Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Eat Your Heart Out Heston

It happened again last night. The recurring dream. Or nightmare as the case may be. I am back in school, walking down the main corridor next to the refectory and slowly but surely, the other pupils start to point and laugh. I can't understand why so I just hold my head up high and carry on walking, trying to get to my class on time. But the jeering and hysterics reach an unbearable crescendo. Even teachers passing by erupt into spasms of laughter. It feels like everybody has their eyes on me and the pressure of this claustrophobia is immense. My head feels like it's going to cave in. And then it hits me, the realisation that I am stark bollock naked. And there's nothing I can do about it except run. Or wake up in a cold sweat.

Psychoanalysts would probably have a field day with the significance of this but I think it basically boils down to a nagging feeling that I could have done better at school. Don't get me wrong, I loved school but in some lessons, I should have paid more attention and perhaps not been so mischievous. Take science for instance, I ran riot. I shall never forget Mr Carthy's face turn ashen when I explained that I had just stuck the tip of a thermometer into the bunsen burner and that poisonous mercury had sprayed all over the ceiling of the classroom (Alan Kwok put me up to that). He turned apoplectic when he found out that I had 'accidentally' set alight to his makeshift greenhouse at the back of the classroom. Well it had been crudely constructed out of cling film and garden canes, anyone wondering around with a lit splint could have done it. I do however feel pangs of guilt when I think about poor old Dr Goswami and the stress we put her thorough. Originally from Bangladesh, she had rather a strong Bengali accent which to us mean-spirited kids was a source of great amusement. During one lesson, Dr Goswami was instructing us through an experiment, telling the class to make sure that we kept our thumbs on the test tube whilst gently shaking it. Unfortunately her pronunciation of "thumb" sounded like "tongue" so cue 30 idiots sticking their flappy, pink dorsums over the top of said test tubes and wiggling their heads back and forth. She very nearly burst into tears as she screamed over and over again "No look! Use your tongue! YOUR TONGUE!". Like I said, children can be cruel so Dr Goswami I would dearly like to apologise for our actions that day. And thank you for resisting the temptation to repeat the experiment later that week with potassium chloride.

As a result of all this tomfoolery, I'd say that my appreciation of science is limited and narrow-minded. And if we delve further into the realms of food science, my understanding is positively luddite. So when Alexis of LexEat, outside Barbican tube station handed over a suspicious looking, brown paper wrapped package (pieced together with skull and cross bone sticky tape I may add) and a card with a long winded formula written down, I was immediately gripped by the fear. After walking away, I even had to double check that I had my clothes on.

In the emails leading up to our exchange, Alexis formed the opinion that I had been having it far too easy with all this WMPC malarky and that I would have to do some cooking for a change. Which I thought was pretty cheeky actually. It's not easy having to eat all this food you know which at the end of the day is for the purposes of critically evaluating the food blogging community at large. A lot of people may talk the talk but do they walk the walk? Credentials need to be tested and erm, that's what I am doing.......(cue long pause and tumbleweed rolling past).

So OK, after Alexis' jibing, for this particular swop I did expect to have to do a little bit more than zap my meal in a microwave but I didn't expect to have to follow a set of algebraic instructions, which went as follows:

1. Boil H20

2. Pour H20 over X (already seasoned), stir, cover

3. Reheat C

4. When X has absorbed H2O (approx 2-3 mins) stir through

5. Place X & Y on plate, add C, top with B

6. Eat

7. For dessert, sprinkle N on M

8. Inhale

I spent a good half hour on google back in the office, trying to decipher what the hell H2O was and what X and Y could be but kept getting links to skin care products and Chris bloody Martin. In the end I gave up the ghost and decided to take the package back home that evening where my better half took hold of the instructions and proceeded to berate me.

"Look you just have to boil some water and pour it over the cous cous (X), heat up the slow cooked lamb (C), when the cous cous is ready stir in the pistachios, sultanas and pomegranates (Y) and top the whole lot with the Greek yoghurt, cucumber, mint and cumin mix (B). (M) is a chocolate pot with smashed Maltesers (N). Plonker".

