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I am sorry, I am just trying to photograph my Popsicles

While taking photographs for this food, I had one of those awkward moments when your neighbor catches you crouching on his designated backyard shade with a phone in hand and a tray of Popsicles, ice cubes and other things neatly laid on his veranda as you snap away at them from different angles. 

Like a deer in headlight, you freeze. The look on his face is hard to read, but it looks like a bizarre mixture of surprise and condescension. 

“How fucked up is this creep?” You imagine him thinking. “Who walks to his neighbor’s porch at 7 am to take pictures ice cubes?”

But in your defense, you honestly thought he had left, he’s always the first person to leave and the sun never finds him home. But clearly you were wrong because he’s only three feet away from you, staring down at you through his kitchen window. 

You also know that delving into the explanation that “You see the reflection of the sun hadn’t yet reached my porch and I can’t wait for 8:30 when it normally does” Will only make you sound creepier. So your lips stretch, slowly, into a sheepish smile as he draws his curtain closed on your retarded gaze. 

“I swear I am not a creep.” You want to dash to the window and explain. “It’s important that I take these photos in bountiful daylight and by the time I come back in the evening the sun will have set, or I’ll have to climb up to the pastor’s porch on the second floor to catch the rescinding line of sunlight.” But then that will now make you sound like a nutcase.

So you pretend what happened never did, and continue snapping away as you mutter to yourself, “my daughter’s milk will not buy itself.”

I know somewhere on Facebook today there maybe a status update by some guy who has a creepy nutcase for a neighbor. If you see that sort of update, please tag me and I defend myself. I am not a mad person.

Otherwise you should try these Popsicles for kids parties, I promise they are not any hustle and are incredibly cheap.

RECIPE:
Ingredients 

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

5 Passion fruits 

1 1/2 cups milk

100gm caster sugar


Procedure

1. Mix the sugar with the milk and scoop out the pulp from the fruits.


2. Using a strainer, a spoon an 1 tbsp of granular sugar, grate some of juice from the seeds into the milk. The only reason remove the seeds completely was because I love the mixture of colors they give to the Popsicles.

3. Combine the pulp and the milk mixture and put in the fridge until almost freezing. 


4. Then mix the two, transfer to a Popsicle tray an ice cube tray (which is what I had) dip in the sticks and freeze till frozen. 


If you don’t want to suffer with the seeds, you could just blend everything together, sieve out the seeds, move to the tray, freeze.

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My Baby is Nothing But a Tyrant 

Before Najjuko joined the list, I only knew of 3 babies on our flat, the oldest being Samantha who shared with us her 2nd year birthday cake two months ago. I only got to know of the other baby the day the earth quaked beneath the apartment, in the hasty attempt to salvage the most important household valuable, we all found ourselves gathered under the jackfruit tree (the irony) with our babies in tow, some butt naked. 

It was the most remarkable bonding moment in the history of Mr. Leonard’s tenants who share a profound respect for the don’t-ask-don’t-tell neighborhood principle. We carried each others’ babies, told their parents how cute their babies were, contrived far fetched resemblances with the parents, made funny faces for the babies, swapped whatever we considered unique stories about our younglings and the inspiration behind the names we gave them. It was the ultimate sappy moment, topped with a group photo that will make for a good WhatsApp group icon if the members decide to create one (God forbid).

Mine happens to be youngest of the 5, but it has occurred to me that my daughter is hell bent on making us look like the worst parents on the flat. This kyejo, me I can’t deal. Right from the time she was in the nursery, at only 1.6 kgs, she had created the reputation for being the loudest squealer in the hood, putting babies twice her weight to shame. 

They tell you so many cute things about babies, how adorable they are and how their bubbling cuteness will make your heart melt. But no one warns you about how irritating these little dictators can get. Mine does it just for just, for her own amusement I presume, to push you so as to see how far you can go. You will change her diaper, bathe her, feed her, and carry her till she sleeps off (or pretends to) on your shoulder. But the moment you put her in her crib she will erupt into a howl of demonic standards.

Experience has taught me to distinguish between her cries. There’s a genuine one that I last witnessed when she received two immunization shots on both legs. It was subtle, prolonged and characterized with convulsive gasps that had a heat wrenching effect when witnessed. You’d have no doubt it came right from the depth of her heart and you could feel her pain every time she tried to stretch her little legs. 

