Stocktake

So stuff just happens and suddenly it’s another month, or day, or year, and you’ve forgotten to remember some of the nice things in between. Like a well executed Kung Pao chicken, or, in Pei Mei’s phrasing, Chicken with Gongbao sauce. Pei Mei is my favourite Taiwanese kitchen companion at the moment, not only because she wrote the first Chinese-English cookbook to emerge from Taiwan (and which is now in my kitchen), but because everything I have so far tried at her commendation has been good, and good to make.

Some of her dishes have even withstood my inevitable tweaking – for what is cooking without tweaking – and that’s another good thing (take that, you damn muffins!!). So the other night the classic chicken with chillis and peanuts that is variously known as Kung/Gong Pao/Bao became Signe’s Gongpao Mushroom. That was good too (and there was more than one mushroom). I will be the Gongpao queen yet.

Then there was the Crema Catalana:

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OK, not exactly this one, which comes from Rick Stein in The Telegraph (as does the recipe, which you can find here). But mine looked pretty close. That was a really fine dessert; basically a Spanish creme brulee, the difference being that the custard base for this one is not baked in a bain marie, and is ultimately, therefore, much more silky and delicious, particularly because it’s flavoured (infoosed, I should say) with lemon and orange zest, and cinnamon. Try it for the mouthfeel.

I also baked chocolate chip cookies, but the wrong kind and I ran out of sugar so we won’t say anything more about that.

Last night I was wined and dined by someone who I look forward to doing much more of the same, and we ended up at a place we hadn’t intended but which turned out to be the best place to be. I mean, they give you free popcorn at the bar. And then there was excellently fried calamari, warm Sicilian walnut cake, and a good wine with a story behind it.

Today in the kitchen I did something I haven’t done for a long time and which Elizabeth David would scorn me for. I used a garlic press. But hey. Elizabeth can’t be the mother of us all. I have my own, and she makes the best garlic butter. With a press.

My mother also makes a damn fine onion soup. With any luck, the one I’ve got on the stove will be as good as hers. My father could never get enough of it.

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