Have you ever followed a recipe to the t thinking, yes, this will be a winner…then it happens…it falls on the floor, it flops, it burns, its just not right. Yep…me too.
Contrary to popular belief I haven’t always executed amazing dishes. Hard to believe I know (tongue is firmly in cheek by the way). Some of my best disasters have happened when I have been in cooking competitions, where the pressure is even higher than your family sitting at a dining table hungrily awaiting your feast. So I give you five of the best. Because who doesn’t love hearing about what not to do and how I could have done it better. Take it away
Number One – The infamous crème caramel surprise
It was my first foray into French desserts and it was not pretty. The caramel was watery, the custard undercooked. The result? A sloppy eggy mess turned out at the table with much anticipation to be met with much horror. It is still referred to as the crème caramel surprise whenever a family feels the need to mock me. Moral of the story – practice makes perfect. I now make a mean crème caramel
Number Two – The oven that wasn’t on
Before commencing a cooking competition there are a few things that you do before cooking. Turn on the oven, light the stove, make sure all your utensils are in order and then pick up your knives. Note the turn on the oven. I thought it was on and it unfortunately wasn’t and I didn’t realise until the time allocated for me to bake one of my ingredients was running out. Trying not to let it show I racked my brains on what to do. I decided (wrongly) to just put them in and see how it went. The result? Raw tomatoes…not my finest hour. Moral of the story – check your oven. If not on and its too late, there is a stove and it may help to start the cooking process.
Number Three – The falling pasta
My family loves to make pasta. I have a kitchen aid attachment especially. Our usual technique for drying is to hang it over a broom stick kept aside for this purpose balanced between two chairs or a chair and a table. Now I must point out, for the better part of say 20 years my Dad had his spot at the kitchen table. It was his spot and no one else felt right sitting there. One day my sister and I were making pasta and were using Dad’s chair to balance the broom stick. Dad either didn’t see the pasta or chose to stand his ground that it was his chair and he came into the kitchen and pulled the chair out to sit down. Needless to say the pasta hit the ground….much to my sister’s and I annoyance we gathered it up and started again. Until he came back and did it again….and again. Three times he pulled the chair back. I don’t know if he was having a bad day or he couldn’t see that broom stick but the pasta fail was apparent. It became clear that pasta making was not on the agenda that day. Moral of the story – don’t use dad’s chair. End of story
Number Four – Easter chocolate
This is an early one, back in the childhood days. My school friend and I thought it would be really nice to make some Easter chocolates for our class mates. We had the chocolate, we had the moulds, we were ready. Until we realised we had crap chocolate that wasn’t melting well. I know, let’s add water! If you’ve ever cooked with chocolate you’d know how much water and chocolate really don’t mix. At first it seemed really silky and we high fived each other for the awesome solution. Eagerly we poured it into the moulds and waited. The chocolates we popped out were grainy and pretty inedible. Water and chocolate really don’t like each other. They were binned. I think our class mates were thankful. Moral of the story – use good quality ingredients to start with and take your time with chocolate. It’s one ingredient you can’t rush.
Number Five – The split hollandaise
Hollandaise is an egg and clarified butter emulsion. It’s like making mayonaise but with butter instead of oil. It is a little more technical but so worth it. It was on the menu in a restaurant I worked in and I thought it was all good until a dish was called and I realised it had split. Now hollandaise isn’t quick to fix. A dish that is called away is usually expected in front of the head chef in about two minutes max. Fixing hollandaise requires whipping up new eggs into a sabayon (for a basic recipe so you get the idea check it out here) and remix the split sauce back in. Now we are looking at about five minutes. So what to do? Keep your cool. Never admit there’s a problem. Send all the other dishes you can before madly trying to remake the sauce and send the dish. A bit of smoke and mirrors shall we say. If you’re lucky and work with a good team you can recruit someone to help you make the sauce or slow their dishes down so you all get you food together as one. I had a good team. They also helped me and my chef never knew. Moral of the story – check everything before assuming it’s ok. And ask for help if you need to. There’s no shame in needing someone to have your back.
Do you have any cooking disasters you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your horror stories and triumphs