Friday, October 07, 2005

In a blatant rip-off of Drawing inspiration from Mr Two-tuals, and cunning getting in a "what I did last night" post, I now present the secret recipe for meat mountains adapted for my brother's flat.

- Firstly take 454 g of mince out of the freezer.
- Discover that it's pork, but there's only 250 g of beef mince and that is well on the way to being pemmican.
- Leave out to defrost during the day.
- Come back tired and discover that one cannot figure out how to turn the oven on, as the markings on one dial have burnt off, and the other dial gives temperature but does nothing.
- Wait for brother to get home.
- He comes home, falls asleep.
- Resort to baked beans on toast (having done cheese on toast the previous evening) using the grill to make the toast as the toaster is a little box of all known evils, which has a habit on not turning off except when disconnected from the mains. Even after all this the top third of the slice is not even warm.
- Put mince in fridge.
- Go to bed.
- The next day arrange to attend a department discussion evening, which also clashes with another event I ought to have gone to.
- Talk at cross purposes for hour upon hour, in a small, hot, humid, loud, crampt room, while watching a wide variety of nationalities try such British delicacies as pork pies, sausage rolls, mince pies (it's great seeing the confusion when the taste doesn't match the expectation), the joy that is pre-cooked cocktail sausages, and chunks of chicken coated in sticky fluids (yellow is indian, red mexican, brown chinese). Oh, and a blow of celery as the token vegetable. There were dips as well, but nothing near them to dip in them. I think there was even a cheese board, but circulation in the room didn't happen so one ate whichever food one got stuck by.
- After about an hour I managed to get to the drinks. The options were the white Chateau Lac de Vin or the red Vino Collaspo, or orange juice, which was empty.
- Note to self. Never hand a Korean guy a generous glass of red. Three sips in an he was well to the good.
- And chicken coated in sticky things is an ideal finger food in a crowded room with everyone clutching very cheap paper plates and wine glasses (the skin round the sausages had more structural integrity than the plates).
- And it was interesting seeing someone trying to guide a muslim guy through the nearest platter, which consisted of mini Scotch eggs, sausages, pork pie, and sausage rolls. Actually, he's probably safe with the sausage rolls.
- Chat merrily away without being able to hear what any other party is saying.
- Try to leave. Start having wine foisted on us. But it had emigrated to various Australian things, so I didn't object too loudly.
- Be tempted to liberate an unopened bottle. But my bag was under a table on the other side of the room.
- Smile benignly as the Korean guy frantically tries to find somewhere he can smoke. Fire escapes trigger fire alarms, the main doors downstairs are locked without the right swipe card, and he is walking like a Wayfarer mid-Atlantic.
- Eventually, after many false starts leave.
- Try all the main doors.
- Assume token English guy role of asking of sticking my head round the door of the security office to ask if we could be let out.
- After a lengthy discussion in which the security guy finds out that there's a party upstairs with quite a lot of people in it, we get lead through some offices and out of a very non-descript door (with a thoroughly low-tech and slightly flimsy lock) which dumps us halfway up the parking ramp.
- Then out and towards various destinations.
- I walk with a couple of girls for a while, one of whom I vaguely and the other I've yet to be introduced to. She says "nice to meet you", I say "Hi" (and try to banish all thoughts of pointing out that she doesn't know it's nice to meet me yet because she's seen me for all of three seconds).
- We walk for a while then I peel off with a "It was nice to meet you. Bye", as she starts and then realises she's already used it.
- Thence tubewards, past a nice sign which says "Good service" for all except the alternative route, which currently has severe delays. So if I hadn't been told it was nice to meet me then I'd be standing at a different tube station getting cross.
- Then home, not getting lost in a potentially not very nice place, walking behind a guy with white headphones (figuring that if anyone's going to get mugged...).
- At the flat I'm greeted by a cross brother. Obviously he was not quite awake enough when I told him about the do.
- Ought to eat. Have toast instead.
- Watch Lost, once my brother's disappeared and won't get cross with me for watching television. For some reason Channel 4 is not broadcasting on digital, and it takes me a while to remember that the television has analogue. So having missed about 40 minutes, I start watching it with very bad reception. It was a case of "Blonde, I think. Don't know which one" closely followed by "Wainthrop's Hobbit!". I'd no idea what was going on, other than stuff, backstory and imminent cliffhanger.
- Go to bed.
- Another day passes. Brother home very early. I start cooking.
- Get my brother to instruct me in turning the oven on.
- Discover it has no thermostat. Top shelf is gas mark 12, down to about 3 at the bottom of the oven. It's a fan assisted thing with an element at the top (why can't they just have boxes with gas fires at the back?), but use of the fan ensures the entire oven is gas mark 12.
- Impale potatoes upon baking spikes. Place on middling low shelf.
- Boil kettle.
- Search for suitable bowl.
- Ask brother about mixing bowls.
- Get told a pound of mince will sit in a cereal bowl.
- Point out the increased volume during mixing.
- Get told to mix slowly.
- Call my brother an "Engineer".
- Have the stupidity of that comment pointed out to me.
- Get stuffing. Chiltern Herbs's Country Stuffing. It used to come in small packs (125 g? Don't know, can't check), but for some reason only the Waitrose in Sidmouth still stocks it. So use half a bigger pack. Try not to copy my brother in leaving the opened pack lying open in a cupboard for a year. It rather dulls the taste.
- Pour into mixing bowl (or cereal bowl, having first chipped off the dried on Weetabix the cleaner didn't get off).
- Add boiling, or recently boiled, water. Enough to get the right consistency. Which is usually a bit less than you think it is. Add it slowly, and don't add too much. It's not like cous cous; you can't keep adding more solids until it balances out.
- Once mixed, and you're supposed to leave it rest for a while, but I don't do that (intentionally. Usually I do while trying to find something else though).
- Open a small tin of tomato puree. This is the only thing small tins of tomato puree are good for. Again no idea how much is in the tin, probably 100-150 ml (based on a coke can being 330).
- Once you've mastered using the tin-opener (designed to work like a modern tin-opener, so held horizontal. But it cuts through the rim of the tin and then gets stuck. So use as an old fashioned one. Then repeat on the other end of the inverted tin to break the air lock and get the stuff out) add the tomato puree to the stuffing.
- Mix.
- Now comes the fun bit which your vegetarian housemates will really like. Work in the mince. You can either add it all in one go, and try to bash it with a spoon before giving up and using your hands, or you can pull chunks off the block and mix it in using your fingers. Just pretend you're making pastry and not really mashing up mangled miscellaneous bits of animal.
- If you can, really show off and do it one-handed. This firstly allows you to use a smaller bowl, and saves trying to turn the tap on with your elbow to clean your mucky hands.
- Add an egg (taken out of the shell first). Make sure you dunk your egg to test it for signs of witchcraft.
- Mix in. It's probably slightly too gooey for comfort.
- Take a baking tray or dish.
- Dole out into even sized mounds. Usually a pound of mince makes 8-12 lumps.
- Put in the oven. Normally for 45 minutes on gas mark 6 (I can't remember the timing on 4, but they come out less scorched but drier), but where thermostats don't work, on the shelf with the potatoes until cooked.
- After a while add a semi-nuked potato because the flatmate is apparently going to be around and would quite like food.
- About half an hour after the potatoes went in, turn them over (this step is unnecessary in ovens that work).
- Half an hour after the meat mountains went in, stick the water on for the vegetables. Suitable vegetables include frozen peas (always a favourite), courgettes (if you can find any which aren't impersonating marrows), beans (of the green and choppable, not any tinned, variety) and broccolli. If using pre-trimmed beans because your muppet brother buys expensive things, do check that the intervening fortnight doesn't mean that they require retrimming. If so, engage your brain and realise you can line up batches along the edge of the knife.
- Cook vegetables to perfection.
- Turn off gas and drain.
- Leave steaming in closed saucepans while you do other stuff.
- Get dish out of oven (normally the potatoes should come first as they lose heat more slowly, but there was a small degree of gridlock). If cooking without thermostat, they should be sporadically charred by now, as the base has been cooking on gas mark 5 and the top of each on gas mark 8.
- Serve the meat mountains.
- Realise extra-lean mince on an elderly and not very clean tray means they have to be chipped off.
- Cunning use of a spatula/slice means that 7 out of 8 can be served vaguely whole, with the first one being sacrificial to allow manoeuvring room.
- Realise 8 in 3 doesn't go.
- Realise that I'm serving it, therefore I'm going to have to take two. Scavenge bits accordingly, and be glad they come in a variety of sizes.
- Get well-crisped potatoes out.
- Give flatmate the potato that's twice the size of the others as my brother picked it out for him (the two I'd selected were accompanying-size, not entire-meal potatoes).
- Realise I've forgotten to shut both the window and the door. Shut one to stop draught (the stove does have an extractor fan, but the fan has no external outlet, so it's not so much an extractor fan).
- Serve vegetables.
- Realise the beans aren't the same colour as I left them.
- Fastidiously align beans.
- Get cutlery.
- Carry two plates through.
- Serve.
- Ask long winded question resulting from confusion over how one asks a lactose intolerant person and a non-lactose intolerant person if either wants butter/not butter.
- Go back and add organic extra virgin olive oil vegetable spread (which doesn't taste of olives) to potato.
- Carry through.
- Eat, while watching Spaced, and trying not to notice the flatmate only uses one piece of cutlery at a time. Never knew he had American parents.
- Return plates to kitchen.
- Leave washing up for someone else to do.

