Hypochondriac? Me? With pears poached in mulled wine.

We have a challenging relationship with illness in my family. I’m not talking serious illness (at least at this point), but just your average, common-or-garden varietal colds, sore stomachs and aches and pains.

In my family, there’s a divide between my mother’s and my father’s sides of the family. My mother comes from a family of Scotsmen, which I guess sums up all there is to say about stoicism. Or damned bloody mindedness, for a more direct turn of phrase.

The general approach to sickness among our clan is to suck it up and get on with it. My mother’s approach to handling me as a unwell child was “go to school and see how you feel”. Code for “unless you have the plague you’re not staying home”.

When it came to my grandmother, her approach was benign, but as it turns out, deadly. She avoided going to the doctor at all costs, lest she be found malingering. She’d talk to the doctor about his personal problems, rather than her own (I should mention my grandmother was Scottish, white haired and under 5 feet tall. Like a miniature Mrs Doubtfire). Ultimately, a sore above her top lip, which she’d avoided having treatment for, developed into a malignancy which had to be cut out, leaving a nasty scar. She died far too young at 70, after complaining for months about breathlessness caused by issues with her legs. Her actual issue was that she was diabetic, and as a result had heart problems, which could have been easily treated. We didn’t find that out until after she died from a heart attack.

My father’s side of the family takes a completely opposing approach. My paternal grandmother lived to be 98 (albeit with dementia), unbelievably sound of body, if not mind. She walked, played croquet, worked in her garden, and took herself off to bed at the slightest hint of a tickle at the back of her throat. We were warned not to kiss her, unless we fell to “the Bot”. Not really sure what that’s short for.

My father has followed in her footsteps. Even a hint of illness warrants a doctors visit. Much to my mother’s chagrin. She sighs, rolls her eyes, and talks about his hypochondria. Dad is healthy as an ox in his mid-70’s, goes to the gym three times a week, plays sport, goes fishing, is generally active, and rarely unwell. Mum, has angina, polymyalgia (a kind of rheumatism), a high risk of bowl cancer and takes a raft of medication, which has subsequently given her kidney issues.

I should mention my father’s family were based in New Zealand in WW2, with all the opportunity that afforded. My mother’s family were in Scotland, and were far more exposed to nutritional and environmental challenges that shaped the way they thought and behaved.

The point of all this is how it affects the way I think. I am rubbish at being sympathetic when my kids are unwell. I have, embarrassingly, adopted my mother’s suck-it-and-see approach to sending kids to school when they’re feeling sick.

I feel terrible every time I do it and get the call later in the day from the school nurse.

I always feel like a fraud when I go to the doctor. I’ve recently had an allergic reaction which has resulted in a rash over most of my body. I tried, for 10 days, to treat it with antihistamines, until I finally caved and went to A&E. If I’d been more prepared to face a doctor before it became unbearable, I might have saved myself $100 by making an appointment with my GP. That allergy has become chronic urticaria, which if not resolved in the next week, will lead to visits to an immunologist.

So I’m not sure that taking the stoic approach is best. While I worry my kids are missing school, the alternative is to send them to school and have their potential virus spread like wildfire. An illness that could be easily resolved by getting onto it early can end up being something far more serious without treatment (as demonstrated by my late maternal grandmother).

Time to suppress the little voice in my head that says I’m a fraud, or that my children are pretending, or that my husband is a hypochondriac and take the time to look after ourselves. Better to live a long healthy life, with the odd day in bed recovering, than a short life, with head held high because I could “suck it up”.

PEARS POACHED IN MULLED WINE

Red wine, in small doses, is shown to have great health benefits. Good for body and soul. Here’s a recipe that makes great use of seasonal pears, which I’ve prepared for my friend Charlotte. Her blog A Beautiful Mind, to raise awareness of possible ways to prevent Alzhiemer’s Disease. Her blog this week is all about red wine, so make sure you go and have a read.

