|Nicole's favourite food|
Her plane was early. Even so, we made it to the gate in time to greet a dishevelled, overloaded back-packing, complete with Furry Foxy's head sticking out of the backpack, tired looking girl. She left in May. Twenty years old. Twenty one and seven months later. Home again. Apart from my stint with her in Europe for six weeks and then another four weeks with elder sister, she's travelled alone.
She looks contented. Satisfied. A shake of the head; a wide smile; a slight bow. I read her body language. To me it said, I made it. I did it. I'm home. I suspect the innocence is gone. I've hung onto my "little" girl's innocence for quite a while. But even I can see. It's gone.
There's no point being sad. How can she venture out into the big, wide world and not have grown? When Pa asks her what has she learned, she replies; "I'm really not that stupid."
We hear as she talks about feeling independent, feeling unafraid to ask questions or simply talk to people, hiring a bike and cycling 43kms in the Netherlands - alone. Stopping to explore, take photo's and crying at the sight of a windmill. Making plans and reservations, taking risks, making silly mistakes, trusting her instinct. Yelling at would-be thieves trying to rob a tourist in Barcelona only to have the robber chasing her down the street. Oh dear. Did I really have to hear that.
From rowing in picture perfect Lake Bled, freezing to death in Prague, partying like crazy in Budapest to learning about the Berlin Wall on a three hour walking tour; she did her own thing. She made her own choices. She learned. A lot. And she said that she found no matter how 'bad' or 'hopeless' some situations appeared; she learned that things always had a way of turning out.
Like the time in the Netherlands on a busy Saturday night when every hostel in town was booked out. She considered spending all night in MacDonalds because there was no accomodation anywhere to be found. She said she went for a walk and virtually stumbled into one of the better hostels in town. She decided to ask if it were possible to put down a mattress in the hall. The place was chokkers with people trying to check in and the girl behind the reception said to my Nicka; "you must have an angel looking over you". She had just put down the phone after a rare cancellation. She quickly made the reservation for Nicole before it was taken. I said to Nicka - I rather hope that angel was my mother. Nicka smiled; she felt the same way.
No point going on. Bottom line is, she's home safe and sound and very much a different girl. Wiser, confident, full of self-belief, stronger. Yes. Stronger. She carried up to thirty kilos on her back. Her arms and legs have never been so muscular. The best thing? Her discovery that far from being 'stupid' (her words, not mine); she's a smart and capable girl. It took travelling to Europe and spending most of her savings to find out. In my book, money well worth spent.
Nicole's favourite dinner is my version of 'san choy boy'. Here is the long awaited recipe Boo Boo(nickname) - I've only been promising to post this for the last three years. Now. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I can rest in peace; you have your recipe. I hope your welcome home meal lives up to your expectations. It's good to have you home my littlest munchkin. (At least till the next travel bug bites).
Chicken Noodle San Choy Boy
650gm chicken breast, roughly chopped
4 or 5 finely diced green shallots or one bunch chopped chives
6 or 7 cloves of good quality purple garlic, crushed
2 medium carrots, finely diced
3 noodle cakes, I use the brand 'Fantastic'
sweet chilli sauce (optional)
crisp iceberg lettuce
- I use a small food processor. Put half the roughly chopped chicken in the processor with half the shallots and garlic; whizz till processed - you don't need to whizz the heck out of it. Place in a bowl; repeat step with the remaining chicken, garlic and shallots. Put contents into the fridge till ready to cook.
- In boiling water, cook the noodle cakes for about two or three minutes - no more - you need a little firmness to them. Drain water immediately; rinse with cold water till completely cooled; place noodles in a bowl filled with water. They will continue to swell while you cook the other ingredients.
- Put the finely diced carrots into a microwave safe dish; add a couple of spoonfuls of water; cook on high for two minutes. Set aside; covered.
- Heat your wok till quite hot; place about three tablespoons of peanut oil in wok; toss in the chicken, garlic and shallot mixture. Using a wok chan, move the contents of the wok around in an even action. You may need to add more oil; the chicken is breast so there's really no other source of fat. Cook for about five minutes; but not too long because you don't want the meat to dry out.
- Place the carrots into the meat; swirl around. Cut the noodles up in the water. Not too much. I find scissors really good for this. Drain noodles really well. Toss into the centre of wok; add some more oil if desired; I do; cook till completely heated through.
- Now the part you need to decide for yourself. I add about 1/2 bottle of Maggi's Oyster Sauce. A full bottle is 275gm. I know. It's quite a bit, but my family love the flavour. Mix through till well heated. Place into a serving dish; set aside.
- Take a head of iceberg lettuce. You need to be a little choosy here; a crispy good heart is essential. Using a paring knife; take out the core of the lettuce; discard. Put the upside down lettuce under the tap; fill with water; sit for a few moments; turn upside down on the sink to allow the water to run out. I find this is the best way to loosen the leaves from each other.
