Wednesday, 2 July 2008

cooking for dummies

Today's original plan was to go to Artis, the zoo, today with Renate. When I saw the weather forcast I suggested to Renate to postpone the trip. She agreed. The forcast was "tropical temperatures, severe thunderstorms with heavy rain, hail and sudden high-speed gusts of wind". All through the morning the weather stayed fine. After lunch I decided to go for a walk and, while I was outdoors anyway, to stop at the photo shop down the road to look at buying a new camera bag.

Up to now I've always used my 1943 musette bag (aka 'pukkel' in Dutch) which has three internal partitions, so I can stick my SLR camera (with one lens mounted) in and still have place for two more lenses or one lens and a flash.

The bag I was looking for is the Lowepro SlingShot; you carry it over your shoulder but when you bring the bag in front of you it is level and you can use it to easily change lenses etc. Very handy.

While I was looking at the SlingShot and comparing it to other bags in the shop I noticed that you can only use the thing when you're right-handed! If you throw the strap over your left shoulder —as I do— you can't open the bag 'cause the opening is at the bottom. Unzip the thing and everything falls out. This sucks.

I discussed it with the shop staff, Ton and Gerard, while drinking my coffee (you could have guessed I'm well known in the shop) and they said they had never heard of Lowepro making a left-handed version of the bag. If this is true, Lowepro, say goodbye to 10% of your possible sales (10% of the world's population is left-handed).

They didn't have any other bag I liked, so I walked out without buying anything. The coffee was nice, though. As soon as I got outside, it began to rain. At first softly and then more and more. I made it home just before the big cloudburst started. As I was still on the landing, I took a few photos of the rain. The one below is the best one where you can see the rain pouring down. Then the thunder started. I never saw any hail so I won't believe weather forcasts in the future.


I wrote an email to Lowepro asking about left-handed SlingShots and they answered me later in the day that they didn't have any plans for such a thing. Bummer.

I spend the rest of the afternoon surfing the net, looking for a left-handed bag. I found numerous comments on photo forums complaining about the lack of Lowepro left-handed bags. I really think Lowepro's marketing department has seriously dropped one here.

On to more mundane things: For dinner I went to AH where I got the shrimp and Chillie salad, which was very nice. I did add a little more chillie sauce to it, though. Browsing throught the produce on the shelves I thought of Vincent's meat balls.

In my long, long life I've never, ever made meat balls. It was a case of now or never. You're not too old to learn. If at first you don't succeed, dispair. Etc. etc. You get the idea, I got the ingredients and went upstairs.

Contrary to Vincent I used so called 'Half and Half' mince meat. This is 50% pork and 50% beef. The advantage is that the final product isn't too dry, which could happen if you use only lean beef. Other ingredients are one egg, some pepper and salt and the greatest invention ever for cooking-illiterate bachelors, Mince Meat spices and breadcrumbs in a package.

ingredients per specification

I mixed the lot together in bowl and formed four balls.

initial state: raw meat

I then poured liquid cooking fat into a pan I bought from Vincent and Nicole when they moved to Oz (you see, I do use it!). I use liquid fat instead of butter because it contains more multiple unsaturated fats which are probably mined in the Siberian Arctic. This seems to lower your cholesterol, which is better for my diabetes and in general for overall health.

additional requirement: liquid butter

I plonked the balls in the fat when all the big bubbles in the fat had gone away. Hey, I do things to computers; I can follow instructions. These came on the side of the bottle of fat. (ik heb een potje met vet…)

experiment start

I stayed with the balls. I never understood how most women can just walk away from food on the boil. One thing I've never been able to do is walk away when there's something in a pan on the fire. This severly limits the things I can do to things I can do in a kitchen. If I'm going to do this cooking stuff more often maybe I should clear out the kitchen table so I can sit my laptop on it.

half way, temperature in kitchen well over 35°C, warp speed 9.7

After about 10 minutes on a low fire the balls started to resemble Real Meat Balls™.

almost there, winding down in two minutes

After 30 minutes of constantly turning the balls I judged them to be ready. Ready or not, this was as much time as I was willing to spend on this experiment.

result: four meat balls full of fundamental particles

The finished product in all its glory is depicted above. I've stuck them in the fridge and will eat one tomorrow on bread which I shall take to work. The weather forcast for tomorrow is rain again, which means I'll be wearing a coat which means I can bring sandwiches in my pocket. If I'm not wearing a coat I have to hand carry the sandwiches which interferes with making photos and picking my nose while walking…


Juf Jo said...

So thats what cooking looks like!
I should try it sometime.
I dont have tv or radio so I dont get the weatherforecast.
I was at the Waterlooplein market and shopping in the jordaan when the storm started.

Renate said...

hmmh - no idea how big your meatballs were but I would think that 15-20 minutes should be more than enough...just in case you will repeat the experiment :-)

As to women walking about while cooking: one (men and women who cook) usually only do it inside the kitchen while preparing other stuff. At least I need to set some alarm otherwise in order to not miss taking things out of the oven etc.

By the way, you were doing some great stir-frying some years ago. I am sure you could still do it, just as well as any other cooking.

Cooking for women also can pay off, by the way - just ask Schatz!

Vincent said...

Well done Kees! Those meat balls look beautiful and very tasty! Have you tried one yet or is tomorrow going to be the first test? I'm very happy my meatball project inspired you. If you make 4-5 you can eat them for 2-3 days. They are absolutely fantastic with apple sauce. Well, I think anyway hehe. Are you going to eat them hot or cold? I usually make them in a deep pan so I can pour in the water, put on the lit and do something else for 25 minutes. Yours actually look a lot better than mine I think. My mom always used half om half. I did too but I didn't buy this meat myself ;-)

Nice to see our old pan used. It's a good pan I think.

Nicole said...

Kees, I am so proud of you!!! I can't believe you cooked!

I am going to ask the butcher to mince half and half next time as well.

A small tip about easier cooking while having to pay less attention: Use a heavy-based deep pot with a lid and brown the meatballs well for a few minutes (on all sides), then pour in water (or soup stock), about half way up the meatballs, make sure it simmers and cover with the lid. Because the liquid surrounds the meatball it cooks faster. Turn them once after about 10 minutes, cover again and they will probably be done in 20 minutes and you don't have to keep turning them and there is not much of a chance that anything will catch fire.

Personally, I like the meatballs better without this liquid method as the outside remains more crispy, but that's more work.

Also, you can experiment with herbs and spices and add different things to the meat all the time. Chillie is great, as is garlic, parsley, oregano, paprika or even curry powder if you want a bit of Indian flavour.

The meatballs you cooked look fantastic! Well done!

Kees said...

I've just had my lunch and the meat balls tasted good too.

danny said...

My compliments to the chef! Let me know when you've mastered risotto, I'll be over there like a shot!