Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fast food

It’s been a month since we arrived in Canberra. Re-entry has been kind of surreal, because in many ways we have been able to more or less pick up where we left off 2.5 years ago. DP is back working with many of the same people, Miss B is back at the same school with kids she remembers from her preschool year, and I’ve returned to my familiar routines of doing errands on foot and swinging through Supabarn several days a week ago so I don’t have to lug home too much heavy stuff at once. But of course we haven’t actually been here, and so we have various things to do to get ourselves re-settled. Top priority on this list is finding a long-term place to live. We’re in short-term furnished accommodation at the moment, until our stuff arrives from the US. Since we were told to expect transport of household goods to take 2-3 months, we’ve got some time to look around and see what’s available. Which has turned out to be a good thing.

House hunting in Canberra is an adventure. You find a house you are interested in renting, usually on a real estate website. The ad tells you to call or email to register interest, so you do. About 50% of the time you get no response to your expression of interest, so you learn quickly to keep checking the website to spot when the property is open for inspection. (Since you cannot apply to rent the property without proving you have done an in-person inspection, this is a critical part of the process. You cannot, however, request an inspection time that suits your schedule. Oh no. Don't be silly.) At some point, an inspection time will be posted, which generally runs for 15 minutes. If you are lucky, this will be scheduled for a Saturday. However, it is just as likely to be, say, from 1:35 to 1:50 on a Friday afternoon, as was the case with a house I looked at last week. This means, unless you have a flexible work schedule, as I do, that you are out of luck. Once you have inspected the house (often with 10-15 other people or groups who are also interested), you give your name to the estate agent who is monitoring the inspection as proof you were there, take an application form for each adult planning to reside in the house, and depart. If you want the house, it behooves you to complete your application and send it in as soon as possible, before all the other people who also want it get in ahead of you. Each application, including filling in, scanning, and rounding up supporting documentation, is a good hour’s worth of work, and each agency uses a different form.

We missed out on all this excitement the last time we lived in Canberra, because we sub-let an apartment from one of DP’s colleagues. I had no idea how lucky we were.

In one way, it’s been a useful exercise: to see what’s available, what we can live with in a rental, and what is an absolute deal-breaker. Even though we’ve moved around so much, we have often lucked into accommodation, as we did last time here, so we don’t have a vast amount of experience with this part of the process. In another way, however, it’s been eye-opening: to see what many landlords think is acceptable condition for a rental property (as opposed to what I think); to see what you get for your money at different levels of the price range; and to see what leverage you as a potential tenant have (not a lot, as far as I can tell).

This past Saturday we had scheduled ourselves to see two houses: one had an open time at 10:00 am and the other at 12:30. Since we were on foot, they were close enough together that it made more sense to mooch around in that part of town in between appointments than to come back home and go out again. Luckily, Canberra is conducive to that kind of thing, and we spent a pleasant hour wandering the Braddon shops. We even gave into Miss B’s begging for a Happy Meal and had lunch at McDonald’s. Halfway through, she asked me if I could make chicken nuggets at home? Not only could I make them, I promised, I could make them better – even in a hotel-room kitchen with only three pans and a tiny stove. Just imagine how good these could be on that six-burner rental stove I’m keeping my fingers crossed for?

Homemade chicken nuggets
This basic method works for breading all kinds of other stuff, too - various cuts of meat and fish, and even some veg - and you can add seasonings depending upon what you’re breading and how you’re planning to use it. I'm not sure Miss B thinks they're better than McD's, but I definitely do.

1 lb/500 g chicken tenderloins
2 Tbsp/30 g Greek yogurt
1 cup/4 oz/120 g plain flour
salt & pepper
2 eggs
1 cup/4 oz/125 g breadcrumbs
oil or other fat of your choice, for cooking

Dump the chicken into a bowl and add the Greek yogurt; stir to combine. Leave to marinate for a little while – 30 minutes if you can manage it, and the longer the better. (I would have done this the day before if I had remembered to buy the chicken sooner.)

When ready to bread the chicken, season flour and put in one bowl; break and mix eggs in a second; and pour breadcrumbs into a third. One by one, dip tenderloins into flour, then eggs, then breadcrumbs. Place on a rack or baking tray; try to leave to rest for at least 15 minutes so that breading will adhere better.

At this point, you can either wrap these and freeze them uncooked; cook them in the oven; or, as I did, cook them on the stovetop in a shallow layer of fat, about 5 minutes each side over medium heat. I cooked them in several batches, and as I finished them, placed them in a pan in a warm oven.

This recipe made about 10 tenderloins.


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