But now I am talking about a different cry, the bitchy, dictatorial, self-assured whine. Sometimes it starts with a warning groan meant to alert you to put your affairs in order that tends to sporadically escalate into a get-me-the-duck-out-of-this-bed-scream. 

Her suicidal predispositions are another thing. Out of sheer petulance, she will pull her hair and scratch her face just because you’ve taken long to respond to her tantrum. And it always works. You’ll come running and apologize to her for scratching her own face before clipping her finger nails.

She particularly puts on her A game in the night when the whole place is quiet and all the neighbors can bear testimony to your child brutality, because that has got to be the only explanation; mutilation, amputation, or something along those lines. 

With sleep ladened eyes, you carry the girl in your hands and with your lips quivering in anger, you beg her like she’s listening. Because the alternative would be flinging her against the wall, or smothering her with a pillow. 

“What do you want from me woman? What have I not given or done for you? Is it too much for me to ask for a minute of sleep? Just one minute. How do I convince the neighbor upstairs that you’re not wallowing in a pool of your own blood right now while I yank out your finger nails?”

They say this is all part of being a parent and I’ve seen some parents claim to enjoy the experience.  I wish I could say I am loving it too. True, you can find beauty in everything, you can also condition yourself to think you’re enjoying the experience. But deep down, I would be lying if I said I enjoy spending the night with my back propped up against the bed headboard and my hands clutching on the girl who has just decided “you either hold me here on your chest or you won’t have any semblance of sleep”. Thing is you can’t even sleep in that state because she’ll keep squirming and you can’t afford to lose your grip on her or she falls off and lands on the floor. 

Then she’ll fart through the night; funny how a thing so small can muster a fart so putrid. But you’ll hold onto her so tight as she smothers you in her fart. What options do you have after all? 

I can understand how a maid can brutalize a baby like we’ve seen them do, because it takes a certain degree of self restraint for the child’s own biological parent not to give into the impulse to commit similar acts; what about an abused maid with shaky moral standards?

I have this gut feeling that the WhatsApp group was actually formed, but the only reason I am not in it is because we are the subject in the group. I don’t know if I just missed that stage of their lives, but no baby in this neighborhood squeals like Najjuko Alexandra Jasmine.

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Cook with a Friend, You’ll Learn Something New

In my culture, there’s proverb that when loosely translated to English says “only he who has not moved around much thinks their mother is the best cook.” It is very easy to revere in your cooking abilities because you’ve not seen any better, but it always amazes me how much you can learn from just a few hours spent cooking with a stranger. I had the opportunity to be hosted by Kavitha Sserunkuma of Healthy Bites for what turned out to be an exciting and resourceful cooking experience. I don’t know if it’s how organised she is, but she sure does make cooking something with a long and equally sophisticated named dish seem so simple.

It’s always fascinating watching another person do their thing in the kitchen. It’s like a magic show to me. I enter another person’s kitchen and I imagine how I would cook what, where I would keep which ingredients, when I would add which spice, at which point to serve, on which plate and in what portions. Only to notice this person do things completely differently from how I would.

If I am free with the individual I am visiting I won’t even sit down for a minute, I’ll be everywhere in their kitchen, touching everything and asking questions about everything I see.

“Why exactly do you need two industrial size fridges Kavitha? Oh, that looks like a nice oven, did you buy it in Uganda? How much was it? Wow, isn’t that like 10,000/- worth of olive oil you’re using for that sauce? Okay where have you hidden the royco Kavitha? I know you must have some royco somewhere in this powdered spices cabin, or should I check in the other one for whole spices?”

The most fun was in the interaction, how she never got tired of answering my relentless and sometimes idiotic questions.

“Why do you have a rubbish bin on your kitchen counter, and why does it have uncooked rice in it?

“Oh, that’s my rice dispenser.”

“A rice dis…what?”

“See, when I pull here and push back, exactly one cup of rice pours into this lower compartment. So it doesn’t only keep my rice clean, it also does the measuring for me.”

