This piece appeared in the Sunday Times Food Weekly Supplement two weeks ago. What do they say about the perfect woman again? She should be a whore in the bedroom and a chef in the kitchen.
What happens if you get it the other way around?
I’m one of those. I tear recipes out of this newspaper, dog-ear magazine pages relentlessly and fill recipe books with bookmarks, ranging from old till slips, to business cards, receipts, empty envelopes and other torn out recipes.
I always have these grand designs of all the fabulous new recipes I’m going to try out. It’s usually the pictures that get me. Saliva production is at an all-time high whilst paging, tagging and tearing.
Recently there was a Seared Tuna Salad with Burnt Caper-Berry Sauce that urgently needed to be attempted (the recipe called for something to be burnt, it sounded like it was made for me), and a fabulous-sounding Gin and Tonic Cake that had ‘hurry up and bake me’ written all over it in drizzled gin-soaked sugar.
But when it comes down to actually making any of these culinary delights, there’s always just one small ingredient that trips me up. It’s all very well to say ‘take two pinches of this and four tablespoons of that’, but first one needs to have two pinches of this and four tablespoons of that to take.
Usually either I don’t have it in my cupboard, or I simply don’t know what it is. Going out and buying it is another obstacle. But that’s only because I have to physically use my brain to remember to pick it up when I’m down the shops, since I’ve consistently left every shopping list I’ve ever made at home.
So once you’ve finally figured out what all the ingredients are, and remembered them, then you have to figure out where to start looking for them in the shop. Is a caper-berry a condiment, or a berry? Who the hell has Juniper berries just lying around? And what the bleep is Grand Marnier?
And all this ingredient understanding and wrangling is only just the beginning. I often find once I’ve gotten everything together and celebrated with a little cooking sherry, then there’s a technique on the recipe that’s either beyond me, in French, or I simply don’t have the tools or the patience.
Are there really people out there in this day and age, soaking things overnight, or cooking for six hours whilst basting and turning regularly?
I am always such a disappointment to myself that with all these culinary aspirations, I still seem to cook like a twenty three year old bachelor. Perhaps it’s time to admit that I just don’t have the chops. I have no BCT (Big Cooking Temperament).
I remember a few years ago, one of those men’s magazines that intersperse articles on cars with pictures of skinny girls with big boobs and too few clothes (shame, they must catch an awful draft in winter) ran a series called A Man, A Can, A Plan. Every month they presented a recipe done mostly in pictures, using simple ingredients. A monkey/bachelor could make them.
I remember one, it had a picture of a couple of raw lamb chops then a plus sign, then a tin of tomato and onion mix, another plus sign, and then some of that pasta rice stuff. It was as simple as browning the chops, throwing them into a casserole dish together with the tomato and onion mix, some stock and water, the pasta rice, and that bachelor’s staple – tobasco sauce (thank you @ivanisawesome), then whacking it in the oven till it was brown and yummy looking. That recipe still makes it into my regular recipe circuit today.
There’s another one that I also still use, which requires nothing more than a tin of tuna, cooked up with a roux of flour, butter and milk, and served on a baked potato.
No saffron stems, no glycerine leaves, no cardamom seeds, star fruit, or dashi stock, just the kind of ingredients you might find lying around, or already in your trolley.
One day I’m going to have to come to terms with the fact that the closest I’m ever going to get to enjoying Seared Scallops with Squid Ink Linguine, or anything with a tuile on it, out of my own kitchen, is opening a magazine and eating them with my eyes.