Sunday, 15 April 2012

Kitty's Jersey Royal hash

I have, many times, been in bad relationships. Relationships where the boy just flat out didn't like me and treated me badly and made me miserable. But I never left because I used to be one of those people who secretly loved the drama of it all and because when you are with someone who gets you accustomed to being treated badly, when they do something nice you are ten times more overjoyed than you should be. You nurse little scraps of affection. I'm not proud of it.

I have been thinking about this a lot because Kitty is being a bit of a pain in the arse at the moment. She is 14 months old and still can't walk and her molars are coming through and she's got a cold and she's just being unusually unbearable.

She wants EVERYTHING. She wants to be picked up, no put down, she wants to sit on this narrow windowsill and play with the catflap. She wants the cat - SHE WANTS THE CAT! PLEASE I WANT THE CAT. Now she wants to get down and walk, walk, stumble, walk walk. Now she wants to stand at this cupboard and open and close the door. Open, close, open, close, open, close. Open. Close. Now she wants to take out and smash the china PLEASE LET ME SMASH THE CHINA I WANT TO SMASH THE CHINA. Now she wants to be picked up! Down! Up! Down. She wants to run after the ball and kick it but she can't run or really kick. Now she wants to screw and unscrew the lid on this tube of moisturiser but she doesn't understand how the screw mechanism works. RAGE! Now I want to be picked up and go somewhere to do something but I CANNOT EXPLAIN WHAT IT IS SO I AM JUST GOING TO GO RED AND GO "EEEEEEEHHRH? MMMMMMOOOO?! EHHH EHHH EHHHHHHH?!"

And that represents probably less than five minutes in the life of Kitty Coren at the moment. It's pretty dementing. My friend R encapsulated the same experience that she is having with her otherwise impeccably-behaved toddler, who is 16 months old. "It drives me a bit mad. Endless pointing, pointing, pointing. Ehhh, ehhhh, ehhh. Never happy. Thank god for bedtime," she says. Another friend, L, who has three children, says "Yes it's that angry Japanese tourist thing that toddlers do. It's miserable."

And while all this made me feel a lot better - my child is not peculiarly awful, she is just entering the famously nightmarish toddler stage - it has brought back to me the experience of having a really shitty boyfriend.

As with a bad boyfriend, I continue to coo at her and say "come on then, pumpkin, what's up with you?" in the hope that she will be mollified by my dote. And, as with a bad boyfriend, when she does something - anything - nice: crawls on my lap to bash her snotty face against my cheek in the parody of a kiss, or decides after two months of spitting Calpol out that she is going to sip it nicely from the spoon and say "num num" afterwards - I am beside myself with joy.

"What a good girl you are!" I shriek. And I feel such a fool.

Anyway I made this for her lunch today - not that she would suffer to eat more than a few spoonfuls of it, the ingrate - and it was terrific and a great thing to do with the new Jersey Royals that are coming through at the moment.

Babies like this (she did eat quite a lot in the end) or it's a brilliant starter or brunch.

Kitty's potato hash

However many new potatoes you want per person
1 egg pp
handful peas pp
handful cheese pp
double cream, just to slop over
salt and pepper

Pre-heat your oven to 200C

1 Boil your Jersey Royals for 20 mins then tip into a baking dish and lightly crush with a fork.

2 Defrost some peas in the bowl with boiling water for a few minutes and add to the pan.

3 Scatter over cheese and drizzle over some cream until things are wet but not soaking. Season and stir together.

5 Crack in your eggs and bake in the oven for about 10-15 mins or until the eggs are set.

The sky's the limit in terms of ingredients, here. Chop in some bacon if you like, or mint, or chorizo or mushrooms or anything. Then make an appointment to get yourself sterilised.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Measuring cups

I try hard not to buy kitchen gadgets, I really do. They are mostly a waste of space and money - a one-way ticket to disappointment and self-loathing.

But for every Jamie Oliver Flavour Shaker, (impractical), rice cooker (pointless) and juicer (amazing but hell to clean), there is the Dr Brown bottle brush (life-saving), openy-closey bright yellow lemon squeezer (I love you), Japanese mandolin (mmmm) and Cuisinart steamer basket (couldn't live without it).

