Spiced lamb stew

Spice lamb stew

In the Crock Pot, ready to serve

This is an adaptation from a recipe in the BBC Good Food “Comfort Food” cookbook. It can be done as a stovetop stew, or in a slow cooker; I’ll provide both methods below. Note: the original recipe called for butternut squash, but since this isn’t widely available in Norway, we went with sweet potato and have never looked back. You can do it either way.


  • Olive oil (not needed for slow cooker)
  • 900g boneless lamb pieces
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2.5cm piece of root ginger, finely chopped or grated
  • 1tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste (add more if you want it extra hot)
  • 25g plain flour
  • 1L lamb or vegetable stock
  • 1kg sweet potato, cut into large chunks
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes, or four fresh tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 200g baby spinach leaves
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method – stovetop

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, then add the lamb and brown over high heat, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add onion, garlic, and ginger; cook for 3-4 minutes until the onion is soft.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, harissa paste, and flour; cook over medium heat for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Pour in the stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas, and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Stir in the spinach and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper and serve as soon as the spinach is wilted.

Method – slow cooker

  1. Add all ingredients except the spinach, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to your slow cooker pot. NB if you prefer, you can brown the meat in a frying pan first.
  2. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours.
  3. Stir in the spinach and lemon juice; season with salt and pepper and serve as soon as the spinach is wilted.

Serve this with warm, crusty bread. Guaranteed winter warmer.

Sleep deprivation parenting—it’s a thing

Tired eye

This is not my eye, btw. Stock photo tired eye.

People who have children who sleep well should thank their lucky stars. My daughter is now three and a half years old, and in those three and a half years, my partner and I have not made it through a single straight week without a night of broken sleep, and that’s in very, very good weeks. The truth is, most nights we get, at the most, about four hours of unbroken sleep before we’re woken up by the sound of our daughter’s calls, cries, and sometimes screams.

There will be those reading this who will immediately roll their eyes and make assumptions that we are those soft, weak parents who “allow” our child to act this way by the way we react to the sleep problems. To those I say a) we’ve already tried just about every method of controlling this you can throw at us, b) you’re measuring this against a different child/children, and c) shut up.

When I was pregnant, my partner’s mother laughingly told me that he didn’t sleep well until he was four. I laughed too, thinking I had it all in hand since I had read the Gina Ford book (NB Damn you to hell, Gina Ford). Now I silently, stupidly count the days until her fourth birthday and wonder if we can be lucky enough for her to follow the same pattern. Yeah, lucky. But at the same time, it has become a part of our lives. We are tired. All the time. Because life. Because child.

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Chili con carne

Dedicated to my patient friend, Brian. Sorry it took so long!


Photo courtesy of sxc.hu

This summer, we finally arranged a long-talked-about Tex-Mex dinner with some friends. I had planned to make the chili con carne based on our tried and tested BBC Comfort Foods recipe book, but the last couple of times I’d found something lacking and decided to try a new recipe. Risky when you have company, right? Especially when one of them is American and knows what good chili should taste like. I looked all over for good recipes, and found many, as is so often the case on American recipe websites, that asked for brand-name ingredients I didn’t know how to substitute. In the end, I went with this one, but when I tasted it, there was definitely something missing. I fiddled around, throwing this and that in until it tasted better. Then I let it simmer for an hour or two, then served it up. That hour or two made a world of difference, and my friend has been asking for the recipe ever since.

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How do you explain…

RRH slideshow_0081…death to a three-year-old? A week or so ago, my mum was visiting from Australia and overheard me trying to explain to my daughter why the fly on the windowsill couldn’t fly away. I said it got old, had finished living and now it was dead.

My bubble frowned, then looked suspicious.”What dead?”

“It went to sleep forever,” I said. “It lived as long as it could, and then it got so tired that it went to sleep. Now it’s gone and it can’t wake up anymore.”

Bubble didn’t understand. “Why did it dive, Mummy?” she asked.

“No, sweetie, not dive, die.” Continue reading »

What is your problem, 2013?

Unlucky 13I am not a superstitious person. I don’t feel the need to throw salt over my shoulder, I don’t avoid walking under ladders, I like black cats, and I think the best way to dry an umbrella is to open it inside the house. But after the number of terrible things that have happened to me, my friends and my family so far this year, I am just about ready to turn around my thinking on the whole number thirteen thing.

