30 June 2014

A kinder life

Feal the fear and do it anyway!

This is exactly what I experienced while filming my FIRST video log or vlog.

This is the first in a series that I'm going to do about learning to be kinder to myself since suffering from bipolar and binge eating disorders.

Have a watch and let me know what you think.

26 June 2014

Crispy soy-roasted pork belly

Hands up who loves pork crackling? I mean, unless you’re vegetarian, what’s not to like about this salty, crispy, flavoursome piece of scrumminess?

I’ve been hanging out with my brother and his family on Boyne Island, just near Gladstone, Queensland, for the week. As a wee thank you for them having me I decided to treat us all to a meal of pork belly with steamed greens. 

I found this recipe by one of my favourite Australian chefs, Kylie Kwong. I’ve cooked a number of her recipes and have always been happy with the results.

However, the method used in this recipe guaranteed crispy crackling. It did not happen. Not happy, Jan! So I had to resort to my foolproof method for crackling, which is putting it under the grill at the end of cooking the meat. Always keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, but if the skin is going to crackle at all, it will do it via this method.

The taste of the meat was sensational, though. Because it’s marinated overnight the flavour of the five spice went through the meat beautifully. And the slow cooking process leaves the meat succulent.

What’s your foolproof way of making crackling?

My other pork belly recipe is Chinese red roast pork belly.

Crispy soy-roasted pork belly

Crispy soy-roasted pork belly
from Simple Chinese Cooking Class by Kylie Kwong

1 × 800g piece of free-range boneless pork belly, skin on and scored (ask your butcher to do this)
500ml boiling water
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp salt flakes
For the marinade
2 tbsp brown rice miso paste
1 tbsp five-spice powder
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce

Place pork belly, skin-side up, on a wire rack over the sink. Pour over boiling water to scald the pork skin – this will help the skin crisp up into crunchy crackling.

Pat rind thoroughly dry with kitchen paper and place pork, uncovered, in refrigerator for two hours.

Remove pork from fridge and place, skin-side up, on a chopping board. Using the tip of a sharp knife, stab the pork skin repeatedly until the surface is covered with holes, being careful not to go all the way through. Turn the pork belly over and make cuts about 2cm apart and 1cm deep.

Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Rub marinade evenly over the flesh side of the pork (not the skin) and massage well into the cuts.

Place pork, skin-side up, on a wire rack (this same rack will be used for roasting the pork, so make sure it is ovenproof and fits inside a roasting tin) and place over a tray or large plate to catch any drips. Place in refrigerator and leave pork uncovered overnight, during which time the skin will dry out. The drier the skin, the better the crackling when roasted.

The next day, bring pork to room temperature and preheat oven to 150°C (300F).

Transfer pork and wire rack to a roasting tin. Rub skin well with the sesame oil, then scatter salt all over. Roast for 1½–2 hours or until tender (to test, pierce the meat with a skewer – you should meet no resistance). Increase the oven temperature to 220°C (430F) and continue roasting for 15 minutes. This final blast of heat will crisp up the skin, turning it into crackling.

Remove pork from oven and allow to rest, uncovered, in a warm place for 15 minutes. To serve, cut into 1cm slices. Serve as part of a banquet for four people.

23 June 2014

Fighting the binge

We hear it on the television, we hear it on the radio, we read it on the internet, in the newspaper, and in magazines. We see it on billboards, on the back of buses, on taxis. We hear if from friends, we hear it from family, we hear it from doctors, we hear it from ourselves. We’ve all heard it too many times. I must lose weight!

We’re a generation obsessed with size, looks and image. We’re so obsessed that we even have a show dedicated to fat shaming – The Biggest Loser – because it’s okay (apparently) to yell at large people and make them wear skimpy clothes in order to ‘help’ them.

We’re so obsessed that the diet industry has become one of the most lucrative industries to be in. We’ve become so obsessed and yet we’ve become the most obese generation to grace this planet.

