Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Sandwich Time

We have a bread maker. It has various settings, and I've come a-cropper with them before, but I managed to successfully navigate its user interface yesterday and came out with a lovely loaf of soft-crust white bread in 2 hours!

It looked ideal for sandwiches, so after it cooled, I cut some slices.

Ok, the first slice was mobius-cut, so I cut another 4 slices to make sure it was just an anomaly. This meant that I had enough sliced bread for two rounds of sandwiches. I buttered the bread, thinking about fillings.

I looked in the fridge for processed meat. None.
I looked in the fridge for cheese. None.

Ok, I can make PB&J sandwiches. We have crunchy peanut butter in the cupboard, so I spread that over the slices. Now for the jam.

The jam in the fridge has a layer of mould on it. This isn't going well.

I root in the fridge for jam substitutes. Horseradish sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, mustard. None of those would be suitable substitutes.
I look in the cupboard for jam substitutes. Marmite, apple chutney, mint jelly. None of those would be suitable substitutes. I'm worried that I might end-up eating Peanut Butter sandwiches, and that thought fills me with dread, but I eventually find white chocolate spread and a tub of squeezable honey at the back of the cupboard. Those look promising.

I spread the white chocolate, and make one sandwich.
I try to squeeze the honey out of the squeeze tub. Nothing happens. I need to unscrew the lid and delve-in with my knife to get the honey out, and it's all crystallised.

Why is it that amphorae of honey can be retrieved from wrecks of Roman ships on the seabed after 2 millennia and are perfect, but leave a tub of honey in my cupboard for a few weeks and it's virtually unusable?

I scrape the crystals of honey over a slice of bread, and I eat the sandwiches.

They were rank!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Poaching Eggs

Doris is away in Australia for 3 months. Therefore I'm not being stretched in the kitchenery department.

However, last night I watched Doris, over webcam, poach two eggs and serve them on toast. It took only a couple of minutes, and I saw her make a mistake, which she said was impatience at the time taken for the water to properly boil (so I'll remember that, and make sure I don't try to move too fast) but it was salvaged with the aid of a pasta spoon and nice to eat.

Ok, can I boil water without burning it, can I whirl a vortex and can I crack an egg? If I can do these things, I can poach an egg.

Off we go then! Water in saucepan ... check!
I then ground some salt into the pan, (I have no idea whether it's necessary for this, but I was taught to do it, so I always do).
Saucepan on the hob, with its lid on, over a high heat ... check!
Cut some bread, put it in the toaster ... check!
Wait for the water to boil, then start toasting the bread ... check!

Ok, now we have the technical part. "Whirl a vortex" is a fine phrase, but what does it actually mean?
I have a wooden spoon, and I can stir the water. I stop stirring, the water stops moving.
I stir faster, the water moves faster until I stop stirring and the water stops moving.
I stir hard-and-fast, I get splashed with boiling water, I stop stirring, the water stops moving.
How on earth do I create a vortex?

By now, the water is bubbling very vigorously, so I need to get the egg into there, but I have a wooden spoon in my hand. So I take my chances and crack an egg with my other hand, and it works! Ok, I have albumen all over my hand, but the yolk dropped into the pan, and the albumen drips into it from my hand, so that's a result!

Now, I have a yolk boiling and some albumen whitening in my saucepan. I examine it, but it doesn't look much like a poached egg. I wonder whether I'm supposed to keep stirring, so I stir the protein solution. The albumen starts to clump together, on the opposite side of the pan to where the yolk is rapidly hardening. I try to guide them together and just manage to unclump the albumen.

My yolk now looks hard-boiled, so I decide to serve. I can serve the yolk, but the albumen won't clump. I end-up serving a load of water along with a hard-boiled yolk onto one slice of toast.

Ok, that wasn't very successful. I can do better the next time. I have another piece of toast and another egg.

The saucepan still has lots of streaky albumen bits in it, but I'm sure that won't matter. This time, I will boil the water less vigorously and keep the water moving.

I wait until the water starts to boil. I start to stir.
I stir harder and faster. The water stops boiling.
I stop stirring, the water starts bubbling and stops moving.

