Most cooks do something really dippy in the kitchen at least once in their lifetime. Well, I hope so, so I don’t have to feel quite so stupid. I’m good at spilling grains as I transfer them from bags to glass storage jars. I know I should use a plastic funnel to guide stuff into a jar but I don’t. It’s like one step too far (literally, one step to the drawer to get the funnel). I start pouring, then I get an itch somewhere and jiggle, or sneeze, or a breeze blows in or the phone rings and startles me … any manner of thing can happen to ensure some of the grains go on the bench (always with the drawer below open just a peep, annoyingly!), and down onto the floor. Tidy up time? 10 minutes. And wastage.
The other week I outdid my list of dumb things for the year; I blanched a whole cauliflower in a saucepan that was way too small to do the job properly. The reason? I couldn’t be bothered opening another cupboard and moving two pots. I wanted to blanch the cauliflower briefly before finishing it off with an oily spicy dressing. A good plan, except I chose the wrong pot. The trick with blanching a whole cauliflower is to put it stem down as the stem is denser then the florets and needs a longer, hotter bath. I plonked the cauli into the pot, and well, you can see: What an amateur! What a nutjob! An absolute failure! I could see the error of my ways immediately, but I pressed on, committed to the tiny pot. I then turned the cauliflower over, with lots of splashing of boiling water, a weighty waterlogged cauli and an unbalanced pot, to ensure the top part was blanched. A perilous manoeuvre I can tell you.
I store runny honey (flowing honey) in the fridge because if left in the pantry, it becomes a magnet for tiny, black six-legged things. The honey sets hard in the fridge and no longer pours. I took to removing the honey from the fridge about an hour before I needed it, then scooping out what was required and loosening it in a small dish in the microwave. That worked, but it was messy, and some wastage was involved. Lightbulb moment! The honey container was made of plastic; I would microwave the whole container to loosen the honey … not overheat it, no, no, I’m not the stupid, then pour out what I needed onto a tablespoon. The picture tells how that experiment went. It turns out I am that stupid.
Some of you will remember my poor lonely jacket-baked potato, the one that stayed undetected in the oven for a week and got recooked the next time I preheated the oven. That’s a mistake anyone can make, I think. I recommend having a good look in the oven when taking out jacket-baked potatoes, because the smell of recooking an old potato is not pleasant.
Folklore can catch you out, too. I burnt chocolate in a pot and it turned to cinder. I’m lucky it didn’t ignite, and I think that’s because the pot was an incredibly well made (and expensive) Italian saucepan. Dang. I had set the pan over a low heat. My husband called me out to the garden to show me something, then I started weeding, as you do. There was a glorious smell of chocolate in the air and I thought a neighbour was cooking a chocolate cake. Then I thought, silly buggers, they’ve burnt it. It eventually dawned on me that the smell was coming from my kitchen. Smoke was pouring out the window. Damn it, it was such a good pot, it was such a perfect day …
No amount of soaking, scrubbing with baking soda or other miracle pot restorers helped. Then I read about the burial technique. I know, it sounds weird, and it is: you bury the pot in good soil (it doesn’t require compost Ha Ha!), and leave it for a month, or longer. The claim is that acids in the soil, or insects, soften or devour the charcoal crust. I had used this technique before with shells I had gathered from the beach; you bury them and the creatures crawl out and find a new life leaving the shells clean and much less stinky than if they remained living in them (and later, dying in them). It worked. The pot was less successful. It sort of worked, in fact remaining crust was able to be scoured out, leaving a stained but unpited pan. But it was the bottom of the pot that the process hadn’t helped. The copper base was warped, and it wouldn’t sit flat on an element. With kids, I got spooked, and the pot had to go on to a new life.
While I am talking about nearly burning the house down, I should mention my 40th birthday party. It was a big party, heaps of food and drink, and lots of lovely people. We put up a gazebo at the front of the house. That left the kitchen free of people instead of having them clutter up the space and stand in front of the fridge or dishwasher and you having to say, ‘excuse me’, again and again (that drives me nuts). I put two trays of beautiful brioche in the oven to warm through, put the timer on, and went out the front to enjoy myself. I couldn’t hear the timer with all the people arriving and the noise increasing by the minute. After quite some time a friend called me in a panic … smoke was pouring out of the oven. The brioche were on fire! TaIk about misunderstanding carbon sequestering! Oops. Double oops as there were no more brioche, so they were scratched from the menu. I had no choice but to leave them on the table to cool, and, well, they got photographed, and became quite the talking point. It was before phones and the internet, so they weren’t shared on social media but I am telling you now because I have a really good tip for helping prevent such disasters: don’t rely on the oven timer – as soon as you leave the room you won’t hear it – either use a small timer and keep it in your pocket so you will hear it or feel it vibrate, or use the timer on your phone and take your phone with you (a small timer is more discreet, and you do tend to put a phone down, so I recommend a small timer).
If you’ve got a dumb story, email me and I will share it. Not only will it make me feel less of a pillock, and give me a laugh, but it will give others a laugh, too.