little lamb, little lamb, a birthday goes by so fast…

A big thanks to everyone’s cool responses to my last post. Made me glad I’d shared it.

When I made this dinner last night my camera battery went flat and before it obstinately shut down entirely, I hastily snapped some mediocre photos. The battery in my brain went a little flat too, which is really not the best timing considering after my last post I wanted something more sprightly and upbeat. As always though honesty is what I aim for here. When tired…I write like a tired person.

Surprise! It is my birthday today! Twenty-six. (I know. So old or so young, depending on how you look at it) For the last few years, my birthday has really snuck up on me, and today followed that pattern again. I don’t know exactly what kind of build up I was expecting – perhaps an ad campaign indicating that the nation of New Zealand are all meeting on a hilltop with candles and torches and counting down from 10 while a soft-rock song that got to #3 in the downloads charts plays in the background – but seriously, it properly snuck. I’m both a night owl and an early riser (it’s so great) (it’s really not) and so not only was I awake to see my birthday from the moment the clock ticked over, I’m also here at 6-something AM to greet it again before most other people will. But do you know what I woke up to? A kind and lovely email from the kind and lovely Kate who Tim and I stayed with, sight unseen, along with her husband, in Oxford last year.

I wonder if Redman, Victoria Beckham, Liz Phair and/or Sean Bean, bless his sword and sandals, are also going through this same thought process? Since Wikipedia confirms they too are born on April 17? Back in my day (ooh, just caught myself aging), I wore it as a badge of honour that Victoria had the same birthday as me, but depending on which unauthorised magazine or book you read – you know, the sort that referred to “the Fab Five!” or “Get Spicy with the Girls!” – she was also listed as being born on the 7th. Wikipedia, my eleven-year-old self thanks you for restoring the equilibrium.

This is a very simple recipe that I thought up earlier yesterday. It’s nothing revolutionary – just marinate some chicken and fry it and serve it on rice – but the combination of spices will definitely use up some of the spices just sitting there on your spice rack. They will also imbue the meat with warmth and depth and heat and, of course, spice. Chicken breasts are so boring – thighs all the way! – but Tim and I saw some Waitoa ones on special and so the decision was made. Spices like this embiggen the relatively less flavoursome and tender chicken breast, although if you’ve actually got some thighs to hand then you’re golden. You could always use this marinade for tofu or steak or lamb or whatever, depending on which end of the protein spectrum you’re feeling most like eating. The Coconut Spinach Rice you could always eat by its comforting self, the chicken could be turned into a salad, and so on and so forth, you know how to eat food.

Fried Chicken with Many Spices and Coconut Spinach Rice

A recipe by myself.

350g (or as much as you like) boneless chicken breast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (or some other form of chilli sauce)
Juice and zest of a lime (about 2 tablespoons juice)
2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup long grain rice  
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
Handful spinach leaves

Slice up the chicken into small pieces, mix together the the spices and oil and marinate the chicken in it for about an hour, although you could cook it right away if you like. Fry the chicken pieces, scraping in the leftover marinade, till crisp and slightly darkened. And, of course, fully cooked through. Serve with the rice.

To make the rice – I recommend getting it going before you start frying the chicken – heat up the oil in a pan and tip in the uncooked grains of rice. Stir them around for a minute or two on their own, then add the coconut and mix well. As soon as the coconut starts to brown – it’ll happen fast – tip in 3 cups of water, a decent grind/pinch of salt, and clamp a lid on top of the pan. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the water is all absorbed and the rice grains cooked. At this point, finely slice up a handful of spinach leaves and stir them into the rice.

(Instagram played the role of my camera in this performance. Next time, more proactive battery charging, I promise.)

This is so easy but so exuberantly and uncompromisingly flavoured – the earthy cinnamon and cumin, the compelling heats of the mustard, ginger and chilli and the necessary sweetness and light of the lime against the calm, simple rice is pretty perfect as far as dinner on a cold Monday night goes.

This is my bedroom. Kidding! It’s at La Boca Loca, where Tim and Jo and I went for the muy rico experience that was tequila tasting and tortilla-making demonstration to celebrate their first birthday. Jo herself wrote about it better than I just did at Wellingtonista.

On Friday we (Tim, myself, all our friends) went to an amazing under the sea themed party (specifically, it was named Atlantis to Interzone – not Alanis to Interzone as I initially misread) I was a jellyfish and Tim was a dashing Titanic zombie. I danced wildly with friends and then danced some more. I did wake up with that “oh no, I danced like that” feeling but have decided that there’s no changing who I am and people are going to have to deal with the fact that I’m either standing still or dancing for my life, taking my passion and making it happen, etc. Speaking of aging, the bouncer didn’t believe I was of age, but let me in anyway, probably based on shrewdness and the fact that everyone else in our group was mid to late 20s. “You don’t look 25” he said. “But I do look like a jellyfish,” I coolly replied. I know you’re supposed to love having to pull out ID all the time by this point in life but Tim and I, in the eyes of every gatekeeper in the nation, would seem to resemble a couple of cherubic toddlers dressed humourously in grown-ups’ clothing. So I wouldn’t mind eventually visually growing into my age. I also wouldn’t mind dressing up as a jellyfish again, it was so much fun.