And should you feel this recipe lacks enough detail for you to reconstruct it properly, then you should know that meat mountains are Delia Smith's meatballs as adapted by my mother. Who didn't see the point of taking homemade bread and fresh herbs to make the stuffing, or of moulding the mixture into 32 perfectly spherical balls, or of cooking a creamy tomato sauce to which the balls are lovingly added, or of cooking divinely some obscure form of pasta to serve it upon.

Oddly most of my mother's recipes are of the "stick it in and leave it" persuasion. I wonder why.

Oh, and don't try making it with sage and onion stuffing - it's not a good combination.

For more fascinating recipes, including how to make a hash out of baked beans on toast (and I don’t mean corned beef hash), stayed tuned to the Anyhoo Living Channel.

Over on Anyhoo Fashion Channel now, Iwant Garde* explores just why there are no McFly t-shirts**.

*Say it in a German accent.
** It’s because once upon a time there was a boat called McFly, and the owner copyrighted the name for all air and sea vessels and casual clothing (so he could do a crew uniform). Along came a band who also happened to be called McFly, and their management were a bit dismayed to find someone already had the McFly name for clothing, and so far have failed to work out an agreement whereby McFly clothing might be produced.

But a quick website check suggests that all this may not be completely accurate as they appear to be selling McFly t-shirts. Maybe they did sort out a deal. Or maybe they took the so-sue-me approach. Or maybe they’ve classified McFly t-shirts as safety wear. Or maybe my brother was just trying to see how gullible I was (he’s mean, but he’s not that mean, is he? Maybe. But he’s not that imaginative).


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