Tag: disaster

a day of kitchen mishaps

I made the Christmas cake yesterday morning, after boiling the fruit up with sugar and butter and brandy on Saturday. It, thankfully, seems fine. However …

A chicken went in the oven to roast on a bed of vegetables. Roast potatoes went on top in another dish, as did a coconut and citrus cake (see later post).

Spuds were doing beautifully, but the cake caught, so I took it out. Chicken appeared to be done ((juices running clear) but bed of veg was not. Investigated.

1. Had put oven on wrong setting – top heat/grill, this is why cake burned

2. Had put chicken in upside down.

3. Discovered all this when everything else was done.

Then the kitchen ring blew …

Pete reset the ring, then we took the spuds out, set oven to correct incantation (bloody Neff – far too complicated),  and returned the chicken to its roasting place. And we opened a bottle of wine.

Then, when it was cooked (and dinner was only forty minutes late), I bunged the cake back in the oven for twenty minutes, and it’s fine if we cut the burnt bits off.

I did make some scones for supper, and they were OK too, but it was a trying day.

banana and *chocolate* cakes

Neither Pete nor I are especially fond of bananas in their raw form, but I bought some for the GrandToad’s visit a few days ago. He didn’t really want them either, so there were five bananas going brown in the fruit bowl. Not a problem – banana cake!

I use a basic recipe refined over the years:

200g plain flour
100g baking marg
some brown bananas, peeled (quantity is not that relevant, really 2-3 should do it)
60g sugar – anything will do; caster, granulated, brown
1.5 tsp baking powder
a slosh of vanilla extract
2 eggs

Put the lot in a food processor and blitz. Pour into a 2lb loaf tin, bake at 180C for 40 minutes, then 160C for 30. I always use a parchment loaf liner, as it makes it easier to turn out.

This is a remarkably tolerant recipe, and can take other things. Add some walnuts, or sultanas, or a splash of bourbon whisky if you’re feeding it to grownups. One of the nicest thing to add is chocolate chips – I use Bouchard, which I buy from Amazon. And last night, choc chips were deemed to be what we fancied.

So I got the tub out of the baking cupboard, and tipped some into the food processor. Except some turned out to be almost all of the 50% or so left in the tub, as they had presumably melted together into a large ball during the hot summer. Those that didn’t go into the food processor went on the floor.

I shrieked, and Pete came hurtling downstairs. He swept up the floor, while I rescued as many bits of chocolate as I could from the Magimix bowl, which was quite a few, but not really enough for the batter (which was looking severely over chocolated). Still, what could we do? I baked the cakes (I almost always make two at a time, because they freeze beautifully), and we ate a piece while it was still warm. And it was really rather nice.

And as the oven was on, we had sausages and cauliflower cheese, so as not to waste the heat.

Remoska to the rescue!

I made brownies last week, for a gathering of friends. I always use this Nigella Lawson recipe, which makes a huge heap – I find a huge heap of brownies generally to be the right amount, as people rarely refuse, and they keep well.

I cooked them in the oven, and baked a couple of banana and coconut cakes as well, so as not to waste the electricity. However, like a fool, I forgot to set the timer for the brownies, and so took them out of the oven just a little bit too early. Once I’d scored them into squares, I discovered that the ones round the edges were fine, but the very middle was still far too raw. Nothing ventured, nothing gained – I dumped them in the big Remoska, still on their baking parchment, and gave them about 12 minutes. And they were absolutely fine, which is something I shall remember for the future.

This weekend I plan to make a batches of shepherd’s pie filling, meatballs, and coriander chicken. That’s the plan, anyway.

nearly disastrous mixed berry scones

mixed berry scones

I always use this Nigella Lawson recipe from Nibblous when I make scones. It’s an absolute cracker – they never fail to rise, no matter what you do. You can mix the flour up with wholemeal, add cheese, have them plain or cheesy, whatever.