Ok, perhaps the bubbling is stopping the water from keeping the vortex? Perhaps I need to keep stirring and not worry about the water not boiling?

I stir, I stir more, the water stops bubbling, the water swirls
I keep stirring.
I take the egg in my other hand and crack it. The yolk drops into the middle of saucepan and starts to migrate to the outside, followed by the albumen dripping through my fingers.
I now have a comet with a golden head swirling around in the water
The head breaks away. The yolk comes free, it quickly escapes to the other side of the pan. I keep stirring, trying to force the albumen to catch up by force of will.

It won't do it, Again, I have an egg yolk on one side of the pan and albumen on the other side.

This time I don't interfere with the albumen, so I can at least combine the yolk and the white on my piece of toast. I keep stirring, the pieces of egg keep moving.

The albumen breaks apart without any action from me. I've kept stirring! I can't fix it! The yolk is going all hard-boiled again! I need to finish this!

I stop stirring, fish-out the yolk and put it onto the toast. I notice that the other piece of toast has disintegrated due to water damage, so I don't risk serving albumen on the second piece of toast.

I eat one piece of toast with two hard-boiled egg yolks, and I didn't set off the smoke alarm. I suppose it's a success of sorts.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Burgers cooked nicely

This needs a subtitle ... "In which Poki learns how to use a food processor"

Doris is away for 3 months, on a work secondment to Australia, so I need to fend for myself (with instructions when required over MSN, although the timezone difference might make this tricky.

We had minced beef in the fridge. It had just passed it's "use by" date, but had been kept chilled, so wouldn't have been bad yet.

I've cooked pasta for the past two days, so didn't want to cook it again. I asked Doris for alternatives, and she suggested rice, then mashed potatoes, until we finally agreed when she reminded me that there were some Birds Eye Potato Waffles in the freezer (they're waffly versatile).

Doris has a burger press, and a food processor, so she suggested that I make burgers.

We discussed the food processor functionality. I've heard bad things about them before, so I wanted to be sure about it before I committed myself to actions that would be too difficult.

She said that I should use the ordinary blades. I had to ask for a definition of "ordinary" in this instance, and Doris explained it as a pair of blades around the plastic hub, shaped like an S. I should whizz an onion until chopped, then add the mince, 2 teaspoons of salt, crack an egg in and add two handfuls of oats, whizz again and them press into patties using the burger press.

We are experienced in msn instructions for cookering things, so after we'd ascertained that it would be 5 minutes of whizzing rather than the 30 minutes I was assuming, that it would be like paste instead of burger if I over-whizzed it, that I wouldn't need to cook the mince first and that I wouldn't need to add anything else, I went to try it.

I had trouble finding the food processor. My youngest daughter found it hiding behind the ice cream maker and a smoothie jug. It already had the S blade in the jug, and once I realised that this blade was supposed to have the inch-high kink in it between the blades, I reinstalled it and looked at the controls.

It has a dial from 1 to 8, and a two-way, three-position power button. You press the outer button (only after securely shutting the lid, I discovered) to be able to twist the inner button either to "P" (pulse?) and "1" (on?). I left the dial at "8" and after a few seconds, my daughter noticed the unmistakeable smell of burning electrics, so I switched the processor off.

I halved an onion and dropped it through the chimney. I then whizzed this until I got the electric smell again, and decided that it was done. I took the lid off because I was unable to feed the mince and crack the egg through the chimney, and dumped everything in, with only a slight mistake of pouring oats all over the floor, after I had discovered that we have both oats and muesli in jars. I also didn't measure-out the salt - it would have been too tricky to try to grind salt onto a teaspoon, so I just ground it straight on top of the mince until my daughter said "That's 33 times you've ground that salt. Don't you think that's enough?". She's 12, so perhaps she knows more about cookistry than I do.

It only took about 30 seconds of whizzing for the electric smell to reappear, so I decided that this was long enough, regardless of the 5 minutes that we had discussed on msn.

