Pavlova, meringue, Christmas pudding, bee hive, British Bee Keeping Association, BBKA disastrous day in the kitchen: meringue melt-down and pudding pot welded to pan.
I was experimenting with the new food processor and its special beating blade. The goal was a Pavlova meringue: crisp on the outside and softly marshmallow beneath. The first problem was a dreadful clattering from the bowl. I wasn’t sure if the blade had broken or the whole structure had come apart. The sugar and egg whites had already become a soft billow but I had to delve to the bottom to recover a mysterious teaspoon that had been rattling around with the beater. Gently spooning the final mix on to the baking sheet, I discovered that the hoped-for billowing mound was piled over an errant spatula. Digging that out reduced the whole confection in to a sticky spreading mess. Nothing could rescue it from spreading in to a puddle in the oven.
Meanwhile, I’d been steaming the 11th remaining reserve mini Christmas pudding for lunch. With all the disasters, the water had evaporated and the pudding bowl welded itself to the base. The pudding was still edible but the bowl has gone to that place where redundant cooking equipment is buried.
Thank heavens there are still another 10 puddings to sustain us for the next few months.
The great news of the day was that one of the local beekeepers delivered a swarm to the new hive in the garden: there should be honey for tea in a year’s time, barring more disasters!
Creating completely new dishes in Noam’s tiny original jungle kitchen was a challenge from the start: strange ingredients, unfamiliar equipment, the pressure of a seven course dinner menu for paying guests. It was all made even trickier by the heat and deluges of rain plus the complete lack of water inside! You can see the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CirMoelCNVg) of my struggles.
I took the easy course with citrus tartlets using lemon mandarinos in place of the classic lemons. Driver/trainee doctor Victor squeezed all the juice while I got on with the pastry which, of course, was baked blind using balls of kitchen foil to keep the tartlets in shape.
That first night there was a party of nine Americans celebrating a birthday at Noam’s HiR restaurant. The jungle was filled by their music and laughter while the tin roof above their heads rang with the torrents of rain.
Noam and I juggled our way through each course’s complicated elements without any obvious mishaps or delays. The result was a very happy group of diners, clean plates and tantalised palates – few had encountered anything similar before!
But my attempt at meringues to top the tartlets was a complete disaster: every time I added the sugar, the whisked egg whites collapsed – it was probably the pervading dampness. I did manage to produce sweet egg white pancakes which, when topped with the lemon mandarino sorbet plus the mangostan sauce and segments, just about passed muster. The trick was to sound confident and convincing that this had been the plan all along!