Your culinary troubles are over. All you need for gustatory nirvana is to follow these few simple steps exactly.
No need to sweat through Jamie, cower before Delia or moan over Nigella. Cookbooks begone! All you need is here.
Padmini this is for you. Men wave goodbye to kitchen anxiety. Women flex your spatulas. And let’s go…
The 20 Universal Rules for Guaranteed Good Cooking
1. Choose a bottle of red wine.. Not a carton. Not a box. Not a plastic bottle from a plane. A proper long-necked bottle.
2. Open it. Sniff it. Pause in anticipation.
3. Slowly pour it – savouring that obble-gobble obble-gobble sound. That sound is the spiritual fanfare of the kitchen.
4. Choose your music and press play. [Inappropriate music: The Pogues*, anything about prisons*, anything rubbish.] [Appropriate music: When the night feels my song - Bedouin Soundclash, Moonshine - Jaqee (looking cool and sultry on the left there), Desaparacido - Manu Chao, upbeat reggae or ska.]
5. Adjust the setting on your music player to a higher temperature. That’s better. By now you should have tasted your wine. (NB: Be sure to pour the wine before turning on the music, otherwise you may miss the soul-lifting obble-gobble obble-gobble.)
6. Stir yourself and dance (or at least sashay) round the kitchen. This is to be repeated frequently during the cooking process.
7. Take your measuring jug, scales and specially designed half teaspoon/teaspoon/half table spoon/table spoon device. Carefully hide these and any other oppressively exact tools in a cupboard out of sight. (NB: A glass doored cupboard will NOT do – unless the glass is opaque.)
8. Prepare your mushrooms. Rinse them. Peel them if it makes you feel good. Peel them slowly. Drink some wine. Then chop them and gently fry in three sauces – dark soy, teryaki and mirin. And the greatest of these is mirin. Don’t worry if you don’t have the first two. Mirin is wonderful. Nothing else will matter. If not mirin, drink more wine. (Top tip 1 : Put the mirin on last. Top tip 2: Pretend not to have any mirin and then accidentally find it. You’ll feel so lucky.)
10. Don’t smoke that either. Or we’ll be here all night and still looking for the cutlery at 4 am. And very very hungry.
11. Put some oil on a low heat in a large frying pan. An even bigger one than that other one you’re doing the mushrooms in. (What’s that? You used the wrong pan for the mushrooms? No worries. Just swipe them over to the smaller pan. No need to remove any mirin residue.) It’s important to use the right kind of oil – and that is, whatever oil you happen to have already. (Unless you indulge in the filthy habit of refurbishing engines in your kitchen. Don’t use that oil. Amber Solaire is best avoided too.)
12. Next peel and fondle some garlic. STOP! Drink some wine. Now fondle some garlic. Feels good, doesn’t it? Mmmm.
13. Chop the garlic into very thin slivers for a while. That’s enough. OK, a bit more if you want. The fondling can be distracting, but you have to vaguely focus on the other ingredients. Rinse them. Then rinse your throat with some wine.
14. Add to your large frying pan – garlic, onion (chopped), courgette (chopped – well c’mon, chucking the whole thing in intact is never going to work, is it?), if no courgette use eggplant instead (whatever that is? no-one really knows), chopped tomatoes (preferably ones that actually smelled of something – like flavour, for instance), squidge in some tomato puree and pour in some tomato passata (which seems to be a fancy word for tomatoes from a tin – which will do just as well). Got any peppers? Chop them up to whatever size you damn well want! (Check the wine. Open more when necessary.) If no peppers, capsicums may suffice. What about that leek at the back of the fridge? Yeah, looks OK. Chop it and in it goes. (NB: Do not add banana at this stage.)
15. It’s time to learn a couple of technical terms. The dish currently underway goes by different names in different culinary traditions. In English-speaking territories it is known as Gloop. Francophone areas call it Gloupe. In Hungary it’s known as Glupke. From Austria to Scandinavia diners refer to it as Glüp. Apologies. I know that’s a lot to take in.
16. So just one more technical term you need to know. Splodge. When the time comes to decant the Gloop from the frying pan, one should use an appropriate implement to splodge it on top of spaghetti, rice, chips, potatoes, bread, oh dear, not your lap – whaddaya think this is? A Richard Scarry book? I recommend using a large spatula or wooden spoon – though one can also swipe it from the pan using one’s hand, like a bear claw clouting a leaping salmon.
17. Yes smarty pants. I know I didn’t mention the spaghetti before. Well just do it now then. The Gloop probably isn’t ready yet anyway. A bit of caramelisation at the bottom of the pan just enhances the flavour. While you’re waiting, eat the mushrooms which are by now beautifully marinaded in mirin.
18. Is the Gloop ready? I don’t know. Why don’t you taste it. What do you think? Yup, have some more wine and mull it over. (Geddit? Mull it over. Mull it… Oh you clearly haven’t added enough wine yet.) What about now? Perfect. have a dance.
19. Ding dong! Your guests have arrived. As starter mix ginger ale, dark rum, lime and angosturas bitters. Serve in a large ladle. Or glasses.
20. Eat the Gloop. And for dessert. Em… Em… Oh aye – the delicious mushrooms in mirin. Just tell them it’s a traditional Japanese dessert. (If any of your guests have been to Japan, just say it’s from Okinawa – they probably won’t have been there. If any of your guests are actually Japanese, just wink. They’ll be too polite to argue. (What’s that? No mushrooms left? Don’t look at me. You were the one stirring them. Go to step 8 and repeat.)
Ta dah! That’s it. Those are the Universal Rules for Guaranteed Good Cooking.
The only measure you need to know is “Yeah, about that much. Oops! Ah well, no harm in having a bit more.”
This post is in response to Padmini asking if men can cook daily meals. I hope I’ve set your mind at rest Padmini. You can read her views and those of the rest of the Loose Bloggers Consortium by clicking on their names - Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Rohit, Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will.
I’ll be following these rules tonight – I’m having people round to eat this evening. I wonder what music to feed them…
Feel free to add your own rules, top tips and suggestions about food, drink, decor and music in the comments below. (Decor? Decor? What on earth am I talking about?)
*The Pogues and songs about prisons are to be strongly recommended in other contexts – just not cooking.