The Delicious and the Disastrous

conquering the kitchen one clove of garlic at a time

Rant Of The Day October 17, 2008

Filed under: how are these different from tags? — Persephone Hazard @ 9:22 am
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You know what I don’t understand? Instant porridge. It’s as incomprehensible to me as mild cheddar. In fact more so, because at least some hidden part of my brain can grudgingly just about concede that it is possible that some people have something wrong with their tastebuds and therefore prefer mild cheddar to actual cheese, but instant porridge? It’s supposed to taste just the same as real porridge, in reality it tastes slightly less nice, and it takes just as long to make. It is no quicker to make up a packet of instant porridge than it is to put some fucking oats and milk in a fucking saucepan and stir them for a bit.

I really don’t understand people and fake food. I don’t actually mean ready meals. I know I take the piss but I understand ready meals, really I do, they really are quicker. Hell, sometimes I even – don’t tell anyone I said this – sometimes I even buy ready-made microwavable mashed potato. I know it’s Bad and Sick and Wrong. I know it’s nothing like as nice as my own mashed potato (I make a mean mashed potato, y’all). But it does take all of five minutes in the microwave, and even at my most crazy-uber-mashingest I can’t get a good mashed potato together in less than twenty, with a fair bit of effort expenditure.

So ready meals, yeah, I get it. They’re fast. I don’t get people who buy ready meals and cook them in the oven, though. If you’re prepared to wait that long for your food, why not make some real food? But that aside, I do get them. It’s all this fake food nonsense I don’t get.

Like instant mashed potato. I can just about understand it if you’re camping (though I don’t understand why you’d be camping!), and I can even concede that there might be some weird people somewhere who actually like its somewhat, ah, distinctive taste. But there are people who actually eat it like it’s, you know, ordinary mashed potato and that I really don’t get. And, god, there’s that fucking kid’s TV programme set in Brighton with that badger in it who eats mashed potato all the time and they show him making it AND THEY NEVER ONCE MENTION THAT IT’S INSTANT MASHED POTATO. There are probably children everywhere who think that all mashed potato starts life as A POWDER IN A PACKET.

I’ll let you off for instant hot chocolate. I drink it sometimes myself. It’s not much quicker than real cocoa but it can be sweeter and creamier, depending on how you make your cocoa. And yes, instant soup makes sense, too. But milk powder, seriously? Those pasta bake things that come in a jar and are no faster and less nice than making your own? And even – dare I say it – cake and bread mixes? (What the hell. Seriously. IT’S JUST THE INGREDIENTS MIXED UP ALREADY. THERE IS NO EXTRA MAGIC THING IN THERE THAT MAKES IT EASIER. I did actually buy one quite recently, but that was because I wanted the dalek-shaped cookie cutter that came inside the box. The biscuits it made really weren’t very nice. A bag of flour from my local supermarket costs nine pence, dude.)

 

The stuffed crust of deep joy October 16, 2008

Filed under: how are these different from tags? — Persephone Hazard @ 1:46 pm
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As pafrt of my mission to include cheese in EVERYTHING I EAT, I recently turned my handto making my own stuffed crust pizza. I make my own pizza bases quite often – I love baking bread, and still find it immensely satisfying to eat something that I know I made entirely myself.

Start with a basic pizza base recipe, such as this one from Anthony Worral Thompson. I like deep pan pizza, and so usually make mine thicker than he suggests. Once you’ve got your dough all nice and circular, sprinkle a thick line of grated cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella, but it would work with most cheeses) along the whole circumference, about an inch from the edge. Then – carefully! – fold the dough over the line of grated cheese, pressing it down at the join so that it stays put. It’s quite tricky and a bit messy but you’ll get there eventually [grin]

 

Vegetarians Taste Better September 30, 2008

Filed under: how are these different from tags? — Persephone Hazard @ 4:16 am
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Here’s a thing that had never occurred to me until I was talking about it with Elise (she of the amazing lasagne) on Friday night: I have never really thought about the fact that I am a vegetarian. Well, of course I’ve thought about it, but I’ve never thought about it – not in the way that one thinks about one’s religious beliefs or political views. I just am. I am a vegetarian because I have always been a vegetarian; I have never eaten meat. My mother turned veggie when she was eighteen, so my sister and I were both brought up vegetarian. I don’t know anything about meat, I don’t know how to cook it or even really what the various different types look like.

Once, in a French lesson at school when I was about twelve, as part of learning different kinds of vocabulary we were given a list of French names of different kinds of food and a pile of little pictures to match them up to. You know the sort of thing, you find the little picture of an ice cream and pritt-stick it next to ‘une glace’ on the worksheet. I couldn’t finish it. I could translate ‘jambon’ as ‘ham’ and ‘boeuf’ as ‘beef’ just fine, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out which of the drawings was supposed to represent ham and which beef (and which steak, and which pork, and which chicken). In the end, I wrote the English words down on the worksheet next to the French ones and left all my little squares of paper in a pile, which confused my teacher no end. (Being French and something of a foodie herself, she had a terribly hard time comprehending my explanation when I gave it to her!)

