davidn: (savior)
It's Christmas Eve! Allow me to share with you a piece of Scotch cuisine that isn't available here unless you prepare it yourself - they're sausage rolls.

They are made by rolling sausage meat (acquired by skinning and emptying sausages, if you have to) in puff pastry and gluing the arrangement together with eggs. They're not normally festive and are actually quite unremarkable, but I feel that every time I make something in the kitchen that doesn't cause severe injury to any human in preparation or consumption it's worth posting about.

davidn: (rant)

(Dragon picture is Power Chord by Anne Stokes).

I know I don't say this often, but I think I might have been better off just making it myself.
davidn: (Jam)
I am nothing in the kitchen if not a great experimenter. Well, an experimenter, anyway. Just ask the several people who have enjoyed my cooking without any trace of personal injury. And when [livejournal.com profile] wolfekko sent me an isolated outtake from Mystery Science Theater 3000 last night, I was so utterly exhausted that I didn't even realize that the idea behind the clip was that he was holding a stack of waffles - so I was suddenly infused with a desire to make square pancakes.

When I came downstairs this morning, I realized that I had no idea how I might go about making square pancakes. Qualifications thus in place, I started searching for something non-flammable that might be able to act as a template.

Ah, this'll do.

After washing the lid off, the theory was simple - it's the same dropped scone mixture as normal, only poured into a well-oiled flour tin lid on top of the normal griddle.

Turning it over, however, is a tricky manoeuvre - and one that I realized I hadn't planned sufficiently for when it was time to turn the newly appointed pancake-basket over. In the end, I did it by using a spatula to sort of catapult it over, with a pair of tongs to anchor one side in place. Getting the pancake out of its case is a bit more difficult, requiring the use of an oven glove and the induction of a hand spasm.

And there they are. I admit the bottom one went a bit strange, but there's an odd novelty to them (they look rather like French toast).

It was an enjoyable experiment, and the way that the pancake is restricted in sideways growth meant that it produced some fluffy, beautifully risen end results, but the process is a bit of a hassle - you have to rely on intuition as to when to turn them, because you can't see the bottom of the pancake, and the time taken in bashing them out during the upending process means that they're a little more well-fired than I would ideally like. And you have to clean the template out and re-oil it between each one to make sure separation is... possible, so overall it's a bit more trouble than pancakes are really worth to remain appealing.

If it were just a square metal band, though...


Aug. 22nd, 2012 08:26 pm
davidn: (Jam)
I was making some lemonade with a hammer tonight - I didn't realize that the box of concentrated lemon juice we'd bought contained a bottle, and as we'd kept it in the freezer I needed to break the lemon-ice up inside it before being able to slide it all out of the spout into a carafe.

After that, the procedure would have been straightforward, except soon after starting I realized that I'd been following the wrong recipe on the back of the box and had been making a lemon meringue pie. I thought that the amount of sugar it called for seemed a bit much - on balance, it's just as well I noticed the problem when it was telling me to put butter and eggs into it.

It's very nice - sweet, though. And also quite opaque.


Jul. 4th, 2012 05:20 pm
davidn: (savior)
We spent our afternoon furthering my continuing endeavour to make everyone else at work a bit fatter than I am:

The process )
davidn: (skull)
I have no idea what this is.

At its core, it's chicken with rice - but after putting those together semi-successfully, I decided to improvise a bit. It's surprising that I always forget years of past experience and only ever remember that this is a huge mistake towards the end of my cooking process.

I'd known that it was at least theoretically possible to infuse rice with egg, but all the recipes I could find were full instructions for egg fried rice with soy sauce and everything, so I just made it up as I went along and threw some milk and curry powder into an egg mixture. I think I overdid the volume of egg a bit despite only using one, and it didn't produce the sizzle I'd hoped for on putting it into the pan, more sort of sitting there squelchily - once I'd folded it all in and overcooked it to make sure it wasn't raw it fell on to the plate like some sort of rice omelette.

And the chicken was just picked off a roasted whole one (done much more professionally by Whitney the previous night) and wasn't cooked from raw - I'd tried to warm it up a bit under the grill, but I left it in a little too long as I got distracted with other things and I sort of... toasted it a bit. Dinner last night was the weirdest breakfast ever.

