Thursday, July 7, 2011

Out of the frying pan

Choose your weapon ...

I do most of the cooking in our house but I’m not complaining.  For starters (see what I did there?) I like doing it, and on a more practical level I nearly always get in from work before my wife, which means either I do the cooking or else we have to wait until late in the evening before we can eat.  Since I walk around like a bear with a sore head if I’m the slightest bit hungry, the decision is easy.

I have a shelf full of cookery books written by all the usual suspects: Nigella, Jamie, Delia (notice how we know them by their first names?), but while I have been known to follow one or two of their recipes to the letter, what puts me off is that they invariably call for some crucial ingredient like lemon grass or Mongolian yak’s blood which I haven’t got in stock.  Even so, I like to look at their books and drool over the pictures; I’m drawn in much the same way to cookery programmes on TV.  I know I shouldn’t watch them quite so avidly and that this sort of thing is what’s killing off ‘proper’ television, but I’m a pseudo-foodie who can’t help himself.

Despite all the reading and TV watching my repertoire in the kitchen is remarkably and depressingly limited.  A lot of my dishes for example involve just a variation on the same sauce.  So the tomato sauce that is the basis for my spaghetti bolognese is not a million miles away from the one I use for curry, chilli, lasagne and occasionally shepherd’s pie.  It’s just a question of adjusting the flavour by adding or removing different herbs and spices.  I do a pretty good paella (it’s not exactly how I’ve had it in Spain, but if I can be immodest for a minute I do prefer mine), a passable stir fry (heavy on the ginger and soy sauce) and a half decent Sunday roast. The rest is often just convenience food.

I have my favourite pans and my favourite kitchen knives, and if they get scratched or damaged a day of national mourning is declared.  I’ve been known when out shopping to leer at woks and garlic crushers.  I almost cried with joy when my wife brought home some egg poaching pods which work brilliantly and have solved my own singular incompetence at poaching an egg.  They now stay in one piece with a lovely runny yolk.

On the down side I’m a bit rubbish at cooking any fish other than the most basic, like salmon fillets.  Actually I can cook it OK, but it’s all the preparation that trips me up.  I’ve tried gutting, cleaning and filleting mackerel, etc., but the result was not pretty.  I know a fishmonger would do it for me but I really ought to master these things for myself.  I never make puddings and pastries or bake cakes; I probably could but I’ve never really tried.  For all my love of food, I don’t really get excited about puddings.  I like them well enough and I’ll eat them if they’re put in front of me, but apart from pancakes I’ve never felt the urge to make one.

After all that bragging about my prowess, you may be wondering what we had for dinner tonight.  The answer is egg, chips and peas with white bread and butter and a cup of tea.  I bet Nigella likes a chip buttie now and then.

Can you imagine a world without chip butties?

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