The Treat Treaty
While fellow trainee journos were coming up with highly admirable, self-improving blog ideas such as exercise class reviews and the political climate of North Korea, I knew there was one thing I could write on with expertise above anything else. SUGAR.
Let me tell you why I have the authority to advise on one of the most sacrosanct of topics. Having moved to London only a month and a half ago, I have a far better idea of the variable price of an ice-cream across the city, than I do of a pint.
Let me enlighten you: Spitalfields Market do a lovely Movenpick (oozy, sticky caremalata it you please) for £2.20, the Pattiserie Valerie next to Saatchi Gallery do a slightly underwhelming and overpriced Ferrero Rocher flavour for £3.50 (“you’re having a larf ambassador”), and Camden Market do incredible Nitro ice-creams, made using liquid nitrogen.
Yes that’s right liquid nitrogen. These incredible creations are the only thing that has ever made chemistry fun for me (I couldn’t help feeling a bit cheated that a mini science lesson had been sneaked in at the back door…) If you haven’t tried one of these and don’t mind paying £4.95 for your sugar (no price too high, no day too grimace-inducingly cold), GO.
The parlour’s called Chin Chin Laboratorists (www.chinchinlabs.com) and they create feats of pudding brilliance that I dare say even Heston would be proud of. And the price really isn’t too bad when you consider the patience of its lab-coated workers who valiantly re-explain the actually very simple process slowly over and over to a stream of sugar-frenzied, science-dunces like me. To summarise (and show off my sciencey know-how), the ice-cream mixture is frozen by pouring boiling liquid nitrogeon onto it (yup, I’d forgotten the Key Stage 1 concept of low boiling points too), which evaporates to leave only frozen deliciousness, and some suitably dramatic puffs of smoke.
Our ice-cream technician even had some impressive toxic chemical scars on his wrists to show his commitment to good pud. I didn’t think it polite to point out that, tasty as my chocolate, salted caramel and honeyed cashew nut concoction was, he could have just bunged it in the freezer for a couple of hours…
In fact I couldn’t help feeling the Nitro ice-cream had more in common with the kind of dessert that so frequently disappoints me when I open a menu (on first sitting down in the restaurant that is- always plan your meal around the pudding).
Seeing as this is my first blog, I suppose it would be a good time to clarify just what kind of pudding I’ll be salivating over, showing you how to concoct, and generally dribbling down my chin in the months to come. So all of those advocates of miniscule slices of blackforest paté with peppermint jus and elderflower foam can look away from the pudding porn now, and save themselves from the premature onset of type two diabetes.
Desserts, I feel anyone with a sweet tooth, or at least a couple of rotting ones, knows, are meant to be obscene. I feel confident in reviewing puddings and doling out baking tips just because desserts are so damn easy to get right (how many other dishes are actually tastier if you forget to turn the oven on?).
My usual response to people who bemoan their lack of baking know-how is to reassure them that the more grotesque and hastily thrown together the creation, the better. The same of course applies when you’re dining out. Ergo, don’t go somewhere nice for a good pud. Instead slip furtively into your local Whetherspoons or Yeats’ and sidle up to the bar; point surreptitiously at the chocolate fudge cake or treacle sponge and they will understand instantly that you’ve come to satisfy that most primal of human urges, that you need something that oozes and cloys, something that will satiate you beyond the realms of common decency…
So, if you’re the kind of person who chooses a restaurant based on the calibre of the pudding (and would like to know where’s best from a fellow sugar addict), frequently forgets essentials at the supermarket because you were distracted by a jam roly poly, and spends more of your weekly grocery budget on sugar than loo roll, I’m your gal.
Watch this space for an account of my baking triumphs (and of course disasters). Hell, I might even treat you to a photo blog of my rapidly expanding waistline as we go along…