Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Delia Smith vs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

You see, the reason I can't abide Delia Smith is all about pastry. Yes, she's patronising and moves around her kitchen like a thunderbird, but her recipes do work and she has doubtless got many more people cooking than otherwise would, and for that I forgive her much. But have you read what she wrote in 'How to Cook - Book 1' about making pastry?

"If you can't make pastry, or don't even know where to start, the very first thing you need to do is forgive yourself and not feel guilty - please understand it isn't because you're born inadequate or not born to such things, it's probably because no one's ever actually taught you how"

Now I take issue with this on many levels - why would any one feel guilty that they can't make pastry? - but basically, I can't make pastry. And it's not because I wasn't taught either. My mum is a fantastic cook and she showed me on many occasions how to make pastry. I just don't seem to be able to do it. But every time I think of these words, I feel my blood boil. You see, my name is Sally and I can't make pastry.

Not that it has ever stopped me trying. Whenever the pastry gloves come out, my husband retreats to the bottom of the garden with the children to avoid the flying rolling pins and the language. I had moderate success with some suet pastry for a steak and kidney pudding, but that is an entirely different animal. However, all the attempts have done is made me adept at patching up cracked pastry either by using left over uncooked dough, or by the scrape technique, whereby I use the end of a knife to scrape the pastry surface to make crumbs and then stuff them into the cracks. I have also been known to line the bottom of a pastry case with cheese slices. Or alternatively, find me in the chiller section of the supermarket surreptitiously stuffing jus rol into my trolley.

Or at least that used to be the case, until I read River Cottage Everyday. Hugh has a recipe in there for a poached leek & blue cheese tart which I thought looked fairly fabulous, and I gave the husband the requisite 24 hrs warning that a pastry attempt was in the offing. But it wasn't necessary - what do you know - it worked! Not only did the dough come together easily, but it rolled out fabulously, lined the tin easily and baked like a dream.

I am writing about this now because Recipe Junkie is smugly sitting here with her morning cup of coffee while yet another pastry case bakes blind in the oven ready to be turned into quiche. 'Horribly smug' in fact - but mainly because she has turned disaster into triumph. Having done the weekly internet shop I opened my notebook on Saturday (the one where I do meal planning on one side and the shopping list on the other side) to find that I had planned not one meal for this week. Strange that I had managed to spend £75 on groceries all the same, but there we go. I think the idea was to use up stuff in the freezer before we go on our hols but I had failed to carry this through and actually check out what was in the freezer to eat up. A quick ferret round and I find a pack of bacon lurking at the bottom of the freezer drawer. 'Quiche' I think; 'pastry' I think, and there we have it. Dough knocked up and in the fridge before I set off up to school with the kids (yes - they are still at school - one more day to go) Now I just need to hope that the chickens aren't on strike today and lay some eggs. 

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