Goodbye to the Snake and hello to the Horse!

photo-86It’s Chinese New Year tomorrow, with the Year of the Snake on the way out. I think a lot of people found the Year of the Snake difficult. This coming year is the Year of the Wooden Horse, so here’s hoping this coming year will be a bit easier.

In honour of the Chinese New Year, I’m posting a recipe for a Chinese Chicken Hotpot. I make it in a slow cooker, but you could make it in a big pot on the stove, if you cooked it slowly. I’ve made the following recipe a few times and it was an instant favourite with my muse. It’s excellent to make in a heatwave, because when it feels like the gates of hell have opened above your city, then you don’t want to be cranking up the oven.

So here we go. The recipe is a big vague, because I have found that I like to adjust it to my taste. The ingredients are quite easy to find. I’ve pictured them above, so you know what you are looking for. Yummy!!


1.8kg whole chicken (or thereabouts)

500mls of chicken stock

Approximately 1/2 cup of Chinese cooking wine

1/2 cup of soya sauce

1/2 cup of oyster sauce

1/4 cup of brown sugar (or to taste. I don’t like it too sweet)

As many cloves of garlic as you like (I use about six)

6cm piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks

3 star anise

1 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder

2 long red chillies, cut into pieces (I use about ten because I love chillies, and I use the super hot small chillies)

Chinese greens (ie. bok choy) I also put spring onions and coriander in the broth, and sometimes shitake mushrooms

Noodles (I use thin rice noodles)


Method: Wash the chicken and place it in the slow cooker along with the star anise, ginger and garlic cloves and dried shitake mushrooms if you are using them. In a big jug, mix together the liquid ingredients and the sugar and Chinese five spice powder. Have a taste and see if you want to adjust anything. The cooking wine is strong in taste, and a bit unusual, but it is lovely when heated. Remember that the broth will be flavoured by the chicken bones in the chicken too. Pour the liquid over the chicken, and cook on low for eight hours. I turn the chicken half way through, and top up with water if needed.


When the chicken is cooked, take it out of the broth and put to one side. When it has cooled enough, pull the meat from the bones and discard the carcass. Strain the broth into a big saucepan. I fish out the garlic cloves and shitake mushrooms from the seive, and put them back into the liquid. Cut up your vegies, and put them into the broth, letting them cook. Meanwhile, cook your noodles, and drain.

To assemble, put noodles in the bottom of a big soup bowl. Put the chicken in, then spoon over the vegies and broth, adding the chillies. I meant to take a photo of the finished dish, but forgot because I was so hungry. It was delicious!


The Heat Is On

photo 2-2 And I’m not talking about Sandra Bullock’s movie being on TV at the moment. No, I’m indulging in one of my favourite pastimes, whinging about the weather. In fact, it’s a bit of a national pastime so I don’t feel bad, especially as it is Australia Day today! Yeah, so let’s whinge.

Okay, when it’s winter I whinge about it being too cold and promise I will NEVER complain about the summer again. Our winters are cold, dreary, but generally we never have anything too scary to deal with (like a polar vortex for example). But when summer hits, we invariably have hideous heatwaves that turn everyone into cranky, red-faced maniacs who can’t drive straight anymore, and you end up ditching the diet because you drink your entire body weight in beer.

Our last heatwave earned my city the endearing title of being the hottest city on the planet that day! And that was the day of ‘the big drama’ in our house. Wow, what happened Jane, I hear you say. Well, my beloved muse managed to get locked in our loo. We have a little cubbyhole of a toilet, and it gets damn hot in there because it is so small. It was probably 115F on this particular day. The door handle broke, and my poor baby was banging on the door, asking me to help him escape. If I hadn’t been home, he would have been stuck in there for hours, which would have meant him having to drink the loo water. As some of you know, I have a bit of a loo phobia, and that might have signaled the need for some serious therapy sessions…

Anyway, I found a screwdriver, and expertly dismantled the door handle, saving my muse from the heat, and the need to drink out of the loo. He was suitably impressed with my efforts, and I spent the rest of the night reminding him how I had saved him from frying in the toilet.

We now have a toilet door that can’t be closed (which is not very romantic or elegant).

We are heading into another heatwave tomorrow, so later in the week, as I lurk inside, I will post a fabulous Chinese chicken recipe which can be made in the slow cooker, so your kitchen doesn’t turn into a mini extension of hell.

It’s Chinese New Year too next week. Stay tuned…


Lessons Learnt

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOkay, this photo is pretty radical. Clearly I am not in IKEA buying my dream bookcase.

“What’s happening Jane?” I hear you say. “Are you performing a tracheotomy in a restaurant on a dying person, has someone thrown up on you, or are you in pain from being shot in a hold up?” Well, it’s none of the above. It’s me in a Bali toilet (it’s a selfie!) God, I hate public toilets. It’s what puts me off traveling overseas. If I was one of those blessed creatures who don’t care about what goes on around them, then I would have been to Bhutan and back, several times. But I hate it. I hate plane toilets. I hate all toilets that are not my own. I have nightmares about going to the loo in public places.

So, what does this have to do about my blog? Nothing really. It’s 10pm and I’ve just scratched some chilli in my eye by mistake (where did that come from??), I have a 5am wake up call for a nursing shift a the hospital which may, or may not be available (ahhhh, the joys of being a casual worker), and I’m in the middle of editing my new book, which I am having a mini meltdown over (it’s crap. I am crap. My writing is crap.) So perhaps that’s why I posted a photo of me looking at some crap in a loo.

On a brighter note, here is a fabulous way to restore confidence in all areas of life, when one is doubting oneself (that might be the lesson learnt, because the title implies something wise and deep, which is not really going to happen!)


Okay, so forget about spending loads of money on skin exfoliation products. Just grab some castor sugar, pour it into a bowl, and add a good dash of a body lotion. I find sorbalene works wonderfully for this. Now hop in the shower, and rub it all over your body. Rinse off, et voila! A polished skin. You won’t be disappointed. (Public health warning: obviously, don’t rub so hard your skin comes off and don’t rub it on your face).