My mother always offered me a choice, I was never forced not to eat meat. It’s never appealed to me, though, and truth be told I find the whole idea rather disgusting. I don’t mind that other people do it, of course, but the whole idea of eating a corpse turns my stomach whichever way you put it. The tiny handful of ‘accidents’ I’ve had (when I was about fourteen my nan once got confused about which plate of mini quiches was which and I had a mouthful before we noticed her mistake, and a couple of years ago a shop once gave me a meat pasty when I’d ordered a veggie one and I took a huge bite out of it before realising) have all left me feeling extremely queasy, and I can’t say the taste appealed in the slightest.

It didn’t occur to me until I noticed that Elise sounded slightly surprised that it was something I ought to have thought about at all, to be honest. I find the notion of actual me consuming actual meat with my actual mouth completely unthinkable, in the same way that while I do indeed possess the physical capability to go and get on a bus stark naked while singing ABBA songs at the top of my voice, the real, genuine act of doing so isn’t very high up on my To-Do list.

 

Nothing smells quite like baking bread April 23, 2008

Filed under: how are these different from tags? — Persephone Hazard @ 6:32 pm
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There are a few tricks to making good bread that most recipes seem to leave out, meaning that people end up having to work them out by themselves.

  • Warmth. The room needs to be warm, the bowl needs to be warm, the water needs to be warm, your hands need to be warm. I usually make bread in the kitchen with the door closed, the oven on, and the radiator at full blast.
  • Never underestimate the power of kneading. You cannot knead too much.  Stand there pummelling the stuff for hours if you fancy it, it’ll only make the bread better.
  • Rise it twice. More often, if you feel like it. Beat the crap out of it, leave it to rise, then beat the crap out of it and leave it to rise again before baking. Also let it rise for as long as possible – overnight for a first rising and a good few hours for the second is my usual habit.
  • Keep the bloody kittens out of the kitchen, or they’ll run straight through all your beautifully-risen dough.
 

TEH CHEEEEZEZ! April 22, 2008

I have a friend called Elise who is by all accounts a much better cook than I am, and going round to hers for dinner is always a joy. I was there just last week and was served with a delicious recipe of Delia’s for Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne with Pine Nuts. I don’t claim that any of my food writing is to be all that intelligent as mostly what I was thinking was ‘MMMMM OMG CHEEESE!’. It was really very good indeed.

Oh, and this weekend I baked! Gooey chocolate brownies and a batch of biscuits shaped like Daleks. I took them to a party and they went down extremely well.

 

Tart! April 5, 2008

Filed under: how are these different from tags? — Persephone Hazard @ 11:00 pm
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Tonight I made tart. Mmmm, tart. It was scrummy and *very easy* tart, too. I often make this if I’m having friends round for dinner.

Stuff you’ll need:

  • Some puff pastry. You can make it yourself if you really want to but to be honest I never bother. As you’re buying it anyway, you may as well buy the pre-rolled stuff while you’re at it!
  • About six medium-sized plum tomatoes.
  • Some goat’s cheese – the very soft kind that comes in a tub. Buy the kind that’s flavoured with garlic and herbs if it’s there.

Pre-heat the oven to about 200C.

Unroll the puff pastry onto a baking tray or large casserole dish. Tip all to goat’s cheese into a bowl and stir, mixing in any flavourings and seasonings you fancy – garlic is always good, of course, even if there’s some already there, but then I would say that!

Spread the cheese onto the pastry. I usually use a spoon for this – dollop some on and then use the back of the spoon to smooth it out. Put on as much as you like, really, then get your serrated knife out and chop the tomatoes into slices. Layer them over the top of the goat’s cheese, and add any seasoning you like – I usually add some ground black pepper, salt and dried mixed herbs. I also usually grate some good cheddar on top of it at this point.

Put the tray/dish into the middle of the oven and leave to cook for about 50 mins, checking it every so often.

 

I have just eaten lunch. April 4, 2008

Filed under: how are these different from tags? — Persephone Hazard @ 12:11 pm
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It was awesome lunch. Seriously. My lunch was of the awesome. Easy, too!

I’ve never understood why we own  a griddle. I’d never used it before today, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen my father use it either. It’s a great cast iron behemoth of a thing that I have to use both hands to pick up. Today, though, while I was deciding what to eat, it came in handy.

We had some leftover halloumi from  a dinner party dad threw last week, and some tinned mango that’s been sitting there for about a million years. Halloumi and mango are a fantastic combination – vastly improved by salad leaves and some mint dressing as a starter in a Proper Meal, but also delicious alone as an ordinary lunch or snack.

First off, I emptied the mango into a colander and left it sitting in the sink. I also ran some water through it, to rinse off any leftover syrup from the tin – fresh mango would of course be better, but the point of today’s lunch was that I couldn’t be arsed to go out and buy anything!

Halloumi contains a lot of liquid, and so doesn’t fry well in a pan. This is why a griddle is perfect: use a pastry brush to brush it along the grooves quite liberally with olive oil, then turn the hob on and let it heat up a little. Cut the halloumi into slices about 0.5cm thick, and drop them carefully onto the griddle, roughly evenly spaced. Turn frequently, and basically wait till they look like you want to eat them – I carried on cooking mine till both sides were covered in deep brown grooves, but then I like Burnt Bits!

Nom nom nom. God, that was a nice lunch.