Some ingredients just can’t be used as a substitute
When I was about sixteen, my parents left me home on my own (with supervision from the family across the road) while they went on a holiday. My new-found “alone status” made me feel very grown up and eager to show off to a friend. I invited Sue over for dinner. Alas, there wasn’t much in the larder or fridge. I had already eaten up all the goodies. Not wanting to make a fool of myself, I decided to cook some scrambled eggs. Alas, there was no milk in the fridge.
Now my mother, a most accomplished cook, would have used a tablespoon of water per egg, but I hadn’t yet learned this technique. I was convinced scrambled eggs couldn’t be made without milk. Searching the food cupboard, I came across a can of condensed milk. Yay! Success at last! I added a generous dollop of the creamy liquid to the eggs in the pan.
If you have never tasted scrambled eggs made with condensed milk – DON’T – It was a sickly mess.
Easy-going Sue suggested we go back to her place to eat. I hurried along after her, knowing her mother would have a nice meal waiting at their place.
If it doesn’t thicken, just add more cornflour!
Fast-forward quite a few years. I’m living in Melbourne in a nice little flat and determined to become an accomplished cook just like my Mum. At this stage of my life I had been living in Brisbane for six years and had headed down south for new life experiences. I was a so-so cook, but Melbourne, being the food capital of Australia at the time, made me realize how lacking my culinary skills were. I wanted to be able to cook like the chefs of the restaurants I visited from time to time.
I had seen my Mum make it many times – White Sauce. I decided to give it a try. How hard could it be to sizzle a bit on chopped onion in a saucepan with some butter, then add cornflour and milk – stirring furiously until it thickened.
The onions and butter went well. So did adding the cornflour then the milk. Five minutes later, the sauce hadn’t thickened. I added more thickening. Same result – so I added more cornflour. After twenty minutes of frustration, it occurred to me to taste my lovely White Sauce. Ugh! I had used icing sugar instead of cornflour!
A fondue dinner should come with better instructions – particularly from the hostess
A few dinner parties later, I felt compelled to invite a male friend to have a home-cooked dinner. Reg was the cousin of a good friend and he had taken me out to quite a few really expensive restaurants. We had even dined with US car manufacturer scion Edsell Ford and his wife (my friend worked for Ford in Australia).
Wanting to show off my newly acquired culinary skills, I decided to offer a fondue dinner. This decision was prompted by the fact that Reg might not have had the pleasure of a fondue dinner before. I was right. He seemed pleased to be allowed to participate in the cooking. I had made extensive preparations. The table was beautifully set with all the food presented as if it awaited a photographer for an up-market gourmet magazine.
The first course was the Cheese Fondue, with beef, chicken and seafood to follow. Dessert was to be strawberries, marshmallows and banana dipped in rum flavored chocolate.
Before I could impart the routine to Reg, he grabbed the entire plate of grated cheese and tipped it into the fondue pot that contained some sizzling white wine. The cheese formed a solid ball in the bottom of the pot and was totally inedible. Reg fished it out and threw it at me. I caught it. We played toss and catch for a few minutes and it certainly livened up the dinner. You see, Reg was a rather conservative, quietish fellow. I had not seen this funny side of him. Eventually, we put the cheese ball aside and continued with the rest of the courses which were a great success.
Learning to cook can be a hairy experience when you get the ingredients confused. These days I have enough knowledge and experience not to produce such disasters.
To view more of my content – CLICK HERE