Saturday, 15 October 2011

How to save a stew

There are in my life perhaps five people (not counting immediate family) I would consider to be my friends. I used to have a lot more than that, but over the last few years I have succeeded, both intentionally and accidentally, in shouldering off all but the most hardcore, trusty lot.

These five are my dead prostitute friends: that is, people I would call if I woke up in a hotel in Las Vegas and there was a dead prostitute in my room.

Three of them - Simon, Slang (girl) and MH (boy) - are criminal barristers. Julia Churchill, who often makes cameos on this blog, is a literary agent and Arnold (girl) is a television producer.

Arnold - a master of logistics - would spirit me out of the hotel and get me a fake passport and a rented flat in Havana, the criminal barristers would keep me from the chair if the feds ever came knocking and Julia would secure me a sweet book deal whatever happened.

They are also terrific in non life-or-death situations, too.

For all sorts of  reasons I have been thinking about my DP friends recently and I realise that I've learnt something about friends in the last ten years: it doesn't matter how many you've got. Even if you've only got one: as long as they'll be on the next flight out to Nevada to save your skin, that's all you need.

Speaking of saving things, my husband performed open-heart surgery on the goulash that I had lovingly prepared for him and then BURNT and saved it from the bin.

What happened was this: I made the goulash (q.v.) in the normal way but made it in much too big a pot, so the water bubbled away leaving a trailing mess of burnt pork and peppers.

"Fuck." I said, looking at it.

"No it's fine," said my husband. He scooped out everything except the most burnt stuff, mashed it up in a different, smaller pot, poured over a wineglass of water and then heated it all very gently for about 20 minutes. Then we had it with a lot of buttery macaroni, sour cream and parsley and it was really actually quite nice.

"You can do this with anything that you've burnt a bit," said my husband. "I mean, not completely to a cinder, but the secret is not to disturb the most burnt parts, get out the stuff that isn't burnt and then rehydrate it elsewhere."

So there we go: how to save a stew.

And if you commit any more serious crime than that, in your kitchen or elsewhere, I know some great lawyers.


  1. I, too, would like you to print the email exchange.

    Don't you have some secret, members-only blog somewhere?

  2. He sounds useful to have about the house. I would have screamed and chucked the whole pot out the window, then sulked and eaten ryvita.

    I agree about friends. Any who aren't DP friends end up sucking the small amount of emotional energy I have right out of me.

  3. I had a very public friendship breakdown. The kind of monumental event that would be expected from at the very least people who have spent 4 years together at university, or a horrifically claustrophobic gap year living together in a one room apartment in the bowels of a drug fuelled corner of a major metropolis. But no, we were 16, in a highland village and they took exception to how I dealt with my sisters death. I ended up (initially) the loser, drugged up to the eyeballs by a woman called - I kid you not - Dr Quinn, and a wreck for the next 10 years. But I found my DP friends and now I'm still a but mental but better for going through such a character assassination. I think.
    DP friends keep us sane.

  4. I second Nel. Other people lives are so much more interesting then mine. And I'm in the last week of writing my thesis, so I need some mental patient emails to entertain me/distract me.

    And great advice about saving the stew. It would probably work for rice too, though if only I had known that last week. My stressed out brain thought mixing the burnt bits in would make it all better. Turns out it doesn't.

  5. So, Esther, did the goulash taste better than if you hadn't burnt it at all?


  6. I am almost incapable of cooking bolognese without burning at least a bit of it so I've got quite good at not disturbing the burnt bits. This reminds me that I'm well overdue some goulash.

    Love the blog, as ever. I find I eagerly wait for each new post so thank you for giving me a nice-look-forward-to thing, the more of those in my life the better :-)

  7. Elizabeth Medovnik16 October 2011 at 23:48

    I like the burnt bits! It's why I'm such a terrible cook: everything turns out oily and burnt because that's actually the way I like it. But now I know how to rescue it if I want to feed it to other people, so thank you Giles.

    Sorry about your friendship ending but in the grand scheme of things it sounds like it was better that it did x

  8. Well I'm the kind of greedy B that would hide the pot and scrape off the burnt bits whilst pretending to do the dishes.
    As children we used to fight over who scraped the black bits from which ever pot - before arguing over who washed, who dried the dishes...

    My brother used to say if the drier caught up with the washer the washer did the lot... he would pick up all the wet plates , dry the top and bottom of the pile and put away... took years to work out he wasn't bothering his arse to do it.

    Friends are similar, I think, some don't carry the guilt factor .