Tuesday, 1 January 2013

New Culinary Tales with New Culinary Presents

Having professed that I don’t make resolutions (read my attempt to give up red meat last January), I am a glutton for punishment and shall make some more. Friends and family have been generous  with their culinary Christmas presents, so it would be rude not to use them. 

I, therefore, vow to cook more with these enabling gifts in 2013. 

Here are the new additions to the kitchen, and what I will do with them: 

Clockwise, starting from far left: spice grinder, fine mini grater, ice cream machine, David Hockney tray, meat thermometer, tea ball.

The spice grinder 
It’s easy to be a martyr for the spice-pounding cause. A few years ago my mother bought me ‘The Little Nyonya’ - a Singaporean epic drama set in Malacca, Malaysia. The protagonist, a Cinderella-type figure, would seek refuge in her cooking crouched on the floor as she pestled all the spices in her mortar for babi pongteh (braised pork-belly stew), winning love and a husband along the way. 

I have since discovered that crouching for two hours on the kitchen floor pounding spices for curries and satays won’t win you love. It is a highly antisocial activity. If you live in a first floor flat like me, pity the residents on the floor below - victims of constant dull thudding for hours on end. And pity anyone who comes near as you stink of shallots and turmeric. And the blisters - let’s not even talk about the blisters. 

I think of the spice grinder as the gateway to the food of the straits of Malacca, and to social acceptance. 

The fine grater
A grater not just for zesting but for making mush of ginger. When I cook Hainanese chicken, one of the sauces requires smoking hot oil to be poured over grated ginger with the most satisfying sizzle. My box grater produces woody shards of ginger, which doesn’t meld well with the oil. 

The ice cream machine
I am desperate to make Christmas pudding ice cream (in my head, just vanilla flavoured with clumps of leftover pud folded in. Or should the base be laced with brandy in the place of brandy butter?). Also Campari sorbet for summer. I wished and was good, and Santa delivered. 

The David Hockney tray 
This present from my betrothed is his way of asking me to make more tea. 

The meat thermometer 
I’m not a roast-meat purist. By that I mean that I often judge my pork belly or beef joint by looking and poking and slicing it open. Obviously, this is not ideal. If anyone asks me for different levels of done-ness this will send me into a spiral of panic - hence the meat thermometer. According to Heston Blumenthal (and who can argue with HB?), to achieve a rare rib of beef the central insides need to reach 55C. Gone are the days of putting a licked finger to the wind, now I can brandish my digital meat wand. Panic no more, Miss Lee, panic no more. 

The tea ball
I have stacks of loose leaf tea, abandoned and crying in the dark at the back of my cupboards. Now with my new tea ball I can unearth the Japanese roasted rice tea, the darjeeling, the strange LOV teas I’m not sure I’ll like. Or I could use it for infusing bouquet garni in soups...  

Here's to endless feasting in 2013. 


Lizzie Mabbott said...

I want a meat thermometer! Happy new year missy.

(on the tea ball vein, I use my Liz Earle muslin face cloth as a spice bag. I am a bad girl.)

Helena Lee said...

@hollowlegs this made me laugh out loud. What better use for a muslin cloth, who uses flannels for their face any more?

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