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog post about how grateful I was for the state of my life at the time. Things were going so well I could hardly believe my luck. Then we took a Christmas trip to Australia, which was fantastic – we even managed to drag our two and a half year old to the other side of the world and back without so much as a single airport tantrum or piece of luggage lost. But when we got back, well that was when it all started turning to crap.

Without going into too much detail about each thing (there are so many stories, and not all of them are ones I’m ready to share here), the following happened over the course of the next six months:

  • My company was downsized and I lost my job (okay, not an entirely unwelcome situation, but still scary)
  • A friend from work took her own life
  • A nasty falling out with a colleague in the new business I had been involved with outside my regular job caused me to consider walking away from the entire thing (I didn’t)
  • One of the cats I had to leave behind in Australia wandered away from her foster home and is presumed dead (she was eighteen years old)
  • We were unjustifiably sued over the handover of our apartment after we sold it
  • We had to pay for our daughter’s daycare place through July even though she would be leaving in March
  • We got a new daycare place for August, meaning we had to hire a nanny for the interim, which costs double what one normally pays for daycare (so now we’re effectively pay three times what we normally would)
  • In renovating the kitchen in our new house, the electrician found faulty wiring all over the place and we had to replace the entire electrical system
  • A further falling out with the aforementioned colleague left the business in ruins (this time I did walk away)
  • My boyfriend’s business was subjected to an audit by the tax authorities (luckily everything was fine – he’s the least dodgy person I know)
  • My daughter was mistakenly given a peanut and was rushed to hospital with anaphylactic shock
  • I was swindled by a logo designer who, it turns out, stole the design I paid him to create
  • My website was deleted with no backup
  • The other cat I left behind in Australia also passed away
  • A family member was diagnosed with cancer

And that’s just the stuff that happened to us! Everywhere else this year I’m hearing about long-term relationship breakups, money problems, depression, loss of jobs… it goes on and on. Without wanting to sound whiny and petulant, it’s just not fair! These are good people – WE are good people – and we don’t deserve all this crap.

Fighting back

In ten days 2013 will be halfway over, and I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to take this rubbish anymore. Okay, 2013, I get it. You’re a badass. You’re the devil’s year and you’re out to prove it. Seriously, get over yourself! You want to push me? Then you get to find out what happens when I get pushed too far: I start pushing back. And you know how I’m going to do it? I’m going to kick some ass of my own. By the end of this miserable, cursed year, I will have finished the two novels I’m concurrently writing, I will get that damn publishing contract, my new businesses will be thriving, and you can go flex your big, fat, unlucky muscles somewhere else. And while you’re at it, think about this: you’re only going to survive another six months – is this how you want us to remember you? As a mean bitch who can’t let people live their lives and be happy? Get a life, 2013, and back up off mine.

Thank you, Networked Blogs!

Sunshine through the cloudsLast week I discovered something unbelievably sucky: I went to post a new blog, and I discovered that my blog had disappeared. I checked my host account and not only were all the files gone, but the database had been emptied as well. I immediately contacted my hosting company, but unfortunately this problem had occurred more than a month prior, so they had no backup to offer me (that’ll teach me to visit my own site more often!). I was devastated. Six years of posts, gone. I tried various internet archives, but no luck.

I was so depressed I considered just forgetting the whole site. I have another blog I use for my writing career, maybe I should just use that one. But no, it wasn’t enough! I might not post to this site very often anymore, but when I do it’s usually for cathartic purposes; I use this site to rant, complain, express joy, share news about my personal life… I didn’t want to lose it! But the idea of starting over from scratch just depressed me. So I left it.

Just this morning, I logged into a tool called Networked Blogs, which I use for disseminating posts from my various websites via Facebook and Twitter, to remove this site from my dashboard. I almost did a double-take when I realised that I could see some of my old posts. But I feared that these cached posts would be in the same situation as the archives: only the first few lines of each post and nothing more. But no, when I clicked, there were the last two years of posts in their entirety, images and all! Never has anyone copied and pasted so fast! Within minutes I’d copied all the text and saved it to my hard drive with cloud backup.