Last night we fancied fruit ones, so I did about 60/40 wholemeal/white flour and put it in the food processor, weighed out the Trex and marg (it really is worth using Trex for scones and pastry – it gives them a real lightness), then turned the food processor on, and startedd adding the milk, until I got a nice doughy consistency. At which point, I saw the bowl with the fats in, still sitting on the scales …

Nothing for it but to put that in the food processor, and hope for the best. It looked OK, and I kneaded in half a bag of mixed berries by hand (the Magimix tends to pulverise such things). And, curiously, they were the lightest scones I think I’ve ever made. Which should prove something, although I know not what.


very nearly a disaster


We were invited to a picnic on Sunday afternoon, to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I decided to make some brownies, and some focaccia, and we took fruit, cheese, cold meat, beer, as well. The weather was not delightful, but a pleasant time was had.

But oh dear – I came close to disaster with the brownies … I used this Nigella recipe, from her Domestic Goddess book, one of the few which lives in the kitchen, rather than on the dining room bookshelves.

I have these whizzy electronic scales, where you can push a button to switch between oz, ml, g, fl oz, etc. I weighed out the butter, and thought “that looks an awful lot”, then weighed out as much chocolate as I had, which was nowhere near 325g, but no matter – I could and did bung some cocoa powder in with the flour. I put butter and chocolate in a pan, then into a *bigger* pan, started it melting, and returned to the weighing of ingredients. And realised that the scales were on ml instead of g! Nothing to be done but soldier on – when the mix was melted, I just weighed out 750g of it, and decanted the rest into a jug. It’s currently in the fridge, and moar! brownies! will be made later this week.

So no great hassle, really, but it could have gone horribly wrong if I hadn’t noticed. But they were delicious – I sprinkled some flakes almonds on the top before they were cooked, just because really, and dusted them with icing sugar before they went to the party.

New Year's Eve dinner 2010

New Year's Eve venison

When I ordered the goose from Fields, I added a venison loin to the order for New Year’s Eve; traditionally, I cook dinner for three close friends on 31/12, and have done so for many years. The fact that we’ve moved 220 miles away seems to make no difference 🙂

The butcher phoned a couple of weeks before Christmas to say their supplier had delivered no venison loins (perhaps they have a very odd breed of deer up here :), and would a haunch be OK. As I’d never cooked either, it seemed a plan, so he set aside a 2Kg one for me. I asked how much it would cost, and felt a bit faint when he told me but, you know, festive season and all that.

By Friday morning, we realised we had *8* people for dinner, so during the morning Pete and I between us cooked up a huge batch of dauphinoise potatoes with leeks to accompany the venison and sugar snap peas. I had a bag of cranberries in the fridge, and a punnet of plums, so I did a plum streusel (using this recipe, but without the pine nuts) and a cranberry and chocolate roulade. The former went very well; the latter …

My oven is ancient and not very good. I baked the roulade for the recommended time, and it clearly wasn’t cooked, so I gave it another five minutes. When I came to get it out of the tin, it was a bit sticky, but I slathered it with the cream and cranberries and then – disaster. It wouldn’t roll up, and was really more like a chocolate mooooose than a sponge. Too late to do anything about it, so we manoeuvred it on to as plate (getting covered in chocolate to boot), dusted it with icing sugar to hide the damage, and hoped for the best. And despite its rather collapsed appearance, it was *gorgeous*, and every scrap was consumed.

On to the venison. I was a bit worried, because it cost £38! (yes, really), and I didn’t want to wreck it. In the end, I went for Hugh Fearnley-Eatsitall’s method – seasoned it, put some fresh thyme and bay leaves on it and wrapped it in 12 thin rashers of bacon. 30 minutes at gas 7, then 50 at gas 4 (it weighed 2.156kgs, boned), and it was cooked *to perfection*, lovely and pink. It went down very well.

Eight people round our dining table was a bit of a squeeze, and there was a rather varied assortment of chairs, but we managed, and a fine night was had by all. I think between us Pete and I did eight lots of washing up between last night’s dinner and this morning’s cooked breakfast for four – roll on the kitchen makeover in Feb, and a DISHWASHER.

Sadly there is both venison and plum cake left, so Pete and I will have to eat it tonight. Such hardship.

And I wish you all a very happy new year!

lamb shanks cooked with calamity

A few weeks ago, Morrisons had some lamb shanks reduced – £2.10 a pair. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually cooked lamb shanks before, but I bought a couple of packs and stowed them away in the freezer. Decided to cook them on Sunday, so on Saturday I bunged a load of flageolet beans in the slow cooker, left them for a few hours, and turned them off, then drained them on Sunday morning.

