Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Slow Cooked Orange Pulled Pork - A Guest Post

The fam and I are currently off on our world tour, which left me with a bit of a conundrum: Do I give you all a rest from my inane drivel, or do I make judicious use of the schedule function?

I sort of did both, and I am over the moon that Genie from Bunny Eats Design has agreed to share one of her super tasty recipes with you. She may not be a mum but she's got it dialled when it comes to what sort of food makes kids tick. 

I also reckon this would make a great dish for early Baby Led Weaning when junior hasn't got the chompers to get through tougher cuts of meat.

......

I was delighted when Tasha contacted me about writing a guest post for her. The Maybe Diaries is one of the few “Mummy blogs” I read. 

I don’t have kids but I was a child once and my parents never made us a separate children's meal. My family are Cantonese, and the Cantonese are a people of adventurous, curious appetites. We ate whatever they ate, even if it was whole fish with fins and bones intact, tongue stew, raw oysters or sushi. I know that lots of kids love sushi today, but I can assure you, back in the late '80s and early '90s, Kiwi kids (and some adults) thought eating seaweed, raw fish and cold rice was weird. 

Today I'm sharing a recipe that I love to make and appeals to kids of all ages. The combination of savoury and sweet as well as the ability to customise each plate easily works well with different tastes and appetites.

I use my slow cooker’s removable ceramic crock and glass cover as a container to marinate the meat overnight. Feel free to use a different container if you don’t have the fridge space.

Slow Cooked Orange Pulled Pork

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2kg (approx 4.5lb) pork shoulder, skin removed (see crackling notes below)
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 oranges
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 pinch chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste
To serve:
  • Soft tortillas, bread rolls, salad greens, coleslaw or potato salad
  • Sour cream, mayo or guacamole
  • (or all of the above)

Preparation

  1. Using a sharp knife, remove the peel from the oranges. Cut each orange in half, squeeze the juice into the slow cooker and add the halves into the slow cooker, cut side down.
  2. Add soy sauce, brown sugar, chilli flakes (if using), garlic and bay leaves to the to the the ceramic crock. Mix.
  3. Add the trimmed pork and turn the meat in the marinade to coat all sides of the pork. Pop on the lid on the ceramic crock and place the crock into the fridge to marinate overnight.
  4. Take the ceramic crock out of the fridge and place into your slow cooker for 20 minutes before turning it on. Peel and slice 1 onion. Add to slow cooker.
  5. Cook pork for 8 hours on low. Turn pork once (if possible) during the cooking process for more even cooking.
  6. When pork is cooked, remove and discard all mention of bone and the 3 bay leaves. Ladle out as much liquid as you can into a saucepan and boil, uncovered until reduced by at least half. In the meantime, shred the meat while still inside the slow cooker by gently pulling it apart with 2 forks. Add the reduced sauce back to the slow cooker and mix the shredded pork into the sauce. Taste and add salt and pepper to your own preference.
  7. Serve with your choice of soft tortillas, bread rolls, salad, sour cream, mayo or guacamole. I also make sure there’s a bottle of hot sauce on the table. Keep tea towels or napkins in easy reach.

Crackling

I once thought you could only crackle the skin on pork belly but you can actually work magic on any pork skin. I used to throw out pork shoulder skin, now I know better!

Save your pork skin and follow these instructions:
  1. Once the pork skin is removed, place on a chopping board, fat side down (skin side up). Using a sharp knife, carefully make vertical or diagonal cuts 5mm or ¼ inch apart along the skin, cutting all the way through the skin but not all the way through the fat. This will enable the skin to crisp up nicely and make it easy to cut later (or break apart once cooled).
  2. Cover with a generous sprinkling of coarse sea salt, rub salt into cuts and place the skin on an oven proof tray (I used a square cake tin) and refrigerate overnight uncovered. This will dry out the skin further.
  3. An hour before serving, pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Bake pork crackling for 20-30 minutes until crunchy and golden (even bordering on black in the tiniest of places).
  4. Remove from oven allow to cool enough to cut or break apart. Adds a lovely crunch to a pulled pork tortilla!
Tip: The more fat clinging to the skin, the more chewy your pork crackling will be. Too little fat and your crackling will be dry and hard – like a potato chip. I like a little bit of that lovely gelatinous fat so remove the skin accordingly.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Practicing Self Care

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I sat on the sofa, ignored the children and read a book.

That might not seem like something to brag about. It certainly wasn’t something that impressed Keith who, at the point I rejected his suggestion that I read to the children instead of myself, called me mother of the year and suggested I write about that on my blog.

I’m not sure why he’s annoyed at the blog, but actually it was a good suggestion on his part, so all passive aggression aside, I unashamedly offer these thoughts.


I grew up with a mum who worked from sun up to sun down in her role as homemaker. She has always taken her job mighty seriously and is very much of the view that her time and energy are best spent improving the life of her family rather than her own.

I applaud her for that, and I thank her, but there is also a part of me that feels slightly uncomfortable knowing that she will run herself into the ground in my name.

I don’t ask that of any person.

A few months ago I took on a new job that is challenging me in ways I never thought possible. I love it, I’m inspired by it, but by the end of the week I am bone tired. I don’t mean a little bit sleepy, I mean that soul crushing tired that people with long term illness and women in the first trimester of pregnancy will understand. I limp through the end of the week, I drag myself over the finish line by my teeth, and needless to say, it doesn’t make me a very fun person to be around.

And even as I type this I realise that I am straying down the road of self-justification; glancing at the cul-de-sac of martyrdom because the truth is that even if my job was chief tester at Whittaker’s (just putting it out there universe) it would not mean that I should feel guilty for taking some time to relax.

My children do not require me to spend every waking moment supporting their optimal development. Choosing to do something for myself rather than them does not make me a bad mother; it makes me a sensible human.

The truth is that parents are still being guilted into thinking that they ought to invest all their energy into their family at the expense of their own wellbeing. 

I offer you some context of my own weekend: In the hours leading up to the moment when I planted my butt on the sofa I had cleaned the new house top to bottom, cooked lunch and baked scones, dealt with a poorly Miss Olive and spent over an hour having a Lego build-off with the elder two.

Parenting points: I had plenty.

And none of that should matter. Part of being a Woman of Worth is to know that you deserve to have time and energy spent on yourself. There is no point sharing a hundred righteous memes on social media if the message you are giving your children is that your needs are last on the list. Balancing family life doesn’t mean you are at the bottom of the pile holding everyone up, it means you are all in it together and that you all matter equally.

So because it’s a Monday and I am feeling just a little militant I encourage you to join me in calling out this bullshit. Today, look at a pile of washing, or a toy strewned bedroom and choose instead to do something for yourself. 

Do it without apology.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Burning Down the House

I’m writing this from the warm comfort of the new house, which tells you a little about how this story ends, but not much about the small bumps along the way.

Maybe the biggest of which was nearly burning down the house on our first day which, even by our usual standards of property devaluation, is pretty effective.



The new house boasted a gas BBQ housed in a lovely covered courtyard type affair which made it an obvious choice for dinner last weekend when the entire kitchen was boxed up and our friend was visiting.

After a quick trip to stock up on supplies, we threw open all the connecting doors and I took up position in the kitchen, and Keith at the BBQ.

There were smiles, there was chatter, there were children running around … there were flames engulfing the BBQ.

“WATER!” Keith shouted through, “I need WATER”

By now he had turned off the gas but there were still flames everywhere that were showing no sign of going out.

Under the wooden pergola.

I stood in the kitchen, looking around at what is probably best described as “box roulette” and remember that the whole reason we are having the BBQ in the first place is because we haven’t unpacked the kitchen, so there’s nothing for it but to start ripping into boxes because buggered if I have the first idea of which box might hold anything of use.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted the craft unit and set to tipping out the contents into a pile on the kitchen floor and filling them up at the sink, passing each one to our friend to take to Keith. 

Between the toilet roll inners, tissue paper and glitter it wasn’t long before I had created a rather ironic craft bonfire in the middle of the kitchen floor. 

After several container loads I turn to see the flames had now turned into plumes of thick grey smoke which were billowing in fabulous style and, on meeting the pergola roof, funnelling straight into the house.

“DOORS!!!” I bellow, “CLOSE THE DOORS!!!”

Incidentally, the children think this is the most amusing thing they have seen since the movers hoisted their beds up the outside of the house.

I do not.

It took 4 more containers to finally put out the fire, and at the point the flames went out, the BBQ made sure we knew it had properly given up the ghost by ejecting the buttons off the front to lie in a sad, smouldering puddle on the floor.

That reminds me, I really need to order some sort of fire extinguishing device. And a new BBQ.

