Friday, 10 February 2012

Domestic Goddess in Disguise

I have already admitted elsewhere that I graduated from the Cheat’s School of Cooking circa 2000. In fact, it made it to print and is in Easons somewhere in a book called The Mammy Diaries, so I have no shame in saying it here again.  I hate to cook.  I hate it.  I am so out of love with my kitchen.  I hate the size of it, the fact that I seem to spend so much of my time in there.  I hate everything it represents.  

Right now, I am so fed up with spag bol, stews, curries, lasagne, blinkin’ Shepherd’s Pie, et al. 

Gah! I yearn for an adult meal.  One that is not mashed to within an inch of its vitamin enriched life.  Carrots and turnips that are not boiled and then grated to a fine pulp in order to make them mashable so that they can be hidden in spuds. 

 My kids think spuds are every colour of the rainbow.  If I were to put a potato in its freshly boiled state in front of them, they’d ask me what it was.  

I want a big fek off steak dinner with pepper corn sauce and broccoli.  A pork chop and some apple sauce please with baby veg and those teeny tiny little potatoes.  A perfectly poached piece of salmon with some veg that still has their crunch. 

 All cooked by someone else, naturally. 

 I’ve often said that I wouldn’t care for a cleaner.  However, if someone was willing to come to my undomesticated house and cook for me, I’d be at the door to welcome them with a proper plunger pot of coffee and fresh cookies or some other homemade confectionary.  

Because, as much as I hate cooking, I love to bake.  Cooking riles me no end, whereas baking soothes me.  

If it were possible, or healthy, my kids would be raised on a diet of carrot cake, cookies, rocky road, meringues, sponges, bakewell tarts and choux pastry.  We’re all quite fond of a tray of brownies as well.  (Note to self:  Make some next week!) 

 And for all the lovely (if I do say so myself) things I bake, I have precisely two recipes out of them all for which I do not need to consult my recipe folder.  I still work with oz.’s as well.  None of this gram malarkey. 

And funnily enough, pancakes, one of my don’t need to look at recipes, make my stomach rock’n’roll.  I have never cared for them.  The kids love them with lemon and sugar and also with chocolate spread, but I have to breathe through my mouth when I make them.  

Awful, awful hospital food things.  I would have to be 10 different kinds of starving before I’d eat one.  

On the plus side, it has to be said, pancakes are not just for Shrove Tuesday.  They are for any day. 

 Ask my kids.  

Sometimes they have them three times a week.  

All you need is a splash of Vanilla Extract.  (Not essence.  The extract is great stuff and a little goes a long way).  One egg, half a pint of milk and 4 oz of plain flour.  Some (weird) folk like to put banana and sugar on theirs.  Others  (freaks) like ham and cheese.  

Put your egg and Vanilla Extract into a bowl and whisk.  Add the milk and whisk.  Add the flour and beat together until all the lumps have given up and died.  I’m sure you know how to cook the blessed things so I just wanted to share my recipe.  I use a large enough pan so this quantity yields 4 to 5 decent sized pancakes.  

My next recipe is gorgeous.  It’s my Smartie Cookie recipe.  I found it in a Bella magazine a good 10 years ago and it just gets easier and quicker to make each time.  The only thing I have found though is the Smarties on top of the cookies don’t keep their colour in the oven.  No matter, my kids would eat them if they came out Pepto Pink but if anyone can cure this problem, I’d be most grateful.  

When I make these, I divide the dough in half and make white chocolate and cranberry cookies for myself.  

Here’s how.  Quick reminder, these are Seriously Good!  

You will need 4 oz each of butter and soft brown sugar.  One egg. A splash of Vanilla Extract.  (This stuff pops up everywhere) 8oz plain flour. Generous ½ tspoon baking powder. Large tablespoon cocoa powder.  Mini Smarties (these look cuter) and white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.  Health food shops do nice cranberries but I get mine in a certain supermarket beginning with T and ending in esco’s. 

 I also take a scissors to them and chop them into smaller bits.  Don’t know about you but I hate getting a big mouthful of fruit in my cookies. 

 So the cool thing about this recipe is you can do it with a fork.  A good tip is to leave your butter out the night before to soften it to room temp or if it’s a last minute bake off, just cube your 4 oz of butter and leave to one side for a few minutes.  

Mash the butter and sugar together well.  Add the beaten egg with the extract.  It will look a bit vomit-y (hey!  I never said I was Nigella) but this is fine.  Sieve in your flour, baking powder and cocoa powder.  Quick stir with the fork before the fun bit.  Get in here with your hands and squish the mixture together.  It brings it together much quicker and makes it easier to roll out afterwards.  

Divide the dough in half and add mix the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries into one half.  I never measure them; I just eyeball it as to what looks like enough.  For me that is.  It doesn’t seem to affect the finished product.  

Now, pinch off little lumps and roll into walnut sized balls.  Press between the palms of your hand with the heel of your other hand just enough to flatten.  Pop some Smarties on to the plain ones.  

Put cookies into a 190 degree oven for 11 minutes (fan oven).  Ab fab with a cup of coffee.  

My lot of savages don’t even wait for them to cool down they’re that good and I promise you, they can be made in 10 minutes.  

I feel under pressure to stick in a few recipes as one of my favourite writers has a new book out.  Her name is Marian Keyes and I heart her.  Although, I will admit to being more than a bit disgusted when I heard the ad on the radio last weekend.    

I had a sneaking suspicion that the book was going to be a cook book in disguise.  I was right. 

The sight of her in cooking garb confirmed my worst fears. 

I know she has had a very hard time with depression in the last year, and it’s still on-going, but Marion, refer to the beginning of this post:  COOKING IS NOT FUN!!!!!!!!  Please, please, don’t give up the day job just yet.  I don’t want to have to wait another two years before a halfway decent book is published.  Neck those tranquilisers, will yah missus and get writing!!  Cheers luv!  (P.S.  Just to take the sting out of my words, I understand you found baking to be an outlet for yourself.  Fair play.  We all need one, God knows.  

Blogging’s mine.  And I’m also going to have a go at your adult cheesecake things.  No hard feelings, eh?)    

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