Posts Tagged ‘lasagne’

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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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mean / Tube update: Queensway and Bayswater.

February 7, 2012

I have been really irritable lately. On Friday evening we were at Toby’s flat and Christina was cleaning the kitchen and mopping the floor. I don’t know what possessed me, but I decided to go “See Toby, this is called ‘mopping’.” A few minutes later I realised that while Toby is indeed messy, there was no call for me to just criticise him out of the blue.

During my cooking of the lasagne on Tuesday, I kept my cool with the very frustrating ingredients and recipe for about 45 minutes before I snapped, started ranting about crushing garlic on Twitter and went for a cigarette. Now, although I can be somewhat impetuous, I know that I dislike cooking and I also know that I am not experienced and so things are likely to be frustrating – I should have had a bit more patience than that.

Then at the weekend, we went out to Soho for Christina’s birthday. We had a lovely meal at Ping Pong, but afterwards we were trekking through the snow for an hour trying to find our next venue. I was cold and wet, people were throwing snowballs in the streets and I got hit twice (which I think was really uncalled for, since I had not done anything to anyone), we lost half of our party, went into a random club which was full of people – and only 10 minutes later, just after I had put my bag down and taken my soaking coat off,  everyone decided that we were going to leave again and go somewhere else. But first everyone went to get cash. This was the breaking point for me and I told Toby that I could no longer handle all of this and wanted to just go home. With the snow, the crowds of people stranded in central London also trying to get home, and the tube stations and tube lines shutting down one by one, we had to walk in the snow, slush and crowds for 45 minutes before finally getting to Temple where we caught the District Line train back to Earls Court. We left Ping Pong at 9:30; we got back to my flat at midnight. I was thoroughly unimpressed.

And yet, I felt guilty. Although even writing this and reliving it as I do so, I feel justified in just wanting to get out of the situation and get home, I also feel mean for leaving Christina’s birthday early. I didn’t want to, but I also just couldn’t handle being out and cold and wet, wandering aimlessly and having snow thrown at me, and not being able to go home. But on balance, I had helped make her birthday cake (I rescued ganache, using the power of the internet!):

…wrote her card, was out last night for the restaurant-portion of the evening, and saw her again the following morning, so I had made an effort for her and things were all fine. But still, I don’t know why but lately I just feel like I am irritable to people and not as nice as I could be. I had a meltdown on Sunday with Toby – I felt trapped in by the snow, powerless to accomplish anything useful, and spiralling into depression and feeling utterly useless. After much understanding from him, I saw that I was being too hard on myself. Well, what’s new?

Following the emotional surgery, I uncovered that a lot of my frustration is to do with work. I will not say much more about this because I feel it would be unprofessional (and you never know who might be reading), but suffice to say that it’s called ‘work’ for a reason. Toby suggested that one thing I could do is make sure I take a proper lunch break and get out of the office, have some fresh air and a walk. So I have started doing this in earnest: and on Monday, I had a walk (trying not to fall over in the slush) and managed to add another two tube stations to my list: Queensway and Bayswater (after my initial failure when I walked to Paddington).

I worked out that I should also be able to walk to Lancaster Gate, Latimer Road and Royal Oak, so watch this space! I am hoping that not only will I get some additional exercise (and pictures!), but it will improve my mood (both daily and in the longer term). Fingers crossed 🙂

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Cooking in 2012 – February: Lasagne.

February 2, 2012

So this month I made a dish that I have in fact made a couple of times in the past: lasagne. I love it, it’s perfect for the extremely cold weather we’re currently experiencing, and it’s Italian and therefore I should be able to make this in my sleep. I felt confident that I could impress Toby with this one, and be able to do it without any help.

Hah!

I used this recipe as a basis, but it was kinda confusing. My first big stumbling block was “crush the garlic to a paste with the edge of a knife”. Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried this, but it’s fucking difficult. I got irritated (because chopping the vegetables and preparing everything had taken a surprisingly long time), ranted on twitter, had a cigarette, and then just decided to chop the garlic cloves into really small pieces, smoosh them up, and call it sufficient.

