Saturday, May 24, 2008

Out of the Writing Cave

In our house, cooking is a rostered activity. We take turns, each of us cooking three nights of the week and we go out on the seventh and dine with friends.

Thursday, we pick up one of our granddaughters from her kindergarten and is one of my nights, so I decided to try a slow cooker we'd inherited and never used to produce corned beef (with no cabbage!). The instruction book was written by a dyslexic with writer's cramp and consisted primarily of recipes in a sparse, masculine style designed to conceal rather than reveal their secrets, so my first task was to decipher from these some concept of the function of the four position switch on the side of the cooker. The next was to adapt my tried and true recipe for corned beef to this new implement.

I wasn't sure I believed the instruction book's claim that it was impossible to overcook anything in this appliance and the cooking time recommended seemed impossibly long (12-24 hours), but there'd be six hungry mouths to feed and under done corn beef is not desirable so I accepted it and decided to check the condition along the way.

I was wise. Four hours before the meal, the meat was cooked!

I switched off the cooker and prepared the rest of the meal on time, switching on the cooker half an hour before. Surprisingly, it was a great success. The bay leaf, two cloves, brown sugar and malt vinegar had been intensified by the lesser liquid quantity, and, if carving required the delicacy of a brain surgeon, the white sauce hid most of the results and every plate was cleaned.

I've typed some notes and pasted them on the inside of the instruction book for future reference and am looking at their recipe for Irish Stew as an encore in a month or two.

The weather is good, so I have a day's work in the garden, a collection run for a charity and a bike ride planned for the weekend, then it's back into the cave and into the acrid gun smoke of a naval battle in 1803 as the story nears its climax.

It's a great life.

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