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.
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.
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.
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
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: I think this is a very affordable way to feed four people a beautiful tasting dish.
- 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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