As a person who’s never been a petite size (except those high school years when I never ate…but that’s a whole other story) I’ve always been sympathetic when I saw obese people walking slowly and uncomfortably in our Brisbane heat or sitting on a bus, trying to make themselves as small as possible so another can share their seat.

And then, as quick as a click, I’ve turned into one of those obese persons. I’ve become a person who struggles to put my socks on because my stomach is so large it won’t let me past my shins. I’ve become a person who has to shop in the ‘big is beautiful’ section where nothing is beautiful. I’ve become a person who hides what she eats because I’m so worried about being judged by others, and worse, I’m so worried about the judgement I put on myself when I look in a mirror, so I don’t.

You see over the last two years I’ve put on 40 kilograms, officially putting me into the obese category. This is hard to admit to you, mostly, because I’m so ashamed of it.

Over the years I’ve always had many well meaning, but let’s be honest, irritating people tell me what ‘diet’ I should be on and what I should or should not be eating. Depending on how irritable I was that day depended on exactly how irritated I was at receiving this unsolicited advice.

Over the years I’ve been on a raft of diets, often under the supervision of experts such as a nutritionist, a naturopath, a personal trainer via a 12-week challenge and a dietician. Yes, I got results, great results in some instances, but they never lasted. I got frustrated with what was happening with my eating - the hiding of food, the secret consuming of chips and chocolate, the feeling of constant hunger and never knowing where full is - so I did my own research. What did I discover? I had a binge eating disorder.

I remember the day I figured it out. I was in my office after my colleagues had gone home and I had bought myself nine Krispy Kreme donuts and ate them all within a few minutes. The following day extreme guilt kicked in because I was on a really strict supplement diet with my naturopath and had finally lost 10 kilograms. Krispy Kreme donuts were not on the menu, let alone nine of them.

It was at that point that I got on Google (yes, I went to Dr Google) and started looking for overeating information. I came across Eating Disorders Victoria, which had a great fact sheet on binge eating. It was like the angels started singing in chorus to me…I found my problem.

I know, it’s not glamorous and in fact many of you may think it’s down right disgusting. I guess in many ways that’s exactly what I think of me, disgusting.

For me, eating is my way of coping with things. I think eating is the way many of us cope with things. And for the last two years, while I have been struggling to cope with the many problems in my life, one way I’ve dealt with it is through food like it’s a life raft keeping me afloat.

My binges are played out to military precision so no one will know about them and so I have 10 minutes of blissful calm in my head. That’s right, you read correct, calm. For a brief moment during that binge there’s no self-talk, no thinking, no worrying, there’s nothing, there’s silence. In fact I’m almost in a trance state that by the time I finish I can wonder what the hell happened to all the empty packets in front of me.

It’s those minutes of binging that stop the incessant shouting of thoughts in my head, the self-loathing and the indescribable internal pain. So you see, it’s not really about the food. The food is simply a medium to calm the never-ending chatter in my head. The never-ending judgement.

Binge eating has been something I’ve had since a teenager. It’s not going to be cured because I see an advertisement about eating better or because I see Michelle Bridges telling me to join her 12-week challenge; the only person winning from that arrangement will be Michelle Bridges.

I’m working with a psychologist and a metabolic clinic to, very slowly, improve my relationship with food and replacing the act of binging with other activities that I like; like blogging, playing with my dog, walking, and crocheting (I’m such a nana).

I know I need to work on my diet. I know I need to work on my fitness. But I also need to keep working on what’s going on in my head. I don’t need to be a slimmer, trimmer more beautiful me. I just need to be a happier, healthier and kinder me. Isn’t that a better aspiration to have?

Due to the overwhelming response to this article I've decided to log my journey of being kinder to myself via YouTube. I hope my journey helps you lead a kinder life for yourself as well.

20 June 2014

Smoked salmon chowder and no-knead bread

Do you fancy yourself as a baker or a cook?

