Monday, 20 February 2012

due to high volume of calls, unfortunately we can't answer your calls right now. please try again later.

Okay, I am not going to mess about here. Because, messing about and going round the bushes to avoid the point; the subject matter, seems to be the only thing that I am experiencing right now and I don't like it. 
So I'll talk to you straight to the point. Bish bash bosh and done!

As you might already know, Toby and I have been and we most probably will be, busy, for the last six months and the following six months or so, or more, in an attempt to make that wonderful dream home. Usually, most of our weekends disappear in a blink of an eye and we don't often get to sit down and do nothing or do what we enjoy. 
So, last few weekends, I deliberately made a conscious decision that I would like to sit down, be a little lazy and do what I love the most. That little luxury of my own enjoyment; nothing fancy, nothing expensive, nothing extravagant, nothing special, but one thing that I enjoy the most on Sundays that I hadn't been able to do for so long; READING MY SUNDAY PAPER.

Since I love reading, I get my Sunday papers delivered to the door which makes my life so much easier, thanks to the wonderful delivery service. Every Sunday morning, I'd get up, get my paper and Toby will make some coffee. We sit on our sofa, sip strong cups of coffee and plan our day. I might scan through the papers quickly while talking if I fancy or I might save them for later.
Last few Sundays ago, my plan to just read failed due to the weather. 
The snow had caused a delay in the depot and delivery couldn't be made unfortunately. 
I understood that. So I walked to my local shop and got my own, myself. I had wet feet, was freezing cold and had put on some trampy look with snotty nose, but understood that the trouble couldn't have been avoided.

Today, actually yesterday now, I again planned, I really would like to just sit down and do nothing but read. 
I hoped that I will have nice relaxing Sunday, just the way as we would have enjoyed in the old flat when things didn't need all that DIY jazz.
It started off just so. 
We had nice cups of coffee, enjoyed cooked breakfast and shared some civilised conversations. But guess what? Well I am missing my paper, AGAIN.

I just don't get it. 
So there I was, going ''now what?''. 
I can't possibly think of any reasons why the paper wouldn't make it to my door. Is it, a) blown away with wind, b) taken by the man who couldn't be bothered to get to the shop, c) no paper was printed because staff wanted have lazy Sunday like me or d) none of these but just some technical fault?
So I find the number to make fuss about my disappointment. I got to the old emails, found the number to call, reached the phone and made that important call to offload my dissatisfaction of guaranteed service that didn't happen.
Oh, guess what? Now my phone is not working. 
I don't have outgoing tones nor incoming tones, although the area shows a good service connections, but for some reason my landline is experiencing some problems, that cannot be solved right now at this second when I needed the most, so I can find out what kind of problem the newspaper delivery company was experiencing. But neither of these can be happening because they are all currently out of order!
And that is all.

Rhubarb and Ginger beer jelly with ginger syllabub

for jelly
400g rhubarb, chopped roughly
2tbsp caster sugar
2inch stem ginger, chopped
1 orange zest and juice
400ml ginger beer
6 gelatine sheets, soaked in cold water then drained

for syllabub
1tbsp caster sugar
1tbsp stem ginger syrup
60ml medium white wine
30ml Cointreau
some lemon and orange rind
thin slice of root ginger
some double cream

for garnish
some Amaretti biscuits, broken up

This is gorgeously light jelly that will bring your dinner to the fine end. 
Sharp rhubarb flavour is clearly there with gingery tang, and cream brings the whole thing together with a little nutty bite from the Amaretti biscuits.

To make jelly, start by mixing rhubarb, sugar, ginger and orange zest in the oven proof dish. Roast them for about 25mins or until tender at 160º. When cooked, cool them down a little. Blitz your rhubarb mixture in the food processor until smooth and push it through the sieve. This is the most fiddly part of this recipe but this will ensure lighter, clearer and smoother finish of jelly. Obviously if you don't have time or patience to do this, that is fine too.
Now warm up about 100ml ginger beer and whisk in the gelatine sheets until dissolved. 
Pour in the gelatine mixture into the rhubarb liquid which should make about 300ml and the rest of ginger beer.
Divide them into either big jelly mould or individual glasses and leave them to set in the fridge.

To make ginger syllabub, mix in all ingredients except cream. Leave this mixture for 24hours to infuse the flavour into the booze. 
Long while ago I discovered Heston Blumenthal's trifle recipe and highly recommend this method as it gives good mellow background flavour to the cream. 
Whisk double cream lightly and add this boozy mixture into the cream.

When jelly is set, spoon the syllabub over jelly (or you can use piping bag like I did here) and sprinkle some Amaretti biscuits.

