Recently, we noticed a check-in on FaceBook from our dear friend, Gaille. She was at Harry’s Cafe de Wheels. Memories came flooding back of meat pie and mushy peas being consumed in the early hours of the morning after a big night out in the Cross, usually at the Bourbon and Beefsteak. Aahh, the good ol’ days. These days, The Slow Chef and I are not long off rising at this hour, not stumbling home.
On a perfect Saturday morning in Noosa, after a brisk hour-long walk through the Noosa National Park, The Slow Chef declared he was going to make meat pies with mushy peas for dinner. He found a recipe on the Taste website and made a list of ingredients to purchase, including pie dishes from Gibsons, our local homewares store (suddenly a simple dinner becomes quite an expense when you have to buy cookware).
I find it incredibly hard to step back and let Nick take over the kitchen. This is my flaw, I’m a control freak. So, when I saw a list of ingredients that included gravy powder and stock cubes I had to step in and suggest another recipe that used flavour from real food, not from the shelf of a science laboratory.
Whilst my intentions were good (I promise), I only managed to confuse The Slow Chef.
“Use the first 2 steps from this recipe, then these steps from this recipe, and finish with the final step from your original recipe.” Thus the reason I rarely use recipes, I change almost everything.
I am also not a very good teacher. I tend to tell Nick what to do, without explaining why. For example, I suggested he put the mince to cook on a low heat whilst we went to the shops. My logic: it will be cooked when we return, he can drain off the liquid, set the fat (to discard) then use the stock to make gravy. His logic: I will be able to think clearly if I go step-by-step through the recipe, without interruption.
Instead, he stepped through the recipe that did not state to drain the liquid (and I forgot to tell him) and as a result there is no stock for gravy. It is a minor detail that is overcome with gravy powder but it highlights the skills and tricks that are acquired over years of cooking, that you pick up from your parents or through trial and error.
The kitchen now looks like a bomb has gone off. It is not helped by the fact that one bench is always used as a dumping ground – my handbag, school notes, bolts , screwdrivers, magazines – junk waiting to be sorted. One of the best things my Home Economics teacher, the wonderful Mrs Ess, taught me was to always clean as you go. Keep a sink full of hot, soapy water and wash items to be reused, stack others in the dishwasher. Wipe benches between each task. When you place an item in the oven, your work area should already be clean.
Further frustration (for me) sets in when The Slow Chef is standing in the kitchen not doing anything. Why? He is waiting for my apple crumble to finish in the oven before he starts. In my kindest (but not condescending) tone I suggest (OK, I tell him) to start assembling his pies in the new pie dishes, as these tasks always take longer than expected.
It is at this point I realise cooking is definitely a skill acquired over time. Nick is a very smart guy with lots of common sense. He is co-ordinated and good at any sport he attempts. So, I am surprised when multi-tasking in the kitchen doesn’t occur naturally to him.
This recipe calls for several steps:
- make meat mixture and cool
- assemble pastry cases
- make mushy pea mix
- make gravy
As he is assembling the pies, I remind him to boil the potatoes that he has ready in a saucepan, but to put the bag of frozen peas back into the freezer until he needs them. At this point I step away from the kitchen. My blood pressure is rising and I am not coping very well. Far better for me to have a glass of wine in another room.
Half an hour later I am hailed to the dining table and presented with a delicious dinner fit to be served, well, in the finest caravan in Wooloomooloo. How lucky am I? I have a wonderful husband AND he can cook…if only I would let him.