Mageirocophobia: The fear of cooking. I am not a sufferer. But every year I fret from a dose of what I call Decemberitis: the fear of flops. It creeps up on me towards the start of the festive season. After six months of my academic, student lifestyle (where I eat communally on a low budget, only cook once or twice a week, and leave my favourite kitchen equipment to gather dust in the cupboards) I start to prepare for my private cheffing stint in Hermanus.
The annoying worrying starts. What if I’ve lost my touch? What if I can’t chop fast enough? What if… what if…. They don’t like the food? I try to resist it, going through old blog posts, proof that I can. Paging through my favourite recipe books, hoping inspiration will strike. Googling away at food blogs while I should be studying for exams.
On my first day of work I get a caught by a speed trap en route to Hermanus. Then, the guests arrive late. The butcher order isn’t in yet and I go shopping elsewhere. The meat is not top notch. (I don’t recommend Woolworth’s sirloin, mine was super- stringy) A first lunch flop. This is exactly what happened last year and the year before. A tradition perhaps?
Slightly lost in the kitchen wilderness, I can’t remember where everything is kept. Do they like garlic or don’t they? Will they mind if it’s 10 minutes late? Is my intuitive taste still intact?
And then, a call at 10 30. I’m shopping, lunch is planned, and then I hear five more people will be coming through. A big knot in the belly. But, thank goodness, my kitchen brain kicks in. I’ll combine my dinner calamari with the small fish braai I was planning. I’ll add another salad, and some baby potatoes. I panic for a second on the dessert. A slideshow of pudding pictures flashes through my mind. Sorbets, parfaits, tarts, baked puddings, mousses. None of them are instant, aarrgghhh. But I keep sieving and then I hit on grilled fruit, with crème fraiche, vanilla and mint, maybe? I get home and decide on a lime syrup, too. I buy some larny chocolate biscuits. A pretty dessert, done in a flash. I calm down then. I’ve found my feet in a day. Cooking is like swimming, or singing along to Silent Night: You learn it once, and then its yours: Engrained like the blackcurrant juice stain on my white t-shirt.
Quick dessert: Grilled fruit with lime syrup, and other goodies
· A selection of ripe but firm summer fruit: Mangoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots
· A dash of vegetable oil
· Vanilla paste
· Slivered almonds (or whatever suitable nut is gracing your store cupboard), toasted.. Slightly burnt is ok as you can see from the picture.
· A small slab of Lindt chocolate- I love intense mint. Or whatever chocolate. Or chuckles. This is a very freelance thing, can you tell?
· Good quality chocolate biscuits, broken into chunks. I chanced on the kind with mousse inside. They were a hit.
· A couple of mint leaves
· Crème fraiche (mix with low- fat yoghurt to decrease those calories)
· ¼ cup castor sugar
· ½ cup water
· Juice and zest of 1 lime
1. Peel and prepare the fruit, halving or quartering the nectarines, peaches and apricots and cutting the mango into nice chunks.
2. Get a griddle pan nice and hot, and then add a small bit of oil
3. When the oil is heated, grill the fruit in batches, turning them to get a criss- cross pattern if you fancy.
4. Remove and drain on paper towel.
5. Use a pastry brush to paint a dash of vanilla paste on the exposed surfaces of the fruit
6. To make the syrup, pop the castor sugar and water in a saucepan with the lime juice, stir over low hear until the sugar has dissolved.
7. Boil away until it’s a syrup-y consistency, then remove from the heat and add the lime zest. Serve slightly warm or let it cool down.
8. Bang the whole lot (fruit, biscuits, nuts, mint leaves) onto a pretty platter. Use a peeler to grate slivers of chocolate of the side of the slab.
9. Serve crème fraiche/ yoghurt and lime syrup alongside. What?! Yes. Simple and yum.