HOW NOT TO LOOK GOOD IN THE KITCHEN

PekingDuck_Michele1

Dear Amelia,
As you can see from the photo, I was on my knees by the time I finished cooking the Peking Duck last Saturday night.
We didn’t get to eat it until 9.17pm, which was unfortunate because my synapses stopped firing round about 8.04.
By then the kitchen and I looked like the Wreck of the Hesperus.
You may remember that the recipe I decided to use was from Gok Cooks Chinese by everyone’s favourite fashionista Gok Wan, of How To Look Good Naked fame.
As a result of what we now call The Night of the Long Ducks I actually emailed Gok’s people and asked if his next TV series could be titled How To Look Good Fully Clothed with Half a Star Anise and Three Cucumber Sticks In Your Bra.
No, I haven’t heard back from them and, yes, it was a long and messy process this road to Peking Duck-ness – almost Nanna’s kryptonite.
Not that Gok’s roast duck and plum sauce recipes were the culprits. They were both reasonably simple and extremely delicious.
But I almost lost the will to live during the Chinese pancake-making thing. It took FOREVER.
If your Grandpa hadn’t woken up and waved another bottle of wine under my nose I reckon I would’ve been a goner.
Your Grandpa actually had to have a 30-minute ziz during this latest culinary adventure.
Not because of the lengthy preparation process (although that didn’t help), but because he’d got out of bed before dawn to drive up Mt Melville and take photos of the sun rising over Albany, then he’d run around taking pics of the Australia Day citizenship ceremony at the council offices.
Unsurprisingly, by 7.34pm he was buggered.
His sunrise photos, though, are stunning. Here are three of them.

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Photo by Leith Phillips

Next up is a picture of what your thumbs look like after they’ve prised open 16 very hot, thin Chinese pancakes to make 32 even thinner ones (the words “painful” and “shit, shit, shit” more or less cover this last stage of what is basically a 357-step process).

PekingDuck9
I’ve decided that my next challenge on the culinary front will be to make a chocolate cake using nothing but three cherry tomatoes and a potato masher.
I suspect it might be easier.
That said, in a minute I’ll give you the instructions for Poppa Wan’s Easy Peking Duck.
In the meantime here’s some BREAKING NEWS (well, not technically “breaking” because I’ve already done it once):
If you live in regional WA you can listen to me chat about a recipe on ABC Radio’s WA Regional Drive show with Barry Nicholls.
I started last week and I’ll be on every Thursday at 5.45pm in a segment called What’s For Tea?
Barry, the Regional Drive show’s presenter, is a father of four kids under the age of 8.
Thursday is his night for cooking dinner apparently.
Edit: Oops, I’m actually on once a month. I’ll let you know when my next segment is.

One year ago on this blog: Curried Glut

PekingDuck12

POPPA WAN’S EASY PEKING DUCK WITH PLUM SAUCE AND CHINESE PANCAKES

From Gok Cooks Chinese by Gok Wan

Serves 4

The duck
Buy yourself a 2kg duck from the supermarket and pat it dry with paper towels.
Leave the neck attached.
Sprinkle the inside of the cavity ALL AROUND with 3 teaspoons of five-spice powder. This is not easy. Swearing is just about compulsory.
Into the cavity, stuff  2 star anise, 1 peeled onion cut into 8 wedges, 2 spring onions and 4 peeled cloves of garlic that you’ve bashed with the flat side of your knife, and a 5cm piece of ginger that’s been peeled and sliced.
It’s a tight fit but you’ll manage to get it all in with a bit of pushing and shoving.
Close the cavity as tightly as possible by pulling the skin together and threading a bamboo skewer through it to secure it.
Grab another skewer and prick the duck all over. Make sure you do this lots and lots of times – more than you think you should probably do – so the fat runs out and bastes the duck.
Grind some salt over the skin and put the duck on a rack in a deep roasting tin.
Roast it in a 180C oven for 1 hour then increase the temperature to 220C and cook until the duck is done (the recipe says 25 minutes but mine took another hour, during which time I lowered the temp again – it still tasted good).
Let the duck rest on the bench top for 15 minutes while you self-flagellate with a wire whisk because, like a moron, you decided to make your own Chinese pancakes from scratch.

