Finally we’re out of budget zone. It’s been a gruelling 8 months, believe me. Goon has finally found a job, meaning my salary is now just for me and, as descibed in an earlier post, I won’t be putting down my flat deposit until after I get my final pay from Highgate, meaning everything has settled down.
Last weekend, Goon came back from his cousin’s weddng looking very smug with the news that a company in Baker Street had accepted him as their desktop support man. He filled me in on the details.
“They’re giving you how much!?!!” Goon looked smug as he repeated his salary. “You’re straight out of University! You technically don’t have a degree yet!”
“Good, isn’t it?”
“But I know people with PhDs that earn less than that!”
Goon thought for a second. “Yes!” he said. “Like you!” Goon stuck his tongue out at me.
“I don’t count!” I replied indignantly. “I’m in for love not money. Plus, given that I work 35 weeks a year, I’m still paid at a better rate.”
”Even including my bonuses?”
“You get a bonus?” Goon nodded and looked even more smug. “Wait. You have no degree result. Given you attended precisely 4 lectures during your 3 year course, I don’t want to see your degree result. This is your first job, and they are offering you that much money!?”
“ I have experience.”
I sat bewildered for a second.
“That tinkering you did instead of going to school counts as experience?”
”Yep. Enought to earn me more than you!” I shook my head in disbelief.
“No wonder the economy’s collapsing.” Goon snarled at me.
“So how much is this bonus of yours going to be?”
“Twenty percent if all goes well…. so…. ummmm…..” Goon thought hard and scratched his head. “What do you get when you divide my salary by four?
I ran his last sentence through my head again.
“Are you sure they haven’t confused you with one of the other applicants?”
At that, Goon decided he’d taken enough abuse and went downstairs to eat some celebratory cream cakes. I took a minute to get over the news that Goon was going to be better paid than me (I am clearly in the wrong business) and then started looking for places to host a celebratory dinner.
Now he has a job and can therefore stay in London, it is certain that Goon will be living on his own next year. There’s no way he wants to go back to eating tuna rice again so I have bought him a wok and a wok book.
Goon LOVES his wok. It really is the ideal cooking tool for someone like him. He probably won’t do the most exciting cooking with it but he’ll feed himself more healthily than he used to. Admittedly I bought the book primarily for its inclusion of pictures (Goon won’t use a book without pretty pictures) but, from what I’ve seen so far, the recipes are ideal for him. There’s lots of easy dishes taking less than half an hour to cook and, on the off chance he gets more adventurous, more challenging material too. Or, more likely, I’ll just use the challenging mateial when I visit.
On Sunday he had his first lesson: chicken with satay sauce.
Easy Chicken in Satay Sauce (adapted from The Essential Wok Cookbook, Murdoch Press, various authors- serves 2)
- 400g chicken breast, cut into thin slices
- 2 limes
- salt and pepper
- peanut oil or vegetable oil for frying
- 4 spring onions
- 1 heaped tablespoon red curry paste (from a jar if you’re like Goon, made from scratch if you’re like me)
- 2 heaped tablespoonfuls peanut butter
- 200ml coconut milk
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- Steamed rice to serve and perhaps some vegetables stir fried with ginger, garlic and soy
- Chopped coriander to garnish (optional)
- Toss the chicken strips with the juice of one lime and some salt and pepper. Leave to stand for ten minutes.
- Slice the spring onions into 1cm lengths on the diagonal.
- Put a teaspoon of oil in the wok, swirl to coat and get the wok hot. Stir fry the onion until starting to soften. REmove from the pan and set aside
- Shaking off any excess lime juice, add half the chicken to the wok and stir fry until they are golden brown in patches. Remove from wok and set aside, repeat with the rest of the chicken.
- Add the curry paste, coconut milk and peanut butter to the wok, stir to combine well.
- Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Adjust the heat so the sauce is bubbling gently. Let it reduce until it coatss your spoon thickly.
- Retuen the chicken and spring onion to the wok and cook for 2-3 minutes until the choicken is hot all the way through.
- Just before serving, stir in the juice of half the remaining lime
- Serve with steamed rice, a vegetable side dish, garnished with the remaining lime cut into wedges and chopped coriander.
Recipe Notes: I think marinading the chicken in a full on lime juice, lime zest, peanut oil, ground cumin and ground coriander marinade would make this better. But Goon is unlikely to have those ingredients next year, so we kept it simple.
Goon has learnt several lessons from this.
- It takes ages to season a wok.
- Stirring too vigorously makes satay sauce fly across the room. If another person is in the room with you, it may land in her hair and then she may start hitting you with a frying pan.
- Woks heat up quickly and thick sauces can cling to the edges and burn if the heat is too high. You must keep the temperature moderate and scrape down any sauce that is clinging to the sides of the wok.
- Always read a recipe through from beginning to end before starting. Otherwise you will realise half way through that you actually need a side plate and someone to make some rice very quickly.
I also learned something: It is harder to cook a simple side dish and steam some rice while supervising a Goon than it is to prepare a 3 course meal for four people. Still the result was good, especially given the short list of ingredients and the relatively short cooking time. The only problem was that the chicken itself lacked flavour despite being decent free range meat. A marinade in spices as suggested in the note may help this. The book didn’t even call for a lime juice, salt and pepper mix.
Goon will have another turn at cooking on Monday. Perhaps something with beef this time and I may get him to do ALL the cooking, including side dishes.