Saturday, 25 May 2013

Potato Cake Mash

Doris cooked lunch, today. She included some mashed potatoes, but they didn't taste quite right. She admitted to not having put any salt in them. She also cooked too much, so we had lots of left-over mash.

For dinner, I asked Doris what she would like. She suggested that she could cook shepherd's pie or cottage pie with the left-over mash, or that I could fry some chicken breast fillets with the mash made into potato cakes.

We discussed the potato cakes. Doris suggested sweetcorn, I suggested cheese, so I went to construct and fry the cheese-and-sweetcorn-potato-cakes along with a couple of chicken breasts.

So ... I have three things to do:
1. construct potato cakes
2. fry chicken
3. fry potato cakes
and this is the order in which I did the cooking.

I recall that a commenter on this very blog has suggested that I repeatedly pour hot water over frozen vegetables to heat them. I decided to do this, and after I unfroze the sweetcorn and drained the (now cold) water away, I dropped them into the mash that was in the pot. I grated the cheddar into the pot and mixed well.

I don't know if I've mentioned before, but I don't much like getting my hands mucky. I couldn't work out what kitchen device I could use to make the potato cakes, so I grabbed handfuls of the mixture and made balls out of them, placing them on a chopping board in readiness for squashing and frying them.

I poured oil into the frying pan and took the chicken breasts from the fridge. They were larger than I had imagined, so I decided to cook one each. When the oil was hot, I dropped the breasts in and started cooking them. I know that chicken doesn't take much time to cook, so I splatted the first few potato cakes and dropped them into the pan. The chicken was looking partially cooked, so I turned it over.

The chicken was taking longer to cook than I thought .They were quite fat, so I thought "butterfly" and prepared to take them out of the pan to cut them in half and fry the insides, but in the meantime I tried to turn over the potato cakes.

The potato cakes all fell apart.

I patted them back into shape, and tried again. They disintegrated again. I had no idea how to do this, so I called up to Doris, asking if there's a trick to keeping the potato cake shapes. She answered "Ahh, yes - you need to beat an egg into the mixture before you cook them.

Too late.

The butterflying worked ok, although I cut too deep and cut each of the breasts into two instead of keeping them whole, so I served two halves of chicken breast and a mass of unshapen fried potato mixture.

Those of you who follow this blog will know that, unless something is completely inedible, any completely unappetising food I make will be served, and and we will eat it. The chicken tasted ok, but the potato was definitely missing something. At this point, I recalled the lack of salt that Doris has mentioned earlier. So, all in all, I made a complete hash of the potatoes. Pun not intended, but now I think about it, I should have searched the Internet for hash brown recipes.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Naked Scampi

I may have mentioned that my partner inherited a Tefal Actifry. It's a delightful, albeit overpriced, kitchen gadget, allowing us to cook proper chips without needing a deep fat fryer - it uses a couple of tablespoons of oil (we often use olive oil flavoured with basil or lemon) poured over the chipped potatoes, set the timer for 20-25 minutes and set it off. It has a paddle to move the potato pieces around the pan, blows hot air over the oil which increasingly covers the potato, and thereby frys the potato o rather nice chips.

Actually, I'm not too sure exactly how much oil it should use. The instructions once explained, but they are long lost, and the measuring cup that comes with the gadget was not inherited, so I've always guessed at the amount of oil to add.

Anyway, chips that we make are always lovely. Last week, I tried to cook some duck strips in it, which didn't work very well, so today I thought I would be safer with this evening's dinner - scampi.

Well, I say "scampi". The packet I retrieved from the freezer reads "WHITBY YORKSHIRE BREADED SCAMPI". In a smaller font below, it reads "scampi & premium fish". In the small print on the back of the packet, it reads "cod and hake, pressed into shapes"
Regardless, it's scampi-ish.

The cooking (heating) instructions say to oven bake the scampi for 30 minutes, or deep fry them for 4 minutes. As the Actifry is sort-of like a deep fat fryer but using less oil, we guessed that they might need 8 minutes dumped in with the cooking chips.

I did this, and returned after 9 minutes (one minute for luck - you can never tell with seafood, even if it's been processed and pressed into shapes), to find the scampi-ish had lost their breaded coats. There were breadcrumbs-ish being heated, there were lumps of pressed scampi-ish being heated and there were chips being heated.

