happy endings in the kitchen Episode 4: Jerked Chicken

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You can do it baby

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was Basic Vegan.

Yes, Basic Vegan.  We met in a bedding store.  We were vertical.  He was the salesman and I was the clueless customer.  And while he didn’t make a sale as such he should have been selling charm because he had it in abundance.  He accompanied me out of the store and descended the escalator alongside of me, staying close and attentive.  He remarked on my sparkling smile and compared the summer sun to the brightness of my eyes.  And by the time we were at the bottom of the escalator he had asked for my number and complimented me into a daze of submission and our story began.  Sales targets met.  He was a Jamaican raised in Britain, tall and manly with brooding eyes, had played football professionally, owned lips that looked soft and beddable, had long beautiful fingers, a wicked sense of humour and an unusual imagination, and knew all the right moves on the dance floor. Note: He also ate a strictly basic pH vegan diet (carrots were prohibited), religiously followed the teachings of a quack doctor who claims to have the cure for HIV and cancer, showed up late for everything, believed mucus was the cause of every known disease and cause of death, constantly reminded me of the evil of anything that went into my mouth that wasn’t basic or vegan, and liked to provide commentary and ‘cheer me on’ during intimate moments.

And so it was, something.  We started the game of will we or won’t we, a date here and a date there, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.  6 weeks of a sort of relationship.  Until….he disappeared.  The night had been planned and the scene had been set. He was to pick me up and take me to his place where he would make us dinner and it would be our very first official sleepover. He’d told me in detail about the romance that was to come on the phone that day and I’d eaten it all up.  And thoughts of those promises kept me warm while I waited alone in the cold on a Saturday night, for at least the first 15 minutes anyhow.  One hour passed.  No call was answered.  No text was acknowledged.  Perhaps basic Vegan had eaten a carrot and been hospitalised?  Or perhaps he had met a girl with eyes as sparkling as the ocean?   Or maybe he had sneezed and been caught in a volcanic eruption of his own mucus and couldn’t swim his way out.  Whatever the case I was left with a very bad taste in my mouth.  But I wasn’t going to spend my time grieving over a carrot fearing, bs preaching, pillow talking nutter.  And so, into the kitchen I escape to turn my unrealised Jamaican fantasy into an edible reality.  And yes, I can do it baby.

A taste of Jamaica

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Jamaican Jerked Chicken

Ingredients:

5 pounds chicken thigh pieces
2 cups distilled white vinegar, plus 1 teaspoon
2 cups finely chopped spring onions
1 Habanero or Jalapeño chilli, deseeded
1 red capsicum, hulled
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 teaspoons ground allspice
2 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
5 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Jamaican Barbecue Sauce:

1 1/4 cups tomato ketchup
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 spring onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
2-3 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons Jerk marinade (reserved from above recipe)
Jamaican hot chilli sauce, to taste

Directions:

Rinse the chicken pieces in the two cups of distilled vinegar.  Once rinsed thoroughly place the pieces in a resealable bag and set aside.

Put the remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar, spring onions, chilli, capsicum, soy sauce, allspice, allspice, bay leaves, garlic, salt, sugar, lime juice, thyme, and cinnamon in a food processor and give it a whizz.  Put aside 2 tablespoons of the marinade for the Barbecue Sauce recipe.

Rinse chicken pieces in cold water and dry off with paper towels. Return the chicken to the resealable bag and add the marinade.  Massage the bag to coat the chicken with the marinade, and refrigerate.  Leave overnight if you can to let the chicken absorb those flavours.

Grill the chicken on a barbecue or grill pan.  Serve with the Jamaican sauce, rice and a fresh salad.

The making of the Sauce:

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Reduce the heat and stir over a low heat until the sauce thickens up a little, for 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the rum.  Leave to cool before serving.

There is a reggae working through my body.  Bad taste gone.

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This recipe is an adaptation of Emeril Lagasse’s recipe.

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Happy endings in the kitchen episode 2: Varutharacha Goat Curry

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Sunny Days

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was Mr Snufalupagus.