- Carefully jiggle the first leaf off - you don't want to rip it as this is the case for your filling. If the leaf isn't quite loose; repeat the process of filling the lettuce up with water through the core; upturn on sink again. It should peel away easily if you do this a couple of times. Still. You need gentle hands here. Take as many leaves as you need; spoon your filling into the centre of the lettuce cup; add some sweet chilli sauce if desired; wrap &; don't worry about the drips.
|Where did those years go?|
Sorry for the long post but I'm outta blogland in the next few days with loads to do!
The lovely Brydie at cityhippyfarmgirl has tagged me to answer a few questions. I'll do my best.
Through My Kitchen Window Unplugged
- What or who, inspired you to start a blog? I figured starting a blog would be a great way of learning how to use the computer. I was a complete novice and terribly afraid of the "delete" button. As a totally technology challenged idiot, I couldn't keep bugging the kids and my Hubby to keep showing me "how to....." every time I made a mistake. Given that 'food' is a passionate interest, it made sense to start a food blog. I've learnt heaps, with heaps still to learn. Geez. I only figured out how to 'link' not that long ago. What can I say! I'm over fifty! That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
- Who is your foodie inspiration? When I lived in Wollongong, I worked for my Hubby's aunt. She was one of the senior test cooks at the Australian Women's Weekly up until the late 1970's. She would of easily made Food Editor after Ellen Sinclair, except that she resigned. The travel time to get to Sydney was too long. Pamela Clark got the job. Peg went on to establish her very own successful catering business in Wollongong and she taught me heaps. I was her very first assistant and I loved every second of the work. Hard, but oh so rewarding. Thanks Peggy.
- Your greasiest batter-splattered food/drink book is? You gotta be kidding. I treasure them too much. I keep the books well away from the stove or prepping stage.
- Tell us about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it? Hard one. Tossing up between a simple pasta cooked in the best quality olive oil, garlic and parsley; in Zadar, Croatia. Honestly - I couldn't believe it; simplicity at it's absolute tastiest. If pressed for an answer, I'd have to pick the meal at Cafe Europa in Montenegro. My plate arrived with home-made chevups and spicy chicken, cubed potatoes cooked in olive oil and herbs, some kind of savoury rice and a shredded cabbage salad. On the side was a generous dish of salad greens, cucumber, tomato, onion, capsicum and olives. And in the middle of the table was a huge basket of home-made bread. Get ready. My meal cost five euros. There were four of us and the total bill came to twenty six euros. Including drinks. I've never seen such a spread for the price. Amazing value for sure; but the whole thing tasted so damn good that my son and I still talk about it.
- Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is? Zurin at Cherry On A Cake. Although I don't think that I could eat. I'd spend way too much time admiring her beautiful presentation and fine food artistry. Apart from being one talented lady and a great cook, we've bonded well in cyberspace. I can see us chatting for hours at the table, just like a pair of long lost friends.
- What is the one kitchen gadget that you'd ask Santa for this year(money no object of course)? Easy. An ice-cream maker and it's already on the list. I hear the elves are out researching the net for performance reviews as I write.
- Who taught you how to cook? Not my mother. She died when I was not quite two years old. I'm completely self-taught.
- I'm coming to you for dinner, what's your signature dish? Strawberry and Blueberry Tart. I haven't made this for yonks, but I can tell you I entered this recipe in a national Western Star Butter competition years ago. I made the finals. Fifteen of us from all around Australia were flown to Sydney, where we had to replicate our recipe before an audience and three judges at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. There was only one winner; I was one of the fourteen runner ups. Hehe. Gosh that was such a fun day.
- What is your guilty food pleasure? Chocolate.
- Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn? Writing about my Berry Tart has reminded me of the competitions I loved entering. This was years ago though, I rarely enter anything these days. I've had some great wins along the way. One of my fav's were the "Dob In A Mum" competition on TV with Geoff Jansz - I was the Queensland finalist and Geoff made my Beef Stir-fry on tele and he said my name eight times. I nearly died. Hehe. The Win Your Weight In Chocolate Competition holds a very special place in my heart; my very first competiton ever. And I guess my most famous win was in the Australian Good Taste magazine about ten years ago. Two thousand people entered the "Meet the Naked Chef" competition and yours truly won. Yep. I spent half an hour in a private cocktail party with Jamie Oliver himself. I asked my friend Kim to accompany me on the trip to Melbourne for the three days. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt, had VIP passes to the Good Food Show and free entry to any of Jamie's shows, free gifts and books and a signed music CD and cookbook by Jamie himself. I'll never forget my friend Kim, who before we left to go to Melbourne, asked, "who is Jamie Oliver". These days she shakes her head in disbelief. Hope I haven't bored you, but I've had such fun recalling some of those days. I could go on - but I'll leave it there.