Chicken Stir-Fry and…The Curtain Falls on Archie’s Gap Year

Thank you for all your prayers.  The Good Lord has looked after me.  The last day of Archie’s Gap Year was Sunday, January 15.

This is how I manufactured it.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Ginger, Asparagus and Cashews

Last week Archie went away for a few days.  While he was resting/holidaying/partying and spending while definitely not working I, by a stroke of good fortune, found by chance a College based in Sydney holding late auditions for their 2012 intake.  The course sounded perfect for Archie and without hesitating I completed an on-line application (pretending of course, to be Archie).  Just to be doubly sure they received the application I followed up with a phone call and explained Archie was presently unavailable so would they mind speaking to me about Archie’s application.  By another wonderful stroke of good fortune, the woman on the other end of the phone was only too happy to speak to me.


By the time I had hung up the phone Archie’s plans were set in stone.  Archie needed to be at the College by Thursday (he was only returning from more misadventures on the Monday) and the auditioning process would take all day.  He would have to recite a monologue, sing two contrasting songs, sit a music theory exam and survive a movement audition.  Perfect!


I was so excited for him.  I phoned Archie who without surprise was hostile and non-receptive.  He said, ‘Mum, you need to get my permission before you go ahead and sign me up for these kinds of things’ and he said, ‘Well you’ve just ruined my plans for 2012’.  And that was hysterical because the whole point is, Archie has no plans.


Have everything ready before you heat the wok

But I said, ‘Archie, this is the college for you.  You’ll get to sing, dance, perform and play in a band all day long.  How perfect is that?’  And he said, ‘We’ll talk about it when I get home’ which was quite funny because that’s what my father used to say to me when I’d been naughty.  But Archie’s reaction didn’t rattle me because I know,  ‘mummy knows best’.


Archie dragged himself off to the audition but came home that night transformed.  He was absolutely buzzing.  He loved the college.  He  found the auditioning process exhilarating and said the movement audition could have gone a lot better and said how he ‘smashed’ the acting audition, and how he loved the singing audition but how he thinks he failed the music theory exam.


But the next day he received an email telling him he’s been accepted into the Australian Institute of Music to do a Bachelor of Music majoring in Music Theatre.  College starts on January 30 BUT because Archie didn’t do music for the HSC (against the wishes and advice of his mother), he has to do a music theory bridging course and that started today.


And Archie is super excited.


And I didn’t say much but I did say, ‘Will there be a day when you thank me Archie?’


And Archie said, ‘Thanks mum’.


Are you, or do you hope to be, an interfering mother?


Because Archie’s thank you was so sincere I made him one of his favourite dinners – Chicken Stir-Fry


Dinner’s ready!

Chicken Stir-Fry with Ginger, Asparagus and Cashews


Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This could be expensive if the vegetables (like asparagus) isn’t in season but just substitute for what’s seasonal otherwise this is a well-priced family meal

Serves:  4

3 tbspns vegetable oil

1 red onion, finely sliced

500g (1 lb) chicken thigh meat, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tbspns finely julienned ginger

2 tbsps kecap manis

2 tbspns fish sauce

1 tbspn palm sugar

1/2 tspn freshly ground white pepper

1 bunch thin asparagus, cut in half lengthways

1 red capsicum cut into strips

1/2 cup roasted cashews

sliced spring onion to garnish

In a wok, heat vegetable oil until hot.  Add onion and chicken, stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add garlic and ginger, stir-fry for another minute.  Add kecap manis, fish sauce, sugar and pepper, stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked, about 5 minutes.  Add asparagus and red capsicum, stir-fry for 1 minute.  Toss through cashews.  Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the spring onion.  Serve with steamed Jasmine rice.

This recipe is from Spirit House.

Want to read more???  My new post, What a Shocker, is now up on JustB





  1. Congratulations Archie! I have a friend who’s keen to go to the AIM, but he’s not sure he can afford it. It sounds like an amazing place though!!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Celia, I’m not sure how Archie can afford it either. Filling out the forms for Fee-Help as we ‘speak’. Archie’s first day went very well but he realised it’s going to be a VERY intense course. No spare time to think of.

