My pantry

Facing Fears, and Five Spice Szechuan Roast Chicken

November 21, 2013

szechuan and five spice chicken ingredientsWhen your child is terrified of something forcing them to do it goes against every fibre of your being.

We started swimming lessons a few times with D Man but he hated it so much we stopped for a year and a half. We started again a few weeks ago.

Hated it. Hated it.

Hated. It.

There was a dude teacher there who was quite simply the ‘toddler whisperer’ so we switched to his class hoping it would be better… hmmmmm, not so much.

D Man liked this guy better, but the crying and clinging like a limpet continued. It was really heartbreaking to watch.

I know you’re thinking that we could have just not done it, but swimming is a pretty important life skill when you’re an Aussie. We spend a lot of time around water. I don’t care if he can’t do freestyle or butterfly, I just want him to be able to not drown.

I took him this morning and we sat by the side of the pool awaiting our turn and he started to get stressed and make a little high pitched keening sound.

Swimming is fun, babe. Once you get used to it, you’ll really love it.

But, Mama, I’m scared.

My heart clenched.

I know, honey, but I promise that you don’t need to be scared because everyone here wants to help you to do this. What’s the scariest bit?

I don’t want to get my head wet. (doesn’t want to mess his hair… get’s that from his Nana)

Cool, we’ll tell your teacher.


I then realised that life is scary, and it’s good to be scared because that means you’re doing something new and pushing yourself. It’s ok to be scared and if you do it anyway, you might get something great out of it.

I told him that. I also told him I’d buy him a chocolate Paddle Pop if he got through the class.

He was a different boy.

Seeing my child conquer fear is not something I’ve had much of yet, but the pride I felt watching him paddle and blow bubbles and smile and laugh without the sheer terror and tears of previous weeks was such a moment of elation for me.

No idea if next week will be as good but a glimmer of the water babe he may one day be was enough to make me persevere.

Brilliant swimming boy!

He earned that Paddle Pop… I earned a sexy roast chicken.

I first experienced the joys of Szechuan pepper at Neil Perry’s Spice Temple. He created chicken that positively made your mouth go numb… mixed with a saketini and my whole head was numb by the end of the night. I haven’t gone that far with this chook.

This level is fine for the kids, in fact, Kiki couldn’t get enough of this, practically crawling onto the table to gnaw the carcass.

That’s my girl.

szechuan and five spice chickenSzechuan Chicken with Crunchy Noodle Salad.

Yield : 4 adults, or three adults and 2 toddlers

What you will need :

For chicken –

  • 1 whole chicken (free range organic is yummiest)
  • 2 tablespoons szechuan pepper
  • 1 tablespoon 5 spice
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2 wedges of lemon

spices in mortar with pestleFor crunchy noodle salad – 

  • 2 carrots, julienned or grated
  • 1/4 cabbage, julienned
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced diago
  • nally
  • 1/3 cup combined of sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and slivered almonds
  • 1 packet of crunchy fried noodles
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Sri Racha chili sauce for serving

Preheat oven to 190C

Stick your spices and salt into a mortar and pestle and give them a jolly good grind. Rub liberally all over your bird and pop the lemon up it’s butt.

szechuan and five spice chickenDrizzle with oil and pop onto a roasting rack. Pour a cup of water into the tray and stick her in the oven. After 45 minutes, turn it over for half an hour before turning it back again. I do this to ensure that the juices stay in, and it crisps evenly all around…. but if you can’t be bothered I totally respect that.

While your chook is roasting, throw your nuts and seeds into a dry fry pan and lightly toast them. Set aside to cool.

Toss all of your chopped vegetables and coriander into a large bowl and mix to combine.

Make your dressing by combining all together and giving a good stir. Add noodles and nuts and dress salad just as you’re about to serve so it retains its texture and crunch.

roast szechuan chicken

I am launching my new book on the 28th November. The countdown is on!

Cook Once, Feed All by Danielle Colley

Cook Once, Feed All is about making your life easier whilst preparing nutritious and quick food for your family. This book is a collection of family friendly recipes, all accompanied by Danielle’s often funny and charming story telling.
Hailed by Mouths of Mums as the ‘must have recipe book for all families’


To order your hardcopy of Cook Once, Feed All head to the Holsby Shop right now.

You will also receive the Cook Once Feed All eBook (worth $15), plus the new eBook ‘A Bit on the Side’ (worth$5) as a bonus gift in your inbox today.

Three for the price of one, and you save $20.

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Val and John November 21, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Well done on your stage of success. Perseverance is certainly the key. Amber had the same challenges with Gus and he was so clingy and cried each week. They took a break as well but now he loves it. They are also around water a lot so same as you, it’s critical that he can t least be safe xx

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys November 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      Such an important skill, so bloody hard if they don’t dig it…So pleased Gus is doing well now!

  • Reply Bunny Eats Design November 21, 2013 at 8:09 am

    I was always afraid of the water. My parents took us swimming at the local pools often but I never got the hang of it. I played in the kiddie pool for years. Being out of my depth scared me. I guess it was fear of drowning, fear of getting tired, fear of not knowing what was under me etc.

    As an adult, I could do pools but refused to go deeper than a metre and a half at the beach.

    Then one day I went snorkeling. It changed me. Suddenly deep, open water was a pleasure. The deeper, the better. I could put my face in the water and see AND I could breathe. If you go limp, you won’t die. If you get tired, that’s fine.

    I have snorkeled a lot now and I actually seek the water.

    I can swim in the ocean without a mask.

    Big girl pants.

    p.s. Your chook is awful sexy too. Do your babes eat szechuan pepper?

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys November 21, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      You do have big girl pants! Go you.
      I love snorkelling when there’s cool stuff to see. It’s really so peaceful.

      Kids eat szechuan…. they don’t mind a kick.

  • Reply Maree November 21, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Go you, Mama! I used to teach kiddypops to swim in another lifetime, and it was heartbreaking to see the stress little bears went through, but so rewarding once they got the idea. Nothing like seeing a little one puffing out their chest, realising they can swim…understanding that they had achieved something. I then loved that moment they would just run up to the pool and jump in….like they had always been able to do it! I bet DMan is not far off that moment. So now it’s my turn to conquer a fear…..roasting a chicken!

  • Reply ksbeth November 21, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    yay, little man and yay, momma )

  • Reply John Nagib (@CoachJohnLK) November 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Love, love, love hearing stories of kids accomplishing new things. Good on you for persevering. D man will be a better man for it.

  • Reply mummyflyingsolo November 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Yay! Good on you! Some stellar parenting there. I agree about swimming. As Australians it is non negotiable. We live in a beachside town so my monkey will be sent to nippers at the right age. I want him to learn how to swim in the ocean safely and spot a rip and all that jazz. I never did and I’ve always been that little bit afraid.

    • Reply Keeping Up With The Holsbys November 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Yep, spotting a rip is a massive one. I grew up in Coffs and lived at the beach in summer. You’re right, it’s non negotiable.

      Sent from my iPhone


  • Reply Emily @ Have A Laugh On Me November 25, 2013 at 1:26 pm

    Firstly that chook looks DELISH – if not slightly rude in the first pic, yes I’m 7 years old.
    Water, my middle boy used to freak out, still hates getting water in face/hair but he’s nearly 4 – however, he’s got heaps better now he has back floaty thing. My 2 year old still freaks with water when he can’t touch bottom. It’s hard seeing kids so freaked out hey 🙁

  • Leave a Reply

    %d bloggers like this: