It started with the Shepherd’s Pie. All downhill from there…
Let’s be honest. Anyone can cook Shepherd’s Pie. It’s not difficult. We’re not in twice-baked soufflé territory.
So how did I make such a complete cock-up? How did I get it so disastrously wrong? So wrong that even the dog had second thoughts…
Jessica was watching me.
Home from university for the weekend, the Beloved Daughter was lounging in the kitchen. She has a new expression. It roughly translates as, ‘When I knew nothing about cooking I thought you were quite competent. Now I can knock up a Sunday roast while simultaneously writing a 2,000 word essay I realise you’re – frankly – pathetic.’
Or words to that effect. She first unleashed it when I was struggling with the Scotch Eggs. And now it fazes me. Every time.
Which amuses her tremendously.
Back to the Shepherd’s Pie – and fundamental rule number one.
Sprinkle a bit of flour on top of the meat: mix it in, then use plenty of stock to make the gravy.
Ha! I use stock and red wine for the sauce. Nom, nom, glug, glug as us food and wine aficionados say.
Except when Jessica’s watching. I drank the wine but forgot to add it to the stock. Then I forgot to add the stock to the meat.
Fundamental rule #2. Dice and boil the carrots before you add them to the meat. Yep, diced them beautifully. Then I briefly introduced them to some warm water, drained them and chucked them in.
And fundamental rule #3. Taste it as you go along. Which I didn’t. My wife and daughter were not slow to point this out.
“You are aware that these carrots are raw?”
“I do admit they have a certain crunchiness…”
“And that there’s a really bitter taste. Flour perhaps?”
The brickbats kept coming. I countered that it was Jessica’s fault for watching me. “Even by your standards that’s a lame excuse, Dad.”
But there was worse to come. Corned beef hash. And that was definitely Jessica’s fault. Her fault for going back to university.
Freed from her baleful oversight. I chopped merrily away at the shallots. I love shallots. So easy. Glug, glug, chop, chop. Happy days.
“It’s corned beef hash, dear. Not shallot hash.”
“I’ll just do a couple more…”
Wisely my wife and son pushed most of the shallots to the side of their plates. “Real men eat their food,” I said. And ploughed on remorselessly.
“I’m going to bed. I’m tired,” Ben said a couple of hours later. “And I don’t feel well.”
“I’m going to bed,” my lovely wife said thirty minutes later.
I polished my seductive smile and sent it into battle. “Ben’s asleep, darling. I’ll be up in five minutes.”
“You must be joking. Come near me and I’ll be sick. In fact, I think you’ve poisoned me.”
I thought that was possibly a ‘no.’ Wimps, both of them. I felt perfectly fine…
…Until midnight. And then I had a conversation on the big white telephone. A long, spectacular and painful conversation – mostly about shallots.
But at least the bathroom door was unlocked. My wife would be coming to comfort me. Any minute. Any minute now…
No. She slept through my agony. Or chose to ignore it.
The next day I was with a client. Clearly he was being manipulated by my wife in a sadistic revenge plot. “Corned beef hash,” he said when I explained why I was slightly late. “Absolutely love it. Always have it with baked beans and a fried egg on top.”
The earth moved. “I’ll be back in a minute,” I gasped…
Thanks for reading this post. If you enjoyed it – and you’d like something light and moderately humorous to read – you can buy the ‘Best Dad I Can Be’ sample book with 27 of my favourite posts covering all the years I’ve been writing: it’s all of 99p on your Kindle. Alternatively the first chronological book, ‘Half Dad Half Fish’ which covers the time when the children were 9, 7 and 4 is available here.