2 cups red wine 2017-05-27 08.37.26
1/3 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
6 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
Peel of one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
4 pears, peeled (I used buerre bosc)
200g mascapone
100g greek yoghurt

  1. In a medium saucepan, heat red wine, sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves, star anise, orange peel and vanilla essence. Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar as dissolved.
  2. Add pears, bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 1 hour, turning carefully to keep the pears evenly coloured.
  3. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cooled.
  4. Check red wine syrup for thickness. If sauce hasn’t reduced during cooking process, strain our spices and return sauce to the boil. Cook until desired thickness is reached.
  5. Mix mascapone and yoghurt together until evenly combined.
  6. Serve pears drizzled with red wine syrup, with mascapone alongside.
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To old friends. With a Brined Roast Chicken.

This weekend I’m in Sydney. This is not supposed to be an opportunity for me to brag about my fabulous jet setting life, just so we’re clear. In actual fact, this trip is less about where I am, and more about who I’m spending time with.

This weekend is about seeing some old friends. The friends I’ve had for most of my life. The ones who haven’t dropped by the wayside as the years have passed. The ones I don’t catch up with as much as I once did, but the when we do, it’s like we’ve never been apart.

And that’s the thing with old friendships. Invariably I forget to ask the questions about work, husbands, kids, in favour of just picking up where we left off. We get straight into the bigger conversations about what ever existential crisis we’re grappling with this week. Whether the universe is really delivering the way it’s supposed to. Whether world events are aligning with our moral codes and values. The really big stuff.

We don’t need to talk about small stuff, because we know it already. We don’t need to take the time to get to know our old friends, because we’ve known them forever.

The questions we ask of new friends are like a kind of detective work. We’re delving into their history (which we weren’t a part of), determining common areas of interest, looking for shared moral and ethical codes, working out what people we have in common. Anything to establish a connection, to build on that and create a lasting friendship. It takes work, both time and effort. It takes patience. It takes tolerance. We need to put our rose coloured spectacles on, all the better to overly appreciate the good in our new friends while ignoring the not so great.

Meanwhile we see our old friends as they are, warts and all. We don’t need tinted lenses, because we embrace the good and the bad. We love them the way they are. Our lives are so enmeshed that the less ideal aspects of either of us add to the richness of our relationship.

It doesn’t take effort. There’s no patience or tolerance required. The conversation flows easily, but silences are comfortable. We can be forthright, giving and receiving criticism in a loving and honest way, without offence being taken. We listen, and take on board any appraisal leveled at us. We review and digest and assess and eventually agree with the analysis of our shortcomings. They give us pause and reason to think, and ultimately we are the better for it.

It’s tough being a new friend. Being subjected to unspoken critiques without the relationship longevity to emerge unscathed. For the friendship to whither under the pressures of work, husbands, kids. To shrink in the harsh glare of scrutiny of limited common ground.

The common ground with our old friends is time, in the end. Time spent, time shared, a problem shared, a problem halved.

BRINED CHICKEN

This is a standard roast chicken with an extra flavour boost. It’s a great dish to cook for friends, served with a simple salad and some crusty bread, for lunch or dinner.

Picture 050-1Basic Brine:
1 whole chicken (free range ideally)
1/2 cup salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups of water, plus extra to cover chicken

  1. Mix together salt, sugar and water together in a large pot (one large enough to hold a whole chicken)
  2. Bring to the boil over a high heat until salt and sugar have dissolved
  3. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cold
  4. Add chicken to the brine and cover with extra water
  5. Return to the fridge and leave to cure for between 6 and 12 hours (or overnight)
  6. Drain brine from chicken, pat chicken dry and roast as normal

Brine with extra flavour:
One quantity of basic brine, as above, prepared to step 2
1/2 onion diced
1 carrot diced
1 celery stick sliced
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 bay leaf
handful of thyme sprigs

  1. Add all ingredients to the hot brine
  2. Follow steps 3 to 6 above, discarding vegetables and stuffing herbs into the chicken cavity

 

Harvest Chicken, L’Authentique Style

The first time I made a real Harvest Chicken, it was a Ray McVinnie recipe featured in Cuisine magazine I don’t even know how many years ago. The combination of flavours in my version remains the same – tomatoes, lemons, rosemary and chicken.

