Teens Eating Salad, Working Ovens and Medals for Outstanding Parenting Achievement

There’s major cause for celebration in the new house this week, firstly because the oven is still working after Kurt cremated a pizza in it at 4am on Sunday morning, forgot about it, went to bed and if not for the old man’s remarkable sense of smell, (or weak bladder), none of us might be here to tell the tale.

 

Added to which, for the first time EVER, my kids both asked for salad for dinner last night.

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If anyone had asked me about my ambitions as a young mother, I’m ashamed to admit that I might have sobbed, ‘that my kids would eat something healthy.’

 

Rest assured, I’m not making such a big deal about this leap into the realms of successful parenting because I truly believe that my my kids are any fussier about food than other kids, and they do have a vague excuse for their lack of culinary adventure after all, because salad wasn’t exactly a core food in the UK where they spent their formative years, and where comfort foods such as carbs and even mushy peas take on a much greater appeal in front of a burning fire.

 

‘Salad’ compliments the warmer climes such as the climate we have here in Sydney, when in theory one’s appetite is less rabid and one should feel the need to hydrate far more often – both of which habits my body refuses to adapt to. Healthy, lighter foods such as watermelon and Pimms are much more enticing here under the heat of the sun, and although my two still wince at the sight of a tomato and retch at the odour of an olive, between them they now consume most variations of salad.

 

And that means I can tick one achievement off my ‘parenting’ checklist, even if it has taken me twenty-two years to reach this pinnacle of success.

 

I can see myself now at work tomorrow when I’m making small talk with my clients and I subtly drop into the conversation with appropriately smug voice, ‘by the way, my kids eat salad.’ 

 

So this is for all you young mums out there, suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from years of angrily pureeing veggies with your hand blender, then concealing them in mashed potato, before spitting into the concoction for good measure. For those of you who have torn your hair out because your kids gagged on their lettuce and regurgitated their radishes, let me restore your faith, because they will change as they grow up… in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse.

 

Which is why today I will embrace this small moment of success. We have an oven that still works and the kids like Rocket, one of the five fruit and veg I am told they need daily to develop into proper people. As it turns out, the Coriander Kurt accidentally added to his salad because he thought its leaves looked interesting and because he also believed it would be as tasteless as the other lettuce, meant he didn’t follow through on the salad after all, but I refuse to feel defeated.

 

One step closer…

Cook’s Cheat Sheet 1: 8 Wow Factor Salad Ingredients

Cook’s Cheat Sheet 1: 8 Wow Factor Salad Ingredients
Found on buzzfeed.com at http://www.pinterest.com

That time of the month has come around again when I feel it is my duty to impart some of my culinary wisdom upon you. I’m feeling mildly excited about getting back into the kitchen this Summer, especially after my recent two-week ‘degustation’ holiday in the company of the master of food (my dad) as well as my recent visit to the Sydney Noodle Market.

 

As you probably know by now, I am the BIGGEST foodie and the WORST cook, so I believe I have the right qualifications to be a leading expert on how to cheat in cooking, especially when it comes to making food look good with minimum effort.

 

I thought I’d kick off this, my first Cook’s Cheat Sheet, with some Wow-Factor Salad Ingredients that are sure to impress. These ingredients do not have silly names that no-one can pronounce, are as sexy as, super-easy to locate in your local supermarket – (no, you don’t have to fly-fish off rocks of the Seychelles, forage in the olive groves of Italy or cross the threshold of your local health food shop) – but although not exactly exotic, they will give that weary-looking salad the X factor you need to impress, make your salads look edible scrumptious, professional and exotic-like.

 

Your salads will look as though you actually cared when you threw them together. 

 

Take it from me, these are THE salad ingredients to add to that salad you have to take to a dinner party when you’re already pissed from afternoon drinkies and can no longer co-ordinate or see, or to new friends you don’t really want to see at all but need a conversation-starter with, or to that bbq that you know Mrs Jamie Fucking ‘I cook with duck liver oil’ Oliver and have perfect kids, is going to be at.

 

Whatever happened to the good old tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad? Still works in Europe – just saying. 


Embed from Getty Images

 

So here are my very special eight ingredients to cheat with. Add any one of these suckers into the most mediocre, sad-assed salad and it will take on new life, bloom like a flower in Spring and give you that culinary class you so desire.

 

Figs – cut in half, they almost look like sexy lady bits. They give colour, juice and succulence, suggestive of opulence and class.

 

Asparagus – refined, French, phallic and reeking of culinary distinction.

