Harry Stotle: Cooking
It all dates back to the year after my dad died, when, after Christmas dinner, I decided to do what dad would have done and boiled up the turkey scraps to make a turkey broth.
I was very patient, allowing the carcass to simmer for a couple of hours so no nutrients were wasted. The finished product smelled glorious – well as good as simmered turkey carcass was ever going to smell. And the proof was in the tasting – sadly, I’d forgotten to do one critical part of the process: the sieving.
Sure enough, everybody’s first – and only – taste of my first and only attempt at making turkey broth contained gristle, small bones and what looked suspiciously like pieces of tinsel.
Every Christmas now I get asked to ensure I don’t attempt to make a soup, which, on the plus side does at least mean I’m encouraged to leave the food preparation to more experienced and talented personnel.
But once a year or so my exasperated wife will forget all that has gone before and moan at me for not doing any cooking. So I will attempt something simple. A couple of years ago she said she’d left me the ingredients to prepare a chilli. She had, with the exception of any pre-prepared sauce of any tins of tomatoes. My mince was already browning so I decided to improvise – yes, you can see what’s coming can’t you.
Initially, I used red wine, then topped it up with water. It looked OK – not inspiring but OK. I decided I would add some Worcester Sauce. You can’t go wrong with Worcester Sauce. I scoured the cupboards and found a bottle. At least I thought it was Worcester Sauce; it was the right shape and colour.
Yet when I ‘sprinkled’ some on, it poured out a substance the colour of treacle – it was a bottle of gravy browning, which I didn’t even know existed.
By the time the family arrived the large saucepan looked like - and had the consistency of - one of those big barrels of asphalt they used to have steaming away by the side of roadworks. That night I bought the family a takeaway curry. Like Worcester Sauce, you can’t go wrong with a takeaway curry – but that’s a story for another day and stronger stomachs