Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Agony Lout

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  1. OK Agony Lout. Good opportunity to talk about students going to uni (where you were until recently if I'm not greatly mistaken) What would you take with you in terms of kit and basic ingredients and what would you wait to buy there?

  2. On the whole it's probably best to see what's in your kitchen before you start buying superfluous utensils. You never know what goodies the previous occupants might have left behind.

    As for ingredients, it's always worth stocking up on spices, flour, tinned goods - pretty much anything that keeps and that you know you will use on a fairly regular basis. It's amazing how much more scope you'll have in the kitchen, and you'll save money in the long run. That night when you're fridge is empty won't lead to a last minute shop or takeaway if you have a cupboard full of pasta, tinned tomatoes, spices etc.

  3. Dear Larder Lout,
    How do you store half an onion without stinking out the fridge/kitchen?

  4. Grandma says, any advice for timing a roast and all the trimmings so that everything is ready at the same time?

  5. I'm so glad you asked Nougat. Half an onion is quite an asset to one's larder, and so to sling it is heresy, in my most humble of opinions. So, the stench thing. The method I usually use (perhaps a wasteful one, I fear), is a liberal shrouding of clingfilm, which should do the trick. Otherwise, tightly wrapping it in aluminium foil will be more odour-proof than clingfilm.

    I think the problem lies more in the forgetfulness of the cook, however, than in the smell of the onion. Most things left in the fridge for a week will start to pong. My advice is to wrap it thoroughly in clingfilm and use within a few days.

    Hope that is a help.

  6. Blimey Nougat, you really are keeping me on my toes.

    I think the whole 'timing' thing is generally misunderstood. Very few foods need eating immediately. In the category of ones that do I would place:

    - pasta (though the sauce rarely needs immediate munching, so you can get this done first)
    - risotto
    - green vegetables though most of these don't mind 5 minutes in a warm oven
    - eggs
    - noodles

    there are more of course, but these are the main ones.

    Otherwise timing skill is all in the preparation, not the execution - getting everything ready so that the cooking is stress free.

    Sunday lunch then - as long as you have a fair idea of how long everything will take, you don't need to be scientific about it. The meat needs to rest anyway, and your vegetables can be kept warm if done quicker than expected. Wait till everything is ready before you do the greens and you'll be sound.

  7. Dear Agony Lout

    This is the second time of asking, my first question must have disappeared into the ether.
    So yes, tips for hollandaise please? My attempts usually end up thin and watery.


    Food Urchin

  8. Hi FoodUrchin (if that is your real name),

    Like any emulsion sauce (mayonnaise, bearnaise etc) the trick is to start slowly (plus add it to above list of things that need eating pretty swiftly).

    Most foolproof method, in my view, is the following:

    Take one pyrex bowl and one saucepan of simmering water. Place bowl on top of water and drop in two egg yolks and a pinch of salt. Ever so slowly pour in around 200g warm melted butter, whisking continuously. Best to start with a dribble, whisk, dribble whisk until it starts to emulsify. Then you can start to be (marginally) more assertive. When you've added all that lovely healthy butter, whisk in the juice of a lemon.

    If it looks like it's going to split, add a tablespoon cold water and reduce temperature under simmering pan. If it does split, good and proper, fear not. Take a fresh pyrex bowl, one egg yolk, and repeat procedure, instead adding (sloooowly) the curdled mixture.

    Bon courage.

  9. Right, enough agonising. Agony lout, how come rubbing your hands on a stainless steel tap or one of those gimmicky little stones removes garlic and other allium odours? It's a mystery...

  10. Good evening Agony Lout,

    You're about to entertain three different dates on three consecutive nights out in London. Each insists on splitting the food bill straight down the middle with you. Monday's date has £15 to spend. Tuesday's date has £30 to spend and Wednesday's date has £45 to spend. Where are you planning to take each date, and which are you most likely to see again? Tell all, you dirty dog.

  11. Sig - you swine; I'm stumped, though I promise to have an answer by this time tomorrow.

    Matt - dirty dog?! How darest thee? Date one and I would go to one of the Vietnamese gaffs on Kingsland Raad, where we could eat famously for our £15 a head.

    For my second date (let's pretend your days of the week restrictions are semi-perfunctory) we'd go to the Saltoun Supper club (which operates only Weds and Thurs) in Brixton, where for £25 we'd get 4 courses of excellent food plus coffee and petits four, great vibe, and with a fiver a piece to spare for some (let's face it, pretty bog standard) wine.

    Date 3 sounds out of my league, though if that truly is the budget, and I lived where I live, then we'd go for cocktails in Casita (just off Great Eastern Street) then proper Mexican food in Green and Red on Bethnal Green Road.

