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Chicken with Chorizo and…Mrs Hull and Jan Spick-and-Span

When we moved to Australia just after Abba had been here for their ‘Arrival’ tour and Elvis had sadly passed away, Dad had more overseas business trips and took mum with him.  We were left with more hired help.

One of them was Mrs Hull and she was really, really old.  She was probably only in her 60’s but we thought she looked a hundred and sixty.  She arrived for the interview with a folder full of references and recommendations that surely must have been fabricated.

Chicken with Butter Bean Puree and Crispy Chorizo

Mrs Hull was given the job and arrived like an irregular Mary Poppins with a carpet bag full of unnecessary items like a jaffle iron, a collection of handwritten recipes and a book of sayings that she would quote to us on a daily basis with a thought process that she was delivering her personal, Sermon on the Mount.

We didn’t care for Mrs Hull’s sayings but we cared less for her cooking.  She was very fond of batter and a large bowl of batter sat permanently on the kitchen bench and never seemed to run out.  In the mornings she would make pancakes that were served with quite a bit of grease but in the evening she would dip lamb chops in the batter then cook them in the frying pan.  The next morning the blood stained batter would be used to make more pancakes.  The jaffle iron never left the stove and she used it to make all sorts of things sandwiched between two slices of bread.  The mess around the stove’s element was overwhelming.

Mrs Hull had plenty of energy but didn’t always direct it to where it could best be used.  On one occasion when she couldn’t think of anything better to do she got out mum’s sewing machine then took all the bath towels out of the linen cupboard and folded in the long sides of the towels.  Using zig-zag stitch with any coloured cotton, she sewed in the sides of the towels and announced to me she had done mum a huge favour.  Mum threw out the towels on her return.

On the weekends I would go out wearing my body hugging St Germain blouse.  As I would be walking out the door she would step into my personal space and do up the top two buttons saying, ‘You don’t want boys to get the wrong impression.  If you go out with your buttons undone the boys will certainly get the wrong impression.  That’s how girls get raped you know’.

But I wasn’t going out with boys and I wasn’t keeping company with rapists and was confused as to what sort of an impression a boy could get by seeing me with a couple of buttons undone at the neckline.

Mrs Hull was sent home never to return and the next to turn up was a young woman calling herself, ‘Jan Spick-and-Span’ which was ironic given she was the messiest person imaginable.

Pan Fried Chicken Breasts

Jan had long dark brown hair that she parted down the centre and wore out hippy style.  She arrived in an old bomb of a car that was missing a floor so when you went for a drive you could see the road through the holes.  I found that fascinating.  Jan used the car to drop us off to all of our extra-curricular activities and kept it a secret from mum that the car was unregistered.

Jan had a few extra-curricular activities of her own.  She had a boyfriend she was desperate to spend every minute with so would go out at night leaving us to forage for our own dinner then put ourselves to bed.  She would arrive home in the wee small hours and having forgotten to take a key, would enter the house through a bedroom window.

Mum found out about the unregistered car and the extra-curricular activities with the boyfriend but it was on her return when she went to hang up her clothes from her overseas trip and found in her wardrobe one of her brand new cake tins filled with hair from when Jan had melted down wax to rip the hairs out of her legs and probably other areas as well that she thought she would phone the agency and make a complaint.

After finding no joy with hired help from the very old to the very young, mum and dad let us look after ourselves.

And things have never been better.

Chorizo, Roasted Red Capsicum and Parsley

This is not a recipe Mrs Hull would have cooked for us as it doesn’t contain batter, nor is it something Jan would have cooked seeing she would have been off with her boyfriend.  But it is something relatively easy that you could teach to teenagers that had to learn how to fend for themselves!

Chicken with Butter Bean Puree and Crispy Chorizo

This recipe is from Valli Little’s Delicious, More Please

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  I think this is a very affordable way to feed four people a beautiful tasting dish.

Dinner is Served

  • 1 tbs smoked paprika (pimento)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) olive oil
  • 4 chicken breasts with skin on (wingbone attached – optional)
  • 400g can butter beans, rinsed, drained
  • 2 fresh chorizos, chopped
  • 200g roasted red capsicum, chopped
  • 2 tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • rocket leaves to serve

Preheat oven to 180C.

Combine the paprika, garlic, 2 tbsns olive oil and some salt and pepper in a large bowl.  Add the chicken, turning to coat in the mixture, then cover and place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes.

