Not So Mile-High Chocolate Meringue Pie

The silver lining in every stuff-up

Let me say at the outset that no matter what you set out to do in the kitchen, it is important to remember that the key to learning to cook well is to make mistakes.

I wish I could say that everything I make in the kitchen is a success, however that is not always the case. When I decided to make the mile-high chocolate meringue pie, I had no notion that it would turn out as it did.

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The process of my not so mile-high chocolate meringue pie…

But let me tell you what went wrong: while the Carême pastry crust* was faultless, the chocolate centre was too runny and the so-called meringue wasn’t anywhere near stiff enough to pile on top (being a “mile-high meringue” and all). Once I had tipped the mixture out into the tin, I thought it was going to turn out alright…

And then it wasn’t. Mercilessly flat and dripping out down the sides. After my pie had chilled a while, I thought at least it would have firmed up a little in the fridge. I cut into it and it was like an open wound in my pie as filling and meringue slid slightly out, rather than making a satisfying cut-out slice (surely I’m not the only one who takes pleasure in the slicing of pie?)

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” – Julia Child

However, despite all of this, the taste was still enough to satisfy my chocolate cravings, almost feeling the happy chemicals hit my system as I ate, beginning on my tastebuds and warming through my heart. And while my pie wasn’t how it was meant to be, I know what I did wrong and my advice to my future self would be to whisk it thicker, baby!

Never lose heart!

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” – Julia Child

*NOTE: Carême dark chocolate shortcrust pastry – I was excited to find – you can get from Panetta Mercato, where some of my favourite things can be found like truffle oil, the fresh fruit and vegetables of my dreams and a selection of delicious cheeses.

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Comfort Cooking

The art of pleasurable food

When I think about comfort food, to choose a favourite would be like choosing between hot and cold weather – there are pros and cons for each and, ultimately, they say variety is the spice of life…

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Sweet potato macaroni cheese

But in the end, comfort food has the ability to warm us from the inside and brings us a warm fuzzy feeling which – as Nigella Lawson says of fresh nutmeg – restores a wonderful feeling of wellbeing. However, sometimes I find that happiness can be brought about just from cooking such food that I know is going to be amazing.

So in my excitement I made Nigella’s sweet potato macaroni cheese, which she admits is the best macaroni cheese she’s ever eaten. And she wasn’t wrong. The thick creaminess of the roux and the sweet but comforting starchiness of the sweet potatoes – mixed with good cheese and some of the many packets of pasta in my cupboard – was like a thick blanket was being wrapped around me. And it was even good reheated later on.

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Southern-style fried chicken with aioli

Another culinary triumph I made in the past week was the homestyle fried chicken of my dreams. As I told my jealous friends afterwards, this chicken is better than KFC. Not only did I feel competent in my efforts, but well rewarded in the result (see above). I’ll admit, I added more cayenne pepper and seasoning than was stipulated, as I love spicy chicken; however one of the many pleasures of home food is that it is your kitchen and you can do whatever the hell you want in it!

“There are few things in life that can’t be improved by a little deep-frying. Chicken, I think, is the ultimate deep-fried food… For it to reach perfection which is very important, especially with trashy food, it really has to be balanced. In other words you need to have it tender within and a crisp, crisp skin on the outside.” – Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites.

With the cooler weather on it’s way, I highly recommend trying these recipes. Whether cooking for a crowd, for a few, or for you. Happy eating!

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Easter Indulgence

One a penny, two a penny…

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Hot cross buns

Adulthood has brought with it new challenges and twists on tradition that I, as a child, never thought of. From rising early with anticipation on the Easter break to discover the Easter bunny’s wondrous gifts of chocolate rabbits and eggs, to waking late on the Easter weekend to toast hot cross buns and make coffee.

I do not claim to have made these delightful buns myself – thank you, ‘Baker’s Delight’ – however I am reminded only too strongly of the family holiday breakfasts of my childhood. These required hot cross buns, or cereal with a side of sneaky chocolate eggs.

Chocolate fix

While I may have abandoned eating chocolate at breakfast in my sensibility, I have no qualms about chocolate at any other time of day. So this weekend to carry on chocolate tradition I made a semifreddo, courtesy of this month’s Australian Gourmet Traveller.*

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Chocolate and roasted almond semifreddo

Gloriously rich and chocolatey, the beauty of the almond-studded chocolate cream I poured into my loaf tin seduced me almost as much as the heady smell and taste of the vanilla bean (pulled out of the mixture after it had cooled and licked clean…).

If you are attempting this recipe, please note that you must keep an eye on the milk at all times and make sure to stir continuously once the egg mixture is added to the pan, to avoid some not-so-lovely lumps.

Currently I am hoarding my semifreddo in the freezer, however it is also a cool treat for entertaining – pull it out, slice it up and serve!

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Eating My Words

Learning to love cooking

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There was a time when I said with undoubted misery, “I can’t cook.” Little did I know how I would grow to love cooking and anticipate coming home after work to wind down by stirring a risotto, or release tension by bashing the hell out of a chicken fillet.

I believe that food has an impact on people’s lives whether it be for health or for indulgence, for necessity or for enjoyment. Food can be memories or comfort, fuel or art. Eating food can provide succour, while cooking food can be a way of showing our love for another person.

Not too long ago, I finally embraced my desire to write for a living and am now studying Professional Writing and Editing. While I have loved writing and creating stories since I was a small child, my love of food has been a gradual, steady affair which began slowly through my grandma’s cooking and grew into my moving out of home and beginning to cook for myself for the first time.

I started this blog with the intention of showcasing my writing skills while writing about something I love, which eventuated as being a way of sharing food experiences that are memorable to me. Taking pleasure in the food we eat adds meaning to our lives in a sensory way – my earliest memories of cooking are baking with my grandma when I was little. Helping to measure out flour and combine the ingredients with grandma’s trusty wooden spoon. The smell of baking resonating through the house, licking the remainder of the batter from the spoon while sitting in front of the oven watching the cake slowly rise before my inquisitive eyes.

As I reached adulthood and moved away from home for the first time, I remember relentlessly eating my roommate’s tacos for several weeks before I’d had enough and began my pursuit of some different meals. Fishing for recipes on the internet and thumbing through my faithful Nigella Lawson cookbook (Kitchen was the first real cookbook I ever owned), I began planning weekly dinners with more relish than I ever thought possible. Soon the general consensus was that I should be the in-house cook from then on.

With a newfound happiness for cooking and seeing that it brought others happiness too, I admit now I was wrong when I once ventured to say “I can’t cook.”