The plum sauce
This is fab.
Grab a medium saucepan and into it put 4 stoned and roughly chopped plums, 1 tablespoon water, ½ teaspoon of five-spice powder, half a de-seeded and chopped fresh red chilli, 1 tablespoon each of honey, light soy sauce and Chinese rice wine, 1 crushed clove of garlic, 2 rounded teaspoons brown sugar, ½ teaspoon ground white pepper and half a star anise (you’ll find a broken one down the bottom of the packet).
Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes, until the plums are very soft (you can add more water if it looks like it might boil dry but I didn’t need any).
Blend with a stick blender until smooth. Adjust to taste with more soy sauce and honey if needed (we liked it just the way it was).

Keeping the pancakes moist until I'm ready to cook them. The kitchen scissors are there in case I want to end it all by gouging my eyes out.

Keeping the pancakes moist until I’m ready to cook them. I don’t know why the kitchen scissors are there. Probably in case I want to end it all by gouging my eyes out.

Cooking the bastards. They puff up and then you have to separate them with your bare hands.

Cooking the bastards one by one. They puff up and then you have to separate them into two. With your bare hands. While they’re still hot.

Keeping them warm in a steamer. An hour of my life I'll never get back.

Keeping them warm in a steamer. An hour of my life I’ll never get back.

The Chinese pancakes
Buy them.
If you’re a masochist who wants to make your own, you’ll find the recipe I used here.
If I ever make Gok’s Peking Duck again (Look! There goes a flying pig!), I’ll serve the duck and plum sauce with Chinese broccoli or something.

How to eat it
Cut up the duck meat and put it on serving plate. Put the plum sauce in a bowl.
Thinly slice some spring onions and cut a cucumber into matchsticks. Put these on another serving plate.
To eat, spread some plum sauce on a pancake, top it with some spring onion, some cucumber sticks and some duck, roll it up and put it in your mouth.
Be prepared for some of it to fall into your bra.

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BY THE TIME WE GOT TO WOODY WE WERE HALF A MILLION STRONG

Dear Amelia,
It’s the middle of the night and I’ve just got an email from my mate Martha Stewart telling me how to remember what colour my walls are.
“Never forget with this sneaky tip,” she writes.
“Write the paint name on a piece of tape and stick it inside a light-switch cover.”
You too could get an Organising Tip of the Day emailed to you by Martha.
All you have to do is have no life and visit her website and sign up.
Martha is tireless when it comes to her millions of fans, of which Nanna is one.
I was channelling Martha today because it’s your Great Grandma’s 80th birthday dinner on Sunday – a low-key affair, which is probably a good thing because Nanna is doing the food.
My day would have been a lot better if I’d got an Organising Tip of the Day from Martha saying, “Never forget to put the sugar in your mother’s 80th birthday cake or it will look like diarrhoea and you’ll have to make it all over again.”
But I didn’t and I did – as in, didn’t get the email, so had to make another cake.
On top of that, Carlton lost to the Gold Coast Suns.
Yes, the Gold Coast Suns. Shit, shit, shit. The shame.
Other things I have done this week: Went to Woodanilling with your Grandpa, who had to interview someone for a Science Network story.
I’ve never been to Woodanilling before and very pretty it is too.
If a bit on the small side.
There are approximately six things to photograph in Woodanilling.
I photographed five of them because it was pouring down and I got soaked and had to scurry back to the car before I could snap the Woodanilling Tavern which was gorgeous but doesn’t open until 4pm so there went my lunch plans down the toilet.
Here are the five things I snapped.


The post office.


