Once upon a time, when I couldn’t cook anything, I regarded being able to do it as a sophisticated skill that was almost other-worldly. There was a girl at university, Amelia, who did a cooking course at Leiths and could knock up brownies and cocktail sausages in their own honey and mustard sauce and multiple other treats and I thought “God. That is incredible.”
But teaching yourself to cook at that time wasn’t straightforward. There was no internet! Someone had to teach you or you can to buy books, or get them out of the library. And who’s to say the book you chose was a good one? Or had the things in that you wanted to make?
People lament about millenials but with access to Catch Up TV and YouTube and Google, I bet they can cook better than we could at 23.
Anyway several hundred years passed and now I can cook and it remains the most useful thing that I can do. But being an autodidactic cook means there are holes in my knowledge; I cannot make bread or, up until last night, hollandaise.
I don’t know why not with the hollandaise. I can’t remember what kept going wrong but it never went right.
The internet is probably the single most useful tool a cook can have as not only can you look up any recipe you fancy making but recipes are rated by other cooks so if someone’s written an uncookable bummer, they will be found out fast.
So I went straight to a “member” recipe off the Jamie Oliver website and it worked out just fine.
this makes enough as an accompaniment for about 4 people
1 Put a pan with about 1.5 inches of hot water in the bottom and set it on your smallest burner at its lowest heat.
2 Put a small pan with a pouring lip on another small burner and melt 100g of butter in there.
3 Separate two eggs, putting the whites aside for another project (meringues?) and put the yolks in a bowl that will go on top of the pan of water.
NOW… normally I would use a heatproof bowl, but in this instance I used a metal bowl – I don’t know if that made a difference to the success of it.
4 Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard in with the yolks and whisk briskly.
5 Trickle in the melted butter to the yolks, whisking all the time. Once the butter has all gone, you ought to be left with a slightly paler, glossy sauce, to which you can add a few dashes of vinegar
I genuinely feel relieved that I can now make this, although I wonder how many times I will end up actually making it. As for the bread, I once attended half a class at Bake With Maria, (because Kitty was 3 and got fed up and wanted to go home), but it was really good so I think I will go back on my own.
I will try this – I have always been a bit scared of hollandaise although finally mastered mayonnaise!
Hollandaise is something I can do! It’s one of the first things I taught myself (well via a Gordon Ramsay book) when I first got married because my husband’s favourite breakfast was eggs benedict. I have now not made it for a few years because he is sufficiently impressed by me now, but I might do it for our anniversary or something.
I left home with no cooking skills and taught myself with books, and discovered recipe rifle when I got pregnant and made so much from there. You were a couple of months ahead of me so I started reading it because you were like the canary in the mine, and carried on because you were so funny. I never once commented in about 4 years and now I’m spamming you all over the shop and I still make some of the things I first saw on there regularly xx
Cindy if you didn’t comment one day I’d literally call the police bc I would worry you were dead. I love your spam never stop x
I can emulsify a vinaigrette in my sleep but cannot master mayo; hollandaise I think I could manage.
Spare egg whites – a) financiers (butter, ground almonds, sugar, egg whites) or b) add to scrambled eggs or omelettes, about one per 3 eggs, which makes them a bit fluffier. I freeze them singley in a little flat pot then pop them into a ziplock bag.
Bread – you can make pretty good bread, actually, in a breadmaker using its basic setting but only using ‘normal’ bread ingredients, ie flour, yeast, salt and water. If I want to make ‘real’ bread I do as above but use basic dough setting, then shape and shove the dough into a banneton (left over from disastrous 18-month failure to master sourdough) to rise again, then bake in the oven, and I get an impressively-artisanal loaf for not much effort. What a complete revelation, though, when I saw a friend’s husband take the dough out of the machine and make a hand-shaped loaf. It had never occurred to me. Now I make all sorts of doughs in the breadmaker. I have slightly arthritic hands already and this is all the difference between making stuff and not making stuff.
Sophie will you adopt me?
For the good of our health, no. We’d both be obese alcoholics in days! But, fwiw, I’d never consider adopting anyone else x
thanks Sophie I will take that
Bread is dead easy if you use fresh yeast – any supermarket with an in house bakery will sell you some but you have to skulk around the bakery interest in the manner of teenage scoring drugs and accost a member of staff.
Mayo – if you use a stick blender and a tall vessel just a tiny bit wider than the blender attachment mayo is SO easy, and never curdles, I have chickens so am mayo is great way to lower our mountain of eggs.
I was given a bread maker for Christmas, 4 days before I had my second baby and sort of wanted to throw it in the bin (at the wall) because 1. I was about to have a BABY! And we already have a baby! A bread maker?! A gift card for the local pizza place would have been more appropriate. Some people. (It was from my husband. Idiot.) 2. I always sort of thought making it in a bread maker was cheating. I can make real bread by hand, why would I use a bread maker? I’m a terrible snob sometimes. But it turns out that I’m the idiot. Bread from a bread machine is lovely, and so so easy and it means we have fresh bread all the time, and my machine can even make sourdough. Or dough to shape yourself and make rolls or sticks as Sophie says. And my big obsession in life is my family not eating loads of artificial ingredients and products full of crap, so I now have two 25kg sacks of organic flour in the kitchen cupboard (one white, one wholemeal) and haven’t bought a loaf of bread this year. I am a convert. Elaine x
Bread makers have their place. Nothing beats the smell of fresh bread in the kitchen in the morning, but I found a Nigel Slater recipe that is very easy and makes a much better loaf. It is in his Appetite book. Only needs 10 mins kneading but of course you need to stick around for all the proving palaver. I went on a yeast course years ago and the main tips I picked up were
-don’t use old yeast,even if dried
-never let the salt near the yeast
-use the flour stated in the recipe, they all behave differently
A freshly baked bread will impress your visitors no end and will smell better than any candle you can buy. They say to bake bread before showing prospective purchasers round your house but that is going a bit far after madly cleaning your house for 3 days
“They say to bake bread before showing prospective purchasers round your house but that is going a bit far after madly cleaning your house for 3 days”
Roz – that’s the place for the breadmaker!
I’ve only made hollandaise twice, using “all ingredients in a cold pan and heat really really gently” method I found in the Guardian………..worked very well, but you do have to have patience and heat sooooooo gently.
Charlotte Cotteriĺl says
Esther, please, please get yourself a copy of Dan Lepard’s ‘Short and Sweet’. The bread section is truly a game changer. My dad always made bread in our house when I was growing up as a result of shop bought bread being so rubbish back in the seventies and eighties and later whilst I made perfectly decent bread for years it did taste a bit samey and decidedly homemade. This book changed all that, great recipes, easy techniques and some very concise but hugely useful technical info. I have many cookbooks including many baking books but this is in the top 5…..
Thanks Charlotte I will look that up xx