Tuesday 23 January 2018

A Scare at bedtime... those nocturnal cravings

When a sudden nocturnal craving for pickle strikes, panic ensues, as the last time Sophie White craved pickle, it subsequently transpired she was in a bit of a pickle

Star anise
Star anise

My last thoughts in bed at night are usually about what I'm going to have for breakfast the next morning and, yes, I know that I have a problem.

My last thoughts in bed at night are usually about what I'm going to have for breakfast the next morning and, yes, I know that I have a problem.

A few nights ago, however, I was revisiting the delicious sandwich I'd had for lunch. I was making a fairly ho-hum sandwich from leftover beef, when an all-consuming desire for sauerkraut hit. Never one to not indulge a culinary whim, I immediately procured some and enjoyed it with a daub of Dijon mustard. Again, I am aware that I have a problem.

Suddenly, however, it occurred to me that I might have an even bigger problem on my hands than just obsessive consumption disorder; the last time I had an all-out love affair with sauerkraut, I was pregnant. My overriding reaction to this potential pregnancy was nausea, which unfortunately only seemed to confirm the prognosis.

I said nothing, as I knew that Himself would be delighted. Himself gets a couple of unbroken nights of sleep, and now he's started mooting the idea of a second child. Meanwhile, I cannot imagine what compels people to do it all again.

Some actually seem to experience powerful joy in procreating. I am feeling a little bit cheated in this department, as no 'joy' has really kicked in. But then part of me suspects that I am not a 'joy person' - maybe I am just too cynical for profound emotional responses. I mean, I really like Yer Man at some points - he's fun and he makes me laugh, but I feel expecting joy from the little fellow is putting far too much pressure on him.

Fact is, maintaining ongoing joy is exhausting and unrealistic; I'm over feeling bad about not feeling joyful. For the first few months of motherhood, I enjoyed a play on an Oscar Wilde quote: to have one baby may be considered misfortune; to have a second baby is just carelessness. I need to point out that I was clinically mad at that point, and I am so grateful for my lovely boy, but a few months on and I just don't think I have the fight in me for another newborn.

Of course, several close friends have multiple children and have begun to wage war on my resolve to not be outnumbered by my offspring. Their arguments include wild claims about the kids virtually raising each other, along with sound logic like the fact that multiple children means you're hedging your bets, should you ever need a donor.

Luckily, the sauerkraut test is not accurate, and I am enjoying this riff on pickle, safe in the knowledge that I am not gestating. Phew.

Asian Pickle and Pulled Pork

Serves 4.

For the pulled pork, you will need:

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1-inch piece of fresh ginger

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons chilli powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

600ml (1 pt) chicken stock

3 tablespoons ketchup

3 tablespoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons honey

4 whole star anise

4 bay leaves

1 pork steak, approx 450g (1lb), cut into four

Rice, or a warm bread roll, to serve

For the Asian pickle, you will need:

200ml (7fl oz) rice wine vinegar

200ml (7fl oz) water

100g (3½ oz) sugar

1 tablespoon salt

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

½ red onion, thinly sliced

To prepare the pulled pork, peel the onion, the garlic and the ginger. Roughly chop the ginger and place it in a food processor, along with the onion and garlic. Blitz for a couple of seconds. Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add in the now-blitzed onion, garlic and ginger, along with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, the chilli powder, the ground cumin, the ground cinnamon and the Chinese five-spice powder. Stir over the heat for a few minutes to soften the onion and incorporate the spices.

Add the chicken stock, the ketchup, the soy sauce and the honey to the saucepan, and stir. When the liquid is simmering, add in the star anise, the bay leaves and the pork pieces. Cover with a lid and simmer for 40 minutes to one hour; if the liquid doesn't quite cover the meat, just turn the meat a few times during the cooking.

To make the Asian pickle, combine the rice wine vinegar, the water, the sugar and the salt in a bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar and add the thinly sliced cucumber and the thinly sliced red onion.

The pork is ready when it is tender and pulls apart easily, and the sauce should have reduced down and thickened.

Using two forks, shred the pork and serve it on a bed of rice or in a warm bread roll, whichever you're using, with the sauce spooned over it, and topped with the Asian pickle.

Sunday Independent

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