P1140883 It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a married woman in possession of a child must be in want of a wife.

My apologies Ms Austen for the bastardisation of your tidy prose.

But golly, wouldn’t it be lovely?

(Can we park to the side the fact that I have a terrific husband? Thanks).

But a wife! A second me! Oh the fun we would have!  (The mountains, both real and metaphorical I could climb?) I’d start the day with the twenty minutes of dry skin brushing, or meditation, or instinctive exercise that so many wellness gurus recommend, rather than having an empty bottle thrown at my head like a missile as I walk through the nursery door (done with love, I’m sure).  I’d then sit down with a herbal tisane and write Version B of Me a list of bullet points, each one a task I’m less gleeful about doing. This week; book the car in for a service. Confirm what that phantom direct debit from Allianz each month is for. Pay council rates. Buy washing detergent and toilet paper. Empty the nappy bin. Hang out washing. Bring in washing. Fold washing. Put away washing. Repeat. Get to the bottom of that strange letter from the tax office.  Scrub the pram for mysterious smears. Empty sand and seven teaspoons he’s shoplifted from cafes out of the undercarriage. Wash off the high chair. Again. Remove high chair straps, now crusted in avocado. Wash them. Pick up tupperware from all over the kitchen floor. Again.  Try to find the lid for the one that fits the banana bread. Find it under the oven. Mop kitchen floor; again. Put dishes away. Sort out dreary-slow drain. Call plumber. Call the tree guy. Remove rogue puzzle piece from inside the VCR. Remove Will’s fingers from where he’s got them stuck in the VCR. Again.  Take out compost. Turn compost. Put the dishes away. Scrub the underside nibs of Will’s bottles. Wipe out the bottom of the vegetable crisper. Clean lint filter in the washing machine. Change sheets. Exercise.

Thank god for podcasts.

That would leave me to relish the stuff at home I actually enjoy. I like cooking, both for us and for Will. I find vacuuming eerily satisfying. Dirty; clean! Just like that! I don’t mind cleaning the bathrooms, for the very same reason.

I like filing letters away. It gives me a fake sense of order. Everything in its rightful place.

Then there’s the care and maintenance of a rambunctious 15 month old Will; 80 per cent of that I relish; it’s the jobs that clash chaos and filth together that I wrestle with (re; his persistent need to try and flip himself over and run away while changing nappies, hurling food with helicopter arms from a high chair, just to see where it lands). I like watering the garden. I like remembering birthdays and sourcing the right presents. I even get a lot of joy out of a good supermarket sweep.  Oh- and then there’s the other sort of work. Squeezing work in is luckily something that sits in the favoured column. How grim would it be if I hated what I do for a modest crust?  But squeeze is the operative word. There is no daycare until next year. Will’s naps have become a gilded prison in our daily schedule. They are not to be toyed with. This is not a child that will transfer mid snooze. A five minute kip in the car? Great. But that’s all you’re going to get.  The amount of times I find myself yelping nursery rhymes or singing ‘no napping! no napping!’ at a maniacal pace and volume with the windows open as we round the last bend home can’t be counted accurately. Those naps are a shimmering oasis when I can open a laptop with safety (otherwise someone sees it as a great substitute piano).

I don’t have a wife. Or a clone. Instead, I have a pressure cooker.

I came upon this saintly device when I was looking into ways I to cook pulses from scratch; they’re cheaper than canned and often you end up with a superior texture too. But from there, I was hooked. If you can ignore the fact that it can be weaponised, it’s genius. Please don’t fret, modern versions don’t explode on a hob, they just cook things very swiftly, maximising flavour and hands on time. I’m talking about rich, made from bones stock in an hour and a half. Stews in an hour. And a genius, just genius seed based risotto in 25 minutes.  It’s so good that I put the slow cooker out on the curb in the last council clean up. Why is it better than the slow cooker? Well, the speed factor is one. It tastes like you’ve been babysitting a dish all day, when really it went in at 4.30 pm. The other is the heft. The interior is light, which means I can easily wash it up in our small sink (I always struggled with the heavy insert to the slow cooker). And the way it tenderises cheaper secondary cuts of meat is simply stellar.

