Tuesday, 9 December 2014

My German Ménage-À-Trois

A* and I have been together for several years. In a way we were thrown together. There aren’t so many of our sort around. We’re still a minority, despised by some. I've experimented as most do, but for some time now I've been in no doubt about my orientation. He’s the perfect match really: he lives just down the road, keeps the same hours as I do, has the same pragmatic outlook as I do and, most importantly, when it comes to the dirty deed, provides ten minutes of intense, directed attention, rather than a tedious, directionless, hour-long slog. We are, as they say, compatible.

I see L* once a week. He lives in the next town. He is of the same deviant sort.

I never meant to be unfaithful. I guess a lot of these stories begin like that. I didn’t mean to stray; I didn’t even mean to look but one day when I was needy he lent a helping hand, and that’s where it all started. It was on an outing to a weekly gym class that I had a sudden craving. L was there. He showed me an open door and, once I had crossed that threshold, I found it hard to back out. It wasn’t long before he revealed to me his startlingly thick sausage. Kabanossi, he calls it. I wish I could say now that I resisted, but I did not. I grabbed at his turgid banger, clutched it in trembling hands, and completed the transaction.

It could have stopped there. I went home and got rid of the evidence. A suspected nothing. I saw him on our next date as usual and nothing was amiss. That should have been the end of it, but deep down I knew I’d go back for more. 

Attraction for me is always sensual and his heady aroma of freshly baked goods haunted my dreams in the coming nights. On my next trip abroad, my feet took me automatically in search of that intoxicating smell. No sooner had his scent penetrated my nostrils than I was grabbing him by the maple pecan plaits and devouring his seeded triangles. Propriety thrown to the four winds, there was no stopping me. Selection packs of miniature speciality tomatoes, achingly huge pomelos, tantalisingly cryptic foreign chocolate biscuits, TWENTY-FOUR cheese food triangles stacked in an elegant cylinder, Greek style yoghurt in a volume so vast that it comes in a pail with a handle. And chorizo - chorizo twice as long as A’s. 

When you begin to compare, I fear, that’s the beginning of the end. I don’t want it to end with A. I know I will always love him and I want him to still be there for me but I must treat him properly. I’m not sure what I’ll tell my friends. I was one of those annoying people, who raves about their beloved, who is blind to their faults. A could do no wrong, “If A hasn’t got it, I don’t need it,” was my catchphrase, but I’m already planning my next visit to L for things that A can’t give me. Did I mention L’s a bit of rough too? My friends aren’t snobs but they’ve come to accept my unusual preference because A has won them over with his generosity and his classiness. He turns up to a party with D.O.P. parmigiano reggiano and marinated garlic. This week L surprised me with dirty, reduced price packets of Pasta ‘n’ Sauce, more of it than I could consume, and I grabbed at it hungrily. Perhaps I’ve found my true level. Time will tell…

*The names of two budget German supermarkets have been changed to protect their identities.

One Mean Housewife, with pencil and slate, tallies up the brazil nut count in two discount brands of luxury muesli.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Applegeddon - Windfall Traumas

I came home to find a suspicious package on my doorstep. It wasn't the classic dog turd wrapped in flaming paper. It’s not that kind of neighbourhood. No, it’s a lovely, friendly, respectable neighbourhood where people have social standing and gardens with mature trees. That meant it could be any one of those pesky, generous neighbours. I eyed it suspiciously and my worst fears were confirmed: more bloody cooking apples.

A few hours later, my neighbour Roy, a middle-aged gentleman with social standing and mature trees, rang my bell to jovially check, “You got the apples then? Enjoy!” The picture of blithe innocence, his face was, the rotten bugger.

See, the thing is, he knows and I know he knows, and he knows that I know, etc. that I’ve already got half a tonne of the blighters all over my own back garden, from my own bloody mature tree. Age and experience made him the fastest on the draw when it came to 'gifting' his on though. I'll get him next year.

So I have several kilos of cooking apples and I ain’t afraid to use ‘em. Actually I am. I’m having hourly cold sweats at the thought of getting through them but I'm One Mean Housewife: I can't waste them, can I? So I will cook them and cook them and I will bloody well cook them until they are done. Here are some things I have done so far.

