When Archie was applying for the course he would like to do the Head of the School told him he wasn’t ready, as he needed to gain some ‘life experience’ before being accepted. Archie asked, ‘What do you mean by life experience?’ And without a breath of hesitation the director replied, ‘Well you need to have had your heart broken’.
But Archie didn’t want to have his heart broken because Archie was in love.
They met at a party and like a scene from a movie; across a crowded room they saw each other. And that was it. Archie came home and told me he’d met the most beautiful girl in the world. And because Archie is the nicest boy he said, ‘She’s tall and slim and blond mum, she’s just like you’! It’s so lovely that he didn’t say, ‘Just like you used to be’.
And so the romance began and Archie threw himself into the relationship one hundred per cent and all was wonderful. Then came Christmas Eve. Archie went to her home bearing gifts and after he’d put the jewels around her neck she gave him the news that she’d really prefer it if they were ‘just friends’. And she told him there was no one else it’s just that she’d prefer to be single.
When he arrived home I was just about to open some champagne to celebrate Christmas but the festivities had to be put on hold. With great difficulty, Archie told me what had transpired. Their time together had ended with Archie telling her that he would prefer it if they didn’t see each other for a while so Archie could have time to get over her. He said he hoped she would understand and not take it personally it’s just that she meant so much to him that it would probably be easiest this way. And she said she understood.
So Christmas was a little difficult for Archie but his mates were on deck and suggested Archie go away with them for a few days. So just after Christmas they set off for the races that were out in the country and about a seven-hour drive from home. When they arrived they parked their car near the racetrack and this was one of those events where the cars park all around the track and your car gets blocked in by other vehicles so you can’t move it and all the occupants sleep in their cars and it’s something you really only like to do when you’re a teenager as there are no creature comforts and it’s only teenagers who don’t seem to mind this.
And so Archie was sitting back in the car with his mates and trying to take his mind off the Christmas Eve experience when he noticed a white car locked in beside him. And glancing through the window he saw his ex-girlfriend now in the arms of one of Archie’s friends, known now as the ex-mate.
What were the odds! They both drove for over seven hours, one to try to get over the break-up and the other to move on very quickly and they end up at the same event with their cars locked in beside each other for the next 48 hours. Awkward!
When Archie phoned and told me the situ I was a little lost for words. That’s when I blurted out ‘At least now you can say you’ve gained some life experience’. But Archie said, ‘Mum, life experience is over-rated’. And I would have to agree. There are some things your life doesn’t need to experience.
Has your life ever experienced the Christmas Eve break-up?
Red Braised Duck with Lychee and Ginger Salad
This recipe is one of Archie’s favourites and he needs all his favourites around him at the moment. The recipe is from Essentially Thai, one of the Spirit House Cookbooks by Helen Brierty and Annette Fear. If you haven’t been to their restaurant you really should make the effort. It’s on the Sunshine Coast and is one of my favourite places to be.
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: Duck marylands can be purchased in packs of two for around $10/packet. Lychees are currently in season and can be purchased for around $10/kilo (compared with $30/kilo out of season) so now is the time to make this dish.
Serves: 2 or 4 depending on your appetite and what else you are serving. Eg: if serving a hearty entree, one duck leg per guest is sufficient but if straight into the mains with no entree, I serve two duck legs per person.
4 duck maryland
all of the master stock from the recipe below
2 green spring onions, including some of the green party, trimmed and thinly sliced
12 lychees, peeled, de-seeded (pitted and halved
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup coriander leaves (cilantro)
1/2 red chilli, de-seeded and finely shredded
2 tbspns ginger, peeled and finely shredded
juice of half a lime
(If you are unfamiliar with some of these ingredients don’t panic. They are all readily available at your local Asian grocer.)
2 ltr (3 1/2 pints) water
250ml (8 fl oz) Shaoxing wine
125ml (4 fl oz) light soy sauce (for gluten free substitute a wheat-free soy)
75 ml (2 1/2 fl oz) dark soy sauce (for gluten free substitute a wheat-free soy)
100g (3 1/2 oz) yellow rock sugar
2 pieces tangerine peel
2 pieces cassia bark
4 pieces star anise
1 knob ginger, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
To make master stock: Bring all the ingredients to boil in a large stock pot, simmer for half an hour. Strain. Makes about 2 1/2 ltrs (4 pints). Any leftover master stock can be either refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for several months. Use as a base for soups, add a few spoonfuls to a stir-fry or use for braising meats.
To prepare duck: Preheat oven to 160C (325F/Gas Mark 3).
Trim excess fat from the duck and cut at the joint. (I also wash and pat dry the legs then chop off the ends of the bones with a meat cleaver as it makes for better presentation). Place in a baking dish, skin side down. Bring master stock to the boil in a saucepan and pour over the duck pieces aso they are almost submerged. Cover with a lid or aluminium foil and place in oven. Cook for 1 1/2 hours and then remove the lid or foil and turn ducks over to skin side up.
Cook for another hour until the meat is almost falling from the bone. Remove the duck from the stock and refrigerate until needed. Completely chill the master stock in the rrefrigerator and then remove the fat that will have set on top. Place stock in a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce by half. The duck pieces can be either reheated in the reduced stock or, for crispy skin duck, placed in a shallow pan, skin side up with a little stock, then reheated uncovered in a 180C (350F/Gas Mark 4) oven.
While the duck is reheating and the sauce reducing, make the salad by combining the remaining ingredients in a bowl and tossing with a squeeze of lime juice.
Transfer duck pieces to serving bowl and pour over about 1/2 cup (125ml/4fl oz) of reduced stock, then pile the lychee and ginger salad on top of the duck pieces.