 

Pomegranate Seeds taken by User:Pschemp. Its t...
Pomegranate Seeds taken by User:Pschemp. Its the old slap some fruit on your scanner trick 🙂 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pomegranate Seeds – Wicked little noisettes of moist, sweet naughtiness that give colour and a sugar fix.

 

Watermelon – Before I came to Australia I thought this would be absolutely gross in a salad, but again it gives life through colour, juice, freshness and ‘balance’ mixed with the right herbs and cheeses.

 

Home-made croutons – they have to be big, rustic and authentic. They need to look like they’ve been made from old homemade bread you just happened to find at the back of the pantry. Bread takes a salad to comfort level.

 

Fennel – this is so fucking posh you have to use it just to watch the look of sheer admiration on your friends faces. Oozingly bulbous and simply melts in your mouth with a liquorice taste that reminds me of the menus du jour in cheap French restaurants, long lunches and the accompanying Pastis.

Fenouil
Fenouil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Ginger – I cut up fresh ginger and chuck it in every Asian salad with cabbage, coriander, chilli and carrot and it gives it that kick that works so well against the sweeter Asian dressing. (Absolutely die for it wrapped in chocolate too – but not in salad, obviously). It’s like the Vegemite/Marmite debate – you either love it or hate it.

 

Mint – Huge fan of fresh herbs in salads, although the old man gags on them. Mint is the only herb that lasts longer than a day in my fridge before expiring (for no fucking reason whatsoever and no matter how carefully I water them). Love mint in Greek salads and in a Tandoori chicken salad.

 

And not one fucking grain of Quinoa in sight!

 

You’re welcome!

 

 

My Kitchen Doesn’t Rule, Unfortunately, and The Sorry Tale of Two Baguettes

Morning baguettes
Morning baguettes (Photo credit: Julie70)

I know that my friend didn’t mean it, because she’s one of those really ‘nice’ people that I don’t deserve as a friend. She plants pots of foliage and shit that actually grows and she knows the Latin names of every type of flower as well as making up delicious recipes out of the scraps of leftover food that I would normally give to the dog.

 

 

And let me also say that I love her and that it’s common knowledge among our social network of friends that I can’t cook and that my kitchen certainly doesn’t rule.

 

 

Nevertheless, she demoted me again.

 

 

Last time we were invited to dinner, she asked me to bring the cheese plate.

 

 

That’s right, NOT EVEN A FUCKING SALAD!

 

 

Yesterday, when I asked her what I could bring to lunch, (silently praying that I had done enough to regain my cooking stripes and clawed my way back up to salads), she asked me to bring two baguettes.

 

 

TWO FUCKING BAGUETTES!

 

 

When I got her text, I was confused at first and wrote back anxiously ‘but what else can I bring?’

 

 

‘Nothing,’ she replied, ‘I want you to have the day off’. (While we REAL COOKS make the food).

 

 

Macaroons
Macaroons (Photo credit: aussiegall)

I got a little upset. I mean, she asked our other friend, who really can’t cook and has been known to buy ready-made dessert (THE SHAME!), to bring the cheese plate. And I’m not gloating when I say that she can’t balance different French cheeses with just the right amount of fruit, biscuits and quince in the way I can.

 

 

How the fuck do you make two baguettes look inspiring?

 

 

I asked NC if she thought I’d been ‘served’, in the words of Kurt? She looked at me pitifully for a minute and then being my daughter we set about planning my revenge.

 

 

‘I could make the bread,’ I suggested, and we both laughed all afternoon and poured some more wine.

 

 

We discussed going to Adriano Zumbo’s macaroon shop in Balmain to buy twelve perfect salted caramel macaroons, bashing them up slightly, and then taking them in to the lunch with an ‘Oh, just managed to find some extra time in between my dawn run and breakfast….’

 

 

But I didn’t do any of that. Instead, I took her 6kgs of potatoes from my online food shopping over-order and placed my bread proudly in between her homemade napkins and Casserole de Poussin that was probably baked in unicorn’s blood.

 

 

If you enjoy my very silly blog, you might want to consider voting for me in the Best Australian Blogs Competition here. The very least you can do is to ‘like’ my Facebook page here, where you can share in more inappropriate frivolity with my crazy community.

 

 

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Outed By An Asian Salad

I might be wrong, but I suspect a bit of a cooking conspiracy in our social circle; foul play in the kitchen. And I only discovered this conspiracy a few weekends ago when my culinary fraudulence was finally ‘outed’ by an Asian Salad.