  2. Your devotion has paid off! Well done…

  3. Charlie I don’t think I have ever laughed as much as I have over the last few days since I discovered your blog and proceeded to read every past post.
    Also this stir-fry looks delicious.

  4. That is so exciting for Archie. Mummy does know best 🙂 I am loving reading your blog by the way!

  5. Congratulations!! I think I would have done the same as you. Although not all kids would have been as good as Archie and actually be thankful for what you’ve done for him.

    I’m sure you’re very glad that it’s finally over and he’s onto the next stage of his life. 😀

    Love the stir-fry recipe as well, I just had a duck stirfry tonight, although I didn’t cook it at home. 😛 I should really eat in more as it can save so much money!

  6. Wonderful news for Archie! And way to go, Mum! I’m afraid I don’t have the courage to be much of an interfering mother. I take the coward’s route: if my children are going to be unhappy, it should be their own darn fault! No blame for me! Seriously, I agree that parents often can see what’s best for their children, and I do try to influence mine in the right direction. I think I operate more with guilt and the pressure of my expectations and guilt (oh, did I already say guilt?).

    I love a chicken stir fry! Why does yours look so much more beautiful than mine? : )

  7. I hardly think of myself as “interferring” just guiding along my kids!! I heard once that as they become older we become less of a”parent” and more of a “consultant” to our children. I believe you did exactly as I would have done! In the end, it was up to Archie to perform and that he did!! Well done! I’m sharing in your motherly pride and his success!!

  8. I always love chicken and cashews together and I think I could eat about three helpings of this dish…after all I am a glutton. 😉

  9. You crack me up. Way to get your son moving! And obviously you knew what he’d like and be good at! Nice.

    Three questions from a clueless American:

    What is “kecap manis”?

    Is “capsicum” a sweet red pepper?

    And is “palm sugar” brown sugar?

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Hi Gretchen, I’ve heard it’s actually quite difficult to buy Thai cooking ingredients in the USA. You can buy these things at an Asian supermarket but it needs to be one that doesn’t only sell Chinese ingredients. (Although Kepcap Manis and palm sugar should be available at any Asian supermarket in fact these items are now so popular here we can buy them at any supermarket, but in the Asian aisle. Kepcap Manis is an Indonesian soy sauce. It is thick and sweet. A capsicum is what you would call a bell pepper??? They come in red, green and yellow (I should have taken a photo before I chopped it up!) Palm sugar comes from the palm tree as a sap and then it’s boiled down until it becomes thick. It sets quite hard and you buy it in pieces and I use a knife to shave off the amount I need. It has a fudge-like consistency and tastes like caramel. If you can’t find it, just substitute with brown sugar. I hope this helps Gretchen! xx

      • Yes, I thought that’s what the pepper was – and yes, I’ve seen the palm sugar, but not sure I’ve seen it locally. As for the Kepcap Manis, I could look here – we actually have a very large Asian community here, strangely enough, including an Asian grocery store…though I’m not sure if it’s “Thai” or “Chinese” – like you said. I’ll check into it, though! THANKS for your help!!!! YUM!!!!

  10. Great story, glad it worked out so well for Archie; he’s a lucky kid to have such a good mom!

  11. Good for you! Sometimes they really have no clue (although they think they know it all! And of course want it all too) I’m sure he will love it there!

    Recipe looks great too!

  12. How fantastic. I bet some day he’ll thank you even more sincerely. And, that dish looks like a great way to celebrate. I love chicken with cashews, and it’s been too long since I’ve had it.

  13. Congratulations Charlie- I mean Archie!! I’m so glad he was able to be back in time so you didn’t have to audition for him too 🙂 sometimes our darlings need that push from the nest, don’t they?
    My daughter wanted a job at the local Woollies but her application was knocked back half a dozen times. I waited until they were crazy busy then approached the manager, she started the next week. in fact she liked it so much that she sacrificed her 3 years of tertiary education to pursue her dream of being a checkout chick full time…… Sigh, be careful what you wish for…..