I retrieved the burger press and associated greaseproof paper discs from the cupboard, and started pressing the meat mixture into it. Doris has shown me how to do this in the past. Once I realised that the spring was disconnected from the internals and I re-seated it, I was able to force the mixture into the press, shut the pattie between two sheets of greaseproof paper and the plastic press components and WHACK! it hard with my hand onto the work surface to mould it into the correct shape and density. From the 500g of mince, along with the other ingredients, this only made 6 burgers. If we have 6 burgers, that's two each (I have my two youngest children with me this weekend) so needs 6 potato waffles to match them (and some sweetcorn as a nod to healthy eating).

I started grilling the waffles and moved-on to washing up the food processor items.

On an unrelated note, have you noticed how disconcerting it is, on turning around after finishing the washing-up, to see plumes of acrid black smoke billowing from the grill?

After completing the toasting of the waffles, I started grilling the burgers, then microwaved some sweetcorn, reheated the now-cold waffles and served it all on the third strike of the smoke alarm.

My verdict is that, after all that effort, the burgers tasted just like minced beef. I was hoping that I would have a more interesting combination of flavours. I had served the burgers on top of the waffles, so the waffles all want soggy. For some reason I can't discern, the sweetcorn smelled vaguely of custard. Fortunately, I like custard, but it was unexpected. The kids liked the meal, though - much better than bought burgers, was their verdict.

If I continue like this, my blog is going to be less about disasters and instead overlap with "proper" cookerying blogs. I'm not sure my experiences are interesting enough to warrant a serious blog!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Smoke Alarm in the Kitchen

My daughter tweeted this week:

I had to respond with:

Is it usual to have a smoke alarm in the kitchen area, no more than about 12ft from the oven? If it is, is it usual to trigger the smoke alarm every time you cook? Even this evening, when I was simply grilling burgers, the smoke alarm blared as I was serving-up.

I hate to think what will happen when we have a real fire. When I set the frying pan alight this week, and the smoke alarm went off, no-one ran to assist me.

Hmm ... perhaps I should blog about setting the frying pan alight, but as I rescued it and no-one noticed that the food was charred, I didn't think it worthy of an entry. In itself, that might provide indications of my lack of cookery expertise.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

I have forgotten how to make gravy

I haven't had disasters recently, primarily because I've been too busy at work to spend lots of time at the oven. I know, cooking is supposed to be quick, but not when you're a poor cookist.

Today, I cooked a gammon roast. I put the gammon joint on the pan insert, poured some cola into the base of the pan and started roasting it covered by some tin foil.

The gammon wasn't huge, so I started peeling potatoes immediately. While they were parboiling, I peeled carrots and chopped some onions.

When the potatoes were soft, I poured the water out of the saucepan, salted & oiled them, shook them to generate some scrumbly bits and then poured them into the roasting pan (having removed the tin foil first.

I noticed that the cola hadn't evaporated, but it didn't concern me.

I added the carrots and onions, and put the pan back into the oven for another 45 minutes.

In the meantime, I boiled some broccoli.

After 45 minutes roasting, I removed the gammon and started serving the potatoes, carrots and onions with a ladle. Hmm ... this wasn't right. There was still lots of cola in the pan, so I served using the slotted spoon instead.

No problem, the cola would be infused with gammon juices, and I'll be able to make gravy with it.

The roasting pan was now empty apart from the liquid, so I dumped some plain flour into it and started stirring over a low heat. This caused the flour to immediately clump around the ladle, until it looked like a lump of mortar. I scraped the lump off the ladle with the slotted spoon and continued stirring. After a few seconds all of the liquid had disappeared, and I was left with burning lumps of mortar in the pan. Fortunately, I still had the liquid in with the broccoli, so I poured it from there into the pan. I now had a litre of broccoli-infused water and a lump of mortar.

After stirring, more stirring, and even more stirring, I had a litre of butterscotch-coloured water and lots of small clumps of solid matter. I couldn't work out how to mix it all together, to I poured everything from the pan into a jug, to enable me to use a whisk. The substance overflowed the jug, so I had to pour half of it away. Even using the whisk, it didn't improve the texture. I decided to taste it, to make sure I could still serve it. Unfortunately, it tasted like floury cola, so I had to pour it all away.