Tonight it's Pancake Day, though - I can do those without any problems.
davidn: (Jam)
When Whitney was out at Shakespeare in the Park last year, I was left to cook dinner for myself, and it didn't really go all that well. So tonight was a chance to redeem myself for that and prove that things really can be all right if one of us is out of the house. When we found out that a pair of solidly frozen burgers were the quickest things to cook for the evening, she was understandably a little nervous and insisted on getting them apart herself so that I would avoid the most dangerous stage of the process - after all, even something as simple as a burger and frozen onion rings involves both the hobs and the oven, doubling the potential for issues.

But neither of those things caused a problem at all - usually when it's just heating things up, I can be reasonably competent if I really concentrate. In fact, everything progressed smoothly, although once again I overdid the burger in my usual fear of undercooking it, and if one glosses over the way that I set the oven gloves on fire, the evening passed without any sort of incident whatsoever.
davidn: (Jam)
I've lasted ten days fending for myself with only the aid of a large collection of pre-made supermarket meals. Only one more dinner until we're back together and I can officially declare myself having survived.

Today, it's the Independence Day of this great country, where over a fifth of the population believe their president is a Muslim Nazi, creationism is seriously debated as a political issue, and there isn't a branch of Tesco for 3000 miles. I got up late - still a novelty to me - and not wanting to be a sore loser about my new country of residence's celebration of its independence from me, made some pancakes for lunch. Because let's face it, you don't get much more American than pancakes for lunch without putting them through a waffle iron and then going out and indiscriminately shooting people.

I think my normal recipe worked just as well for larger pancakes as well with a bit of added milk, although due to misjudging the sizes a little, I obviously had to spend a while shuffling them back and forth between the griddle and two plates so that no larger one was ever on top of a smaller one before I got to eat them.

I might take a heap of British biscuits into work to share around tomorrow, as a reminder of what they'd be paying far less import money on if they hadn't thrown our tea into the harbour.
davidn: (skull)

I think I might need to adjust the recipe a bit. This has somehow inverted itself and become mug in a cake.


Apr. 5th, 2011 07:32 pm
davidn: (rabbit)
Tonight, I put together a chicken korma, with an imported Patak's simmer sauce and rice boiled in stock for some added flavour.

Absolutely nothing remarkable happened at all.

Now go away.
davidn: (Jam)
I have something here called a Hot Pockets, or possibly a Hot Pocket if it adopts a singular noun. As it's been more than demonstrated by this point that I am not meant to cook for myself, on the occasions when Whitney is away during the evening I now base my own dinners around America's ample and diverse supply of instant meals, and this pizza... thing is the latest in my line of experimentation.

In the box, you're given a pair of strange pop-up sleeve things, along with the two expected frozen brick-like lumps and two separate sets of instructions on how to prepare them. I chose the oven method rather than the microwave, because even though I'm resorting to things like this I've got to at least grant myself the illusion of some decorum, and I considered that even I could handle leaving it in a hot place for twenty minutes and that there was little to no chance of seriously injuring myself. Indeed, this is the entirety of the preparation - you just need the wits to separate the bit that's edible from the bit that's not, small as the distinction might seem.

The sleeve that I mentioned is for holding the "sandwich" (I have no idea what to call it, it defies classification), in a further health and safety measure for people who don't realize that ovens are hot. It instructs "This side up", and I wasn't sure whether it meant the flat side or the curvy side of the cooked article, but I chose not to worry about it because sandwich orientation has never been among my priorities. On the reverse, the sleeve also proclaims - and I am copying this directly from what's in front of me - "Might as well have a free hand to text while you're eating". I mean, crude as these comments are, do Americans even have to wonder why they're the subject of so much obesity-based ridicule throughout the world? They practically write this themselves.

