You may have noticed that my posts have been a little, shall we say, concise of late, but I’m really bad at writing when I’m stressed. This fact made me a crap journalist, but it makes me an even worse blogger as I don’t have an editor breathing down my neck or a paycheque to galvanise me. The source of my stress: the secondary school transfer process. I’m guessing there will be quite a few parents of Year 6 children out there who would agree that this half term has been absolutely no fun at all.
Choosing a secondary school for you child is probably the biggest decision you will ever have to make on their behalf (and I do believe the final decision lies with the parents – leave it to the kids and they’ll just pick whatever school served the best flapjacks on open day). And you have to make that decision based on what? A set of results and an Ofsted report? A hackneyed speech from the head and a brief tour, which is only ever as good as the guide you’re allocated? A ‘feeling’ about the place? Playground gossip? None of these can assure me that my child will be challenged or inspired or safe or happy, or in the case of our behemoth local comp, noticed even. The truth is, you never really know whether a school will be the right fit for your child until they are in it. And then it’s too late.
This burden of responsibility has been weighing heavily on me – it’s turned me into a total loon if I’m honest. I think it’s because I’m still haunted by my own experience at secondary school, a sink school where I spent my whole time pretending to be someone I wasn’t, where the most uncool thing you could do was to do well or to do right, where a desire to learn had to be concealed like an angry teenage zit.
I know rationally that schools have come a long way since then (that sink school is now one of the most over-subscribed in London), and that even the most decidedly average school today would be heralded as a pinnacle of excellence if it were flux capacitated back to the 80s.
But at the moment it is the irrational that is triumphing in my head, turning me from bitch to basketcase and back again. I have been intolerable to live with; a bad wife, a bad mother and a bad friend (and let’s not mention my driving). I have taken refuge in my kitchen not only because I find cooking an effective distraction, but also because serving up a favourite homemade meal to those I love is one of the best ways I know to say sorry.
Chicken katsu curry
What better way to make amends than to serve up crispy breadcrumbed chicken with a sauce with that comfortingly nostalgic flavour of curry powder. This Japanese katsu curry is no looker but it’s the dish that my three boys always order if they see it on a takeaway menu and it’s easy enough to replicate at home (just don’t tell them that).
Serves 4 (this recipe is very slightly adapted from one I found on the internet, originally, I think, by Gizzi Erskine)
- 100g flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of cold water
- 200g Japanese panko or other good quality breadcrumbs
- 8 boneless chicken thighs (or use 4 breasts). I have also successfully made this with cod fillets
- 100ml vegetable or coconut oil
- salt and pepper
For the curry sauce
- 1 tbsp vegetable or coconut oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3-5 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 1 tbsp curry powder (I used hot)
- 600ml chicken stock
- 2 tsp honey
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp rice wine vinegar or juice of 1/2 a lime to finish
- Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides then dredge it through the flour, bathe it in the egg, then coat in the breadcrumbs. Leave to one side while you make the sauce.
- Fry the onion and carrot in the oil until soft – about 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the curry powder and cook for another minute. Add the flour, stir and cook for one more minute.
- Gradually add the stock, stirring to avoid lumps then add the honey, soy and bay leaf. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Pass the sauce through a sieve then return to a low heat until ready to serve, adding the garam masala and the rice wine vinegar (or if you are using lime, add this at the end just before serving). Taste – if it needs more salt add a splash more soy.
- Heat the oil over a medium heat and fry the chicken, in batches if necessary, until golden on each side and cooked through. Drain on kitchen paper then serve with steamed basmati rice and edamame, or your choice of greens, with the sauce on the side.