Home Cooking

If You Can’t Stand the Heat...

I’ve just crammed 23 Oat Crunchies into a box. There should have been 25, but one disintegrated on removal from the baking tray, so Miss Pupkin and I used it for quality control.And it was only when redding up, I discoverd a stray plapped on the work top; just as my cloth wheeched it into the middle of the kitchen, where it was deftly caught and swallowed by an appreciative Noble Beast.

For a Blinkie, baking must be footery, messy and extremely time consuming. Much easier to rely on Mr. Kipling and the like? Not at all! I baked in my previous life; it wasn’t on that List of Skills to Learn Once Retired. And over these last years, I’ve greatly expanded my selection of favourite recipes. On a wet and windy morning such as this, with March going out, if not quite like a lion, certainly as a bad tempered tom cat, a baking session is as worthwhile a way to pass time as any.

The ability to follow instructions is one of the best reasons for learning to read Braille. Short, plain statements; small wodges of information; and the meaning isn’t spoiled by going back and forth through the text. A Braille recipe book, talking scales and adapted measuring equipment and you’re away. I’ve found recipes on the web but despite the fact that running up and down the stairs from study to kitchen would consume any additional calories ingested as I sipped and tasted each stage, I prefer Braille. And, no, I’ve no intention of propping open a laptop beside the Kenwood. A dod of raw fruit cake mixture or a slitter of treacle would do more damage than the most determined hacker. Apart from Braille, for recipes, the nearest I’ve come to high tech is a selection of traditional, family items which have been read onto tape by my husband.

Recently, I was asked how I knew what I was eating if I couldn’t see it. Rarely a problem unless dining out, when I occasionally confuse a wedge of lemon for a chip. But, when cooking, taste, touch and smell usually provide the information. With some procedures, hearing tells all. Mind you, it is useful to have heat proof fingertips, especially when flipping meat as it’s browned for a casserole!

Seriously however, once suitable gadgets have been assembled, the cooking blinkie must develop strict organisation. No more flinging equipment around in the style of the telly’s celebrity chefs. Before any task begins, arrange all necessary equipment and ingreedients and memorise their positions. Otherwise, you will waste time slittering, and all which will be of Master Chef's standard will be the swearing and tantrums. And, know your limitations!

I don’t decorate the Christmas cake. I don’t make pancakes. I wouldn’t even dab blobs of icing on empire biscuits. In other words, I avoid all recipes where the effect depends on presentation and appearance. Which is why I happily prepare casseroles and roasts but not beef Wellington. Why I usually have a fruit cake maturing in a tin rather than a sponge decorated with rosettes of butter cream. And I work through a rota of biscuits and flapjacks whose ingredients, once baked, form a variety of lumps, ovoids or squint rectangles. After all, wonky shapes emphasise their "hands on" creation!

Of course, even as I type, a Guide Dog sits in some kitchen, admiring his Domestic Goddess owner as she carefully pipes whipped cream onto a gateau then assembles the parasols and sparklers on the champagne cocktails. Come summer, another Noble Beast will drool as his owner expertly checks the barbecue with an unsinged finger before scattering a selection of marinaded morsels over the glowing coals. Fine! Every Guide Dog I’ve known enjoys a barbecue and so do I. My strategy now is I prepare the scoff whilst others toast their extremities, doing the cooking, I can lounge around, sipping ice cold Pimms. As for that exquisite gateau, cream doesn’t agree with me. I prefer the strawberries. Preferably in that jug of Pimms!

© Charlotte Bennie 2011