Obviously problems can happen and things could go wrong. And yes, although I might have sounded like a grumpy cow but when reasons are explained, I will appreciate it. I promise.
Oh, and I want you to know, I feel better now.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

making friends with the skeletons in my closet.

I had a little conversation with my friend, F the other day.

What I get to hear more these days, and of course, I think this is because of my age, is that they are expecting; expecting to become parents.
For someone who doesn't naturally have that mother nature kind of thing, or perhaps just another fear of all things too responsible, I found the news both exciting and overwhelming.
Nevertheless, of course it is something that I congratulate those with great respect.

I am not entirely sure when my phobia of parenthood came apparent. 
But what I recall very clearly is those memories of my mother telling me, 'Wait until you have your own and then you will know what it is like. I so wish you have one just like you'.
I think my dad seldom said the same thing too. 
Somewhere along those lines of which, often sounded more like a curse than a well wish.

I kind of understand why now. And with regret, I have no doubt that it must have been so difficult for them to cope with a tear away teenager, whose only wish had been nothing but unconventional in all traditional senses of my own culture, that came as a chronic headache. 
How were they supposed to know how to handle and deal with such, when everything was first time and a new experience for them? 
At the end of the day, they were learning, weren't they? Learning to be good parents. Learning to raise us well to become a decent grown ups who can represent the family for all those years to come.

As much as I was given plenty of stuff to fill my days with, and as much as I really did appreciated my parents had to work hard to provide all those things that we took advantages of, it was always quite difficult to accept they had to work as much as they did. 
In my dream world, my dad was at work and mum was always around us; preparing our pack lunches that we'll be proud to brag about, spending afternoon playing fun games together, keeping us a good company to consolidate every little trouble we're going through and singing along while cooking up an amazing supper for her loving husband whose day work must have been relentless and restless.
But in reality, things didn't quite happen that way.

I think maybe that was why.
It is not that I don't want to have children or I am not maternal enough. It's just, that I seem to struggle to come to terms with the possibilities of failing to provide my dream world. Of which, fundamentally, it is absolutely ridiculous or at least quite impossible idea these day and age. 
I look around of all proud parents of this what I'd call, financially disrupted time of gloominess, and actually every mums and dads are doing marvellously amazing jobs. I am not sure how they do it, but they all seem to manage it one way or the other and most importantly, be happy.
That sense of being complete as a part of natural progress of your endearing love and the reward of your hard work, the children themselves comes as a invaluable joy and an achievement. 

Come to think of it, it does all make sense.
It's just, it took me all these years to revisit my childhood to realise what has caused this issue.  And going back to the beginning, my friend and I both agreed, we are only grown-ups because of those realisations of our issues. The ability to recognise our issues gives us the ultimate power to change and to better ourselves. 
We all thrive to be good and well and this cannot be possibly happening without making friends with those nasty skeletons in our closet.

Orange glazed beets and carrots
Serves 4 as side

mixture of different varieties of carrots and beetroots
1 juice of orange
1/2 lemon juice
1/2 tbsp coriander seed, crushed
handful of mint, chopped
good drizzle honey
some toasted sesame seeds
pinch of salt and pepper
some olive oil

I'm sure most of you will have your own ways of roasting these beautiful vegetables. But if you haven't tried this combinations of flavours before, I recommend you to give it a go. It is deliciously sticky, fruity and fragrant. Although roasted, last drizzle of mint gives wonderful freshness to the dish. 
Just as a reference, I used 5 small orange carrots, 4 small purple carrots and 3 medium sized beetroots.

Preheat the oven at 180º.
Chop your beets and carrots however you like. I tend to half them in length way or quarter them of they are too big. Make sure they are all similar in size to ensure even cook. I peeled my beets and carrots but again, it is entirely up to you.
Put them in a roasting tray and dress them with oil, coriander seeds, freshly squeezed orange juice. Season them with salt and pepper.
Roast them for about 30mins then drizzle a good helping of honey and roast them for further 10mins or until they're tender.

While that's cooking, make mint dressing by mixing chopped mints and lemon juice together with pinch of salt.

When beet and carrots are ready, toss them with mint dressing and some toasted sesame seeds.

We are the effects of the cause.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

finding home, in people.

I received a parcel that I thought I wasn't expecting.
Scanning carefully through the label on the box, I recalled the conversation with my sister on new year's eve. 

