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Utterly Butterly... caught between diet and binge


Chicken broth

Chicken broth

Chicken broth

January is always a bad month. Last January was pretty traumatic, as we struggled to comprehend that we had a baby on our hands, so I barely had time to think about anything else. I was just desperately trying to keep my head above water and keep the child fed, watered and vaguely content.

This January has been a completely different ball game. After the Christmas revelling calmed down, and with more time to ruminate on my hands, I slid into a low-grade depression. I'm actually embarrassed to admit the cause for my slump as, in the light of real problems, my issue was mortifyingly shallow and superficial. It was my weight, or more specifically, my obsession with my weight.

I have actually been pretty fat at other points in my life, but in the last year I've realised that, fat or thin, I am never satisfied with my weight. I basically have absolutely no idea how to eat properly. At all times I am either binging or purging, and always feeling guilty, no matter what I'm putting in my mouth.

It was once suggested to me that I have an oral fixation because I am a thumb-sucker. The theory was proffered by a creepy psychology student who had a copy of Camus visible in his blazer pocket, so I easily dismissed this theory as bullshit. But as I've got older, I have become more fixated on my oral fixation.

Herself weaned me very early, which I blame for this fixation and for my insatiable appetite. You know when people say they are not hungry? That's just never happened to me. When it comes to food, I can just go and go. I have never declined food because "I've just eaten" or because "I don't want to spoil my appetite". I have no fears of spoiling my appetite, as no amount of eating could ever put me off eating more. If only eating copious amounts was a positive.

My attitude to eating is terribly unhealthy. I have no sense of moderation. At all times I am either being "good" or being "bad" and am incapable of just being normal. If I am being bad, I have been known to eat spoonfuls of peanut butter dipped in chocolate, and consume endless rounds of toast with "slices" of butter.

Butter is the thing I love most in life and no one ever even comes close to serving me what I deem to be an appropriately sized portion that meets my exacting standards. Even when Himself does it, I always have to re-butter.

Most people like to put butter on their potatoes, but I actually prefer to treat the butter as a dip of sorts and enjoy scooping it up with the potato. My mother is so horrified by this, I think she would actually prefer I was doing crack.

So this year, I will endeavour to be "normal" and stop the obsessing and the self-berating inner monologue that has previously accompanied my every culinary decision. The very word 'broth' has puritanical connotations, but Thai spices bring a lovely richness to this otherwise pretty healthy dish.

Puritanical Spiced Chicken Broth

Serves 2 as a main dish.

You will need:

1L (1¾ pts) chicken stock

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 red chilli, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

6 spring onions, trimmed

2 teaspoons peanut butter

6 kaffir lime leaves

Large bunch of fresh coriander, separated into stalks and leaves

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon fish sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese five spice

Pinch of salt

2 breasts of chicken, butterflied

A little oil, for frying

1 tablespoon honey

Juice of 2 limes

1 small butternut squash, grated

A handful of mushrooms, quartered

1 head of broccoli, cut into florets

To make the broth, pour the chicken stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. In a blender, put the garlic cloves, the chopped fresh ginger, the chopped chilli, the turmeric, the trimmed spring onions, the peanut butter, the kaffir lime leaves, the coriander stalks, the soy sauce and the fish sauce, and blitz until a smooth paste is formed. Add this to the chicken stock and simmer gently.

Sprinkle the Chinese five spice powder and a pinch of salt over the butterflied chicken breasts. Heat a little oil in a griddle pan and put the butterflied chicken pieces on it. Drizzle with the honey and grill them for about five minutes each side, or until they are cooked through. Squeeze the lime juice over the chicken breasts, then cut them into slices and set them aside.

Add the grated butternut squash to the saucepan of simmering broth, along with the quartered mushrooms and the broccoli florets. Simmer for a further five minutes.

Ladle the broth and vegetables into two bowls, top with the sliced chicken and scatter with the coriander leaves.

Sunday Independent