Saturday 22 November 2014

The Diva In The Kitchen.

I once saw a chap wearing a t shirt which said "If God had wanted me to cook why did he invent restaurants?" and that has been my personal mantra ever since. The rot set in early with cookery lessons at school or in my day Home Economics as it was called for my school was a former secondary modern and we were taught how to lay a table correctly and fold napkins. I endured three years with mixed results and then when it became possible to give it up a nasty masochistic streak reared its ugly head and I decided to take it as an O level option [yup showing my age here!]. I think that I thought I might never cook again if I stopped before I had peaked.

Two years of culinary hell ensued for me...the very sight of a piping bag [yes we even piped our mashed potato] brings me out in hives and if anyone asks me to "garnish" a savoury dish with parsley and tomato slices or decorate a sweet one with angelica and glace cherry I shall not be responsible for my actions. During my torturous Thursday afternoons I attempted rough puff pastry, swiss rolls, pork pies, hot cross buns, scotch eggs....disasters were all too frequent and always in the knowledge that whatever I had made I would be eating for my tea that night. Congealed eggs mornay carried home slopped over on its side is enough to give anyone nightmares..there's a reason why it's not Gordon Ramsay's signature dish! Somehow I passed with an A. In those days you had to demonstrate 5 skills during the practical exam...boy had I sussed out which ones were the easiest and most idiot proof. I was amazed at my result even my domestic goddess of a teacher Miss Davis [she was a saint as she patiently helped me out of one scrape after another] was a little incredulous "I had hoped you might get a B dear" were her exact words I seem to recall.

So did I cook again?...did I heck. I entered the world of canteens, takeaways, restaurants and meals that went ping with great gusto, By the time I met Mr GBT in 1990 my speciality was prawn stirfry...that was it. However, we were both working full time with few responsibilities and so we could afford to be as profligate as we liked....at our height we ate out four times a week......

I reached a point of no return in 1993. I grew weary of M&S sandwiches such was the regularity with which I was scarfing them down and we had taken the decision to move from our flat to a house. However, we didn't want to increase our existing mortgage so savings had to be made so we could put down a 25% deposit. The easiest area to cut back on was food initially....homemade lunches were taken in, I started to menu plan and heavens forbid I [and more usually Mr GBT] started to cook again. Now I would say that I'm not by nature a testy person and I don't often lose my rag- when I do there will be a strong reason but blimey put me in the kitchen and I used to grow horns....bit like mild mannered people who suffer road rage as soon as they get behind the wheel of a car. It didn't take much for me to have a tantrum...recipes that you get half way through only for them to say "add the cooked chicken" and why did the list of ingredients fail to mention that the chicken should be cooked?!, inaccurate timings and simply things that didn't work....Mr GBT would hear me start swearing and arrive pronto on his grubby white charger. Many a time he's taken over and rescued a dish before I hurled it in the bin. Once I threw a whole box of branflakes across the kitchen....we were finding the bluddy things for weeks after!

Nowadays I have calmed down a little. I still get the greatest joy if Mr GBT offers to cook or I realise that the dear slow cooker has made enough for a second meal. Leftovers are my greatest pal and I'm always the first to suggest a wicked fish and chips at our local Wetherspoons when they run their regular offer on a Friday! I have a criteria for a recipe now- it has to be cheap, quick, simple and most of all tasty. I cook a wide range of veggie and non veggie meals with all sorts of ingredients but if I have to buy something specific then I'll only do it if I have another recipe which will use up the remainder. The reduced fridge is my best friend and I plunder it regularly...my menu plan is always first and foremost based around what I've got in and what needs using...I also share food with my parents and a couple of pals to keep wastage to a minimum. Along the way I've learnt lots of strategies to overcome hurdles....I simply cannot make pastry neither can my Mum [[my Dad and Mr GBT make it for us]  but we both bake a good cake. I hate rubbing fat into flour so now I've got a pastry blender from the charity shop nor do I enjoy making burgers or fishcakes...I bought a burger maker from Lakeland many years ago which has been amazing and anything requiring coating in egg and breadcrumbs now gets put in a marg tub with beaten egg and then tipped into another one with the crumbs and lid on, shaken vigorously. Scones defeat me [that old pastry/dough problem again] but baked in a round and then cut up works fine and so the little triumphs continue. To see just how far I've come I made this recipe a couple of weeks ago http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-2ingredient-nutella-brownies-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-204550 I used own brand chocolate spread and the tin was too big....the worse thing was that they stuck to the paper. However, I let them cool, froze them and then made a batch of chocolate sauce [mix cocoa with butter and syrup] which I poured over them and served with icecream. Voila one wicked pud last weekend! Don't be deceived though.... I still have my moments and if I was allowed to bake but never have to cook again I would rejoice!

Arilx

PS For anyone wanting more ideas of what to do with gluts of things this blog was highlighted in one of the recent Waitrose magazines http://glutsandgluttony.com/

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