21/04/2011 10:05 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Gastrotherapist Laura Santtini Answers Your Questions

Laura Santtini

Dear Sam,

I sense from the rest of your letter that you are really on to a good thing here. A good man in the hand is worth three careers in the banking bush, especially the way the world economy is crumbling! Whilst I am sure the concerns of your nearest and dearest come from a good place, what they don't seem to be taking on board, is that your fella is showing all the signs of a loving and above all responsible human being.

His arrangement to have his 'great' children every weekend is most unusual, as is his good relationship with his happily re-married ex partner. Given that the two of you live together, his clear respect for his ex-family and past relationship is most encouraging. Your critics ought to see, that it is a great honour and a sign of trust and commitment, for him to share the most important little people in his life with you. Wasting your time, would be enjoying your company in the week and spending his high days and holidays alone with his kids.

In my mind building a family is just as valuable as building a career and often more rewarding. That said there is no reason why you cannot continue to build both, women were born to multitask and you too have the gene. Your mother clearly has regrets regarding her own faded ambitions and is probably concerned that you will 'end up like her'. Set your boundaries by making it clear that whilst you appreciate her concerns you are very happy in your relationship and do not require further unsolicited advice, explain gently that today women are lucky enough to be able to have both a career and a family without 'throwing' anything away.

With regards to getting him to pop the question, reading between the lines you are closer than you think. Work on his heart through his stomach with my 36 Clove Spring Chicken (one clove for each year in his delicious life).

I bet that having felt the disapproval of your friends and family he will be more than relieved to hear that his past is something that you actually celebrate, in the knowledge that it is a key ingredient of your present and future happiness together.

36 Clove Spring Chicken

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4.

Fry the chicken pieces quickly in the oil in a heavy casserole. When they are nice and golden, take them out and turn the garlic cloves over in the casserole.

Put the chicken pieces back on the top of the garlic, strew with the bay leaves, olives and salt and pepper to taste. Tuck the cinnamon stick among the joints and splash over the white wine. Lay the lemon slices over the chicken, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of sugar.

Cover and cook for about 1.5 hours in the preheated oven, until the chicken is really tender and the garlic cloves nice and soft, ready to pop out of their (by now fragile) skins.

Serves 4
1 medium size chicken, jointed
Olive oil for frying 3-4 heads of garlic, about 30-40 cloves, unpeeled 5 bay leaves
150g green olives
Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
½ cinnamon stick
125ml white wine
1 large organic unwaxed lemon, as fragrant as possible, unpeeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar