Monday, June 21, 2010

Henry's house

It's been one disaster after another in my kitchen over the last few days.

First of all, I tried to cook chips thinking, how hard can it possibly be?

My mother, who was brought up in a vacuum of electricity and the English language in a woodier bit of Wales, always talks, misty-eyed, about how her mother used to cook chips in freshly-rendered dripping in a black pot suspended over a fire in their earthen-floor kitchen. (Before casting some light spells over the nearby wildlife.) And the hostess of a great restaurant we found on Santorini, where they made the most fantastic chips (like the best fish n chip chips you've ever had), claimed that they were so easy peasy - you just chop up the potato and fry it: fool!

But they are both doing that thing where you tell everyone that you've done no work for the exam and then completely fucking ace it, leaving everyone else to spazz it up because they believed you when you said you'd just been sitting about picking your nose for 3 straight weeks. My grandmother, I can only assume, cooked these miraculous chips from frozen and the Santorinian hostess is a similar FRAUD.

So the chips didn't work. So I tried a burger. I've got a thing about home-made burgers, in that they're always too fussy and too thick. A burger is just a sandwich and the meat element of it doesn't need to be two inches thick. So I did a thing where I patted the burger meat out really really thin and then grilled it and stuck it in a floury white bun with nothing but finely chopped shallot, gherkin, mayo, mustard and ketchup. And it was a total fail. It just massively sucked.

Then, finally, I had success making some loaded potato skins. I cooked two baking potatos for 1 hour at 200C, then scooped out the insides and smeared the skins with a mixture of:

creme fraiche
chopped spring onions
salt & pepper

and shoved them back in the oven at 180C for 20 minutes, while I watched a leftover episode of The Mentalist on the V+.

But come ON! Loaded potato skins?!? What kind of cooking is that? Cooking for five year olds? I despaired.

The only thing for it was to invade Henry's house.  Henry is my friend who is a chef. The most successful things I've ever cooked have always been stolen off him. He is a friend of my husband's and of my brother-in-law's AND (this is so weird) is married to my first boss, Jemima.

So we invaded yesterday for a barbeque, where Henry did squid in this amazing sauce:

Here's why I was never much of a reporter: I was too shy to quiz Henry really hard about the sauce the squid was in. I only fathomed that it was made from:

grilled red peppers
grilled chillis
coriander seeds
coriander leaves

all pulverised in a food processor.

I've never successfully grilled and skinned a red pepper. Henry said something about grilling them until they're black and then leaving them in a plastic bag for a bit and then skinning them. This may very well make loads of sense to someone out there. The full recipe will be available in the new Leon Cookbook, which is out in September, which I am very excited about.

Then we had cakes from Violet Cakes because Claire, who runs Violet Cakes, lives near Henry and every weekend offloads all the stuff she hasn't sold on him, including this amazing rice flour banana bread, which we had with caramel sauce.

This picture is out of focus because my  husband doesn't understand my camera.

More cakes from Violet Cakes

Caramel sauce is really easy to make:

For 10

1 Put 250g sugar in a saucepan with 4tbsp water and put over a medium heat until dissolved
2 Turn up the heat and let the sugar bubble for 4-5 mins until it has turned thick and sticky
3 Remove from the heat and stir in 50g butter and about 140ml double cream

Anyway we ate all that and messed around in the garden for a bit:

My nephew and I discussing Chris Huhne's affair and organic shop-bought baby food vs homemade

My  husband's feet and my brother-in-law's feet. But which is which?

Henry and Jemima have a really nice garden

And then when the various children around started to go absolutely mental and screamy, we went home.

And for dinner I made fish fingers and peas.
Fuck's sake.

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