My sister had mentioned about my new address and the post code. She tried to copy out from the Christmas card that I'd sent but she was having trouble with my hand writing. 
She said she always felt bad not having done anything in response to my letters and cards, that she wanted send me a few bits and she stressed she was missing me terribly.
I could sense the tears in her voice as she spoke, but I didn't think it was anything unusual. I tried to cheer her up and suggested she should come to visit me soon and perhaps we could spend some time together in summer. 
I told her I now even have a spare bedroom where I could put her up so she doesn't have to crush on the sofa anymore. She laughed cheerfully and said it didn't matter where she sleeps as long as I'm with her. Her voice shook a bit.
Although she was exceptionally emotional unlike her usual self, I could not have guessed why she sounded how she sounded.

In the box I received from my dear sister, Sara, amongst all the things she had carefully chosen for me to remember our childhood together, was a letter.
A hand written letter in a bright orange envelope that read 'to my dear loving sister Su'.

Every sentence has come as a shock and I could not stop the waves of emotions crushing my heart. My heart beat stopped.
I was so upset to be the last person to find out the truth of what had been going on at home for the last 12 years of my absence. I was so sorry and thankful that my family had wished and worked so hard to protect me and my feelings so badly. I felt so guilty to be the one being so far away and to have lived a different life. I felt so sick and angry that I couldn't do anything to help or change what's happened to my family.
They had lost it all.

I knew my parents business wasn't going too well. But I had assumed that it was just the way things were going in all places. With the downturns of world economy, I presumed maybe times were just very tough back home, but never once imagined that my parents will get to the point of losing it all. 
They now have nothing. 
Everything they earned, owned and worked hard for was gone and taken away.

My sister added, 'Mum, dad and I are going to have to move out from the house we're in, possibly in matter of few weeks at the most. Our brother will be okay. He's still in university and is going to finish his final year. 
The reason why I am writing this to you isn't to worry you or upset you. I just want you to know that things had not been too great over here and that may be the reason why mum was so down. 
I thought about moving out of home for a long time when things were too difficult. There were more times that we didn't get on than we were happy. 
The situation we are in is a utter mess but no one could have helped or prevented what was ahead of mum and dad. It is just unfortunate. We just need to do what we have to do to keep this family together. You have worked hard for what you achieved and you just need to keep it going. That would be one thing that mum and dad never wish to loose. Love you sis. Maybe I'll see you this summer and hopefully things will be better then.'.

Seeing what is final on paper in black and white, made me realise how much I relied on home. 
Although I never wished anything from my parents, my inner strength to carry on life abroad heavily relied on emotional support from my family. Knowing that my backbone was rooted deeply in the other side of world in my home, provided me the foundations of my integrity. Knowing that I can find home and comfort in familiar voices of my family has always got me further. 
It saddens me that home I remember with full of loving memories that my family shared together isn't a place for me to go back to anymore.

I cried and cried. 
Feeling completely out of control, I could not help myself sobbing. Tears weren't enough to make me feel better but I didn't know what else I could do to make things better. 
It still feels raw.
Thinking of all those painstakingly horrible years of trouble my family had gone through, only wishing to put things right, it must have been an awful time for all of them. What has happened is clearly a tragedy and the scar will take long time to heal.
But money comes and goes, and the life is what we make of. 

The place I called home is only home because of the people. 
I'll find home in people, in people that I love unconditionally. For better or for worse...

Rice Soup
serves 4

150g basmati rice
2 garlic cloves, sliced and shallow fried
3inch long leek, finely sliced
1liter vegetable stock
pinch of salt and white pepper
rice bran oil
1tbsp sesame oil
handful of cooked peas and some raw sugar-snap peas
chopped spring onions

This dish brings all the memories of my childhood. I was often unwell and my mum used to make this to comfort me.
I love the simple flavour and the silky texture of this dish. If you want to make this more meaty, you can swap the vegetable stock to chicken or beef and add some shredded meat.
My dad often made oxtail broth and made very rich rice soup for all of us in cold winter days.

First of all, soak rice in cold water for 10mins to remove some starch. Rinse thoroughly and drain.
Over a medium heat, add a little rice bran oil into your pan and saute the sliced leeks until golden. Add the rice along with 1tbsp sesame oil and a good pinch of cracked white pepper. Give it a good stir for 2mins and add the stock and simmer for 15-20mins. Stir occasionally.
Final dish should still have a fair bit of liquid. You can add more stock to make them more soupy if you prefer.

While rice is cooking, prepare your peas. Finely slice sugar-snap peas as it will be used raw.
Once rice is cooked, make sure to season them with little salt and divide them into four bowls. Garnish them with fired garlic, peas and some spring onions.

All is not lost. 
Although it may all seem so unkind, peaceful mind and solidity of our soul will carry us through.