As a number of you are probably already aware, I am a huge advocate of the ‘faking it’ method of living your life, so I suppose that I knew that it was only a matter of time before I f*cked up somewhere in my careful camouflaging of shop-bought delicacies that I passed off as my own creations. Nevertheless, it is still mortifying to be caught out.

The family has obviously known about my general uselessness anywhere near a gas ring for some time; luckily for them (and me), they ‘eat to live’ rather than ‘live to eat’.

But I still thought that I had managed to conceal my ineptitude in the kitchen from my friends. So when we were recently invited to a friend’s house, it was a huge error of judgement on my part (in spite of a full risk assessment), to ‘make’ something, rather than bring the suggested cheese plate.

This close friend makes Donna Hay look like an amateur. So much so that I have been forced to ban my daughter from afternoon tea at her house on the grounds that my self-esteem can’t cope.  Her house smells of the Woolworths bakery section, ALL THE TIME; it is that intimidating. Freshly baked cupcakes, raspberry and white chocolate scones and fresh fruit smoothies are all on offer in her in-house café; my daughter gets a choice of cereal or toast in mine (and that’s if the bread isn’t green). This friend is such a domestic goddess that when invited to my house, I plan my whole menu around what I ask her to bring. Truth be told, she’s another one of my girl-crushes, but in a healthy, symbiotic kind of way; she loves cooking, so I let her do it and then she lets me eat it.

I have worked out why she only ever asks me to bring anything beyond a cheese plate to her house, of course, whilst our other mates are encouraged to bring those ‘every-f*cking-herb-in-the-garden’ salads or tantalizing desserts with asterisked ingredients that you can only source in Outer Mongolia.

So when she invited us recently, I foolishly decided, as a kind of friendship offering/coming-of-age in the kitchen ritual, to digress beyond the Brie and Camenbert. To give something back.

I mean, how hard could an Asian Salad be?

Bloody hard, as it turns out. The old man later described it as ‘special’; and I would probably agree. It  was ‘special’. And it seems that I probably do have some special needs in the kitchen, and probably require some sort of culinary IEP if it’s available.

And cooking is a potentially dangerous pastime, I discovered. Those matchstick carrots were bitches to chop and I almost decapitated my best nail several times. (Who knew that cutting a carrot required Samurai skills?). I also virtually blinded myself with several squirts of lime juice to my left eye and then followed suit with the right eye by rubbing it  manically with chili-coated fingers.

It’s not that I don’t have the best intentions when it comes to cooking, but recipes may as well be in Sanskrit for all the sense they make to me. My brain simply shuts down when either a stirring or blending technique is mentioned; and then I begin to improvise. Dangerously. And for some reason, my improvisations never quite turn out to be as creatively delicious as Jamie Oliver’s.

I do blame the family for part of my innate fear of new recipes. ‘Mum’s tried a new recipe,’ is speedily transmitted around the dining table in a panicked Chinese whisper, as I dish up anything new, and even the ADHDer is uncharacteristically silenced.

Which is why I generally stick to what I know, and what they know.

But occasionally, the stars align in just the right way, (like if Donna Hay’s magazine drops into my mailbox at exactly the same time as we receive a ‘bring a dish’ lunch invitation), and I ‘go boldly where I haven’t gone before’ and attempt to discover the untapped culinary genius that I know MUST lurk somewhere deep within me.

And a special Asian Salad is created.

The problem with the recipe was that, unfortunately, it required a few minor alterations from the outset, when I realized that I had forgotten a few minor ingredients. I could only find quite small red chilies in Woolies, for example, so I thought that doubling the quantities might work; and I thought that I had some lime juice in the cupboard but when I looked, it was in fact lemon.

And that chili proved to be a bit of a surprise to the palate, apparently, and the lemon was decidedly a little over-tart. Nevertheless, on the whole I thought that I had got away with it, even though no-one apart from my gorgeous friend, the hostess, ate the portion of MY salad that was on their plate. And surprisingly, a Niagara Falls of water was consumed, even though it was unusually chilly for October.

I was obviously a little concerned when my friend became very flushed at one point (almost to the point of hyperventilation), but I assumed that the stress of hosting was to blame; and she put it down to menopause.

It was indeed a very ‘special’ Asian Salad. And I had officially been outed.

‘I’m not saying my wife’s a bad cook but she uses a smoke alarm as a timer’. Bob Monkhouse

Coleslaw with Gingered 3-Seed Dressing courtesy of britton618 at www.flickr.com