Yesterday I made an amazingly delicious Ottolenghi vegetable tart that would have looked extremely smug if I had just posted it on social media without comment, but I am absolutely amazed it even turned out to be edible given my ridiculous methods.
I post a lot of pics of food on my social media, because I enjoy cooking and I love eating. And food is incredible. I mean, really it is. I often marvel at the first person who thought to put this ingredient with that ingredient, expecting it to result in something tasty. But the prep is often a lot less schmick than it looks on TV, even if you have excellent tools (and I know why we had to memorise a very small range of dishes as Thermomix consultants – you want to be completely unflappable when demonstrating and know that you’ll get a perfect result…when you have an audience is not the time to be experimental or uncertain).
So here’s what yesterday’s episode of my imaginary show Cooking with Bec would have looked like.
- Look at delightful vegetable garden and decide to find a recipe that uses silverbeet, also known as chard. Either name is not especially appealing, though the addition of ‘rainbow’ for the brightly coloured stalks makes it slightly better.
- Find an Ottolenghi recipe for Swiss chard and herb tart with young cheese and get excited because I think I have almost everything on the ingredients list either growing in the garden or in the fridge. Stored in the fridge, not growing in the fridge.
- Swan about with a pair of scissors, gathering garden bounty. Arrange it prettily on the chopping block and take a photo because I will never not be excited about growing things I can eat.
- Decide to do the thing of portioning out all the ingredients beforehand and cooking methodically, rather than grabbing things as I go. Have things arranged pleasingly in little bowls and jugs, ready to serenely be added to the pan without anything burning.
- Realise I don’t have celery. That’s alright, will substitute zucchini. We have a LOT of zucchini.
- Realise I don’t have pecorino. That’s alright, will substitute parmesan.
- Realise I don’t have brocciu cheese. What the heck is brocciu cheese? Something like ricotta. Don’t have that either. Meh, probably doesn’t need it.
- Realise I don’t have puff pastry, which is a pretty key ingredient for a tart, but hey I have a Thermomix and the ingredients for pastry and isn’t this what it’s all about, making everything from scratch, so let’s make puff pastry people, even though I’ve never done it before.
- Follow steps for pastry. Seems easy enough. Put in fridge to chill while cooking tart filling. Everything smells great.
- Severely underestimate chilling time and buttery pastry blob is still very soft when it comes time to roll out. Think ‘that’s alright, I’ll just roll it under a piece of baking paper’.
- You’re meant to be able to roll it out, fold it in on itself, turn, roll it out again, and repeat several times. This is how puff pastry gets its puffy layers. Currently able to roll out, then despair.
- Get buttery pastry blob smeared all over work surface, hands, baking paper, rolling pin, face, hair.
- Scrape most of the buttery blob back into some semblance of a square, shove back in freezer for a while. Put rolling pin in freezer also, for good measure.
- Wonder how late it will be before we eat.
- Attempt to roll pastry out again. Slightly less of the buttery pastry blob gets on self. Think “stuff it, this will do” and transfer to baking tray. Doubt there will be any puffy layers.
- Recipe says to cut out a circle of pastry. Nope. We’re having a deformed oval shape. That was my intention all along.
- Arrange filling. Crimp edges. Brush with egg. Shove in oven. Hope for best.
- Look at the destruction of the floury, buttery kitchen counter covered in little bowls and jugs and wonder what Maggie Beer would say about my cooking style.
- Thank God for dishwashers and that there are no TV cameras anywhere near my house. Who the heck would want to cook on TV?
And look at how it turned out!
It was absolutely delicious. The pastry was more dense like shortcrust rather than puff, but that didn’t matter in the slightest.
So my cooking show would be extremely messy and unorthodox, but it would still get results and I daresay would be pretty funny to watch. As it is, I’m pretty happy that most of the time only the cat sees me cooking, in the hope that she’ll get something that falls to the floor. And her odds are pretty good; a lot of bits fall on the floor when I cook.