Healthy babies and questionable reporting. With a chicken and potato curry

I’ve started to get the newspaper delivered every day. On the one hand, I’m getting older and I quite like having the paper to read in the morning. On the other, they offered it to me at a price not very far from paying me to read it, a sign of increasing desperation in print publishing circles.

From having the news presented to me in it’s physical form, I get to see what passes as the “lead story” these days. On Wednesday the headline was “Sleeping on back lifts rate of still birth”.

Essentially, women who sleep on their backs during the final three months of pregnancy are almost four times more likely to have a stillbirth. So far, so compelling.

It turns out that this relates to 15 pregnancies a year. Now, saving the lives of 15 babies is not to be sniffed at, equating to 9% of all late pregnancy still births.

But that’s not the point. The point is that this is the headline story and pregnant women already have enough to worry and feel guilty about.

Had a glass of wine before you knew you were pregnant? You may have caused brain damage to your new born.

Ate a ham sandwich? Worry about salmonella poisoning

Ate pate? Concerns about excess vitamin A poisoning.

Too tight jeans? Constricting the babies growth

Over 35? Your chances of having “issues” during pregnancy are off the chart. You should give up now.

And that’s just the start. For goodness sake, when you’re in your final trimester it’s difficult enough to sleep AT ALL, let alone worrying about whether you’re sleeping on your back or side.

I remember reading somewhere that it was best to sleep on my left side. Then waking up regularly fretting that I was sleeping on the wrong side. Any sleep you can get at this stage is a blessing, when you have a plus-sized watermelon strapped to your stomach. I always figured it was training for when the baby was born, when sleep really is a luxury.

When you’re pregnant, you’re judged on everything you do, from how you dress, to what you eat and drink, to what vitamins you’re taking, to when you stop working, to whether you’re playing music to the baby in your womb, to whether your baby is developing at the rate it should be, to whether you’re having a natural birth or a Caesarian section, whether you’re with drugs or without. And then post birth, you get to worry more about whether the choices you made have negatively impacted your child for the rest of their lives.

And now pregnant women get to fret about how they’re sleeping.

I’m not saying that this shouldn’t be reported, or that pregnant women shouldn’t be given every opportunity to give birth to healthy babies. I question whether this story should be blown up into front page news. Whether in a world where every choice made during pregnancy is questioned and judged, whether women need another thing to worry about.

CHICKEN AND POTATO CURRY

I’m not entirely sure what this dish has to do with the above. You are in danger of the curry giving you indigestion if you’re pregnant, but other than that, you should be fine to eat it.

If you’re a mother, or pregnant, or want to farm the whole job off to your significant other, this dish is a good one. It’s all cooked in one pot, so fewer dishes. It also tastes better the next day, so feel free to make it in advance. Or not. It’s still pretty good eaten as soon as it’s cooked.2017-06-08 12.26.12 v1

2 tablespoons oil (not olive)
2 onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 tablespoons good quality curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes
440g can tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, halved
10 small (baby) potatoes, scrubbed and halved
Large bunch spinach leaves or silverbeet, destemmed and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup coriander leaves

  1. Heat oil in a large pan with a lid over a moderate heat
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring until onions are soft
  3. Add ginger and spices and cook until fragrant (about a minute)
  4. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, chicken and potatoes and bring to the boil
  5. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked thoroughly and potatoes have softened.
  6. Add chopped green leaves and cook for another 5 minutes uncovered.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Stir through coriander leaves and serve with warmed naan, pappadam or roti, and yoghurt on the side.
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Salad of the week: Salmon Nicoise

This salad came about as a result of having some smoked salmon in the fridge which I’d forgotten about. Never a great thing. Luckily it was still within it’s use by date, so with the addition of a few extras, it became a quite delicious Friday night dinner. With the added advantage that everyone in our family ate it with relish. Even my notoriously picky son.

A traditional Nicoise salad includes anchovies. I left these out this time (more kid friendly), but have included them below for you to add if you like. I added capers for extra salt/zest, but up to you again whether you wish to or not.

SMOKED SALMON NICOISE SALAD2017-02-10 20.37.59 HDR v1.jpg
(serves 4)

6 new potatoes
150g fresh green beans, top and tailed
4 eggs
1 cos lettuce, washed and leaves torn
1/2 red onion finely sliced
1/4 telegraph cucumber, cut into 2cm cubes
1/2 punnet cherry tomatoes, sliced
12 pitted black olives (I used kalamata olives)
200g hot smoked salmon
handful fresh basil leaves

Dressing:
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
6 fresh basil leaves
salt/pepper

Optional:
1 Tbsp capers, and/or
6 whole anchovies (the best quality you can find)

  1. Cut potatoes in half, and boil in salted water until just cooked (about 10 minutes). Drain, refresh in cold water, drain again and set aside.
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Add green beans and blanch until bright green (about 1 minute). Drain, refresh with cold water, drain again and set aside.
  3. Bring another pan of water to the boil. Remove from the heat, add whole eggs and boil for 7 minutes. Drain, cover with cold water to stop cooking and set aside.
  4. To make dressing, process all ingredients with a stick blender until emulsified.
  5. To make the salad, line a salad bowl with torn cos leaves. Top with onion, cucumber, tomatoes and potatoes.
  6. Remove skin from salmon and break into pieces. Place salmon on top of the salad.
  7. Top with green beans, olives and either capers or anchovies (or both).
  8. Peel shells from eggs and quarter. Top the salad with the eggs and toss over basil leaves.
  9. Pour over salad dressing and serve.

Feel like summer: marinated BBQ chicken

Although I love a roast chicken in winter, in summer I’m all about cooking as much as I possibly can on the barbecue. I have a Weber (which I love!!) but I also have gas (bad me) as a back up plan for when I can’t be arsed.

Anyway, I digress. Chicken. Can be very dull, but after it’s relaxed in a bath of lemon juice, garlic and herbs, then been fired up over coals (or gas!!), it’s a thing of beauty.

This recipe has all the flavours from Greece to mentally whisk you away to sunshine and azure seas, and is all the better matched with a chilled ouzo or two, a Greek salad, and some of the potatoes roasted as below.

GREEK STYLE MARINATED CHICKEN WITH LEMON ROASTED POTATOES

2016-10-29 15.04.18.jpgFor the chicken:
1 whole free range chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt

  1. Butterfly the chicken by cutting down each side of the backbone and removing (with either a very sharp, heavy knife or a strong pair of kitchen scissors). Then press down on the breast bone so the chicken splays out.
  2. Mix together all other ingredients to make the marinade2016-10-29 15.19.22 v2.jpg
  3. Gently lift the skin from across the chicken breast and over the thighs without tearing
  4. Smear half of the marinade mix under the chicken skin, over the breast and thigh meat.
  5. Pour the remaining marinade over the chicken, rubbing it over the skin and into the underside. Place in a non-reactive dish and leave to marinade overnight or for a minimum of 3 hours
  6. Heat a barbecue to very hot. Sear the chicken, skin side down until brown. Turn over and cover, reducing the temperature to 180ºC. Cook for approximately 45 minutes, or until internal temperature at the thickest point reads 75ºC
  7. If you don’t have a barbecue, heat your oven to 180ºC and roast for 45 minutes until cooked as above.

2016-10-29 19.55.07.jpg

For the potatoes:
500g baby potatoes, left whole or cut in half
olive oil
1/2 bulb garlic, broken into unpeeled cloves
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
Sea salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200ºC
  2. Place potatoes in a roasting dish. Drizzle with olive oil and rub with your hands to make sure the potatoes are evenly covered with oil
  3. Arrange lemons and garlic around the potatoes. Season with sea salt
  4. Roast until potatoes are brown outside and soft inside (approximately 30 minutes)