Facing your cooking fears

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On this morning’s radio spot we talked about making stuff at home you’d normally not even consider attempting. For me it’s about facing my cooking fears and not being so scared of a kitchen disaster.

Yes, making stuff at home takes longer than picking it up off a supermarket shelf.

Yes, making stuff at home means you have to be a bit more organised and even, sigh, plan ahead.

But I’m here to say the results are so definitely worth it.

Take my no knead bread for example. You don’t even need to be that organised. Combine the ingredients (taking 5 minutes tops) in the morning. Come home from work, knead 10-15 times. After dinner bake. It’s seriously a no-brainer – and you end up with a loaf of bread comparable to an artisan loaf you’d probably out fork $6-$8 for for about a quarter of the cost.

Do it. DO IT!

So what’s your cooking fear, your baking nemesis?

Mine is choux pastry. Recipes for it sit and stare at me. One day I will take a deep breath and go for it.

I still have stir-fry disasters but they are largely because I commit the cardinal sin of over-loading the wok. I know I should do things bit by bit and can totally do that when it comes to browning off meat but then the idea of just stir-frying smaller portions? It just makes me tired.

Things people said on Facebook and Twitter this morning included:

Hollandaise – a popular fear-inducer. I still get Chef to make it when needed.

Frying – totally understand this. Deep frying did scare the bejeebus out of me until Gourmet Girlfriend put me onto using rice bran oil – it’s higher smoking point makes it the go-to for deep frying success in my books.

Meringue – I get that. You really need a stand mixer and they can be pernickety – humidity, egg freshness, oven temperature all play a part but hell, at the end of the day smother it in whipped cream and all will be fine.

Sponge cake – again, a stand mixer will make this far less scary. Mind you, the first one I ever made was way back in high school and the notion of ‘delicate’ eluded me. Mum cut it with the electric knife. Not my finest hour.

 

So what scares you? What do you think of a series of masterclass posts?

 

Onward!

Nigella Lawson feast from Feast: sage and onion chicken and sausages, chocohotpots, peas and lettuce, potato gratin

Monday night saw me make the most kick-arse dinner for some months. It was all from Nigella Lawson’s Feast cookbook, something I am somewhat obsessed with, so bear with me…

This is what it all looked like come dinner time:
Sage and onion roasted chicken and sausages

Nigella Lawson, Feast
I saw her make this and was intrigued. Intrigued enough to cook it, and MY GOODNESS was it seriously delicious.

  • 2kg chicken, cut into 10 pieces (or 10 drumsticks or thigh pieces or whatever you choose)
  • 12 chipolata sausages (she suggests anything from a traditional English sausage, to Italian or Chorizo)
  • 1 large onion, cut into eighths
  • 1 lemon, juiced and rind cut into eighths
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons English mustard
  • cracked pepper
  1. Put all the marinade ingredients in a large snap-lock bag (this is a great Nigella tip as it cuts down on washing up and lets your really mush the marinade into the meat)
  2. add the chicken and really mush the marinade and chicken together. Depending on when you do this, either refrigerate or leave at room temperature (I made it on a cold wet day and left it at room temperature for about an hour and a half)
  3. preheat oven to 220C
  4. pour the whole lot into a baking dish and tuck the sausages in around the chicken pieces
  5. sprinkle over the fresh sage
  6. bake for 1hr 15mins, turning everything occasionally so it all browns evenly.

Potato gratin

Nigella Lawson, Feast

I had been craving this for weeks and this seemed like the perfect occasion to satisfy it. The recipe was essentially the same as the potato dauphinois that I’ve been making for years, but it features this fancy thing with an onion. Mind you, on eating, it tasted no different, so I leave the decision on the value of the extra effort to you…

  • 2kg potatoes
  • 500ml milk
  • 500ml double cream
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 cloves, one stuck into each half of the onion
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3-4 bay leaves (although it was too wet for me to bother going out to the garden to get these)
  • good pinch of sea salt (Nigella says 1 tablespoon, I say woo down nelly on the salt)
  1. Preheat oven to 220C
  2. Bring the milk and cream to the boil with the onion, nutmeg and bay leaves, turn off the heat, put a lid on and let the onion infuse the milk.
  3. Peel the potatoes and slice 1cm thick – I use a mandolin for this as it turns a painful, time consuming job into something relatively painless.
  4. Put the potatoes into the milk mixture and bring it back to the boil.
  5. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart.
  6. Grease a large baking dish (about 30x37cm) and as you transfer the potatoes remove the onion and cloves and the bay leaves.
  7. Pour over the milk mixture and then bake for about 15 minutes or until its all golden and bubbling.
  8. Seriously one of my most favourite dishes of all time.

 

Peas with lettuce

Nigella Lawson, Feast

I have never ever been one for the cooked lettuce concept, but this, this has changed my world.

  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 45g butter
  • 1 baby cos lettuce, finely shredded
  • 250g frozen baby peas
  • 125ml chicken stock
  1. Cook the onion in the butter until soft, then add the lettuce and cook until it has wilted.
  2. Add the peas and stock and cook over a robust simmer until the stock has reduced slightly and everything is tender.

(Nigella – on the episode she cooks this on – says to cook for 20 minutes or so but I think 10 is ample)

For dessert I did my Chocolate Sludge, but it was weird and didn’t go sludgy at all. I think it’s because it was cooked and we didn’t eat it for a while, so the sauce component sort of got absorbed into the cakey top.

As there was enough of everything to feed the whole family again on Tuesday night, I made a new dessert – Nigella’s Chocohotopots.

 

Chocohotopots (makes 4)
Nigella Lawson, Feast

  • 125g butter
  • 125g dark chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C and grease 4 small ramekins (I used 1 cup size and you fill them about half way)
  2. melt the butter and chocolate together and let cool slightly
  3. in a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar, then fold in the flour
  4. pour in the melted choc butter mix and fold together
  5. spoon the gooey mixture into the ramekins
  6. cook for 20 minutes – the tops go all cracked and lovely and inside is just this gooey goodness.

I mean how easy is that? And can I just say, they are a.m.a.z.i.n.g. – and that’s from someone who really doesn’t do chocolate.

(Note: the recipe in the book adds 100g white choc chips, which you fold through at the end, but this just sent them over the edge. Chef and I agreed they would be divine with some raspberries folded through them.)