Place butter beans in a pan with 100 ml water and warm over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes until warmed through.  Cool slightly, then place in a food processor with 3 tbspns olive oil and some salt and pepper, then puree until smooth.  Set aside.

Heat the reamining oil in a frypan over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes each side until golden, then place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes until cooked through.  Cover loosely with foil and set aside.

Meanwhile, return the frypan to medium heat, add the chorizo and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until crisp.  Add the capsicum, parsley and any resting juices from the chicken and toss until heated through.  If necessary, gently reheat the butter bean puree over low heat.  Divide the butter bean puree among plates, top with the chicken, then scatter the chorizo mixture and serve garnished with rocket.

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  1. My my, Charlie, you sure have had your troubles with hired help. On a positive note, they end up making great stories.
    When I was very young, my Dad got a gig in NYC, and he was able to get my Mom working there too. Mom hired a Hungarian lady who accompanied us so Mom could go work with Dad all day. One afternoon, Mom came home early and as i ran excitedly to see her I fell and hurt my knee. When I got up, I went to my nanny for consolation. That was the end of Mom working and the nanny was returned to Toronto.
    What a delicious recipe; I’ve not had butter beans before, but by the sounds of them I know I would love them.

  2. I can’t imagine having a nanny, it seems strange, I know I would have starved rather than eat a constant diet of battered food… YUK!

    Your dishes look so much nicer 🙂

  3. We had ladies to take care of us during the day while my mother worked. They were mostly very sweet, but when the last one found out we were moving, she began to steal from us. That was kind of sad as she had been with us for two years. She taught me to play cards and was a fabulous cook. She made lovely roast beef.

    Your presentation of the chicken is just stunning.

  4. What strange women!

    Chicken and chorizo sounds great though, a winning combination.

  5. You always make me smile. Thank you for that. Amazing story. I am glad I did not have to rely on hired help with my kids LOL! This dish looks and sounds awesome and is something that I am bookmarking to try soon. Have a great new week xx

  6. These two sound nightmarish! How ever did you manage to turn out so nice? Lovely recipe…I do love chorizo.

  7. Love your story. Sounds familiar:D Sounds like an easy and delicious dish to me. I love the chirizo in this dish, definitely adds lots more flavor.

  8. First time here.
    Nice reading…. and was reminded of the maid problem we have now (or rather the lack of maid)
    But I liked your Mrs Hull. (her intentions were good I suppose)

  9. You could write a book just on your temporary nannies, I think! What a relief when you were left to sort it all out your own. Am certain you and your sisters made the most of that.

    Nice-looking recipe as well. I can find excellent chorizo here in Mexico, of course, but the butter beans (and how I miss them, especially fresh from my Dad’s garden) are entirely another matter. Favas, perhaps?

  10. When we were in our teens my brother and I were used to coming home for lunch to an empty house and food on the stove as my mom had to start work at 11:30am and didn’t get off until 7:30 pm. My dad left the house by 6:30am and got home by 4pm. So we were the ‘latch-key kids’ people heard about in dismay.

    Once we came home to a kitchen full of smoke as in the rush to get to work on time, my mother had forgotten to shut off the heat under the pot of stew she finished just before she left. The bottom of the pot burned off and the whole thing had to be pitched. Luckily there was no Children’s Society to be notified about the careless parents we had since what we DID have was 2 immigrant parents who were working 7 days a week to put food on the table and provide us with the other necessities of life. A caretaker was more than beyond their means, it was inconceivable to think of hiring one. Oh well, we managed and became quite independent on top of it all.

    A very interesting dish.

  11. The chicken dish looks awesome!
    The “help” stories really sound creepy.

  12. Wow. The agencies sure didn’t check people out. You made me wince when you said bloody batter. Ugh. Your dish though is beautiful and sounds rich in flavor. Your plated presentation is beautiful. However, I just want to grab a fork and go out the pan full of it. So colorful.

  13. You make me laugh! At least these two seemed to be better than the one you mentioned yesterday

  14. Seems like your parents didn’t have much luck with hiring a nanny 🙁 but at least you have these memories and stories to share with us hehe ~
    it’s very common in Asia especially in HK to have a nanny and thankfully my sister’s nanny is a lovely lady from Indonesia 😀

  15. It is so much easier — and more important — to check a person’s references today that it’s easy to forget that it was’t always this way. Word of mouth was about the only reliable source but if you were new to an area you were left with the newspaper adds and the phone book. It must have been a relief for everyone when you guys were old enough to care for yourselves. And if you were eating today’s recipe, you were doing very well for yourselves. It sounds delicious!