As you will have probably noticed by now, if food isn't completely inedible, I will serve it and challenge my partner to eat it. She doesn't want to cook when it's not her turn to do so, so she will eat whatever I serve. I have rarely made her ill.

So, I served the naked scampi-ish, the chips and a pile of mostly-soggy breadcrumbs. We both cleaned our plates. Perhaps the food tasted very good, or perhaps neither of us had much lunch today.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Update about recent experiences now the new kitchen is maturing

Now we've "bedded-in" the new kitchen, the disasters have been fewer. There are more surfaces in the kitchen, the ovens (now we've worked out the controls) is reliable, the induction hob heats the pans when I remember to use the right ones and the gadgets all work. Ok, the smoke alarm still tells me when the food is cooked, but that's just a cooking alarm.

Would you believe that Asda sell steel pans that aren't suitable for induction hobs? Me neither, but they do! There was I, frantically trying to make the hob work with a brand new steel pan, but it kept switching off! It wasn't until I replaced it with a different (and more expensive) steel pan that the hob accepted it!
The light in our microwave oven has failed. It makes checking on custard a bit tricky, and leads to me opening the microwave every few seconds to check on it, which seems to significantly increase the cooking time, well past what the instructions say microwaving times should be.
I had a slight adventure with the fan oven. I was cooking (heating frozen) pizzas for three of us, and I wanted the pizzas all to be ready at the same time. The pizzas all had different cooking times listed in the instructions, so I put the "11-13 minute" pizza at the top of the oven, just under the heating element, the "10-12 minute" pizza in the middle of the oven and the "8-10 minute" pizza on a pizza tray at the bottom of the oven. For once I had preheated the oven to 180 degrees C, so I was confident about serving the pizzas all at the same time, perfectly cooked.

When I returned to the oven, after 10 minutes, I noticed that there was a little smoke blowing out of the top corner, like a tiny steam engine funnel. On opening the oven, there was a billowing of smoke, setting off the smoke alarm, and the smell of burning cheese.

The top pizza was a very deep brown.
The middle pizza was ok.
The bottom pizza was still cold.

The top pizza was so bad that my daughter would only eat one slice. We had to throw the rest away. It was so bad that even the cats wouldn't eat it, and they are demons for cheese!

I have learned from this that I should leave more than an eighth of an inch between the heating element and the top pizza, even when the fan is supposed to be circulating the heat.
Pork steaks last weekend. I like to cook pork steaks, as I can prod them with a fork and pretend that I'm actually doing something impressive by smearing honey, mixed Italian herbs and maple syrup on them. However, these pork steaks were thinner than usual, with a recommended cooking time of 10-12 minutes instead of 16-18 minutes. I cooked one side for 5 minutes, flipped them over, completely forgot to marinade (is that what it's called when I spread & sprinkle stuff on them), and waited for the next 5 minutes. I gave it a minute extra, because you never know with pork.

I approached the oven and the smoke alarm went off. I hadn't even reached the oven! It must have been waiting for me!

On opening the oven, I realised that the pork steaks were brown and crispy, like thick strips of crispy bacon. I served them upside down, in the hope that my other half wouldn't notice the overcooking, but she commented immediately. Perhaps it was the tooth-loosening crunch as she bit into the pork steak that gave her the hint as to them being a bit overdone.
The kitchen window is one of those fancy tilt / side jobs, opening one way for a tilt and the other way for a wide aperture to be used as a fire escape. Ok, we can't use it as a fire escape because we forgot about the window when we bought new taps and so the window fouls against it and only opens about 18 inches, but if there was a fire I think we won't care if we damage the window and tap in our hurry to get out of the window.

Anyway, after the pork steaks, I tilted the window to let the smoke escape.

The following morning, my partner went into the kitchen to make coffee or something, and she found that her jars of muesli, oats, saltanas and raisins had all poured their contents into the sink. It appears that I had opened the window the wrong way, and the wind had caught it in the night, opening it hard against the tap and swiping all the jars off the windowsill.
That's it for now. Back soon with more disasters as they happen.