1 year ago yesterday I was hosting our annual Thanksgiving party.

1 year ago today I got a call telling me I needed to come home- my father was on life support.

1 year ago tomorrow I was sitting in Sydney airport when my sister told me he had died.

5 years ago on Wednesday, The Runner and I met at a mutual friend’s birthday party.

This year, in many ways, has been by far the worst I have been through- losing my father is something that I will never ever fully recover from.  If the past year is anything to go by, I will think about him every day and I will miss him every day for the rest of my life.  When you lose someone, they’re never really gone but it’s hard getting used to them not physically being here.  It’s been a difficult year learning that.  I can’t believe it’s been a year.  It’s surreal and sad and somehow seems really final.  Death is always final but it’s hard to believe it’s true. I’m sure the first year is the hardest- or at least I hope it is, so in some ways it feels good to have survived it.  It doesn’t make it easier but it feels like an accomplishment to have survived relatively unscathed.

On a different note, I also can’t believe it’s been 5 years since The Runner and I met.  5 years.  Half a decade, wow.  The last 5 years have been amazing in a lot of ways- it’s hard to argue that I’ve had a better set of 5 years (well, unless you count College but that was only 4 and it was a different type of amazing!)  I’m really lucky to have him in my life and if anything’s gotten me through the past 12 months, it’s The Runner and his support. 

So this week is pretty crazy- I’ll be celebrating the high and mourning the low. 

I’ll also be keeping myself busy with my new job and of course, planning our annual Thanksgiving party.  I keep saying it’s going to be far more low key than years past but having finally organised the menu actually doing some of the shopping today, I’m not sure if that’s true.  It’s definitely not true actually.  It is more geared toward finger food (which is actually more work than big dishes- doh!) and more of a BBQ.  This year’s menu:  Black Bean Dip, corn casserole, mini mac and cheese, caprese bites, mini sweet potato pie, mini pecan pie, and mini pumpkin pies.   Plus, turkey sausages and burgers on the BBQ.  Hopefully the weather cooperates…. Either way, I’ll be thankful to everyone who comes and thankful to everyone who has supported me this year and helped me- it’s been a tough year but the amazing friends and family around me have made a world of difference and I truly am thankful for them.


Evil Jungle Princess….

So lacking the rigor and structure and schedule of a full time job, I sort of neglected to actually remember to invite anyone over for dinner tonight.    We did issue a couple of last minute invitations this afternoon in Coogee but sadly no takers.  Oh well….

This week’s dinner is actually a family recipe.  Not my family, my brother in law’s family but it has special meaning because it was actually the last meal I ate with my Dad.  If I could go back and rewind that night, I would have enjoyed it more.  Except for my Mom and my youngest brother, my entire immediate family was there- The Runner, My Dad, two brothers, my sister, 3 nephews and 1 ½ nieces—my youngest niece just turned 1 but she was there.  It was a fantastic night, and little did I know how one of a kind it would be.  

The recipe is called Evil Jungle Princess Chicken- and it’s a recipe that my brother in law’s mother makes and passed down to him.  I’ve never made it before tonight and the recipe I have was delivered via two emails—one a list of ingredients and the other a list of direction—truly how a good family recipe should be delivered.

I can’t promise that it’s accurate—often family recipes omit a key ingredient because well, you can’t give away all of your secrets can you?  My mother passed down her famous corn casserole recipe to my cousin, only she forgot to include the eggs in the recipe.   She claims it was by accident but I have my doubts…the recipe is legendary and you can’t be too careful in who you pass on the secret to.

So, hopefully my brother in law doesn’t mind me sharing- but I’m making his famous Evil Jungle Princess Chicken Curry tonight!

First, I cut up about a pound of chicken and dice an onion which I throw into a big stock pot with canola oil, cayenne pepper, and chili powder.  I brown the onions and the chicken and once my eyes are watering and I’m coughing from all the chili—and sweating a bit actually, I throw in “a lot of garlic”—that’s what the recipe says but I have no idea what that actually means.  I debate internally for a sec and decide on 6 cloves—because that’s how much I have in the house.  Six cloves seems like an ample about a garlic, possibly not “a lot” but then I’m not going to leave the house now to go out and buy an unspecified amount of garlic.  I “add chicken stock” too- the quantity of chicken stock is vague so I make an executive decision and decide on about 500 ml to start with—no idea if this is too much or not enough!  But 500ml seems like enough to get things started but not so much that it will lead to evil jungle princess broth.