So today I’ve resurrected the last two years of posts. I do still have an old backup with the older ones, but the ones that matter to me today are here and that’s enough for me. And all those who were devastated to lose my zucchini slice and rogan josh recipes, those little gems are here too. Thank you, Networked Blogs. You saved my site.

Goodbye IT career, hello literary world!

Team Jaunty

Today is my last day at Opera Software, and also the last day of a fourteen year IT career. I am leaving the safe haven of employeehood and am off to become a full time author, editor, publisher and book producer, a career in which I’ve been dabbling on the sidelines for a couple of years and have been dreaming about since the day I first picked up a book. I am finally ready to tackle it head-on. (And don’t worry, I won’t use the word employeehood again.)

When I started at Opera back in 2008, I was thrown into the Nintendo team head first, right before the release of the DSi. I found myself in the intimidating, yet privileged, position of working with some of the best minds at Opera, not to mention some of the strange and wonderful wizards at Nintendo. Working with those teams was the high point of my IT career, and I will forever be thankful to Opera for the opportunity to take part in those projects. Alf Bjørn and Tsukasa deserve special recognition for their support while I learned the ropes.

I’ve also probably been the busiest employee rep in Opera history, helping staff through “right-sizing”, the office move, and the recent rounds of goodbyes that sent us all reeling. I have been humbled at the strength and integrity shown by those in very intense and strained situations, and it has only shown me further the quality of the people I’ve been surrounded by these past four years.

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Dancing feetIt’s only natural to start thinking more about manners and their importance when you’re responsible for shaping and guiding a young life. Now that my daughter is old enough to express herself verbally, as well as through body language and facial expressions, I find I’m becoming ever more aware of the differences between the way I was brought up, and the way my friends, peers and I are bringing up our children.

Some of what I’m noticing is a cultural difference, given that I was brought up in Australia and I am raising my daughter in Norway, but much of it is the inevitable generation gap; probably every generation feels that the next one is cruder, less considerate, with worse manners. But I can’t help wondering, in this age of obsessing about whether our children are well-adjusted, confident and happy above all else, are we actually ensuring they will be less polite?

I was brought up in an age of social change; it was the 70s and parents were, perhaps for the first time, beginning to be mindful of how their parenting impacted on the feelings of the child, rather than only how their child impacted on the lives of those around them. I probably felt some of this more acutely, given that my father is a psychologist and was then a guidance counselor in the education sector.  He was also a very hands-on father, which was a fairly new attitude at the time. However, I was still taught to be considerate of others, to say “excuse me” when I was inconveniencing someone, whether it was my fault or not, and to say “please”, “thank you” and to call adults by their last name (Mrs Smith, Mr Jones, etc.).

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Perpetuating lies

FrustrationI am increasingly concerned about the sorts of things some of my Facebook friends are sharing and circulating – not because I disagree with them (though I often do), but because they seem so willing to perpetuate blatantly untrue statements, quotes and news pieces just because they grab onto the emotive nature of the item, which, frankly, is the intention of the originator.

I’m sad to say, that it is most often my Australian friends who are guilty of this practice. It could be a result of living in a culture that feeds on and actively encourages sensationalist journalism – my recent trip home to Australia reminded me of how true this is – but it’s concerning to see people I care about and respect irresponsibly spreading lies and perpetuating the wider world view that Australia is a country full of racists.

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Aussie meat pies

Meat pie with chips and veggies

Meat pie with chips and veggies

The meat pie is an Australian staple. But most Australians buy them ready-made from corner shops, supermarkets, delis and snack bars. I had never made a meat pie until I moved to Norway. I tried several recipes, but this was the closest to the real thing.

For the base, I use a quiche or other unsweetened pie crust dough. Or you can use your favourite shortcrust pastry recipe, as long as it’s not sweet.

For the top, I use store-bought puff pastry, which in Norway means crossing the border and getting it from Sweden. You can buy puff pastry in Norway (called butterdeig or smørdeig), but it comes in frozen blocks that have to be thawed and rolled out, which is painful, but doable.

For this recipe, I like to use three or four small, non-stick pie dishes, but it could also make one large pie (about 20cm in diameter).

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