Wednesday, December 29, 2010

House Arrest

Owing to 1) me being sick, 2) it being Christmas and 3) there being loads of really good things to watch on telly 3) there being a huge pile of books to read, I have placed myself under house arrest, which, in spite of (or most probably because of) its anti-social nature, is a thoroughly restful and indulgent state of being. This is all aided and abetted by the fact that my fridge and cupboards are somehow busting with food, even though I have been a fairly infrequent visitor to the supermarket of late. Admittedly, that fact can attributed to: 1) the gift of a cheese hamper from brother number three, 2) the gift of a baked ham from my mother (one of the many benefits of being a culchie is that your parents give the most amazingly comforting gifts, right out of nowhere, like hams and electric blankets and bales of briquettes) and 3) the gift of living seven doors down from brother number one and his wife and their two kids ("oh hi guys, gosh is this a mealtime, I didn't even know, really, are you sure I'm not...oh great, thanks, pass the salt").

Being a rather antsy sort, I like to Achieve Things on a daily basis, but also, being a rather contradictory sort, the Things I Achieve can be as minor as putting a bag of recycling in the shed; more Thing than Achievement, really. Anyhow, baking or cooking something is definitely a good few notches above putting out the bin, and since I am poorly (*self-pitying sniffle*) I feel that that gives it added Achievement status, particularly if the baked or cooked good in question is something that I have never turned my hand to before. After I had done a quick audit of the contents of my fridge and cupboards, paused to assess the mood of the tastebuds/stomach/appetite and considered how long I wanted my next culinary experiment to be hanging around for, I decided to go with quiche - tons of butter and flour for pastry, the gifts of the ham and the cheese, a jumbo packet of eggs, parsley in the garden, leftover creme fraiche from something-or-other. And the final essential: the guiding hand of Darina to assist this novice pastry and quiche maker in creating something that will not taste hideous or go so horribly wrong as to spoil all of my food options for the coming week and force me to *shudder* leave the house.

I've never made pastry before - why bother, when, not only is jus rol handy and very perfect-looking, but  also all the 'sleb chefs openly use it on telly and repeatedly tell you that they use it. In defiance of trendy, slavish celebrity chef-emulating behaviour, I have decided that it is just not good enough to be a lazy user of jus rol and that it's time for me to grow up and learn how to make the stuff. My four arguments in favour of making it myself are 1) that all important Sense Of Achievement, no matter how minor, 2) it's clearly considerably less expensive to make than to buy, 3) it's more environmentally friendly, what with packaging and shipping blah blah blah and 4) if I make a load of it and freeze it then I can have it to hand whenever I like, without having to *shudder* leave the house. Goodness, I am all about the numbered lists today, amn't I? Must be cabin fever. Anyhow - on with the pastry.

I knew that me and shortcrust pastry were going to get along ever so nicely when I discovered that you don't have to make that tediously organised move of having the butter out to soften half a month in advance. In fact, it is desirable that everything is as cold as possible! What an accidental triumph of my un-organisational skills! Hello, lovely slabs of cold, hard butter.

And it slices up so nicely, chippity chop, 110g butter into 225g plain white flour.

I am far more skilled in the breadcrumb esque-ing of cold hard butter and flour than I am at the creaming of room temperature butter and sugar.

I have very much taken to beating eggs in these mugs, I love the seventies vibe of the rich yellow against the browny tones of the free-with-petrol ceramics from the seventies that I robbed from my parents' house.

See now, that wasn't so difficult. Into the fridge with it for a while.

I am immensely pleased with myself; what it lacks in perfect-lookingness, my pastry makes up for in endorphin-releasingness.

It now has to be baked blind, which requires backing parchment and beans, neither of which are in stock chez moi. Rather than *shudder* leave the house, I improvise and use brown paper and brown rice. And into the oven with it for 25 minutes.

While the whole baking blind thing is underway, I brave it out to the garden and stomp through uncrunched snow in my wellies to retrieve some parsley. I am very impressed to see that the hardy herb emerges springy and green from underneath the inches of snow. And could someone please fill me in on what this constant insistence on flat leaf parsley is? Since I am suspicious that it is yet another trendy food fad phase thing, I am ignoring it in favour of the old-fashioned stubbornly curly version, that reminds me so very much of the 80s, when parsley was the only herb in town. In the interests of using up the contents of my fridge, I've plopped a dose of leftover creme fraiche into the beaten egg mix.

Here is my baked blind shortcrust pastry, all brown and imperfect and ready to be loaded up with quicheyness.

Eileen's ham and some stunningly stinky camembert.

Loaded up with a well-beaten eggy, creme fraichey and parsley-ful mix.

180 degrees, 40 minutes and: ta daaaaaaaaa!

It was a tad touch n go when I was easing it on to a plate, but these silicon baking dishes are an absolute marvel when it comes to averting potential falling-apart crises.

The first slice of many. And would you take a look how that camembert ooooooooozes.

No comments:

Post a Comment