Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Culinary disasters

Writing about sorbets reminded me of one of the less glorious episodes in my culinary career. I am not immune from disaster now. I do, even though I've now had years of experience, still burn things because I am prone to try and do too many things at once. My children are used to coping with this, though now my son's knowledge of chemistry far exceeds mine, he takes issue with my statement that carbon is the building block of protein and that burnt offerings are therefore good for you.

The particular disaster I am thinking of was a lemon sorbet; at least that was what it was intended to be. It put me off doing sorbets for decades (in fact until last weekend) as I was convinced they were terribly difficult and it wasn't worth trying again. Having made a rhubarb sorbet, I now know the difference between the two types: easy, which has a lot of actual fruit in it, and trickier, in which case you have fruit juice but not the actual substance of the fruit.

Lemon is, obviously, the second type. You are supposed to whisk egg white lightly and mix this into the semi-frozen mixture to give the sorbet its texture. I never normally try something new on my unsuspecting guests, and I'd done this sorbet before. It was a tricky supper party in some ways, as my first marriage had just broken up, and I was still navigating the slightly choppy waters of socialising as a newly single person, so had invited over old university friends who were, I hoped, unphased by my rackety private life. I did want to show that I hadn't entirely lost the plot and was actually surviving on my own...

So, the sorbet. I'd made the sugar syrup, done the stuff with the lemon, and attempted to whisk in the egg whites. Egg whites and I have a bit of a history as I was then going through a long fallow period of being unable to get meringues right, and I think it was the egg whites that failed here. They sort of combined with the mixture, but they sort of didn't. Never mind, I thought. Another whisk will sort them out. I duly did another mix, but it still looked not quite as it ought. Always hopeful, I thought all would be well once it was properly frozen.

Except it wasn't. I duly flourished the sorbet out of the freezer, only to find out it was even worse than when I had last seen it, and had separated out into a fluffy tasteless layer of egg white, and a completely rock like layer of lemon ice which resisted all attempts to remove it from the container. Eventually, after waiting around quite a bit and drinking a lot of coffee, the mix did free up a little. I was hoping that after the fluffy layer had been scraped off, the lemon layer beneath would be rather like a lemon ice lolly, but I was wrong. No one ate it.

Fortunately they laughed, and I do still see some of them so it wasn't the end of our beautiful friendships.

1 comment:

Melody said...

Reminds me of an occasion where I rushed my lemon meringue pie and the meringue sort of melted and slid off the pie and on to the floor in front of everyone!