The CWA hall.


The general store, which is now derelict (there were once FIVE general stores).


This lovely old church.


We went to Woodanilling (which is known as Woody to the locals) via Cranbrook, Tambellup, Broomehill and Katanning.
It took forever but was worth it because I hadn’t been through this part of the Great Southern for 30-odd years and had forgotten how lovely it was.
Speaking of lovely, here is a picture of your Grandpa doing star jumps in front of the Broomehill pub.


On the way to Woodanilling in the car, a bit of Crosby, Stills and Nash channelling started happening and I was singing, “By the time we got to Woody,” on a continuous loop in my head. It nearly drove me nuts.
We were gone for hours and hours and Ella wasn’t very impressed but at least she didn’t crap on the rug, which was a bonus seeing as how she’s 253 years old in dog years and no longer has any anal glands.
Nanna cooked a rack of lamb for dinner, which was delicious, and then was able to watch Bethenny Ever After because your Grandpa was buggered from all the driving and fell asleep in the chair.
Bethenny Ever After is a reality show that follows the life of Bethenny Frankel and her long-suffering husband, Jason, and her staff who help her run her business empire.


Bethenny is pretty, quick-witted, funny and a squillionaire. She’s also self-centred, whiny, self-indulgent, shallow and addicted to the limelight.
She’s appalling. Nanna loves her.
Unfortunately, your Grandpa doesn’t.
Nothing could redeem Bethenny in your Grandpa’s eyes, except for maybe ripping her tongue out with a pair of pliers.
He stomps his way down the passage shouting, “How can you watch this crap?”
Then he goes and sits in his little office, his TV tuned to the History Channel, and watches people die in German concentration camps.
What your Grandpa really does like is a juicy rack of lamb with a crumb crust.
Here’s the recipe.

PS: Want to know how many words of three letters or more you can make from the word Woodanilling? 105. At least that’s how many I got. Don’t you love long car journeys?

RACK OF LAMB WITH A CRUMB CRUST

Serves 2

1 rack of lamb (6-8 cutlets), frenched, with fat removed
olive oil
1 tsp mustard
1 slice bread
½ small clove garlic, crushed
½ tbsp finely chopped parsley

Put the slice of bread in a mini food processor or blender and process until you have crumbs.
Mix the crumbs with the garlic and parsley and a little olive oil to bind.
Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the rack of lamb, put it in a baking dish and cook it for 20 minutes.
Spread the mustard over the top of the meat then press on the crumb crust.
Drizzle over a little more olive oil and cook for another 10 minutes, by which time the crumb crust should be golden-brown.
This makes pink, juicy lamb.
If you like it well done, cook for 25-30 minutes when you first put it in the oven.


EE BY GUM

Dear Amelia,
I’ve been thinking today of all the things you’ll learn as you grow up.
One of them will be how to pull your bra out through your sleeve.
You’ll want to do this the minute you get home from work because it will be driving you crazy.
For many years Nanna used to pull hers out through the neck hole of whatever she was wearing.
But the sleeve method is better because it means that if you’re really desperate you can pull it out in the car, or even up the back of the bus, on your way home.
It’s very discreet. Anyone who’s looking will think you’re searching for your hanky.
Another thing you’ll learn about as you grow up is your multi-cultural heritage.
On your Mum’s side of the family there’s a mix of Australian, English, Welsh, Irish, Scottish and French.
Your Dad told me that there’s also some German in your ancestry but seeing as they didn’t win the war and seeing as I’ve never cooked pork knuckle, we’ll stick with the Brits for the purposes of today’s letter and talk about Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
I’d always assumed that because I was born in Yorkshire, the ability to make its famous pudding would be inbred in much the same way as is the ability to fit 15 marbles in my mouth and move my ears independently of my head.
Sadly, my attempts at Yorkshire Pudding were laughable until I started using a recipe by Clarissa Dickson-Wright from her book, Sunday Roast.
Here is a picture of Clarissa Dickson-Wright when she was one of the Two Fat Ladies with the late Jennifer Paterson. Clarissa is on the right.


