SPIDERS, SAUSAGES AND BROWN SNAKES

Still life of flowers, outdoor table and oven thermometer: sometimes you have to improvise

Still life of flowers, outdoor table and oven thermometer

Dear Amelia,
The day will come when you’ll say to yourself, “Why haven’t I got a proper thermometer?”
That day will probably be a day like today when the temperature in the shade reaches 40C and it starts raining live spiders on your deck.
If it ever comes to pass that it’s raining live spiders on your deck, you’ll want to know what sort of temperature the deck roof has to reach before 50 over-heated spiders drop from their hidey holes ALL AT THE SAME TIME and dangle in mid-air.
Well, I can tell you now that it’s about 48C (which is 118F, which is bloody hot no matter which way you measure it).
It totally freaked me out, I can tell you.
It was as if Google maps had stuffed up the coordinates and decided to treat southern WA to the 11th plague of Egypt.
Or as if the Mira Mar contingent of the Albany spider population had decided to reenact the airborne invasion of Normandy.
Nanna actually screamed.
Luckily your Grandpa thrives on danger, so he braved the 50 spiders that were dangling at eye level, crawled to the outdoor table and put the oven thermometer on top of it so we could record the temperature.
Then he got the Mortein and sprayed the crap out of everything.
It occurred to me later that if you’ve got to have native wildlife dropping from the roof of your deck, spiders are probably better than brown snakes.
Funnily enough, your Grandpa wasn’t comforted by this observation.
All afternoon he’s been shuddering and brushing imaginary arachnids off his shoulders.

An Albany brown snake - click here to see the video

An Albany brown snake – click here to see the video. I hope this guy’s wife lost control of her bowels all over his Jesus-booted feet. What a moron.

This spider invasion wouldn’t have happened of course if I got off my bum more often and cleaned the deck roof with a long-handled broom.
I’ve never made any bones about my lack of interest in housework, but the raining spiders thing plus this news report I came across on CNN (Woman Loses Breast After Spider Bite – yes, honestly) has got me thinking I need to change.
Here’s a picture of how the deck roof looked when it was first erected.

clean roof
Suffice to say it doesn’t look like that now (I’m too embarrassed to show you a picture).
Anyway, we were going to have a barbecue out there tonight, but while I’ve been writing this the weather has broken and it’s absolutely pissing down.
I was going to cook another recipe from that excellent cookbook, In the Mood for Entertaining, by Jo Pratt.

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It’s supposed to be a breakfast dish (it’s the sort that would be spot-on if you were hungover) but it’s just as good on the barbecue for dinner.
As it stands, what with the spiders, the torrential rain and the general state of my nerves at the moment, we’ll probably have bacon sandwiches.

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SWEET POTATO HASH BROWNS WITH SAUSAGES AND SWEET CHILLI TOMATOES
From a recipe by Jo Pratt

Serves 2 (recipe doubles easily)

2-3 tbsp olive oil
4-6 sausages or 8-12 chipolatas
1 small sweet potato (about 160g)
1 lge egg
salt and pepper
200g of whole cherry tomatoes or mini Roma/plum tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of crushed chilli/dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

The original recipe calls for proper long sausages, each one cut on an angle into three or four pieces.
I did this and because they popped out of their skins a bit and curled up as they cooked, they looked like turds from one of your smaller breeds of dog.
So from now on I’m going to use chipolatas, which I prefer anyway.
Whatever you decide on, fry them on the barbecue or in a decent-sized non-stick frying pan in 1 tbsp of oil until they’re cooked and golden brown.
The recipe says this will take 5 minutes but I’ve yet to meet a sausage that cooks all the way through in less than 15, so bear that in mind.
Once the sausages are cooked, put them on a plate and keep them warm.
While they’re cooking, peel the sweet potato and grate it coarsely.
Put it in a bowl with the egg, season with salt and pepper and mix everything together thoroughly.
Divide this mixture into four and dollop it onto the barbecue or into the frying pan that the sausages were cooked in, adding more oil if necessary.
Flatten each dollop with your spatula to make four hash browns and cook them for 3-4 minutes per side until crisp and golden brown.
While that’s happening, heat 1 tbsp of oil in another frying pan and cook the tomatoes until they start to soften.
Add the caster sugar, balsamic vinegar and crushed chilli and stir everything together.
Cook over low heat for a few more minutes until the tomatoes are very soft.
To serve, put two hash browns onto each plate, top with the sausages then spoon the tomatoes over the top.
Sprinkle with the chopped parsley. This not only makes it look pretty, but also contains heaps of Vitamin C, which if you’re cooking this as a morning-after breakfast, apparently speeds up the metabolism of alcohol by your liver.
Serve with salad and some nice bread to mop up the tomato juices.

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GETTING CLUCKY

Dear Amelia,
I was lying in bed this morning thinking about Beyonce’s pelvic floor.
It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and I was thinking that if I had never been a mother, I would never have ended up with you.
Then it occurred to me that if I had never been a mother I also wouldn’t wet myself when I sneeze.
Then I wondered if Beyonce is doing her pelvic floor exercises on a regular basis.
Let’s hope so or she’ll end up like me.
It’s Beyonce’s first Mother’s Day this year.
I wonder if she’ll get a cup of tea in bed.
If she does, it won’t be made by her daughter, Blue Ivy, because Blue Ivy is only four months old.
Plus, Blue Ivy is too busy getting her feet photographed.
She has the most photographed feet in the world.


I often wonder what celebrities do on days like Mother’s Day.
Take the Real Housewives of Orange County for example, whose real hair colour can only be discerned by looking at their pubes.

Do they put on a big communal barbecue down at the park so their kids don’t have to go through the trauma of trying to tell them apart?
Or do they think, “Mmmm, I wouldn’t say no to Nigella’s One-Pan Sage and Onion Chicken and Sausage for dinner.”
Which is what I would think, so here’s the recipe.

ONE-PAN SAGE-AND-ONION CHICKEN AND SAUSAGE

Serves 4-6

1 lemon
1 lge onion, cut into eighths
one-third of a cup of olive oil
2 tsp English mustard
1 tbsp dried sage
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (save the backs for stock or chuck them out)
or
8 chicken pieces (must have bone in and skin on)
8 chipolata sausages

Cut the lemon in half, squeeze out the juice, then cut each half into quarters.
Put the lemon juice and the 8 pieces of rind into a big zip-lock freezer bag with the onion, olive oil, mustard, dried sage, Worcestershire sauce and a few grinds of black pepper.
Squelch everything around in the bag until it’s well mixed.
Add the chicken pieces and squelch it around a bit more.
Seal the bag and put it in the fridge to marinate (overnight is best but four hours is enough).
Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Put the chicken in a big roasting pan, skin-side up, and tip the remaining contents of the bag evenly over the top.
Roast for 30 mins then add the chipolata sausages, tucking them around the chicken pieces.
Cook for another 45 minutes, turning the chipolatas over after 20 minutes so they brown evenly.
Serve on a big platter (chuck out the roasted lemon rinds if you want but they actually taste really nice).
This recipe is cooked at a lower temperature and has less oil and sage than the original recipe, which you’ll find at nigella.com or in her book, Feast.
I also use chicken pieces (thighs and/or drumsticks and/or wings) because I find the chicken breasts from the whole chook get too dry.
Thighs are the best, as Beyonce would no doubt agree.