My kingdom for an element!

Sadly, what was one death in 2010 has turned into a spate of deaths. Not three weeks after the untimely demise of my sourdough starter for two, the oven developed sympathy pains and has now also given up the ghost.

Luckily for me, that faithful oven showed in near-death the dignity that it had in life, not turning itself off until my courgette and hazelnut cake had reached the safety of fluffy perfection. After performing the obligatory series of female responses to electrical failures of this ilk – opening the oven door and peering inside, turning the oven off and on again, switching it off at the mains, venturing slightly further inside the oven in case I’d missed something first time round – I reached for the instruction manual.

Ha! I’m teasing – of course I didn’t. It’s all Geek to me. Instead, I scoured the internet and managed to pinpoint the problem, a broken element, using the online equivalent of a Dummy’s Guide to Malfunctioning Ovens. Not having the mettle to actually repair the damn thing myself, I then paid somebody to come and ‘diagnose’ the oven. Diagnosis involved me paying a man in a boiler suit thirty-five pounds to agree with me about the element.

So, tonight is the eve of the big repair. I’ve been in cooking exile for more than twelve days, and it’s been as restrictive as a diet – not because I’ve struggled to find things to cook on the hob, but because, like restrictive diets, all I can think about eating is the food I can’t have. The biting frost has left me hankering after a rib-sticker of a casserole followed by a heavy-bottomed English pud. When friends came over for dinner, I salivated before the mirage of a Sunday roast chased down with apple pie. I’ve been comfort feeding the new sourdough starter and gushing to it about the great loaves it will make in the future as it shivers and sulkily kicks its heels on the top shelf of my fridge. The closest I got to baking was when I licked Nigel’s Fig and walnut cake in the Observer Magazine. It’s like being on the wagon and taking an unexpected detour through Glenfiddich.

Fingers crossed, by tomorrow the oven will be as good as new – and boy, have I got plans for it. A pork shoulder sits smugly in the fridge, waiting to be slow-roasted and served with baked apples and crisp, sticky parsnips. An apricot and walnut loaf will follow that, then perhaps a chocolate cake. Come the weekend I’ll have moved on to rib of beef with all the trimmings, then I’ll get bring the heart-shaped casserole out of its enforced retirement and whip up a toad in the hole or a slow-stewed casserole. 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