Sunday, 24 October 2010

Microwaving coffee

I napped on the sofa. On awakening, I thought I'd sip my coffee. Feeling the cup, I noticed that it was stone-cold ... I must have napped for longer than I thought.

I put the cup into the microwave, and blasted it on full power for a minute. Mmmm, the promise of hot coffee.

Have you noticed how similar black coffee and cola look, when in a coffee mug? Eeuugh!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Lasagne Redux

After my previous lasagne disaster, I've taken on-board the criticism, watched it being made correctly, and decided that I should try again.

Mince, fried
I added olive oil without thinking, so it spat in the pan more than it should have done, but meh - I'll clean the hob ... sometime.
Passata added
Once the mince was browned, I poured my whole jar of Bolognese tomato sauce. Some of the sauce never comes out of the jar, so I half-filled the empty-ish jar with water, tightened the lid, shook it and poured the resulting tomato water into the pan.
This was more liquid than I recall it should be, but I know that I can simmer the mixture in the pan, and it'll gradually reduce & thicken. I could have added a little flour to help, I think (well, it works for gravy), but I decided that it would be ok without trying something new.
I turned-on the oven, set it to 200C, and stirred the mince mixture on the hob until it was looking the ideal consistency.

Time to construct the layers.
I managed to booby-trap our preferred pasta dish the other week after washing it up, and Doris smashed it on the kitchen floor, so I had to choose a larger dish ... the one I like to cook pasta bake in. This avoided one of my problems from last time ... I only had to chip-off corners of the lasagne sheets in my construction.

I realised that I hadn't stirred the mince mixture for a while, so I had to scrape the burnt bits off the base of the frying pan. I'm sure it adds to the flavour!
Half the mince, two lasagne sheets pressed-down into the mince.
Half a jar of white lasagne sauce, two lasagne sheets pressed-down into the sauce.
The other half of the mince, two lasagne sheets pressed-down.
The other half of the white sauce. Hmm ... sauce trapped in the jar, so I added a splash of milk to the empty-ish jar, shook it and poured it over the lasagne.
I was very pleased with myself, so I grated the cheese on top, and slid it into the now-pre-heated oven.

Lovely! No disasters, an empty blog post, and a reasonable meal.

I went to check with Doris ... "20 minutes at 200C?".
She responded "Yes, after you've cooked the lasagne for 15 minutes and then grated the cheese on top. You *have* cooked it for 15 minutes before grating the cheese on top, haven't you?"
BUGGER! Ok, recovery-mode activated!

Can I remove the cheese? I checked, but it had started to melt.
Can I microwave the lasagne to hopefully cook the pasta without affecting the cheese? I couldn't guarantee that the cheese wouldn't cook even faster, and the dish wouldn't fit into the microwave anyway.
Can I ignore the problem and serve it after 20 minutes?  Only if the pasta is cooked (otherwise it won't be soft-enough to cut into portions).
Can I cook it for 20 minutes, then serve it into portions and blast each one in the microwave? See above.
Can I cook it for 20 minutes, then turn the oven down to 150C for another 15 minutes, giving the pasta a chance to cook? Only if the cheese doesn't burn.

Ok, we'll try the last option, especially as these recovery thoughts have taken over 10 minutes, and I'll keep note of the smell coming from the kitchen.

After 10 minutes at 150C, the smell of burning cheese was wafting out of the kitchen. I couldn't wait any longer, and had to get the dish out of the oven before it got worse.

The cheese topping is a bronze colour. It's mature cheddar, so should be golden when cooked. Bronze is a little overdone, but at least it's not black.

The top layer shouldn't be this liquid, I'm sure! Perhaps the pasta hasn't absorbed all the liquid because it's underdone? I'll leave it on the side to cool for a few minutes. Hopefully the liquid will have been absorbed by then.

After a few minutes, I cut into the lasagne, through the bronzed cheese and the still-liquid layer, but thankfully I can cut into the pasta. Phew!

Served for three people. I had seconds. Only after my seconds did I feel like my stomach was still expanding. Does lasagne pasta continue to absorb if it's undercooked, or did I just eat too much of it?

The combination of partly undercooked and partly overcooked was interesting. Perhaps I've discovered a new way of cooking. Alternatively, perhaps I should just make sure I cook everything for the correct times in future!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Sir Norman Wisdom

He passed away yesterday, aged 95.In his classic comedic movies he played Norman Pitkin, hapless and clumsy, yelling for Mr Grimsdale when his incompetence got him into terrible trouble.

Sounds familiar?

This evening, my better half wanted sausage, bacon & egg for tea.  No problem, I've cooked all of those before.

I turned-on the grill, cut the sausages, opened the grill door to put the sausages in, and was surprised to see the plastic grill handle inside, cooking gently. This isn't the first time that the grill handle has been cooked. At least I didn't melt the thing -- that was my eldest daughter, a couple of weeks ago (I wonder if cookery disasters is hereditary?).

I knew that I would set-off the smoke alarm if I wasn't careful, so I switched the cooker extractor on, then went to the external extractor fan, tripping over the cats' water bowl on my way and spilling water all over the floor.

I started cooking the bacon in the frying pan, then realised that the bacon would take about 2 minutes, whereas the sausages would take 15. I moved the pan off the heat, and concentrated on the sausages.

When they were nearly done, I finished cooking the bacon, moved the rashers onto plates and cracked eggs into the pan. I managed to crack the first one so hard against the side of the pan that I pierced the yolk and sploshed albumen all over the side. Meh.

The siren of the smoke alarm sounded, telling me that (1) I had been unsuccessful in my extraction efforts and (2) the sausages were close to being cooked. Serving everything up and eating it was a pleasure, allowing me to reflect on my kitchen clumsiness and wonder whether the easy possibility of kitchen disasters was ever used in a Norman Wisdom movie.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


This evening, I was asked to make two cups of hot chocolate, one with water and one with milk.

The instructions looked simple to follow:
Pour 4 heaped teaspoonfuls of chocolate into a cup, add hot water / milk.
Can't go wrong, I thought.

Both recipients complained of watery hot chocolate.

It seems that there's a difference between "rounded teaspoonfuls" and "heaped teaspoonfuls". Next time, I must remember to load the teaspoon with as much chocolate as can possibly fit on it, rather than simply having a dome of powder.