    • hotlyspiced says:

      That’s so true John, back in the day a person just applied to your ad and came in and told you how good you were and you had no means of verifying what they said so you just had to trust them. It made for interesting times! xx

  16. Your food is great but your stories are delicious. GREG

  17. I think you were certainly better off on your own, what wierdos!
    I’m a great believer in teenagers being able to fend for themselves, cooking and cleaning are life skills!

  18. Haha, great story – the first one sounds annoying enough, but what a train-wreck the second one was, lol 😀

    Love the dish – so pretty, and the butter bean puree sounds awesome especially 🙂

    • hotlyspiced says:

      Yes, ‘train-wreck’ describes her accurately. But on the up-side she’s given me a wealth of stories! xx

  19. That is a shocking story. The things you could get away with in the 70’s. When my parents left us alone as teenagers we would always break something…. a window, glasses good dinner sets …… on a brighter note I love this recipe. Any thing with chorizo and smoked paprika must be good

  20. I had nannies for the Glam Teens when they were little. The result is a loathing for cabbage after having had it boiled and then flour stirred into it, resulting in a pot of snot like substance. Or leeks after having been served them raw in sandwiches. How come nannies can never cook. Well not the ones I had despite what they told me. GG

  21. Yikes! I can’t decide which person is making my hair stand on end more…Mrs. Hull and her bloody batter, or Jan and the hairy wax strips. Whoa…with help like that, who needs….well, enemies I guess! Love the butterbean puree and bet it’s terrific with the chicken and chorizo.

  22. Were you ever lucky to receive a decent hired help? The ones you mentioned so far need help themselves. Maybe there was a mistake, they came to your place looking for help:)

  23. Wow they sounds a bit like the don’t tell mum the babysitter’s dead movie. What shockers you had! When we were overseas with our family once mum and dad left us with a hotel babysitter while they went to dinner (we were about 8 and 12). Mum and dad got back to the room to us just sitting there staring at the woman who had fallen asleep on the couch about an hour earlier!

  24. great recipe and yuck that batter sounds so bad

  25. We were latch-key kids for a few years when my mom went back to school then teaching. Much better, I think, then the dreadful nannies I attempted to hire for my own kids. I didn’t have much better luck, but your stories are far more interesting!!

  26. Yes, but if they hadn’t hired these people, you wouldn’t have such great stories 🙂

  27. I feel like I missed out on some interesting situations since when I was kid, I was always left with relatives. The butter bean puree and chicken sounds fantastic and much better than anything with batter!

  28. Goodness me! Definitely better off on your own rather than with that lot! And great to see your butter bean uses 😉

  29. Oh my! The hairs and wax is just awful! I must admit I did a bit of an involuntary gag there!

  30. lol, looks like u guys had to put up with the wierdest of help! waxed hair in a cake tin? ewww.. im sure life must have been much better without help like that 🙂

  31. My friends told me some stories about them changing so many nannies because of all kinds of different reasons. It’s so hard to find decent one and the one you really can trust sometimes. I always enjoy reading your detailed stories and I’m very impressed how well you remember and write about it. This dish looks so sophisticated and looks delicious!

  32. I pretend to come here for the food.

    I love your writing. Next time you’re on the Sunshine Coast, we must meet. 🙂

  33. LOL – I feel glad that I never had to deal with nannies. This meal sounds lovely – easy is a bonus.

  34. The World Is My Cuttlefish says:

    Blood in the batter! I think I would puke. You probably have a cast iron stomach now thanks to her filling you with festering batter. The chicken looks a much better idea.

  35. Oh my, what colourful times you had during a period in your childhood!
    Loving the Chicken with Butter Bean Puree and Crispy Chorizo – scrumptious!
    🙂 Mandy

  36. I’m a firm believer that chorizo is one of those things that makes everything dish better. Good stuff all around Charlie!

  37. This dish looks restaurant quality – fab job

  38. These people came from an agency? Unbelievable!!!

  39. What a story, Charlie! What different kind of hired helps? A lovely read for usd, though!
    This dish is a real keeper! I love the mix of veggies with chicken & chorizo a lot! 🙂

  40. My goodness, I cannot get enough of your childhood stories of scary peeping toms and crazy nannies and all the rest. I am endlessly entertained!

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