I finely cut two stalks of lemongrass and add that in, nearly slicing off my finger in the process.  Thankfully The Runner is there to bandage me up and I can continue on.  It was touch and go for a minute or two. 

 I add in a jalapeno and a long green chili- the recipe only says to add in a jalapeno, but I’m playing fast and loose with the rules.   And then the terror strikes me.  I’m on a 30 day dairy free challenge–if it’s too hot and spicy,  I won’t be able to drink milk, mango lassi, or any other cooling drink to quench the fire.   I suddenly realize that loading up a dish with chilies could be a bad idea. I can’t have dairy so if it does turn out to be blow your head off hot, I’m S.O.L as they say because there will be no cooling yogurt for me….. or milk… or cheese or cream cheese or sour cream or…  Uh oh. 

I put these negative thoughts to the back of my mind and toss in a tsp of fish sauce and then chop up 5 carrots and toss them in as well.  It’s looking a bit dry so I add more chicken stock which is either a good idea or a horribly bad one—who knows at this point.  I’m panicked about the chili-explosion which may await my taste buds and set the timer for 10 minutes and as the recipe dictates let the carrots cook for 10 minutes on a medium heat.

I use the ten minutes wisely by cutting up 5-6 potatoes—the recipe says 3-4 but figure a few extra never hurt anyone (especially The Runner) – and with the spare 8 minutes I Instagram a progress shot of dinner.  #doublefilter #herunsicook #Ishouldreallyfocusoncooking #hashtagsareabitannoying

Anyway, when the timer goes off I add dried mint (2 tsp), lemon juice (1 tsp), sugar (1 tsp), and potatoes.  It needs to cook for 30-40 minutes over low heat so I turn it down and leave it.  I wish I had a box of jiffy cornbread to serve with it but decide on rice instead—cornbread would have been amazing though- but it would require milk so is a no.  I try to be semi healthy by choosing a whole grain rice blend but also decide to chuck in a bit of white rice as well.  The Runner seems to have thwarted my plans because I cannot for the life of me find any white rice in our cabinet.  He’s going to force me to be healthy if it kills me!  I quietly shake my fist in anger and then find my secret stash of jasmine rice.   Bwahaha!

I can now move onto more pressing matters….. what wine will we have with dinner????

While I decide, I crack open an Anchor Steam beer- it’s a beer I remember my Dad liking, so it’s a weird coincidence that they just happened to be in the Coogee Bay Hotel bottle shop today.  I don’t go in there often but somehow today I was there and so were they.  

Once the timer goes off, I add in a can coconut milk and a bit more fish sauce- no quantity given just “more fish sauce”.  I turn the heat to low and then cook for 5- 10 minutes—well, actually I’ll cook it until the rice is done in 15 minutes.  I chop in some fresh mint to throw in at the end- and that’s meant to be it. 

I say meant to be it because I’m sure it’s missing something but I’m not sure what.  It wasn’t spicy enough so I threw in another green chili or two– and garnished with a third.   It was quite minty but after mellowing for a few minutes it was actually ok.  The last line of the recipe in the email is “I’m sure you can handle it and will add more or less of the ingredients below depending on how spicy and sweet you want it.”  Yikes.  Panic.  Fingers crossed it turns out edible—and hopefully tasty as well!!!

It did!  It was delish, The Runner even went back for seconds.  What would I do differently next time?  Not much.

I would advise using quite big pieces of chicken- I think mine was cut too finely so it’s a bit like shredded chicken rather than chicken chunks but you might like the shreddedness.  As for the rest… It was an A+ for The Runner and super yum for me.  There’s also lots of room for variation next time—might try sweet potato and potato, or maybe some green peas in the curry.  It’s definitely a recipe to cook from taste not from recipe…. And it’s definitely a winner!