I am certainly the latter. The problem with me and baking is the precision needed. Precision is not my forte. I’m more of a feel-as-I-go, lots-of-tasting kind of girl.

That’s why bread making is not really my thing. HOWEVER, this no-knead bread recipe that I found in my sister’s latest edition of Donna Hay is a WINNER, people. It involved a bit of stirring to bind everything, a little patience and then some quick cutting and manoeuvring of some very sticky, wet dough. Whack it in the oven and Bob’s your Uncle, so to speak.

The bread goes incredibly well with this divine and ridiculously simple salmon chowder. We had plenty for leftovers and it was delicious warmed up, again, two days later. 

Campbell’s liquid stock now does a fish stock so that should be easy to find in your local supermarket. The smoked salmon fillet can be found where the sliced smoked salmon is in the cold section. Supermarkets provide a packet with off cuts of fillets, which are cheaper and work perfectly fine in this recipe. 

Other than that, tuck into these two delightful recipes and enjoy. 

Smoked Salmon chowder with corn and dill.

Smoked salmon chowder with corn and dill

Adapted from Donna Hay magazine Issue 75

Serves 6 

50g unsalted butter
2 leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
600g potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre fish stock
100g crème fraîche
370g smoked salmon fillet, skin removed and flaked
2 corn cobs, kernals removed
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
juice of one lemon
¼ cup dill sprigs
salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and cook for 4 minutes or until soft. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the potato, stock, salt and pepper and cook, covered, for 10 minutes or until the potato is soft.

Remove from the heat and, using a hand-held stick blender, blend to a thick soup. Return the soup to a medium heat, add the crème fraîche, salmon, corn and dill and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check seasoning and add salt or pepper if required.

Add the lemon rind and half of the juice, stir to combine. Taste and ensure the lemon is to your liking. Add more if needed. Serve with no-knead bread rolls.

No-knead bread

No-knead bread rolls
From Donna Hay magazine Issue 75

4½ cups (675g) ‘00’ flour
1¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1½ teaspoons table salt
2⅓ cups (580ml) water

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix to form a wet sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to stand for 4 hours or until dough has tripled in size and has large bubbles.

Turn out onto a well-floured surface, divide into 7 pieces and shape into rounds. Oil the base of a 30cm-round heavy-based ovenproof saucepan with flour and place the rounds inside. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and allow to stand for a further 30 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Remove the plastic, cover the saucepan with a tight-fitting lid and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes, or until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped lightly. Turn out and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 7 rolls.

No-knead bread

15 June 2014

Simplicity and Rick Stein's beef in white wine

Simplicity in life and simplicity in cooking is always the best in my books

With a world moving faster and faster, information just one click away, food already picked or slaughtered for us, billboards of wants flashing up everywhere our eyes will and can travel to…it’s no wonder stress is such a prominent condition amongst us.

For this reason I like to STOP and revel in the sound of rain pattering on the roof, take delight in the almost uncontainable squeals of my nieces laughing and snuggle in close to my dear little dachshund, Pipsqueak. These are the things that make me happy. So simple.

Today I want to share with you a wonderfully simple and incredibly flavoursome dish from one of my favourite celebrity chefs, Rick Stein. I cooked this a few days ago for my parents and we were amazed be the depth of flavour. I think the trick with this recipe is to make sure you very gently cook those onions for the 30 minutes Rick suggests. It makes them incredibly sweet and helps make this stew rich and comforting, perfect for these winter months. Impatience will not do this recipe justice, so please find your Zen self prior to the commencement of chopping.


