* A Desperate Request
* AGM XXXVIII
* Serge: A Bulletin
Go forth in trepidation...
A DESPERATE REQUEST
For reasons too weirdly complicated - and frankly too dull - to go into here, I have recently started cooking in a more serious kind of way than heretofore.
Up till now, my culinary aptitudes have been limited to spagbol (which I can manage quite well, given a little critical leeway) and porridge (which it’s taken me 45 years to master). I can also fry eggs.
Now, though, it’s time for me to engage more assertively with the mysteries of ovens, pans, bowls, utensils, gadgets and recipes - mixing, greasing and folding in (as it were).
After all, I reason, my ineptitude isn’t genetic or hereditary. My brother and his wife - Barry and Jean - successfully expend a great deal of creative energy in their magnificently appointed kitchen. Every time I visit them, there’s a lovely quiche or pie, some colourful and tasty salads, a bowl of dahl, healthy wodges of home-baked bread and a couple of perfect sauces and dressings. And many other things, besides.
Each year they bake enormous - and I mean enormous - Christmas Cakes for every member of the family and their larder has had to be underpinned because of the weight of home-made jams, marmalades and jellies. Their banana cake is to die for.
Emboldened and motivated by their creative successes, I’ve already started my rehabilitation, in a trivial and experimental capacity - and with very mixed results.
I thought the simplest recipes would be a good place to begin and tried to make an omelette. I thought I wouldn’t need a recipe for something that obvious but I was as wrong about that as I was about my aspirations to be a ballet dancer. That is to say, I was just plain wrong.
I tried pancakes after that. I still don’t know where I went astray but my batter had the consistency of farm sludge and blocked the drain when I threw it away, in tears.
Somebody told me that drop scones - scotch pancakes - were much easier, thus giving ‘easier‘ a new meaning: ‘much more difficult’. They turned out like paving stones.
Then I recalled Mam telling me that anybody can bake a sponge cake. ‘All you have to remember is 4, 4 and 4,‘ she said. ‘Flour, sugar and fat.‘ And yes, I remembered the eggs as well.
My light and airy Victoria sponge had the much the same qualities as a house-brick, but without the taste. I’d reckoned without self-raising flour - or baking powder.
Last week, I thought I’d tart up some madeleines I was baking with ‘a little‘ cinnamon and vanilla. But they never tell you exactly how much ‘a little‘ or ‘a pinch‘ is, do they? They turned out nice and soft and springy but tasted as sickly as cream-soda with a dash of tree-bark.
I’m not proud of any of this.
Nor am I too proud to ask for help. Which is where the Honourable Company of Truckshunters comes in. That’s you, by the way.
I need recipes. Tried and tested recipes - preferably, ones you’ve tried and tested yourself.
And they have to be straightforward enough for an infantile fool to follow - recognise me? Please don’t tell me to ‘add just enough water to make the batter runny, but not too runny‘ or to ‘beat the mixture until you have stiff peaks‘ ( - how many peaks? how stiff? - ) or ‘it’s cooked when it’s brown like wheat in September but not brown like peeled walnuts’.
So here’s a list of the stuff I want to train myself to cook without thinking; training pieces, if you will. If you know how to make them - if you have a favourite recipe and you’re sure (or fairly sure) that I’ll be able to follow it - please email me urgently. Unless, of course, you want my self-esteem to continue draining away at the same rate as my credibility.
Perfectly ordinary ones that you can eat with treacle or sugar or jam or whatever takes your fancy.
2 Drop Scones
Ordinary pancakes but wearing their Sunday best. Scotch pancakes.
How many eggs should I use? Do I beat them until I have stiff peaks? What with?
4 Sponge cakes
Everyone in the civilised world - and many people outside it - can rustle up a sponge cake. Including you.
5 Anything else
I’m also in the market for any other recipes you think I could manage without setting fire to myself or ending up in the RVI for some other reason.
But please. No exotic ingredients like pickled tulip bulbs, skinned rabbits’ ears or asparagus coddled in nutmeg liqueur.
Vivienne - whose forbearance God preserve - is quite right. December 4 is indeed my birthday.
And it would be the best birthday present ever if you could mange to get to the AGM. You’ll have to bring a card, though, or I’ll feel very hurt.
So note it in your packed and busy diary. 1100 on 4 December. Possibly with the redoubtable Vivienne at Gibside, above.
Watch this space.
SERGE: A BULLETIN
I’m glad to say that Serge is much better now. He doesn’t need to wear the neck brace at all, and has mostly dispensed with the wrist brace as well (although I’m not sure if that’s such a good idea).
The coccyx injury is a different matter, of course. It’s going to take some time to improve and Serge is not a patient man. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
He’ll be visiting England for Christmas this year, so if you’re around, it would be nice to arrange some kind of special AGM - a seasonal cup of coffee and a mince pie.
In the meantime, thanks once again for all your good wishes. They really helped.
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