Whine and dine

It’s not been a great week if I’m honest. Since the youngest went off on Monday I have been feeling unhinged and, as predicted, I have achieved very little. This is not for want of trying. Things have been conspiring against me.

There is a theory that you create your own destiny, that if you approach things with a positive mental attitude, then good things will happen, while a negative approach will doom you to miserable failure. After this week I’m beginning to believe this theory has some credibility. I won’t bore you with the detail, but it has been, so far (it’s not over yet), a catalogue of frustration and ineptitude, and I can only think my volatile crankiness has had some part to play.

Let’s take Tuesday as a snapshot. Now I’m pretty sure this had nothing to do with my mood, but on Tuesday the wine fridge was officially declared dead (First World Problem). It has taken three call outs over six months, several hours of labour and the best part of 300 quid to reach this conclusion. Replacing it, we discovered, is going to cost three times what we paid for it, such are inflation rates in the world of wine cooling systems. After much debate, my husband and I decided it was worth investing in a new one, even if it did mean sacrificing a few of the kids’ Christmas presents (priorities peoples). The problem is, in the seven years or so since we bought this one, seemingly all the manufacturers of wine fridges have made them 20 centimeters taller and 10 wider, so none of them will fucking well fit in the already tight space we have in our cramped utility room.

We are still very much in limbo as to how to resolve this problem, but in the meantime all the white wine and beer has been transferred to the food fridge so there is no room in there for anything else. Every time the door is opened something falls out (the cupboard avalanche is a common phenomenon in our house – only the other day I was very nearly decapitated by a falling baking sheet) and what fell out on Tuesday afternoon while I was searching for some tamarind paste to finish off my final batch of chutney (there was none) was a bottle of Thai fish sauce (of course it was), its fetid contents splattering every available surface including my (unwashable) sheepskin slippers.

In order to clear up, I first had to get to the sink which, because I am a lazy arse, was still full of breakfast things, so I decided I should probably first unload the dishwasher, clear away the dirty plates and then address the lethal cocktail of rotten fish juice and broken glass seeping across the floor. But the dishwasher had decided to have an off day (it chooses only the most inconvenient moments to do this), so everything I pulled out was covered in that dried on sludge which can only be removed by a heavy duty scourer, elbow grease and tears of frustration.

Some time later, I cleared up the floor and took the bin out straight away to minimise the fishy stench. What I hadn’t appreciated, until I had dripped it all over the floor, up the stairs and all the way to the front door, was that the bin bag had done that weird osmosis thing and was leeching a putrid bile all of its own. So I then had to wash the floor again, clean the bin drawer trying not to vom (bins in drawers – shit idea) and wash out the bin, but in so doing, knocked half the stuff I had just washed up, including my husband’s last surviving posh wine glass, off the drainer. Fuck’s sake.

I then went in search of tamarind paste which of course the local shops did not stock, so ended up driving in what was now school pick-up time to Sainsbury’s, which meant I was stuck in a traffic jam comprising only 4x4s (because South East London is such a tricky terrain) for ONE hour.

The only saving grace of the day was that on my return my husband was already opening a bottle of his fine red wine, having declared it must all be drunk now lest it perish in the broken wine fridge. I’m still not entirely convinced by his reasoning – doesn’t fine wine last, like, forever? – but am happy to go along with it if it means illicit school-night drinking, even if it’s not out of a nice glass. On a day like this, the bottle, perhaps with a straw in it, would have done nicely.

Quick Thai Pork


This is what I cooked on Tuesday. It’s a good dish for a bad day, in that it’s tasty, restorative in a way that sometimes only spicy food can be, and more importantly, can be on the table in 20 minutes.

I love larb of pork that you get in Thai restaurants, all hot and sour and salty, served on a crunchy lettuce leaf. I wanted to replicate the flavours at home, but turn it into a more substantial meal to serve with rice. There isn’t a massive list of exotic ingredients here, it’s mainly store cupboard stuff (beware the avalanche) meaning you can make it whenever the mood takes you. You could use beef or turkey mince if you prefer.

Serves 4

  • 500g free range pork mince
  • 1 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 red pepper thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 2 inch piece ginger peeled and finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 2 tsp palm or brown sugar
  • 10g grated cream coconut (from a block)
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • splash of water
  • handful of chopped coriander, mint or a mix of the two
  • a couple of sliced spring onions to garnish
  1. Get all your ingredients ready and vegetables chopped – there will be no time to do this once you start cooking.image
  2. In a wok or large frying pan, fry the ginger, garlic and chilli in the oil on a medium-high heat for about a minute, until fragrant.
  3. Add the onion and pepper and stir fry for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Add the mince, breaking it up with a spoon and stir fry until no pinkness remains.
  5. Add the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice and taste. It should be hot, sour, salty with a touch of sweetness. Add more lime juice, sugar or fish sauce until you get the perfect balance (if it’s not hot enough you could add a small pinch of dried chilli flakes).
  6. Add grated coconut cream and a splash of water to loosen the sauce and cook for another minute until the coconut has dissolved.
  7. Stir in the herbs, keeping some back to garnish.
  8. Spoon into bowls of steamed jasmine rice, sprinkling over the remaining herbs and spring onions to garnish.

And relax.







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