Friday, 8 August 2014

When things don't go to plan...

I'm fairly certain no-one on that side of the screen thinks we live in a Martha Stewart-like paradise where everything just magically comes together and life is all freshly baked muffins and rainbow-farting unicorns. Oh, no. 

For a while now I've been sharing those not-so-stellar moments in my kitchen on the blog's Facebook page (join! Like! Comment! Give feedback! Make requests!) but in the spirit of taking it easy this summer let's share some of that life behind the scenes with you too!

1. Nutty seed bread

Oh, seedy it was , alright. For about 5 minutes I got excited about a healthier life; the proteins and good fats of nuts and seeds. So, I came up with this bread, full of all of the aforementioned. Which, in its rustic glory was pretty to look at. And smelled great, too. But I can't say much about the taste - for that I would have needed a chainsaw...

2. Sugar-free meringues

These , too, must have been the result of a disorder mentioned in the previous entry. The process probably went something like this: meringues are actually healthy - seeing how they're basically just egg whites! If you leave out sugar, that is (which is pretty crucial ingredient in these 2-ingredient treats). Which can  probably be substituted with that  zero-calorie artificial sweetener with dubiously cocaine-like consistency powder, right? Right? Wrong.

3. Marinated mushrooms

The idea was good and the execution was supposed to be easy-peasy, too. That wasn't the case, however. Now I know what evil tastes like. This was a day of big emotions elsewhere , too. None of them of was the triumphant joy of success, though. See that bread I was supposed to serve with the mushrooms? See next entry.

4. Ciabatta

One of my favourite breads, like, ever. Which I've mastered, like, never. This time the appearance was spot on so I thought the taste might finally be, too. Oh, no. It wasn't. It was a puzzling combination of saw dust and loofah. I was starving and it was the only thing at home yet I still couldn't bring myself to go anywhere near it. 

5. Salty toffee and chocolate ganache tart

My first attempt at gluten-free baking. First the shell crumbled like that cave at the end of The Last Crusade. And the first version of the salty toffee refused to set. Second time it set so well we could have cut glass with it. On the third(!) try everything finally came together. And what did I do? Lost the recipe. So, despite of repeated promises this has yet to make an appearance on the blog...

6. Grilled chicken hearts with caramelized onion dressing

This is a fine example of how sometimes even the ingredients, measurements and timing coming together aren't enough. If the photo looks like it was styled by a 2-year-old with a stomach bug (do not make me elaborate) it's not going to fly well with the public. In the end these became our BBQ hit for the summer, so, unlike the previous entry, these eventually did make their way onto the blog.

7. Mini frittatas with asparagus and prawns

One of the many results of last year's asparagus mania. They were good, alright, but so painstakingly ugly I simply didn't have the heart to publish them on the blog. The lesson learnt? Contrary to popular belief non-stick coating does not mean things would not stick on them. 

8.  Overnight braised oxtail ragú

I gave myself some time off and decided to cook simply out of pleasure of feeding people. No styling, stress, staging and search for the best angle. No notes, measurements or recipes. And the result? Probably the best dish I've ever made. So good it should be shared with, not just the readers of my blog, but the entire world (if only we could fit them all around our kitchen table). And the only thing I've got to show for it? This smudgy camera phone shot. No, not gutted at all. 

I did put it on Instagram though. But courtesy of predictive text input (surely the invention of Satan himself?) and my massive fingers, inherently incompatible with the tiny keyboard on my phone the caption said something about me having made ragú out of pangs (?!). As soon as I realized it I was so deflated I texted The Boy Next Door I was on my way home. And what did the bloody SMART phone translate that to? Homosex (?!?!)

9. Italian meatballs

This is one of those legendary basic recipes everyone should master. And these turned out to be massively popular too. Oh, what's in them, you ask? No idea. I'm sure I scribbled the recipe down somewhere on a piece of paper before I chucked it. Yeah, that's blogging on 21st century. Discouraged by my experiences with technology (as detailed in the previous entry), I've yet to explore what alternative and more sophisticated methods for information management my new phone might have in (Apple) store.

10. Sangre

I had this Spanish delicacy for the first time in, well Spain of all the places. Blissfully unaware of what I was consuming. I do remember wondering how they managed to get kidneys (note to self: LEARN SPANISH!) this melt-in-your-mouth-tender. Ah, because they weren't kidneys! They were blood! Yep, cubes cut out of a chunk of coagulated blood and fried to your liking. Well, seeing how, against all reason, I did like them so much, I decided to make some myself. You know, with the "how hard can it be"- sort of cavalier bravado that took man on the Moon, too. Well, unlike that example, this one didn't yield any intergalactic success stories. 

Guess, if there are any instructions on the internet as to how to boil blood? No. In Spain the blood is sold cooked solid (sangre cocida), for which the ingredients are listed as blood, water and salt. See, blood in itself is a coagulant, as I learnt over my extensive research on the internet. So, I went and got some blood. And got down and dirty. Later, as I caught my own reflection in the mirror, covered in blood stains trying to swallow that strangely sponge-like mass, I realized there was a food chance I'd never attempt it again. 

The morale of the story? Cooking is not something to be afraid of. It's not hard and it's definitely not something to get too serious or anxious about. Give it a go and have fun with it. Find your own short cuts and make recipes your own. Try new things - find new things!




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