Friday, 11 November 2016

Soup, Flatbread & the Giant Tangerine

Let's get cooking.
This week, I continue my learning-to-cook adventure here, but first, I want to comment on the US election.  If you can’t hack more of that right now, then jump down the page to the heading: 


Last week I said, being alive means accepting reality in its ugly & miraculous.  This week, my country told the only professional presidential candidate to get back in the kitchen, then gave her job to a Giant Tangerine.  Our social equality clock just got turned back to the Good Old Days which, for people like myself & perhaps you, too, weren’t all that good.

I remember at the large family gatherings of my childhood, men visited, children played, women cooked.  The chillen were served first in a side room, the men were served next at the proper table, the women ate in the kitchen.  The last to be fed, they stood or sat on stools or counters, ready to tend crying kids & serve pie to the men.  No real surprise, then, that the little-girl-me found no enticement in cooking. 

The women's private little fuck-you to this unfair, hard-work segregation, was keeping the best tidbits of food in the kitchen for themselves.  But being a woman, both then & now, means more than being taken for granted.

Females are taught from the beginning that we’re smaller, weaker, less able.  As children, our families protect us from all the scary things that eat little girls or worse, in too many cases are the scary things themselves.  As women, we take charge of our lives & yet pretend it’s normal to automatically check for danger, even in daylight, taking precautions men never take when we walk to shops or to work or through the park.  If we don’t, we deserve what we get.  We accept that.  Men accept that.  Our court systems enforce that.

Women know fear.  It's a natural part of our every day, just like it is for ethnic & religious minorities, immigrants, the disabled, the elderly, the LGBT+.  It's been said by smarter, more talented people than myself that with Brexit, with Trump, it's not about ideological differences.  It's that those of us without power have been give notice that it's officially okay to harass, bully, insult, exclude, grope, attack, injure and kill us.  It's about being afraid to live in our own countries.

So eating the best bits in the kitchen, well that’s funny, at first, then it becomes a little sad – that small act of defiance, of dishonesty, is that all the women in my family had?  Actually, they had each other in those kitchens, where more went on than sneaking food.  I think about them, now that I’m desecrating Siobhán’s kitchen.  I’m glad other disenfranchised people may read this, too, because it’s always nice to have company in here. 


Are you sure?

So on to cooking.  Despite it being election time in the US, is there a better season than autumn?  My son, El Punko, iguana that he is, thinks Fall is the beginning of evil incarnate, but I love being outside in autumn, all the sensory things that go with it – colour, textures, smells, sounds – & then coming inside to all those wonderful autumn foods.  Great stuff.

Not surprising, then, that my first stab at this new cooking lark would be soup & bread a la Mary Berry. 

Hag Improvs
If you were with me here last week, then you know I should’ve learned not to be Hag Improv when it came to cooking, especially not with Maestra Berry’s recipes, but the little cogs in my wee brain, those little cogs, those little cogs. 

The soup recipe starts by browning some garlic.  I decided to use leftover seed garlic rather than store bought.  The Garlic Farm's rule on this is, you can eat growing garlic but you can’t grow eating garlic.  Although this particular type of garlic’s supposed to be hot (Red Duke), I used 3 cloves cuz I do love my garlic.

I also added a couple of chili peppers for that kick in the taste bud’s trouser seat.  Where sugar was added to cut the acid of the tomato, I substituted 4 beetroots.  And since we had no cream, double or otherwise, I used 0% Greek yoghurt, even though Mary Berry warned it’d curdle.  It didn’t.  In fact, the soup came off without a hitch.  

My take on the proving drawer.
Now for the flat bread, which uses yeast.  Our kitchen has dubious origins, possibly as part of the garage, but wherever it came from, it has no heat and we have no proving drawer.  My solution to this was a plate warmer, a metal bowl and the inside of the nuker (not turned on, of course) to keep off any wandering cold drafts.  This worked quite well, actually, but I’ll note that this particular bowl has a rubber-esque bottom.  A plain metal bowl might be too thin for this sort of carry on.

The herbs in this flat bread recipe sounded a bit dull for me.  Basil and parsley.  I’m a great basil lover, but parsley?  At least that’s what I thought until I cut some of the stuff I’d grown for Siobhán.  My God, what a wonderful peppery smell.  Still, I wasn’t convinced this would add enough BAM factor, so Hag Improv once more.    

In addition to the herbs, I kneaded in sundried tomato, parma ham, salami and Leerdammer, the latter being the only cheese besides bleu in our fridge.  To do this, I shaped the dough into a type of hill fort, 

Hill fort dough with toppings.

put some 
of the stuff 
on top, 

Folded over.

folded it over several times, repeated the process until all my goodies were inside.  

Cut into sections.
After that, I made the dough into a little mound, divided it evenly into eight sections with a knife, & proceeded to flatten them into individual breads.

About this flattening craic.  When we moved into our current house, the dryer didn’t work.  We dragged it out to hook up our new dryer, & found a large marble pastry board shoved in behind it, reason unknown.  Cleaned up, it’s a thing of beauty.  Problem is, I’ve been a lifelong knitter and my hands are now 60 year old knitter’s hands, so pressing dough against a marble surface hurts.  Instead, I flattened the bread with a rolling pin.  This probably is akin to sacrilege in cooking theocracies the world over, but in my book, pain is not a worthy price to pay for food.

The sacrilege of rolling pins.
Dough sufficiently flat, I sprayed them with oil and slapped them onto the griddle, where cooking took a helluva lot longer than Maestra Berry claimed it would.  At one juncture, I tried cooking them in a small skillet (frying pan, to non-Appalachians), which took a lot less time than the griddle – only 2 and a half minutes each side.  However, I did like the dark lines made by the griddle, so in this case, aesthetics won out over speed.  And breathing.  There was a lot of smoke involved.  Eventually Siobhán wandered through (perhaps concerned about the smoke) & talked to me about heat conduction through iron griddles.  End result, a small regulation of hob temperature sped the process up considerably.

And so we ate.  The soup turned out perfect & as a leftover, the chili flavour was even stronger, enough to smack my taste buds around just the way I like it.  The flat bread still didn’t have enough punch for me to eat on its own, although it tasted great in the soup.  Next time, I’ll add meat & cheese with stronger flavours – I’m thinking chorizo, definitely.  Undoubtedly the little cogs in my brain will flooster with the herbs as well.  This recipe had endless variations ahead of it, I suspect. 

When you make your soup & bread in your version of the pantsuit kitchen, be sure to share your efforts evenly with the people you love, around a table where you all get to sit.  As nasty women & bad hombres, know more will be asked of you, & probably less will be valued.  You’ll face fear & undoubtedly be grabbed by the very body parts they hate you for having.  Remember to go high.  That love trumps hate.  Help the person next to you who helps the person next to them & we all survive this. 

Mary Berry's tomato soup & flat bread.

You & I, we’re in this together, & that’s not a platitude.  Let's eat. 


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