The Book Club
The 30 Minute Master Chef!
My mother never cooked. Her motto was "if it doesn't come out of a jar/box, I don't want to know about it". Truth be told, she was far more interested in her next girls-night-out, than preparing homemade, healthy meals for her family. So I never learned to cook as a girl. It was not until I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband), that I started to learn how to cook. It has been a long road, filled with many mistakes and culinary disasters.
I remember the first time I ever cooked for my in-laws. I had met them once before, but it was the first time they were coming over to my home and I was going to prepare them a meal. I was TERRIFIED I had progressed to grilling meat and boiling vegetables and that was about the best I could do. I was 20 years old, a runaway from a broken home and I desperately wanted to impress these people and make them think I was good enough for their boy.
I went to Leonards Chicken and bought a roast roll that was "dead easy" according to the young guy behind the counter. He gave me instructions on how to cook the roast and told me just to boil up some greens and do a bit of mash and it would be fine. My mother and Father in law were due to arrive at 6.30, and the roast took 45 minutes to cook. I wanted to eat at 7.30, so I knew that I had to have the roast on by 6.45. All was going well, everyone was talking and sharing a bottle of wine. My roast was on and I was feeling that things might just go to plan.
At 7.20 I went to check the roast and it was stone cold!! I had prepared it, following the instructions to the letter, and concentrated so hard on getting my timing right.... that I forgot to turn on the oven! My future husband found me almost crying in the kitchen. He told me not to worry, he put the oven on and put the roast in to cook. He turned the potatoes down to the lowest setting, and told his folks dinner would be a little later than expected. They were very OK with this and Father in law opened another bottle of wine.
Around 10 past 8 I started mashing the poatoes and asked my partner to help me carve the roast. We dished it all up and Brett said to me "Is this all we are having? Just chicken and potato?" I told him no, there were the greens too. And... you guessed it. With all the focus going onto the near disaster of the chicken, I had forgotten to turn the greens on as well!! Brett was great, he put all of the plates into the oven to warm and turned on the greens to boil. He told his folks dinner would be another few more minutes. They were very sweet, and while they did absolutley nothing to make me feel embarrassed, I still wished the floor would open up and swallow me! Father in law opened another bottle of wine!
By the time the greens were ready it was almost 9 o'clock. Father in law was more than a little tipsy! The plates had been warming in the oven and were quite hot to touch. We had a timber dining table - and no placemats! My darling boyfriend solved this problem by pulling out his Penthouse magazine collection (which, at 24 years old, was pretty extensive).
I served my future Mother in law her slightly dry, 2 hour late meal on the face of a naked woman! The clincher for the evening was when Father in law asked to borrow the magazine his plate was sitting on, as there was an "article" he wanted to read. Incidentally they bought me placemats for christmas that year
The point to this ramble? I learned from that night on the beauty of COOKBOOKS!! For people like me, who really have to work hard at getting things right, cookbooks can be a life saver! My favourite at the moment is Jamie Oliver's "30 Minute Meals". Now I know that Mr Oliver is a love-him or hate-him kind of guy - I personally think he is wonderful - But Jamie aside, this book is fabulous in the way it delivers a time frame for your meal.... something I wish I had have had access to that night 13 years ago! The recipe not only tells you how to cook what, but also when and how long it should take so that everything is ready to be served in 30 minutes, making you look like a bit of a Master Chef really. It's sheer brilliance!! I have a cupboard full of cookbooks, and I've not seen any other set out like this - so if you know of others please tell me? I would be very interested to find some!! I have had three very successful dinner parties using this book now, and would definitely recommend it to anyone - especially the "wonky summer pasta" YUM!!
Do you have a cooking hero? Do you have a cooking horror story? Is there a cookbook, that you just can't live without? Or do you have a failsafe recipe that you would like to share with a culinary incompetent like me?
Next week I will be reviewing "Matilda is Missing" by Caroline Overington. If you haven't read it already, please grab a copy and read along. I would love to know what you think.
Until then, Happy Reading