I have been muttering to myself all morning about a promo for the Martha Stewart show this week. Get ready for it: if you are lucky enough to see the show on Tuesday, you are in for a treat: "Chefs Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert make coq au vin. Plus, how to get work-life balance and adorable Westminster dogs." I'm sure the coq au vin will be great and the dogs will be cute, but really, does anyone believe we can crochet up some work-life balance in the seven minutes between two commercial breaks?
Having done some time in a TV production office, I can tell you that this story came from some bright spark announcing in a production meeting that everyone seems to be talking about work-life balance. From there it would have been a very quick process of sourcing some interview talent (probably someone who has written a book on the subject), and writing up a brief. Today, the interviewee will be wheeled on, deliver their pithy pearls of wisdom and disappear again before a single mother has had time to make a school lunch while dialling in to a conference call. Pretending that this is a topic that can be conquered in seven minutes is not helping anyone, especially not those on the front lines fighting for work-life balance.
To me and my female friends, work-life balance is one of those intractable, thorny subjects. It means different things to different women and even different things to the same woman at different points in her life. It means compromises in the office and at home. It means choices that are hard, whichever way you go. It means second shifts and mother guilt, bruised egos and careers abandoned because balance proved impossible. In fact, I was laughing with a friend this morning about finding work that lets you be at home after school, and any time a kid is sick; that lets you have all school holidays off; that is pretty flexible so you can get to sports carnivals and Christmas concerts; that values your contribution on output not hours in the office. Oh, and we still want creative, fulfilling roles that makes us feel valued. Where are these work-life jobs? Not with Martha Stewart, I would bet. And the secret to finding them or maintaining a work-life balance is not going to be solved with a quick TV how-to. Even with Martha. OK, now that I have that out of my system, onto the tacos........
Whether or not you are struggling with work-life issues, whether you are time-rich or time-poor, these tacos are a fast, easy dinner. When I first saw the title in the current issue of Donna Hay, I imagined some sort of simmer of heavily-spiced fish, in the same way you simmer mince for beef tacos. I was wrong - the fillets of fish are dry-fried briefly in a pan, and then served in a tortilla with a punchy salsa, some coleslaw, pickled onions and avocado. I skipped the chilli marinade on the fish for the kids, and they also avoided the salsa, and the onions. The result was a good dinner for all of us: adults with the spices dialled up; kids opting for a plainer variety. A welcome change that was perfect for a hot night.
This was one of my choices for this month's We Made It challenge focusing at Donna Hay Feb / Mar 2010. If you are tired of under-utilising your cookbooks, feel free to join Melinda at Melbourne Larder and me - just drop us a line.
Fish and Coleslaw Tacos
adapted from Donna Hay Feb / Mar 2010, serves 4
2 tbl olive oil
1 tsp chilli flakes
4 snapper fillets (approx 140 g each)
8 tortillas (Donna has a recipe for them in the mag, but that fell into my too-hard basket)
3 tbl mayonnaise
1 tbl white wine vinegar
1 cup finely shredded white cabbage
1 avocado, diced
coriander to garnish
Place mayonnaise and vinegar in a bowl and stir until well-combined. If it is too thick to tip from a spoon, thin it with a little water. Season with salt and pepper. Add cabbage, toss to coat, and place in the fridge.
Combine oil and chilli and salt and brush over fish fillets. (If this is for children, omit the chilli). Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat. Cook fish fillets for 3 minutes on each side or until cooked through (you can tell it is done when it starts to flake easily). Serve in tortillas with coleslaw, pickled onion (see below), salsa cruda (see below) and avocado.
Combine 250g chopped cherry tomatoes, 1 green onion, 2 tbls lime juice (I used lemon because I forgot to buy limes and it was fine), 2 tbls olive oil, 2 cloves garlic, 1 green chilli and sea salt to taste.
Place 2 red onions, 2 tbls white wine vinegar and 1 tbl olive oil and sea salt to taste in a non-metallic bowl. Allow to stand for 10 mins or until onion starts to wilt. Keeps well in the fridge.