Chicken Larb and Cheating

Soundtrack: Atlanta Monster Podcast: Episode 2

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want to make the recipe: Chicken Larb

Star Rating: Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This New Year’s resolution was meant to be 52 new recipes in one year. This week I’m working with a fairly flexible definition of new. Actually, technical definition is a little more accurate. And if Futurama taught us anything, it’s that being technically correct is the best kind of correct.

Have I ever used a recipe to make Chicken Larb before? I have not.

Have I previously thrown together something similar using a combination of mince, chilli, soy, lime, garlic, herbs, and onion, and then wrapped it in lettuce leaves to serve? Many, many, many times.

I would have (erroneously) called it sang choy bow as shorthand to describe delicious, fragrant, meaty goodness wrapped in lettuce leaves. This is both culturally insensitive and inaccurate as sang choy bow is of Cantonese origin and Larb is Thai. So that’s an active correction I will be making moving forward.

What I’m saying is I’m kind of cheating this week, as this dish wasn’t completely unknown to me. And you know what? I kind of don’t give a shit because it took a total of 10 minutes to make, the leftovers were even more delicious the next day *, and I will be making it to take to work for lunch, so those are all wins in my book.

[As an aside, the whole reason I went in this direction is because I had a glut of Thai basil thanks to my Aerogarden**, and there really aren’t a lot of recipes which use it outside of Larb and Gai Pad Krapow. If I hadn’t sworn off booze for 2018 I would have totally made this Thai Basil Daiquiri instead].

[Also, I’m aware that after stating last week that I don’t really care for chicken all that much, this is another recipe featuring chicken. I have no adequate response for my hypocrisy, but wanted to make a note that I’m aware of it].

* HOT TIP 1: Shred iceberg lettuce, coriander and Thai basil, top with some of the remaining pickled red onions, dump the warmed, leftover mince on top, and garnish with a healthy plop of chilli paste. I actually think it was better this way than in the wraps)

** HOT TIP 2: It’s awesome having fresh herbs available at all times, and not sobbing as you throw out the slimy remains of the expensive bunch of herbs you only used 1/10th of in that recipe last week, but they don’t warn you that the Aerogarden light is on for 17 hours a day, and that this light is bright enough to be seen from space.


One Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo and Limitations

Soundtrack: My Favorite Murder, Episode 104

I don’t want to read your ramblings, I just want to make the recipe: One Skillet Chicken with Buttery Orzo

Star Rating: FIVE FUCK YEAH STARS ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m typing this with one hand because I had a bad fall snowboarding this weekend. My left arm is trussed up in a sling, swollen and bruised and fairly disfigured, and my movement is so limited that I can’t put on a bra or socks. On the bright side, I didn’t break anything, and I get to have a bra assistant for the week (fancy way of saying one of my friends has accepted the role of doing up my bra each morning when I get to work).

Because of the pain and lack of movement, I thought I might miss making a new recipe this week. The thing is, I was cooking 2/3rds of this dish for friends who just had a baby, and had already been to the grocery store to acquire the ingredients. I was faced with a load of spoiled food – something which I am actively trying to avoid – or getting creative with the preparation.

The chopping portion of this recipe is not particularly onerous, only requiring you to chop one leek and one fennel bulb. Whilst probably not safe, turns out you can chop a vegetable by leaning on it to hold it still. Not leaning so hard that it hurts your dumb injury, but hard enough that the little fucker doesn’t roll away. It wasn’t the most uniform vegetable chopping of my life, but it did the job, and all my digits are still intact.

Onto the food itself. Goddamn it was tasty. And this is surprising because – confession time – I’m not a massive fan of chicken. I find it boring and bland and unimaginative – the tofu of the meat world. But in this context it just works.

As outlined in the recipe I cooked the chicken thighs with the skin on, especially because some of the fat which renders is used to cook the vegetables. Upon serving I did choose to remove the skin because I don’t really like it all that much and it seems like completely unnecessary calories. If you like chicken skin, it looked golden and crispy, and you do you, boo.

But the real star of this recipe was the orzo. I’d forgotten that orzo even existed! In this recipe you cook it with the leek and fennel for a few minutes before adding stock so the grains char a little bit first. The cooking method is similar to cooking risotto, adding 1/2 a cup of chicken stock at a time until it absorbs.

What really brings all the flavours together is the tablespoon of butter (I use lactose-free butter, because I’m lactose intolerant – another limitation) and the juice of half a lemon. It takes the dish from kind of interesting to over-the-top incredible. It gives the orzo a silky lustre, and the lemon adds a top note to the earthy vegetables and cuts through the richness of the butter. I honestly had to stop myself from having a second serving because I still plan to get this food to the aforementioned friends. I give this recipe my first five stars of the year and will be making it again soon. And you should too.

Black-Eyed Peas and Greens and Fake Chorizo. No Fergie.

Cooking Soundtrack: “Control” SZA

I don’t want to read your ramblings, just take me to the recipe: Black-Eyed Peas and Greens

Star Rating: Three mediocre stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️

There are loads of recipes I haven’t made because they require you to soak beans overnight. It’s not a case of ‘Who has the time?’ because honestly, all you do is pour dried beans into a bowl, add enough water to cover them, and the beans do the rest of the work.

Instead, I’m a little capricious with cooking. This means I don’t like to forward plan, preferring to see what I feel like on the day, like some form of culinary commitment-phobia.

