Your hubby invited his friend and the guy's family over for lunch, but you were the one who woke up early on a Sunday morning to start preparing stock for the soup, do a wash, start tidying up the house.
Our friend (the hubby) woke up at leisure and spent an hour sitting on the WC checking his emails on his Blackberry (whoever invented this thing is a pest). Then he connected to Skype and spoke to his mother for another hour and 40 minutes before the guests were due to arrive, he thought of going for a swim with the kids...
What would you do if this should fall on you?
Well, when a Tiger doesn't manifest itself, it gets mistaken for a sick Cat. So you tell him to go take a shower, dress up the kids and do part of the vacuuming. And you threaten to shower and hide in the basement to do more laundry when HIS guests arrive. God forbid since Mr Perfectionist was all set to play the Perfect Host with Gracious Hostess on his side. Heh heh.
You know why they invented the saying ''Give them an inch and they take a mile''. So pissed off.
Anyway, it was a really nice day this Sunday a few days before Spring is officially due to arrive. For those living in equatorial Singapore, it would be difficult to understand. But over here in Germany where the Winter is twice as long as the Summer, daylight and sunlight are looked forward to with much impatience and hope. You understand why they have a high suicide rate in Northern Europe and even bears with a lot of fur and fat hibernate. Otherwise they would be commiting suicide in the forest en masse. Even a chirpy girl like me, when looking at an oncoming train, couldn't help at times wondering what it would be like to throw oneself in front of it and not have to see another cold and gloomy day again.
Not having given in to gloom, I was alive to make lunch today. Not too bad. Prawn and Pork Wontons in Spiced Beef Broth, followed by a Roast Leg of Lamb with Herbes de Provence and vegetables like asparagus, potatoes etc. For dessert, we had yesterday's Chocolate-frosted Spiced Banana Cake (we celebrated Armand's 2nd Birthday last evening) served with a refreshing Fruit Salad.
Everyone loves wontons and they could be eaten fried or cooked in a broth. On normal days, I do a classic chicken and ikan bilis (dried anchovies) stock, but today, I've decided to make a Spiced Beef Broth.
In a pot, I heated some oil and browned a large onion with 6 whole cloves stuck in it. Followed by a cinnamon stick, a few star anises, a few peppercorns, 2 stalks of celery, one large carrot sliced, one fennel quartered, 1 tomato halved and 1 bay leaf. Then I added in about 1 kg of beef (e.g. oxtail or any part of the beef with meat and bones) to be browned as well. When everything is brown and fragrant, add in 6-7 cups of water, 1/2 cup of Sherry, cover the pot and let it simmer for 2-3 hours. Verify the water level and add more water if necessary during the cooking.
Before serving, add in salt to taste, 1-2 tbsp of light soya sauce and some fresh coriander leaves.
The wontons are also easy to make. I add about 80 small peeled raw prawns to about 400g of minced pork. This should make about 40 wontons. I then add in about 10 water chestnuts all chopped up, coriander leaves, 1 tsp of ground coriander seeds, 2 tbsp of oyster sauce, 2 tbsp of light soy sauce, 1 tbsp of sesame oil, 1 tbsp of Sherry, I grate 1 cube of Knorr Tom Yum stock, crack one large fresh egg and mix the whole thing. I usually let the filling sit for at least an hour before wrapping it up in wonton skins you can buy from Asian grocery stores. A big tsp of pork with 2 small prawns and a bit of water chestnut in each skin.
I just dump the wontons to cook in the broth just before serving. When they float onto the surface of the soup and when you see through the wonton skin that the prawns have turned pink, you know they are cooked. In each bowl or soup plate, serve 3-4 wontons with 1-2 slices of carrots and a few shreds of beef in the beef broth. You can garnish with a squeeze of lemon juice, a few bean sprouts, a few peppermint leaves, spring onions and fried shallots.
The Roast Leg of Lamb is one of our favourites. Many people do not like lamb because of the strong smell, but when done nicely, lamb is a very fine and delicious meat.
First, you'll need a big roasting pan or baking tray (mine's 30x40 cm). Lace it liberally with extra-virgin olive oil. For 4 persons, you'll need at least a 1kg leg (with bone). Prick the meat with a steak knife and put pieces of crushed garlic in it (you'll need 3 cloves and you can cut each clove in 3 to poke into the meat). Rub salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence all over the leg. Place the meat in the middle of the pan.
Peel, cut into big pieces and wash 3 big potatoes, 2 carrots, 1 large zucchini, 1/2 eggplant, 2 red Italian bell peppers (Capsicums), a few fresh button mushrooms, 2 onions, 5-6 asparagus, tomatoes in round slices with some Italian basilic on them, 3 cloves of garlic. Arrange them around the leg of lamb in the pan. Sprinkle a liberal amount of olive oil to the veggies, add salt, pepper and some thyme and rosemary.
Preheat your oven to around 200ºC. Put in the roasting pan. Bake for 20 minutes and then take out the pan to turn the lamb and veggies over. Continue baking for another 20 minutes. In France, we like to eat the lamb ''pink'', not totally cooked. If you like it less rare then you'll need to leave it another 10 minutes or so in the oven.
Let the meat rest for 10 minutes before serving (it relaxes the muscles of the meat and makes it tendier). Carve the meat into slices, arrange them on a plate, arrange some of the grilled veggies next to the meat, squeeze some lemon juice over everything and then pour the juice of the meat and veggies from the roasting pan into a bowl and propose it to those who want to eat it with their meat.
The Spiced Banana Cake was the same as the one I baked last week. Only this time I made a Chocolate Frosting to pour over the cake as it was for Armand's 2nd Birthday the day before. Very easy, break 1,5 tablets of dark chocolate into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Add in 50g of butter, 50g of icing sugar, 1/3 cup of milk or more. Microwave for 1-2 minutes. Beat the mixture the minute you get it out of the microwave with a metal whisk. Let it cool a little before spreading it over the cake.
The fruit salad is refreshing and goes well with the cake. Just cut up half a pineapple, some strawberries, raspberries, seedless grapes, blood oranges, apples and whatever fresh fruit you like into not-too-thin slices and put them all in a big bowl. Add in 1-2 tbsp of sugar and 1-2 tbsp of orange liquor like Grand Marnier. Leave in the fridge to sit before serving.
Well, there goes my diet for another day. All the green tea I've been drinking cannot melt away the amount of fat and sugar I consume everyday. I spent last night trying on some of the clothes I used to wear 4 years ago and it was depressing. Armand is now 2, I have no more excuses for being 2 sizes bigger. Anyone has an effective no-pain diet plan?