Posts Tagged ‘bread’

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Cooking in 2012 – March: Omelette.

April 2, 2012

I know, I know, so technically it is April. But after the traumatic making of the lasagne in February, I needed a great deal of recovery time! And I will attempt to catch up and do another dish this month to bring me back on track.

I must first and foremost give thanks to Starbucks (mi amor cafeinado!) for providing me with the app that made the omelette possible: How to Cook Everything. Since I cannot cook anything (by this point you should be well aware that I am not exaggerating), when I saw this app available as the free download of the week instore, I had to get it. You search for what you want to make, it comes up with a list of ingredients you need, a step-by-step recipe, and away you go!

Also, after the first couple of meals that I made, I felt that I wanted to do something simpler and more essential (read: quicker). An omelette is a very basic thing – you don’t need many ingredients (eggs, milk, a bit of cooking oil – and then I added chopped ham and pieces of mozzarella), and it takes about 10 minutes. Essentially, what you do is:

  • Break 3 eggs into a bowl,
  • add a tablespoon or so of milk,
  • beat them together with a fork until the mixture looks of a uniform colour and texture (i.e. not blobby),
  • put in a hot frying pan,
  • fry until the side of the omelette facing up at you is no longer wet,
  • throw in your ham and mozzarella,
  • use a fish slice to fold the omelette in half and over the filling you’ve just added,
  • smoosh it down and fry it a bit longer so the ham is warm and the cheese gets melty

– et voilà! Omelette ready. This is what it looked like:

Om nom nom. Add some salad or some bread on the side, and away you go!  Although it wasn’t up to the standard of Balan’s (but then, little is), it was pretty tasty, quick and easy. Just how I like my cooking to be! Plus, it wasn’t too expensive, and I didn’t end up left over with loads of ingredients that would ultimately end up in the bin. Although part of me feels I should learn to make scrambled eggs with the remaining eggs. Seriously, they should sell eggs in packs of 2 or 4 (if not singly). But after February’s severe erosion of my confidence and patience, I am feeling a bit stronger and more satisfied with myself – this was a good success under my belt. Toby helped me, as usual, but this time I did not lose my temper and I don’t think I made him bang his head against the wall!  Progress!

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Cooking in 2012 – January: BBQ chicken sandwich with roast potatoes.

January 7, 2012

In my previous post, I mentioned that Toby had baked some bread today. This became the foundation for tonight’s dinner, which evolved as we shopped in M&S and picked up chicken breasts, barbecue marinade and salad. Under Toby’s patient tutelage, this became BBQ chicken sandwiches (with salad, caesar dressing and sliced red peppers), and a side of roasted potatoes:

I have never marinaded chicken, roasted potatoes (although in my last cookery post, I did learn how to boil them, so I am becoming quite potato-adept!) or even sliced a red pepper, so I couldn’t have made this dish without Toby’s help. I discovered that the previous tenants in my flat had left behind loads of really useful kitchen utensils, including big knives and various-sized baking trays and oven tins. One of my new aims for this weekend is to make an inventory of the kitchen cupboards and find out exactly what exciting cooking tools I possess! So first of all:

  • The oven was pre-heated to 200° C.
  • I took out the four chicken breasts we had bought, and cut 3 diagonal slices halfway down each one. These slits were to ensure that the BBQ sauce would get right inside the meat and imbue it with flavour.
  • Then I took the red pepper, sliced the top off, grabbed the white middle structure and pulled that out. I then turned my hollowed-out pepper upside down, put my hand underneath, and banged the top to get most of the seeds out. I then cut my pepper shell into quarters, and sliced it. I found out that this really is quite straightforward!
  • In a square baking tray with sides, I laid the sliced peppers to make a bed for the four chicken breasts. I then added about two-thirds of the bottle of BBQ sauce marinade, and worked the sauce into the chicken, ensuring that it got into the slits I had cut earlier. This was frankly quite horrible, as I hate my hands getting sticky and messy. But I did it!
  • Then I cut about 8 smallish potatoes into thirds / quarters (depending on size), and put them on a flat baking tray. I seasoned these with salt and black pepper, and drizzled some sunflower oil over them. I then turned all of the potatoes over in the oil to ensure that the surface of each potato fraction was oiled and seasoned.
  • I put both baking trays into the oven. After 20 minutes or so, when the potatoes started to brown on top, I took both baking trays out of the oven and using a fork (I tried it with a spatula the first time but things got a bit messy!) I turned all four chicken breasts over in the red pepper and BBQ sauce marinade, followed by turning all the potatoes over. I put everything back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
  • After this, the potatoes started to sizzle. I gave them a vigorous shake on the baking tray, and turned some of them over again. I then turned the four chicken breasts over once again. Everything went back in the oven!
  • 10 minutes or so after this, the potatoes started to look brown on top and the chicken looked cooked, so everything came out of the oven.
  • We then sliced four reasonably thick slices of Toby’s bread and laid them flat on two plates. I put salad leaves on the bread, and drenched these with a good amount of caesar dressing. I then sliced the chicken breasts into thin slices, and arranged these on top of the salad leaves. I covered the chicken with the sliced peppers, added a couple of dollops of the leftover BBQ sauce, and put the final slices of bread on top to make the sandwiches.
  • I served the roast potatoes in a bowl as a side dish. (In other words, there wasn’t enough room for the potatoes on the plate, next to the giant sandwiches.)

Et voilà!

