I missed Christmas…

Clearly, that’s not true but I did miss St Patrick’s Day, which is a holiday I enjoy nearly more than Christmas.

Criticize if you like but as holidays go, I think St Patricks Day is pretty good.  It’s one of my favourite holidays ranked just behind Thanksgiving and my birthday– no really, in Australia sometimes my birthday is a holiday (it often coincides with the Easter long weekend).  Similar to Thanksgiving, it’s a holiday built around eating, drinking, spending time with friends.  It’s about celebrating what’s great about being Irish (or American for Thanksgiving).  There are no presents involved and really it’s just about getting together with friends- and it has a colour scheme/costume idea just to add an extra element!

 Or at least that’s my interpretation.

 I know that St Patricks day means different things to different people.  Until recently, in Ireland, it was a religious holiday and pubs weren’t even allowed to open- seriously.  American Irish or rather Irish Americans in New York, Chicago, and Boston were the ones who turned it into an occasion for a parade and wearing green and celebrating their Irishness and all things Irish in the US.  As it turns out, there are Irish people and Irish pubs in nearly every corner of the world—I think there’s a Chinatown and at least one Irish pub in every city on earth.  So the American version of St Patrick’s Day caught on pretty quickly. Unsurprisingly, Guinness saw a marketing opportunity for their uniquely Irish product and really promoted the party and pub aspect of St Patricks day, and once the marketing kids got involved-  boom, it’s pretty much taken off from there!

 As we all know, I’m an absolute sucker for marketing and St. Patrick’s Day is a product I’ve fully bought into.  I have no doubt I’ll be one of those parents who decorates the house with gold coins and rainbows and who tells the kids to find the leprechauns (apparently that’s a thing now).

 My first memories of St Patrick’s Day were from school, we had to wear green on March 17th.  We also wore red or pink on February 14th so what can I say, I went to a school where being seasonally appropriate was important.  It wasn’t a big deal growing up except that a few cities in the US would dye rivers green and they would do a quick news story on it.  Between that and my green turtleneck that was it. 

 When I lived in London, I remember hitting the pubs and being surrounded by Irish expats out for a few pints.  I think London was where I had my first Guinness- tasty but how did people keep drinking it??  Somewhere there is a picture of me in a Heineken hat – (it was the only green I had)- outside of a pub with a pint of Guinness!  I remember being surprised by the sheer volume of people who were all celebrating and hanging out in the street that night.  We didn’t have anything in common (I’m certainly not Irish, nor were the Italians I was with) but we all found ourselves in the same place.

 Realistically, it was moving to Sydney that really cemented things for me and St P.  Having two close Irish girl friends I got introduced to actual Irish people- not Americans with a vague connection to Ireland who listened to House of Pain and had a great great someone who had migrated across but actual, real live, real life Irish people.  For the first time Ireland was more than leprechauns and U2 and Sinead O’Connor and a vague concept of bombings and ‘troubles’.  Growing up in the 80s in the US, that was pretty much what the press coverage on Ireland could be condensed into.

After my first St Patrick’s Day with Irish friends, I was hooked.  Not just on the holiday but on what an amazing culture and people it celebrates.  Of course St Patrick’s Day oversimplifies 1000 years of history into a few key symbols that are easy to understand and celebrate- music, leprechaun, green, Guinness, shamrock, rainbows, pot of gold- most of which have nothing to do with the real Ireland – but I’m really pleased that I have friends and a fiancée whose culture is so rich, varied, and interesting.  Considering the population in Ireland is about the same as the Sydney metropolitan region, it really has made quite a big mark on the world—possibly because most people of Irish descent aren’t actually in Ireland.  

St Patrick’s Day for Irish expats is a day to celebrate “home” whatever that means to them- that’s the great thing about being an expat- you can pick and choose what from home you want to celebrate and what you want to sweep under the rug.   Everyone’s family and everyone’s experience with “Home” is different.  Much like Thanksgiving, It’s not how the holiday first started and everyone celebrates differently but it is an experience that everyone can share- Irish or not.

 Except for me this year.

 No sugar March meant I didn’t bake chocolate Guinness cupcakes this year, a downpour meant that we didn’t venture in for Sydney’s festivities in Hyde Park and a sprained ankle meant no going to the pub to soak up the atmosphere.  In fact, The Runner and I had a quiet dinner and although we had spoken about going to get a can of Guinness to share at home, we didn’t.  I don’t even think The Runner has worn his green t shirt in the past two weeks. A pretty poor effort from us really!

 So I feel a bit deflated and defeated, not only am I limping around pathetically but I missed one of my favorite days of the year.   On the bright side, it’s only 363 days until next year and less than a month until my favorite holiday of all- my birthday!

An unexpected benefit…

So far, this little experiment is not only fun but is already yielding unexpected benefits:

1) An excuse to catch up with friends for dinner– did I mention I LOVE throwing dinner parties

2) A way to occupy myself while I’m in between paying gigs-  a lot more entertaining than some of the alternatives….

3) Dinner! Dusting off randomly picking up a cookbook, opens up so many more options for what to cook for dinner…. Thanks to my current position of being “job challenged”, I actually do have time to cook fun and complex dinners at night– except for Mondays and Tuesdays when I go to “dance” classes.