The trouble is: how do you know? How do you know a set of poach pods isn't going to revolutionise your life? How do you know that you don't need, now, this particular silicon spatula?

I mostly try to resist, until my fingers, literally with a life of their own, reach for the chopping board that folds in on itself, or the banana hanger, or the toaster bag. Then I get them home and hide them from my husband, who partly despairs at my gadget-madness but also partly loves it, as he can say "Do we have something that will slice this apple into neat segments and section off the core?" And I will say "Why yes, and it also has soft rubber grips so you don't hurt your hands!!!"

Anyway today I caved in, having not bought anything for months and months (mostly because I've GOT IT ALL), because I saw these measuring cups in Waitrose, which I really think might change my life. My set of little metal measuring spoons rule the roost in my kitchen and there's no reason why these babies shouldn't occupy a similar topspot in the kitchen pecking order.

They measure not only in ml but also in cups - that maddening American instruction - so you can be all transatlantic about your cooking. They are also reassuringly practical and utilitarian - this craze for neon silicon cannot end soon enough, as far as I'm concerned. I seem to remember Nigella saying how much she loves her set of measuring cups, which she bought in America. (I may have made that up.)

But now a set can be yours for £9.50, from your nearest Waitrose with a kitchen utensil section. Now I just need something to cook.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Holstein Schnitzel

I continue to be deeply troubled by meat-eating. It never used to be a thing with me. I laughed at vegetarians - a lot. Silly people. Silly, silly. But in the last few years it's crept up on me, this horror of meat - accelerated by the arrival of my child, I'm sure (although having a baby hasn't made me a nicer person in any other regard; HM Revenue & Customs officials, John Lewis nursery department floor salesmen, Barclays Bank telephone banking jessies and National Health Service receptionists London-wide will attest).

What keeps coming back to me, again and again, is a bit in the Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. There are these horrible aliens, the name of which now escapes me, who live on a planet with these gorgeous sort of deer-creatures with shining eyes and angelic temperaments and have antlers made out of fine filigree - or something. And the horrible aliens treat these deer-creatures abysmally and kill them for meat and ride them until their backs break and eat their children and so on.

That's me - that's us. It's only really just occurred to me that that was the moral of the story. We are the disgusting aliens. And sometimes when I hear people talking about how they are going to cook meat I feel as revolted and perverted as if I'm listening to a conversation about how to cook and eat children, or people. How can you salivate over the cooking of a dead creature! It's so terrible! Isn't it? Isn't it awful? And wrong?

But I don't want to stop eating meat, because it's too complicated. My reasons are too pathetic. And I never, ever eat meat that hasn't had a better life than mine. I spend an extortionate amount of money on quality meat and I dress myself in rags. Does that make it alright? I just don't know.

Anyway, sorry. I'm sure a lot of you think this sort of soul-searching is boring and stupid. It's just taken me entirely by surprise. I just didn't think I was that kind of person.

Nothing troubles me more than veal, except lamb. And chickens I suppose. Buck buck buck! It's all awful. But we purchsed some (rose) veal escalopes from the farmer's market the other day from the Twelve Green Acres farm stand, which is a small organic farm in Dorset.

We spend so much money there that the bloke practically breaks into a jig when we slope up, requesting this week's happiest and most indulged creature that died of natural causes for us to worship for a while before cooking ritually and eating while murmuring prayers.

Inspired by a recent trip to The Delauney, London's latest swankhole from Jeremy King and Chris Corbin (The Wolseley, The Ivy etc) we made veal schnitzel Holstein. Have I got that right? It's breaded veal escalope with a fried egg on top.

It goes like this.

2 veal escalopes (must cost at least £4bn each)
medium matzoh meal YOU CAN GET IT FROM WAITROSE but don't get one that is kosher for passover, which is swilling about at this time of year, because it is considerably more expensive than the normal stuff and you will be needing to watch your pennies having bought your veal
seasoned flour
oil for frying
4 eggs

1 Set out three bowls, one with seasoned flour - and by this I mean heavily seasoned, three big pinches of salt, twelve turns of the pepper mill - one with the matzoh meal and one with two beaten eggs. Season the matzoh as well for good measure.