Round of applause to Jo, Jo and Thomas for not so much throwing the party as hurtling it into space to watch it gently fall to earth showering everyone with meteors (I’m trying to say ‘it was good fun’); thanks to Kate who took the above photo.

On Saturday Tim and I paid a near-insurmountable sum ($25! For a movie! But I wanted to see it five times!) to see the filmed production of Company, one of my very favourite Broadway shows. Its cast had so many ridiculously great people in it that I was nearly crying the whole time, even though it was just a movie. Christina Hendricks as self-confessed dullard April had this kind of Marilyn Monroe quality, playing a ditzy character with intimidatingly good comic timing and realness. Anika Noni Rose was glorious and delivered one of my favourite lines in the show better than I’ve ever seen it done (which is once on YouTube and once in a student production of Company, so.) Stephen Colbert and Martha Plimpton had incredible chemistry and Colbert was plain cheek-pinchingly adorable in his turtleneck. Kate Finneran was perfect as Amy. Patti LuPone – who I’ve actually seen in concert – won me over as Joanne with her final flourish in Ladies Who Lunch. And I was so happy they kept the complicated Donna McKechnie dance in it from the original Broadway production, with the neatly full-circle move of casting Chryssie Whitehead who starred in the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. If none of that made any sense, this movie trailer might help.

And now, to get used to how very twenty-six I’m going to be.
Title via: Little Lamb from the musical Gypsy. Initially this was a song I always skipped for the more thrilling If Mama Was Married, or Rose’s Turn, but Laura Benanti’s thrilling soprano made me actually listen to it. It’s slow, but rewarding (especially the last bit.)
Music lately:

Janine and the Mixtape, Bullets. This is a new song – the debut single, I think? – from local singer Janine, whose voice is super prowess-ful and whose enviable cheekbones deserve a round of applause of their own. The video’s an equal match for the song.

The Kills’ cover of Crazy. While part of me is all “Patsy Cline forever!” It’d be remiss of me to deny how deliciously cover-able this song it and how fantastically Alison Mosshart does it.

Next time: Fejoa. Ice. Cream. 

16 thoughts on “little lamb, little lamb, a birthday goes by so fast…

  1. alana says:

    Yum, can't beat rice for a soothing AND easy meal when tired. Or cold. Or hungry. Or all three. I made risotto using coconut cream a few days ago and it was wicked! Nothing revolutionary, I grant you, but it was like having rice pudding for dinner. Fantastic.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Wishing you a wonderful birthday today.

    I think chicken and rice is a winning combination almost all over the world. Adding the words “fried” and “coconut” to your recipe make it that extra, extra bit awesomer.


  3. Joanna says:

    I so look forward to receiving your emails, not just for the food, but for the songs! Your music taste is so similar to mine, but I'm too lazy to go out and find new music – I'd like you to make a mix tape of all your song selections. I'll buy it.


  4. Kay says:

    Happy Birthday again. I love the jelly-fish idea – and your cool response to being quizzed about your age. But what does 26 look like?


  5. Anonymous says:

    I love how much you're using 'embiggen' lately. I also turned 26 this year – it's fantastic. Hope you had a great day. Hannah.


  6. Anonymous says:

    '”You don't look 25″ he said. “But I do look like a jellyfish,” I coolly replied.' this may just be the best phrase I have read all day.

    Also: SO YOUNG.


  7. Anonymous says:

    Happy birthday! So old and so young, you got it so right. I feel that way (oscillating back and forth) often. Hope you had a great day xo


  8. Hannah says:

    I'm so excited that it's your birthday (HAPPY BIRTHDAY HAVE AN AMAZING DAY EVEN THOUGH IT'S ALMOST OVER CAPS LOCK YELL SHOUT HURRAH!) that I'm able to prevent myself from crying that I missed Company. I saw it being advertised ages ago, got all excited, then have been so bogged down in awfulness that I forgot. I can't believe I missed NPH, love of my Assassins and Dr Horribe heart.

    Mope mope.



  9. Emma says:

    I've been spicing it up with lots of cumin lately. I could claim that it was in honor of you, leading up to your birthday, etc., as the penultimate spicefest happened last night, which was your today, which was/is the 17th. Yay, you!

    p.s. Your recipe has five spices. Fried Chicken with the Fab Five:)


  10. 99 says:

    searched your blog for chicken meal ideas and this popped up, made it tonight for my parents and bros and it went down a treat, so good! thank you 🙂


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