I’m the first to admit, I should be doing more baking and cooking while I’m not working, although considering I’m supposed to be gluten-free and with summer coming, I’m not sure having loads of tempting, tasty, gluten filled baked goods in the house is the right plan….  However, I digress.  The Runner was clearly not impressed with his toasted sandwich for dinner last night because this morning I awoke to find Apples for Jam open on the counter.   The Runner swears he was only “flicking through the book” and “wasn’t sure what page he left it on”, however  I will take the not so subtle hint and make the man his Spaghetti with Egg and Toasted Parsley Breadcrumbs for dinner!

Coming up next Sunday….. Apples for Jam!

Thanks to the randomness of the “Close your eyes and point” methodology, I’ve now chosen the cookbook for next week.  Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros.

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This book is absolutely gorgeous, given to me by lovely friends as a birthday gift (I think?).  The pictures are beautiful and it’s a fairly thick book with recipes organised by- wait for it- colours!  Red, Orange, Yellow, Pink, Green, Gold, White, Brown, Monochrome, Striped and Multicolour!  Very cool- and some very yummy sounding recipes– although I have to make a HUGE confession….. I’ve never cooked anything out of this book…. in fact, that might be a catch phrase that becomes increasingly common as the Blog goes on.

So, for my first attempt to cook using this book, we have the following options on pages 7, 33, 69, 87, 101….

p.7- Sorry guys, this is where the table of contents lives….

p.33- Meat Lasagne- the second page of the recipe- one of the Runner’s favourite meals….

p.69- Quince Jam- this recipe needs 2kg of Quince.  I’m not sure where people even buy a single quince, let alone 2kg of quinces…. I think I’ll leave the quince jam to Maggie Beer.

p.87- Roast rack of pork with fennel and honey- Hello Sunshine!!!  Have I mentioned that I LOVE pork?

p.101- Orange juice and olive oil cake with pine nuts…. ooh that doesn’t sound half bad!

Stay tuned, and feel free to weigh in with your two cents…..  and yes, I will need some volunteers to help us eat this time.

Our first attempt- Nigella Express Anglo-Asian Lamb Salad (p.7)

This recipe seems pretty straight forward to be honest.  There are no super crazy ingredients and most of the ingredients were already in my pantry.  

 

I bought the lamb, salad leaves, mint and spring onion this morning thanks to Coogee Woolworths and the local Coogee butcher.  

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The only issue I have is that Woolies didn’t have Red Currant Jelly– however apparently cranberry sauce or another jam or jelly can substitute.  (thank you Uncle Google for the tip!)

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So the first thing I do is ignore my Naturopath’s well meaning advice to not cook with olive oil, and follow Nigella’s first step and heat 2 tsp of Garlic olive oil in a pan.  

I add the lamb, and turn on the extractor fan…. our apartment has the world’s most sensitive smoke alarm.  The lamb cooks for about 5 minutes on the first side and the 2 1/2 minutes on the other side.  While the lamb is cooking, I whip together the fish sauce, red currant jelly cranberry sauce, brown rice vinegar, soy sauce tamari (it’s a gluten free substitute for soy sauce), and one red chili which Nigella says to de-seed but I just chop and throw in…. (I like a bit of kick!).  

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The lamb goes into a little foil sleeping bag to rest for 5 minutes and then I slice the lamb and mix it in with the salad dressing.  

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Finally, I put the salad leaves on a plate, chop up some mint leaves and pour the mixed lamb and salad dressing over the leaves and voila!  Dinner is served!!!

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I warmed up roasted leftover sweet potatoes as a side dish and that was it!

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The Runner said it was “tasty” but was a bit disappointed that the portion size was more of a starter or a light lunch than dinner for a hungry hungry man.  It was a pretty easy recipe- great for a weeknight dinner but it was a bit unexciting.  I mean it really is just lamb salad with an Asian-y dressing.  If I were to make it again, I’d throw in some feta cheese and sweet potato mixed through it to give it a bit more oomph!  

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A good first one to tackle!  Stay tuned for next week’s challenge!

 

A quick word on Bikes, not Books…

So The Boy has a new bike, it’s shiny (well, actually it’s matte finish) but it’s supposedly a big deal…..A Scott Plasma or something like that.  It’s pretty– probably not the right athletic and masculine word to describe it but it’s nice…. for a bike.  It looks something like this…..

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Obviously I’m not up on bikes because I have no desire to be on one, even in spin class at the gym.   But apparently it’s a big deal of a bike, because every 5 minutes he’s off to the bike shop to get it adjusted, fitted, readjusted, re-fixed, cleaned, serviced etc.  It’s worth more than my car and it gets a lot more love than my car… but I have to say most times I don’t mind, (although it’s a tad OTT).  It’s not really going to make him a better cyclist, just like all of my cookbooks won’t make me a better cook.  But spending thousands of dollars on a bike and hundreds of dollars to get it fixed every few weeks does mean that I don’t feel that bad about spending $50 here and there on a new cookbook…. or two…or three…..

So like everything in our relationship, he has his bike (and all the other tri gear he owns), I have my books (and all the other kitchen gear I have)….finally I hope this blog will help me justify the books, and hopefully he’ll do a really good time up in Noosa to justify the bike!