Category: Monumental Fail


One Pot Pasta Disaster

January 11th, 2014 — 4:04pm

I am writing a book about cooking with BOOZE. Yuh huh. It’s not just about going out and getting drunk, coming home and knocking something up, far from it, but the fact remains that there is that angle to be covered. So I have covered it. I am covering it. I am testing recipes, anyway. Pasta must surely be in everyone’s drunken repertoire? It’s really simple to make, really stodgy, sorts you out a bit in the morning and is really satisfying at the time. The only thing more satisfying than a carb binge is a drunken carb binge. No guilt.

So I came across a number of recipes online for something called ‘one pot pasta’. The idea is that you sling everything – pasta, ingredients for the sauce, water – into a pan, and just sort of stir it about until the pasta absorbs the water and miraculously, you are left with perfect pasta and sauce. Except that is not what happens. I can honestly say that this is a crime against pasta.

Now I know the idea of the all in one was always going to be controversial, and I have to say I wasn’t particularly convinced either, but curiosity got the better of me and I had to know for sure. I’ve heard of the ‘risotto’ method, and I get the idea of the starchy, creamy sauce, but this, THIS, was precisely the consistency of…wallpaper paste. Use your imagination. My mother reads this blog. The sauce was the very definition of gloopy. The pasta was just about passable as ‘cooked’. It could have been used to glue things together in place of, say, Araldite. It was horrible, truly, BUT the bigger, more important question here is, WHY? Why bother? To save yourself from washing up ONE extra pan? Well, maybe it’s easier to just chuck everything in at once, I hear you saying, rather than cooking out an onion for a sauce for example, before adding other ingredients. Well let me tell you, it isn’t less effort, because you have to stand there and stir the bloody thing, the most effective way to do this being to use tongs. Ever tried to use tongs for any sustained period of time? It’s quite taxing on the wrist, actually. Taxing on the wrist and at the end you’re left with a sticky mess (I feel this marks the moment when my mother stops reading forever).

The pan is soaking in the sink, because the ‘sauce’ stuck to the bottom of it. The pasta is in the bin. Talk about a problem that didn’t need solving.

25 comments » | Books, Monumental Fail, Pasta

Sous Vide Octopus

February 18th, 2013 — 2:14pm

Never have I felt more of a middle class tosser than when I stumbled in drunk one evening and exclaimed, loudly and with much enthusiasm, ‘LET’S SOUS VIDE A QUINCE!‘ I then proceeded to heat up the sous vide, put the fruit inside and promptly forget about it. Excellent.

Things that work sous vide, I’ve come to realise, are cuts of meat like pork belly which need long cooking to break down the gnarly bits. That said, I cooked a piece of lamb belly which I thought would work brilliantly and it came out like a big chewy piece of fat, which essentially, it was; the worst thing about that was the fact I’d invited five other people around to eat it.

Eggs work well, though I’m not sure I’ll be busting out the machine every time I want to eat one (read: I won’t); the most amusing bit  is when you crack open the shell and a poached egg just plops out.

Anyway, I’d not tried fish or seafood yet, and after hearing mixed results I decided to steer clear of fillets and go for something that’s notoriously difficult to tenderise; the octopus. I bought a ready frozen octopus, which immediately takes care of one step of the process (freezing helps to tenderise).

So I picked up a 1.5kg beast  for the downright shocking sum of £18. When I was in the fishmonger I heard someone shouting EIGHTEEN POUNDS! and then realised that it was me. I tweeted about this afterwards and loads of people answered saying helpful things like ‘I bought a huge one in Lewisham market for £2.50 the other day!’ but although I have fairly shonky standards on many things, I’m not sure I’ll ever begrudge paying a lot of money to know that I’m getting decent seafood. Still, octopus is expensive, FYI.

So it was defrosted, unpacked, hacked and re-(vac)-packed with some garlic cloves, parsley stalks and olive oil. I had intentions of dressing it afterwards with chilli, garlic, parsley and lemon, mainly because that sounded summery and I’m sick of winter. I cooked it for 4 hours at 85 degrees as suggested by many online sources. When it emerged however, the bag contained an alarming amount of red liquid. It basically looked like an octopus in a bag of blood. I e-mailed an on-line fishmonger whom I trust and he said that although octopus can leach some red liquid occasionally when over cooked, he’d never seen anything to this extent. He even contacted the executive chef at Brindisa (“they cook a lot of octopus”), who apparently had no idea either. So, how did it taste?

The answer is: I don’t know. Neither I nor my partner of equally strong stomach could bring ourselves to eat it (hungover? What? Me?). This fact coupled with some er, logistical issues (basically the octopus being in a different house to the one we were in come dinner time) means that I effectively pissed £18 up the wall, not to mention wasted a good octopus and that just makes me feel SICK, quite frankly.

So me and the sous vide are having a bad run; first the lamb, then the drunken quince incident and now the case of the bloody octopus. Bad luck comes in threes?

If anyone has any ideas about what went wrong then please do pipe up…

52 comments » | Monumental Fail, Seafood

Crumpet Fail

June 18th, 2009 — 2:17pm

Crumpets are the ultimate comfort food for me – all toasty and spongy and most importantly, outrageously buttery. Tea is an essential accompaniment. Many problems can be solved with a double round of brews and crumpets. Everyone has a favourite way to eat them – eggy crumps, Marmite crumps, jammy crumps, I could go on. When it comes down to it though, my favourite way to eat them is just pure and simple, nowt but batter and butter.

You can imagine how it pains me then that I have never, ever managed to make a decent crumpet and it’s not for want of trying I can assure you. I’ve followed recipes which use baking powder and those without, I’ve tried resting it once, twice or not at all. I’ve tried varying the heat levels and I’ve tried cooking them with and without rings.*

Every time the batter starts to cook however, the bubbles start to rise to the top and pop a few times and then something just…stops. Actually, it’s more than that – somehow, the holes manage to actually re-seal themselves. What is that all about?! Every time I end up with a stodgy batter patty with a pool of butter swimming on top. The fat cannot get in and this is bad, very bad indeed.

So, this is a plea for help people – share your secrets please! One of you must surely have the key to a good bit of crumpet?

*I’ve tried so many recipes that I haven’t bothered to list them all but if you type ‘crumpet recipe’ into Google I’ve basically worked my way through the first page.

24 comments » | Crumpets, Monumental Fail

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