Knowing what to do while you’re on standby for delivery room services can be a little maddening. This was how I found myself last Monday night, knowing my sister would begin having contractions at any moment and that I’d have to move at lightning speed as soon as I got ‘the call’ to get through the one-hour commute to the hospital and begin hand-holding duties.
After walking in circles around the Lady Pad for a little while, I decided to do what any sane person would do – eat. I had some lovely grass-fed rump steaks, mushrooms and bacon on hand, so thought a quick steak sandwich would do the job. But then I decided that if I was going to perform high-intensity hand-holding duties properly, I would need to make sure that I build a serious steak sandwich so I could sustain the level of performance required for the task ahead. I had done this baby delivery business once before … and knowing what I was in for made psyching myself up even harder. As I seasoned the steak and cut up the mushrooms, I thought about how my sister, herself a second child, was born in less than an hour. There was a good chance baby would be arriving just as I reached the hospital. It would be perfect really.
And I thought about my first time in the delivery room and watching Benjamin arrive into the world. It was one of the most special moments of my life, and aside from having all circulation to my fingers cut off, I was spared any gruesomeness thanks to the relatively textbook delivery that it was. This one would be a cinch. The call to hand-holding had come at 1 a.m. that time, with the very kind Mr R. driving a very exhausted me to the hospital from one end of Melbourne to another. I hadn’t expected to be part of the action, but after walking into the room with plans to say a quick hello and then head back to the waiting room, I was met by my sister, mid-contraction, and my mother, brother-in-law and a midwife surrounding her with all kinds of apparatus’. A frightening scene. As I began tippy-toeing away from the action, I was quickly chased by my mother who told me that my sister had been asking for me and wanted me there. In a moment of sheer insanity, I had a quick self-talk on the spot. I made a pact with myself not to pass out or throw up, and to just generally harden the f*&# up!
And so I held my sister’s hand, cooled her down with a face washer and said the most encouraging things that one who has not had a baby could say, while Phil went down to the special effects end to watch the show and Mum was placed in charge of the TENS machine (a funny little contraption with some kind of electrodes that send pulses to pressure points to help with pain).
Unfortunately for Mum, she wasn’t too successful in pinpointing the right spots, and kept shocking my poor sister instead, who in turn would scream at her each time. The scene for this delivery-suite newbie went from traumatic and circus-like, to slightly hilarious and circus-like. But after pushing and panting and following the instructions of the wonderful midwife, my brave little sister was rewarded with a beautiful boy, and we were all reduced to happy, happy tears.
And so with those lovely thoughts, I ate my yummo steak sandwich, prepared a little something to wear in case of a middle-of-the-night call to run to the hospital, and took myself off to bed.
4 slices thickly-cut rye sourdough bread
2 x 150 g scotch or rump steaks
4 slices shortcut smoky bacon
50 g Swiss, Gruyère or provolone cheese
1/3 cup horseradish cream (or sås pepparrot from IKEA)
8-10 button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh or dried thyme
2 large, very ripe tomatoes, cut into eighths
1 tablespoon fresh oregano or basil
good handful rocket
2 spring onions, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and ground black pepper
Depending on how deft a hand you are at multi-tasking in the kitchen, you could potentially whip this up in 10 minutes. There are a lot of ingredients here, so if you’re not mad on, say … mushrooms, by all means leave them out. Be sure to give what you do include, lots of love. You will be rewarded with a super delicious sandwich for it.
Start by preparing all of your ingredients so they are ready to cook and assemble quickly. You’ll need a griddle pan for the bread (if you want the fancy stripy effect), and possibly two frying pans to make this a very quick meal.
On a smooth surface or chopping board, rub each steak with olive oil and then season, so they are each fully coated.
Heat a griddle pan and add a little olive oil or olive oil spray, then add the sourdough (or any good-quality, thickly sliced bread) slices. Turn each piece over after a couple of minutes, or when slightly chargrilled. Remove and spread one side with the horseradish cream. Dijon mustard or a delicious bush-style chutney would also be good. Use the griddle pan to begin frying up the bacon on a medium heat.
Heat a separate frying pan on a medium to high heat and then add the beef. For medium, I cooked each piece for about 3 minutes on each side, turning repeatedly after a minute on each side (a faux pas for many chefs, but for a wee home cook like me, it seems to work). Once you’re happy with one side, add some slices of cheese on top and allow it to melt while the other side cooks away. The beef is medium when it is still springy, but not overly malleable. Set aside to rest when cooked to your liking.
Give the pan a bit of a wipe and then add a little butter or olive oil. (And check your bacon at this point!) Quickly sauté the mushrooms, adding the thyme and seasoning. Once cooked and tasty, remove the mushrooms and set aside.
Give the pan another wipe (or use your second pan at the same time) and add a splash of olive oil, then on a high heat, flash fry the tomatoes. You’ll really get them going by adding the balsamic vinegar a few seconds later. After a minute or so they should be oozing juice and slightly caramelised. Turn the heat off and throw in the oregano or basil, with a little seasoning.
Assemble this beefcake something like this: toasted bread with horseradish, rocket, bacon, steak with cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes (with a little of the balsamic goodness), a few spring onions and the other piece of toasted bread on top. And voila, it’s done! You might just need a knife and fork to eat it …
My darling niece, Natalie April, was born the following day – 8 April 2014 at 12.39 p.m. It took a little longer than we had all hoped, and with some complications this time, but I couldn’t be prouder of my sister who overcame fear, exhaustion and unspeakable pain to deliver a little angel into the world. Miss Natalie, your auntie can’t wait to teach you to sing all of your mother’s favourite songs, including ‘I can see a rainbow’ done 10 ways, and create an interpretive dancing, faux multi-lingual protégé!