My Mum – your Great Grandma – made the best Yorkshire Puddings I’ve ever tasted but she’s nearly 80 and can’t remember how she did them (the recipe was never written down and involved measurements like handfuls, pinches and jugs rather than cups, tablespoons and mls).
My Mum’s Roast Beef and Yorkshire Puddings were served for lunch every Sunday along with roast potatoes, boiled carrots, cauliflower cheese and brussels sprouts that tasted like they had been cooking since the previous Friday.
Four Yorkshire Puddings were always held back so my Mum, Dad, sister and I could eat them drizzled with golden syrup for dessert (believe me, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried this).
Here is a picture of your Great Grandma when she was on holiday in Gibraltar in August last year.
It was taken four days before her 79th birthday. I doubt she was thinking of Yorkshire Puddings.


And finally, here’s the recipe.
Check out the picture of those fabulous Yorkshire Puds.
When I saw them, I was so excited I almost forgot to breathe.
PS: The picture at the top of this blog post is taken from Monty Python’s Four Yorkshiremen sketch.
You can watch it here.
It’s very funny – always makes me think of my Dad.

ROAST BEEF AND YORKSHIRE PUDDING

For the Roast Beef:

1 rib roast of beef
olive oil
salt and pepper

Take the beef out of the fridge an hour before you’re going to cook it.
Preheat the oven to 190C.
Rub the top of the beef with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put it on a rack in a roasting tin.
For rare beef: roast for 25 minutes per 450g, plus 25 minutes extra.
For medium beef: roast for 30 minutes per 450g, plus 30 minutes extra.
When the beef is cooked, remove it to a warm plate, wrap it in alfoil and let it rest for 30 minutes before carving.
During this time you can cook the Yorkshire Puddings.
For your Grandpa and I, I get a rib roast that weighs about a kilo and roast it for one hour and 20 minutes.
It always turns out just the way we like it (medium-rare and very tender), which is a good thing because it costs a bloody fortune.
It serves two for dinner, plus sandwiches for the next couple of days.
If you’re doing a big roast, take out a second mortgage and lower the oven temp to 180C.

For the Yorkshire Puddings:

Makes 8-10

110g plain flour
pinch salt
2 eggs
300ml milk
vegetable oil

Make the Yorkshire Pudding batter an hour or so before you cook the beef.
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
Break in the eggs and beat them well with a fork, gradually incorporating the flour.
Gradually add the milk, still beating as hard and fast as you can with the fork.
You should end up with a runny batter with no lumps.
Let the batter rest on the bench top until the beef is ready.
After you’ve removed the beef from the oven, turn the heat up to 220C.
Put a scant teaspoon of vegetable oil in each hole of a muffin tin.
Put the tin in the oven and heat until the oil is smoking hot.
Put a scant ladleful of batter into each muffin-tin hole.
If the holes are biggies like mine, you should get 8-10 puddings.
Bake for 20-30 minutes in the 220C oven, or until they’re puffed up and golden brown.
Don’t open the oven door during this time, or they’ll collapse.