However, this recipe landed in my inbox from Budget Bytes earlier this week, and there was something about the very simple combination of beans and greens that sounded tasty and filling, and coincidentally fit into my current diet regime. It was enticing enough that I remembered to go to Whole Foods and spend an exciting Friday night soaking beans.

As an aside, I make another recipe with black-eyed peas, but those come from cans – cans which cost roughly $1.50 each. The half pound of dried beans I bought cost $1.20 and will swell to three times what a single can contains. Sometimes convenience is important, but the price difference will encourage me to try to be a little better planned in future.

Anyway, this recipe is super easy and after going for a 10km run in the morning I was the mood for stodge. I made one adaptation, which is the addition of one Field Roast chorizo, because sausage and beans are a delicious combination and I was very hungry. I also didn’t add as many greens as suggested because I bought stupid kale, and I keep trying with stupid kale, but I don’t like stupid kale, so I didn’t want to mess up the whole dish with a 170g of stupid kale – do you know how much kale that is? It’s a stupid amount.

I’d give this recipe 3.5 stars. Not because it’s not good, but just because it’s pretty basic. I was very comfortably full and I look forward to eating the leftovers, but it’s not a meal that’s going to blow you away. The entire pot did cost a total of $4 to make, so at least I’d say that’s a pretty good outcome.

Lentil and Beet(root)s and Salsa Verde

Cooking Soundtrack: My Favorite Murder, Episode 101

I don’t want to read your ramblings, just take me to the recipe: Lentils, Beets and Salsa Verde

Star Rating: Three-and-a-half OK stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s the start of the year, so of course I’m doing a ridiculous ‘detox’ (although my friend, Dr Arnie, pointed out that there’s no such thing as a detox, and that toxins aren’t real in this context, so let’s call it an Unnecessarily Restrictive Diet Which Makes Me Feel Good About Myself, or URDWMMFGAM for short). What this means is that I’m only eating a plant-based diet and taking a load of tablets which make me poop like a freight train. It’s Day 3 and I feel like death.

What does make me feel good is cooking anything from Anna Jones‘ cookbooks. My friend, Emma, introduced me to them when she was visiting and I’ve become an avid fan. Her recipes are all vegetarian, and so delicious they can make you wonder why you need meat at all (almost).

Given the restraints of the URDWMMFGAM, it’s important to me that the food I make is delicious and satisfying. It’s also winter, so a certain degree of stodginess is also key.

Puy lentils (or French lentils as they’re known in the US) maintain their shape, unlike those lazy red ones which are wont to fall apart. Make sure you rinse them thoroughly as they can contain tiny stones which are not good for taste or dental work.

Beets are known as beetroot in Australia. We like to put the pickled slices of beetroot you get from a can on our burgers, because it’s fucking delicious. The roasting method in this recipe is closer to steaming as you put the raw beetroot chunks on a foil-lined pan, drizzle with oil and a load of vinegar, then cover and cook for an hour. This gives them a slight pickled flavour, and while I enjoyed it to a degree, if I were to make this recipe again I’d omit the vinegar and open roast until the beetroot was slightly caramelised.

HOT TIP for peeling beetroot. If you don’t want to dye your palms a fetching shade of pink, rub your hands with a little bit of oil before handling them. Works every time.

Anyway, if you would like to make the recipe you can find it here (on a blog with far more impressive writing and photography skills than my own). I halved the recipe, because while it was pretty tasty, there are very few meals I want to eat four times in succession (besides laksa).

This isn’t my favourite Anna Jones recipe – normally I’m raving about whatever I’ve most recently made to anyone who’ll listen, but this one felt like it was missing something. But it was healthy and that beetroot will certainly make my bathroom trips more colourful tomorrow. 3.5/5 stars.

2017 Musical Year in Review


I have a confession to make. This year I had tickets to eight shows which I didn’t end up attending. In most cases I knew ahead of time I wasn’t going to be able to make it, so I gave the tickets away – mostly to friends, occasionally to strangers on the musiclovers@ emailing list at work.

For the others, on one occasion we missed the bus to the venue, another I got caught back at work, but for two specific gigs I just couldn’t be arsed. The idea of getting off the couch and getting myself to the venue was beyond my capabilities at the time so I stayed home and felt guilty about it. My goal this year is to not be quite so capricious with ticket buying because it’s wasteful, other people may have missed out seeing the show while I sat at home, and that’s money that could have been spent on something else.

What I did manage, however, was to see 22 shows and a fucking incredible festival in Houston, which brings the total number of bands I saw this year up to 30. Without further ado, my top 5’s for 2017:


This was tough. Not because I had so many to choose between, but because I honestly didn’t listen to a lot of new albums this year. This is odd for me – please tell me it just wasn’t a great year for my kind of music, and not that I’m getting to that age where you stop listening to new music? I also think those daily mixes that Spotify serves up can keep me in an old music loop because they are just so good. Another resolution to add to the pile – listen to more new music.

  1. SZA – Control
  2. Kesha – Rainbow
  3. Spoon – Hot Thoughts
  4. Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark
  5. Arcade Fire – Everything Now


Well didn’t everything get poptastic in 2017?

  1. New Rules – Dua Lipa
  2. Passionfruit – Drake
  3. SW9 9SL – Four Tet
  4. Sorry, Not Sorry – Demi Lovato
  5. On Hold – The xx


  2. Royal Blood
  3. Radiohead
  4. Arcade Fire
  5. Beck

Honorable Mentions: Run the Jewels, DJ Shadow, Jens Lekman, Backstreet Boys, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Flaming Lips, Cake, Maceo Parker, Lizzo.