Braised pork and apples cooking in a pan
Braised pork and apples 

This is a good one and it’s going on our menu weekly until they’re done. I adapted a recipe in the BBC GoodFood “101 One-Pot Dishes” book. Dust two large pork chops in plenty of seasoned flour and then brown them on a high heat. Remove it from the pan and then brown two cooking apples (peeled and cut in wedges) with a chopped onion and stick of celery. Add 300ml chicken stock, a spoonful of grain mustard and a bay leaf, and stir. Put the meat back in and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Nice with rice, and hoovered up by both husband and toddler.

Lumberjack cake on a wooden board
River Cottage Lumberjack Cake 

I’m finding it hard to talk about this one because it was TOO HARD (I’m rubbish at baking), I burnt it a bit, and the ingredients cost a chuffing fortune. However, it has enough calories to feed London for a week so if I hadn’t eaten almost all of it immediately, it would go a long way. It is moist and delicious. Recipe here.

Homemade Indian Apple Chutney in a jar with handwritten label
Indian Apple Chutney 

Until today, I was a chutney virgin (always wanted to say that) and this was a triumph. It's like nippy pickled apple jam and it's very yummy with cold chicken and with cheese. Recipe here.

Apple cored and stuffed with creme fraiche and dried fruit, before and after cooking
Warm Apple With Sultanas And Crème Fraiche

An easy idea from a friend. Core an apple and fill it with crème fraiche and dried fruit. Nuke it for a couple of minutes. I think I did it the wrong way: cutting the apple down the middle and scooping out the core may work better. It tasted good though. The toddler wanted more.

Images of apple and parsnip soup in the pot and then in a bowl with a swirl of cream
Apple and Parsnip Soup

Autumn is soup season and this is a bit different. I used this BBC Good Food recipe. It is delicious and thick. It was crying out for a bit of nutmeg so I put in about a half teaspoonful. We'll be having this one again too. I'm almost beginning to not resent these apples.

So there you are. If you have an unwelcome windfall, worry not what to do with it. That's right: waste no time, gather them up and sneakily deposit them on an unsuspecting neighbour's doorstep. Do it in the dead of night so you can't be caught.

One Mean Housewife, with a mad look in the eye, turns a peeler over and over in her calloused hand...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Mammy, Make Me A Spanner

When I was One Mean Little Girl, I spent my every hour at my mother’s side in a scene of domestic idyll: handing her pegs to hang the washing, cutting out scones with my fat little hands, licking cake mix from the bowl, dying from boredom in the wool shop, standing on a chair to be pricked like a voodoo doll with sewing pins, and lingering for hours in a fug of cigarette smoke and black coffee steam, repeating, “Mummy, mummy, mummy…” as I tried to get a word in edgeways between her and Mrs Harley from across the road.

She was the consummate housewife and I watched her and learned. I was fascinated by the tools of the trade: the giant weapon-like rolling pin, the mysteriously numbered knitting needles, the frankly terrifying pressure cooker hissing in the corner like a malignant kitchen goblin. The thing I wanted badly though was the stitch ripper from the sewing box. Its bright yellow plastic concealed a shiny bit which was Very Sharp And Very Dangerous. I wasn't even allowed to look at it too closely, never mind touch it. When in adulthood I bought my own, for weeks I was too scared to use it...

Now my own 3-year-old spends his days at my side, watching and learning in a scene of domestic squalor, mostly. I’m not the housewife my mother was but I’ve got a few skills and let me tell you my heart swelled with pride when he beseeched me one day, “Mammy, my NEED a spanner like Mammy’s big shiny one. Mammy, make me a boy’s spanner.”

Now, I'm sure such a thing could be bought but would I, the Mean Housewife shell out? Not likely.

And so began my career in crapmazing cardboard toy manufacture. When he is a man I will show him the things I made and how much he loved and played with them (he honestly does) and he will laugh to see how much he truly wasn’t spoiled.

"Mammy, my need a car park." (£0.00p):

"Mammy, my need a tunnel." Finish is everything; I took a fairly minimalist approach to that. He honestly said, "Ooh it's a beautiful blue one with numbers!" (£0.00p):

And the original and best, "Mammy my need a spanner." Just look at the Sellotape work on that. (£0.00p):

I think you'll agree that the quality is second to none, and there really is nothing like a handmade gift. What a lucky boy.

One Mean Housewife prices up a wooden railway tunnel JUST FOR SHITS AND GIGGLES.