Whilst compiling a (sadly quite extensive) list of things I’m not terribly good at, cooking would feature towards the top somewhere… Over the years, I’ve dropped some comestiblic howlers, if I do say so myself and I can’t even blame it on the fact that the cooking sherry missed the pan and landed – purely accidentally you understand – in my mouth. Damn and blast. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve mastered the basics: I can conjure up any form of toast… Except that I can’t: French toast is off the menu as I don’t know what it is and as for Melba toast… That just sounds ridiculous. You’d get beaten up where I’m from for admitting to eating Melba toast and anyway, isn’t it some form of peach yoghurt? I have a few signature (snigger) dishes… Chilli, toast, spag bol, cheese on toast, beans on toast with a sprinkling of cheese, boiled egg sandwiches, Pot Noodles... erm... That's about it...
One Christmas I put myself in charge of dinner and the kindest way of describing it would be… brave. A brave attempt at a festive feast on my part (naturally) and a brave (although failed) attempt by my father and brother at eating what I served up. Temporary madness must have set in when I came up with my menu... I compiled a starter consisting of Marmite Surprise, which, if you must know, consists of cheese on toast with a thin smattering of Marmite secretly stashed under the cheese, so when the consumer bites into it, they are, ahem, surprised by the unexpected twang of yeast extract. Yum! Main course was a gastronomic disaster on a grand scale: the meat was undercooked, the vegetables overcooked and I forgot to retrieve the Yorkshire puddings from the oven. By the time I remembered – which was when the smell of burning and a thick haze of smoke clung lazily in the air - they had been reduced to what looked like conker-sized balls of soot. For pudding – oh yes, there was pudding! – I smothered a couple of Kit Kat Chunkies in custard. Needless to say, dinner was a fun-free, silent affair, apart from the odd groan after a particularly troublesome mouthful of my hard graft.
After moving into the new place t’other week, I took an extra day off to try and get the last bits finished off… Poor Mr Blokey, bless his cottons, had to go back to work, so after I’d finished pottering, I thought I’d surprise him with dinner… After raging through the isles of Tesco, I came home, washed my hands and prepared the following menu…
Starter: Cup of tea.
Main: Steak and Ale pie, Mash, roasted veg, some extra broccoli (as it’s a special superfood and I like the fact that it looks like a baby tree) and gravy.
Pudding: Me. Ho, ho and thrice ho, etc…
Everything was going well. The veg was roasting away happily, the mash was all ready to go in the microwave (what did you expect? I mean, really…) and the pie… The pie was looking tremendous as it sat proudly in the middle of a preheated oven at 200 degrees… After 40 minutes, I looked through the oven door and could’ve wept with pride. The top crust was golden brown and the smell engulfing the kitchen was mouthwateringly beautiful… After getting the plates ready and quickly laying the table, I turned the oven off and opened the door… At this point, I reached for the oven glove, only to realise that I didn’t own one. Three seconds of lip chewing and head scratching ensued before I had a brainwave as to how to get my lovely pie out. A beach towel and an oversized wooden spoon would facilitate the manoeuvre handsomely, I surmised. Only it didn’t. The beach towel wasn’t thick enough to withstand the heat and the wooden spoon was as much use as the next waterproof tea bag.
Somehow, the pie appeared to be stuck on the shelf. I tapped it gently with the spoon, but nothing gave, so I gave it a whack. Still nothing. By this point, I was choking on the heat and my patience was running on empty. After one more hearty thwack, the pie suddenly came free and lurched itself brazenly towards me. Faced with a 200 degree pie hurtling itself dangerously towards my head, I pulled my hand round and attempted to catch it with the beach towel. Unsurprisingly, I missed. Time slowed down (oh yes it did) as I watched helplessly… the pie flew mesmerisingly through the air before gravity claimed it, pulling it unsympathetically towards the cold tiled floor. It plummeted downwards and landed with a dull thud. My dream of cooking a pie was over. Sob, etc.
I got to my feet and shut the oven door, an eerie silence filling the room; its leaking innards acting as my sorry muse of failure. I was gutted. The silence was broken moments later when Mr Blokey, looking handsome and dashing in his suit arrived home, wishing me a cheery hello before asking what was for dinner… I looked ruefully at my cookery malfunction, took a deep breath and breezily answered him with another question: ‘Don’t suppose you fancy nipping to the chippy do you?'
Below: the pie of doom, weeping openly on the kitchen floor. Bless.