Slutty Spaghetti, and Other Stories

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Ack. That’s the only word to use to describe the last few days. Work has been terribly, terribly busy, and even this, my half day off, is turning out to be something of a tricky one. But anyway. I’ve made some serious progress on the domestic goddess front. For instance, I have learnt that there is in fact a right and wrong way to cook pasta, and rice. There ought to be a cup of rice to two cups of water when cooking. And on Wednesday I’m planning on making muffins or cookies, and something nice from the Nigella Lawson Kitchen book. It’s turning into a necessary part of the day. I think my Mum is enjoying all the cooking.

I rather want to make white chocolate and raspberry muffins. The trouble is, I haven’t got a recipe that doesn’t make me want to cry. If anyone has any recipes that are tried and tested, I’d be most appreciative!

Something else I tried last week; Slutty Spaghetti, or Spaghetti Puttanesca. I think the Slutty Spaghetti nickname has more of a ring to it than the latter, but there we go. The sauce was perfect, and the bitterness of the capers seemed to counteract the building heat of the chilli flakes. It wasn’t that difficult to make either, although the smell of fresh garlic is rather pervasive, and lasts for days afterwards. I think that might just be a kind of homely smell; the smell of home cooking, and not using powdered garlic. In culinary terms, it seems that garlic powder is akin to devil worship.

Because I have a house now, I will be able to put little plant pots on the window sill, or on the patio (it’s really odd, knowing you have your own patio, complete with furniture), and grow little fresh herbs. I draw the line at growing vegetables (I don’t like mud, and gardening, and I like having clean fingernails), but I like the idea of growing herbs.

I think I might try cooking some kind of chicken dish this week, or fish. Rick Stein has some excellent fish recipes, and I might see if I can make a decent jambalaya. I think my family would quite enjoy that, and I think my housemates will enjoy it, too. Y’know, as long as I don’t set fire to a griddle pan, or make the microwave explode. Whilst these things sound a little far-fetched to the normal, adult person, it’s all entirely possible if I happen to set food in the kitchen. This is because my clumsiness knows no bounds; just yesterday, I was carrying hot food at work, and my napkin slipped, and as I caught the dish, I touched a pan that had just come from under a red-hot grill. I seared my thumb, and I have a little blister for my trouble.

There’s little news from the literary sphere from me, at the moment, because I’ve been caught up in the wonders of domesticity, and learning things about cooking, and lifestyle. So that’s what might be cropping up more often on here; perhaps there’s a food blogger in me yet!

(:

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Sarah Alice Becomes a Domestic Goddess

 

Lately, I’ve decided that due to my new house, and to a certain extent, my Mum goading me into learning how to cook, I will have one of those houses that is always full of people, and food. I’m not an amazing cook; see the episode with the brownies. But with a degree of vigour, I decided to make learning some recipes into nothing short of a revision session; note writing, studying. Like I would study for an exam.

And so, like any British woman in times of great culinary trouble, I called on the services of Delia Smith, Nigella Lawson and Nigel Slater. I now own a wonderful volume called ‘How to Cook’, written by Delia Smith. And Delia Smith is my new domestic inspiration. She honestly has me believing that with a turn of the hand, I could summon up a casual three course dinner for eight people with homemade chutneys and apertifs to follow. The power of the woman is simple unbelievable.

Nigella Lawson as well, is just as inspiring. She doesn’t exude the same wholesome air as Delia, but she gives of a kind of naughty aura, as though cooking can be rebellious and exciting. I suppose that she wasn’t christened the queen of food porn for nothing. I always thought that this was more to do with her love of silk dressing gowns, as opposed to anything else, but I’m starting to think the connection here between food and sensuality extends beyond her choice of nightwear.

I’ve also been caught on several occasions lately scouring shops for place-mat sets and coasters (I’m happy to announce that I’ve found the perfect set). I seem to enjoy searching the internet for casserole dishes, something I never realised was a necessity. But according to the biblical writings of Delia, Nigella and Nigel, I think I’ll have to invest in one specially for my ventures into the culinary sphere.

I look like this everyday whilst I’m preparing dinner. (1)

So, last week, all this inspiration was going admirably, I was plodding on with my learning, and planning grown up dinners, and learning recipes for things like aromatic shoulders of pork. And then the unthinkable happened. I was struck down, (and down I did fall), with some kind of horrible stomach complaint. Everything hurt; the sides of my tummy were agonisingly painful, and the space between the bottom of my ribcage and my bellybutton felt horribly full, for want of a better word. I spent much of the morning facing the bottom of the toilet bowl. And after a distressing trip to the doctors, I had a shot of whatever they give you to halt the spontaneous volcanic eruptions, and things improved slightly.

However, all the resultant lying around in bed gave me plenty of time to ponder casserole dishes, and chocolate rum cake. And once I started feeling better a couple of days ago, I continued on my mission until I needed to take another nap, or eat another dry cracker. Which happened every two minutes. But then again, I suppose the path to perfection never ran smoothly.

