[Insert Egg Pun Here]

Easter. A time for me to reflect on my love of eggs. For your reference, here is a list of my Top 6 types of eggs:

  1. Steamed eggs with pork
  2. Scrambled eggs
  3. Scotch eggs
  4. Fried eggs
  5. Boiled eggs (so versatile)
  6. Century eggs (in the context of salted pork and century egg congee)

I’m not sure whether it’s because my mum ate A LOT of eggs when she was pregnant with me, or whether because they are super versatile, but I bloody love an egg. One of the 3 reasons I could not become vegan full-time (reason 1 = meats, reason 2 = cheese). As long as you don’t overcook them, you can use them as a source of cheap and easy to prepare protein. I love how they bring together a load of disjointed things on a plate or in a bowl – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to have a ‘fridge clear-out’ dinner before going away, and bringing it all together with… a fried egg on top, and perhaps some hot sauce of sorts.

Eggs feature a lot in my childhood food memories. I remember my first trip to Hong Kong (I was pretty young, maybe 6?) I developed a slight obsession with the fried egg sandwiches there. Bread in HK is extremely white and almost fluffy – with no crusts. Perfectly squared-off loaves are available in every supermarket and bakery. It is the perfect base for a hot fried egg sandwich; part sponge, part egg-blanket. This was also the occasion I discovered fried egg and corned beef sandwiches, but I’ll save that for another day.

Scrambled eggs were the first thing that I ever cooked on a hob (i.e. ‘proper cooking’). I think I had to do it for a Brownies badge so it forced my parents into letting me near an open flame. A 9-year old me did a little air punch. I remember having to cook this at my friend’s house (no idea why, maybe we thought we were being helpful by making a huge mess in the kitchen) and beating the eggs very thoroughly and procrastinating a lot over how much salt to add. Also, black pepper – I was incredibly confused by black pepper as we didn’t use it at all at home. We also pan fried some slices of ham (we hadn’t graduated to raw meats yet) and I was delighted by the result. I think I may have force-fed my mum and dad scrambled eggs every weekend from then on.

Steamed egg and minced pork is possibly one of my favourist things from my parents’ food repertoire. They used to make it in a large dish for dinner and I would always stall my eating to make sure that I got the last dredges of it. It was so delicious, I don’t think I ever chewed a mouthful properly. When it is in the steamer, the egg puffs up and becomes almost souffle-like. But then as soon as it is lifted out, the egg immediately deflates, not that it looks any less appetising though. My parents would always mince their own pork (usually belly – when it was cheap!) using a cleaver – this became my job when I was trusted enough with a knife that was the same size as my face. For my parents, the meal was nutritious and easy to make – something that influenced a lot of our meals as we always ate about an hour before the takeaway opened.

Today, I eat steamed egg a lot less, mainly because there are so many other things to eat. It’s something I go to when I need something that isn’t too heavy but is filling and warm. And no, I can’t make it like how my parents make it. I’m not sure what I do differently but it never tastes the same.

Ingredients:

  • Some pork (er, maybe up to 100g ish?) – I use shoulder but you can use belly and even loin if you want but some fat in it would make it more tasty. You can also totally skip the mincing part and buy pre-minced pork.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Sesame oil (optional)
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • Soy Sauce

(Serves 2 as part of a meal with other dishes, or 1 if serving standalone)

  1. Mince your pork using a cleaver/mincer. Or use pre-minced pork (I prefer the texture when I mince it myself). Place the meat in a shallow dish (this will make cooking quicker) – n.b. make sure it’s big enough!
  2. Crack 2 eggs into the dish, add salt and a few dashes of sesame oil (optional) – beat with chopsticks.
  3. Add the 1/4 cup of water (pre-boiled) and beat again.
  4. Put a steaming rack into a large saucepan or wok – let it come up to the boil. Place the dish into the pan/wok and turn the heat right down to a gentle simmer – I would recommend using the smallest burner as you want it to steam on a low-med heat. Cook for about 15 mins (you can check whether it’s cooked by poking the centre with a chopstick to see if the egg has set/meat has cooked through).
  5. Drizzle soy sauce on the top and serve with boiled rice!

 

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Ta-da! Steamed egg with pork! I’ve put spring onions on top for fanciness but they really don’t add anything to the dish.

 

I eat my steamed egg with plain boiled rice – I kinda stir it all together and wolf it down because very little chewing is needed!

*DISCLAIMER* Now, I know that the top of this steamed egg is all bumpy and not at all refined. First of all, I didn’t grow up with the refined version because my parents didn’t have time. Secondly, because this contains meat, you need enough heat to cook it through within a reasonable amount of time. Vegetarians/steamed egg lovers – you can make this sans meat, steamed on a super low heat (like, the lowest setting on your smallest burner), and you *may* be able to achieve a smooth top and almost custard-like texture (this really depends on how low your hob can go!).

Give it a go and see what happens!