LAMBS, HENS AND HAPPINESS

Dear Amelia,
As you grow older you’ll discover there are some things that are just meant to go together.
Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding is one.
Hens’ nights and hangovers is another.
Nanna went to your Mum’s hens’ night last night.
Now I’m back in Albany sitting in front of my computer, wondering if Panadol would work more quickly if I pulled apart the capsules and rubbed the powder into my eyeballs.
Two of many lasting memories:
1. Being photographed with a cardboard penis stuck to my forehead.
2. Standing in a circle with the bride-to-be and the five bridesmaids singing Powderfinger’s “My Happiness”.
We were loud enough to raise the dead.
“…YOU’RE OVER THERE WHEN I NEED YOU HEE-EERE…”
“My Happiness” is a special song for me and your Mum because it came out just before your Mum did her big overseas trip.
She was away for ages and I missed her like crazy.
I managed to get all the way through it without sobbing, which is no mean feat when you’re tired and emotional.
It turned out that by the end of the night I was tired and emotional to the tune of one-and-three-quarter bottles of champagne, which isn’t a record, but it’s close.
You’ll be pleased to know that your Aunty Justine was eventually found safe and sound this morning, and that as far as I know, your mother didn’t vomit on her new shoes.
Luckily I didn’t have to drive home today because I was in no condition to cope with the steady procession of dickwits who think tailgating at 110kmh on Albany Highway is a good idea.
Here’s a tip from Nanna: avoid anyone who owns an iridescent lime green car.
Iridescent lime green car = bogan with death wish.

Luckily, your Grandpa came with me to Perth and he did all the driving.
From what little I saw of the countryside on the way back, it was very lush and pretty from the recent rains.
Not much roadkill (two kangaroos and two foxes) and lots of little lambs gambolling in paddocks.
I nodded off wondering where sheep sleep and if the little lambs get cold at night (and why I care, considering I have no qualms about eating them).
I was woken just out of Mt Barker by your Grandpa shouting “IT’S TENACITY FOR GOD’S SAKE!” at the radio.
One of the footy commentators for the Geelong/Port Adelaide game had said “tenaciousness” and nearly caused him to hit a tree.
I’m not going to give you a recipe today because I’m feeling too delicate to keep typing.
Once the Panadol kicks in, I’ll be cooking a nice comforting roast for dinner.
I just hope it’s not related to anything I spotted gambolling in a paddock this morning.


PS: If you’d like to listen to “My Happiness”, check out YouTube here.


WEDDING BELLES

Dear Amelia,
Well, I’m back home in Albany and I must say it was wonderful to see you last week.
Unfortunately it looks like the Flu Fairy has decided that, for Nanna at least, this year is going to be a FIFO sort of flu season: one week on, one week off, one week on, one week off etc etc.
So much for alcohol being the cure for winter ills – I’m sitting here with another sore throat and a raging head cold.
But luckily I had a week of exuberant good health and during that week I managed to get all sorts of things done wedding-wise.
Yes, it’s only three weeks until your Mum and Dad walk down the aisle (or rather the carpet) at the winery.
And in keeping with Nanna’s motto (“What do we want? Procrastination! When do we want it? Tomorrow!”), I didn’t buy my mother-of-the-bride outfit until Friday.
On a scale of 1 (Utter Perfection) to 10 (Total Nightmare), this shopping trip to buy a frock was approximately a 15 (I’d Rather Have My Face Sawn Off).
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m extremely grateful I get to go on this mother-of-the-bride journey before I reach the age where my bum slips down the back of my legs and I’m able to draw a map of Tierra Del Fuego by joining up the liver spots on my hands with a biro.
But I swear if I’d had to look at one more piece of draped fabric or lace overlay or anything at all that was (God help us) asymmetrical, I would have ripped out my retinas with a coat hanger.
Luckily, your Mum came with me.
She’s like a machine when she shops and left no piece of Myer, David Jones and roughly 320 boutiques unturned in the five hours I was whingeing my way around Perth CBD.
She was a rock, your Mother. Her blood should be bottled.
If it hadn’t been for her and the unflagging sales assistant at David Jones I never would have discovered St Anthea of Crawford, who came to my rescue with this.


This is only the top half. I couldn’t find a pic of the skirt on St A’s website but, trust me, it’s fab (I tried photographing mine but because it’s black it just looked like a black hole).
Your Grandpa crossed himself when I told him how much it all cost but when I explained that it was actually only $8 more than 2 kilos of Szechuan peppercorns (you’ll find the price here), he felt a lot better.
Speaking of food, your Uncle Paul shouted us dinner at the Mille Café in Inglewood.
He’s a gem, your Uncle Paul. His blood should be bottled.
Grandpa and I had the slow-roasted Linley Valley pork belly with slow-braised onions and pork jus.
It was so much like the one I cook, I suspect they used the same recipe.
It’s based on a recipe from this book by British chef, Gary Rhodes, and it’s delicious.
You’ll find it on page 64.


