A High School Potluck

It’s not easy to take a good hard objective look at high school when you’re still in it. Looking back at the age of thirty-five (what?) I’m a little mortified at how much importance I placed on it all. I’m especially mortified at the importance I placed on perms and oversized red glasses. It makes me wonder if kids in twenty years time will look back and agonize over all the skinny jeans and hoodies. My mother always told me that high school wouldn’t matter so much, that the friends I’d make and keep for life would be the friends I’d meet in university and beyond. And to a certain extent she was right…but I think most of us are lucky enough to have held on to a few pals we shared all the bad perms with. Jennine, Joanne, Colleen and I (their perms were significantly hotter then mine) try to get together every few months or so for a meal and a laugh. If it was up to me it would be a once a week deal, but between being moms, having jobs, and living in four different parts of the city, it takes a lot of persistent planning. I’m carless (but a kick-ass pedestrian, just not entirely up for walking to Kilbride or Mount Pearl) so the ladies are great enough to make the trek downtown to the little red kitchen. The only condition being they have to carpool so they can share my one parking permit.

Joanne couldn’t make it to our gathering this time around, but it was a pre-Christmas miracle that the rest of us got together at all. Everyone was gunning to cook something so we decided on a little potluck. Hosting was a totally selfish act…I like leftovers more than I like some people and between the balsamic chicken and hashbrown casserole, I ate like a queen for the rest of the week. And frankly, I’m a little insulted that as I type the word ‘hashbrown’ it’s coming up underlined in red. I think its earned its place in our lexicon. It should be one word. They turned ‘bootylicious’ into a word.

My humble contribution to the evening was soup and a salad. A first crack at mulligatawny and a Jamie Oliver salad. A weird salty and sweet combination, but it worked with the chicken and the casserole. Four completely different dishes that you would never ever think to put together. Kind of like pals in high school.


1 kg chicken pieces
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
60g butter
12 black peppercorns
6 whole cloves
6 cups chicken stock
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 cup cream

Trim the chicken of excess fat and sinew (gross…using the word sinew in a recipe is totally uncalled for). Combine the flour, curry powder, turmeric and ginger, and rub into the chicken. Heat the butter in a large pan and cook the chicken until lightly browned on all sides. Tie the peppercorns and cloves in a small piece of muslin and add to the pan with the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat slightly and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add the apple and cook for 15 minutes further. Remove the chicken from the pan and discard the muslin bag. When cool enough, remove the skin from the chicken; finely shred the flesh (ewww, worse than sinew). Skim any fat from the surface of the soup. Return the chicken to the pan. Stir in the lemon juice and cream, and heat through gently. Garnish with thinly sliced ginger.

From The Curry and Chilli Cookbook (Bay Books, 2003)

If you’re slightly disturbed by the photo of the ‘Olde Tyme Pudding Bag’ you should be. I didn’t have any muslin and grabbed this at the store at the last minute. After putting 6 cloves and 12 black peppercorns in it and tossing it in the pot, I thought about how easier things would have been if I had just cut off a little corner and fashioned an ‘Olde Tyme Pudding Mini-Sac’. Too little, too late. At least now I know what a giant curried pudding bag looks like in my garbage can.

This recipe is from a little gem of a cookbook that came out of the sale bin at Coles almost nine years ago. Best five bucks I ever spent. Except for that yellow acrylic giraffe sweater I nabbed at Value Village in ’99. I used bouillon cubes for the stock and it was a titch too salty, so mind yourself and your salt. Other than that, really lovely. Don’t let the apple scare you, because it scared me (I have this thing about fruit in curry). It works. Use a granny smith for that extra tang. I sounded like such a foodie there that I just punched myself in the face.

Southern Pecan and Apple Salad

Olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup pecan halves
2 red or green apples
2 heads Belgian endive, leaves removed, washed and spun dry
a couple of handfuls of mixed leaves, such as arugula and radicchio, washed and spun dry

For the dressing:

Zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly rub a sheet pan with some olive oil and put to one side. Put a large saucepan on a low heat and add your butter and sugar. Leave on a gentle simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it catching, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture starts to darken. Gently stir in your pecans until they’re well coated in the caramel syrup. Be careful not to splash yourself, and don’t be tempted to have a taste because hot caramel can burn quite badly. Once coated, tip the nuts onto the oiled pan and use the back of a spoon to separate them out into one layer. Leave them to cool so the caramel can harden on the nuts. Meanwhile, make your dressing. Put your orange zest and juice, Dijon mustard, and white wine vinegar into a large salad bowl and add a good lug of extra virgin olive oil. Whisk them, then have a taste. You want to get a nice balance between the sharpness of the vinegar and the smoothness of the oil, so add a little more oil if needed, then season carefully with salt and pepper.

Core, quarter, and thinly slice your apples and add to the bowl with all your leaves. Break the cooled pecans apart, add half of them to the bowl, and use your hands to delicately toss and dress everything. Serve on one big platter, or divide up between plates, and finish by crumbling over the rest of your beautiful caramel pecans.

From Jamie’s America (Penguin, 2010)

I’m not going to say Jamie let me down a little on this one because we’re awesome pals and he might stop inviting me over for tea with Jools and the youngsters. I think it boils down to me and lack of perfect ingredients (Sobeys, I’m looking at you). No arugula in sight and really bitter radicchio. I think radicchio is supposed to be bitter, but this was bitter in a way that made me slightly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in that-oooh, you think you’re all exotic using this weird red cabbage thing when you should have just stuck with romaine-kind of uncomfortable. Maybe it was that particular batch. Or maybe it was that I’m not my friend Darka who uses radicchio all the time and makes it taste like angels singing in your pants. Dunno. And the dressing was a wee bit on the sweet side for me. I should have handsqueezed (I made up that word to piss off Merriam-Webster) the orange but I used my fancypants (so there) citrus juicer and may have gone a little overboard. But you know what? I’d make this again. With just arugula to counteract the sweetness and a little less orange juice/zest in the dressing. The Belgian endive was weird but didn’t morally offend me or anything. And you can’t go wrong with brown sugary pecan goodness.

And brownie sundaes for dessert. Food was never this good in high school. But neither was our taste in perms and eyewear. I guess everything gets a little bit better with age.

4 thoughts on “A High School Potluck

  1. Right Miss Willow, as soon as you get your little tiny self back on The Rock, it’s everyone over to my place! Sorry I missed out on this culinary experience at the Little Red Kitchen. Jennine & the rest of us will have a couple of get togethers in your honour while you are away :o)

  2. Hey their, are you going to give us the recipe for brownie sundaes ? I got a chocolate potluck at work for February ! LoL

  3. Hey! I had a perm in high school too where’s my brownie? Looks awesome Willow and kudos to you for putting fruit in a curry. When are we going to see Susan Evoy’s pineapple curry recipe in the little red kitchen?

  4. My mouth is watering again as I look at the pictures. By the way, Didi forgot to mention that the day after she got that $50.00 perm she tried to convince her mother to get it taken out (if that is how you say it.) Perhaps it something like Jamie’s salad. The idea was great, but the outcome was not exactly what was expected. We grew up with Mom putting apples in curry. I thought it was pretty good.

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