Although this time I’ve used L’Authentique Chicken and Bacon sausages. The flavours still work as they should, but the sausages make the process a little faster. I’ve also added potatoes to make this a one dish meal, that can go straight from oven to table.

L’AUTHENTIQUE HARVEST CHICKEN2017-05-09 18.52.35 v1
Serves 4-6

4 potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks
½ cup olives
1 red onion, sliced
2 lemons, cut into wedges
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves stripped from stem
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup chicken stock
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
12 L’Authentique chicken and bacon sausages
Salt and pepper to taste
Bunch of parsley, leaves finely chopped

  1. Heat oven to 200C
  2. In a large roasting dish, toss potatoes, olives, onion, lemons and rosemary with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Pour over chicken stock and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.
  3. Add cherry tomatoes and roast for another 10 minutes
  4. Lay sausages on top and roast for a final 7 minutes. If you want extra colour on your sausages, turn the oven to grill for the last 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over parsley and serve.

Modern manners: Guest or Host? With Pan Fried Fish and Avocado Vinaigrette.

The other day I caught up with a friend for coffee. We got talking about getting together with friends, either going to someone’s house, or having someone over. After further discussion we both came to the conclusion that it’s about the role you assume when you’re a guest at someone’s home. And conversely the role they have as host.

The conversation came about after we started talking about the impact of my decision to stop drinking for 10 weeks. One of the biggest challenges I have faced in the first few days is an expectation that if I don’t drink, I’ll be dull to be around. I don’t think I am a boring person, but maybe I’m just more fun when I drink.

As a guest, you’re supposed to be entertaining. It all sounds very old fashioned, but you’re supposed to have a witty anecdote or 3 to keep the table entertained. It makes you fun to be with. You should be the best version of yourself, with positive energy, a good level of chat (but not too much), friendly and outgoing. You bring a bottle, you eat the meal that’s provided without complaint, you still have room for dessert. And you leave before you’ve outstayed your welcome.

We all have stories of nightmare dinner guests. The guest who got drunk and fell asleep at the table. The guest who complained bitterly about their boss throughout the evening. The couple who fight at the table. The guest who dominated the evening with their extreme, and extremely dry, political opinions. The guest who deliberately picks the opposing opinion to everyone else at the table. The guest who has 15 different food aversions. The guest who just doesn’t know when it’s time to leave and who you eventually have to make a bed up for and who then still won’t leave well into the next day.

That last one’s happened to me at least 3 times. I haven’t invited those people back.

Conversely, being a host comes with it’s own set of responsibilities. Understanding your guest isn’t drinking, so providing an alternative. Understanding your guest is watching their weight, so not pushing dessert on them. Understanding your guest has commitments the following day, so not making them feel guilty for leaving. Understanding that your guests will be hungry, so dinner should be served pre-midnight. Understanding what it is to be a host.

None of this is new. It used to be de riguer for everyone around the table to understand the etiquette for entertaining. But in our less formal times, even basic courtesies are often forgotten.

I’m not sure we need a hard and fast set of rules any more.  I can forgive lapses of judgement and behaviour as a result of a glass or two too many. For goodness sake, we’ve all been there, and people who live in glass houses and all. But as I’ve said above, there are some people I just cannot have in my house any more.

For the others, we make allowances. For the friends who forget to feed us with any semblance of timeliness, we eat in advance. For the friends who drink too much, we provide water (or water down the wine). For the friend who’s grumpy, we sympathise, and appreciate that they’ve had a tough week. For the friends who don’t know when to leave, we get them an Uber.

