The joyful anarchy of home cooking


I saw that quote in Rachel Roddy's article on Pollo con peporino, so I stored it away in my head because it was so good. And then my son sent me this lovely photo of my two grandsons at the end of a somewhat fraught cooking class yesterday in which we made chocolate mousse.


It was a bit tense at times, but these are the joyous final moments when a great deal of licking the bowl has been going on, or maybe is about to be done, and when they realise that after everything it all turned out alright.


But anarchy it was somewhat. And not always joyful. I had thought that chocolate mousse would be really, really simple, but I had underestimated how difficult it would be to separate the eggs. The girls in the other household were prepared. Either they or mum had already separated the eggs and grated the chocolate, so they were raring to go. I and the boys however were less prepared. Well I was more prepared, but even I broke my first egg. Which may well have been a consolation to them all. I tried to demonstrate separating the yolks with a spoon and also using Nigella's method of breaking it into the palm of your hand and then letting the white soak through slightly outspread fingers. Difficult to demonstrate on Zoom. I can never get the iPad to point at the right place. I had used Nigella's method before and it had been easy, but even I had trouble this time, because I had quite a fresh egg and the white clung ferociously to the yolk and wouldn't let itself slide through the fingers.


I couldn't quite see what was happening with the boys, but at one point there was a minor punch up when a yolk fell into the whites. They had planned to make double the quantities - so four eggs but actually only had three I think and one of these had to be discarded. Or maybe they had four. Anyway they ended up with just two. Which, as it turned out was fine. Well I think dad had to do it in the end and I was horrified to hear him say it was his first time! Also a bit surprised that the boys were not absolutely sure that the yellow bits of the egg were the yolks! I really have to hold proper, in my kitchen, classes when all this COVID thing is over.


Meanwhile the girls were raring to get going. But the boys and I still had to grate our chocolate - or in my case break it up into bits. I find grating chocolate just too hard. I think they did too and ended up breaking it into bits. And then when we melted the chocolate over the water with the yolks and sugar they were all a bit appalled by how stiff it was, and how long it took to melt the chocolate. I have since discovered that the girls hadn't listened to my advice about putting only a small amount of water in the saucepan, and so it had taken a long time for the water to boil.


So nerves all round at this point. But then we added the cream - and here was another bit of necessary improvisation from the boys - no cream - until they discovered some of that whipped cream in a can which I'm sure was not really fully cream, but it did just fine. Now the mixture was smoother and looser so relaxation all round. And absolute joy when the egg whites were whipped enough to be able to turn the bowl upside down. Mix it all together. Done. Delight all round and lots of licking of bowls and spoon. Indeed granddad appeared just in time to do the deed in my kitchen.


So anarchy all round - a few tears, a few fights, nervous tension on my part. It's very hard to get children's full attention on Zoom, when your voice is getting old and creaky. But such fun that it all works out in the end, and they feel so proud of their results.


Next week it's meatballs, which they all adore. Don't think there are any hidden problems there. And if they all make their own batch then there shouldn't be any fights.


Anarchy is not generally associated with joy, and to be honest, yesterday's class was not all joy, but yes - in the end it was pure joy.

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