On this particular day, Kavitha was preparing Beef Fillet Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Roasted new Potatoes and Cherry Tomato, Cucumber Salad in Avocado Bowl. Which is what you’re going to read about below.

 

DISH

Beef Fillet Steak with Chimichurri Sauce, Roasted New Potatoes and Cherry Tomato, Cucumber Salad in Avocado Bowl

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Beef Fillet Steak

  • Tenderloin steak
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly ground sea salt.

 

Season the steak with black pepper and salt before grilling it in the oven at 165o C for 40 minutes. The steak you use in this case is very important. While it may not be the best option for stewing because it’ll likely just shred and fall apart, beef tenderloin (aka eye fillet) is perfect for this recipe because it’s soft. It’s also rich in ion. You can buy it from specialized butchers and obviously, you’ll find it relatively pricey, somewhere in the range of Ugx. 25,000, depending on where you buy it.

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This is a picture of my host, Kavitha, Seasoning the tenderloin. 

The grilling is done at a low temperature because a high temperature would just cause the steak to constrict and harden yet we want it soft. In this particular cooking cession, my host prepared two of them and this later served as a good learning experience as I’ll explain ahead.

When I asked why freshly ground sea salt, my host explained that it has more flavor and it helps draw out water out of the steak and gives it a crusty feel when removed from the oven.

 Roasted New Potatoes

  • ½ kg Potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

 

Wash the potatoes thoroughly clean, slice each potato into two or three parts before seasoning them with paper and salt, and then smudged with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 1 hour at 2200c. Roasting these at this much heat effectively gives the potatoes some semblance of deep frying, only in a healthy way.

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After roasting

New potatoes is just one of the many names by which these potatoes go. Some know them as Alika Potatoes, or Baby Potatoes. Any potatoes can work here really, the main preference for these is because they are relatively evenly shaped and smooth, which is helpful because they are meant to be roasted unpeeled. This means they are easy to clean and you won’t be eating dirt buried in potato crevices.

 

CHIMMICHURRI SAUCE

  • Parsley
  • White Vinegar
  • Minced garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Lemon juice
  • Oregano
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

This is a grilled meat green sauce (or marinade in some cases) of Argentinian origin. Some variants of the sauce have paprika, cumin, thyme, lemon, basil, cilantro and bay leaves. If you want it red, you could add tomatoes and red pepper.

Combine all the above ingredients and blend them in a food processor (or blender).

Asked why Apple cider vinegar, Kavitha responded that because it’s fruit based and kind of sweet rather than tangy.

 

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After blending

 

CUCUMBER-TOMATO SALAD IN AVOCADO BOWL

For the salad dressing

  • Lemon juice
  • Honey
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

For the salad

  • Cucumber
  • Avocado
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh mint leaves

Slice the cherry tomatoes, cucumber and mint leaves and put them on the side, then slice the avocado into two parts and not any further, remember it’s supposed to be your serving bowl for the salad. It is also advisable that you prepare the dressing just before serving.

 

READY TO SERVE 

When the steak has served it’s time in the grill, you remove it, wrap in aluminum foil and let it rest for 10-15 minutes so it can absorb the juices back. She also mentioned that you can tell when your steak is ready when you touch it and it feels springy. While the steak rests, prepare the salad dressing and mix it with the salad

When the potatoes are also ready, you can now go ahead and serve. Slice the steak into bite size pieces, bring the sauce from the fridge and drizzle it over the steak, pour the salad in one half of the avocado, and plate along with the potatoes and the steak.

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Ground Beef-Gnut-Mushrooms Luwombo

If you know a thing or two about Ugandan food then you’ve probably heard about Luwombo. It’s a popular and special dish in Buganda, one that my mom only prepared on special days like Christmas and Easter.

I know what you’re thinking though. “Ground Beef Luwombo? There’s no such thing as minced/ground beef Luwombo!” Well guess what, now there is. Why, you ask? Because why the hell not? See, just because it’s always been whole meat pieces doesn’t mean it can’t be minced meat.

On this particular day, I wanted to do a Luwombo, but I didn’t want to buy more beef when I had ground beef in the fridge. So I thought, why not make a thick gnut Luwombo paste flavored with beef and mushrooms? Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to those tinny organic mushrooms locally known as obutik’obubaala which I would highly recommend for any Luwombo because of their potent heavenly scent.