We try to hold on to some social niceties, but we tone down the judgement.

PAN FRIED FISH WITH SMASHED POTATOES AND AVOCADO VINAIGRETTE
Serves 4

Recently I was sent a few avocados courtesy of The Fresh Avocado Company. It got me 2017-05-04 09.29.06 v1thinking about avocados in the late 1980’s – the heyday of a half avocado as a highly priced, prestigious entree at well regarded restaurants, perhaps adorned with a few king prawns.

This dish was a favourite of mine when I worked at Le Brie, a french restaurant in St Patrick’s Square, in a location now occupied by The Grove. It’s really held up over the years, and deserves a come back.

500g agria potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt/pepper
1 avocado, cut into 1cm dice
Handful basil leaves, sliced
4  fillets white fish (snapper or terikihi)
4 Tbsp flour for dusting
Olive oil for frying
1 Tbsp butter

  1. Cook potatoes in salted water until soft (approximately 10 minutes). Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, make the avocado vinaigrette. Whisk together extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and dijon mustard until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Gently mix avocado, basil and vinaigrette together in a small bowl.
  4. Dry fish fillets with paper towel. Dust with flour, then fry in olive oil in a heavy based fry pan over a medium/high heat until cooked (about 3 minutes each side).
  5. Drain the potatoes, and crush lightly with a fork, so the potatoes are crushed, but not mashed completely. Gently stir through butter.
  6. Share potatoes evenly between 4 plates, and top with a fish fillet. Spoon over the avocado and basil, with the vinaigrette and serve immediately.

 

 

Sausage Simplicity: L’Authentique Chorizo and Prawns with Spicy Tomato Sauce

I have to fess up here: the highly talented Bunny Eats Design was the inspiration for this recipe and deserves credit. 2017-05-04 09.57.27 v1

This is a great recipe that Genie has developed, and I have messed with, as I do. It features L’Authentique Chorizo sausage, but if they don’t sell these where you live, any other good quality fresh chorizo would work equally well.

This is a super simple dinner to pull together, perfect for a week night family meal.

 

L’AUTHENTIQUE CHORIZO AND PRAWNS WITH SPICY TOMATO SAUCE

2017-05-04 11.00.07 v14 x L’Authentique Chorizo Sausages or 1 pack of French Grind, formed into approx. 25 small meatballs
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 red capsicum, deseeded, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or crushed
2 Teaspoons hot smoked paprika
440g can crushed tomatoes
20 cooked and peeled prawns
Bunch coriander or parsley, chopped
Salt/pepper to taste

  1. Heat oil in a frying pan. Cook sausages or meatballs until just cooked. Remove from pan and set aside. Slice sausages into 1cm pieces if using.
  2. Reheat pan over medium heat. Add onions and capsicum and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until onions are soft.
  3. Add garlic and paprika and cook for another minute.
  4. Pour over tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes or until sauce has thickened slightly.
  5. Return sausages to the pan with prawns, and cook until heated through.
  6. Stir through coriander or parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with rice or warmed crusty bread.

Silence in the face of adversity. With chorizo croquettes.

Last week I was chatting with a friend. The conversation turned to criticism of another friend of ours.

More specifically, a child of that friend.

As we kept talking, I found myself becoming more and more uncomfortable with the direction we were going in. I’m deliberately being light on detail, because what was being said was the kind of judgement you shouldn’t be passing on an adult, let alone a child. My discomfort was in a combination of the judgement, the age of the judgee, the lack of sympathy for and understanding of our mutual friend.

And that I didn’t push back.

Worse that that, I found myself retelling a couple of extra examples to support the outrageous accusations.

I kept quiet because I was afraid of losing a friend and I didn’t want to invite conflict.

This isn’t the only time this has happened, and this situation is most certainly not exclusive to me. I’ve watched many similar situations with friends and family where highly prejudicial or discriminatory stories are told, and no one says anything, because our reluctance to rock the boat outstrips our sense of outrage. We all sit quietly, seething on the inside, or looking around in embarrassment, hoping to God that no one else is listening in.

I wondered whether this is a cultural flaw. New Zealanders are inclined to say nothing in uncomfortable situations. We can make ill advised friendships last a lifetime, rather than standing up for what we believe in. And yet we’ve stood on the world stage in defiance of super powers. We protest against injustice. So I’m not sure it’s that.

I have no issue with pushing back on older members of my family when they come out with enormously inflammatory comments. I’ll vociferously castigate them for their outdated views on race, class and gender (or a combination of all three). Apparently I’m only tolerant of my friends’ prejudice.

It feels like a throwback to the school yard. To the days when you remained friends no matter what. I remember one friend who mercilessly picked on my younger sister. She was redirecting her own frustrations with being the youngest child on someone who was younger than her. I loved (and still love) my sister almost more than anyone else (now my children have taken that place), yet I could let someone who proved to be a short-term friend terrorise my only sibling. I’m not going to be too hard on myself here – I think I was about 9 or 10, but the example works for the narrative.

The only solution I think, is to honestly assess the state of the person you’re friends with. To question whether this was a one off, badly judged comment, or part of a long term pattern of opinions and behaviour. After all, we all have our moments when we speak without thinking. There’s a vast divide between a single foot-in-mouth incident, and a lifetime of bigotry.

If the gap between your standards and theirs is getting too wide, maybe it’s time to look for a new friend.

CHORIZO CROQUETTES
Makes 12

These croquettes were my favourite things to eat in Spain. They can be filled with 2017-04-13 10.38.15 v1.jpgserrano ham, salt cod or cheese, or chorizo sausage, as per my recipe below.

I made these for my family as a light dinner, served with a green salad. You could also serve these as a tapas plate, or as an entree.

1 pack L’Authentique chorizo sausages, casings removed
100ml olive oil
1/2 cup flour
600ml milk
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour, for coating
2 eggs, beaten with 2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Additional olive oil for frying

  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan. Cook chorizo, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through. Set aside.
  2. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat. Add olive oil. When heated, add flour and cook for approximately 2 minutes, stirring to combine.
  3. Gradually add milk, stirring briskly with a wooden spoon to avoid lumps. The sauce should be very thick and shiny.
  4. Stir in chorizo, parsley, salt and pepper.
  5. Refrigerate for an hour to set, or if you’re in a hurry, place in a freezer for 15 minutes.
  6. Prepare coating by placing flour, eggs and water, and breadcrumbs into separate bowls.
  7. With floured hands, form spoonfuls of the chorizo mix into small sausage shapes, about 6cm long and 3cm thick. Dredge in the flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Set aside on a large plate in a single layer.
  8. Heat extra olive oil, about 1cm deep, in a heavy based pan. Fry the croquettes until golden brown all over. If they are started to colour too quickly, reduce the heat. Set aside on kitchen towel to drain. Serve hot with home made mayonnaise if desired.

Mid-week Michelin recreations. Miso fish bowl

So I am exaggerating somewhat when I say I’m recreating a Michelin star dish mid-week in my domestic kitchen. But this dish does include the infamous miso marinade for Nobu’s signature miso black cod.

There are a few differences – while Nobu Mastuhisa marinades his fish for 3 days, mine was more like 2-3 hours. I left quite a bit of the marinade on the fish when I cooked it, so it retained the flavour, without the immense pre-preparation time.

Since I’m making this in the middle of the week, I’ve created the fish as part of a rice bowl, with extra vegetables and a light wasabi dressing.

All said, this was a fairly simple dinner, which my whole family enjoyed (even the fussy one, although he had different vegetables to the rest of us). It also is delicious cold the next day, mixed with more dressing to make it more salad-like.

MISO FISH AND STEAMED VEGETABLE RICE BOWL2017-04-11 08.57.50 v1
Serves 4

For the fish: 
4 pieces of firm white fish, approx 150g each (snapper was good), filleted and deboned
3 Tbsp mirin
3 Tbsp sake
1/2 cup miso paste
1/3 cup sugar

  1. In a small saucepan, bring the mirin and sake to the boil.
  2. Whisk in miso then sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat
  3. When sauce is cool, pour into a large non-reactive dish. Layer the fish of top, and turn to cover with marinade. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook (2-3 hours or overnight).
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Remove fish from marinade and arrange in a single layer on the baking tray. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Be careful not to overcook.

For the rice:
1 cup sushi rice
1/2 cups water

  1. Rinse rice in a colander. Drain well.
  2. Place in a saucepan with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Turn off the heat, and leave covered for 5 minutes.
  4. Fluff rice with a fork before serving.
  5. Optional: if you would like extra flavour, toss through a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar and a teaspoon of caster sugar before serving.

For the dressing:
(from Harvest Niseko, by Tess Stomski)
1 tsp wasabi paste
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp white sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil

  • Combine all ingredients in a jar. Shake together until combined and sugar dissolved.

To compile, choose from the following:
Broccoli, cut into small florets and steamed until just cooked
Edamame beans, depodded and cooked
Bok choy, leaves separated and rinsed. Steamed until just cooked
Shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced and sauted with ginger and soy sauce
Cucumber, finely sliced
Spring onions, finely sliced
Toasted sesame seeds
Toasted nori

  • Divide rice into four bowls. Place fish on top, then arrange vegetables around the fish. Pour over dressing, then garnish with sesame seeds, spring onions and/or nori.

Don’t believe the hype. And spaghetti with a sausage, mushroom and cream sauce.

A few weeks ago some friends and I were having a discussion about why I’d left my job in advertising. Amongst the many positive reasons (stress reduction, life balance, a love of food), I explained that I was a “people pleaser”. My desire to please people meant that criticism of my work, justified or not, left me feeling devastated, made me feel that I was letting my employers and clients down. That I wasn’t good enough.

My friend rolled her eyes – “Stop believing your own narrative”, she said.

When I asked what she meant, she talked about how we create a narrative for ourselves that gives us an excuse to explain away difficult situations in our lives. How this narrative becomes our “get out of jail free card”. How it allows us to level the blame at anyone but ourselves.

Of course, I resented what she was saying enormously. How dare she! Doesn’t she know how tough it was for me? Doesn’t she know that my former employer was an industry renowned bully? That my clients were some of the most difficult in town? That I’m just a really nice person who doesn’t deserve to be treated like that….

So many excuses. And she was right. The reality is that the only person making me feel the way I did was me. No one else can be held responsible for my feelings. I’m the one who feels them. I’m the one who creates the way I respond. The narrative is the story we tell ourselves to justify our responses, to give ourselves a reason to never change the way we respond.

That’s not to say that there aren’t situations beyond our control. We can’t predict the future, we can’t control the way others will act, we can only control the way we react.

I have a friend who is continually busy. So busy. So overworked. So unappreciated. So overloaded. For many years, I listened to her many tales of hours worked, pressure applied, late nights and early mornings in the office, too many deadlines, impossible to meet. It was odd though – she moved to different companies and the pressure and long hours remained. No matter where she worked, she told the same story of unappreciative employers, pushing her to work to breaking.

The reality is that my friend is the common denominator. I have no doubt that her job was intense, that the role was demanding. But she has never tried to change it. She’s accepted this situation as her narrative. It gives her a story to tell, makes her a sympathetic figure, means that she never has to take responsibility for the place she finds herself in. There are other people performing the same role across her industry, without these issues. This is not a professional problem, this is her problem.