Quite honestly, this meal was delicious, and so delicious that I felt almost overwhelmed that I had made it myself. I could not have done it without Toby telling me what to do, but I made it with my own two hands and cooking utensils, and I am really proud. On top of this, it really wasn’t that difficult, and I have learned how to do new things. It’s confirmed to me that this cooking idea that I had at the top of the year really was a good one that I should continue to pursue. I’m not used to taking so long to prepare and cook a meal, but neither am I used to feeling such a sense of pride at the end of it. 🙂

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Tube update: Parsons Green, Putney Bridge and East Putney

January 7, 2012

The first London tube photo post of 2012! Today I had an epic lie-in and was watching the Channel 4 Sarah Palin documentary until 12:30pm, when I decided I really should get up and do something with my day. As I have been feeling a bit podgy post-Christmas, and Toby was planning on baking bread, I decided to go for a walk to give myself some exercise and rid myself of cabin fever. I walked to Parsons Green (and the green itself is lovely and small):

Emboldened by my success (and the fact that Parsons Green really isn’t that far away from Toby’s flat), I walked on to Putney. When I got to Putney Bridge station, I found out that Fulham were playing Chelsea in the football today (I am generally oblivious to footballing events and mainly find out about them from the amount of Chelsea or Fulham fans amassed in my vicinity) and was surrounded by lairy individuals wearing football kits and drinking cans of beer. Police were on horseback and guarding the tube stations, but that didn’t stop me from getting my picture!

Again, since I’d come this far, I decided to walk to Putney and have a look at the shops on the High Street. Eventually I got to East Putney station…

…realised I hadn’t brought my house keys with me (so I couldn’t go back to my flat and have lunch, which was my bright idea at the time), so walked back to Putney High Street, picked up some sandwiches for me and Toby to eat for lunch, and then got the bus back to Fulham! A good day with healthy walking and a new-found appreciation for Putney.

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Learning to cook – the journey begins…

January 4, 2012

In my New Year resolutions for 2012, my first resolution was to learn to cook a new dish every month. Now, I haven’t decided what the month of January will hold yet, but just to give you an idea of what starting point I’m at… it’s basic. Things that I can cook include lasagne, mushroom risotto, pasta, a range of ready meals, sandwiches and toast, and combinations of microwaveable foods. I’ve never been very inspired to cook anything more complicated than this because a) I find the process of creating a meal frequently tries my patience, and b) why should I cook a meal for one which takes longer to make than it does to eat?

I am in the very lucky position of being in a relationship with a fantastic cook. He is in the equally lucky position of being in a relationship with someone who enjoys cleaning and household chores. So why should I even bother learning to cook? Well, I’m an adult now – no longer a student, or living at home; Toby comes round my place nearly as often as I stay at his, and I want to be able to make meals that are tasty, interesting and also occasionally healthy. Eating out is expensive, and eating takeaways can get unhealthy and uninspiring. Perhaps I’ll lose some weight and get healthier along the way? I also want to add to my skill set, and I kind of feel that cooking is something I really ought to learn, as a worthwhile (and sociable) human being.

I’m not a natural chef (see: lack of patience; lack of understanding what foods go together; issues around eating and weight), but I did have some cookery lessons at school. I made things like pasta carbonara, quiche, bread, triple chocolate upside-down cake, and they always turned out well – however, I might attribute some of this to my desire to succeed in a classroom setting, rather than any potential I had as a cook. The only thing I ever did mess up was crème caramel, because I burned the caramel in the oven. (I later found out that I didn’t really like crème caramel anyway.) But for the most part, I had a recipe which I always followed to the letter, and things always turned out fine. However, Toby has discovered that there are some basic things that I didn’t know. For example, don’t lick your fingers when you have been handling raw chicken or raw egg – this is bad for you. He asked me, “didn’t you have food technology lessons at school?!?” To which my reply was “No, we studied Latin instead.” I think I was due to have 6 weeks of cookery lessons in 6th form, but instead I was chosen to be a peer mentor and had 30 hours of training in mentoring and listening skills from a psychologist.

Moving on… Last month, I made a lovely meal of honey and mustard roast chicken breast (courtesy of Waitrose), with chips, salad and croutons with caesar dressing. I was pleased with this meal because I picked the ingredients in the supermarket myself and created the dish in my head as I walked through the aisles. It was delicious. Tonight (and this is not counting towards my dish per month resolution), I had a go at making steak pie (courtesy of Sainsburys) with steamed baby corn, beans and boiled potatoes. This presented some challenges to me as I have never steamed vegetables, and I have never boiled potatoes.

The easy part – I shoved the steak pie in the oven for 35 minutes. This gave me 35 minutes to:

  • discover that one of the hob rings on my mini oven doesn’t work when the oven is on;
  • boil the potatoes on the other hob;
  • realise that supermarket estimates for cooking are not always to be trusted;
  • learn how to steam vegetables in the microwave (thank you Google);
  • find out that it’s not worth using tablespoons to measure out water.

After accumulating all of this knowledge, dinner was served:

steak pie, potatoes and steamed vegetables

It was yummy! The pie and potatoes (after the initial panic that they weren’t cooking on the hob) turned out very well. If I could do it again, I would have steamed the vegetables for longer in the microwave, as the beans were quite crisp and fresh-tasting; but the vegetables were still perfectly edible. The whole point of this, and my cookery journey, is that I am going to learn skills I didn’t know (however basic they might be) and improve my culinary capabilities. I am not ashamed of being such a novice cook, because I am doing something about it. And if you are reading this and thinking that you can’t cook either, then let’s take this journey together. I will be completely honest about my failures and lack of knowledge, and hopefully the fact that I will be able to make successful dishes in spite of these will be proof that even though we aren’t all born chefs, we can all learn to cook something simple, yet tasty and interesting.