Unverified Internet rumours suggest that Luwombo dates back to 1887 when the cuisine was introduced by Kabaka Mwanga’s chief cook, Kawunta. The allure of the Luwombo, as I know it, is in the peculiar aroma the smocked banana leaf lends to the food. In my observation, Luwombo is simply a steamed sauce with a distinctive banana leaf flavored zing to it, and the curing process for these leaves is probably the most important and cumbersome stage in the preparation process.

Growing up, I remember my mom’s preparations for cooking Luwombo always started a day before, when she would go to the banana plantation to look for Mpombo (plural for Luwombo) leaves.

These were never like the ordinary banana leaves she used for cooking Matooke, it was always from a special type of banana plant for the small sweet bananas locally known as ndiizi (I am yet to find out why ndiizi). Because these leaves were meant to be water proofed, it was imperative that they don’t have a single slit and handled delicately to keep it that way. This also meant that these would have to be freshly sprouted baby leaves, which could explain the grieving look on her face while harvesting them because it probably felt like mutilating the banana plant. If you did this consistently to a small banana plantation you may not have a plantation in a couple of months.

The leaves would have to be wilted under the sun for a couple of hours to make them supple before surgically reducing the fibres from the central rib of each leaf. The leaves would then cured by lightly heating them on a charcoal stove before carefully folding and concealing them away to a safe place where children would not reach them until tomorrow.

Because you can now buy already cured Luwombo leaves in most big markets around Kampala like Nakawa, Nakasero, even Ntinda market; it has become much easier to cook Luwombo for people who don’t have backyard banana plantations from which to harvest these leaves.

And now, to the Luwombo recipe of the day;

Ground Beef-Gnut-Mushrooms Luwombo

 

Total Time Involved     1:45Min     

Preparation Time         15min

Cooking Time                1:30min

INGREDIENTS

  • 300gm Ground beef
  • 200gm Minced G-nuts
  • 100gm Mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and Black pepper to taste
  • 2 beef stock cubes
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • Bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tbsp. Powdered ginger
  • 1 tsp. Paprika
  • 2 medium sized onions, diced
  • 1 Cured Luwombo leaf with its fastening rope
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The Ingridients 

PREPARATION

  1. Boil the g-nuts with the beef stock with 1/3 of the onions and salt for 10-15 minutes. Ensure you’ve put enough water they’ll need to get ready, bearing in mind that you won’t add any at any moment. Also remember the thicker the better.
  2. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMeanwhile, season the minced meat with salt and pepper before searing in a mildly oiled wok with garlic, ginger and another 1/3 of the onions. 5-10 minutes.
  3. Carefully place the Luwombo leaf in a big bowl or saucepan and empty the g-nuts into it, add the beef and the remaining ingredients.
  4. Delicately wrap the leaf, ensuring that there is no leakage before tying it up with the banana fiber strap.
  5. Place in the prepared steaming saucepan and cover for maximum steam retention like you would if you were steaming matooke and cook for 1-2 hours before serving.
  6. Enjoy your Luwombo with matooke, rice, or whatever dry food you want to feast on.

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ONLINE DATING! The hustle is real.

Day 1. On Facebook

Girl meets boy in a facebook group, girl sends a friendship request, boy accepts, girl sends a whimsical message disguised as a thank-you-for-accepting-my-request note but in actual sense is meant as an invitation for a chat, boy obliges and chat takes off, continuing for a while before they find an excuse to switch to Whatsapp where the two enjoy each other’s company till 1 am.

Day 2. On Whatsapp

The two exchange morning greetings and related pleasantries and continue chatting on and off, but conversation is starting to drag and mostly characterized by pointless lols and emoji, girl lols last 11:23 am.
Now, girl is left to carry on with the chat by herself. In her head!

12:30 Pm

“I am bored, I want to chat but this guy is not replying my text.” Pouty face
“But there is no text to reply, how does one reply to a lol?”
“I know, but still, let him take ko some initiative also.”

1:20 Pm

“Okay it’s lunch time now, he should be on his lunch break. I think I should ask him how his lunch is going.”
“But if he’s not busy why won’t he reinitiate this conversation? I think you’re over wanting. It’s not like he didn’t see your previous messages. Heck the ticks are blue. No, wait this out.”