Rick Stein's beef in white wine Oviedo style

Beef in white wine Oviedo style (Spanish)

from Spain by Rick Stein

Serves 6

1.5kg chuck or blade steak (I used chuck)
7 tbsp olive oil (who measures oil?)
600g onions, chopped into 1 cm pieces
10 garlic cloves, crushed
6 fresh bay leaves (I couldn’t find fresh so just used dried instead)
300ml dry white wine
300g small carrots cut into 5cm lengths
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Trim the meat of any fat and gristle and cut it into 3cm chunks. Season well with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large flameproof casserole and fry the beef in batches until nicely browned. Set aside on a plate.

Add the remaining olive oil and the onions, garlic, bay leaves and ½ teaspoon of salt to the pan and cook very gently over a low heat for 30 minutes until the onions are soft and sweet and golden.

Return the beef to the pan, add the wine, bring to the boil and season with another ½ teaspoon of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Cover and leave to simmer gently for 2 hours, stirring now and then.

Uncover, add the carrots, re-cover and cook for a further 30 minutes until the wine and meat juices have combined with the onions to make a thick sauce and the meat is meltingly tender. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

I served this with mash potato because I was in a real comfort mood. Rick suggests serving it with fried potatoes or patatas fritas.

12 June 2014

For the hate and love of it

Image by pincel3d

Have you ever had to stand up to someone you loved or respected about a subject you know neither of you are going to happily agree upon? Did you manage to get your point across without having your heart bounce out of your mouth? Did you manage to do it while standing firm on your point? 
It’s horrible, isn’t it? Made only worse because the person you’re trying to get on board with what you believe is someone special in your life. It would be a whole lot easier saying your peace to a complete stranger who you didn’t care about what they thought of you.

I’ve had to have this sort of discussion twice this week, once with my father and once with my psychiatrist.

I’m exhausted!

As I discussed here my doctor wants me to start looking for work. What I didn’t like was how this subject was broached. For that reason I had to suck up my fear of confrontation and tell my dear doctor that I was not happy. I got butterflies in my tummy, my breathing was laboured and my palms were all sweaty. You see I always feel like a 12 year old when I have to confront an adult. Why? No idea. I’ll leave that for the psychological experts to work out. But I did it. YAY me! One confrontation down.

The next little issue I have is I don’t want to work in an office job, which I’ve been doing for the last 17 years; 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year. Of course, it’s secure (well, as secure as any job is now days), it pays superannuation, it pays your tax, basically all you have to do is show up to work, do what you’re told, show a little initiative every now and then, and you’re set. And I HATE it.

I HATE being on show to supervisors eight hours a day. I HATE having to write crap about things I don’t believe in (I’m in communications), I HATE high heels, I HATE business suits, I HATE peak hour, I HATE wanky words like improved productivity, quick wins, doing more with less, regroup, strategic fit, push the envelope, elevator pitch, the front line, knowledge transfer, robust, fast track…BULLSHIT BINGO.

Yes, to me it is total bullshit and I hate it.

And the worst one of all, and one I’ve never managed to escape, I HATE office politics. It exists everywhere and infests everyone feeding off small mindedness, egos, low self-esteem and extreme ambition.

The hard part about all of this hatred was telling my dad I just wanted to work from home, for the time being, proofreading student assignments. I almost felt the house rumble beneath my feet from his concern for my well-being and exacerbation over my stubbornness to no longer want to conform to the safe and secure working culture.

But I DON’T want to CONFORM!

I know it was fear he felt, too, for me not getting a stable job therefore the possibility I could become stressed due to no money, which unfortunately can trigger my bipolar into action (the stress, not the money).

The thing is I’m a very emotional, deep thinking, creative soul and for the first time I want to set my wings free.

I LOVE this blog, I LOVE writing, I LOVE the freedom it offers, I LOVE not feeling stressed, I LOVE being inspired by new ideas, I LOVE caring about other people, I LOVE seeing new places, I LOVE watching the stars in the sky, I LOVE cooking for my loved ones, I LOVE food, I LOVE learning new things, I LOVE spending time with my nieces, I LOVE having cuddles with my puppy.