2 Dip the escalopes once in the flour, then in the egg and then in the matzoh. Set aside - I find I cake cooling rack most effective.

3 Heat up a lot of veg oil in a pan - about 1/2 a cm deep - preferably one that comes with a lid, until it is hot (but not smoking and going crazy) and fry the escalopes quickly, really just 2 minutes each side or less. Keep the lid hovering over the pan to stop your kitchen from smelling like the floor of a kebab van.

4 For the perfect fried egg, crack in the egg off the heat and fry gently - the egg ought never to pop or spit. Just as the edges of the egg look done, hover the lid again over the eggs so the steam cooks the top - that way you get a cooked albumen without having to flip the egg with yolk-breaking anxiety.

We ate it with broccoli. And a side order of GUILT.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Spinach roulade

We've had spinach roulade twice now while we've been staying at my parents' - it's very nice. Quite a Seventies throwback, I'd guess (without having done any research). But it's not nearly as troublesome as it looks.

My mother leapt on this as a dinner solution when she and Dad were in their manic Atkins diet phase. My father is obsessed with his weight because he has been tremendously thin for most of his life. Really, one of those very tall, very skinny, bony giraffe people. Then he hit middle age and his love of dinner and sweeties was no longer a thing to be celebrated. He was no longer a furnace of a young man who merely converted millions of calories into dinner party conversation, spying on the Soviet Union and long legs: he was getting fat.

So when the Atkins diet came along (second time around) he fell on it literally like a starving man and we all ate nothing but bacon and eggs and ran screaming from potatoes for about two years.

And for anyone doing Atkins, this is a great thing to have. You can stuff it with all manner of things - I have had it once with smoked salmon and creme fraiche and once with mushrooms (just diced and fried with butter, thyme and cream).

I will just go through how to do the roulade thing here as the filling is really up to your imagination.

Two eggs per person
A large handful (cooked amount) of spinach
salt and pepper

Set your oven to 180C

1 Cook down very low some spinach until you have a handful of very surrendered leaves. This is going to be mixed in with beaten egg whites so it needs to be finely shredded. Take a pair of scissors to it if you fancy.

2 Separate your eggs, keeping the yolks somewhere safe. Beat the eggwhites until large, light and fluffy but not stiff (we're not making meringue).

3 Mix the shredded spinach with the yolks and season. Add this to the eggwhites and stir to combine but try not to overmix, (I hate this phrase - of course I'd never knowingly overmix something you stupid cow/bastard, why tell me not to? - but you know what I mean).

4 Spread this mixture onto a sheet of greaseproof paper - you're aiming for a thickness of about an inch. Bake for 8-10 minutes until soft and springy.

5 Spread with your filling and roll up as above. Easier than it looks if you're careful. Although my mother does have a degree in fine art.

As it happens I'm having a simply ghastly time. I'm rowing with everyone (what's new?), suspicious that my operation hasn't actually worked, ratty from post-operative pain, discomfort and inconvenience, neauseous from the post-op antibiotics, furious at hobbling myself by pulling at a bit of loose skin on my heel and carving a deep trough in my foot, which is sending shooting pains up my leg, maddened by my camera's shitty attitude, demented with anxiety about having to go on three separate family holidays - two of them foreign - apprehensive about the amount of time between now and September that my husband is going to be abroad for work, wretchedly poking at a huge under-the-skin chin zit I thought had gone away and despairing over the fact that our builder cut through our central heating pipes (by accident) this morning, sending a fountain of water gushing into the living room.

I would say that I want my mummy except that she's downstairs and it doesn't make a blind bit of difference. AND she absent-mindedly ate the rest of my lunch, which I had briefly abandoned to take a phonecall (about central heating pipes).

If things don't improve I'm going to have to start casting around for someone to fire. That always cheers me up.