19 February 2013

random recipe fail

You know when there's a trend, a consensus, dare I call it a "movement", that you're just not part of for some reason? Well, here's my guilty secret, I'm just not as in love with Nigel Slater as is expected of me. The blether-sphere is ram-packed full of people raving about his Kitchen Diaries, literally RAVING, but I haven't made time to read it. I have it on good authority that it's magical, but I find him so thoroughly unwatchable on tv that I haven't made much effort.

Which is also why I rarely choose to use the one Nigel Slater recipe book we own: Real Food. But you can't cheat on the Random Recipe Challenge, so when my husband picked some numbers at random, Real Food it was, and a recipe for grilled mustard and herb chicken.

It's very simple: a store-cupboard marinade of delicious things, chicken thighs, and a griddle pan.

When you're mixing oil, tarragon, mustard and parsley together, you kind of know that good things are in store. I was willing to accept that my reluctance to join Cult Slater might have been a bit baseless. Especially when he writes things like "They will probably take about eight minutes total cooking time, depending on the size of your thighs (or, rather, the size of the chicken's)."

That did make me chuckle. But it was at that point things started to go a little wrong. My instinct was to flatten the chicken thighs a bit with a rolling pin, or even chop and thread them onto skewers satay-style. But Nigel didn't instruct me to do that, so I did as I was told and just flung them on the griddle. It turns out that lovely organic chicken thighs (unflattened) are too plump to cook through on a griddle in eight minutes.

Mine (or, rather, my chickens') needed more like twelve. And while the recipe states that "There will be much smoke and sizzling", after twelve minutes the outsides were burnt to buggery.

Which is fine. I mean, they were largely inedible, but we had a bigger problem. We live in one moderately small room, by which I mean that our kitchen, sitting room, dining room, and study all occupy a single 8m x 3m space. And Nige was not wrong about the smoke.

After leaving all the doors and windows open for three hours (on a freezing February evening in the North of Scotland) every fibre and pore of our lives is still thick with the smell of burning. Every surface within a metre radius of the cooker is coated with a fine layer of fat, and I've lost the cat. I occasionally hear her miewing in the middle distance, but my streaming eyes can barely focus as I claw my way through the haze.

The verdict from the panel?

"Mummy, I don't really like the chicken."
"No sweetie, neither do I."



21 comments:

  1. What can I say? Um... Sorry may be a good place to start. I think one of the things we learn from cooking from cookbooks is that whilst in principle the ideas may appear appealing, when it actually comes to the way you do it at home there are simply too many variables to be 100% every time. As far as Nigel himself is concerned, well that's just a matter of opinion... I do hope you find the cat xxx

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    1. Don't worry Dom, I've sent the bill for dry-cleaning the cat straight to Slater Towers! I know, I know, I should recognise the mans infinite talents, but here's the thing, he has that incredible skill for writing EXACTLY as he talks; something I admire hugely. Trouble is I don't like watching him talk. Though I did hear him on the radio once, and that was rather lovely. Never mind, can't win them all!

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  2. A fantastic read, thanks for sharing :) I don't even own a Nigel Slater book, and I'm unlikely to buy one either unless I find one in the charity shop! I've never seen him on telly either, asI'm not a big fan of watching people cook on telly, I'd rather cook in my kitchen instead.

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  3. Fantastic post. That made me laugh. I must admit I find old Nige quite relaxing to watch on TV but his books? I've picked them up and put them down so many times in shops - feeling I ought to own one because of aforementioned "movement." But they just don't do it for me somehow. Ultimately not enough pictures for me I think :-)

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  4. Oh my! Definitely should have followed your gut on that one! Darn challenges. Hope you find the cat soon.

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  5. Sure looks delish. Nothing worse than having things burn and that smell forever- same at our household no fun leaving the windows open for hours in winter when chef is experimenting.

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  6. I liked the Kitchen Diaries as a reading book. Have never made much from the pages, and now I think of it- I gave the book to a neighbour recently. I haven't seen hiim on the telly or heard him speak though. I suppose it's a bit like going to see the film of a book you like. I loved River Cottage, but had never heard HFW's voice - I actually thought it was Prince Charles the first time I heard him speak on the radio.
    Nige often cooks on an outside grill in his walled London garden I believe xx

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    1. I knew he had a better extractor fan than me.

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  7. Thank you! I haven't the foggiest who Mr Slater is( perhaps not as trendy here in the far NW) and now you have saved me the bother of finding out! With apologies to any fans and really there are so many more tasty things to be grilling and not burning!

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    1. Oh dear, now I feel bad because when I say that I have it on good authority that his books are magical, I really mean that - I believe he writes sheer poetry about beautiful seasonal food. Please don't let my narrow-minded hopelessness colour your judgement, the vast majority worship his genius!!!!

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  8. Ha ha ha!
    I think that's what you get for nae trustin your gut instinct Mrs.
    And Nigel Slater would be appalled at you for that. ;-)

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  9. Oops. I've made some very fine recipes by Mr Slater in the past and some that I wouldn't want to make again. I've always enjoyed him on the tv because for some reason he's always made me laugh (and that's not a bad thing). Now that I've heard Miles Jupp's portrayal of the cookery writer Damien Trench in 'In and Out of the Kitchen' on radio 4 (not based on Mr Slater at all, of course) then I might find it even harder to suppress the odd giggle.

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  10. Hurrah for your efforts and your very funny post. I'm indifferent to Slater. I want to like him but I've not had chance to fully watch his programmes and I seem to keep buying baking books instead of "proper" ones, so I guess I'm a slater-fence-sitter

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  11. Awesome post - gave me a good chuckle. I don't own a single Slater cookbook...

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  12. Oh, no! But it looks delicious and, frankly, I am partial to charred bits. I am a Slater fan but I have to admit it is for his writing (Toast and Eating for England) as I haven't yet succumbed to the actual cook books.

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  13. Very good to read post. I can imagine the 'horror' you went through, but I guess you have fresh air again by now. Thanks for sharing. Well, I've never read a Nigel Slater book and don't know whether I ever will.

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  14. Oh no! Poor you and poor cat. I am a Nigel Slater fan but have other chefs on my dislike list that others seem to worship so do know the feeling. At least your gut instinct was right, if that's any consolation.

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  15. Oh dear! I actually really like Nigel Slater, though I've yet to look at his latest book, but there are several other super popular chefs that I just can't get on board with. That said, I'm not sure that I've ever actually tried any of Slater's recipes – I love his writing, so I've read plenty of them.

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