(:

(1) http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2010/10/21/article-1322394-0BAEDB03000005DC-542_468x376.jpg

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Cooking May Never Be My Forte

Food is one of the key ingredients to life, however most of us in the Western world spend a fairly large portion of our lives wondering about food. It’s nutritional value, whether we eat too much, or too little, or whether we ought to follow a diet. Food impacts our lives in such a massive way, and it contributes to whether we are larger or smaller, slim, or curved. In the image crazed world in which we live, food underpins the way we all feed about ourselves, whether we’d like it to or not.

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I am admittedly, a dreadful cook. Examples of my culinary expertise have been discussed in previous posts, purely because they provide the basis for so many amusing stories. I’m a legend in my house, because of my ability to burn everything, including peas, of all things. I’d like to note that I’ve been compelled to improve though, because I didn’t want to starve at university. I have got much better, although my use of the hob unsupervised is still prohibited, because, and I quote “We don’t want to be burnt to death…”.

Food is one of my favourite things, and it’s one of the reason’s I’d love to live in a big city one day; there’s always a huge range of choice, and many varieties of cuisine to be tested. I love to be adventurous with food, and I love spicy things, especially. I also thoroughly enjoy fish, in particular, sushi. I’m not a fan of the one with the omelette on though; I’m not quite sure why, really.

Eating in posh restaurants however is a minefield of its own; the more hyped up the restaurant, the more pretentious the food, and inevitably, something called “jus” winds up on the place, usually next to a teaspoon full of mashed potato. Cep jus is by far the worst of the “jus'”, because it looks like spittle. And it’s thoroughly unappetizing, in my opinion at least.

However, I’m not a food snob, at all. I’m perfectly happy with sausage and chips. I just like eating fancy things sometimes too, possibly because my parents are excellent at cooking. By far the best thing about coming home is eating my Mum’s cooking again. She says I could cook the same things, however the problem is I couldn’t; I couldn’t make it taste as she does, and I think it’s something to do with having your dinner cooked for you, by your Mum.

(:

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Packet Mix Brownies Are Harder Than They Seem…

Today was one of those days where I decided to be one of those lovely dinner guests, who bring dessert. They bake you something delicious and bring it round in a Quality Street tin. I decided to make brownies, and I should have known the venture wasn’t going to go exceedingly well, when I bought the packet mix. You know the one. With the “just add water” instructions on the back. But nevertheless, I thought, “hm… what could possibly go wrong?”. The answer of course, was just about everything.

To start with, I didn’t have any greaseproof paper, which would have been perfectly fine, except apparently when using baking tins, it’s something of a necessity. The next error was that I had no scales. No scales to measure twenty-five grams of butter, and had to sort of go with a “wing it” approach. Using a tablespoon. Which, in case anyone was wondering, is a wildly inaccurate way of adding ingredients to a packet mix.

I’d just about managed to get the mix into two rectangular tins. Being a student, I do not have a seven-inch square tin, lined with greaseproof. I had a seven by four-inch rectangular tin, that was no so much lined with greaseproof paper, as with grease, the variety that comes from butter. The mix also seemed to be spread awfully thinly across the tin. I was assured that it would rise, and that no one would even notice. The problem really started to appear when I put the two tins into the oven.

"Oh, they look nice"... "Errr...I wouldn't get too hopeful about the ones I'm bringing"... (1)

The instructions told me that I should bake the brownies for fifteen minutes, on one hundred and seventy degrees celsius. I’d even remembered to pre-heat the oven first. Another, rather important, element that seemed to have slipped my mind though, was that our oven, again, being a student oven, is less than reliable, and is much more uneven than otherwise. So in the brownies went, me bumbling along, doing some clearing up, thinking that the brownies will be done in the blink of an eye. But when I looked in the door, they seemed very flat. The white chocolate mixture in particular, seemed to have formed a rather hard shell, that was preventing the mixture below from cooking. So I left the brownies for a few minutes, checked back, and it seemed that nothing had really changed. So there I was, pondering how I could get the middle to cook. At this point, I got bored, and decided to make some lunch.

After about forty-five minutes cooking time, the cookie-dough brownies looked almost acceptable (except for the little hole my flatmate had put in them, causing them to sink…) and so I put them on top of the hob to cool down. I also extracted the white ones, which had at this point, formed a biscuit-y sort of slightly burnt around the edges tray bake. Obviously, that didn’t stop us, and we thought we’d better “check to see if they were okay”.

As far as I can tell, the best of the bunch are cooling on the hob at the moment. The white ones have been confined to scrap bin, i.e. my flatmate’s mouths. You never know, if I’m really lucky, the cake goblins will have swooped down and murdered my little brownies, making them flat and burnt too. In fact, I’d better go and check…

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