KITCHEN MISTAKES: Digging Yourself Out Of Cooking Holes

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It is very commonplace to make kitchen mistakes. With a little know how and creativity you can turn your blunders in spontaneous moments of unique brilliance. Is it not said after-all that things like beer cheese and bread were created by a happy mistake?

If you knew me well then you would know that I am no stranger to the proverbial spade. In fact I was actually given a large shovel for my 21st birthday by my close friends in honour of the fact that:

a) I always make unwise remarks or movements. It would not be uncommon to find me discussing things with a perfect stranger, for example, like how I think the only people who financially support the art community are the very people that artists despise and that my 4 year old niece could paint better pictures than Jackson Pollock – only to find out I was talking to an art gallery owner. Or  in the realms of the physical, I will mistake breasts for door handles (in this case it was actually an employee!) and have an unconscious penchant for breaking other people’s precious family heirlooms.

b) That I am pretty good at charming, joking or telling tales to get my way out of many of these awkward (and I assure you, quite innocent) situations. Or to reference the spade, I am good at digging myself out of holes (although my friends will now hide precious mugs, watches, quilts and bric-a-brac if they know I am visiting).

Nothing is more true than of this set of circumstances than in the kitchen. Cooking is often just one garbled attempt at perfection followed by another complete kitchen mistake after another and so on. Only to find, that more often than not, the end result is brilliant or at least palatable.

And in actual fact I am not just blowing my own trumpet here, this I believe, is true of almost everyone in the kitchen – except maybe professional chefs. Unless you perfect a recipe and then cook it time and again I am sure that you will find, upon careful consideration, that most of us fumble our way in the kitchen towards our evening meal most of the time.

saving-face-in-the-kitchen3Now many of us may be fumbling rather confidently while for others it is almost an act of fear and timidity to attempt to cook anything in the kitchen. Even following recipes doesn’t help the situation all that much – or upon second thoughts – I believe following recipes makes us fumble even more. For the reason that we are trying to follow another’s instructions, something that takes practice at best.

And it is these happy kitchen mistakes, that with a little confidence and a little know how, you can turn into brilliant successes or at the very least edible concoctions. The more you understand flavours and techniques of cooking the more you will have confidence to turn these setbacks into triumphs.

The meal pictured here is a great example of catastrophe brought back to harmony. Recently I was attempting to cook a vague version of a Thai curry and it suddenly all went horribly wrong. The first mistake I made was to use olive oil instead of coconut oil or some other more subtly flavoured oil. You see, the flavour of olive oil really does not sit well with the coconut cream in a Thai curry. It’s not just a mildly bad flavour, but really really does not work, particularly if you use a strong tasting olive oil like I did.

So I thought to myself, how could I bring flavours into the dish that suited the olive oil taste as well as the spices of the curry. My answer was lemon juice. So I added a fair bit. But then the curry tasted too sour and because I added the lemon juice early on in the cooking process it intensified in flavour (which is why you should only ever add lemon or lime juice to a Thai curry at the end). Now my curry tasted of olive oil and was overly sour.

So then I tried adding some sugar to counteract the sourness. Now none of the spice and herbs could be tasted, only a weird sweet/sour and olive oil tasting coconut cream. It was not nice.

So I took out the chicken drumsticks that were cooking in the sauce and damped them off with a paper towel. I took out the fresh vegetables that were still nice and crunchy and threw away the sauce. I added some ginger, garlic, chilli and sugar into a frying pan with some olive oil (see it is really only the coconut cream that it clashed with and after all this was the only oil I had) and fried the chicken drumsticks for ten minutes. The skin became caremlised and crispy and the flavours of the ginger, garlic and chilli tasted divine.

I then served the drumsticks over the rice I had already cooked along with the vegetables from the curry, which actually tasted quite nice with only a hint of the failed sauce on them. With a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon the dish was complete. Now the sweet/sour without the coconut cream worked perfectly and I had a deliciously edible dish. A kind of curry stir fry that I would happily cook again.

Unless you burn something to a crisp, then more often than not you can dig yourself out of any hole in the kitchen, with a little know how and a lot of creativity.

And if all else fails, baked cakes and cookies are always a welcome gift to any offended parties!

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