A Slip of the Finger

I will never forget, if I live to be a hundred, one of the most mortifying experiences of my life. It took place on the morning when I turned 40. The day had started as a normal Tuesday work day; although I had already received a number of phone calls from close friends as well as the usual bundle of Facebook messages, which I had checked during a tea break. What no-one knew, and not even my long-term fiancé, Jake, was that I had also received a call from my gynaecologist whom I had seen the previous day. It was this call which resulted in my extremely embarrassing experience – even thinking about it several years later, I feel quite sick to my stomach!

By nature I am a very private person, and although I do have friends at work, none of them are so close that I would discuss my personal life with them. Some facts are only ever disclosed to one or two friends whom I have had since school and university days.  Jake is the total opposite to me and is very social and has a huge amount of friends. We used to work for the same company, and the only reason that he was still a fiancé and not a husband at that time was due to the fact that his hard- nosed ex-wife was still making it financially impossible for him to finalise their divorce.  We were struggling to get her to understand that, as there were no children in the marriage, she had no right to demand all the things she felt entitled to after 10 years of being with Jake. Well, that was something we were trying to sort out, but in the meantime, to all intents and purposes, Jake and I were committed to being a lifelong couple.

To get back to my 40th birthday and the phone call which caused me such embarrassment. Jake and I were keen to start a family when we first met and, although we were both very fit and healthy nothing had happened. We were not prepared to undergo any fertility treatments and run the risk of a multiple birth. We had already decided that if we were not going to be able to have children then we would concentrate on the two of us and do as much travelling as possible and enjoy being parents to our four legged fur babies.

Anyway, I am waffling and I need to get back to the day in question when I had received the call from my doctor.  I had been feeling really down for the past few weeks and always tired and my cycle was all upside down and seemed to have disappeared altogether. I was very worried that, Iike my mother, I was already starting early menopause. I had both blood and urine samples taken but before he could give me any information, the doctor’s mobile phone rang and he had to race to the local hospital where one of his patients was in labour.

When I heard his voice on the end of the phone the following day, I was very nervous as I just did not know what I was going to hear. “Hello Kate, this is Dr Jacobs. Firstly, I must apologise for having to rush away yesterday, but babies have a way of making their own arrangements. Anyway, I hope you are sitting down as I have some news which might be rather unexpected.  You are in fact pregnant and that’s why you have been feeling the way you have. From what you told me yesterday, you are probably around 8 weeks already. Congratulations, and I remember you saying that today is your 40th birthday, so double congratulations are in order.  You need to make another appointment for us to do a scan and then we will be able to see if all is progressing the way it should.  I am sure that, with your usual level of good health, there is nothing to worry about at all.”

When the call was concluded I felt totally shocked! I had almost given up the idea of our ever having our own child and, now being 40, had felt that it was highly unlikely that it would ever happen. Once I had recovered I decided that, rather than phoning Jake who I knew had a very busy schedule that day, I would just write him an e-mail and send it directly to his desk. I quickly wrote him a note saying that I had just received the best possible 40th birthday present and started it off with  “Congratulations you Sexy Hunk – your sperm has done the job” and added a grinning emoji and a picture of two clinking champagne glasses, just for good measure. Then I pressed the send button.

It was just a few minutes later that my boss, George Jones, popped his head around my office door waving a piece of paper in his hand with a huge grin on his face. “I think you sent this to the wrong sperm donor Kate!”  I nearly died when I realised what had happened! I had sent it to George instead of Jake and now I was sure that the entire office would hear the news even before my poor fiancé.  What on earth could I do to rectify this most embarrassing of situations! Just bite the bullet, pretend to see the funny side of things and go straight over to Jake’s office to tell him the news in person instead of touching the wretched computer again! Technology? Only good when the person using it concentrates at all times- even when they are suffering from emotional challenges!

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Caramel Sticky Buns

These buns are fantastic accompanied by an espresso.

Ingredients

  • 310 ml buttermilk
  • 55 g sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 640 g all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 170 g unsalted butter, softened

Caramel

  • 165 g lightly packed brown sugar
  • 55 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 60 ml light corn syrup
  • 30 ml water
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Filling

  • 105 g lightly packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • Buttermilk, for brushing

Preparation

  1. In a bowl, combine the buttermilk, sugar, yeast and salt. Set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, eggs and buttermilk mixture in a stand mixer using the dough hook or in a bowl using a wooden spoon, until a dough begins to form.
  3. Add the softened butter.
  4. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. It will be soft and slightly sticky. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, humid place for 1 hour.

Caramel

  1. In a bowl, combine all the ingredients with a whisk until smooth.
  2. Pour into a buttered 33 x 23 cm glass baking dish. Set aside.