In other news, our new neighbour came over to inform us that her cat had taken one look at Harry and refused to leave the house and would we mind if she put up a fence to stop Harry from being able to reach her back door.

Ummm, not at all lady, thanks for saving us the cost of doing it ourselves.

There’s only one small problem with the fence and that is for reasons known best to … well I actually have no idea who … the fence, despite being 6ft high, has a gap at the bottom so big that Olive can walk under it with only a slight stoop. 

Well done lady, you basically just made it a ton harder for us to get Harry back from your garden. In terms of how effectively your fence will hinder the dog’s movements, my assessment is somewhere between chocolate fireguard and our ex-BBQ.

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Review of "All I Know Now"

This is probably the last book review I’ll be allowed to write for a while.

Hachette were very kind to send me a copy of All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing Up Gracefully by Carrie Hope Fletcher and because my children are closer to being teenagers than I am, I thought it would be a valuable read. 


After all, being a teenager is a bit like giving birth in that the finer details vanish from your memory leaving you with a nostalgic haze that almost half convinces you that it “wasn't that bad” when in reality it was much, MUCH worse.

So anyway, I had high hopes. Carrie is in her twenties, a vibrant YouTube phenomenon who is appearing in Les Mis and is the sister of Tom Fletcher from McFly. You know how I know this? Carrie told me, many, MANY times in just the first few chapters.

Issue 1 with this book: If you are going to “relate” to the average teenager, probably best not to spend every other page lamenting being a theatre child and having a famous brother; I'm fairly sure most teenagers can’t relate.

Carrie is also well educated and eloquent. In fact, unlike most teenagers, she uses the word eloquent, casually interspersed with TXT SPK. Now I admit I have absolutely no knowledge of which end of the spectrum is more likely to appeal to teenagers but for the love of all that is holy, PICK ONE.

But my really big issue with this book, and the one that will consign this book to my next charity shop drop, is a section near the start of the book that deals with “firsts”; and in particular, first kisses. 
"If you treat your kisses like they're gold, as if you only have a limited supply of them, you'll only ever want to give them out to the people who you trust them with and who really deserve them ... Looking back I wish I had pushed them away and let them down kindly, rather than giving away a precious kiss that I could have used on someone who I really wanted to share it with."
Now I was surprised by this section, not least because in an effort to familiarise myself with Carrie, I had visited her YouTube channel and watched the video where she reveals her book cover.  I noticed, that sitting in the background like some benevolent feminist cheerleader is Caitlin Moran’s  most recent work.

It's fair to say my heart dropped when I read the same tired morality being trotted out for a new generation.

You don’t need to “save yourself”. You will not get worn out by allowing yourself to experience every kind of kiss and it drives me seven kinds of crazy when people pretend otherwise. Affection does not use you up, not every kiss has to make the angels weep.

If you want to support teenagers, you know what a better message would be? Do everything, try it all once, but do it on your terms. Find out what you like, find out what you don’t and do it safely. You will walk away from some people with a handshake and a “thanks for the memory” and you hold on to others like they are your oxygen. 

Both those things are OK. 

I'm sad to say the tone of the book stayed pretty much the same from there on in.

There is a slightly patronising section about being brave enough to ask a teacher to repeat a homework assignment and pondering "what on earth would we have done if no one had plucked up the courage to ask? ... Sometimes asking questions doesn't just help you out, but the people around you too".

And I think that is where I realised why this book is quite so jarring: Carrie is caught in the same trap as the rest of us in that she is too old to write about being a teenager without coming over as excruciatingly patronising.

You don't have to take my word for it; I did a little experiment and opened the book at random to be faced with this gem:
"If someone misunderstands the way you meant something, it's not their fault for being sensitive. You may not have meant it the way they've taken it, so you can't be blamed for purposely being hurtful, but it is your fault for not being clearer or not thinking it through before you said it."
I just can't even with this book. Just stop, STOP talking to your audience as if they just swallowed a kidney!

It has taken me a long time to publish this review because it feels horrible to take someone's work and throw it under the bus but I don't want any other parent to buy it hoping that might provide relevant and robust guidance to their young adult on how to grow up gracefully.

Also, please never ask your teenager to grow up gracefully.

I was sent a copy of this book free to review. The opinions expressed are my own, in all their glory. I shouldn't have to tell you that, clearly nobody would actually pay me to express views like this.
 
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