The Pull, Part 12

Here it is – the pasta in sauce I told you I would be making after my stir-fry last week. I had it for my dinner last night, and whilst it obviously wasn’t the most complicated dish in the world, I am at least glad to have something else under my belt to reproduce in Winchester. With such a simple cooking process, there was very little that could go wrong as I sat alongside Mum at the worktop, although carrying a newly-boiled kettle with a broken lid on my lap did bat a few eyelids! I also had trouble seeing what I was doing at certain points. When it came to pouring out the correct amount of pasta on the electronic scales I was struggling to see the readout, although I did choose to disregard it to a certain extent anyway, since this was my first time and I wasn’t too worried. Mum had very cleverly bought a metal chip basket for the pasta to go into – she thought it would be too risky for my hands to get too close to the hot water, and that simply lowering it into the pan would be a much safer option. Whatever I did, I still kept my oven gloves firmly on to prevent my clumsiness costing me dearly – after we had finished Mum admitted that it might have been easier for us to pre-boil the water in the pan, to avoid any potential accidents with the aforementioned kettle!

Once I had managed not to scald myself terribly, it was time to heat the pasta sauce – and, if possible, I wanted to do it without permanently staining any of my clothes. Mum handed me the jar and asked if I would be able to open it. Recalling my struggles with the lid of the sugar jar we had at work (which always seemed to be welded on), I replied in the negative, only to find that the lightest twist was needed and I wasn’t such a weakling after all. The jar was not a new one, and half of the sauce was left, but Mum instructed me to only use a small fraction of it on the pasta. I was therefore determined to tip the jar as daintily as possible, with the ultra-cool precision of a brain surgeon. It would seem that there’s still some work to do on that approach, however, because no sooner had I made the slightest wrist movement than the whole lot had gone in. When it had heated up in the saucepan, I obviously had to stir it with a trusty wooden spoon, which would thankfully not be conducting any heat! I couldn’t really see the contents very well, but Mum assured me that perfect vision was not strictly necessary as I was only stirring to coat the pasta. I moved the spoon a few times clockwise, and then anti-clockwise, just to reinforce the illusion that I actually knew what to do – and then pasta and sauce were ready to become one (my clothes survived the experience unscathed). A brief mix then culminated in a bowl that is surely worthy of a Michelin star, don’t you think?

OK, so it’s hardly a work of art – but it’s yet more progress of which I can be proud. Every achievement is relative in magnitude to whoever has achieved it, and for me this is another big one. I don’t know what will be next for me to cook, but I look forward to potentially finding out next week, and if it’s something more interesting than this another photo and post will follow. I am now looking ahead to the exciting weekend before me – I will shortly be off to a local music festival, at which I will celebrate my 21st birthday tomorrow. I never cease to be amazed by how quickly each birthday seems to creep up on me. They feel like they come and go almost as quickly as my haircuts, and I have one of those every five weeks!

Mason

 

The Pull, Part 10

What you see before you might not look like a masterpiece, but I felt it appropriate to share a photo of it here, because this meal – this humble stir fry – is the first one ever to be cooked by my own fair hands. As you might have guessed, Mum used her Yoda-like mastery to guide me so that I would know everything I needed to cook for myself in Winchester. When she announced yesterday that I would be making my own tea tonight, I was filled with a mixture of confidence, intrigue and the fear of the unknown, but now that the meal has vanished from my plate I can safely say that only positivity remains. I am very optimistic that I will easily be able to reproduce it on demand when I am living alone, and this is due in no small part to what Mum did to soothe my inner doubts.

After I had made sure my hands were well and truly washed, I rolled across to the worktop by the cooker to see that the chicken breasts had already been laid out on the appropriate chopping board. Mum explained that in Winchester, it may well be easiest for me to use chicken that has already been diced, but she took this opportunity to make sure I could cut it anyway. Obviously, raw chicken does not put up much of a fight against a knife, so slicing it into smaller pieces was hardly an issue for me. When they had been swept into the wok, to be coated in the hot oil I had poured there, I was surprised by exactly how quickly they all cooked through. There was an instantly noticeable transformation in the appearance of the meat, and I got to see this up close as I tried tossing it about with both tongs and a spoon. I concluded that the tongs were most effective when dealing with chicken, since I could examine and move each piece individually, but when the somewhat slithery vegetables went in, I favoured the spoon to turn them collectively. The grip tongs have on those isn’t quite as firm, that’s for sure!

Then came the noodles, specifically those of the “straight to wok” variety, which Mum had very thoughtfully purchased. They were tightly packed into a large block within their packaging, so it was suggested that I unpick them carefully over the crowded pan. I had expected to immediately drop the lot in with my butterfingers, but I was ultimately able to add them in small quantities – until the last batch, which did fall in a large cube that only narrowly missed the kitchen floor. It was in, however, and now only minutes remained before the contents of the wok would be the contents of my plate. I had never previously realised that cooked noodles did not change colour, so I learnt another small lesson when Mum told me that they only appeared darker in her meals because of the soy sauce she stirs in prior to serving. I used the spoon to break up the last of the noodles that were clinging together and after a couple more minutes, dinner was ready.

The wok is pretty heavy, especially in the hands of someone like me, so Mum initially doubted my ability to lift it and transfer the food to the plate, but I quickly proved that such fears were unfounded by easily tipping it all on. As it sat there steaming away, it was somewhat lacking in terms of presentation, but Mum – as you can see in the photo – had the foresight to try scattering the mangetout in an artistic manner (which might not have worked so well). With that, it was on the table, and in my stomach just as quickly. As I sat back staring at my clean plate, I wondered what else I might be able to accomplish in the kitchen with Mum’s ever-reliable assistance. She tells me that a simple plate of pasta in sauce will be next. A few days ago that might have daunted me, but I suddenly have no fear, and I can clearly see the benefits these new abilities will bring in just a few short weeks. Bring on the pasta!

Mason