Surprise! Oh. Er….

Things go wrong, I know. Nobody’s perfect are they? But it’s annoying when things go wrong that actually, you could usually do blindfolded.

I’m talking cooking. I completely take it for granted now after 30 odd years of cooking that I don’t need to think twice about whipping up a sponge, a pavlova, a casserole, a roast, a wicked crumble, a unique bread and butter pud, and, recently, reasonably yummy cheesecake.

I get a little nervy thinking about doing best end of lamb, I’m not totally confident with my scallops – although the trick is hot pan and quick flip for max sweet succulence – and steaks, well, my story is that they really do depend on the quality of meat.

Where there are shortcomings, I have developed coping strategies. Lumpy, sticky rice? Rice cooker. Heavy, doughy bread? Panasonic breadmaker. Less than golden crispy chips revealing hot fluffy interior? Never cook them. Buttery King Edwards mashed yes, champ, yes, crispy golden roast potatoes, fine, creamy rich Lyonnaise potatoes perhaps – but never, ever chips.

I also disagree in principle with the act of peeling a grape, stuffing a mushroom (thanks Shirley Conran – you said what we all felt) or carving a beetroot into a waterlily.

So when I invited my brother and his fiancee over for a curry evening, I was utterly blasé and relaxed. I had an excellent recipe which I’d used a couple of times before and produced a lovely fragrant authentic curry. Brother is very keen on cooking curries himself so the bar was set quite high. Everything was fine. I even had all the ingredients in stock, which was a bit of a surprise because I usually have to improvise somewhere along the line.

So I was adding a tsp of this and a tbsp of that, plus grated ginger, chopped chillies, garam masala and it was all sizzling nicely, but there was something odd. There was none of the usual pungent fragrance that sandpapers the inside of your nostrils. It was..well….lacking.

I checked I’d included everything, gave it a stir and flung in extra spices for good luck. Still nothing. Ah, well, I thought, it’ll all come together in the end with some nice fresh coriander…

But as the minutes ticked by and the cooking continued, that familiar scent of cooking curry that I’m so keen to get rid of the next day was sadly lacking. There was a fragrance but not the usual one. It just smelled a bit weird. Hard to put your finger on exactly how it smelled but the closest thing was cooking Kashmiri-style dog food. Yes, precisely. You see now how I had a bad feeling about it all.

I had a low-grade panic and phoned DT man.

“Hey. Can you call by the supermarket on the way home? We need four Tesco’s jalfrezi curries.”

“But you’re making one aren’t you?”

“Bit of a cock-up on the curry front. Need emergency backup, pronto.”

Tasting the curry after I’d threatened it and given it extra time for full development of flavour, revealed he horrible truth – it was no curry. It was a chickeny, garam-masala-flavoured, hot thing with next-to-no fragrance.

I snatched the pots of spices and examined them closely, the cumin, the ground coriander, the turmeric (although I could hardly blame the turmeric). Oh jeez. Use before March 2009 – AND, ahem, they’d already been partly used. No wonder the fragrance was lacking.

If I could have kicked myself, I would have but my sprained ligaments wouldn’t allow it. I would have had Basil Fawlty flagellate me with half a tree had he been available. What a complete fool! I looked at some of the other pots stacked two high in the “exotic spices” shelves. Not so fecking exotic after sitting there for two years past their use-by dates!

Whatever. One black bin-bag of clanky spice jars later, DT man came to the rescue bearing six cartons of Tesco jalfrezi.

“The woman at the checkout looked at me a bit oddly and said ‘You really like curry, don’t you?’ I told her you cocked up. She laughed.’”

I served it all up at the appointed time and tried to steer the assembled party towards the ready-made jalfrezi on the grounds that my own offering was an unmitigated failure.

The choice wasn’t difficult. The Tesco jalfrezi was bright red and vibrant and smelled properly like curry. My curry was pale green and lumpy with chicken and almonds. It looked to me like it had been scraped from the surface of a stagnant distillery. This was truly the last of the home-made curries.

“Mind if I get some more of the green one? It’s really good,” said bro.

I told him it was a total disaster. The only thing I didn’t do wrong was to burn a couple of T towels.

“You don’t have to eat it at all. Have some lovely Tesco jalfrezi. Every little helps, you know.”

When we talk about it now, he still claims to have loved it. I’m still convinced he was humouring me.

Anyway I’ve made it up to him since with another dinner so good that he had two portions and a third to eat cold the following day. It was the least I could do because I’ll never, ever cook a curry again.

Author: janh1

Part-time hedonist.

25 thoughts on “Surprise! Oh. Er….”

  1. Where do you want me to start Jan?

    The boiled eggs I burnt? The jacket potatoes that exploded in the oven?

    … 🙂

  2. LOL Bearsy. Love the thought of you continuing to shovel in the chilli….

    Oh you burnt your boiled eggs, Boa? I exploded one once – bits of egg all over the ceiling. I’d forgotten about that til now. Bet those potatoes sounded like small artillery fire. 🙂

  3. I wasn’t there to hear them Jan – I’d gone out and forgotten that I’d left them in the oven 🙂

    There’s also the tale of the lentil soup that caused the seal to blow in the pressure cooker – the ‘steam’ shot up, hit the ceiling, condensed and it rained lentil soup all over the kitchen – and me! Last time I used a pressure cooker… come to think of it – last time I tried making soup as well. 🙂

  4. Jan, sweetie – I can see a deal coming on here. Dump DT man and bring your bike to the thousands of kilometers of rough track we have here. Cook me bramble crumble, bread-and-butter pudding, sponges and a pavlova and I will take care of the best neck of lamb, curries and all the interesting bits of a pig. 🙂


  5. Jahn1, good evening.

    A fine story, in my opinion, but coming at the wrong time and in the wrong place so far as I am concerned. If you’re looking for cooking disasters, I may well be your man in less than 48 hours.

