Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hot Dogs, Cupcakes, a 'hidden' microwave and cheap meat

Just to recap: Sunday 16 September
An excerpt from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries ii is published in the Observer Food Magazine. I am beyond ecstatic (see previous post).

Saturday 22 September
I yearn for a hot dog. Not an English sausage-in-a-bun, nor a bratwurst on a Sheboygan or a chilli/corn dawg the like of which Gordon Ramsay is scraping the barrel to promote as the food of the Gods in his current TV series, but a slippery, salty, pink tube of mechanically recovered meat smothered in burnt onions and slipped between two rectangular pillows of long life, white hot dog bun, the like of which one used to be able to purchase from dodgy guys who used to push mobile braziers around the street (and who never - according to my mother - washed their hands after taking a pee break). Boo and I go to the Moscow State Circus in the park, where I expect my cravings to be satisfied. The ‘Refreshment’ stand is indeed selling hot dogs: the Babushka sausage ‘experience’, no less, for £3 a pop. That wasn’t really what I had in mind and anyway, they stop serving hot food after the interval because the girls behind the counter have to swap their aprons for silver leotards and dangle by their toes from a trapeze for most ot the second half of the show.

The following day, I buy a tin of six Ye Olde Oak American Style Giant Hot Dogs from the Co-op for 99p and an enormous packet of the prerequisite marshmallow buns at a similar price. Boo overcooks three onions to the point where the once sweet-smelling tangle is no longer identifiable as being even closely related to allium cepa and I boil the sausages (and yes, I use the term loosely) in their brine. We eat our hot dogs slavered with ketchup and mustard, and afterwards vow to never, ever give into one of my impromptu cravings again, but we both know that really, it was one of the best meals we’d ever eaten. The only thing that was missing from my original vision was the tang of je ne sais quoi that always came as standard from the mobile brazier version. Boo said that can easily be rectified; next time he makes us hot dogs, he won’t wash his hands after taking a pee.

Tuesday 18 September
In his new book, Nigel Slater claims he doesn’t have a microwave. I spend a whole afternoon making and erecting a stylish, unobtrusive curtain for mine to hide behind (which is what I suspect Nigel has done for his).

Wednesday 19 September
Yet another cupcake company has taken it upon themselves to send me a gratis box of four cupcakes in, I’m guessing, an attempt to bribe me into signing into Twitter immediately and declaring them to be the best cakes I’ve ever eaten in my life. But it ain’t gonna happen: what fashionable foodie in their right mind would be caught dead eating an afternoon tea ‘treat’ that’s so passé? Everybody knows that the macaroon has long since replaced the cupcake on the chic food chart; even Primark has consigned cupcake-emblazoned tea towels to the 50p bin, making way for ‘premium’ home accessories (ie, cake tins for £1) with the must-have macaroon print on the lid on the shelves. But both cupcakes and macaroons are, in actuality, nasty, over-sweet, vile little bullets of negative nutritional value. Cupcakes are fairy cakes badly dressed in the manner of Disney princesses, crooned over by folk who worship style over substance and women who slavishly purchase fake Cath Kidston kitchen accessories (Primark again, from 84p). Cupcakes are the emperor’s old clothes of the food world.

Sunday 30 September
There has been a fashion for “forgotten” cuts of meat of late: former ration book staples such as neck of lamb, beef brisket and offal have been gracing supper tables and dominating TV food shows across the land as the ongoing financial crisis cuts ever-deepening swathes of misery and despair through the household grocery budget. Yesterday I braised two kilos of oxtail in a deep broth of beef stock enriched with tamarind paste and Burgundy for six hours before serving the resulting sinewy gloop with tagliatelle at a supper party. The result was a sweet, sickly, super-fatty, unctuous melange that tasted of exactly what it was: cheap. Some cuts of meat have been forgotten for a very good reason and you really can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (despite what Fergus Henderson would attempt to have you believe).

To be continued....

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Disco Kitchen Diaries

Sunday 16 September
An excerpt from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries ii is published in the Observer Food Magazine. I am beyond ecstatic.

Tuesday 18 September
I can’t be the only one breathing a sigh of relief that broad bean season is over. There’s something about those bitter, tough, kidney-shaped pale green beans that come enclosed in jackets reminiscent of a freshly dead caterpillar yet to lose its fur to the invasion of maggots that really gets my goat. They are the emperor’s new clothes of the fashionable food world.

Thursday 20 September
My father and I are in search of something hot, savoury and filling to munch before we go and drink too much house wine in the cheerful hostelry adjacent to the Theatre Royal. There’s a glorious French bakery on the lane opposite the Bath branch of Waitrose, where I enquire about the two fat, golden pasties lounging resplendent under a glass dome on the counter. They are, I’m told, wrought from Salt Marsh lamb, organic Maris Piper potatoes and fresh rosemary, and wrapped in all butter pastry made to an authentic Normandy recipe. They are £4.20 each but can’t be served hot, due to health and safety regulations. We go to Gregg’s instead and buy two jumbo sausage rolls - the sticky, salty, gristly, unctuous filling as hot as volcanic larva, the pastry so flaky it all but fails to do its job at all - for £1.20, and eat them sitting on a bench opposite the Disney Shop.

Friday 21 September
Autumn is softly creeping into our tiny third floor flat, which can only mean one thing: the central heating still doesn’t work properly. In the search for supper, I take a stroll around the larder in the corner of the spare room and stumble across a Fray Bentos pie, bought on a whim several months ago. The tin is dusty, but I’m confident that the contents are nowhere near the end of their seasonal best yet; the pie can happily sit amongst the bottles of mouthwash, boxes of Paxo stuffing and packets of Haribo that thrive in our makeshift store cupboard, waiting for their time to come as they relax in the gentle darkness of a makeshift cupboard next to the cat litter tray. Back in the kitchen, the fridge reveals the remains of last night’s speedy chicken curry (chicken, frozen peas and a jar of Co-op low fat Korma sauce) and two eggs. While the eggs are scrambling, I heat the curry up in the microwave to the exact point where the sauce around the edges of the bowl have turned a crusty dark brown. I serve my eggs on top of two pieces of toast spread with Dairylea cheese. Boo devours the curry with one hand while stroking the cat with the other. He has 4 Cadbury’s Roses for dessert. Later on that evening, he will eat slices of Cathedral City Cheddar with a double whisky.

To be continued...