Conversely, I have a friend who is in a very demanding role, at an extremely senior level in the corporate world. I’ve never been brave enough to ask what she earns (a lot!). I know roughly the value of her role, the vast sums of money and people she’s responsible for. She transacts with governments and heads of industry all over the world. On any given day, she can be flying in or out of New York, Shanghai, London, Tokyo, Auckland or Sydney. On top of that, she has a husband and two very active children. And friends and family who like to see her when she’s able.

It would be easy for her to cry busy. To complain that her work is crushing down on her, to tell everyone she doesn’t have time to spend. To prioritise her work above all else. But she doesn’t. She sets boundaries. She works so hard, but she also accepts that she chose this life, she chose this work, she chose a family. She doesn’t let busy become her narrative. She defines her life, rather than letting life define her. It’s part of what has made her so successful in so many aspects of her life.

It’s not just work. We apply our narrative to our romantic lives, our financial situations, our children, our friendships. There are so many stories of people who have overcome extreme hardship, while so many others retreat into themselves, looking for someone else to blame. Their parents, their ex-husbands, the government, a religious minority, a different ethnicity.

Two similar situations, two different responses. Another friend has now filled the role I previously held. Where I found the criticism crippling, she takes on board constructive criticism and makes the appropriate changes. She lets unjustified criticism fall off her, or fights to dispel it, if it’s important enough. While there are aspects of the role she doesn’t like (no role is perfect), she is thriving, where I was withered by my own narrative.

Our success in life is not the situations we find ourselves in. It’s how we react to those situations.

I am trying hard not to take every piece of criticism leveled at me as a personal attack. I’m trying less hard to please others, and am pushing back where I think it’s justified. I’m changing my narrative from being the woman who worked for a mean boss and a tough client, to being the woman who’s learnt a lot from her years in advertising and had some good times and some bad. And who’s really happy with the way her new life is going.

 

SPAGHETTI WITH L’AUTHENTIQUE SAUSAGE, MUSHROOM AND CREAM SAUCE2017-03-08 19.25.11 HDR v1
Serves 4

250g spaghetti, cooked to manufacturer’s instructions
2 Tbsp olive oil
450g L’Authentique Pork and Fennel or Toulouse Sausages (casings removed) or French Grind
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 cup white wine
1 cup cream
200g mushrooms, sliced
3 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt/pepper to season

  1. Heat olive oil in a deep sided frying pan.
  2. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a spoon until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Reheat pan, and add garlic and rosemary. Cook until garlic is soft and fragrant. Be careful not to brown.
  4. Pour over white wine and allow to bubble up.
  5. Add cream and mushrooms, and cook until sauce is reduced by a third and starting to thicken.
  6. Return sausage to the pan, and stir through spinach and parsley.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with hot spaghetti. Garnish with extra chopped parsley if desired.

 

A beautiful mind: Pork Mole

My friend Charlotte has a mother who has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. This in itself is not unusual, as 1 in 10 people are expected to get Alzheimer’s in their lifetime. A frankly horrifying statistic.

What is unusual is that Charlotte has chosen to share her story, and to write about the ways that we can possible stave off this terrible disease by making some small changes to the way we live and eat.

Her blog is called A Beautiful Mind. I highly recommend you read it. Her story is powerful, emotional, raw, confronting, and definitely worth reading.

PULLED PORK MOLE

A mole (pronounced mo-lay) is a Mexican sauce that features a small amount of dark chocolate. Chocolate is packed with antioxidants, and the darker the better. The chocolate in a savoury sauce is not as odd as it sounds. In this sauce it takes on a rich, earthy quality, with little of the sweetness in the original product.