It’s a workhorse. It’s no wonder that the Australian journalist Juanita Phillips wrote a working mother memoir devoted to its merits ‘A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life

This Korean Beef stew, roughly based on a Galbi Jjim is my latest labour of love. It takes beef short ribs- sometimes listed as Asado in Australian butchers and glosses them with a sweet and salty stock. There are hits of ginger and garlic and the sauce is bulked and mellowed with nashi pear and sweet potato (you could just use a regular pear if that’s all you have on hand). There’s daikon and carrot,  though you could easily substitute radishes and additional carrots if daikon is too hard to come by.

I cut a few more corners by browning the ribs not in a pan, but on a baking sheet under the grill. It leaves my hands free to cut the rest of the vegetables or measure the sauce (and saves on washing up).

After the initial browning (optional, but it will add an increased depth of flavour) it’s a two step process, with the meat locked away for 40 minutes with the soy, miring and aromatics. After that the meat should be shrugging away from the stout little bones. The vegetables get layered on top and cooked for 15-20 minutes, depending on how soft you’d like them (20 will leave them very pliant).

I find beef short ribs to be a delicious, but quite fatty cut so one easy way to save some indulgence is to strain off the cooking stock and allow it to chill in the fridge for a few hours. The excess fat will solidify on the surface, allowing you to easily lift it off.

There is no chilli in this dish, which meant that Will happily tucked into a portion for his dinner. All it needs is a couple of accompaniments to make it into a great meal. The first is something with some kick. Kimchee; the fermented spiced cabbage Korean food is famous for is perfect. Otherwise some hot English mustard will help wake it all up. The second is a neutral base note. Rice would be classic- though if you’re heading down the slow carb route then quinoa would work well- or do like we did and take a bunch of enoki mushrooms. Cleave the roots and allow them to wilt into the stock, beef and vegetables over a medium heat. They will unfurl like noodles and have the same easy texture. It’s a trick I’ve been turning to a bit lately. It’s a life hack that’s making me very happy. Not, I-just-scored-a-wife happy, but content nonetheless.

 Korean Beef with Enoki Noodles

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Nb, this can also be made in dutch oven, though it will take around 2.5 hours-3 hours for the meat to soften over a medium heat. Then add the vegetables and cook for another hour.

Shopping/foraging

Feeds 4-6

3 racks of beef short ribs (approx 1.75 kg)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 red onion, sliced into slim half moons
1 thumb of ginger, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, grated, or thinly sliced
1 nashi pear/ regular pear, peeled and chopped into 2 cm dice
1/2 cup of soy sauce/tamari
1/4 cup mirin
2 tbsp rice malt syrup/ maple syrup/honey
1 medium daikon, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 cm dice
1 bunch of enoki mushrooms, ends trimmed

Here’s how we roll

1) Place the beef ribs on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Place under the grill on medium high for 7 minutes until they have gained some colour. Use tongs to flip them over and grill the other side for the same length of time.

2) Meanwhile, chop your onion, ginger and garlic. Then add the sesame oil, onion, ginger and garlic to the bottom of the pressure cooker, set to sautee mode. Sautee for 3-4 minutes, until the onion has begun to soften.  Add the pear and stir to combine

3) Measure out your soy, mirin and syrup (or honey) and add to pressure cooker with the onions, pear and garlic.

4) When the beef is browned, pour off any fat and trim any obvious pieces. Curl the ribs so they fit inside the pressure cooker.  Add the lid, make sure the steam nozzle is in the right position and set the timer for 40 minutes. Go and have a cup of tea, do some life admin or bring in some washing.

5) After 40 minutes, allow the pressure to release and check that the meat is starting to soften off the bones.

5) Lay the vegetables over the top. Return the lid and cook for 15- 20 minutes (15 for firmer vegetables, 20 for very pliant).

6) Either serve as is (there will be quite a lot of fat in the sauce), or strain the sauce into a bowl and allow it to cool in the fridge to separate the fat which will solidify on the top. If you want to remove the bones from the meat, now is also a good time to do it.

7) Return the sauce to the pan with the soft vegetables and meat. Serve as is with rice or quinoa, or fold the enoki mushrooms through and heat gently until they have wilted. Serve with kimchee or hot mustard.