I would like to declare that the image you are looking at is the exact likeness of me. Which would be a complete lie because I look nothing like that, not even in my raciest dream; which are far and in between because my life has more action than required, thank you.
By now you know that I have a continuous fulfilling love affair with food. I will shamelessly allow myself to be seduced by rich aromas, and have my tongue cheat on different food groups. I usually host ménage-à-trois in my mouth, because separating my food is intolerable cruelty and life is too short to have a neat plate. Yes, I like to think of myself as the barefoot Contessa, with Siba’s body and possibly house, and a pantry as well stocked as Chandarana’s food isle. Life is what you make it folks, my dreams are valid!
So I have been binge watching the food channel since 0630 hours. I have trouble going back to sleep after my first one goes to school. The telly comes on, and re runs are not my thing. The food channel however is always interesting to watch, there are so many things you can cook from a myriad of ingredients including leftovers. Now that I have a family of boys, I must cook a lot of food for the ever increasing appetites, and varying palates. I do not believe in wastage, so the left overs in my house must be consumed; in their present form or modified to take on an entirely different meal. This task is usually taken on with varying degrees of gusto, depending on my emotions and more often than not, how much chilli I can throw in. I love me some spice, anything that will tickly my taste buds and make my eyes tear is welcome on my plate. Tabasco and all other chilli sauces are okay, but I find green chillies cooked in the pot along with other ingredients just takes the meal to a whole new level. A better level. A spicy level. A world where every bite is an adventure, you never know what to expect, and the suspense of biting into a big slice of the chilli is just too exciting. (yes, I find thrill in such mundane things… tee hee hee!)
Its nearly noon, my tummy is rumbling rather loudly. A steam engine would blush over the present noise emanating from my digestive. The last episode of chopped just eliminated the chef I had put my money on. I have watched enough episodes, and I see a trend here. Anyhow, maybe Caribbean and African themed dishes do not make the cut, but I beg to differ. I take on the challenge and decide to have a “chopped off” in my kitchen. 20 minutes for a starter, 30 for my entrée and another 20 for the sweets. Mmmmmh! That is plenty of time to prepare three courses. If they can do it, so can I! Kwani?
I limp off to the kitchen, I had not realised I had been seated cross legged on my favourite spot, and now my legs are numb. Perhaps five minutes of down dog will get the blood pumping again, or should I do the cobra? I had forgotten how painful pins and needles are, age is not a kind thing.
Right, I start with the fridge. What do we have in here?
- 6 brown chapatis ( I insist on eating whole food, because it makes me feel better, almost as if the notion of eating wheat is watered down because the said wheat is made of whole grain)
- A medium sized head of cabbage
- Three beef medallions, my butcher is a superstar! He really knows what I like and how I like it! May God continue to bless the work of his hands!
- Left over Tripe (this is my all-time favourite food! Because it tastes delicious and has zero calories. Yes, I am conflicted like that!)
- A bottle of Honey Tennessee, half full. ( My bottles and whiskey glasses are always half full, because I choose to see the option of topping it up with ice, or very cold water, to bring out those soothing aromas….but this is not the time to take you on a trip on how to taste whiskey.) I open the bottle and breathe in the goodness. Darnit! This here is some good stuff, I will just have a shot to confirm that it has not been watered down by imaginary persons.
I think I have covered all the food groups. I have a vegetable, protein and starch. A quick look in the pantry, and I find plenty of tomatoes, squash, onions, garlic and some unripe bananas. Now what shall I make of them? My whiskey induced brilliance brings me to the following.
Cream of squash soup
Beef flambé with garlic butter and lightly steamed cabbage slices
Microwave chocolate sponge cake with Vanilla ice cream
I am feeling so good about this menu I bloody well want to print it out and lay it on the table. Lets get to work already!
First. I wash my hands. Then wear an apron because I am feeling cute and every cook worth his salt wears an apron. It is expected. The same way a dentist MUST pull a mask over this mouth as he inspects your cavities, and must always wear gloves while handling his tools and anything near your mouth. I cannot explain why I prefer them in white gloves and not the blue ones. Am I being anal in thinking the blue ones hide some undetectable dirt, the type of trace dirt that would probably be magnified by white gloves?
I pull out my non stick cooking ware… I love these pots. Place them on the stove. I place the chopping board on the counter closest to the stove. Retrieve the vegetables and wash them, then admire what is about to be a decadent meal.