Happy cooking!

xxx

 

Dedicated to my egg-cellent friend Sophie.

Around the world in 80 (x 4) days

It’s been 343 days since my last post, and it’s been 343 days for a reason. This time last year I was living a mini-dream in Sweden – a holiday I decided to indulge in because, quite frankly, I was having the worst time in actual real life (professionally). It happens to us all, and it’s not the first time it had happened to me. So when I returned, I decided change needed to happen. I concentrated my energies into making that change happen and in January this year, I got myself a fably new job. The added bonus of this job? I got to travel the world.

I’ve been in this new job exactly 9 months and 9 days now and it’s taken me this long to jot down and acknowledge my many wanders. I’ve been to so many places, met so many brilliant people, (ate lots of delicious things) I had no idea what to do with all the information. So I’m going to try and break it down a little here, as a sneak preview of what’s to come on Connie Talks.

Back in April I spent a month in Australia (yes, for work), a country that had been on my hitlist since FOREVER but timings and finances never seemed to pan out. Flashback to my conversation with my new manager in January:

Manager: ‘Connie, how do you feel about staying in Australia for a month? We know it’s a big ask.’

Me: [externally] ‘Oh, I’m not sure, can I think about it? Can I take my cat?’
[internally] ‘YES OKAY WHEN NOW I CAN GO NOW CAN PEPS COME WITH ME?’

I’m not going to lie. I was bloody delighted. 2 weeks in Brisbane and 2 weeks in Melbourne was the perfect combination. I was a stone’s throw from the Great Barrier Reef (although I didn’t quite make it that far – turns out ‘a stone’s throw’ actually means ‘the distance between France and China’ in Oz) in one direction, and literally on the Great Ocean Road in the other. My work and travel itinerary became very full very quickly. The highlights included koalas (which turned out to be my other spirit animal – my first being pandas), kangaroos and nature in general. All of a sudden my geography GCSE became real. Oh, and I think I need to talk about the coffee. It is officially okay to ask for a latte out there without being spat on. But I would highly recommend getting a hot flat white – just to be on the safe side. And take a reusable cup.

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Fraser Island

On my way back from Australia, I decided to pop in to see the fam (uncles, aunties, cousins, fake uncles and aunties too) in Hong Kong. Although I’ve been many, many times, this time was slightly different as I’d not been since my granddad’s funeral in 2013. My intention was to have a proper tourist holiday, sans my immediate family. Anyone who has traveled back to their Motherland with immediate family understands that the trip is never a holiday but an itinerary of obligations and family dinners. As much as I love family dinners, I wanted to see HK at my own leisure. Lamma Island was a surprise delight, even in the gazillion degree heat. I even lugged back a jar of some delicious chilli oil that I ate there – probably the most random souvenir from any of my trips.

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Lamma Island. Can’t believe it only costed us a few quid to get there and back.

In the height of summer, I thought it’d be a good idea to go to Italy – again, in the gazillion degree heat (I am yet to pack away my summer wardrobe). The Holy Motherland of All Things Pasta and Art. As an art historian, I am so ashamed to say that I HAD NEVER BEEN TO ITALY before. Now I’ve been, I feel much less like an impostor. I spent a glorious week in Bologna with day trips to Parma, Modena and Florence immersing myself in traditional Italian food, culture and obvs, art history. I left the UK not knowing a word of Italian (apparently pasta shapes don’t count) and returned still not knowing a word of Italian (but have expanded pasta vocabulary significantly). I came back with cravings for lasagna which I attempted to make – the Italian way. Recipe to follow…

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That time I couldn’t decide which pasta to have so I had all three.

I’m sat at my laptop now, still in a state of culture shock, having just returned from Shanghai less than 2 days ago. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with China having had a bad experience there with the fam a few years back. However, I can honestly say Shanghai has changed my perspective; the city is international, accessible (but don’t try and pay with a credit card) and has a lot of good eats. I miss the smell of food everywhere, the Bund and the bustle, but definitely not the pollution.

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Yang’s Fried Dumplings – with a side of curry noodles which I really didn’t need but was greedy so ordered anyway.

So the next few posts will be me trying to process my thoughts on these wonderful places that I’ve visited and probably all the delicious things that I ate too. Next week I travel to Chile for the first time and no doubt will return an empanada addict. Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

Migraine in the Membrane – #ConnieTalks #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

This post isn’t anything to do with travel, culture or good eats but I feel that I need to share my migraine journey with you all as this week is #mentalhealthawarenessweek. Both my physical and mental health has had a lot to do with the frequency and duration of my migraines so I’m going to talk a bit about why I get them and how I cope with them. Ironically, when I first started putting together this post (last week), I was a bit cocky and started this post with ‘Today marks 10 weeks since my last migraine attack…’. Sods law I went and had a migraine the next day.

