Category Archives: food

The small print is the most important ingredient on the label …

There are lots of reasons why Rocco’s mother should probably remember to take her reading glasses to Food-o-rama. Without them, she can just about drive the car there, negotiate her way across the carpark in a fairly basic manner and stumble through the sliding glass doors of the mall – and mostly, she can even tell which aisle she’s in. She knows her way around Food-o-rama well enough to almost locate the products she requires – and sometimes even gets it right. Last week however, she managed to get it wrong in rather an epic and spectacular display of misjudgement – and Rocco paid for it the next day. Indeed, Rocco’s hapless colleagues probably paid, too.

Rocco’s mother, who is definitely not renowned for Nigella-esque bursts of culinary activity (or mesmerising bosoms, even), decided to try a type of bottled coconut curry sauce in which to cook chicken. It looked delicious altogether and was – which is important – in an aesthetically pleasing jar. Obviously, there is far more to curry sauce than the illustration on the label – indeed, if Rocco’s mother was any kind of mother at all, she’d be making her own curry sauce with a million exotic spices ground lovingly with a pestle and mortar hewn from million-year-old volcanic rock. Rocco’s mother is not that kind of mother –  a fact which has been long established – and any foray into the kitchen is miraculous in itself. People are expected to show gratitude.

Rocco was prepared to show quite a bit of gratitude, because the curry smelt delicious as it simmered away – and Rocco was hungry.  He was happy his mother had made enough that there was some left over for him to take for lunch the next day. Goodo, and much anticipatory gnashing of teeth.

It became apparent to Rocco’s mother, as she sampled the first forkful, that she should not have gone there. The coconut curry was arsebreakingly evil – even the fumes entering the nostrils were ringing out a warning. Fumbling for her glasses, Rocco’s mother examined in detail the beautifully illustrated label on the jar, and discovered, in small print, ‘… with HOT peri peri’. Rocco’s mother did not have a clue of the meaning of peri peri. She did, however, have a working knowledge of the meaning of ‘hot’. It is a word she associates with water bottles, roast dinners and Alan Rickman. It is not a word she had ever considered in the same sentence as peri peri. Nevertheless, so it was written, and she felt it necessary to issue Rocco with a timid and somewhat embarrassed warning:

‘I don’t think we’re going to be able to eat this …’

Rocco and his mother sat with tears streaming down their faces and their nostrils twitching alarmingly. Rocco managed to finish his – though his mother was less enthusiastic about having her internal organs perforated, decimated and spat out at the other end. Both parties reached for tubs of fruche in order to put things to rights – and Rocco’s mother suggested Rocco may not wish, all things considered, to take the remains of the curry to work the next day.

Imagine her surprise the next morning on discovering the container of curry had been removed from the fridge and taken to Rocco’s place of employment – which, fortunately, is an open-walled timber mill. The thought of Rocco being cooped in a small, musty, air conditioned office was more than Rocco’s mother could bear thinking about. She thanked the Great Mother he was not performing brain surgery that day. She worried all morning about her son’s health – flinching each time she heard ambulance sirens, fire sirens – or even police sirens, as she considered excessive flatulence in the workplace could certainly constitute a crime against humanity.

In the middle of the afternoon, Rocco’s mother received a txt msg. ‘Thnx heaps – thr ws plastic in my lnch.’

There are lots of reasons why Rocco’s mother should wear her reading glasses whilst cooking. One of which is that, after snipping the plastic strip from the top of the noodle pouch, she would be able to ensure it went into the bin, rather than into the stir-fry. Rocco’s mother cannot comprehend how this happened – but consoled herself with the fact a strip of plastic probably would have done far less harm to her son’s digestive tract than the food in which it was lodged. As Rocco assured her his lunch was ‘nicer today than last night’, she saluted herself on having improved the recipe with her surprise ingredient inclusion. She may now patent a new range of curry sauces:

‘With HOT peri peri – and plastic strip.’

Rocco’s mother can almost hear Nigella wishing she’d thought of it first.

.oOo.

This time, Rocco’s mother doesn’t have any idea what to call it …

Lately, on just about every level, Rocco’s mother feels old age is creeping up on her. And it’s not Rocco’s father. Things in general are going downhill, dropping off and seizing up in an alarming fashion. And that’s before she gets out of bed, even.

The most worrying thing seems to be the problem with RM’s memory. What? Her MEMORY. Ah, yes. And it’s not just a matter of trying to figure out where the frozen peas are – or even whether she’d remembered to buy them in the first place – but finding the right word to describe something. Where the word should be – and indeed, once was – a blank space mockingly waits. But Rocco’s mother finds she is increasingly unable to fill it.

A few weeks ago while visiting one of Rocco’s sisters in Darwin, RM and Flygirl were wandering around a shopping mall and came upon one of RM’s favourite things. And no, it wasn’t a chocolate-covered Alan Rickman wrapped in gold foil. She would have remembered that. It was a book sale. Rocco’s mother, as was only to be expected, fell on it with rapture and frenzied excitement, calling out to Flygirl – ‘Oh look – they’ve got those … those … calendar books.’

Flygirl raised an eyebrow. ‘Diaries,’ she suggested. It hit Rocco’s mother that she hadn’t been able to retrieve that word. It hadn’t been there. A programming glitch had occurred at the vital moment. Diaries? Surely she used to know that? Even yesterday, it had been part of her everyday vocabulary – flung into conversations in a random and cavalier manner whenever the occasion called for it. Which happened to be often. Which happened to be often, because as sure as bears mess themselves in the woods, Rocco’s mother is going to make sure she doesn’t go starting conversations where she needs to use the word … the word … that word any time soon.

It is alarming to suppose there are other words in there, silently becoming fainter and fainter until they slip forever out of the memory bank. Tomorrow, will Rocco’s mother tentatively request ‘filled bread’ when asking for a sandwich? Will she come down for breakfast and not recognise anybody, like Rocco’s father on the day he first wore his new spectacles? It scares Rocco’s mother to know she’d be utterly useless if called upon to witness anything. After being served in a shop and walking outside again, she is aware she would not be able to describe the shop assistant – or recognise her in the police line-up. When the police officer demands, ‘Where were you on the night of September 23?’ in an accusatory manner, Rocco’s mother would not have a clue. She would not recall shoplifting from Food-o-rama or whether she’d eaten the legs of the chocolate-covered Alan Rickman. She would possibly not remember what September was.

Some people are blessed with extraordinary memories. Do they purposely focus on every minute detail before they file it away – or is it entirely accidental? Where is the fairness in that? The first time Rocco’s parents visited Flygirl in Darwin, they ambled downtown one morning to enjoy an alfresco breakfast under shady trees in the early morning warmth of the city. The menu was written on a huge blackboard outside the cafe, so Rocco’s father made his selection. At the counter, he said, ‘I’ll have the Full Monty, please – without mushrooms.’ The lad behind the counter – who happened to be bald and British – frowned.

‘Does it say it comes with mushrooms?’

‘Er … I don’t know,’ Rocco’s father admitted. There had been so many menu options and permutations of breakfasty ingredients.

‘Well if it doesn’t say it comes with mushrooms, it doesn’t come with mushrooms,’ the lad said patiently. Which was fair enough. The breakfast, sans mushrooms, was very good indeed and enjoyed enormously by Rocco’s father, who only eats breakfast when he’s on holidays anyway and then makes an absolute pig of himself. 

A whole year or more later, Rocco’s parents returned to Darwin – by which time Rocco’s father was dying to reacquaint himself with the excellent breakfast – so he and Rocco’s mother headed downtown on their first morning and were happy to discover the alfresco cafe was still there in all its glory, blackboards cheerfully chalked in anticipation.

‘I’ll have the Full Monty, please,’ Rocco’s father told the lad behind the counter. And the lad eyed him up over the top of the coffee machine and baskets of freshly baked muffins, and said,  ‘… it still doesn’t come with mushrooms …’

.oOo.

Rocco’s mother shops by appointment only …

Rocco’s mother is feeling a bit maverick today. She was booted out of Food-o-rama last night, and that’s a pretty big thing. Rocco’s mother is the type of person who would never dare take more than eight items through the eight-items-or-die checkout. She’d hate to upset anyone or be accused of cheating. If she happens to have nine or ten items, she puts a couple of them in her wellies. Joking. She really puts a couple of them down her knickers. Also joking.

But I digress. Rocco’s mother had a lovely week in Darwin and flew home yesterday morning – a four hour flight. Followed by a two hour train journey and another couple of hours on a bus because – what’s new – there was trackwork happening and the train couldn’t go all the way, blah, blah, blah. Whatever. Anyway, on finally reaching home, it was necessary to purchase several items which Rocco (who had been at home alone) had run out of, and which were necessary for the humane survival of his parents. Such as bread and milk. Therefore, Rocco’s mother set off for Food-o-rama with her little list. Which she wouldn’t be able to read when she got there anyway because she hadn’t remembered to take her glasses. And, in fact, she hadn’t actually remembered to take the list either.

Food-o-rama was nice and empty, so Rocco’s mother pottered around in the fluorescent quietness, thinking nothing in particular and winding down. She might even have been singing. And doing little dancing things, even, because she was happy. At the cheese fridge, a cheerless pudding of a girl was restocking, and gave Rocco’s mother a baleful glare – not moving across to allow her to choose cheese. Or select stilton. Pick parmesan. Buy brie. Whatever. Rocco’s mother settled for plasticated slices and moved on. She might have still been singing – or at least emitting a cheerful little hum – at this stage.

As Rocco’s mother started up the bread aisle, a gargantuan troll in a Food-o-rama tunic came bearing down upon her. ‘Madam,’ she said, puffed up with self-importance and the aftermath of consuming too much roadkill, ‘Are you aware the store is ACKshilly … erm … closed?’ Rocco’s mother felt a hot flush up the back of her neck, over her head and down her front.

‘I thought you closed at eight!’ Rocco’s mother protested. Aghast. She had, after all, looked at the trading hours outside and thought she had well over an hour to spare.

‘It’s AFTER eight,’ Foodbitch said smugly. She now had her arms folded in front of her. She looked as if she were getting ready to barge.

‘I’m terribly sorry,’ Rocco’s mother said. ‘Would you like me to put everything back on the shelves?’

Foodbitch’s brain was ticking over. It didn’t have far to tick, because it wasn’t very large. She obviously, however, decided Rocco’s mother would take a long time to replace the offending groceries – and she wanted her gone NOW.

‘Take them through, then,’ FB decided grudgingly. ‘As long as you don’t want anything ELSE.’ She gave Rocco’s mother a look which implied she might be the type of person who wished to strip every shelf of every possible item. Just out of spite.

At the checkout, the girlie had emptied her till and tallied up – but started putting Rocco’s mother’s purchases dutifully over the scanner. She then noticed the bag of oranges – carefully selected because they were (for a change) large and orange – happened to have a squashed and broken fruit inside, the orangey contents of which were smearing themselves over the other, non-offending fruit.

‘Oh dear,’ said the girlie. She turned to Foodbitch, who was standing there tapping her foot like the guardian at the River Styx. ‘Would you mind getting another one of these?’

Foodbitch looked as if she might kill Rocco’s mother – but snatched the bag of oranges and huffed off to the fruit section, returning with a bag of the smallest, greenest-tinged, crappy looking oranges she could find. Rocco’s mother knew full well it was Foodbitch’s revenge, along the lines of the Poo-in-the-Gelato punishment which had been enacted upon an unpleasant patron at an hotel a few weeks prior. Rocco’s mother figured Foodbitch was entitled to her little victory. Just this once, and because she appreciated the customer is not right all the time.

It is fortunate there are other supermarkets which Rocco’s mother can frequent. She’s rather embarrassed, and doesn’t know whether she wants to go back to Food-o-rama again. On the other hand, her memory is so jaded these days she’ll probably have completely forgotten about it within a day or two, and will wonder why staff members recoil in horror next time she makes an appearance.

ACKshilly … she doesn’t really give a hoot.

.oOo.

Omni, omnus, omnibus …

It’s marvellous how we have that clichéd little thought every time we do something unhealthy, isn’t it?  ‘Oh well … I could be hit by a bus tomorrow.’

Yep – that justifies everything. The miniscule square of chocolate that shortens our life by five hours –  the cigarette that robs us of two extra days – the sound of Alan Rickman’s voice stealing at least a week – blah, blah, blah. We’re not allowed to just enjoy anything anymore. And that’s a bad thang. A very bad thang altogether, because who wants to live a long life without ever hearing Alan Rickman inviting you into his boudoir for some choc-coated cherry numnums. Or even issuing you with a parking ticket, for that matter.  And yes, I’d pay it. Even if he was wearing the Professor Snape wig.

It’s getting so you can’t do anything without the naysayers telling you it’s bad for you. And to be honest, that makes me feel just a teensy bit rebellious and wanting to indulge in whatever they tell me not to. After all, if I added up the chocolates, cigarettes (which I gave up over 25 years ago anyway) and random invitations from AR to do various things both frisky and deluded, I should have died several years ago. And because I clearly didn’t, I’m thinking rampant buses are probably not the b-all and end-all of ways in which to be taken out.

A friend of a friend of a friend swears he stayed in a seedy motel room somewhere in America, and noticed the room had a particularly grim and mortuaresque odour. On pulling out the trundle bed in order to put his child to bed after a hurried meal of takeaway pizza throughout which the family pegged their noses closed, imagine his surprise on unearthing (tra-la!) a deceased prostitute. Whatever had happened to this unfortunate lady to have placed her in such a dire predicament was not made apparent  – but I’m betting she wished she’d eaten more chocolate.

A few years ago, a very strange thing happened in our town – and you’ll probably think I’m making it up. When I heard it, I thought the radio lad and the local paper were making it up – but not so. Read it and weep. A lady had her old cat put down at the vet, and because she wanted to bury him in her rose garden, placed him in a shoebox in order to take him home.  On her way back, she stopped in at Food-o-rama to return some tins of cat food and purchase several economy boxes of tissues and a bottle of medicinal gin – and on returning to the car, opened the boot and placed the shoebox’o’moggy carefully on the car roof whilst packing the shopping bags inside. As luck would (or indeed wouldn’t) have it, some lousy thieving chancer happened to spot the shoebox and, thinking her luck was in and she was about to score a brand new pair of Nikes (because yes, it was indeed a woman), swiped the box from the top of the car and took off across the carpark.

And this is where the old cliché comes into play, because karma being what it is, the thieving chancer was then very karmatically and thuddingly hit by a bus. The afternoon one to Jolly Havens Retirement Village, as it happened, which was full of pissed and randy pensioners high on bingo winnings and Mylanta after the prawn cocktail/chicken parmy two course luncheon special (and $2 extra for the rhubarb cheesecake, please).

But the story doesn’t quite finish there, because when the ambulance turned up, the paramedics tucked the shoebox carefully on to the stretcher next to the thieving chancer – and both were transported to the hospital where the shoebox was placed reverently in the bedside locker, from whence the police eventually recovered it after finally finishing their alleged Krispy Kremes and grudgingly deciding to turn up.

I have absolutely no idea what the moral to this story is – or whether there is one at all. But whatever Alan Rickman has in mind for the rest of the evening, that’s fine with me. I hope he brings chocolates, Danish pastries with walnut and maple filling, a couple of bottles of very sweet and fizzy champagne – and oh alright – he can wear the Professor Snape wig if he likes, too. If I lose another week because of it … whatever.

.oOo.

The necessary gigabytes for a lifetime memory stick …

I can’t remember much these days. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I was thinking five minutes ago. So it would be really innovative if we could download the contents of our brains into a computer in order to rewind and replay.

It’s a constant annoyance to the Rt Hons that I (allegedly) tell them things ‘a million times’. It’s partly (I try to convince myself) because there are four of them, and I can never remember which one I told a particular story to in the first place. According to them, it’s because I’ve lost it. There is much sighing, eye rolling and gnashing of teeth. Also according to them, I don’t remember things they (also allegedly) told me five minutes ago. Sometimes I don’t remember which one of them told me something but I do remember what it was. And if it’s any consolation whatsoever to them, I do remember bringing them into the world. Most very definitely indeed and with loud hallelujahs.

The first thing I remember ever (I think) was being at Filey in England on a caravan holiday when I was about three or four. And the part I remember in particular was my Dad taking me into a milk bar and buying me a milkshake.  The milkshake was pink, and was in one of those tall, fluted glasses with a paper straw. The top was frothy, with huge bubbles. It smelt pink, and I can still smell it even now. It was lovely. I don’t remember whether my Dad had a drink, or the pattern of the formica on top of the table we were sitting at, but I remember Ketty Lester was singing Love Letters on a jukebox. You don’t hear that anymore, and I wish we did. It would be nice to do a rewind and watch it happening and see whether I’d got it right; but we can’t do that, of course, and I’m wondering whether it will ever be possible.

What gets remembered and what gets rejected? I don’t remember the furnishings of the house I was brought up in – but a few months ago while crossing the street in town I had an overpowering memory of the smell of the dinner hall at a school I went to 45 years ago. It came wafting over the road and knocked me for six. Horrible stew and spotted dick? Wherefore art thou, banana junket, in the middle of the day in an Australian country town? Which brain signals conjured it forth when I was thinking about purchasing toilet roll, posting the Telstra bill and goodness me, how could I have possibly left the house still wearing my slippers?

