Strawberries soaked in vodka fail to impress

So after my recent bold declaration that this Doctor’s brownie adventures are officially over, I was naturally confronted with all sorts of Facebook banter offering yet more tips and tricks for that thing I had just renounced. The most evil of these was a recipe which calls for cocoa powder dissolved in hot water (rather than melting chocolate), along with the suggestion that the water be replaced by booze (Nina, you know who you are).

Talk of booze in food often takes the turn of trying to discover how best to keep it in there. If you dissolve cocoa in a cup of bourbon, won’t it all just evaporate during baking (for instance)? In other words, how does one maintain the integrity of a truly boozy brownie?

Well since brownies were out, and I had recently spotted a recipe for white-chocolate-raspberry blondies, things quickly spiralled downhill. In the fridge: raspberries, no; dried strawberries, yes. In the freezer: vodka, yes. The strawberries looked very pretty in their vodka bath, and the vodka looked very pretty when I removed the strawberries a few hours later (it was, in fact, bright red, which leads me to seriously doubt the naturalness of the dried strawberries. But hey, colourful vodka cocktail coming up soon).

Worse: the blondies were dry, and not boozy at all. Had they been presented at tea time as what old Danish aunties call “sandkage” (this one you can work out for yourself), they would have been a hit. But as blondies, they were dismal failures.

I’ve made blondies before, and they were yummy and chewy and more-ish, so I blame the recipe. But I should have known better – it came from a British magazine, and what do the Brits know about blondies? Like, who would actually follow a Jamie Oliver recipe for brownies? (Don’t bother, I already did.)

Speaking of which, I believe Mr. O is now doing his very own 30-minute meals. This is amazing. Because that is exactly what Rachael Ray has built an entire empire on. He was even on her show earlier this year. So it’s not like they don’t know each other. Couldn’t he have called it “29-minute Meals”? Or, “Dinner In A Jiffy”? Or, “Pukka Nosh in Half a Tick”? Really. Anything but “I’m Just Going To Take Someone Else’s Idea And Hope That No One Notices”.

Then again, maybe it’s all the same anyway. As Michael Ruhlman put it not long ago,

‘Part of the problem is the magazine editors and television producers drumming us over the head with fast and easy meal solutions at home. It’s the wrong message to send. These editors and producers and publishers are backing the processed food industry, propelling their message. What I say to you magazine editors and producers, to you Rachael Ray and you Jamie Oliver and your 20 minutes meals: God bless you, but you are advertising and marketing on behalf of the processed food industry.’

Well, I don’t know about the God bless you part. And hey, I’m all for knocking things up in a hurry, and if the Ray and the Oliver can make that happen, then good for them. But when it panders to a public that (apparently) hasn’t got the attention span to realise that what Sir O. says is nothing new, then I’m off that bus.

Those people they create would probably even say my blondies were delicious.

PS. To clarify, when I first heard about the 30-minute meal venture, I tweeted the man himself to ask if RR hadn’t been doing the same thing for years. His response:

I guess we don’t all interpret “potential problem?” equally.

If I were a TV cook…

(or a cookbook author for that matter), I could imagine myself delivering all number of clever little tips and tricks – as they do – to give people the idea that I sit around and think hard and long about what works and what doesn’t.

For my (to die for) “caramelized brussel sprouts with pecan nuts and blue cheese”, for instance, I would tell you that the secret is to add the garlic at the last minute of pan-time. That way you get a kick of fresh garlic to temper the sweetness of the sugar and nuts, but without the harshness of actual fresh garlic. (Because don’t you also find that if you add garlic too early, it loses its oomph?) You want garlic. But you want it just right. This is how, trust me.

(Excuse the photograph. My stylist is away watching Argentina getting thrashed by Germany).

If I were Jamie Oliver, I would tell you that this goes fantastically with small, crumbed pork cutlets (and a nice dollop of horseradish on the side), and then tell you how easy crumbed pork is to throw together. (Like this: bish bash bosh).