Yes, Mr Snufalupagus.  An internet whirlwind.  I first saw him shirtless with skin the colour of burnt caramel.  He wore dark sunglasses and a religious tattoo adorned his right bulging bicep.  Although clearly a gym bunny and selfie buff I was drawn in nonetheless by the one line statement that accompanied his partial nudes…’looking to meet positive people’.  It was a match.  Thank you Tinder.  And upon chatting I discovered that this spicy SriLankan version of Mr. T had a softer side.  He owned two dogs, loved talking about his family, was passionate about animal welfare (with a particular penchant for breeding fish), had a cheeky sense of humour, and was looking for a ‘relationship’.  Note: He also had a love of wearing skin tight cleavage-sporting T-shirts, spent a lot of time in front of the mirror, was a full body shaver, occasionally dropped a chauvinistic line or two, owned eight times as many perfumes as I, had a strange fascination with my digestive system, owned a schlong that looked like a hello to Mr Snufalupagus, and had a particular penchant for breeding fish (!).

And so, it was lust.  I mean, love.  Weekends spent in bed with nothing but DVDs, takeaway food and burnt caramel skin, walking dogs and staring into fish ponds.  They were sunny days keeping the clouds away.   The spice was just right.  Pounded to perfection.  Sweet, exotic, fragrant, aromatical, fiery, peppery and piquant.  Six weeks of unadulterated, explorative, burning bliss.

Until he booked a cruise.  And I was invited!  Now I know it sounds like romance and I was almost taken in.  But when he added “we don’t have to remain exclusive” an unexpected pungence invaded my tastebuds. “Why don’t we travel and experiment with what we have?”, and he went on to make a number of suggestions including an offer to ‘tag team’ me with an unidentified Brazilian guy (?!)  I could no longer tolerate the flavour.  My palate was dry retching.  Hmmm, very fishy indeed.

Well of course I suffered agonisingly in my resultant single state, for approximately thirty seconds.  But that empty feeling remained, that wanting to be filled up again…but not by a weight-pulling, woman fearing, fish worshipping, snuffle-trunked Mr. T wannabe.  Food would again be my salvation.  I needed a whole lot of spice in my mouth to get this bad taste out of my system.  And the food gods said, let there be curry.

Heavenly Flavour

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Varutharacha Goat Curry

Ingredients:

1 kg kid goat or mutton, diced into large cubes
1 tsp Turmeric
2 Bay leaves
4 Cardamom pods
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3 medium onions
7 cloves Garlic
2 inch piece of ginger
5 shallots, diced
3-5 green chillies, to taste
2 tbsp Coriander powder
2 sprigs of curry leaves
1 tsp Garam marsala
1 tsp Fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
3 tomatoes
Half cup of water
Salt to taste
Roast and grind:
Half cup shredded coconut
1 tsp black peppercorns
Sizzle:
1/2 tsp Mustard seeds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
a sprig or 2 of curry leaves

Directions:

Brown off the goat pieces in a deep frying pan in a little vegetable oil.  Add half a cup of water, turmeric and salt to taste and leave to cook on a low heat until the goat is just soft and tender.  Separate the stock juice and keep aside.

Meanwhile add grated coconut in a pan and dry roast it until golden brown.  Remove from the heat and add black peppercorns.  Grind to a smooth paste with a mortar and pestle.

Heat a little vegetable oil in a pan and add onion, cook until becoming transparent, and then add ginger, garlic, shallots, green chilies and salt to taste.  Saute until aromatic.  Add bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes on a low to medium heat, until it turns golden.

Reduce the heat and add coriander powder, garam masala and crushed fennel together with 2 tbsp water.  Heat through until oil separates.  Now add the goat and stir until combined.  Add the coconut paste, tomatoes and reserved stock.  Cover and cook until thickening.  Add salt to taste and divide into serving portions.

Finally heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, sizzle, and listen for them to pop.  Add curry leaves and shredded coconut.  Saute until golden and garnish your servings.  Serve with basmati rice.

Heavenly Flavour, for what we are about to receive may our mouths make us truly thankful…..amen.

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Unfortunately the curry was so mouth watering, if I do say so modestly myself, that I inhaled it.  The only remaining ingredient I had lying around to signify that it ever existed was this sad looking curry leaf sprig.  Curry eaten, cleansing complete, bad taste gone.

Acknowledgements: Varutharacha goat curry recipe adapted from http://www.kurryleaves.net

Happy Endings in the Kitchen Episode 1: Eggplant Parmigiana & Poached Figs in Alcohol

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Now look…

Are you suffering from dating exhaustion? Tired of swiping right to disappointment? Kissed too many amphibians in princely clothing?

Well then there was Needle Prick.

