Thursday, 17 February 2011

Cooking Without Reinbold

A word by way of introduction: Reinbold I am not.  I am however similar in many ways.  Well, a few.  I do English at Robinson, and I display amusing and slightly alarming levels of incompetence in the kitchen.  My name is Emma, and I have appeared in the past on the periphery of Cooking With Reinbold, handling hot oil and dispensing 'helpful' advice.

I have of late – but wherefore I know not – gained what appears, to the casual observer, to be competence in the culinary arts.  Perhaps it was the fear of being lynched by my angry staircase-mates if I set the fire alarm off again, perhaps the mockery of my nearest and dearest, perhaps the conviction that I’ll never find a husband if I can't cook.  It’s not the last one.

Today I’d like to tell you about my chickpea, pumpkin and banana curry.  It was an ill-omened voyage from the start.  I asked the lady in Sainsbury’s if they had any pumpkins.  She laughed in my face.  About half of the ingredients never made it because I didn’t like them, couldn’t find them, or Reinbold protested allergies.  We agreed a butternut squash would be a good surrogate pumpkin.  I carted my compromise ingredients home with many a complaint about not having applied to Sidney Sussex college, which is OPPOSITE SAINSBURY’S.   The butternut squash alone weighed about two kilograms.  I put everything in the cupboard, and forgot about it for a day or two.

I was in the kitchen for in excess of two hours.  It was dire.  I meticulously kept a polar-exploration style log of my thoughts, feelings, obstacles and RAGE.  I attach it below.

Captain's Log
11.45 Onion and garlic chopping is going well.
11.50 I got the squash out of the cupboard.  Like Withnail and the chicken, we regard one another with mutual incomprehension.  I cannot for the life of me work out how to make it dead. 
11.55 I am back in my room, googling 'how to cook butternut squash'.  I picked the sticker off because it seemed like a good start, and there were clues underneath.  I wash the squash.  Now I'm going to try and skin it with a knife and not end up in Addenbrookes Hospital again. 
12.00 The skin is like bark.  I've been whittling it off, but I've had to stop holding it vertically and cutting down after nearly disembowelling myself.  I have made a disgusting vegetabley mess all over the bench. 

12.15 Generally concerned about this enterprise.  Can't shake the conviction that I'm Doing It Wrong.
12.16 It smells like pumpkin - this is a good sign.
12.55 It has taken me an hour and ten minutes so far to accomplish a 25 minute task.  I'm not finished.
1.05 Finally finished 25 minute task. 
1.10 Like Sir Beaumaines, I reek of the kitchen.
1.15 I try a bit.  It's surprisingly edible but very very spicy due to my rather cavalier attitude to measurement of hot curry powder.  I put the bananas in - a mistake?
1.25 I feed Reinbold some.  Her reaction I transliterate as 'HYEURGH' which is a cry of distress rather than disgust.  I also make a similar noise. 
1.35 My neighbour Jessie chances to wander into the kitchen.  I basically launch at her, wooden spoon extended, begging her to eat some of the weird curry.  She humours me, and does not display overt disgust.  This is pleasing to me indeed. 
1.55 With the hurly burly done, I retire to my room.  I reek of fried spices and must wash my hair and change my clothes before going out in public again.

So there you have it.  It lurks still in the fridge (4 days later)*. Also I still have a bruise on my finger off TOO MUCH CHOPPING.  And there have been almost insurmountable technological obstacles in my path.  I have finally tidied the kitchen though.  Next time, I'm just going to stick to pasta. 

Tastiness - ?/10 -Couldn't really taste anything beyond BURNING.  People who are less pathetic than Reinbold and I seemed to esteem it more kindly though.  On the back of their oddly positive responses I will award it a 8.  Even Jacob was nice about it, once the preliminary insults were out of the way.

Likeliness to set off a fire alarm - 6/10 - less related to the food itself, more the fact that Reinbold actually set the microwave away with nothing in at one point.

Likeliness to cause a fatal coronary, 20 years down the line - 3/10 - not a great deal of disgusting stuff in here actually.

*please please come and eat some I want rid of it

Friday, 11 February 2011

Enchilada, Better, Faster, Stronger

I have talked in previous posts about the mid-life crisis mentality I have regarding cooking. As such, it seems only fitting that I've neglected this blog of late; not necessarily for bigger and brighter things, or even for the metaphorical office temp of Facebook (nice bit of catachresis for you English fans there), but just out of general malaise, a lingering desire that perhaps, perhaps I'm never going to get any better at this cooking lark after all. Perhaps all that's left is the heart-attack of Domino's Pizza (or the heartburn at any rate), and the grave. But no! Like Tennyson's 'Ulysses', I must be content 'to seek, to strive, to find, and not to yield'. At any rate, I have been cooking. Sort of.

Last week, I made enchiladas. Well, I say 'made'. I bought one of those kits which are actually a bit of a swizz, as they're basically just tomato puree and cardboard. Nonetheless, it actually seemed to go reasonably OK. As usual, we were using Quorn for non food-poisoning/vegetarian reasons. All you do is fry the Quorn, chuck some sauce and cheese over it, then put it in an oven dish in tortillas like a sort of fancy lasagne and put it in the oven:

 I should mention at this interval that we don't have an oven. Oh, eagle-eyed reader, I know that I said that we DID, because in many ways we do; but what I hadn't realised is that the oven in our kitchen is in fact IMPOSSIBLE TO USE. That's not due to my incompetence (no, really!), but due to the fact that the college have helpfully built the kitchen-cabinetting in front of the oven-lead, trapping the lead and meaning that the oven is functionally useless. It is a placebo. I weep, I mourn. So, anyway, we had to invade someone else's kitchen to make this. His room-mates kept coming in, looking sadly at the desolation, and then leaving quietly.

But, as you can see from this picture, the tortillas weren't actually that bad. They were pretty fiery, due to Emma doing the HAND OF GOD over the pan with the spice packet, and also they had onions in and none of us like onions, but apart from that, they were reasonably tasty. I don't know how I feel about this. I don't know how I feel about anything any more. I'M SO CONFUSED.

Tastiness - 6/10 - Too spicy. But otherwise OK. Emma says that I should say that NOBODY ELSE FOUND THEM TOO SPICY. Well, they were my enchiladas, Emma. MINE.
Likeliness to set off a fire alarm -6/10 - Frying and the use of an oven took place! Thankfully,  we were supervised by Andy and his husband...
Likeliness to cause a fatal coronary, 20 years down the line - 5/10 - Quite a lot of cheese going on there.