Still, once you have slipped the nondescript un-sandwich into the pocket in accordance with its instructions, you can have at it, and the outer shell is a sort of crumbly pastry that breaks away to reveal an orange tomato and cheese sauce underneath with lumps of pepperoni in it. I suppose it doesn't contradict the description, but as with all instant meals, the disparity between the appearance of the recognizable cheese and tomato product on the box and the orange guddle of reality is not exactly unnoticeable. I was actually surprised because I had expected the outer part to turn out more bread-like, but in fact it's not unlike eating a pastie, with the ingredients of a pizza instead of meat and onions.

Who else would be stupid enough to combine pastry and pizza?
davidn: (Jam)
Well, Whitney was out again tonight and it was up to me to work out dinner for myself.

The full story )
davidn: (skull)
1. Go to the supermarket and buy a box of cake mix. Realize halfway back that said box doesn't include icing.
2. Go back to the supermarket and buy icing. Go back home.
3. Go back out to the supermarket and retrieve the icing from where you left it on the counter after buying it. Trudge back home.

I think I'll just stay in bed for the rest of the week.
davidn: (skull)
Three days... three days after my kitchen skills were so casually mocked. Whitney was away this evening and I was on my own for dinner, so I went to the kitchen at seven o'clock with the plan of cooking one of the burgers from the freezer, chopping it up and guddling it together with pasta and cheese in a preparation not unlike a flat lasagne. It's not healthy or sophisticated, but it's simple and a nice comfort food - when you make it right.

My greatest mistake took place before I'd even started, in the separation of the burgers. I press my own out from packaged ground beef, because they're a lot cheaper that way, but even though we started putting wax paper between them before putting them in the freezer, it's really a matter of luck whether they separate readily when they come out. This wasn't one of those times, and after trying to dunt two of them apart on the edge of the chopping block, I resorted to my standard backup method - I took the breadknife out and wiggled it between them. After a couple of centimetres it shot through it, didn't stop at all and with all my strength behind it, I rammed the sharp point of the knife a significant distance across my left index finger.

For the next few minutes, dinner progress was forgotten as I ran my finger under the tap, pressing the top of it and hoping that it would stay on, trying not to think about how deep the cut was and wondering if the bleeding was ever going to stop. After a while I retrieved a tissue from the living room, formed my left hand into a rigid OK symbol with the tissue in between to keep pressure on it, and looked for the antiseptic. It wasn't in the bathroom, so I phoned Whitney to ask, but about twenty calls later I was beginning to get the feeling that she was never going to pick it up. So I gave up and looked down in the basement, where I found it in a box that had never been unpacked. I poured it over my finger, it stung a lot, and then I wrapped a plaster tightly around it - I haven't looked underneath it since and I'm hoping it'll just be healing away without intervention.

With one hand Elastoplasted into a permanent Phoenix Wright pointing action, though, making dinner would prove difficult - I did what I could with one and a half hands, as not a lot of it required a whole lot of interaction - a frying pan, a pot of water, and that was all that was really needed. After about fifteen minutes I did my best to pour the pasta into a sieve, the process being made very awkward with only the use of one hand, and I left the burger on for rather longer than I'd intended as a result. Eventually I got the pasta back into the pan minus the water, and turned around to find the cheese. I was thinking that at least America had introduced me to the concept of bagged grated mozzerella because I was in no position to prepare any myself, then I opened the fridge and found that we'd run out.

I therefore had for my dinner: One burger, overdone in black Scotch outdoor barbecue style, about a cubic inch of the only available cheese that I found, a misjudged amount of completely plain pasta, and about half my own finger.
davidn: (ace)
I hadn't realized that it was P-P-P-P-P-P-P-P-Pancake Day (or if you're American, the decidedly less appetizing-sounding Fat Tuesday) until mid-afternoon yesterday, so I brought out the griddle again and demonstrated that there are some things that I can make in the kitchen without an actual adult's help.

I think my mobile phone can make even a picture of pancakes unappetizing. Nevertheless, this is the same recipe as last time, with more milk added so that the batter just distributed itself over a wider area.

Here's a question - do you spread your jam/butter/whatever you like on the first-cooked smooth side of the pancake, or on the underside so that it soaks into all the little holes?
davidn: (Jam)
It's been a continual source of bafflement to me that whenever I try to act like one of the real human beings, the world just refuses to work in the same way for me as it does for everyone else. Take the example of scraping together some lunch - feeling slightly stingier than normal today I decided to go up to the big kitchen on the sixteenth floor at work and get something edible from there rather than spending any money or interacting with the outside world. Given previous experience it might have been better to abandon this idea at its inception, but I pressed on nonetheless.

