Actually, the answer is 'not very'. I'm disappointed to reveal that I made the fatal error of going without eating first. I know better than this – because I know that food shopping when hungry means that I will create a wonderful, yet overly ambitious recipe for every single item I see.
This week, my inspiration was a huge roast dinner, mainly because it was Sunday and it is winter, and that is what people do on Sundays in winter. On this occasion, the big dinner wasn't the ambitious bit - me and Fiance are dab hands at knocking out a superb roast, even if I do say so myself. The ambitious accolade fell to the plan for the leftovers, and to coming up with something a little more adventurous than your traditional bubble-n-squeak. The dialogue that ran through my head as I wandered down the meat aisle went along the lines of: “I know! The left over meat from the roast can be used in a nice pie. Ooh, I could eat a nice pie right now. I’ll get a nice joint of beef, this lump will do. Although… it isn’t really big enough to do a roast and a pie, so I’ll buy some more stewing beef to add to the leftovers. Then we can have a big roast, and a big pie. Would you look at that, the diced beef is on offer – I’ll buy two packets. Hmm on second thoughts, that beef joint isn't going to leave enough for a big dinner today and an even mixture of roast and stewing beef in the pie – I’ll have a look for a bigger piece. Aah yes, this huge hunk of beef will be much better”.
When I got home, I would wonder exactly how I ended up with so much meat.
However, as I meandered around the store, I did not have the foresight to realise that the significant amount of meat already on the menu made a meal of intimidating proportion, and so I foolishly let my stomach tell me that we needed more. Hit by a pang of hunger, and a flashback to the wonderfully huge Sunday dinners I used to eat as a kid, I decided we needed pudding too (yes, this does mean I’m turning into my Mum and my Nan). As I have recently been inducted into the ‘home-made pastry baking club’ – by which I mean I made pastry for the first time without screwing it up, thus convincing myself I have a natural affinity for all things baked – I decided I would repeat my success and make us an apple pie for afters.
Racing towards the apple section of the store in a frenzy of baking potential, I neglected to remember that we only have one pie dish and that had already been earmarked for the beef pie. I remembered that particularly annoying fact when I got home and started considering the logistics. As even my hunger-driven body admitted that we would never eat a whole apple pie after the huge roast dinner, I realised we were faced with a serious crockery based dilemma. Fortunately, it didn't take Fiance long to come up with the winning idea:
Don’t ask me why a pie and a crumble dish are different – something (most likely my natural instinct) told me they are, so I leapt at his idea. Basking in the glory of my singular pastry success, and happy for the chance to prove my skills by fashioning more than pies, I decided the crumble mix would be easy money.
Taking a recipe for crumble topping from the intermanetawebs, I weighed out my flour and butter in equal measures and proceeded to fail spectacularly at turning them into a mixture resembling breadcrumbs.
Either my scales suffered a catastrophic breakdown, the butter wasn’t cold enough, or the recipe was way off base because I ended up with a gloopy mass of extremely soft butter that had consumed all traces of flour.* I asked Fiance to add more flour, just in case the addition would magically transform the slop into breadcrumbs… but it didn’t.
Despite things clearly not going according to the recipe, I figured I might as well continue to follow it blindly and decided to shove some sugar in anyway – things certainly weren’t going to get any worse. I ended up with what I can only describe as a grainy and sticky ball of stuff.
I have definitely had moments in my life where I have been prouder.
I have definitely had moments in my life where I have been prouder.
Discounting the graininess and the stickiness and the colour, I figured the thing my creation resembled most was pastry – so I decided to treat it as such and threw it in the fridge to chill while I begrudgingly started work on the apple concoction.
Racing against the clock to get the sixth apple peeled before the first turned brown, I successfully managed to avoid peeling my fingers, and tossed the skinless apples into the butter/sugar/spice mixture that was bubbling merrily away on the hob. Within ten minutes, I had actually managed to conjure up a surprisingly tasty apple/butter/sugar/spice concoction. I lifted my chin by a millimetre.
I retrieved the previously flung un-breadcrumb thing from the fridge, shaped it into a number of patties and dubiously placed them over the apple mixture. The result was quite embarrassing. Fiance kindly suggested a name of Apple Surprise, but I was not to be placated. I duly christened my creation a Great Apple Fuck up.
This is what it looked like:
It was certainly looking rather sorry for itself - so much so, its appearance led me to bid a fond farewell to the natural instinct I was sure I had possessed. Reluctantly, I placed the Thing in the oven while we proceed to eat our delicious (and huge) roast dinner.
Half an hour after we’d finished the main meal, I decided the Thing was as ready as it was ever going to be and took it out of the oven. The situation had somewhat surprisingly improved (kind of). This is what improvement looked like:
And this is what improvement with custard looked like:
Now, I wouldn’t say the texture of the topping was like anything I’ve ever encountered before – it was not pastry, it was not sponge, it was not biscuit, it was definitely not crumble – but it wasn’t too bad at all. In fact, it tasted pretty damn good once you’d picked the extremely chewy crust out of your molars. The apple filling was, even by the high standards set by my bruised ego, very nice. And with custard over the whole thing, I’d even go so far as to suggest it was actually a success, albeit one that I’d rather not repeat.
Naturally, I am now rather nervous at the pastry-making that I must face in order to do justice to the cow’s worth of beef we have sitting in the fridge, mainly because arrrrggggghhhhh what will I do if I fail to make breadcrumbs out of flour and butter again?
Well, actually, I guess I’ll just plow on regardless and hope I end up with another unusual yet hopefully delicious invention.
* Update: I've literally just gone to find the recipe I tried to follow for the crumble topping (here it is, by the way) and upon a re-read, I have noticed what I suspect may not be an insignificant fact. Apparently, the sugar was meant to be in with the flour before attempting to achieve breadcrumb status. The lack of sugar - an amount equal to that of flour - suggests, to my novice mind anyway, that I did indeed have far too much butter for the amount of dry ingredients I was trying to combine it with. Um, oops.
Ah well, I guess this means I can now say 'bring on the beef pie' and actually mean it.