Tag Archives: bacon

Joining the Breakfast Club

This week was my turn to cook at The Breakfast Club, a pop-up restaurant run by the oft-mentioned Rachel. It was also the hottest week of the summer so far, with temperatures topping 30 at the weekend.

It was late on Friday evening when I wondered whether I could stand the heat – and if not, whether I should get out of my kitchen. I’d dried the tomatoes for hours in a warm oven. Said oven was now heating up again, this time to welcome my Portuguese custard tarts. I was boiling kettle after kettle of water to turn into iced tea. And everything I touched was starting to melt.

Such was the intensity of the heat that at one point, an apparition came to me. There, at the far end of my kitchen, a mirage appeared, and out of the haze stepped Gregg Wallace, wearing nothing but a white towel and an ugly grin. I’ll never forget what he told me (mainly because he repeats it so often on MasterChef that it’s the next most natural thing to him after breathing). ‘Cooking doesn’t get any tougher than this,’ said he, portentously. ‘Yes it does you ridiculous little man,’ I replied sternly. ‘Now get out of my kitchen before I report you to Hello magazine.’

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The best of times, the worst of times…

Tastes that take me back to a good place in my childhood: 

  1. Crumpets with butter
  2. Hula hoops dipped in salad cream
  3. Milk loaf
  4. Apples cut into pieces and dipped in sugar – a treat at my grandparents’ house
  5. Cornflakes in cream – another luxury courtesy of my grandparents, and the only way they could get me to drink milk.
  6. Peas popped straight out of their pods and into my mouth in my grandparents’ back garden
  7. My mum’s apple and blackberry pie
  8. The dust on jelly babies and marshmallows

 Things I never want to taste again from my childhood: 

  1. Low fat toffee yoghurts
  2. Awful supermarket own-brand frozen French bread pizzas (or any brand for that matter)
  3. Findus crispy pancakes – any time I want to test my gag reflex I only need to think of these claggy atrocities that made my time at the dinner table feel eternal. Chewing through the crisp exterior as fast as possible so that the bland, soggy innards engulfed the throat-constricting taste of those luminous breadcrumbs. Realising that the whole sorry mess had now welded itself to the roof of my mouth and would need dislodging manually if I was ever going to swallow the damn thing. Trying to coax it down using my tongue, then having to open my mouth and prod it with a finger or fork, the sudden rush of air throwing the nauseating flavours into even sharper relief. Understanding that any resistance to the dish my mother has placed in front of me will mean going through this process with a cold Findus crispy pancake, the enclosed sauce solidifying just a little more after each and every mouthful. Admitting defeat against this inanimate weapon and dispatching of it with a shudder for another week.
  4. No-frills chocolate chip cookies. Disappointingly pale cookies that don’t actually save you any money because you need about six no-frills cookies to get anywhere near the satisfaction of just one frilly biscuit (although I’ve never been known to stop at just one of those either). It always felt as if, at the end of the day in the biscuit factory, anything that the cleaner had swept up of the floor went into this one last lucky batch of cookies. This theory would explain the cardboard taste and the miniscule crumbs of ‘chocolate’.
  5. Dried parmesan cheese. A deluge of memories: shaking it onto mum’s first spaghetti bolognese and almost choking with excitement at the thought of our family being so very Continental; my brother and I, bored in the school holidays, daring each other to inhale the fumes from that plastic shaker for as long as possible; remembering much later in life with dismay that this substance was stored in the cupboard – the cupboard! – and not the fridge. (It’s probably still there – when I was 14 I found a tub of strawberry milkshake powder in my mum’s cupboard with a use-by date that pre-dated my birth…)
  6. Those horrible fake smarties you get in plastic walking sticks at theme parks and fairs. Fake chocolate in general, like those foil-wrapped chocolate footballs and Easter eggs public-facing corporations give away at open days.
  7. Kellogg’s Squares. Set my teeth on edge and make the hairs on my arms stand on end. They’re almost alive, the way they react in your mouth.
  8. Bacon bits – strange little gravelly brown chips that we weren’t quite sure what to do with in our house. They left a dubious fluorescent orange stain on any moist surface they came into contact with and gave me meteorologically important indigestion. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, visit your local Harvester’s salad bar – I’m sure they’ll still be there.

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