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Oh dear! I’m going out to buy the ingredients from the recipe you posted with the duck wrapped in banana leaves. How many adults would that feed?

      • I’m so glad you’re going to try it. I found it fed 3 1/2 adults for 2 meals with rice and salad. Duck is so rich that it seems to go further as well. My hubby just loved this, so it will probably be a regular on our menu from now on. Let me know what you think 🙂

  14. Yay for you and Charlie! Some of this story sounds SO familiar-love the part where he says you have ruined his plans for 2012, and yet there was no plan. I swear, our kids can make us crazy sometimes. And yes, I have been known to interfere from time to time. My 22 yr. old daughter preferred to call it “getting in her business.” I still have a little trouble keeping my mouth shut when I think she needs some direction 🙂

    Recipe looks wonderful!

  15. Congrats to you and good luck to Archie!

  16. LOL Just goes to show that “Moms do know best!” 😉

  17. “‘Well you’ve just ruined my plans for 2012′. And that was hysterical because the whole point is, Archie has no plans.” – Bwahahaha, this made me chuckle 😀

    Great job getting into the University – I hope he has a great time. My experiences at University weren’t that enjoyable. Being thrust into a foreign country and having to fend for myself with no support was quite difficult, but definitely character building, and I don’t regret them. I wouldn’t have met my wife if I hadn’t done that! 🙂

    Beautiful crunchy looking stir-fry… I just LOVE cashew nuts in cooking, so yummy, and those little slices of spring onion on top really complete the picture!

  18. I love a story with a happy ending and, best of all, this one came with a great plate of food. Congrats to Archie and well done, Mum!

  19. i love stir fry! healthy with all those veggies and so tasty!! =) congrats on college archie!! =)

  20. Love good news and Archie certainly got that. You are a good Mum and not an interfering one. There is a difference.

  21. Sounds to me like you’ve worked out this whole parenting gig pretty well, Charlie. That’s also exactly what I would do in the same circumstances. In fact, while my boy is embarking on his gap year (or retirement, as he refers to it) I might just take some notes …

  22. Well done Archie (and mum)! This is a tough school to get into so it really shows he must have a great deal of talent!

    Lovely looking stir fry too!

  23. oh congratulations to him! That’s really quite exciting 🙂

  24. You so seriously crack me up and I just love your blog. I always look forward to the next adventure of ‘Mother Knows Best’! What an amazing outcome – audacity does pay off, doesn’t it? Opportunities do not present themselves to the wallflowers of the world but the ‘grab the bull by the horns’ people like you. I think you should call your blog ‘No Guts, No Glory’! Hehe! I hope your son enjoys every minute of his studies and his tertiary years as they really are the best years of one’s life I believe. Good on you both. xx

  25. Haha! Mommy indeed knows best! I’m so thrilled Archie fell in love with the college. Now he definitely has plans…great plans! Congratulations to Archie and your wisdom! 🙂

  26. Congratulations to Archie and well done mummy knows best! Now that should be the sub title of your blog! 😉

  27. I’m loving these stories. You are a brilliant writer 🙂

  28. GO MUM you good thing and a HUGE congrats to Archie. That is just fabulous. How exciting!!!! xx

  29. I love stories where the Mum knows best–makes me think there is hope. Congrats to Archie. And thanks for a nice recipe as well!

  30. Well done Archie! What a great mum he has. I’m always looking for actual recipes for stir fry. Usually I just make it up. I like my made up versions but they’re often not met with the same enthusiasm.

  31. Well done you! I love it!! I am coming to you for advice in a few years time when my kids need a few ‘subtle’ nudges in the right direction.
    That stir fry looks good too. My husband ‘seduced’ me by cooking a chicken and cashew stir fry on one of our early dates. It was a dish never to be repeated (apart from one night when I had my wisdom teeth taken out and could not eat solid food!). It has become a bit of a joke in our family now as the tale grows in size in each retelling. I might have to point him towards this post and see if it can rekindle some of that long forgotten skill!

  32. Brilliany news Charlie. Perhaps we will get to see him perform in Brisbane someday.

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