What happens is that you cook the pork for ages and over that time, the crackling gets really puffy and crisp and the meat is pull-apart tender.
I didn’t take a picture the last time I cooked it, so instead here’s a picture of you flying down a really big slide, really, really fast.
You are fearless.
See Nanna standing at the bottom? She’s shitting herself.

SLOW-ROASTED PORK BELLY WITH ONIONS

Serves 4

1kg piece of pork belly
2 lge brown onions
1 tbsp vegetable oil
sea salt
white wine (whatever you’ve got in the fridge – I use leftover Yellowglen because I’m such a classy chick)
about half a small carton of Campbell’s chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 160C.
If the butcher hasn’t scored the pork rind already, score it into diamonds with a really sharp knife (a Stanley knife is good – you’ll find one in your shed).
Peel the onions and slice them into four cross-wise. Put them in a roasting tin that will take them in a single layer (they need to fit in the tin snugly).
Put the piece of pork belly on top of the onions, rub the oil into the skin and grind a good amount of sea salt over the top.
Pour enough wine carefully around the edges to come just to the top of the onions. Don’t pour any over the pork rind or it will be buggered.
Cook for about three hours, topping up the wine halfway through if necessary so it doesn’t burn.
When it’s cooked, put the pork and onions on a plate and keep warm.
Skim all the fat off the juices in the roasting tin (there will be enough to kill an ox), stir the chicken stock into the juices and simmer, stirring, until it’s reduced and thickened.
Serve the sauce in a gravy boat with the sliced pork, the crispy crackling, the onions and lots of veggies.
PS: In case you’re wondering, here’s a picture of Tierra Del Fuego.


I’M BACK

Dear Amelia,
In case you’re wondering, this isn’t a picture of me.
But if you look closely at the lady’s sleeve, you’ll spot my name.
This is because I’m writing a column for Sheila magazine, which comes out every two months and (blatant plug) is available at newsagents and Woolworths supermarkets.
Sheila magazine is not only beautiful to look at but also has recipes for pies.
But more of that later.
Seeing as you’re only 20 months old, you won’t be aware that the world’s most famous Nanna is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee this weekend.
It’s 60 years since Queen Elizabeth’s Dad died and she had to step in and take over running the country.
Well, not running the country exactly. The British government does that because the Queen heads up a constitutional monarchy, not an absolute one.
She does all sorts of other things but she doesn’t actually have much power.
In order to have real power she would have had to be a Queen in the olden days.
For example, if I had been an olden-days Queen on Friday night when I was watching Richmond beat St Kilda, I wouldn’t have had to sit there screaming, “Christ Almighty, make him stop,” when St Kilda coach Scott Watters castrated the English language at half time.
At the precise moment he said, “It’s all about maximising our opportunities and moving forward,” I would’ve been able to turn to my husband – your Grandpa, King Leith – and say, “Have him taken away and beaten to death with a dictionary.”
I suspect there are days Queen Elizabeth would dearly love to kill people – how she avoided it with Sarah Ferguson is anybody’s guess – but unfortunately for ma’am, the monarchy isn’t what it used to be.
This picture shows what Queen Elizabeth looked like when she was little like you.


This is what she looks like now at 86.


I’ve always thought she looks best in yellow, but according to Vogue magazine she favours blue.
Vogue looked at all the outfits she’d worn over a year and compiled a frock chart, which was reprinted in the Daily Mail, which is where I found it.


There are massive Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the UK this weekend and, as you’d expect, all sorts of people are cashing in on the frenzy.
My favourite casher-inners are these.