Background info: my dad has had migraines since I can remember. I didn’t start getting migraines until I was in my mid-twenties. At the time they were hormone-related; it was advised that I came off my oral contraceptive as the tingling I was feeling on the left side of my face during my migraines, was something akin to strokes. The migraines then came on very occasionally, often during periods of immense stress and lack of sleep. Nothing unusual there.

In 2014 or so, they started coming back more frequently. This tallied with the stress and anxiety that I was suffering from due to changes at work and in my personal life (I was diagnosed with anxiety in 2015, although I do not suffer from it much now). A lot of it had to do with money worries too; my full-time fixed term contract was coming to an end and the best offer my employer could give me was a part-time fixed term contract. I was already earning a pittance and there was no way I could afford that job, especially as I had to pay to commute to another city for it. At the time I felt like I wasn’t achieving anything professionally, my romantic life was volatile to say the least, and I was facing a challenge that I simply didn’t have the energy to overcome. Too much over-thinking led to too little sleep and so the migraines came and went, and came… and went.

However, things started to look up when I began to remove all the negative factors in my life: a new job and a new home etc. I focused on the positive rather than the negative (easier said than done) but as my worrying began to subside, my migraines started coming back even more frequently and inconsistently; they happened when I wasn’t stressed, had had loads of sleep, and when I was generally quite hunky dory with life. They lasted longer – 2 days, then 4 days, then 2 weeks. They came more frequently – every month, every fortnight etc. You get where this is going. I was so dazed and confused from them, I must have come across as a bit weird at work. I experience immense pain, weird eye-focusing issues, and say words wrong (transient aphasia, I believe). The only way I could get rid of them was to take a concoction of painkillers and sleep for what felt like forever. Trips to the doctors led to painkillers, triptans, then finally anti-depressants which apparently have a muscle-relaxing side-effect. None of these worked consistently. From last October (when I started the anti-depressants), I was still getting migraines every 4-5 weeks regardless of stress or lack of sleep.

One dark January evening I was scrolling through YouTube when I stumbled upon this video of a chiropractor treating a patient with an extreme migraine attack (I’ve since learned that the said chiropractor has been banned from working with children after a controversial video of him treating a small baby). I admit that by this point, I was desperate and began doing some further internet research. Turns out that there’s a chiropractor near me, with a practitioner who happens to specialise in headaches. I booked myself in immediately.

My first appointment was an eye-opener, mainly because I had an x-ray taken pretty much immediately. That x-ray has pretty much changed my life:

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My neck to the left, a ‘normal’ neck to the right.

The x-ray was revealed to me during my second appointment. In case you haven’t noticed, my neck basically bends in the wrong direction, known as ‘cervical kyphosis’. The main problem with my diagnosis was that the gaps between each vertebra are narrow, causing pressure on nerves which connect to the muscles over my skull and my fingers (this is a really basic explanation!). This has the potential to cause headaches and in my case, migraines. The likely cause of this was the use of forceps when I was born (my dear mother was in labour for 3 days, I do not judge her at all). Although chiropractic treatment won’t fix my ‘banana neck’, hopefully it’ll ease the attacks and make them less frequent.

So, what’s gone down since I started treatment in late January? I started seeing the chiropractor once a week but in the past 3-4 weeks, this has reduced to every 10-14 days instead. I’ve halved my migraine medication as well. The result so far… I’ve had no unexplained migraines! By ‘unexplained’ I mean those that I can’t put down to lack of sleep or stress, and even those have drastically reduced. The quality of the migraines have changed, they are less painful and disruptive. I can think clearly and talk *almost* as incoherently as I normally do. The longest stretch of 9.5 weeks without a migraine was a real milestone for me. It’s been over a year since I’ve gone without one for that long. Of course I’ve had to change my lifestyle a bit too; not too many late nights, less gin drinking (this is the hardest) and less pressure on myself to do ‘that bit extra’. I started eating better (or rather, more routinely with few late night dinners as a result of working late) and cooking better too.

Lastly, it has taken a long time for me to change my mindset, focusing on what I have achieved, rather than what I haven’t. Would you believe that at one point I dismissed my PhD  thinking ‘loads of other people have a PhD, mine isn’t anything special’. WTF. I WROTE A BLOODY PHD FFS. OF COURSE IT’S IMPORTANT AND SPECIAL. 80,000 WORDS. 80,000 WORDS ALL FROM MY BRAIN. And English isn’t even my first language. I have a lifetime’s worth of over-achieving to reconcile, so now is a time to achieve things slightly differently. I now focus my attentions on enjoying whilst achieving, and this blog is all part of communicating that process. I have returned to my love of making; turning the stress of having to do up my flat into a creative project instead, crocheting all sorts of random crap for people because I find it really therapeutic, and finally, journalling my cooking. For those who are suffering from migraines, I recommended stopping and checking in with yourself; self-care is so, so important. Take care of yourself first, whether you’re a migraine sufferer or not!

xxx