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A cook's block, or how induction is a toy hob.

Fri, 9 December, 2016

I’m suffering from a cook’s block - what a pain. And before you all start making bad jokes about how it’s a butcher’s not a cook’s, or how I need a muse bouche, please consider.

It’s a pain enough to think of what to have, what to cook, what to buy for dinner on a daily basis. Leave work, stumble down the supermarket, so hungry you’re almost blind, assaulted by food, food, food all around - a sensible trolley filling is not a realistic option. How many of us end up cooking the same thing several times in a row, or at least twice a week, because we can’t think of anything new? It’s damn hard to come up with cooking ideas - not to mention ideas for new recipes!

I’m doubly handicapped here. I’ve had a break from cooking, a total, complete, microwave-and-takeouts break lasting almost 5 months. The last thing I cooked in my disappearing kitchen was paella; the first time I turned the hob on I barely knew how to slice a chicken fillet. Like riding a bike? Not quite. You lose your seasoning eye (just shaking the salt pot over the dish instead of measuring out or tasting after every grain of salt). You forget the timings and temperatures for the basic dishes. You forget that melting butter in a microwave is a BAD IDEA, especially if it’s a brand new microwave combined with convection oven.

Here we’ve arrived at the second handicap: I’ve got all-new, completely unfamiliar gear that doesn’t want to play ball. I wrote the other week that I had a new set of two ovens; one standard and one fancy (see above), both electric. Back then I carelessly declared they were all right. Well - apart from the loss of eyelashes every time I open the grill. Apart from timings being bizarrely longer with fan than without. Apart from idiotically upturned rack rims that make it impossible to retrieve a hot baking sheet sitting inside. Apart from a complete unpredictability of how long things like roasted cauliflower will cook (far too quick), or bread rolls bake (never).

Unlike my old gas cooker, the inside of the ovens attracts grease and dirt like magnet - and neither it nor the glass wants to be cleaned. That leads me nicely to the induction hob which everyone says is so good cause so easy to clean. Rubbish - it might be apparently easy to wipe, but (as logic should have suggested to me) grease on glass will leave a hell of a smudgy mess. And I’ve scratched it already because it is a kiddies’ hob which doesn’t take tough kitchen action like discarding lids on its surface or shuffling pans to toss the contents.

Toy cooking is fine:  beans simmering faintly for a few minutes, warming up milk, cooking porridge. Anything serious: stir-fry, searing, griddling, and induction is out of its depth. It will sulk - forcibly reduce the power level if you dare try the top one on two rings, or pack in and pretend to overheat should you be so bold to use a booster on a frying pan.

Another - more ephemeral - reason I don’t like it is because things don’t LOOK right when cooking. Veal cutlets the other night: cooked on the griddle cautiously heated up - they were pale, admittedly cooked but with feeble criss-cross charring, frankly unappetizing.

And the tapping is driving me mad! Three or four damn taps (with grubby fingers on all that glass) for what used to be one decisive turn of a knob! Last night I picked up a bit of onion that landed on the hob and the damn thing locked because I accidentally touched the wrong places! For goodness sake, I’ll say it again - it’s a device for people who don’t cook or simply don’t know any better! And it serves me right as I can’t for the life of me think what possibly possessed me to decide on one of those ridiculous things instead of going for nice God-honest five-ring gas top.


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