I didn’t get to the rest of the cooking, as I was feeling distinctly unwell, and could barely eat, never mind cook.

lamb shanks in the slow cookerSo on Monday evening, I browned the lamb shanks and put them in the slow cooker pot, on top of a bed of flageolets, fried off a courgette and two large carrots, diced. Added them to the pot, and browned a dozen shallots, and added them. Then into the frying pan went a good teaspoon of grain mustard and a dessertspoon or so of brown flour – stirred those together and added about a glass of red wine, stirring as I went. Whisked that up to get rid of lumps, added some of the shallot water (I always soak them in boiling water before I peel them – it makes it easier, and you get nice shallot-y water too!). Then some random herbs from the garden – bay, rosemary, sage, thyme, juice of an orange, and a sloosh of tomato puree. I meant to add some redcurrant jelly, but forgot.

All of that was brought to the boil, lobbed in the slow cooker, and I switched it on low and went and sat down. And when I came out an hour later, there was no heat at all. Eek. Switched it up to high, left it an hour, and it was hot, but not as hot as it should be. Turned it to low when I went to bed, and when I got up in the morning – DEAD. Stone bloody cold, lamb uncooked. And when I tested the beans, they were uncooked too.

With some four letter words, I decanted the lot into my faithful old cast iron casserole, and set it over a low heat. We only bought that slow cooker 22 months ago, so I’m not pleased, but it was from an eBay seller who is no longer registered. So I nipped over to Argos and bought another – bigger! better! cheaper! The old one was 4.5l, and the new 6.2; the extra volume will be useful.

The lamb was delicious, and somehow I made space in the freezer for two of them, but we really are in a “one out one in” scenario at the moment, as it is full to the gunwhales with xmas fayre.

Leftover juice and veg went into the new slow cooker, together with some barley and more water, and I experimented making some soup with it. This one actually simmers things on high, which the old one never did, and the extra capacity is great for soup making. And for £15, who can complain? Actually, now I look, it’s gone down another pound since yesterday – grab yourself a bargain!

woe …

I forgot to put the soup in the fridge on Friday (which I normally do, as we don’t normally eat it at the weekend). Given the temperature, and remembering that both P and I were quite ill after eating some shoop that had gone over, we have reluctantly poured it into the compost bin.

Thankfully, I had a chicken carcass in the freezer, so I lobbed that in the slow cooker and set it going, so there’ll be some stock to make some more in the morning.

:: slaps self upside the head

duck fail

Last weekend, Sainsburys were doing whole Gressingham ducks for £7 each – a bargain, I’m sure you’ll agree.  I hate supermarkets, and only visit one every few weeks, so I felt this offer was most timely and bore a brace of ducks home in my fair trade bags.

One went in the freezer, and one in the fridge, and we decided to do a proper Roast Duck Dinner with it yesterday.  I took it out of the fridge at lunchtime, and put it in the microwave to let it come up to room temperature (we use the microwave as a meat safe in such circumstances, as we live with five cats who love duck).

Imagine my horror when I opened the microwave later to start prepping dinner, and a vile smell emerged – the duck had gone off.  It was, admittedly, two days past its sell-by date, but that’s never bothered a duck before in my experience; I suspect it was due to the fact that it was en-gibletted.

So there went plans for four or five meals – roast, stir-fried, risotto, stock for soup, etc.  Not pleased, but my own fault, I guess.

The day continued on a food fail, when Pete went to get some apples from the big box of bramleys in the study cupboard, and we found that they’d all gone too withery to use.


frozen freezer

I had a quick scud through my Nibblous favourites this morning for some ideas, and decided on Balsamic Duck with Cep Lentils. We have all the ingredients in – the duck breasts were in the outside freezer.

And when I went out to this frost free upright freezer, I was met with a sheet of ice – somehow, the handle of the cool bag had got caught in the door, and air was getting in. The temperature was ok, but frost free it wasn’t …

So we spent a happy hour with Pete chiselling the ice out of the freezer, and me brushing down all the contents, and cleaning and drying the drawers. Thankfully, everything seems fine.

I found a pack of Charles’ Pearmaine’s bacon in there, dated 2001. Wonder if it’ll be alright … 🙂