Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Kitchen coq-ups!



Of late I have been clumsier than usual in the kitchen. Thank goodness I have a sense of humour, that is all I can say. Because the latest disasters have been on a fairly surreal scale.

Recently some good friends asked me to make salted caramel brownies for their wedding dessert – enough for 100 people. No problem, I said. I’ve made hundreds of these over the past few years. But for some reason the trusty hardwearing plastic bowl I had always used to melt the chocolate in, using the bain marie method, decided to melt itself over the edge of the saucepan, filling the kitchen with lovely chemical fumes. Then the melted chocolate inside it escaped into the seething heat below via a melted hole in the base of the bowl, burning and crusting into an angry black carbonised layer on the saucepan base. I had actually left the room for a few moments (duh) and on my return almost wept to see the mess, and the waste of good chocolate. Scarier, though, was the thought that I could have poisoned the wedding guests with melted plastic in their brownies. What a total plonker I was thinking that a plastic bowl would have ever done well for the job of melting the chocolate and butter mixture, but it served me well for several years despite this gap in my brain. Jesus!

Today I decided to make an industrial quantity of coq au vin, since a friend gave us a massive bladder of red wine and we’ve been making lots of wine-based food. Nice. It’s also a great thing to have something large to bung in the freezer and eat on nights when we are too tired to cook. I found a great recipe and got going. There were lots of components to the dish – infusing and reducing the wine, browning the chicken pieces in butter, peeling vast amounts of shallots, scraping leaves off a bush of thyme and so forth – it’s no wonder my brain was a bit addled by the time I got to strain the wine through a colander. I then dropped the pan of wine onto the colander because it was a bit heavy, which then smashed the ceramic bowl beneath it, causing the 1.5 litres of wine that I had been reducing for OVER AN HOUR to pour down the sink amid smashed pieces of porcelain. Poor hubby was dispatched to fetch another load of cheap red plonk, and I had to start that part all over again. I then burnt myself when a hot piece of butter fat spat itself out of the pan at my face, and hubby had to administer an ice cube wrapped in a cloth to a small burn…needless to say, the later part of the recipe where I had to set fire to some cognac poured over the chicken made him very nervous (actually he mainly did this bit for me)…

Chicken + cognac + fire = this:



Perhaps at the moment I can only be trusted to make toast – oh, wait, I burned that at the weekend too…spectacular plumes of smoke rose from the toaster, breakfast had to be started again…

I am taking my poor friends C and M some lunch tomorrow, and if they read this they might think twice!

Anyone else going gaga in the kitchen? I don’t want to feel too alone with my ineptitude…I must now go and singe something in the oven…

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Blackberry and cassis compote



Not known for my love of raiding a JD Sports for a pair of crap trainers, I prefer to do non-aggressive form of looting: foraging for free fruit. It’s not stealing as such, it’s just picking fruit off the bushes, but not having to pay for it. I probably sound like a smug middle class bore. Oh well – at least I haven’t set fire to someone’s house or mugged someone for no good reason. (Come on London, grow up!)

So having just come into possession of a terrifyingly overgrown garden, which has triffid-like brambles, I have had my paws on the blackberries for the last few weeks. They are ripe right now, and even though it feels a little early in the year to be picking them, the strange hot/wet weather we’ve had means that they have ripened early. Brambles grow literally everywhere, from urban spaces to country lanes, so get out there and loot some free fruit while it lasts – it feels really satisfying to see the berries glistening beadily in the sunshine, then popping them into a tub, knowing that less tasty versions are being flogged in supermarkets for silly money.


All I have done with the berries recently is make them into a sort of compote, laced with a little booze and sugar. Delicious served with thick Greek yoghurt (I use Total full fat), or draped onto scoops of vanilla ice cream.

You will need:

600g (ish) blackberries
About 2 tablespoons golden caster sugar
Creme de Cassis (blackcurrant) liqueur (I use the French Gabriel Boudoir of Dijon one)

Take your blackberries and rinse well, removing all bits of twig, grit and cobweb. Let them drain for a little while in a colander. Tip into a heavy based saucepan and sprinkle over the golden caster sugar and 2 capfuls of cassis (or more, depending on how boozy you like your berries, but don’t add too much more because it will overpower the flavour of the blackberry).

Simmer over a low heat for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a bit of bubbling up and a dark purple syrup. They are ready to go! Let them cool down.


You could use the compote mixed with apple for an awesome crumble or pie, or even strain it to make ice cream (which I intend to do soon, watch this space).

You could also make a refreshing drink with a spoonful of compote at the bottom of the glass, topped with fizzy water:



I have also foraged these elderberries – anyone got any idea what I can do with them? I hear that if you eat too many of them, they have a laxative effect!


Thursday, 4 August 2011

All I want…

…is one of these* installed in my house – probably at my bedside:


Press for Champers_crop


Can anyone help? Surely every home should have one…


* Failing having a champagne button at one’s bedside, go instead to Bob Bob Ricard in Soho, where every booth has one of these charming additions for your amusement.

While you're there, you could press the champagne button as much as you can get away with, and also put one of these cake assortments into your face:

I'm such a greedy mare!