    I share my birthday, which is now history for yet another year, with, amongst many others, the blessed Margaret, John Major’s bit on the side and those memorable songbirds, Marie Osmond and Paul Simon.

    To celebrate said event, I had this bright idea of inviting 6 of my dearest friends around for a meal, cooked by me, this coming Saturday night. In fairness, I did feel that Mrs M. should be there as well, if only to make sure that there was somebody to do the washing-up.

    So, that’s 8 of us, including 2 veggies. Rashly, I’ve gone for Chinese banquet and I am now a seriously worried man. Been practising for a week or so. Good prawn sesame toast, rubbish steamed buns, acceptable banana fritters, superb sweet and sour sauce (courtesy of WW), passable lemon chicken, beef in black bean sauce which can, hopefully, only get better and char siu which tastes almost like the real thing. Friday night is veggie practice night. Only time will tell!

    I have this strong feeling that I may well be a major cooking disaster about to happen. Not a problem, of course. It’s my birthday meal and all of said friends, Mrs M. in particular, are far too nice to say anything. It is still a worry.

  6. Oh yes, culinary disasters, Jan. Now where do I start?

    Yes, the pork in cider casserole for twelve which I carefully placed in one of the ovens, but turned on the other oven by mistake. I didn’t realise that I was cooking nothing until about!

    The cheese and biscuits 10.30pm was a roaring success but nobody by that time was sober enough to judge.

    Remind me to tell you about the Dover sole disaster sometime; I was eight and a half months pregnant at the time, but that is not really an excuse!

  7. Araminta

    I did something similar with the Christmas Turkey one year. Put the thing in the oven, switched the timer on and went to bed. In the morning there were no nice smells emanating from the kitchen….

    I’d set the timer the wrong way round…

  8. My mother in law will be here for a month over Christmas and New Year (as she is every year), talk about an accident waiting to happen. I could perhaps write a daily diary, with hourly updates on some days but then again perhaps not 😉

  9. In future, buy whole spices and dry fry till brown what you need for the dish. They stay fresh much longer like that.
    Grind with a pestle and mortar or get an electric grinder thingy!
    Much more aromatic than Tesco!

  10. I’ll never, ever cook a curry again

    What a shame. Nothing like a good home-cooked curry.

  11. When I went away once Cyclomaniac gave the boys lots of peas. Peas with nearly every meal (except, I presume breakfast). A while later I heard that on one occasion they were still actually frozen….

    That’s hardly fair though is it? Recounting a husband’s my cooking disaster!

    I once made an Eve’s pudding, but inadvertently used the plain instead of self-raising flour and wondered why the top was rather biscuit like and disappointing. And on another occasion I had cooked three different casseroles, and had rice in the rice cooker, but completely forgot to put the potatoes in the oven to bake. Thank goodness for microwaves…

  12. Boa, after reading the instructions for my new pressure cooker – they were trendy in the 70’s honesty – I lived in fear of the thing exploding – and yours actually did!!! Lentil soup though, ewwwwwww. That must have taken ages to clean up.

    Dear OZ, I love the sound of your offer. It gladdens my heart to think of returning from a wonderful mountainbike ride to be greeted with the interesting and no doubt crispy and delicious bits of a pig. I’m afraid, however, I must decline your kind offer. You’re too far from Wales.

    Gosh Mr Mackie, that IS ambitious. May your steamed dumplings be plump, fluffy and tasty. Do report back!

  13. Hi Araminta. Thing is, when you’re with good friends and you have wine, nothing really matters too much, does it? 😀
    Just as well, really!

    A daily diary would be good, Soutie.

    Hydra, I’ve always fancied mackerel fishing but not sure about the smelly bait! 🙂

    Oh I really cannot be arsed, Tina. I’m copping out and never cooking them again.
    Plus I’ve always hated the lingering smell of curry in the morning.

    LW I salute you!! 80 people!! Definitely report back. You guys make me feel
    v inadequate.

    Oh come on Pseu, surely you’ve had a bigger disaster than using the wrong flour?
    Make an effort, girl 🙂

  14. I never make mistakes in the kitchen, it has always been the registry office that has undone me!!!!!

  15. Pseu, Janh: It’s a whole hog roast (BBQ), I just got back from picking up the piggy, (150 lbs). I try to do one each year about this time, it’s my general “thank you” to a lot of people I owe favours. Noon ’til dark, rain or shine. I’ve checked that the beer keg is fit for human consumption and lined up the wine bottles. Will start the fire at 0600 hrs. Maybe I’ll take pictures this year.

  16. That sounds so utterly yummy, LW. I’m just back from seeing Nigella Lawson at the Lit Fest. Wasn’t even that keen on bothering to go but she won me over totally. One of her cooking disasters was her oven exploding with a loud bang while roasting lamb. Salman Rushdie was one of the dinner guests and she suddenly found herself in the kitchen surrounded by seven secret servicemen. 🙂

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