I didn't hear that last insult, I was far too busy having my Eureka moment. I'd seen the light, finally knowing how Archimedes felt after scrubbing his back with a loofah but did this meal, which Alexis had quite obviously taken time to prepare and put together, bring culinary enlightenment? Well yes it did, it was very good indeed. Although not an entirely new one on me and I must take this as a sign to get my WMPC posts done quicker, the slow roasted lamb which came with butternut squash was wonderful. The lamb was very tender, packed with middle eastern flavours, cumin, garlic, coriander. The smell was certainly evocative of Moroccan cuisine. The cous cous was a lovely surprise as I can find it a bit uninspiring but I have never tried mixing it with fruit and nuts before. Combining ruby flecks of pomegranate sweetness with the nutty textures, this cous cous was gorgeous to eat and light and fluffy too (but was that down to my deft touch of boiling water and fork fluffing wrist action?). The yoghurt and mint provided a fresh lift that countered the richness of the meat. I am not entirely sure if I was meant to snort the crushed maltesers as per Alexis' instruction, that would have taken the experimental nature of this swop too far but mixed in with the chocolate pot, her thick indulgent mousse provided a very decadent end to the meal. Superb effort Alexis.

I should add at this part of the post that unfortunately our timings meant that we didn't have much opportunity to have a chat as Alexis was on her way to Sheen Suppers the night we met but I am very grateful that she came out of her way to bring me my dinner, which I swapped for a bottle of Australian Chardonnay. I do know this about her though, she is another lawyer who secretly harbours a desire to become a food stylist. After this effort I would certainly endorse her to go ahead with this dream. However Alexis, one thing I don't understand is how can you not find Eddie Izzard funny?

I should also apologise for taking so long to write this frigging post. I seemed to have lost my blogging mojo over the last month and over the Christmas break. I found it eventually, at the back of the fridge next to some out of date cottage cheese.

I blame Alan Kwok for my lack of scientific knowledge

The Magic Formula

What does it all mean?

Slow Cooked Lamb with Butternut Squash, Pistachio, Sultana and Pomegranate Cous Cous and Greek Yoghurt with Mint, Cucumber and Cumin


  1. Dude, you definitely haven't lost your blogging mojo - fantastic post! :)

  2. Fantastic and what LF said - no lost mojo coming through in the writing.

    LOVING Alexis' formula-based instructions; genius!

  3. Wow, they should make all ready meals like this, or am I just a geek? Loving that x+y action!

  4. Great post Dan :) very funny! and I too would have been perplexed over such instructions, and would also have sought Chris Martin's advice re X and Y. He's the expert, no?

  5. Right at the start there I thought Alexis was having a little laugh with you and had supplied a Pot Noodle, but no. She'd actually supplied you with a fantastic looking meal. Fabulous.

  6. See what happens when you style yourself Preston Blumenthal...people expect you to understand some science stuff :0

  7. Dude, if this is you with low mojo...Now go and cook me dinner.

    Alexis, lamb looks delicious! Recipe please?!

  8. I am on Lex's team. Cook for me. You said within the hour, although didn't specify which hour! HA!

  9. Love it! Love the drama and it looks and soundz delicious. Whats's this about you cooking for commenters? ;)

  10. Oh yes Oh yes I'm in time for you to be cooking for me!

    I assume this is open to all WMPCers ever?

    OH YES!

  11. I'm sure the twins could have worked that one out, non??!! Great write up and fab food!

    Now when is it you're cooking for me...?

  12. SOunds lovely! The meal I mean. This scared me

    "A lot of people may talk the talk but do they walk the walk? Credentials need to be tested and erm, that's what I am doing"

    So er, I really shouldn't have given you one of my little 'experiments' then?! I do remember it nearly blew your head off. It did mine too. I think I need to refine that recipe slightly ;)

    Anyway, your school stories made me laugh. I remember locking our maths teacher in the store cupboard once. Although to be fair, that's nothing but I'm not about to repeat the things I got up to on the interwebs. The got me chucked out on more than one occasion.

  13. Love the algebraic formula or Ikea style instructions for the food!
    When you cooking for us lot then?

  14. I could have sworn I posted my comment here this morning!! Hmm.

    Great, entertaining post as usual.

    Not sure if anyone remembers the "pop" test from science class? You make hyrdogen and then collect it in a test tube and stick a lit match/taper in and there's a small "pop" noise. Well we made hydrogen but were too lazy to collect it in the test tube so just stuck a match into the tube coming out of the conical flask. There was a huge explosion and glass shattered and spread all over the room. People came running from the class next door to see what had happened. My ears were ringing for days.

    Luckily the boiling water and couscous experiment was a little safer!

  15. ah, the terrors I used to get up to at school... The dinner sounds delicious!

  16. I like what Lex did although it would have scared me - I was never any good with algebra. Looks delicious