Cook’s In The Kitchen!

As you’ll know from our regular cookery features and also from our fiction content, matters culinary are important on the “Friend” and we know that they’re of great interest to you, too. (Meals For One by Helen M. Walters in our March 25 issue is a short story which immediately springs to mind with food as the main theme).

In conversation with fiction team colleagues one day about our skills in the kitchen, I mentioned some memories of school cookery classes during the 1970s. I wonder if any of these reminiscences will sound familiar? In that era of Angel Delight and Cresta fizzy drinks – “It’s frothy, man!” – it’s heartening to realise that some sound nutritional knowledge and preparation skills were shared and stayed with me for life.

Before any of us in an all-female class in those days were let loose on the kitchen benches, we had to put dressmaking lessons into practice to make cookery aprons. They were crisp white cotton all-encompassing garments topped by an unbecoming hat made of a strip of matching cotton and ties. Our initials were embroidered on the front and I well recall proudly using chain stitch to spell out AC. Goodness knows what purpose this served in a relatively small class. I’m sure that the teacher had no problem remembering who everyone was!

Pineapple Pudding

Many years later, I hadn’t long joined the fiction team when I caught sight of a photo of a pineapple upside-down pudding on a designer’s screen. How well I recall making that dessert and the care taken to achieve a perfectly turned-out look for the table with expertly-spaced pineapple rings and cherries! I was instantly transported back to the days of classes 1Y and 2B.

Other favourite recipes I mastered which have stood the test of time were Easter biscuits (crunchy and delicately spiced with cinnamon etc.), cream of vegetable soup (trickier than “ordinary” vegetable soup but still tasty) and sausage rolls showcasing my pièce de résistance – rough puff pastry. The once-easy knack of turning that out has long been lost in the rush and scurry of daily life. An hour or more of preparation time doesn’t come easily in my busy schedule these days!

I also recall making fruit salad with a syrupy home-made juice/sugar coating. Not a healthy option but it tasted good.

Perfect Pastry

Realising the importance of baking pastry blind was a well-learned lesson, and to this day I never forget to place beans on the base of the tin to stop the pastry rising up into an unmanageable hump. Jam puffs were for using up scraps of leftover fresh pastry and oh, how the unwary were caught out as they bit into their hot centre! I’ve never forgotten that lesson about the high boiling point of jam.

Then there was the “secret” ingredient which made shortbread even lighter – a proportion of rice flour along with the usual flour, butter and sugar. Do any “Friend” readers continue to cherish favourite recipes and cookery tips learned from schooldays? Do tell us!

In second year when we were presumed to have reached a certain culinary standard, we were split into groups of two. Then we were asked to invite two teachers of our choice to a lunch cooked by us. I recall feeling nervous, but it must have gone well as I don’t remember any disasters during preparation or at the table. One classmate cheekily suggested I should invite my father who taught at that school, but I brushed that idea aside, of course! Far too embarrassing.

All this culinary “expertise” stood me in good stead in my student days when I worked seasonally in a pancake restaurant. But that’s another story . . .



Alison Cook