A kitchen experiment

There’s still no picture of shepherd’s pie (see yesterday’s post) because it wasn’t fit to photograph by the time I’d finished. It tasted fine, it even looked good in an anaemic sort of way,but it needed a little extra finish, and that was where the trouble started. I could have put it under the grill, but I had another idea.

I have often looked at cook’s blow torches in the cash and carry, and always decided I can’t justify the expense, as I’m not sufficiently adventurous to get a lot of use out of it. However, I’ve often felt an urge to try one on the topping of a shepherd’s pie.

So this evening, after putting the pie together I withdrew to the garden shed and pulled out my faithful old flame wand, which is normally used for weed control. After all, it produces flame from gas, so why couldn’t it produce an artfully browned top on my potato topping? The only difference I could see was that you had to stand further away with the flame wand, as it’s designed to reach the ground while you stand.

The theory still seems sound.

When I use the grill, after using the fork to make a pattern on top, I tend to wish it would work more quickly, though it does eventually produce a nicely browned effect that looks quite appetising. Brown is a good colour for food.

Now, moving to the blow torch. That doesn’t seem to produce such an appetising effect. Instead of brown it tends more towards the black end of the cookery spectrum. The pattern was far starker – charred on the edges of the fork marks but with white channels in between. It’s difficult to explain, but it wasn’t pretty.

It may be that in years to come my shepherd’s pie with industrial blow torching may be seen as a pioneering dish of post-apocalyptic  culinary style. Tonight, however, whilst the flavour was fine, the quality of the finish was remarked on, and suggestions were made that the term “garden tool” should be taken as a sign that it shouldn’t be used in cookery.

I bet Heston Blumenthal never has to put up with comments like that.





11 thoughts on “A kitchen experiment

  1. Clem

    Love your sense of culinary adventure! And while I appreciate the concern of employing a “garden tool” in the kitchen, I’m more inclined to stand behind the decision as more than just a ‘creative’ notion or ‘making do with items at hand’… after all – if the results had been more promising you might be considered in a far better light. Creative folk will suffer the slings and arrows from time to time. The marks left behind add character. If character weren’t desirable, where would be left?

    On the next effort perhaps you might want to swap out the typical kitchen fork for the garden shed variety pitch fork or a potato digging fork. This would leave larger markings more suitable to the flame thrower’s natural abilities. And if the results still fail to satisfy, you will at least have grist for another magnificent story (and perhaps another mark or two for your winning character!). [a picture of our hero sporting safety goggles with torch in one hand and pitch fork in the other behind a sufficiently browned shepherd’s pie should be fare for the front page of a national cooking magazine – go big or go home we like to say].

  2. Julia Davis-Coombs

    What a great giggle! I was thinking ‘Heston’ whilst reading. I’ll be he _started_ his avant-garde style with garden tools, and _did_ have to put up with such comments. After all, everyone starts _somewhere_, right?


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