My next issue was the completely unclear nature of the recipe. You put the carrot in after everything has been cooking for quite a long time? Huh? And you stir in the oregano practically at the end? Why? Most importantly, it never tells you to take the fried mince off the warm plate and back in a saucepan to mix it with the rest of the ingredients for the meat sauce. It leaves this completely to your imagination. Now, common sense dictates you would eventually reach the conclusion that this is what you have to do (and with Toby’s reassurance, I got there) – but I am far from a confident cook. Even though I have made this recipe before, I don’t ever remember it being so complicated or confusing, and recipes not spelling everything out for me explicitly is A BIG PROBLEM.

But we got there. I cheated and bought some white sauce rather than making it from scratch – this was probably a good move because as it was, we didn’t end up eating the finished lasagne until 9:45pm. Which is late. But it was very very nice – and better than a shop-bought one! I was proud!

With a night’s perspective on the whole matter, I can now ask myself the big question: Was it worth all the money I spent on ingredients, and all the time I spent stressing and preparing and cooking and washing up? I am very hesitant to say “yes”, to be honest. I did learn a lot from the experience, such as:

  • as much as I want to be independent, sometimes it’s vital to ask for help.
  • as time-consuming as cooking and preparing ingredients can be, you can always do chores / errands in the interim while the food is cooking / baking. Which is satisfying.
  • I take after my mother, as the Italian side of me is clearly a fashionista rather than a foodie (though my waistline lately might disagree). Oh well.

I am trying really hard with this cooking thing, and it is a resolution that I made so I will see it through for the whole year. And I sincerely hope that as I gain more experience with cooking, it will be less traumatic. But at this point, I genuinely hate it. I can’t lie – as good as my lasagne tasted, and as convenient as it was that I got two meals’ worth out of it (I finished the leftovers off tonight), I would have much preferred to have bought a ready-made lasagne from a supermarket and warmed it up. Less stress, more time to enjoy my evening with Toby, and less money wasted on ingredients – the remnants of which are now sitting in my fridge until I throw them away in a few days’ time. Perhaps if my circumstances change in the future, I will have more motivation to cook a meal for two more often – and perhaps a better kitchen to cook them in! But for now, at least Toby seemed to enjoy the meal (which is a big plus), and my family sounded impressed when I told them on the phone.

Next, I want to attempt to make Toby a moussaka the way my nan makes it – which is amazing. I don’t expect to live up to her lofty standards, but I will give it a go! Eep.

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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.

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untouchable.

August 30, 2009

I was sitting in the back of the car on the way back from Tetbury today, where my parents and I went for lunch.  I was in a pretty foul mood, for several reasons: since upgrading my Macbook to Snow Leopard yesterday, I’d had numerous application faults, and the latest was that I was unable to use my printer, which meant that I was unable to make a start on the preparatory task I’d been given for uni.  (I’ve since fixed the printer, and after numerous re-installs and restarts, Snow Leopard seems to be working fine now, and has also made my iPod go back to working at normal speed! 🙂 ) I was then feeling apprehensive at the prospect of having lunch with my parents, because it’s always the same: we go to a pub out in the country, have some standard food and drink, either make stiff conversation or blend into the background while my parents talk to each other, and then turn around and come home again.  I just can’t be bothered to make the effort for something so boring, and playing ‘happy families’ feels so fake.  I then had to get changed to go on this lunch, and I realised that half of my wardrobe is effectively shit, which meant that I ended up throwing a pile of clothes across the room in search of something to wear.  When I found a garment that was suitable, I had to pick these clothes up and put them back on my chair.  I dumped too much hair gel on my head in the midst of this rage, and then had to make it work. (I did.) Then I got downstairs after my mother kept hollering at me to “hurry up”, and proceeded to wait for my parents!!!  If they were telling me to hurry up, why did I end up waiting for them?

So I was in a mega-sulk.  I was listening to Courtney Love / Hole on my iPod and saying nothing, reading American Psycho.  After walking around Tetbury (since it is so tiny, it did not take long), we ended up going for lunch in a place called The Crown.  For the first half an hour, I was quite unimpressed by The Crown.  The decor was a bit run down, but that wasn’t really an issue.  However, my mother ordered a tonic water, and received half a glass, which I brought to her and then brought back to the bar to check that it was meant to be that small an amount of water. (It was.) Then two dogs (why were dogs in the pub?!?! They weren’t guide dogs) proceeded to have a loud fight in the corner, and my father brought over the food menu, which consisted of 6 items, including “lazange” and “cod & chips in sause”.  After clearing up the residue from the bottoms of our glasses, because we were not provided coasters (nor did they seem to exist anywhere in this establishment), I settled on the “lazange” because my parents were getting irritated at my mood and the fact that I could not decide what to eat (they said that we might have to go elsewhere, and I did not want to deal with the combination of their annoyance at my indecisiveness, and prolonging our stay in Tetbury any more than was necessary). It turned out that the lasagne was lovely, and so was the garlic bread that came with it.  The food was that place’s saving grace; still, I don’t think I will be going back there again.