Filling

  1. In a bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
  2. On a generously floured surface, roll out the dough into a 50 x 35 cm rectangle. Brush with the melted butter and cover with the brown sugar mixture. Roll the dough into a log 50 cm long. Cut into 12 slices.
  3. Place the dough slices onto the caramel. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, humid place for 1 hour.
  4. With the rack in the middle position, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  5. Brush the buns with buttermilk. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked all the way through.
  6. Let rest for 10 minutes.
  7. Place a large serving platter over the baking dish. Turn out the sticky buns onto the platter.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Roast Tomato Soup

Ingredients

  • 1.5kg ripe tomatoes halved
  • 2 red peppers deseeded and quartered
  • I large onion cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tblsp dried oregano
  • 1 Lt vegetable stock
  • 2 Tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tblsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp white sugar
  • Salt
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Heat oven to 160 degC.
  • Combine the tomatoes, onion, peppers, and garlic in a roasting pan.
  • Add oregano, balsamic vinegar, a good splash of olive oil and sugar and mix altogether using your hands.
  • Roast in the oven for about 30 – 45 minutes until the tomatoes are breaking down and releasing their juices. Its Ok if some of the skin blackens as this adds a slightly smoky flavour.
  • Transfer ingredients to a medium sized pot and add the tomato paste and enough stock to cover all ingredients.
  • Gently simmer for about 1 hour.
  • Transfer ingredients to a blender and blend ingredient into a smooth, thickish liquid.
  • Strain through a sieve back into the pot, adjust seasoning in need, and keep warm.
  • Serve with croutons and fresh basil.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Bourbon Honey Pork Ribs

Ingredients

  • 5 kg raw pork ribs
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 500ml Apple juice

For the Rub

  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Maldon salt
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp Coleman’s mustard powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp onion salt.

For the Bourbon honey Glaze

  • 100 ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mustard sauce
  • 2 tsp gochujang paste (found in any Asian supermarket)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
  • 100 ml Bourbon

Method

  • Combine all the rub ingredients
  • Combine all the glaze ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until use
  • Cut rib racks into more manageable pieces +/_ 5 -6 riblets
  • Cover the ribs in the rub and leave covered in the fridge for 4 hours (preferably overnight)
  • Turn the oven on to 120deg C
  • Put the ribs in a roasting tin, add the apple juice and stock and cover tightly with foil.
  • Cook slowly until the meat is very soft – approx. 4 hours, basting with the juices every hour or so.
  • When cooked, take out of the oven, uncover and allow to cool for about an hour.
  • Increase the oven temp to max (approx. 250degC)
  • Brush the ribs liberally with the glaze and heat in the oven, basting every three minutes or so. Take care that the glaze doesn’t burn.
  • Remove the ribs when they are heated through and they are well coated with the sticky glaze

Serve with a side of slaw and corn on the cob.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Lamb in white wine with green olives.

Ingredients

  • 750g Lamb leg or loin cubes
  • 3 large carrots cut into small cubes
  • 1 large brown onion diced
  • 1 cup green, pitted olives
  • 500 ml lamb stock
  • 500ml dry white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 300ml cream
  • Salt/pepper
  • Olive oil

Method

  • Heat a good splash of olive oil in a heavy based pan and a high
    heat
  • Season the raw meat well with salt and pepper
  • When oil is hot, brown the meat in batches being careful not to
    overcrowd the pan
  • Remove the meat and set aside
  • Turn the heat down to medium and add onions and carrots to
    the pan. Sautee until starting to soften – about 7 minutes
  • Stir through the garlic and herbs and gently fry for about 1 minute
  • Add the wine and stock, cover the pot and gently simmer until the
    meat is very tender – +/- 2 hours – check seasoning half way
    through
  • When the meat is ready, add the olives and simmer for a further
    5 minutes
  • Remove pan from the heat and stir through the cream
  • Serve in a bowl with steamed rice

 Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Caramel and Salted Pretzel Mousse

Ingredients

  • 1 x 380g tin caramel / dulce de Leche
  • 400ml cream
  • 100g egg whites
  • 1 tblsp icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • Crushed salted pretzels
  • Cocoa nibs

Method

  • Whip the caramel/dulce de leche until smooth
  • Whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks are formed
  • Whip the egg whites with a pinch of sugar until soft peaks have formed.
  • Fold the cream into the caramel and then fold in the egg whites
  • Pour into glasses to serve topping with crushed salted pretzels and cocoa nibs (optional)

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Salted Macadamia Buttercrunch

Ingredients

  • 250g raw unsalted Macadamia nuts
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 114g salted butter cut into pieces
  • A big pinch of good salt, such as Maldon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 150g Dark or milk chocolate, chopped
  • Additional flaky sea salt (optional)

Method

  • Toast the macadamia nuts in a large frying pan over a medium heat for a few minutes taking care not to burn them.
  • Remove from pan, allow to cool and chop somewhere between finely and coarsely
  • Form half the nuts into a rectangle about 20 x 25 cm on an ungreased baking sheet or a Silpat mat.
  • In a medium, heavy-duty saucepan, heat the water, butter, salt, and white and brown sugars.
  • Cook, stirring gently if necessary, until a sugar thermometer reads 150ºC degrees.
  • Remove from heat and immediately stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
  • Quickly pour the mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Using a small offset spatula, or similar utensil, spread the warm mixture over the nuts. (If you want to sprinkle additional sea salt over the buttercrunch mixture, do it at this point.)
  • Let set for about a minute or two
  • Sprinkle the chocolate pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes. The residual heat in the caramel will melt the chocolate.
  • Spread the chocolate in an even layer.
  • Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the chocolate and gently press them in with your hands, or a spatula.
  • Cool completely and break into pieces to serve.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris