The morning after a bumpy night before needs help, writes Annabel Langbein.
It was close to midnight when the bus from Rio finally rolled into the town square of Ouro Preto. Rain was falling in buckets, the pitchest black of unwelcoming nights. An oversight in my planning meant that there would be "no thing open now, no hotel until amanha de manha". In other words, tomorrow morning. The man I had been sitting next to on the front seat of the bus, a policeman from Rio, who was headed home for a long weekend to visit his mother had a "good" solution. I could stay at his mother's house, with my own room at the front. I would be safe and she would not mind. We are talking the 80s here, a time when Brazil was not known for its safety. No TripAdvisor, or Airbnb, no cellphones. No internet. A policeman in these parts could be a good guy or just as easily a bad guy.
I often think about the fall lines of life, the invisible tightropes that divide moments of calamity and serendipity. This was such a moment. Accepting the invitation of a bed from a stranger — would I get the rapist axe murderer, or had I found myself a fabulous guide? It could have gone either way.
Only a policeman would know where the after-hours joints were open in this kind of a town. A few paces from his mother's doorway took us to another nondescript entrance, and with a couple of coded knocks we were let inside a buzzing bar. The policeman's old school friends crowded around, welcoming him back into the fold, regaling him with stories of their lives over round after round of cachaca shots. In these parts of the world cachaca (at about 60 per cent proof), was (and probably still is) the local panacea of choice. When life dishes up endless hardship and disappointment, cachaca delivers a necessary sense of fortitude, and paints a euphoric glow around its jagged edges.
It was around 4am when we all rolled out of the bar, drunk as fish. The morning dawned, bringing with it the hangover of all hangovers. But there was no hair of the dog around here, more like the full skin to keep everyone floating in a slightly glazed state, no matter the hour.
A few days later I got back to Rio feeling less than ordinary, and wearing a wild rash. The doctor looked me over. "Ahh," he mused, "you have been bitten by our devil drink cachaca... You are a lucky girl that it didn't kill you."
On the right side of the fall line, but precariously close to the precipice.
If you're planning a big New Year, keep these following recipes handy to help you survive the morning after.
Ready in 30 mins
800g potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 2cm chunks
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large red onion, halved and cut into 1cm wedges
200g chorizo sausage, halved and cut into chunks
2 tsp thyme leaves
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp parsley or coriander leaves
1 tsp finely chopped red chilli (optional)
Bring potatoes to a boil in a pot of salted water. Boil for 5 minutes then drain thoroughly.
While they cook, heat 2 Tbsp of the oil in a large frypan and cook onion over medium heat until softened (about 5 minutes). Add chorizo and cook a further 5 minutes, stirring now and then to prevent sticking. Lift out of the pan and set aside.
Add remaining 2 Tbsp oil, thyme and well-drained potatoes and cook over a medium-high heat, turning now and then, until slightly crispy (about another 10 minutes). Add the onion and chorizo mixture back to the pan and cook another minute or two.
Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper and sprinkle with parsley or coriander leaves and chilli, if using.
Some mornings you just want a good fry-up to set your hangover right. This hearty potato hash is just perfect for the job — with a little extra spice to wake up your taste buds. If you're organised enough, the potatoes can be par-cooked the night before — or you can use any leftover boiled or baked potatoes you have in the fridge. Serve topped with poached or fried eggs.
MISO NOODLE BOWL
Ready in 15 mins
200g dried noodles, such as ramen, soba or udon, cooked according to packet instructions
4 cups water
2 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
Ground black pepper, to taste
3 Tbsp miso
Leaves from 3 heads bok choy, halved lengthways
About 150g boneless, skinless salmon fillet, thinly sliced (optional)
2 spring onions, thinly sliced, to serve
¼ cup chopped coriander leaves, to serve
Heat water in a large pot with ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Mix a little of the hot stock with the miso to soften, then add back into soup with bok choy. Boil for 1 minute.
To serve, divide cooked, drained noodles between bowls. Top with salmon, if using, then soup and sprinkle with spring onions and coriander.
When you are feeling a little ordinary, miso is a brilliant salve. It's one of the best things I know to dissipate a hangover and soothe an unhappy tummy. Here the salmon cooks in seconds as the hot broth is poured over it, but if the thought of salmon is too much for your queasy stomach, just leave it out. It's a wonderful nourishing broth without it.
LAMB, ROSEMARY AND APPLE SAUSAGE ROLLS
Ready in 45 mins
Makes 6 big rolls or 12-18 small rolls
400g lean lamb mince
250g coarse sausage meat, such as pork or beef
1 apple, unpeeled, coarsely grated
2 eggs (1 separated)
1 small onion, coarsely grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp chopped parsley leaves
½ tsp chopped rosemary leaves
3 finely chopped sage leaves
1 tsp fruit chutney or tomato sauce
1 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
A pinch of chilli flakes
2 sheets of flaky pastry
Preheat oven to 200C and line an oven tray with baking paper. Place the mince and sausage meat in a large bowl with the grated apple, whole egg and egg white, onion, garlic, herbs, chutney or tomato sauce, salt, pepper and chilli. Mix with a large spoon until evenly incorporated.
Place the two pastry sheets on a work surface. Place half the meat mixture on each pastry sheet, forming a mound the length of the pastry about 6cm in from one edge. Roll up the pastry to fully enclose the filling. Cut each roll into 3 slices (or up to 6 slices if you want small sausage rolls), and place on the lined baking tray seam side down.
Use a sharp knife to slash 2 or 3 lines across the top of each sausage roll to allow the steam to escape. Make a glaze by mixing the egg yolk with 1 Tbsp water. Brush over the pastry.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Check during the last 10 minutes of cooking and if any liquids have come out of the rolls, soak them up with a paper towel so the pastry stays crisp.
A good sausage roll always hits the spot when you're feeling a little ropey after a big night out. I sometimes make these up and pop them in the freezer ready to bake off as the need arises. If you can't find good quality sausage meat, cut open the skins of your favourite sausages and squeeze out the meat.
• Essential Annabel Langbein (Annabel Langbein Media, $65) is a beautiful compendium of Annabel's best-ever savoury recipes and cooking tips. It is on sale now at Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, The Warehouse and all good bookstores. Buy it before the end of December and you could win a Jeep Wrangler. Find out more at annabel-langbein.com or follow Annabel on Facebook or Instagram.