For those intimately acquainted with the Great British Bake-Off, the term ‘soggy bottom’ will be familiar. For those who aren’t, let me explain. It doesn’t refer to an unpleasant incident following a night of drunken debauchery. It, in fact, refers to the status of the crust of your pastry-related creation.
A ‘good bake’ has a nicely cooked golden crust on the bottom, no translucency or greyness; it should be tap-able and a bit flakey (just like me). At this point I must digress.
On TV the ‘Great British Bake-Off’ is, apparently, going State-side. Soon you Americans will too enjoy the delights of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry critiquing Mississippi Mud Pie, Apple Pie and who knows what. And from recent comments made by Mr Hollywood (a Liverpudlian, and they don’t pull their punches) it isn’t going well.
Because, he says, when he provides some honest feedback (e.g. this tastes like something my dog threw up) the contestants start blubbing! They can’t take the negative feedback. But it’s something we are well used to in this Sceptred Isle – we’ve spent the last 100 years being told we’re crap.
As I said, I digress. Time for Salmon Quiche.
This weekend we visited one of my sisters’ homes and celebrated my oldest niece’s birthday. The event highlighted for me the inevitability of growing up and getting older. The third generation of my family now consists (my side) of 2 children (boys), one nephew, and now no less than four nieces.
The youngest of these is not yet one (at least I don’t think she is, I’m really rubbish at ages and birthdays) and is still small enough that even though she can sit upright she has a tendancy to roll around on her backside and then flop forward and face-plant if you aren’t careful.
Nevertheless she provides good entertainment value: I was holding her (she is small but seems to weigh her equivalent size in lead) and gave her one of those baby biscuits; she was happily chomping on it and then when I looked down she seemed to have forgotten it. I pulled her hand up so she could see it and then she reacted like it was something she had never seen before and she continued gnawing at it; the whole episode made me think that babies have memories like goldfish – 3 second retention span.
This made me think about the boys – one minute you are changing nappies, reminding them to go to the loo and so on, the next minute you are explaining to their teachers that they ‘are good kids’ and that ‘they just need a firm hand’ and whatnot.
Nevertheless I have found that the older children get the more useful they become…especially in the kitchen. The capacity for children to eat food (especially males) is quite amazing. The oldest boy now only seems to appear when he requires fuel. He sort of just appears like a jack-in-the-box, eats, and then disappears.
So in an attempt to stay connected with these people, (seems like the best description), I try to encourage participation in the kitchen.
And there is no better way to encourage this juvenile collaboration than when making trifle. It’s simply irresistible.
How many of you foodies out there worry about your weight?
Are you one of the lucky ones who, with the more you eat, the less you weigh? Or are you one of the silent masses, where every tasty morsel stretches the old leather belt running through the hoops on your off-the-rack charcoal grey suit?
Well I’m one of the the great unwashed. I just look at an iced bun and that old belt starts to groan.
Normally, well, I just don’t give a toss. But not right now.
Ooooh I’m so busy! Look at my Outlook calender – I can’t possibly meet you until next Wednesday…I’m in demand. People need me!
What am I going on about? Work. People at work who define their importance/brilliance/superiority by the number of meetings they have booked into their ‘diaries’ (in the UK we call them diaries – everywhere else its a calender).
Frankly it gets on my tits (which, BTW, are slowly evaporating as I am on yet another diet). I mean I don’t give a shit how many meetings you have, you still don’t deliver the goods and I need that Powerpoint presentation NOW!).
Anyway I am busy. Lots to do. Deals to make. Presentations to present. And I also need to prepare family-friendly fare that will be eaten at home and not shoved round the plate like the last stale custard cream on the plate at a particularly tedious strategy meeting.
So I decided to try out the French version of Shepherd’s Pie – Lamb Parmentier. It’s so easy – lamb, potatoes, stock. Period.
It’s easy right? Slow cooking I mean; Stick a load of stuff in a pot and set the switch to low. Walk away and come back 8 hours later to a delicious creation of tender meat and juicy loveliness.
Well no, not really. We acquired a genuine slow cooker recently. And I have never used a slow cooker. Its got a ceramic bowl that sits in an aluminium shell that warms up. There are three settings – low, high and auto.
How difficult can it be? Difficult. Painfully so. You see there are, I learned later on, some rules to cooking with a Slow Cooker. We’ll get to those later on. For now lets take a look at the cooker: