Let me start by saying I used to cook for royalty. Well ok, not actual royalty but Gabriela Sabatini who was tennis royalty back in 1990. I was a qualified chef and working in a 5 star Hotel in Kensington. It was the official Wimbledon hotel where players stayed throughout the tournament. Every morning Gabriela would have a freshly made omelette and if I was on duty I'd make it for her. These were special times for me as I was a massive fan. Nothing like Kate Bush levels of love and admiration but she was my favourite player and it felt like a real privilege to be part of her nutritional team. Well, I can dream can't I?
I'm just giving you a bit of background and context so hopefully you'll be able to emphasise with me here. Basically I was a top chef back in the day. Ok, maybe not a top chef but a 2nd Commis anyway. That's quite low down on the chef scale if you're not in the know. I was very capable of making a variety of great tasting dishes and the accidents weren't my fault. Exploding stilton bites ruining a lunch for 150 VIPs, not my fault. Burnt lobster bisque as I was chatting downstairs and left it on the stove for an hour, well ok, that was all me. Rach and the girls always laugh when I suggest I'll cook and I constantly remind them indignantly that I'm a qualified chef. It's become a running joke in our family but seriously, I am a qualified chef and I CAN cook. Just making that clear.
Last Sunday I had a big fight with Katie and when we talked and made up afterwards she said I always seemed to be in the office after school and not around. After the stabbing pains of guilt subsided slightly I promised I'd be out the office by 3pm every day and we would do fun stuff together. Cooking was her first choice so we agreed to cook a three course meal on Wednesday to surprise Rachel with when she got back from work. I suggested we plan it before school so I could have the ingredients ready when she got back. "It's fine daddy, we'll decide when you pick me up and we'll quickly pop to Sainsbury's."
"Quickly" pop to Sainsbury's, is that ever a reality? I don't think I've ever spent less than 40 mins there, even when "popping" in just to get a drink or newspaper. Looking at cheap cd's including 80's compilations: 5 mins, PS4 games: 10 mins, discounted stationary: 15 mins, you get the idea. That's just going by myself, with the girls in tow it's a nightmare. "Daddy, can we have this?" was repeated 29 times on Wednesday (I counted) and it was all things we never have in the house like chocolate and cream pies filled with unicorn dust. In addition were all the items (mainly) Jade surreptitiously slipped into the trolley that I missed as I stupidly thought I was empowering them to be independent by letting them collect the ingredients. In truth I was in a bad place and wanted to sneak off to buy lots of cereal for late night snacking. I would have got a few Battenberg cakes as well but Katie came running up the aisle screaming, "Daddy, we've packed everything, the cashier's waiting for you to pay and there's a massive queue."
The menu had been decided. Stuffed mushrooms to start, main course of festive apple chicken and raspberry swiss roll for dessert. I was excited, Katie was excited, it was going to be fun. Don't you love my misguided and naïve optimism! We got home and as I was unpacking the 23 bags containing Jade's sneaked in items I asked her to do the recycling. It was literally two small bags. "Aggh, I've got trapped wind and I can't get up." I reminded her that 30 seconds ago she was walking around completely normally. "I'll do it in a minute." Ah, the six words Jade uses more than any others. Well, equally along with "You have to help me find it." I put the bags in the hall as I wanted a clear space for our culinary masterpiece to take shape.
Chicken first so stuffing made with apples, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, onion and parsley. By the time it was tucked under the skin and the chicken was in the oven it was 6.10pm. Rachel was due home for 7.20pm so already timings weren't looking great. The chicken would be cooked by 7.50 so I'd serve the mushrooms at 7.30, it would be fine. Katie got on making the swiss roll and I started on the mushrooms. It was 6.30 and the recycling was still in the hall. "Jade, please go and do the recycling." "I promise I'll do it in a minute." You can see where this is going can't you.
Forty minutes later and the mushrooms were under the grill, the swiss roll was out of the oven and the chicken was cooking slowly. The recycling was still in the hall but it was ok as Jade was doing it in a minute. Rach arrived early and starving. Jade was now feint through hunger and was in too much pain to get up and do the recycling. "As soon as I've eaten, I promise." Katie excitedly went through the menu with Rach and all I heard after, "Sounds lovely" was a worried, "Breadcrumbs?" I'd forgotten that Rach is wheat intolerant so the stuffed mushrooms and stuffed chicken which both contained copious amounts of breadcrumbs weren't an ideal choice.
I managed to scrape off the cheese and breadcrumbs and Rach got to enjoy a nicely grilled mushroom. The rest of us had the full stuffed experience and do you know what, they were amazing. It's probably because I USED TO BE A CHEF. Did I mention that? I proudly told everyone to sit down as I was going to serve the chicken. Lift it up to make sure the running juices are clear: Inconclusive. Cut open a bit to make sure there's no blood or obviously pinkness everywhere: oh dear. "Chicken will be about 30 minutes," I cheerfully but nervously announced. As you can imagine this didn't go down well. Jade was crying as apart from trapped wind and hunger pains she was planning on going to bed early due to mock exams. Rach just needed to eat. "I'm sorry baby, I can't wait, what vegetables have you made, I'll just have the jacket potato and baked beans."
Ah yes, vegetables, I knew I'd forgotten something. I'd just been caught up in all the three course meal excitement and taken my eye off the ball. I'd also only remembered 7 minutes ago to put the jacket potatoes in the oven so we were having to do with the less fluffy and crispy microwaved variety. It was all going rapidly down hill but I was staying positive. Rach was being diplomatic. "Thank you for trying baby but in future I'll do the cooking." That felt like a slap in the face but nothing compared to the response to my next offer. "To take the pressure off you, I'll cook Christmas Day." By the stunned and disgusted look on Rach's face, you'd have thought I'd just told her I was leaving her to be with her mum." "NO way are you cooking Christmas Day, NO way." I just shut up and checked the chicken again.
Cooking four jacket potatoes in a microwave takes a lot more than seven minutes so I had to improvise and use delay tactics in the best way I knew, flattery and schmoozing. "Baby, I just want to say that I love you and appreciate all you do for us as a family." She was unmoved and Jade was still crying. Oh and the recycling was still in the hall growing mould. I went into a rambling eulogy about how special Rach was and how......actually I can't remember what else I said, I was just talking while willing the potatoes to cook quickly.
Potatoes were ready, the girls and Rach enjoyed their beautifully prepared feast of jacket potato with either tuna or baked beans. With no vegetables. As they finished their sad suppers I joyously announced, "The chicken's ready." Not even a hint of a smile anywhere in the room. Well, Jesse and Honey were salivating but they weren't having any of it. To speed things up I made up some instant gravy but no one bothered to tell me 1. You can't add cornflower straight to hot liquid and 2. You don't use cornflower in instant gravy. Lumpy mess in the bin and of course that was the last of the gravy granules so plain chicken it was.
Fortunately this wasn't a problem as the chicken was, (and I'm not joking) absolutely incredible. Soft, cooked perfectly, tender, tasty and with a hint of apple. I enjoyed it with some chicken, a side dish of chicken and accompanied by some chicken. It's a good job I like chicken. Rach and the girls all tried a bit and unanimously agreed it was "Very nice." Faith and reputation restored, I just need to work on my timing in the future.
Apart from some special Daddy and Katie time I learnt a few valuable lessons on Wednesday. Firstly, I need to remember all of Rachel's dietary needs. No wheat, dairy, gluten, grass, hay, dust or air. Secondly, it's definitely not possible to quickly pop into Sainsbury's. Finally, when Jade says, "I'll do it in a minute," what she actually means is, "I'll do it after you've caved in and done it yourself." See you next time and subscribe below to get all my posts hot off the keyboard.
Update: When I went to bed the recycling was still in the hall. It didn't matter though as the recycling fairies came in the night and dealt with it.