Lies, damn lies and cooking times

Many people were ambitious during the first lockdown. I don’t think I was, I found it very hard to get anything done. I had to make to-do lists and push myself to do jobs to tick off. Sheer boredom is driving me now, I suppose. And so, I’ve started my first ever sourdough loaf, this evening. It’ll prove overnight and I think getting it ready to bake will take most of tomorrow. Not that it’s time spent actually doing anything. In that respect, it takes no longer than any loaf of bread. It’ll be interesting, anyway. And if it isn’t great first time, there will be room for improvement and, even at my advanced age, that is always a good thing.

Some people think that self-criticism (or, as I prefer to say, self-evaluation) is being negative. I don’t think it is at all, as long as it’s genuine. That is, give credit where it’s due, don’t beat yourself up where it isn’t needed and don’t talk yourself down in the hope of receiving praise. Most of us have done (or not done) those things, of course we have. But thank you, AQ and BW, for your kind and helpful remarks on yesterday’s post. You do get it, that I am looking for constructive criticism and trying to evaluate what I could do better as well. I didn’t do any drawing today and didn’t, in truth, get a lot done, but we had a pretty good day, even if we can’t point to much that we actually achieved. I made a very nice salad, with avocado, watercress and smoked salmon mousse, for lunch and Tim cooked some fabulous calamari for dinner. Last night’s whole baked turbot was also delicious, though Jane Grigson’s assertion that it will cook in 15 minutes is way out of line. Nearly treble that time. Why do people do that?

The biggest lie is onions. Cooking onions for French onion soup takes at least an hour. It cannot be done in less than that and any recipe that claims 15-30 minutes is wrong and the writer knows it. Sure, you might be able to fry onions briefly, but caramelising them properly, either for soup or for an accompaniment to burgers (or whatevs) has to be done slowly and thoroughly. Likewise, casseroling tough meat. Oxtail takes three hours or more. Two is a lie. The meat will be brown all through, yes, but you won’t get a knife through it. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, all these cookbook pictures of a roast chicken with the legs still trussed. That is totally a recipe for raw thighs. Just cut that string. Sure, it looks pretty but that’s not the point.

I may have gone off on a tangent there. Turbot, yes. Tim has a splendid tale about a time when he and his late wife barbecued a whole turbot. He fashioned a cradle from chicken wire, they invited their best friends to share it and lunch ended at around 6.30 that evening. Not because the fish took hours to cook, but because it was such a lovely day and they were all happy. Good times are always worth talking about.

2 comments on “Lies, damn lies and cooking times

  1. Blue Witch

    I always think that all times for cooking onions and mirepoix variants is understated: similarly, the times for stir-frying various ingredients. I do love Jane Grigson though. Real Cook rather than ‘celebrity chef with ghost writers’ I always think.

    Whole turbot sounds amazing. Please send food parcels northwards…

    After sourdough bread and drawing… what next? Sewing?

    1. Z Post author

      I love Jane Grigson too and I was surprised she got the cooking time so wrong. It was really simple, just butter, spring onions, parsley and lemon in a foil parcel lined with baking parchment. So good that nothing more was needed.

      Last night, calamari, cooked by Tim. Good Cornish squid. We do eat very well, usually quite simply but we’re lucky to be able to get great ingredients.


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