Because the devil is a liar and so is alcohol, I go ahead and set the timer on my phone, I will produce a meal in the exact time that it takes the chefs on Chopped. Nani kama mimi? (Who like me?) Do you see why I do not like translating? The meaning is always lost, or comes across as foolish. Aaaargh!
The clock is ticking, I decide to start with the trickiest of the three rounds, desert! I know that I am cheating with the order of meals but this is my kitchen dammit and I will make the rules here! I pull out the flour, some eggs, cacao powder, baking powder and a whipping dish. I roughly eyeball the ingredients, beat them to within an inch of their existence, pour them as neatly as I could into four cups and throw them into the microwave. I set it to 15 minutes because I figure the waves will need more time to work through the four mugs, I am a bloody genius!
I descend upon the beef like a moth to a flame. The meat is so cold, I must remember to turn up the temperature in that fridge. I set it on the chopping board and season it well. Some salt, garlic powder should do the trick, I have seen more than one chef chopped because he did not season the food properly ( yes, I am a quick study). I heat up the pan, holding my hand over it because I do not know how else to check if it is hot enough. When my hand could feel the heat from 15 centimetres , I figured I was good to go. So I seal the pieces first, making sure that I got the sides as well. Then I allow them to cook for two minutes on each side, because Siba said so. I throw in some butter, and a stalk of rosemary then do that thing where you “wash” the beef with the butter so it can cook evenly. Then I remember that this here is to be flambé, with the reckless abandon of a new lover on an old mistress, I pick up my glass and throw the contents into the pan.
How does the ENTIRE stove come up in flames? I swear I was engulfed in a ball of fire! There was smoke pouring from I do not know where, the pan was spitting at me like an ill behaved child, and what is that hissing? Have I completely charred my meat? Noooooooooo! I push open all my windows and throw open the door, the smell in here is so acrid even the neighbours start coughing. I will not be defeated! I have seen this happen a million times on chopped, I will save the situation if it’s the last thing I do!
Turns out, it was the last thing I did. As far as these pieces of my favourite meats were concerned. They were pure black. Like Tar. And they had shrivelled, I cannot explain how and why it happened so quickly. The stalk of Rosemary that I had thrown in… gone! Maybe it escaped the ball of fire and ascended into spice heaven. Chieth! (Merde in French). I put the blackened pan aside, I will deal with it later.
Beep beep beep! My cakes are done! I can trace faint smells of Chocolate cake, but the air is still rancid from the incident. I pop open the microwave and retrieve one of the mugs. What is this? Instead of a beautifully risen chocolate sponge cake. I had in my hand a sunken brown substance that was bubbling quietly. I can swear I could hear it sniggering at me, with those slight bubbles making a mockery of my attempts to produce a cake in the microwave. I decide that maybe this one was the only failed one, but with each mug that I pulled out, the results were consistently bad. Surely, what went wrong? Did I not put in enough Baking powder? Was the consistency wrong? Whatever! I still have enough time, I will make some more and try it again. I dump the mugs in the sink and turn my attention to the vegetables.
I quickly peel the Squash, handling the knife with Jamie Olivers dexterity. I dice them not too finely and throw them into a pot. I add some salt, a teaspoon of sugar ( to bring out the sweetness in the butternut), cinnamon and a dash of cloves. I add some chopped onion, and one clove of garlic. Two cups of water, and bring to a boil. I chop the cabbage in thick slices, I realize that I can use them to wrap the “charred” beef , but I would need to make them sweet to hide the burnt taste. I put them into a pot, add about a quarter cup of water, some sugar and honey. I cover them and allow them to steam for nothing more than five minutes.
I turn my attention to the pan. Honestly, this is an unholy mess. The beef has unbelievably shrunk some more. To add salt to injury, they are super glued to the pan. I try and try to scrape them off the pan, but nothing, they will not budge. I check the fridge for more meat, I have none. I check the freezer, there is nothing there but sausages and pre boiled beans. Darn it! Back to the pan, I scrap with all my might. Now I am talking to the meat, please come off the pan, I promise to make you look better than you do. It is not working. I lay a table mat on the floor, and bang the living daylights out of the pan. We shall eat this meat by force by fire! I am banging away when I smell something sickly sweet. Cabbage! My vegetables! Double Chieth! I turn the knobs and pull off the covers to find that what was meant to be slightly steamed has turned black.
Tititititititititi! My phone rings, my timer alerts me that my time is up.
I stand back and look at my kitchen. What the hell just happened?