Friday, March 20, 2009

Glaced Eels, Sugared Kidneys, and Fondant Spaghetti

I’m the cooking equivalent of the nervous skinny guy playing the saxophone in the subway- he clearly enjoys his instrument, but he hopes that by squeezing his face up into odd positions, and doing bizarre rippling things with his eyebrows he can distract you from his lack of skill. After all, those guys always pick the classics- who isn’t going to want to chuck a few coins in his sax case whaen he hears ‘Take Five’ on the way home from work? But I know that the piece doesn’t go like that, and it certainly doesn’t Da Capo every eight bars…

So. Cooking. I enjoy it because- I get to drink- wine drunk while cooking has a certain nobility to it, as opposed to wine drunk while doing the ironing…
I like going crazy with the food, but mostly I’m needy. In the kitchen, I’m ok, but when people are eating (or, in the case of small children, smooshing food into inextricable corners and prattling on about crocodiles and spiders)- I need compliments. To cook and then have to tidy up with not a word spoken is just lousy. Neen knows this, and always compliments me- gives her half an hour to watch Oprah… and have a glass of wine.

I’m not terrible at it- I occasionally have culinary epiphanies, but mostly I have to make do with the same half-a-dozen ingredients as always. But the secret is this- when cooking, take the small cap off the spice bottles. Tip them up until there are herbs drifting all over the floor, out of your hands. Add them to the pot, thinking, oh crap, that’s gonna be herb-y, and than add some more….

When the dish is cooked, and very strongly seasoned, add some sugar. Gets them every time. Sometimes I use syrup. Whatever- like the junk food version of home cooking. I may have broiled cow armpit stew, but, add that sugar, and the children love it. Not so much when all their teeth fall out, but if I’m doing the cooking, then Neen can make sure they are brushing their teeth.

Here are two recipes, one, the worst ever invented, by me, while on a thinners high just after I left school (based on the principle- hey I like all those things separately, surely they will taste nice together?) Erm, no. they didn’t.
The second is foolproof.

Buy- tinned curry, six pack of beer, giant pack of cheese chips, and some noodles. Add to big pot. Heat until hot. Serve, and gag. (Totally serious here- it has been done).
500g-1kg smoked haddock/yellow-smoked fish, butter, milk, peas, mashed potatoes- as per any old mash recipe- but LOTS of salt.

Poach fish in equal amounts butter and milk- little water, maybe- just covering fish- about 8 minutes, serve with peas- mint and syrup added, and mash.
Easy peasy. Kids love it, but if you hate fish, then you won’t.

Always double the amount of spice you are told to add. It might make you run for the loo tomorrow, but who cares? Live for the moment. And the wine helps. I’m thinking Neen, who is away for another six and a half weeks is worried, right about now… Don’t worry, nobody has scurvy yet…

*note: it is ok to drink wine while cooking, but sniffing thinners is never good, and best left out of the functioning kitchen. I don't do it any more.- Munchies cooking, that is.


  1. I make strange combinations of stuff my kids love into a casserole of sorts. For instance - they're both nuts about Ramen noodles, I'll cook two packs (drained and flavour pouches mixed in), dump in a can of cream of chicken soup, a can of cream corn, reheat and stir -- they go nuts, two helpings each, every time. I can't stomach the stuff but they'll clean the pot out!

  2. yup, love those ramen- I add corn. soy sauce and chopped vienna sausages which I have stir fried with greenpeppers, onions and.... syrup. Not making that up. They love it! Me, not so much. But I have a glass of wine while cooking, and after that, the food isn't so important anymore.
    At this point- easy recipes are the best.


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