Tuesday, 29 January 2013

January 29th - Cottage pie with rat poison and something a little more savoury

Dear Nigel,

I don't know whether I have mentioned this before but the community I live in is a very old farming community, like a more realistic version of 'The Archers'. In fact, as a die-hard Archers fan for more than 20 years, I have to confess to a recent lapse in my listening pattern. The reason almost certainly has something to do with the fact that the real 'daily life of ordinary country folk' is far more compelling than fiction.
Take today.

 My main source of information is usually with the half-dozen or so mums waiting for our offspring from the Honker bus ( - Sophie's term, she insists, for the little school bus that serves us and Onecote, said  Oncut).

 Today's story is that Jane's husband Kevin is off to pick his grandad up from the hospital about 20 miles away. Like many old farmers old Eric lives on his own in a farmhouse nearby and Jane pops in regularly  to keep an eye on him. Seeing that Eric had a bit of a rodent problem she bought him ten sachets of rat poison at the local Farmers Store, which he put in his pantry to keep cool. Now you see which way this is heading...Anyway, old Eric decides to make cottage pie for himself and his dog - obviously they eat together, and there would certainly be one decidedly unfussy eater at that table! - and for a topping he melted all ten sachets of rat poison on top. I'm not sure what the verdict on the taste of the meal was but I gather there was none left. So Eric is in Hospital and the dog is at the Vet's and both are making a good recovery. But Eric's been told he's not allowed to live on his own anymore.

On a less flippant note- and I'm not underestimating the seriousness of this tale: Eric, and his dog, are lucky to be alive - there is perhaps a cautionary tale for us all. I'd like to know what the incidence in our society is of old people getting food poisoning. I imagine that a combination of deteriorating eye sight and slower food rotation in the fridge - mainly due to a smaller appetite and probably infrequent shopping trips - may persuade many old people to eat food that is unsuitable for human consumption. If this, added to the way our taste buds change as we got older (requiring ever stronger and stronger flavours to taste), such cases are not hard to imagine.

I turn to your diary to see what you're up to . The marmalade chocolate chip ice cream (page 46) reminds me of those bitter jellied fruits half dipped in dark chocolate - the sort that you really can't finish a whole box of in one sitting, however hard you try...and believe me, I've tried.

 Like you, I've suffered the homemade set-like-a-brick ice cream and it's a difficult one to get around. You say that the classical answer to this is to add glucose. I find alcohol works pretty well too, and too much alcohol won't set at all, so you need to get your quantities just right.

 Using marmalade is a new-found revelation to you in providing a soft scoop texture, and, as most of us have a jar or two lurking in the cupboard and in need of using up, this seems a good suggestion. You say that, like glucose, 'adding marmalade turns out to work much the same magic...the ice is the most silkily textured I have ever made.' The method you use has a custard rather than a cream base, which, in general I prefer. This also helps to make a softer ice cream.

 I no longer have an ice cream maker since it proved to be a complete pain in the arse, quite frankly; requiring constant supervision (lest it jump off the work surface) and constantly freezing up the churning paddle if I added anything it didn't like the look of, or added too fast, too slow, or too thick. I'm not in the habit of chucking out expensive appliances but this was a case of one of us having to go. No doubt there are more expensive, more recent inventions on the market but I'm reluctant to take the plunge. I think I'll stick to your other recommendation for freezing and whisking every hour until set.



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