Yes, Needle Prick.  We met in a hospital.  I was the nurse.  He was the patient.  I was holding the needle.  He was writhing in pain. But perhaps not as much pain as he at first appeared to be in, as he managed to memorise my full name from my nursing badge and discovered me on Facebook a few days following the needle’s prick.  Now I don’t make a habit of dating patients but on this occasion my head/heart/lady bits won over my professional judgement.

And so, it was love.  Unexpected, all-consuming, makes no fucking sense, probably have nothing in common with each other but are convinced we do, earth shattering, thrush-making love!  He was of Calabrian background, made an exquisite omelette, told me I was beautiful, stroked my face and spoke sweet nothings, shared his dreams and listened attentively to mine, and devoutly worshipped my body.  We were hungry only for each other.  Note: He also had an ex-wife who cheated on him for three years of their marriage, two young children, was an ex Jehovah’s Witness, had only just lost about 60 kgs thanks to a lap band surgery accompanied by a subsequent mass of loose skin and a teeny tiny appetite, and had a pecker that felt like it was pronged once inserted.  But it was love!  And red flags are just a bit of extra colour when you are on the joyride of non-sensical adoration.

And I was whipped into a state of love-induced ecstasy.  We became steeped in each other’s lives, glazed in tender words, and caramelised with the sweetness of affection.   He urged “stay at mine every night….in fact, why don’t you move in…you can use my car…I’ll cook for you…we’ll holiday somewhere exotic together..”  Five weeks of uninhibited, inspired declarations of love.  Until he moved to the mines.  Yes, he landed a job driving a compensating over-sized truck and I was left with a break up text message, which started with “Now look, I just don’t think this is going to work…”  No face to face, no tender words, no explanation or sentiment of pained disappointment.  I was stunned.  Reduced.  Simmering.  Boiling.  Burning.  If only I held the needle to his prick in that moment.  All of that talk, history exchanged, future plans made, body fluids shared, love drugs administered…all climaxing in a text that began with “Now look…”???

And so I stewed over the events agonisingly in my abandoned state for approximately 48 hours until I began to clarify.  I was left feeling empty, and ravenous to be filled up again. But not by weak promises, pronged whangs, or any other kind of bullshit fed to me by a mining, hairy ex-JW with unfettered skin accessories.  I needed to be satiated.  I needed to be cleansed.  I needed to be baptised.  Rendered.  By food.  And so I got to thinking, what better way to take the bad taste of a bad relationship out of my mouth than fill it with something abounding in flavour.  So herein lies the chronicles of my dating disasters and relationship nightmares that find a happy ending in the kitchen and a desirous conclusion in my mouth.

 

Praise be

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Parmigiana di Melanzane

Ingredients:

2 medium eggplants
Salt
extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup bread crumbs (slightly stale bread is best), seasoned with 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves and 1/4 cup pecorino
Tomato Sauce, as below
1 pound ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Basic Tomato Sauce:
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 medium carrot, shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Wash and dry the eggplant. Slice the eggplant horizontally about 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle the slices with salt and set aside to rest about 30 minutes in a colander. Drain and rinse the eggplant, squeeze out any excess moisture, and towel dry.

Sauce: In a medium sized saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until soft and golden, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until reduced to a thick sauce. Season with salt.

Spread fresh breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Sprinkle with a little olive oil once ready and toss through.

In a frying pan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until just smoking.  Cook eggplant in batches until golden brown on each side, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.  On a baking sheet lay out the 4 largest pieces of eggplant. Place 2 tablespoons of tomato sauce over each piece and then a thin slice of mozzarella on top of each. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and top each with the next smallest piece of eggplant, then sauce then mozzarella. Repeat the layering process until all the ingredients have been used, finishing finally with a layer of parmesan. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the top of each little stack is golden brown and bubbly, and the mozzarella is beginning to ooze.  Sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs and serve.

Tips: Choosing the best eggplant – There are some qualities to look for when seeking out the sexiest of this nightshade. These include a green stem end without signs of mould or mushiness, a smooth and shiny skin with even colouring, and it should be firm but not hard to the touch.

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Poached figs in alcohol

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar
1.5 cups water
juice of whole lemon
half vanilla bean, split
15 figs
100 mls Cognac
Double cream to serve

Directions:

Place sugar, water, lemon juice and vanilla bean into a large saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add the figs and cover. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes until tender, and then leave to cool in the syrup. Add the cognac. Stir through and let sit a little longer. Serve with double cream.

Get that juicy fig in your mouth and stimulate your tastebuds into a Calabrian climax that will bring only joy and satisfaction.  Bad taste gone.

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