4:50 Pm

“Is this man going to text me or not?”
“Have you considered that maybe he’s not texting you because he he’s busy? He clearly told you last night that he has a busy day today.”
“Sigh! I know, but his last seen shows that he’s been online as recent as 4:42. Why else is he checking out his Whatsapp if he’s not chatting with other people?” Sad face.

6:20 Pm.

Okay, that’s it. I am going to text him. He can’t be at work at this time.”
“So what are you going to tell him?”
“I’ll start by asking him about his day, how it went.”
“You realize you’ll now have two unanswered messages out there. You’re sure you want to portray yourself as that desperate? This man seemed to enjoy conversing with you last night, just wait it out. You know he read your messages, let him reply first naawe.”

9:30 Pm

“This bastard is busy chatting with other women. I can see he is online. Even his facebook shows he has been pretty active throughout the day, liking other girl’s photos and responding to wall posts. I am not going to text him before he texts me, I will not be that girl.” Sob sob.
“Have you considered the possibility that he may actually have a girlfriend, or even married?”
“Then what was he doing chatting with me till dawn last night? Whore!”

11:00 Pm

“Humph! Now what did I do or say wrong? I’ve gone through the entire conversation and can’t see what could have jinxed this. I already told him my relationship status on facebook is just for just.
“Well, maybe he’s also doing this on purpose to see if you care, for all we know he may also be there battling the same thoughts as you, waiting to see if you care enough to follow up the conversation.”
“Sigh! You have a point there, let me just send him a goodnight text and that will be it. Don’t want to beat myself up in future thinking my pride ruined this.”
“Shya, don’t talk about pride like it’s a bad thing. Actually, the moment you send the message you delete the entire thread along with his number. Block him on facebook even so you’re not tempted to text him again before he texts us back. You know yourself.”

11:40 Pm

Starts typing message. ‘Hey there, busy day huh? Same here, anyway, gotta hit the sack, catch you tomorr..’ Changes mind, deletes typed message and turns off her last seen before tossing away the phone.
“I don’t want this man thinking that I am missing him this much. If he wants he will text me, if he doesn’t I delete his contacts tomorrow and write this off as his loss. I am a hot smart chic. I’ll not waste my youth on cheating bastards.”

Day3: 3 am

Wakes up from a sleepless night to pee, carries phone with to the toilet to check on her notifications. Finds 3 sweet and caring messages from all the wrong people, breaks into tears.
Tries to check his last seen, realizes she can’t because she turned off hers, goes to settings and reactivates hers, only to see that the bastard was last seen online 30 minutes ago, breaks into tears.
“We had a good thing going.” Sniff sniff. “What really went wrong? What did I do to this man? Why are men such fuckin’ morons? God I am such a loser.”
“That you are. You’ve only known that man for less than 36 hours. Why the fuck are you crying for a stranger at 3 am? Jesus!”
Doubs her eyes with the sleeves of her pajamas. Discretely memorizes the last two digits of the number and deletes it. Proceeds to facebook, deletes all messages before unfriending, stops short of blocking him.
“To hell with these trifling, cheating sons-a-bitches. Time wasters just” Sniff sniff.
8:20 Am

Boy finally texts “Hey there, still alive? Been a while, missed me much?”
“Oh hey there. Didn’t even notice your absence. But sounds like you missed me, no?”
2:30 Pm

Boy hasn’t replied yet. But his Whatsapp shows he’s online.
And the hustle continues …

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AUTHENTIC SIGIRI (Charcoal Stove) FRIED PILAU

Are you one of those people who would really love to but don’t know how to prepare good Pilau? 
Forget the rumors of things you need to give your pilau a good browning, just pay attention and learn how to cook tasty and well browned Pilau, unadulterated with tea leaves, coffee, soy sauce, gravy browner or burnt onions. 

I learnt this recipe from Hashnunish, a Kenyan famed chef when she visited Uganda sometime back. I am sure I’ve missed or messed up a few steps from what she taught but what I share with you is what I tried and what you see are the results you should also expect.

INGREDIENTS

 • SWT LG Rice

 • Beef

 • Beef stock

 • Onions, sliced

 • Cardamons 

 • Bay leaves

 • Black pepper

 • Cloves 

 • Salt

 • Fresh ginger, crushed

 • Garlic, crushed into a paste

 • Cumin seeds 

 • Cinnamon 

PREPARATION STEPS

1. Soak the rice in cold water for about 40 minutes. Personally, I like to use SWT LG rice for this because I have tried it and I can confidently say that if you follow these steps well you will get Pilao with grains that look fine and crumbly rather than clumpy.

 

 2. Slice and boil the beef/ goat’s meat with as much water as you can and boil it with salt until it’s 80% ready. (Don’t worry about the water, you’re going to need it for stock)

3. Soak the whole black pepper seeds and cloves in hot water for about 10 mins. Pour that water away rinse them again on a sieve under running cold water. (This is to rid them of the bitterness that makes them repulsive to the palates)

4. Grate the fresh ginger and garlic into a paste and have it ready.

5. Prepare your bay leaves, cardamom, cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks and have them ready. 

6. When all the ingredients are ready, heat the oil on high heat until it’s starting to smock and throw in the onions.

7. When the onions have browned to the desired level (but not burnt), you add a little amount of water (like 1/4 cup) to keep them from burning while to add the other ingredients. Please note that the brownness of your Pilao is mostly determined by the brownness of your onions. But please don’t burn them. No one enjoys the taste of burnt onions in their mouth. 

8. Throw in garlic-ginger paste and stir, followed by the rinsed cloves and black pepper seeds, then the cinnamon, cumin seeds, cardamons, bay leaves and keep stirring. 

9. Add the beef and simmer for 3-5 mins, followed by the rice (after draining it) and salt, then the beef stock (or water) in the ratios of 3.5 cups of water (or stock) for 2 cups of rice. Stir once more and cover. DO NOT STIR AGAIN!! 

10. When you listen and the rice has stopped making that boiling sound, it means the water has been fully absorbed and it’s time to transfer heat. 

11. Get a wet newspaper, cover it on the top of the rice pan and transfer 2/3 of the charcoal on the inverted cover of the cooking pan with the wet news paper between the rice and the heat on top. 

 

 This helps to redistribute the heat and steam the rice better. Leave it for about 20 minutes then your Pilao will be ready to serve. The last steps are pretty easy, just transform your plate from this.

 

 To this😋

 

 

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When You Cook Burnt Pork 

When you’ve invited a friend over for food, you’re safer sticking to a tested and proven recipe; resist the temptation to go all magician on the food.

In your attempt to impress, you may end up doing something as stupid as throwing in the onions along with pork at once, thinking, I always do this for chicken and beef but never done it for pork. This time I want the flavors to defuse into the pork early enough. 
You will forget that chicken and beef don’t have as much fats as pork, which when heated will eventually burn the onions until they turn soot black. These soot black onions will in turn yield burnt pork and its in that moment that you’ll realize why you always put the onions, green pepper, carrots and the rest at the end when the pork is ready. But it’ll be too late to remedy the disaster. 

In an attempt to save face, you’ll conceive a wicked idea, thinking, I am not dealing with a food connoisseur here. I could throw in a few random spices and baptize this dish with a fancyass name that he won’t argue with. So you do your magic, plate the pork as best you can, and introduce it as “Cambodian Scorched and Spicy Pork Morsels with Lemmon Zest Garnish.”

To confuse their palate, you’ll first offer them a double shot glass of straight scotch before serving your scorched meat. Then through the side of your eye, you’ll see your guest endure your burnt offerings while you go on about how you nailed the taste and blended the flavors on your first attempt. But deep down you’ll know they’re not buying your shit story, because they’re not dumb. 

In the interludes of silence, you’ll picture them telling your other friends in your absence how your food doesn’t taste remotely as nice as it looks. For a moment you’ll want to come clean and confess that this is just burnt pork with soy sauce, ketchup, red chili flakes and lemon zest sprinklings. But won’t. Instead, you’ll just say a silent prayer that they’ll only suffer a mild stomach upset without the diarrhea. 

Don’t kill your friends. Be a better host and stick to the tested and proven recipes.