Right now, I feel we are drawing to the close of a lovely period, where the children are old enough to be reasonable, interesting and articulate, but not yet old enough to be revolting, vile teenagers. And I know it is coming - if I was a vile teenager, why would I imagine that they won't be? Both daughters are probably already practicing the teenager-y rolling of the eyes in front of the mirror. The angst and door slamming must be coming soon too. Already, they point out to me how embarrassing I am (I make sure that I only take glee in this; in fact I tell them that I live to humiliate them - in a good way of course). But the little girls in them are still clearly there too; the one who crawls into your lap and sobs because life didn't go the way she wanted it today; or the one who still looks for reassurance and validation as she starts to make her own decisions. Every time one of them snuggles into me like a little child, the thought crosses my mind, that maybe this is the last time they will cuddle up to me like that. I know that we will still hug or hold each other, but it makes me sad to think the nuzzling will soon go. Such a bittersweet time.....
But, let's not pretend that the children being out of the house for just a couple of days is even a little bit sad. Darling Husband and I got two date nights, one night at home featuring chilli crab, some good conversation and a little TV, the other out at a show and then on to an alfresco dinner on a gorgeous balmy night. Plus some of the Xmas shopping was knocked over, leaving me feeling a little calmer about the fortnight ahead. Yes, I do know how lucky I am.
For our date night dinner, I picked this chilli crab both because it looked good, and because I am still trying to cook as much as possible from this month's Gourmet Traveller. Melinda from Melbourne Larder and I have started a very low-key cooking challenge, trying to cook as much as possible from a different food magazine each month. This month's focus for the "We Made It" challenge is Australian Gourmet Traveller, December 2009. The chilli crab was the third thing I have made, and is my favourite so far. The sauce successfully achieved that fantastic Thai balance between hot, sweet, sour and salty - it was incredibly moreish. I did however simplify the recipe a little. I have no desire to bring home live crabs and then boil them just to set them aside and then reheat in the sauce. So I bought pre-cooked crab and got the fish shop to clean the crabs and chop them in four for me - skipping this ickiness made dinner taste even better. As long as you go to a good fish shop, I would recommend you do this. The crab tasted sensational. This recipe is a definite keeper for me - absolutely perfect summer fare. PS This is not a meal to be eaten in front of anyone you want to impress - licking your fingers is not for company.
Incidentally, if you are cooking from Gourmet Traveller this month and you would like to play along, drop a note to either Melinda or me.
Chilli Mud Crab
Australian Gourmet Traveller, December 09
2 live mud crabs (I used cooked)
6 kaffir lime leaves torn
2 red bird's eye chillis, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbl fish sauce
1 egg. lightly beaten with a fork
Generous handful of coriander and Thai basil, torn
2 shallots, sliced (green onions)
60 ml vegetable oil
1 onion finely chopped
5 garlic cloves finely chopped
15g each (3 cm piece) of galangal and ginger, grated
3 long red chillis, thinly sliced
80g palm sugar grated, plus extra to taste
2 tbl fish sauce
1. Place crabs in the freezer to stun them for 30-40 mins. Bring a stockpot to the boil, add crab, cover and cook until cooked through (15-20 mins). Drain, remove top shell from crab, discard gills and coral, quarter crabs, crack claws, set aside. (Or just avoid this bit and get your crabs cooked).
To make chilli jam, heat oil in a wok. Add onion and cook over a medium flame, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to caramelize (15-20 mins). Add galangal, ginger, garlic and chilli, and saute until chilli is tender (5-10 mins). Process this mixture in a food processor until it turns to paste, then return it to the wok with the fish sauce and the palm sugar. (I added the fish sauce to my food processor as it made it easier to chop the mixture.) Cook until caramelized (a further 5-10 mins).
Add crab, lime leaves, bird's eye chillis and 40 ml water to the chilli jam. Stir until the crab is heated through (5-10 mins). Add lime juice and fish sauce, and check seasoning, adding more juice, sauce or sugar to balance the flavours to your liking. Add egg and stir until egg is cooked and crab is well-coated (2-4 mins). Transfer to a bowl, scatter with herbs and shallots, and serve hot.