Being a bit of a Liz lover and an admirer of anyone who can put up with 12 Prime Ministers in one lifetime, I’m going to cook a very English dinner tonight and toast Her Maj’s remarkably long reign.
We’re starting with Potted Smoked Trout, followed by Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, followed by Bread and Butter Pudding.
Then we’ll sit down and bounce ping pong balls off each other’s stomachs while we watch Her Maj and Co sail down the Thames on ABC1.
On the subject of great English dishes, there’s a very good recipe for Beef Wellington in the latest edition of Sheila magazine, which (blatant plug) is available at newsagents and Woolworths supermarkets.
It’s been a beautiful day in Albany today so I’ll finish up with the view from our deck.
Those funnels behind Mt Adelaide belong to a ship waiting to get into port.


BAD NANNA

Dear Amelia,
Here’s a thing you’ll never do if Nanna’s got anything to do with it.
You’ll never spell “divine” like this: DEVINE.
There’s a design blogger who’s written the word devine at least 12 times in every one of her posts since she started blogging in 2009.
It drives me insane and I finally cracked last night and told her via her comments section that devine is where de grapes grow.
I mean, if you must overuse a word, you should at least learn how to spell it properly.
Surprisingly, my comment hasn’t been published.
But that could be because I also pointed out that “definately” is definitely not right and that people get bored WITH things, not bored OF them.
I made the mistake of mentioning my actions to Grandpa and he’s now threatening to put a star chart on the fridge to monitor my behaviour.
Apparently, I’ll get one gold star every time I’m nice to a cretin, two gold stars when I say “sugar” instead of “shit”, and three gold stars when I put the toilet seat back in the “up” position (he believes equality should cut both ways).
To be honest, Grandpa has been pushing his luck lately.
When I came home from work for lunch today, he said, “Here’s a treat!”

Yes! My lunch was on your special baby plate that doesn’t contain Bisphenol A!
If you ask me, Grandpa is very lucky it’s not lodged in his prostate gland.
I was writing about words because there’s a word you said on the weekend that had me jumping in the air and shouting, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
You said, “Nanny!” as you hurtled into my outstretched arms (at the very same moment I thought I also heard violins and a choir of angels singing “Hallelujah” but that could’ve been my imagination).
The next picture is what your Mum and Dad and Grandpa and I had for dinner after you were fast asleep in what your Grandpa calls “that stupid fucking thing” but is actually your very-difficult-to-assemble portable cot.
I can’t remember where I got the recipe for the chicken (I suspect it may have been from the Baltimore Sun online) but the couscous was invented by me, your loving Nanna.

SPICED ROAST CHICKEN WITH COUSCOUS

Serves 4

1 whole chicken
50g unsalted butter, softened
¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 cup instant couscous
1 sweet potato
a few handfuls of green beans
small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 180C.
Mix the cumin, paprika, turmeric and coriander into the butter.
Carefully slip your fingers under the skin of the chicken breast and loosen the skin away from the flesh all the way down to the legs.
Using a teaspoon, stuff the butter mixture under the skin, pushing it evenly all over the chook as far as it will go.
Be careful not to tear the skin.
Rub a little olive oil into the skin and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Put the chicken in a roasting tin and roast for about an hour and a half, or until the juices run clear, basting two or three times.
Half an hour before the chicken’s done, peel and cut the sweet potato into small cubes and add them to the roasting tin.
Ten minutes before the chicken is done, add the sliced green beans to the roasting tin and turn all the veggies to coat them in the juices.
Put the couscous in a big bowl, pour over one and a half cups of boiling water and let it stand for ten minutes. Fluff it up with a fork.
Carve the chook and put it on a serving platter.
Add the roast veggies to the couscous, pour over some of the pan juices and mix everything together.
Put the couscous on the platter, sprinkled with chopped parsley.
Serve with green salad leaves.