The sixteenth floor kitchen had been entirely changed round since the last time I was there, so it took me a while to find anything, but from what I could tell it still manages to provide a selection of items that are mostly entirely separate, cheap and/or calorific, and can't really be combined to form anything resembling lunch. The closest I got was some English muffins (which aren't English and don't resemble muffins) sliced in half with blocks of cheese spread around on the top, which I intended to transform into cheese on toast with the nearby toaster oven. Putting it all in on a paper plate, I set the timer and waited. If I had kept things at this sort of level then there would have been no trouble and I would have escaped in the five minutes that they would take to toast.

But while I was wandering around waiting for those five minutes to pass, I read some of the posters on the wall, one of which was the instruction sheet for what the CIC calls the "soda fountain" - a collection of giant alchemical-looking flasks on a rack full of luminous liquids. I don't like carbonated drinks so it was probably a mistake to try it out at all, but something drove me to investigate anyway with the vague intention of finding out if Fanta with normal water was all right. Now, what you do with these things is simple and was written in a set of easy steps up on the wall - you put a cup under the spout coming off the bottle of syrup, you unscrew the handle a few turns, wait for a modest amount of the stuff to pour out, then spin the handle in the other direction to completely close it, after which you go off and fill the cup the rest of the way with carbonated water. It's simple and works fine for any normal person.

Not for me. I confidently pulled a cup off the pile, held it under the nozzle and gently turned the handle, which promptly fell off, clattering into the bottom of the cup followed by a mercifully slow but steady and relentless syrup torrent spewing forth from both the remainder of the spout and the hole in it where the handle had been stopping it from getting out.

I picked the orange-covered screw-like tube out of the bottom of the cup with my fingers and tried to re-insert it into the handle, but without any success - screwing it in in either direction didn't help, because it required more pressure than it was really possible to give it with one hand occupied holding a cup that was creeping closer to full by the second. In a smooth Indiana Jones-like manoeuvre I pulled another cup off the pile with my increasingly sticky hand, put the first cup down on the counter while simultaneously shoving the second one under the nozzle, and continued the effort, looking round at the deserted kitchen for any sort of stopper or wad of Blu-Tak or anything that might help.

Eventually a man with a beard arrived, and I mentioned the slight soda fountain related problem to him as he walked past. Helpfully he immediately ran out to get a technician before I could say that all I needed was a hand on the back of the flask to screw the handle back in, leaving me still stuck there with a growing assembly line of cups filled with bright orange glutinous stuff. By this time the level in the bottle was almost below the handle, which would have released me from syrup-catching duty and allowed me to sort the problem easily.

But just before it ran out due to the natural force of gravity, which my family have had a talent for since the 17th century so it's something even I can't mess up, I finally managed to get the screw to catch and spun the handle back in at the same moment that the man from before came back apologetically saying he couldn't find anyone. I thanked him for his help anyway, poured the luminous contents of the cups back into the bottle, recorked it, washed my hands and then went back to the oven to get my lunch, which the toaster oven had baked almost solid to the plate during the time I was distracted by the soda fountain at the opposite end of the room, and was now on a uniformly brown plate that had been white when it went in. I got some yoghurt to go with it.

This is why Whitney cooks in our house.
davidn: (Jam)
I tried to make a pizza again.

I really don't have a suitable explanation for this. I don't remember putting a hedgehog in it.
davidn: (skull)
This is the first day that I've made it to the station but then just given up all hope of a train ever coming - the pavement is a one-inch-thick sheet of ice. As Whitney's out at work while I do my job at home, I'm secretly baking surprise oatmeal cookies for her to come back to. I'm normally good at that, but I realized too late that we didn't have any eggs, so I just threw in some mayonnaise that we had lying around instead. I fear that these cookies are going to absolutely redefine the word "surprise".