We had no scrumbly bits, as the potatoes had been drowned.
We had potatoes, carrots and onions tasting of cola.
We had no gravy.

My youngest daughter liked the flavour of the potatoes, though.

Saturday, 9 April 2011


As my cooking improves, I post less and less frequently here. Having said that, I have hardly cooked in the past week due to pressures of work, so I'm currently posting every time I cook!

I've just cooked Medallions of Steak with jacket potatoes and mixed veg. It was all fine, but bland. I need people to let me know how to make food interesting rather than simply nutritious.

The instructions on the polythene packaging around the steak were easy to understand, apart from the following line:

"Heat the pan on medium heat"
This is a frying pan, with olive oil in it, 2 minutes per side for rare steak.
When I have the dial on "high", the oil burns. When I turn the dial down slightly, it still burns. I need to turn it down approximately half way (I can't tell for sure if it exactly half way, as the gas burners don't appear to have any physical indicators as to the heat they produce at

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Disaster Doesn't Have to be in the Cooking

It might be in the expression used in thanking Doris for the lovely food she cooks:

I've just had a lovely dinner of risotto, cooked expertly by Marie Pendle. It was as good as Uncle Ben's 2-minute Microwave Risotto!
Yesterday at 20:06 ·  ·  · 
    • Marie Pendle you are so talking yourself out of being cooked for and having your dinner when you walk in from work, you know
      Yesterday at 20:06 ·  ·  3 people
    • Rick Brown It was a compliment! I really enjoy Uncle Ben's 2-minute Microwave Risotto!
      Yesterday at 20:41 · 
    • Marie Pendle Lucky that, you might be eating a lot more of it ¬_¬
      Yesterday at 20:42 · 
    • Gary Axtell Ah, Spring. Where love blooms anew, and risotto flies through the air. ;)
      Yesterday at 20:56 · 
    • David Miller Clean socks and fresh Risotto the same day, wheee ;)
      23 hours ago · 
    • Rick Brown I'm a lucky, lucky man. I've just been told so!
      23 hours ago · 

Another Facebook Crossposting

This wasn't a disaster, but I think that the Facebook comments make it worthwhile for inclusion:

No cookery disaster, so no blog entry. However, it surprised me yesterday when I discovered that there is an audible difference between grating cheese and grating knuckle skin. I hadn't realised that you could tell what you were grating by the sound it makes!
Sunday at 13:03 ·  ·  · 
  • Claire Thomas likes this.
    • Katherine Beaudette Uh...that's one warning sign, I suppose...
      Sunday at 13:05 · 
    • Cara Gatenby Just please don't invest in a mandolin slicer!!
      Sunday at 13:09 · 
    • Katherine Beaudette Why would he want to slice mandolins? They're not very tasty...

      Sunday at 13:10 · 
    • Marie Pendle we have a mandolin, he's not allowed anywhere near it :)
      Sunday at 13:15 ·  ·  2 people
    • Cara Gatenby Thank God for that, he'll keep all of his fingers then :-). Lock it away in case he gets tempted.
      Sunday at 13:27 · 
    • Penelope Z Weinberger the cheese doesn't yelp...
      Sunday at 15:06 · 
    • Gary Axtell Remind me never to taste any port wine cheddar served by you! ;)
      Sunday at 15:29 · 
    • Ben Pettifer Slightly concerned that your nervous system
      operates at less than the speed of sound...
      Sunday at 16:16 · 
    • Leanne Victoria Brown please don't grate your fingers off until after the wedding, id rather have pictures with someone that has 4 fingers and a thumb on each hand!!
      Sunday at 17:25 · 
    • Marie Pendle I'll put him in mittens for the next eighteen months ;)
      Sunday at 17:28 ·  ·  1 person
    • Gary Axtell A mitten like this, you mean?
      Sunday at 18:09 · 
    • Karl Reeves Ragh wine and blood cheese. Very Klingon dish. Quapla!
      Sunday at 23:07 · 
    • Elfy Fett I distinctly remember grating my fingers, as a kid, while grating carrots for a salad. No bueno.
      Sunday at 23:18 · 
    • Karinne Taylor What Ben said.
      Monday at 12:26 ·