Over the last few months I've been working up to making a major decision.
It kept popping its head up and I've largely been suppressing it - continuing on a path that wasn't working just to avoid a glorious risk.
When you're a foodie the concept of a relaxing tropical holiday can be fraught with danger. All too often the dining options are watered down for the tourist's palate or are untouched, untooled perfection hidden somewhere so far off the tourist trail that you spend the entire trip clambering through the jungle trying to find it.
Now I've done my fair share of the latter (think impossibly perfect goat satay and delicate yet sharply spicy, flaky and moist fish, under a completely non-signposted and unlabelled umbrella set up halfway off a cliff just out of Pelabuhan Ratu for only a few hours every few days) but that kind of exploration takes serious planning and hard work. And just forget about matching wines with your dinner - the local stuff is closer to what you find in cardboard boxes back home - just slightly less refined. Continue reading
The whole point of being organised is so that not all is lost when something unexpected happens. The beauty of planning and preparedness is that (believe it or not) it gives you a lot of flexibility later.
Case in point: in an act of complete stupidity last week I fell over and landed entirely (and heavily) on one knee. It goes without saying that I am incredibly uncoordinated. (It won't be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I somehow, unconsciously, protected my capacious handbag/briefcase in the fall which suffered not a scratch.)
As a result of my stupidity I have been forced to become acquainted with a pair of rather boring looking crutches and my footwear is restricted to my rather meagre collection of flat shoes.
My doctor has also told me to do the unthinkable - rest - and stay downstairs for the foreseeable future. This is all very well but I live in a 2-storey house and my kitchen is upstairs.
The situation is dire indeed. Not long after I met my husband, he offered to cook me dinner. When he pulled the bright yellow Old El Paso box out of the pantry I knew that I was in trouble.
Things have moved on from there slightly. 5 years later I can confirm that he is fabulous at tidying up and putting things away.
However not much has improved in his cooking. Luckily there are no yellow boxes in my pantry!
While as a general rule I am not friends with my freezer (freezer burn is friend to no-one) I do have an emergency stash of pre-prepared and pre-cooked (by me) meals in the freezer, vying for room with the huge top tier of my wedding cake that has been in there for nearly 3 years and counting.
While I was stuck downstairs, lame and miserable, my husband was quite able to defrost some chicken schnitzels that I had previously crumbed and cooked.
As per my instructions he smeared the schnitzels with some tomato paste and sprinkled them with fresh rosemary from the garden and some grated cheese.
He chucked them under the grill to warm through and melt the cheese.
They would have been quite perfect if he had put them on the grill tray rather than in a baking tin, but served with some spaghetti tossed in some fresh and lively organic olive oil and lots of cracked pepper and some steamed vegetables, it was a satisfying dinner. (The baking tin warped in the high heat but was able to be restored to its previous shape.)
To make the schnitzels
Slice trimmed chicken breasts in half width-wise.
Bash the chicken with a meat mallet or you can use your fists and roll over the chicken with your knuckles.
Dust them in well seasoned flour (I often add paprika to this), then swoosh them into an egg wash (about a tablespoon of milk to each large egg) and into a mix of fresh and dried breadcrumbs, finely grated parmesan, herbs or whatever takes your fancy.
Shallow fry in hot oil until golden (don't overcook or the chicken will be dry and awful), drain well, cool, then wrap individually and pop them into a labeled freezer safe container or bag.
To reheat, warm through in the oven or make parmigana as directed above. Please don't use the microwave to do this, unless you have one of the fancy convection ones.
Many butchers and delis now stock a great range of pre-prepared and easy to cook meals that are surprisingly budget friendly and tasty when added to some fresh ingredients.
My local butcher sells lovely little handmade meatballs which can be easily browned and then cooked through in a sauce of tinned crushed tomatoes, garlic, onion, fresh herbs, a good glug of wine, a small dash of balsamic vinegar and served over pasta with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan.
You could even use a good quality basic store-bought pasta sauce or passata instead.
A tray of meatballs is less than $6 at my butcher and will serve 2 very hearty eaters for dinner with leftovers for lunch.
So despite all predictions we're eating well during my exile from the kitchen and thanks to some generous offers from friends and family that is likely to continue.