It probably says a lot about me that most of my memories are food related. It has, after all, always been about the food. I remember little glass bottles of orange juice arriving with the milkman before school, and having to drink it even though it was covered in frost. I remember taking Peek Freans tick tock biscuits (the square ones with nursery rhymes iced on them, not the crappy pretender ones you get today) to school and having them nicked every day by a bigger kid. I remember the smell of the cardboard cover on my primer. (No, I realise the cover of a primer isn’t food and I couldn’t have eaten it … but hasn’t sniffing a book  always been as good as jamming your nose into an open bag of Maltesers?)

 I have no idea, however, what the Hunter Gatherer wore to work this morning, or indeed, whether he wore anything at all. Seeing as I don’t remember washing or ironing it, this is a distinct possibility. If he has spent the day in blissful nakedness, I doubt he’d either roll his eyes or gnash his teeth at me, considering he was the one who came to breakfast wearing new glasses 20 years ago, gazed at his offspring who were artfully arranged around the table, saying, ‘Who are these people and where did they come from?’

I wonder whether your life really does fast-forward before your eyes as you are departing … and where do all the memories go after that? And if it’s ever possible for us to download the contents of our minds and watch them on our computer screens, I hope there’s a delete function for the strange and evil stench of every school dinner anyone’s ever had the misfortune to remember …

.oOo.

Blessed are the cheesemakers …

Once upon a time you used to be able to buy these little triangular wedges of cheese. They were wrapped in foil and arranged in a round cardboard box. I can’t remember the name of them, and I haven’t seen them for years. I don’t go near the part of the supermarket in which they might dwell if they still existed – because the very thought of them sends a chill down my spine. No doubt the Warrior Queen will be aware of their name, rank and serial number – and if she reads this, I would like her to know I do not wish to be reminded. And I think she knows why.

Somewhat hilariously, the Hunter Gatherer and I went on our honeymoon a good year after our wedding … and we took my parents. We had all decided we really fancied a houseboat holiday on the Murray River – so the four of us tootled off down to Renmark in a little old Triumph Dolomite, driving all through the night. At that time we were all smokers – so the interior of the car was a choking fug of fumes for the entire several hundred kilometres – and after a while, the WQ and I (who were in the back) mentioned we thought there was a petrolly kind of smell happening. For some reason this was uproariously funny. We all lit up again, for the forty-eleventh time, and made comments such as, ‘wouldn’t it be HILARIOUS if the whole car went BOOM …’ and just about wet our collective knickers in hysterics while considering the possibility.

On arrival in Renmark we discovered to our horror there was, in fact, substantial fuel leakage seeping into the back of the car just under where the WQ and I had been resting our arses – and the fact the car hadn’t gone BOOM was rather miraculous in the extreme. There was a bit of nervous laughter in the, ‘oh my goodness, the chips!’ vein as we unpacked our provisions and abandoned the car to the ministrations of the friendly, but rather aghast, mechanic.

It was very nice indeed on the Murray River. Beautiful weather, gorgeous birdlife, nothing to do but potter along in our own time, phone in daily for supplies and pick them up from designated numbered locked boxes at intervals along the riverbank – and eat. With eating in mind (as it’s always about the food), the WQ had packed a box of things she thought we might chow down on whilst pottering. And one of these things was the aforementioned Cheese’o’Tragedy. I can’t remember whether she actually said, ‘Have one of these,’ or whether it was I who asked. It matters not. I remember tasting it and finding it utterly repugnant. Like trying to chew the discarded remnants of a horrid old man’s rotting underpants. Or a rotting old man’s horrid underpants, even.

It should have been reasonable – nay, normal – for me to have just hoiked the offending morsel starboard. End of. But the WQ was having none of that. Oh no. She stared me down, nostrils akimbo, pointing a quivering arm. ‘You’ll jolly well FINISH IT,’ she declared. ‘You took it – you’ll eat it!’ The lads were trying desperately not to laugh, snorting into their hands with their backs turned. There were pelicans on the water, a pale blue sky which went on forever, the steady chug of the motor … and everything should have been intensely right with the world. But it occurred to me the WQ was deadly serious. Memories flooded back of a school I’d attended in England where I’d been made to remain at the table until I’d chewed and swallowed a piece of unchewable, unswallowable meat. It also occurred to me I was now a GROWN UP. A married person, even, who was old enough to vote.  It’s strange I can’t remember now whether I actually ended up eating the thing or not. I think there was much howling and gnashing of teeth before the matter was resolved.  There were seven more of those grim wedges in the little round cardboard box … their fate, also, is unknown.