2 Tbsp olive oil2017-03-31 17.09.29 v1
1kg pork shoulder, cut into 5cm chunks
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground chilli powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
440g tinned crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken stock
40g extra dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more)
Salt/pepper to season

  1. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy pan. Fry pork pieces until very brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. Add extra oil to the pan if required and saute onion, garlic and green chilli until soft.
  3. Add cumin, coriander, chilli powder and cinnamon and fry briefly until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken stock, tomatoes and paprika, bring to the boil and return pork to the pan.
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until pork is very tender (about 1 hour).
  6. Remove pork from the pan and set aside to cool.
  7. Add chocolate to the sauce and cook until chocolate has melted and sauce thickened.
  8. Shred pork with two forks, and return to the pan. Heat through.
  9. Taste and season with salt and pepper if required.
  10. Serve with warmed tortillas, cooked rice, sour cream, chopped fresh coriander and lime wedges.

Gut health in a bottle. Kombucha.

My good friend, Charlotte Devereux, runs a very important blog, beautifulmindnz.com. In this, she writes about her mother’s terrible and tragic battle with Alzheimer’s disease. She also provides advice and research into some of the simple things we can do in our every day lives to try to stave off this dreadful disease.

Anyway, her latest post is about gut health, and the relationship between the health of our gut bacteria and our brain (I’ve written about this in the past). She asked me to contribute a recipe for kombucha (which I’ve been making for the past year or so), and here it is.

I started my own SCOBY from scratch, using these instructions, but if you can’t be bothered waiting, look on line to see if anyone has a healthy SCOBY to give away.

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Charlotte’s beautiful daughter, India, with my kombucha (Photo: Jasmine Devereux Barnes)

KOMBUCHA

1. Heat 2 litres of water until boiling. If you’re not using filtered water, boil water for 10 minutes to burn off any chlorine.

2. Stir in ¾ cup of plain sugar until dissolved. This seems like a lot, but don’t worry, the bacteria and yeast will eat most of this during the fermentation process. You could also use brown sugar for a more caramel flavour, but don’t use honey or artificial sweeteners. Honey has antibacterial properties, and artificial sweetener won’t provide the food needed.

3. Add 2-3 teaspoons of loose tea or 4-6 teabags. You can use black or green tea, but don’t use earl grey tea as this will kill the bacteria necessary for fermentation.

4. Brew for 4-8 minutes depending on how strong you like your tea, then strain out tea leaves, reserving the tea.

5. Leave tea to cool until room temperature (22⁰C or less).

6. Stir through 200ml of unflavoured kombucha (store bought is ok if you’re just starting, but make sure you reserve some for your next batch)

7. Pour into a sterilised jar, and using clean hands, lay the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) into the tea. Cover with a fine muslin cloth or paper towel and secure to keep out any fruit flies or dust. Set aside in a cool dark place and wait for the SCOBY to do its job.

8. After approximately 7 days, taste the kombucha. If it’s still very sweet, it’s not ready. Taste daily until it has the right balance of sweet and sour, and has become fizzy. This can take up to 30 days depending on the temperature of your house (it’ll take longer in winter).

9. When the kombucha tastes the way you like, pour into sealable bottles (I use home brew glass bottles with strong swing tops), and set aside for the second fermentation. This is the point where you can add flavourings. The second fermentation should take between 3 and 7 days depending on what flavours you’ve added (see below for a few ideas, but don’t be afraid to experiment). When the kombucha is very fizzy, refrigerate until you’re ready to drink.

Flavouring ideas:

You can be as creative as you like with flavourings, especially as you become more confident with the kombucha brewing process. Fruit, herbs and spices are all great additions, particularly if you’re using fruit in season.

  • Ginger and kaffir lime leaf – add a large thumb sized piece of ginger, sliced, and 4 whole kaffir lime leaves to the water with the tea at step 3. At the second fermentation (step 9) add a slice of ginger and a whole kaffir lime leaf to each bottle before adding the kombucha.
  • Berry – at the second fermentation (step 9) add a handful of mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, fresh or frozen) to each bottle. If using fresh, lightly crush the berries to release some of the juice. Top with kombucha and leave to ferment.
  • Plum and thyme – at the second fermentation, add plum slices to each bottle, and a sprig of fresh thyme. Top with kombucha and leave to ferment.