Last week I spent a day with my ‘dancer’ cousin, Marissa, who was housebound before impending knee surgery. I took over my chicken sandwich mix and yummy bread, as well as some double chocolate muffins and Bend It Like Beckham (corny me thought this could be uplifting for my soul-destroyed, dance-deprived cousin). Marissa was also kind enough to let me style and photograph the food (this is becoming a common annoyance for those who hang out with me), and being the talent that she is, took this beautiful shot of her open sandwich.
So, why was it that Marissa needed surgery? Well, on New Year’s Eve, my mum hired a city apartment so that all of the family could celebrate with a spectacular view of Melbourne’s fireworks. It was a lovely night, although I did think that my family could do without the dramatic fireworks display, given their ability to create their own! Half an hour after arriving, Marissa was playing with my nephew, Benjamin (the prawn-cocktail eater), when suddenly, we heard her crying out in pain. Much to all of our horror, her knee had popped out of place. To her rescue were a number of medical experts (my family are frequent hospital/medical centre visitors and consider themselves fully qualified!), who moved her into bed and monitored her progress throughout the night.
A game of ‘5 Second Rule’ was next. My team’s response to ‘name 3 furniture stores’, caused a heated debate, with most of the noise coming from Phillipe. As the Pommy boy amongst the Greeks, he has learned that if he wants to be heard, a few more decibels of screaming are necessary.
The night was not complete without my grandmother’s New Year’s cake, Vassilopita, or what we call ‘The Money Cake’. A two-dollar coin is baked into the cake, then a piece is cut for everyone, from oldest to youngest, with the first two pieces for Jesus and ‘the house’ (to my knowledge, Jesus nor the house have ever received the money). Whoever receives the money is said to be blessed for the year ahead. Well, my dodgy Yiayia got the money this year, after which Benjamin decided to feed himself cake, breaking off hunks of it and smacking them into his face, with the hope that some might land in his mouth. The Money Cake was completely destroyed and the little fiend smiled cheekily at the destruction he had caused.
At midnight, the fireworks exploded out of different points in the city, with one source of fireworks just across the road – a truly wonderful sight. There were kisses, hugs, screams of ‘Happy New Year Melbourne’ from Phillipe, and then the Arts Centre caught on fire.
2 chicken breast fillets
1 red apple, cored and diced
1 celery stick, diced into small pieces
handful of walnuts, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons whole-egg mayonnaise
1 tablespoon seeded mustard
squeeze lemon juice
extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
sea salt and ground black pepper
Poach the chicken by placing the fillets snugly in a pot with enough water to cover it by an inch. I cut the chicken into similar sized pieces to ensure that they cook at the same time. I also like to add a little seasoning to the pot. Bring it to the boil then allow the chicken to simmer for 10 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and allow the chicken to sit in the water for a further 10 minutes, so that it can continue cooking. Drain well, allow it to cool and then shred and set it aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon, herbs and seasoning. Add the apple, celery, walnuts, shredded chicken and a drizzle of oil, then combine well to ensure the ingredients are well-coated with the mayonnaise mixture. Check for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper, mustard or lemon if necessary. The quantity will depend on the size of the chicken fillets and how tasty you would like your chicken mix to be.
For open sandwiches, thickly cut six to eight slices of dense, wholegrain bread and top with the chicken mix and rocket or cos lettuce. For traditional, high-tea style sandwiches, use white bread (with no crusts) and spread with a little butter to hold the sandwiches together, then add a little of the mixture and some lettuce, before cutting into quarters diagonally. You should get enough out of this mixture to feed a hungry troupe of at least six dancers, with or without popped knees!