Friday, 14 January 2011

This little piggy...

...didn't get to see in 2011. But she was certainly appreciated at Casa Mumbles.

As you may have already worked out, we're a household with a fondness for good home-cooked food. Under the auspices of dear Becca and "Oui Chef!" at I have treated you to some of my own slurpy kitchen experiments as well as the delights of a teenage boy rustling up a family meal in "Cooking with Mother".

It's about time the Ovver Arf and his culinary skills got a look in, dontcha think?

The perfect opportunity presented itself when Becca and Cheffy Daddy announced the "Oui Chef!" theme for January as "You Swine!" in honour of all things porcine.

It just so happens that the Galloping Greek Gourmet had turned out a piggy masterpiece for our New Year's Day family do - rolled leg of pork, stuffed with prunes and apples, and cooked slowly in apple juice.

So, here we go:

First take a boned leg of pork, and open it up flat, cutting away any excess lumps of fat (a bit like performing home liposuction, I imagine).

Sprinkle it with salt and pepper.

Prepare your stuffing ingredients.

Lovingly lay them on the waiting slab of meat (with a couple of slices of bacon for a little extra oomph!).

Roll it all up (careful not to lose your ingredients as you go) and truss it up good and tight (things are starting to sound vaguely S&M now - oo-er, Missus!).

Put it in a large ceramic crockpot with a lid, spread a little honey over the top, pour about half a litre of apple juice over it all and place it tenderly in the over to cook gently for 2-3 hours, basting every now and then with the apple juice and liquids from the meat.

When it is cooked thoroughly, take a bow and serve up to the waiting hungry masses.

(The cooking liquid makes a gorgeous gravy when whizzed up in the food processor to make it smooth and creamy.)

And you lot wonder what I see in him?
(He also makes me laugh and plays a mean guitar - the rest is private!)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

The Year of the Smile

I know it’s a bit late for New Year resolutions. And, to be honest, I usually never make them (if only to avoid the crushing humiliation of having to admit that I’ve broken them a few weeks later).

But this year, it’s different.

For a start, I decided that I would make a resolution that

1) is easier to keep than “lose 35 kg before Valentine’s Day” or "never eat cheese again"
2) might actually make a difference.

I decided that I would make 2011 The Year of the Smile.

Yes, I know what you’re all thinking.

She’s finally flipped, you say as you shake you heads sadly. Off her bloody rocker. On her way to the Funny Farm.

As you read this, you probably have images of me gibbering and hooting at every new proclamation of doom the news headlines bring, whilst trying on a spanking new straitjacket and being guided gently into the back of a padded van by those nice blank-eyed men in white coats.

You could be right.

Tis true - there’s not much to smile about these days.

On a personal level, we’re still struggling and we have no idea if the Universe (and the Greek economy) will give us a break any time in the near future.
And on a wider scale, things are even worse. Money’s too tight to mention (hums and does a little Motown shuffle) wherever you look, floods on a Biblical scale are literally sweeping lives, communities and livelihoods away, the desperate and disenfranchised of the world look set to be ignored for yet another year, random nutters still manage to get hold of guns and go on killing sprees, doomsayers are still rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of the end of the world in 2012 (at least I wouldn’t have to worry about the mortgage then). And to top it all, the nicest man in Ambridge fell off his roof.

And there’s me, saying I’m going to make 2011 The Year of The Smile?

"Yeah, right" you may say.

But that’s the whole point. Things are grim for everyone.

We need smiles now more than ever. It takes no effort on my part to smile and say a genuine “Good morning” to the lady I see every day at the bus stop. I may startle her at first, but hopefully after she’s recovered, she’ll realise that I’m just trying to make contact and respond to the need for human contact and a little warmth that we all crave as much as we do food, drink, sleep and a satellite dish beaming 527 channels of crap into our homes every day. Maybe even more.

So, I am going to make an effort to remember that the folk I come across every day are real people, with real needs, and real problems.

I’m going to look the girl at the supermarket check-out in the eye when I dump my groceries on her conveyor belt and ask how she’s doing. I’m going to grin at the chap at the petrol station and thank him when he gives me my change. I’m going to help the flustered mum get her overladen pushchair down the escalator, and tell her how adorable her kids are.

I plan to try and put my own woes aside a little. They won’t go away, but I’m not alone, and the problems some face make mine look like a pimple on the little toe of the Venus de Milo.

This year, we could all do with a few more smiles.

And if I’m lucky, one of these days, someone may even smile back.