There comes a time as we grow older when we have to cook. (I know ew).
Unlike most people who went to university, I steered clear of the pot noodles and instant ramen as I am in fact the fussiest eater who ever lived, so I swayed more towards the most beige food you could comprehend – like waffles and smiley faces. (I am also aware I eat like a toddler, it is a problem).
My mother made a very sweet and almost pointless attempt to get me to eat healthily by teaching me to cook. She has been, from an early age, encouraging me to make whatever I wanted. From mudpies with actual mud to cupcakes with enough chocolate to feed a small island – whatever I wanted, it was. So here are a few of the experiments that were actually edible.
1. Cheese Scones
225g (8 oz) plain flour
3 level teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
60g (2 oz) butter
110g (4 oz) grated cheese of your choice
milk, as needed to mix
1 egg, lightly beaten
herbs and seasoning (I use a hell of a lot of paprika and mixed herbs)
- Preheat the oven to 220 C / Gas 7.
- In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt (or just bung it all in if you’re lazy) then rub in the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add the cheese then gradually stir in just enough milk to bring the mixture together and form a soft dough. Add as little or as many herbs and seasoning as you want
- Turn the mixture out on to a floured board, (or just onto a naked worktop and then regret your life choices) knead lightly, then roll out to approximately 2.5cm (3/4 in) thick.
- Cut into rounds using a biscuit cutter then place on a lightly greased baking tray. Brush with egg or milk and more cheese.
- Bake for 7 to 10 minutes until risen and golden brown (or however burnt you like them). Remove from the oven and serve warm, or allow to cool on a cooling rack before serving.
2. Banana Bread
100g (4oz) butter softened
175g (6oz) caster sugar
2 ripe mashed bananas
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
1 bag of caramel nibbles (trust me on this one you will thank me later)
- Lightly grease the loaf tin or put the cupcake cases into the tins. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
- Measure all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat for about 2 minutes with an electric mixer or 7 minutes by hand until everything is well blended.
- Add the chocolate
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin or cupcake cases. Bake for around 1 hour for the tin or 25 minutes for the cupcakes until well risen and golden brown.
- To test the cake is done, put a skewer or a toothpick into the centre of the cake, this should come out clean when the cakes are done.
- When the skewer comes out clean, leave the cakes or cake to cool on a cooling rack.
3. Sweet and Sour Chicken
For the chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion (or onion granules if you’re a fussy eater)
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped (or chilli flakes if you’re a fussy eater)
1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped (or chilli flakes if you’re a fussy eater)
1 tbsp cornflour
For the sauce:
1 tbsp cornflour
300ml/10fl oz fresh pineapple juice (or orange juice if you’re a fussy eater like me)
2 garlic cloves, crushed (or 4 garlic cloves if you’re like me and garlic butter runs through your veins)
25g/1oz piece fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tbsp dark soy sauce (or 5 if you love the stuff)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp soft light brown sugar
3 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 pinch dried chilli flakes
freshly ground black pepper
To make the sauce, put the cornflour into a small bowl and stir in two tablespoons of the pineapple juice or orange juice until smooth.
Put the leftover juice into a separate bowl and stir in the garlic, ginger, soy, vinegar, sugar, ketchup and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or a wok (if you’re feeling fancy) and put the onions and peppers in. Make sure the onion and peppers don’t stick by ensuring the stove is on high heat.
- If you are not using vegetables and using powder or substitutes instead then skip the above step.
Coat the chicken in the cornflour and add this to the pan. If you are not using vegetables add the substitutes and powders now.
Stir-fry for four minutes until the chicken is very lightly coloured on all sides.
Add the sweet and sour sauce to the pan with the chicken and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook for up to 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the chicken is cooked through and the other ingredients feel hot to the touch.
Stir in the remaining mixture and cook for a couple of minutes until the sauce is becoming thicker and glossy. It should be hot to the touch and should coat the chicken and vegetables (if you included them).
As weird as it is and as odd as it could be, food is something that made me feel very close to home when I was away from it. Most people I know spent at least one or two afternoons baking with their parent, where they would lick the spoon and break all of the egg in the bowl including the shells. Life is too short to not grab a spoon. Think Ross Geller.