Friday, 7 January 2011
Have I told you what a great cook I am? I haven't?
My culinary adventures are awesome. I blame my kitchen skills on my father who ran a cafe and who used to use me as an unpaid sous chef and general bottle washer. Anyway, I suppose peeling spuds, cutting up acres of chips and mixing up industrial amounts of pudding ingredients must have taught me something. It does explain the meal from hell I served some new found friends many years ago. To wit: fish fingers in drippy tomato sauce, cans of Guinness followed by Angel Delight.
Subsequent attempts at culinary innovation remained restricted during the years of my first marriage. Although I did a mean roast chicken in a chicken brick and cheese fondue - well it was the early 80's. As I recall much of our eating was bought in - curries, more curries and the odd Chinese. Homerton High Street's take-aways blossomed, as did the local wine bars which were springing up during Thatcher's early years of austerity.
I remember that one of our wedding presents was the full set of Elizabeth David cookery books. Great reads, except I didn't use them as intended. As I recall they helped keep the record playing deck level - vitally important when trying to divert your guests' attention from the disaster in front of them by playing "Total Eclipse of the Heart" at full volume.
When I returned to single living, I started to learn to cook. I still remember my cod in red wine. It looked extremely dodgy but luckily tasted much better than it looked. My spicy mussels was a great success accompanied as it was by my home made bread. Happy days!
Now in the Coidan household I am the chef d'honneur; constantly raising the culinary bar and setting the kitchen alight (on occasions literally) with pyrotechnics of brilliance. Many remember my Christmas feast of four years ago; which made the feeding of the five thousand seem like a ready meal for two from Marks and Spencer. It was prepared to military precision: it had to be what with a huge turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, brocolli, brussels,bread and cranberry sauces, Yorkshire and Christmas pudding. Somehow I got hold of a copy of Microsoft's Project Management software and the huge exercise was executed with the help of multi-coloured flow charts.
Last Christmas, Chris and Gregg, our friends and neighbours, were in Mexico at the start of their world wide trip. It's worth visiting their blog if it's still live at Chris And Gregg Go Round-The-World. So this year they needed something special to compensate for being stuck in old, soggy, damp Blighty. I agreed to cook the main course and Gregg, who is a fine cook and baker, produced the Christmas pudding and mince pies.
The centre piece was to be Layered squash, barley and spinach pie. Preparation time was given as 40 mins and it would take 2hrs 40 mins to cook and what was great I could prepare it all the day before. Lucky I did. I suspect you could prepare it in the published time if you had a professional kitchen and an army of helpers. It took me 3 hours. With three separate fillings to prepare along with the hot water pastry, by the time I'd finished I'd used almost every pot and utensil in the kitchen. However, sitting in its bread tin, with pastry sheep, Christmas trees and stars on to it looked stonking. It also weighed a ton. So into the fridge it went ready for the Christmas cook off.
On Christmas morn, while shepherds washed their socks and the pie cooked very slowly, I prepared the rest of the meal. Potatoes dauphinoise; brussels with juniper berries and parsnips and carrots roasted in honey, grain mustard and virgin olive oil. The starter, a spicy sweet potato soup which I prepared a while back, was to be accompanied by freshly made and baked granary rolls.
It all went off very well I must say. Except the main course - especially the pie - was so filling that we didn't have room for the Christmas pud or mince pies. The six bottles of wine, with the port and calvados rounded off the day. We had sat at the table for 6 hours!!
New Year's Day saw the return match at Chis and Gregg's where we were treated to a marinated tofu starter, an onion and chestnut short pastry pie; roast potatoes and mixed green vegetables. The Christmas pud, uneaten the week before, was dispatched with lashings of cream and brandy sauce..and, of course, accompanied by much wine.
We've a lot to thankful for; even if we're all tightening our belts. Not 'alf!