So, what have I been doing in the last 2 and a bit weeks...?
1) Working. New class, new Principal, new role (Year Leader), lots of work. The children are delightful, and just beginning to get into their new classroom routines. Me too. But I know that a good start to the year is invaluable so I don't mind spending time on this.
2) Cleaning. Because when you're temporarily without an Amah, if you don't clean the kitchen you get ants! Who knew?!
3) Taking photos of babies. Our 1-month-old neighbour for a start (and wow, babies are tricky to take photos of - they keep MOVING - hence the sleeping shot!):
But also this baby kingfisher we found in our street last week:
Poor little thing, we think its mother had been killed. It was looking very lost, and sat here for ages (which at least allowed me to take a photo).
4) Meeting the local wildlife. I continue to be delighted and amazed by the wildlife here in Brunei (OK, not the ants. I could do without wildlife in my kitchen). This little fellow was lurking outside our door at the weekend:
5) Pinning. Have you found Pinterest yet? It's a website where you can create virtual pinboards of all your favourite things. Check it out - although be warned, it's totally addictive!
6) Reading. I've become mildly obsessed with the Mitford sisters, the eccentric aristocratic family who became notorious in their lifetimes for political reasons, but whose memories live on through their prolific writings - autobiographies, novels and letters. They're a truly fascinating bunch. I've been engrossed in this excellent biography, and felt quite miserable when I finally finished it... so immediately went onto Amazon and ordered a book of letters between Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh - My next Mitford-fix!
7) Cooking. This weekend we had a pretty typical Brunei-shopping experience - carefully planning some meals and then discovering that crucial ingredients were nowhere to be found in the shops! I had decided to make a chilli-con-carne, but there was no mince and no tins of kidney beans. Correction, there was mince, but it was so fatty as to be almost white (ick!) and there were kidney beans, but they were in syrup (another ick!). So I ended up making a chilli with diced steak and tins of lima beans instead. I'm nothing if not adaptable!
I'm looking forward to a bowl of this for supper tonight (with chips and some grated cheddar - naughty but nice!) and then we'll fill the freezer with portions of it. Over the last couple of weeks we've almost emptied the freezer of the 'ready meals' that we make andkeep for busy weeks, so it's satisfying to restock it.
This isn't actually the recipe I used (I don't usually use a recipe for chilli), but a friend posted it on our forum recently and I have been meaning to give it a try, if only for the name!
1 large onion, diced
1 or 2 red chilies, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 lb (1 kg) ground beef
6 strips (300 g) bacon, diced
1 x 14 oz (400 g) can of kidney beans, black beans or pinto beans
1 cup (250 ml) barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (optional if you don’t want it too spicy)
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 x 12 oz (350 ml) beer
grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced scallions, tortilla chips, etc., to serve
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pot over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, chilies and a pinch of salt (to stop the onions from browning) and cook for 10 minutes, or until the onions have softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the ground beef and bacon and cook until it’s nearly cooked through and browned, stirring occasionally.
Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to keep at a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour – the longer you cook it, the more the flavors will develop – adding more beer or water if the chili starts to look too dry. Serve the chili warm with toppings of your choice.