Eventually, my parents engaged me in conversation and things started to improve as my mood slowly lifted.  We talked about my mother’s friend who looks like she is going to die of cancer quite soon, then about certain friends and relatives of mine who have pissed me off either by criticising my every decision (I am not a moron: I know the risks and possible consequences of smoking / using a sunbed / drinking a coffee at Starbucks / spending a lot of money / not getting as much sleep as would be ideal.  I’m an adult and I can make decisions for myself and weigh up the pros and cons.  If I decide to do something, I don’t need you on my back asking me if I’m sure I want to be doing that, because this is my life and I don’t tell you how to live yours. Yes, you are criticising me and my ability to choose what I want to do, and I have had enough of it thanks, so please don’t ‘impart your wisdom’ in the future, because I don’t want it and I don’t need it.) or by suddenly getting indignant that I don’t want to see whatever crappy film they choose, because I am tired of wasting my money on films I have no interest in, and going to the cinema is not a particularly sociable activity anyway, so why is it suddenly such a problem if I don’t want to see your film and am happy just to go to a café and converse?  And when somebody else is busy, I politely accept it, but now that I have other commitments, it inconveniences them and I’m supposed to feel guilty?  No way.

So I let off a bit of steam, my parents assured me that I was utterly in the right and had nothing to feel guilty about, and that to just let the people who were on my back have some space and it would all be fine.  A sensible plan I shall try to adhere to!  We left Tetbury, and I started thinking about other people who have gotten on my nerves.  My thoughts turned to my ex, and my mind went over how I had sent a text message revealing my intent to break up with him to him instead of to my friend Hannah.  He chose to believe I had done it on purpose, that I had orchestrated the whole thing on purpose for an easy escape and to humiliate him in the process.  That was totally not the case, and I tried to explain it and was sorry to have sent him that message; it was an honest accident, and Hannah was meant to receive the message (it even said her name at the beginning!).  But his friends, who had never met me, told him I must have done it on purpose, so he chose to believe them rather than me.  That’s fine, that’s his loss.  I don’t apologise twice, I didn’t want to be with him anyway, so I let him believe what he wanted – I was emancipated at the end of the day. I regret causing somebody hurt like that, but I don’t feel guilty because it was an honest mistake that I had apologised for; to have that apology thrown back in my face by not only him, but other people who don’t know me at all made the whole thing easier for me to just move on.

But thinking about it, I thought that I couldn’t believe that I let him touch me, put his hands on me, kiss me.  It makes my skin crawl, not only because he was so clingy, but sometimes the thought of physical contact makes me shudder.  I’m generally quite at ease with physical contact – I’m quite close to my parents and my friends, hugging them and such.  Obviously, I’m not a virgin so when I’m in the mood to be intimate with someone, it feels right and I’m not forced into it.  But when I put my mind to it, I don’t like people seeing my naked body (and never have); returning to the idea of façades, I try to give off the idea that I am confident in the way I look and at ease with my body, because it makes me appear more confident and flawless.  But in reality, I don’t like feeling exposed and I don’t like being touched or kissed or anything like that.  I have major trust issues, I know that.  Every single person I have dated has let me down in one way or another, and quite a few of them have just wanted sex from me and then got bored, either because they weren’t going to get it, or because they got it and then they didn’t have to pretend to be interested in me as a person anymore.  At times, it makes me sick that I’ve let these people touch me, put their hands on me and use me to further their own pleasure.  Sometimes I wish that I were untouchable; sometimes I wish that I could just disconnect my heart and mind from my body and float off somewhere while people are doing what they want to do with me, to me, for me.  Sometimes I wish that I could be with somebody who really liked me for who I am.  Because I am tired of protecting my heart, only to let somebody in and then it all goes wrong and I am hurt and used anyway.  I guess that whether it’s physical or emotional, it’s the thought that I have been used that makes me really sick, hurt and regretful.