If I were Rachael Ray, I would tell you not to bother with the bish bash bosh, because I don’t have the time, and you don’t have the time or money to hop on your scooter, head down to your friendly (organic) butcher, have a chat about the missus, get some beautiful hand-reared, grass-fed, acupuncture-tenderised local pork, and neither do you have half a loaf of day-old sourdough lying around waiting to be whizzed into crumbs in the KitchenAid (which you don’t have either).

Continue reading “If I were a TV cook…”

Enough with the footie

Really, no one wants to hear any more about Inglan’s miserable performance, or about how self-satisfied the Danes must be with themselves this morning (like we they really need another reason to be self-satisfied, but fair enough: we they are red, we they are white, we they are Danish dynamite). Nor is it anyone’s business that I have done approximately half a stitch of work since this whole debacle began, because if I’m not sitting in a stadium with 64 099 other people, I am glued to the telly watching a game which I don’t understand and which I really don’t care about. And I certainly wouldn’t share with you my private prediction that I may even continue to watch the occasional match after the WC. It’s a ridiculous waste of time and quite frankly I think the game should be banned. Maybe then those stupid plastic horns would finally rest in peace.

No, let’s rather talk pork. Continue reading “Enough with the footie”

Bye Bye Peanuts

Peanuts. I’ve always loved them. I like most kinds of nuts, and most kinds of peanuts, but really none more than these pictured here. Grown in Swaziland, and roasted by Hansen women in kitchens around the world (including in Swaziland). The recipe is secret, so there’ll be no instructions here. Suffice it to say that they delight most people who try them, making jars of them excellent gifts too.  I have given many people peanuts. In fact, I am the peanut queen.

The first time I discovered a writhing worm in a handful I was busy chomping my way through, I stopped eating them for about a year, but then I forgave them. Yesterday I discovered one of the bags of the raw nuts was the source of what I will call a maggot infestation in the top part of our kitchen cupboard. The brave man who came and helped me to remove them will say that “infestation” is an exaggeration. But when you hate writhing worms as much as I do, anything more than one is an infestation, because the very sight of them infects my brain and makes my stomach churn. Anyway, maybe not legion, but they were definitely more than one.

I cannot forgive my beloved peanuts twice. It is the end of an era and I am dethroned. I will observe a moment of silence before I apply my mind to what I can eat instead.

(While I do that, and to end on a more pleasant note, you can admire this beautiful birthday cake I am proud to say I helped to manufacture, and which was a feature of what was, indeed, a fabulous garden party:

)

Beautiful chicken

I’m experiencing the photography dilemma again. Taking a picture of a roast chicken is crap! It looked so good, and smelt so damn fine, that I had to collect my husband to watch me pull it out of the oven.

“It’s beautiful!” I said.

“It’s beautiful?” he responded, with that sceptic’s smirk of his.

Well yes, and I dragged him into the kitchen to pull out this.

Well, not that. A better 3D copy of that, complete with a mind-numbing smell of roast chicken. It’s a bit like toast, or popcorn, or bacon. Just yum!, as Roger Webb may say as Jeremy in the excellent Peep Show.

Not being one of those people who has a roast chicken in my weekly repertoire, I had to look for a recipe, so I confess this was as easy and delicious as the one who will not be named promised it would be.

But that’s not the whole truth either. This bird, you see, had also been injected – via my new favourite gadget, the Williams Sonoma Flavor Injector. Thanks to that large syringey thing on the right, this chicken was pumped full of sherry, garlic, herbs (thyme and rosemary), a bit of dijon and a touch of maple syrup. Sweet baby Jesus succulent juicy chicken breast.

Tomorrow’s chicken and chorizo risotto will rock like a rocket.

In other news, I’ve committed myself to reading a complete stranger’s blog, only because in it she chronicles the unbelievable stupidity of actually living according to Michael Pollan’s food rules for a year. I should be saying yawn, but instead I am plotting my next book. It will be a chronicle, to borrow Rob Lyons‘ excellent phrasing, of ‘organic, cattle-produced fertiliser: bullshit.’ Oh, and of this excellent revelation: ‘The only reason privacy ever existed was because Facebook didn’t.

I’ll call it Addicted (with Security Settings) to Virtual Bullshit.