This post's invisible to her just now - I might open it up if she detects that anything is amiss. The egg substitute was on the advice of the Internet, and the dough tastes fine to me.
davidn: (Jam)
Or you could alternatively title this post "Why I'm an Imbecile".

One of the nicest features about the building I now work in is its kitchens, which are regularly stocked up with food supplies that anyone is free to nab things from. The 14th floor kitchen was a critical resource for us when we had meetings here, with various raids happening roughly hourly, but during the first few full days here I began to realize that despite the wide variety of things on offer, there's not a whole lot that you can combine together to produce an actual lunch (unless you count a pack of crisps and some Babybel, which I do, but... moving on).

The nearest thing I found was in the larger upstairs kitchen, which had a collection of packets that described themselves as "EasyMac", some sort of fairly vile microwaveable macaroni cheese convenience food. I think that in common with a lot of people from Scotland I have something of an appreciation for really bad food (I've certainly never understood the soup-in-a-tower opposite end of the scale), so this didn't really bother me, and I tried to follow the instructions as a couple of people speaking German to each other wandered in and started making coffee.

The first difficulty was trying to pour "2/3rds of a cup of water" over the dry pasta that I'd dumped from the packet into a paper bowl. America is several decades behind in decimalization, and seems happy enough in being one of three countries, the others being Liberia and Myanmar, not to have switched over to a naturally human system of measurement, and even though I've been in it for two years I can't get used to having to remember whether there are fourteen, sixteen or twelve of anything in anything else and having to think about things in quarts, yards and furlongs per fortnight. A "cup", unlikely as it might sound, is also a defined unit of measurement here, and though I know the general idea of what one looks like it's very difficult to actually translate that to a volume of poured water. I filled the bowl up to just cover the pasta and threw it in the nearby microwave for four minutes.

After pacing back and forward for a while, time was up, and I lifted the arrangement out and looked down at a sort of consolidated disc of dry welded-together macaroni. As I walked back to the counter with it, the larger of the two Germans leaned over. "It looks rubbish", he said happily through his large beard. Or more specifically, he said it in that sort of jovial brutally honest way that only people in German-speaking countries seem to be have truly mastered. I replied "'Schrecklich', you might say", because it always seems to catch people off guard when you know any other language than English or Spanish here, no matter how shakily. He was suitably impressed and wandered off with his younger companion while I looked at my assumed lunch so far and tried to decide what I could do about it. After some considering of the options, one of which was to give up, I added some more water and repeated the process, this time getting something that looked marginally more edible but not really any more appealing.

The cheese component of the mixture was provided in suspicious yellow powder form in a packet that was tightly sealed against anyone attempting to open it. After biting it open with my carnivorous teeth, I upended it on to the bowl despite there looking like there was far too much of it, then decided that there really was far too much of it and not enough water in the bowl to possibly absorb it. I topped it up a bit from the hot tap, then wondered how on earth I was meant to stir the watery, powdery, pastaish stuff together into a glutinous whole with the amount of room that I have available in the bowl without spilling everything over the sides. In one of my moments of genius, I went for the approach of placing another paper bowl over the top of the existing one, holding the arrangement tightly to prevent any of it shooting out the sides, and shaking it up and down over the sink.

My manual prevention of the stuff leaking out the sides worked perfectly. Unfortunately instead the bottom of the first bowl instantly gave way, having been already weakened severely by being microwaved twice, and the entire contents splurged revoltingly down into the basin, leaving a wide yellow splatter mark with a perfect disc of macaroni in the centre, which was still fused to itself as well as the entire bottom of what had once been the bowl it was microwaved in. Deciding it was best at this point to back off from the toxic substance, I scraped the remnants out of the sink into the bin, washed off the sink and made a cup of a Pot Noodle-like concoction instead, which could simply be reconstituted by pouring some boiling water into it.

On the way out back to the office area with this I passed the Germans again and had to explain what had happened to my original meal as they noticed that what I was carrying back was significantly different from what they'd seen me making. They were most amused - as much, I think, at the idea that anyone had attempted to start making the stuff in the first place as at my abject failure at it. It really says something that I can't even make a microwave meal without it turning out this apocalyptic.

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