Is it wrong to dream, to hope, to believe, to LOVE? What can I do with these loves that will lead me to a content life?

So I’m two confrontations down and I’m still standing. Yes, they were hard and in both cases I could have been more articulate…but I did it. And I’m proud of me for that. The thing I need to remember is they don’t have to agree with what I’m saying or doing, but that we respect each other enough to have our own opinions voiced. And I feel we did this.

My journey back into workhood will continue. I pray, however, that these wings on my back get to have a fly in them soon.

Have you ever been faced with difficult work choices between what’s safe and what’s for the love of it?
How do you deal with confrontation?

04 June 2014

Jamie Oliver's Lamb Fricassee

I love this dish AND I even stick to the recipe when making it. Shock!

To begin, lots of chopping is needed, but what a perfect way to practice your mindfulness skills while making something delicious for dinner. Once everything’s chopped it’s pretty straightforward cooking for such fabulous rewards.

The fabulous Jamie Oliver does…Spain, Italy,
Morocco, Sweden, Greece and France

  Jamie Oliver writes (or his copy editor does) a lovely introduction to this recipe leaving your mouth watering:

“Many people will find the idea of cooking lettuce in a stew weird, but to be honest, lettuce used to be really commonplace in soups and stews in Britain as well as in Greece. One thing’s for sure, you won’t regret trying this. Halfway through the cooking, the lettuce and dill won’t look their best, but this stage is all about developing bold flavours, richness and making sure the meat melts in your mouth. At the next stage you’ll be doing something to pimp it up so it looks beautiful and slaps you around the face with its flavours: by enriching this fricassee with avgolemono (mixed egg yolks and lemon), and just a touch of Greek yoghurt, you get a thickness and a shine that really bring the flavours together to perfection. Don’t miss giving this one a go.”

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do.

Jamie Oliver’s Lamb Fricassee
From his Jamie Does… cook book

Serves 6 

My own delicious lamb fricassee

olive oil
1.2kb boned leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 4cm pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and finely sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 bunches of spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
2 heads of cos or romaine lettuce, washed and finely shredded (I’ve also used iceberg before with good results)
a bunch of fresh dill, finely chopped (stalks and all)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
200ml Greek yoghurt

For the avgolemono sauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
juice of 1.5 lemons

Heat a few lugs of olive oil over a medium heat in a large saucepan and add the pieces of lamb. Stir and cook for and 5 to 7 minutes, until the lamb is brown all over – you will need to do this in batches. Once done, that the meat out of the pan and add the onion, garlic and spring onions. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, but not colour, then put the meat back into the pan.

Stir in the shredded lettuce and most of the dill and cook for a few more minutes, stirring constantly, until the lettuce has wilted. Add a few good pinches of salt and pepper and just enough water to cover the stew. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a really low simmer, cover with a lid, and let it tick away for 1.5 to 2 hours. After this time remove the lid and cook for a further 30 minutes, or until the lamb is beautifully cooked and pulls apart easily (nine times out of ten the lamb will be perfect after this time, but it does depend on your size of pot and the age of your lamb). Keep an eye on it as it cooks and add a splash of water if it looks like it’s drying out.

When you’re happy with the consistency, make the avgolemono sauce by whisking together the eggs and lemon juice until combined, then stir in a dessertspoon of Greek yoghurt and a splash of water if need be. The yoghurt isn’t traditional, but it adds a nice creaminess Jamie Oliver loves. Your stew should be happily simmering away, so take it off the heat and very gently stir the avgolemono through it. You don’t want to over-stir or the eggs will begin to set. Pop the lid on and leave for a few minutes.

Have a taste and add another pinch of salt and pepper or a squeeze of lemon juice if it needs it. Sprinkle over your reserved dill, then take the pan straight to the table so that everyone can help themselves. Serve with a tomato salad, the rest of the Greek yoghurt for dolloping over, and crusty bread or mash to mop up that delicious meaty sauce.