Sunday, 26 February 2012

2 For 1 Blog - Part 1: Runaway Purchases And Cook Steps Into The Unknown

This is the blog I should have written for Saturday 25th Feb 2012. I'm sorry that I didn't get to do it on the actual day, but I was busy and

Hang on - why am I apologising? You're not the Boss of me!? Here's the blog:

I've gone a bit mental in terms of shopping in the last 24 hours. Yesterday (Friday) was payday and, as I got to finish early from work, I thought I would go and do my grocery shopping and get it out of the way.

The first shop of the month is always a 'big' shop. I always spend more than I normally budget for, because I have to buy not only food, but also cleaning products, laundry products, toiletries - and might treat myself to a few nice bits. This time I was also buying ingredients for a forthcoming voyage of culinary discovery, do that added to the overall cost.

In the end I got £70 worth of shopping - but it only cost me £62, due to a cunning use of vouchers. Still £62 is a fair chunk of money, but at least I had got everything I needed.

Or so I thought.

I went home, put my shopping away, and went out for a 7 mile walk. During this walk I thought the meatballs and pasta that I was going to have for tea later on. I decided that a nice bit of garlic baguette would go very well with that meal, and made a mental note to pop into my local Co-op (other retailers are available in your area) and purchase one.

When I got to Co-op, I found that there was another note attached to my mental note about the Garlic baguette. This second note said that I needed further ingredients for my planned weekend of cooking. In addition to this my 'Don't actually need it, but get it anyway' gland was working overtime, and subsequently I left the Co-op with 2 full carrier bags, and £10.34 lighter in my wallet.

Saturday morning comes around. After a 12 mile walk to start my day, I think about the cooking I'm going to be doing later on. I had been been given a few varieties on a theme in terms of recipes, and was reading through one that I planned to try at some point this weekend, when I realised that I was missing some vital equipment without which my gastronomic endeavours would fail before it had even started. So I went down to my local 'cheap store that does everything from footwear to bedding to perfumes to housewares' and came away with two ceramic oven dishes, a glass bowl, and a whisk. Another £12 spent.

But now I knew I had everything I needed.

Actually I didn't - but I muddled through. The ironic thing is, is that it was only the fact that I had been paid the day before that allowed me to spend so freely. If I had had the same notion to cook at the end of the month when the money had run out, I either wouldn't have bothered trying to cook, or would have found ways round my lack of ingredients or utensils.

So, I'll eat well this weekend and next, and then go back to having jacket potato and beans.

This weekend has been party to another 'First' for me. I am taking tentative steps into real cooking - buying ingredients, preparing food, cooking meals from scratch - and this weekend I have tried my hand at making a batter mix, and pancakes. Now many of you will be saying "But pancakes are easy - that Larry, he's such an idiot; I hate him - let's stab him in the face, with a cookbook for irony"

Or something like that.

But you have to remember that for a single (and handsome, funny, and intelligent) guy living by myself, for a long time I've slipped into (a masturbation induced coma?, a pair of French knickers?, reverse when trying to find fourth gear?) the bad habit of eating either frozen ready meals, tinned goods, or take away - so to actually do things properly from scratch is taking me out of my comfort zone somewhat.

Anyway, I made my batter/pancake mix. Here's a tip: apparently Duck eggs are better for using in a pancake mix than chicken eggs. I followed the instructions - which had been sent to me in an email by someone extremely lovely - and the mix looked ok. I don't have a cook book - single guy, eats out of tins usually, remember?.

I had my pan hot with butter melted in it (after consulting my fabulously clever and bearded friend Alyn), and poured my pancake mix in to start my pancake cooking bonanza!

Initially, things did not go well. Firstly, I didn't leave my pancakes long enough in the pan to cook properly, do any attempt to move them resulted in their complete disintegration. The first few times, what made it onto my plate looked more like baby vomit than a pancake. Still, with a little lemon and sugar, it was edible.

I cannot guarantee that actual baby vomit can be made edible in the same way, and cannot be held responsible for any unpleasantness experienced as a result of trying.

As with anything in life (with the possible exception of eating baby vomit), the more I did, the better it got. I was learning on the job - I gave my pancakes more time in the pan, and they responded by becoming more stable. Now it was time for the next test - the toss.

Now, this might come as a surprise to many of you, but tossing doesn't come naturally to me. Initially, I wasn't tossing enough. Fear of failure resulted in my pancakes flopping half over pathetically, and my attempts to rectify the situation just inflicted massive trauma on the partially cooked pancake.

(note to self: a career as a surgeon is unlikely)

Undeterred (I ate every pancake) I carried on, and tossed with more vigour! Improvements were made to a degree - I managed to flip the pancake over, but would often catch it half in / half out of the pan, so 50% would continue to cook beautifully, while 50% lay on my kitchen floor screaming "THE THREE SECOND RULE! THE THREE SECOND RULE!"

Of course, I salvaged all floor based pancake, and reunited it with its brethren in the pan.

By the time I got to the end of the batch, I had my pancakes pretty much down pat. So next, I am going to make some savoury pancakes (with Gammon and apple to be precise) which have to be baked. This means I need to make a cheese sauce (another first), and will get to use the ceramic baking dish I bought.

See? Everything happens for a reason.

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