A lasting legacy of the cheese experience is that to this day, when the WQ says, ‘Have one of these,’ in crypt-curdling tones, I feel a cold sweat trickle down the small of my back. The hairs on my neck prickle with horror. It might have happened 28 years ago, but like horrid old underpants, some things are destined never to die.

Blessed are the cheesemakers for they shall inherit the earth …

Not.

.oOo.

Puff pastry can make anybody feel like Nigella …

It’s no secret I hate cooking. The only good thing about sticky summer weather is that nobody really wants to eat anything. You can be sitting there at 9pm sponging perspiration from your face with your legs spreadeagled over the coffee table (a charming vista from almost any angle) and nobody’s likely to say, ‘How about some roast suckling pig and a dozen treacle dumplings (with custard).’ They’d sooner die. Not only do they lack the capacity to plough into such repast – they’re also well aware I’d have to kill them.

My friend Jules, whose claim to fame is cooking ‘from scratch’, is quite astounded when I’m game enough to mention convenient things like fish fingers. I do it sometimes purposely when I feel she’s being too smug and needs stirring up. I have no doubt Jules makes her own fish fingers, forming hand-minced flaked flathead into artistic oceanic shapes with her bare hands and crumbing them. With crumbs made from scratch with … yes, bread. Probably home-baked and grated with her own toenails. Opening a frostbound box from the freezer department of Food-o-rama is probably as foreign to Jules as a working knowledge of what to do with a Brussels sprout is to me. Furthermore, I just don’t care. Some of us were put on this earth to nurture our families – and the rest of us weren’t.

There is something mind-numbingly boring about going to the supermarket anyway. Filling your trolley with vegetables, taking them home, nuking them – then scraping them from your children’s plates into the bin. If you took them straight home and binned them immediately, you could cut out the middle man completely. It must be the ‘guilty mother’ syndrome which keeps you battling away – so when the doctor tells you your family has scurvy and every nutritional deficiency known to man, you can say with complete honesty, ‘I tried giving them vegetables, sir … but they wouldn’t eat them!’ It sounds lame, but you’ll get away with it because it’s no longer legal to jam things into kids’ mouths and tape them shut.

I once remember cooking something – but it didn’t work. It’s tempting to try again when winter sets in and the aroma of the neighbours’ pot roast comes wafting through the kitchen window. Tendrils of gastronomic extravagance curling through the barren wastes of my non-productive kitchen. Sadly, the Hunter Gatherer sometimes thinks the aroma’s ours. He looks hopeful and asks what I’m cooking. I tell him to stand near the open window and breathe in. It’s called ‘passive eating’ – it’s inexpensive and you won’t gain weight. Our neighbours have no idea how many of their meals we’ve enjoyed by osmosis. If they cook something really hideous, we just close the window and the HG is forced to endure yet another dalliance with fish fingers.

A very convenient tool in the art of feeding your family is the knowledge nobody will ever let themselves starve. When they start making whimpering sounds, you point to the loaf of bread. Your only contribution to the scheme of things is to make sure there is a loaf of bread. The survival instinct will then take care of the rest. If you’re really fortunate, one of your offspring will discover they have a flair for cooking and will shove rudely past you to get to the spice rack. You may be lucky enough to get quite a few years’ mileage out of this before they leave home.

But the best invention since sliced bread (or any bread, really) is the packet of ready-rolled puff pastry sheets. You can wrap them around just about anything and people will be incredibly impressed. Just open a tin, bung it on the pastry, do a bit of artistic crimping … and voila! Your family thinks you’re Nigella. Not only that, you can use up those tins of Pal you don’t need anymore since WoofWoof moved down the street to where the dogs are spoiled rotten with home-made beefy numnums.

Necessity being the mother of invention, feeding the family need only be limited by your imagination. You will find you can fool almost all of the people most of the time with the pastry trick. I was telling Jules about it the other day and she refused to believe there would be any call for such a product. Fortunately for some of us, there most definitely is. Due to consumer demand, the packs of ready-rolled pastry now come in an economy pack of 10 sheets. Bliss on a stick, and bring on the dog bowl!

Eat your heart out, Nigella …

.oOo.