivor. We were trying to keep the boys upbeat as the rain beat down and we clambered over fallen trees when he quietly said to me, ‘if the SES aren’t called for us this’ll be a good day’. Again, funny. What about the captain’s log, my travel journal of Tasmania (with the total of one entry, ‘and we’re off!’) and the pointing stick? The births of our boys?
As today loomed I started to feel pretty angry, resentful and bitter, three things I can honestly say I have barely felt this year. My friend M posted a motivational message on FB yesterday which was unlike her as we tend to be grossly cynical of such things, but it came at a really good time. It kicked me out of the blackness those emotions bring.
I have achieved so much this year. I feel stronger, brighter, more optimistic for the future. I feel unencumbered, released and loved. So loved.
My relationship with my boys, always strong, is even moreso. Only I will ever truly know what it is to be a proper parent to these boys. Through the daily detritus of ‘get dressed’, ‘where are your shoes’, ‘chocolate is not a breakfast food’ to the tribulations of growing up ‘I’m sad and I don’t know why’, ‘I had to sit through a talk to day that made me want to kill myself’, the joys of just hanging on the couch, going and doing things, cooking together and being the one they turn to when they’re happy/sad/angry/frustrated/every other emotion. God I’m so so lucky. I feel like I’ve won the golden ticket to be these boys’ mum.
My mental health and mood are the best they’ve been in more time than I can remember. My resting state is one of happiness and promise.
We have cats! This was singularly probably the best thing I did for me and the boys. They are an integral part of the house now and bring all of us so much joy. Not a day goes past we don’t laugh at something they’re doing. They sleep on the boys’ beds and are adored.
Things have broken and I have fixed them. I’ve sold stuff, researched and bought stuff. To mark today I bought the boys a new playstation, telling them it was a thank you from me as well as a way to show them how proud I was of them in how they have handled the biggest life-changing event they have ever had.
We are going on a holiday for the first time since 2009! A road trip to the Victorian high country which now I realise will probably be hotter than Hades but still, away! together!
My family and indeed Chef’s family have been unsurpassable in their support of me and the boys. My in-laws deserve a special shout-out in what is a hugely conflicting, confusing, baffling, upsetting and angry time. How did they choose to react and respond? With love, kindness, grace and understanding. I love them, my SIL and her family, my BIL and his partner so much and they will always be a critical component to mine and the boys’ lives.
And then there are my friends. My wondrous friends. I have the best friends in the world. You have turned up at the door with flowers, food and booze. You have raged on my behalf, made me laugh and let me sob big snotty sobs down the phone. Always there and always willing me on.
I am truly blessed.