    The law of averages suggests that one of these will be a success, if not all three.

  12. Fantastic advice, Agony Lout. If date one has any sense she will find the extra £75 to hold onto you for the rest of the week (a snip of an investment, me thinks). Lest she remind you of that spare £5 you have knocking around from your evening in Brixton together what wonderful breakfast will you be fixing for her on the morning after the three nights before? [Yes, she's still hungry.]

  13. Signe, in answer to your earlier question. I'm no scientist, but having slept on this real head-scratcher and conducted several experiments in controlled conditions, I came to only one conclusion.

    Things like garlic and onions all have a common acid that creates the odour (ethanethiol, I believe), to which humans are very sensitive (some more sensitive than others - I'm talking to you Sarah at the Easter Bunny Hop April 1997. Fricking Pringles).

    Aanyway, the metal alloy in stainless steel reacts with the ethanethiol eliminating the whiff. You can also use lemon juice.

    Garlic breath is a more problematic area. There are various theories, such as chewing parsley, but I'm not convinced. If you're going to eat a lot of garlic, make sure your companion is too.

  14. Matt - brekka always a tricky one. I'd probably lovingly make a proper cappuccino, with frothy milk and everything. The rest of the money I'd save for my lunch.

  15. How do I avoid burning garlic? And if I'm cooking the garlic with onions should i add the garlic later?

  16. Well Chris, it is a common concern. Indeed, my sister is often asking me this very same question. Garlic burns VERY easily - I'm talking 10 seconds if you're not careful. While in the same category as onion, in that it acts as a base to a sauce, it doesn't need to soften first to the extent that onion does. So yes, add it just before you start building your sauce. Stir for 10 seconds then add whatever you're adding - tomatoes, stock, vegetables, gherkins...

  17. Cheeseboards always seem exciting in restaurants but I just can't seem to conjure up the same effect at home. How do I make a cheeseboard seem exciting (without a French accent) and how much cheese should I buy for 8 people?

  18. That's an excellent question Nougat, and one that I know my esteemed mentor Fiona Beckett (see top of comments page) would happily wade in to answer.

    I have, in fact, discussed this with her before, and so I think my views echo hers:

    - Don't think you need to get a goat, a soft, a hard, a blue etc etc to have a 'complete' cheese board. Much better to just get one or two top notch cheeses. That way you avoid having a fridge full of cheese scrag ends.

    - For my money nothing is more wonderful than a big wedge of Montgomery Cheddar. At Christmas a truckle of Stilton is a must.

    - Choose your vehicles - for a summer lunch nothing can beat a baguette; a wintry evening calls for oatcakes or Bath Oliver biscuits.

    - Find a nice wooden board to serve the cheese on, and adorn it with a fig leaf.

    Anything to add Fiona?

  19. Spot on, Jimbo! People don't feel the need to serve 4 or 5 different main courses or desserts so why 4 or 5 different cheeses? Particularly as one of them will always clash with the wine you're drinking. There are some great modern British (and Irish) cheeses you could try as well though. Stichelton (rather than Stilton), Berkswell (a sheeps' cheese - a good foil for red wine which can be ruined by stronger cheeses) and Gorwydd Caerphilly are 3.

  20. Thank you, Larder Lout, you have renewed my previously waning enthusiasm for cheeseboards. Thanks also to Ms Beckett for her supreme guidance.

  21. Salad stressing: trying to make a green salad with a sharp dressing, french-style, but my salad looks like a hodgepodge and the dressing won't stick to the leaves — it just pools at the bottom. Any tips?

  22. Hi Nibbles -

    In my opinion there is no better dressing than one made with olive oil, white wine vinegar, and dijon mustard. Occasionally a yoghurt dressing with chilli, lime and coriander is a delight. My sister's balsamic dressing with honey and garlic is also a delicious treat (easy on the honey though Mary). But nothing fits the bill more often than a simple French dressing.

    Yet so often it's an abomination - I think this is because, with so few ingredients, there is nothing to hide behind, and the balance of flavours has to be spot on.

    So...here's my advice:

    - dry your leaves thoroughly. Nothing will ruin a salad like soggy leaves.
    - dress the salad at the very last minute. This will prevent discoloration, sogginess, and aforementioned puddle at the bottom.
    - use less dressing than you think you need - it is a dressing, not a sauce.

    As for the dressing - you want to emulsify the oil into the mustard; this will help it stick to the leaves. Whisk the vinegar and mustard together first, with salt and pepper, then slowly pour in the oil, whisking as you go. Rule of thumb is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts oil. Mustard to taste (I like lots!).

    Pretty simple really, then. Bon courage.