21 Feb 2011

Hestia...and the Random Ingredient Test

You are not reading The White Oaks of Jalna
Picture the scene:  I am lying in bed, resplendent with bed jacket and socks (and hot water bottle) surrounded by cookery books of every hue and size.  I am wearing my specs and diligently flicking through my latest cookery acquisition for the Random Ingredient Test.

What? You don't know what that IS?

I'm pretty confident that you will have heard of its sister test, the Random Fuck Test?

I'm sure you have practised it, even if you haven't heard about it.  What you do with the RFT is that you open a novel, usually a Jackie Collins one, at random and check the two pages to see if there is a raunchy scene on either/both pages.

With Jackie Collins there usually was and it usually involved some lovely evening wear too.  Do this three of four times and, if  the book passed the RFT (and Jackie Collins books usually DID) they were promptly bought and snuck home to read surreptitiously in my bedroom between the covers of  'The White Oaks of Jalna'
(#massiverandumfucktestfail) or a Jackie annual.

And thus began my foray into sexual relations with men.

And women.

And sometimes wildlife.


The Random Ingredients Test is similar only it's about the ingredients and this is how it went with Ottolenghi's 'Plenty' Cookbook the other night in bed:

Hestia: flicks through the book until a picture catches her eye:

ooooh that looks lovely and tasty....
garlic - ok
leeks -ok
puff pastry -ok
Za'aatar.  ZA'TAAR?  What the fuck is THAT?  There is no WAY our Co-op will stock that.  They won't even stock Caramel Kit-Kats, for feckssakes......

The recipe is then dismissed and she flicks on to the next one that catches her eye....

Aubergines - ok
pomegranate seeds - ok
Iranian lemons.....Iranian lemons????? *audible sigh*

She flicks through the book to the next recipe that looks tasty - and most of them do - a salad:

watercress...yeah, possibly ok
basil leaves - yep
coriander leaves - yep
pickled dill.  Pickled Dill? hmmmmm - not sure about that.  Hestia adjusts her specs.  Oh PICKED dill!! It's picked dill, not pickled dill.  Hmmmmm.....
Shelled salted pistachios - possibly ok

By this time I'm getting excited.  There is an outside chance that I might be able to make this recipe.... I move on to the list of ingredients for the dressing

Olive oil - no bother
lemon juice - yep
orange blossom water

oh for fuck's sake

She flicks onto the next appetising photo - baked eggs with yoghurt and chilli.  Surely to God I can get the ingredients together for this!

rocket - yes!
olive oil - yes!
eggs - yes!
Greek yoghurt - yes!
Garlic - yes!
unsalter butter - YES!
kirizi biber

Kirizi biber? Might that be Justin's older, more talented brother? Frankly there is more chance of me getting my hands on Justin Bieber's older brother and pinning him onto a plate of food than there is kirizi biber*.

I sigh for the final time.  'Plenty' is gorgeous with its plump, squashy cover that promises unctuous loveliness within;  it has wonderful photography and VERY tasty looking recipes....but really, it fails my random ingredients test.  I snap the book shut with a disappointed school-teacherly thwack and replace it on the pile of books beside my bed.  It shall remain my favourite bit of food porn (until the next sexy book comes along) but many of its recipes are just not within the bounds of Scottish shopping.

I turn to the other pile of books and pick up a novel.  Jackie Collins.  She never lets me down.

*turns out they're Turkish chilli flakes. Who knew?


  1. So what on earth is kirizi biber?! Something with chilli in?

    If it's any help, I'd struggle to find most of those things and I live quite close to a big city.

  2. I admire your willpower Ali. If I start reading about delicious foods when in bed, I veryoften succumb to a bad attack of the munchies, and end up raiding the fridge/larder for cheese, crackers, pickles etc.

    BTW, WTF is kirizi biber? Sounds like a pathological condition of the gall bladder

  3. TSB and Alex - it's Turkish Chilli flakes, apparently. Have amended blog to show this.

    Munchies are useless in my house because of lengthy journey through cold old victorian house to find fridge. I just don't bother.


  4. Arrrggghh I know how you feel, why oh why do recipe books have to include ingredients that you can only get from specialist shops that only open on the 2nd Tuesday of the month between 10 & 10:30? Or at the very least you have to trawl round at least 2 supermarkets & have the shop assistants think you're speaking Martian? xx

  5. and that's why I never try to cook anything in Ottolenghi cook book......recently had to ship sumac ?!? into friend in Hove........am very fortunate to have an Ottolenghi emporium a good 3 minute walk from my front door so can indulge although it is super expensive, often have to make do pressing nose gainst window, getting inspired by his use of aubergine, pecan nuts and corriander and trying to create similar with contents of own fridge...the cakes are amazing though!!

  6. Cookery books in bed? I'd be far too hungry to sleep. Ottolenghi's recipes have the oddest ingredients, I live in one of the most ethnically diverse places in the UK and the folk in Asda look at me like I'm a nutter when I ask where the tahini is. xxx

  7. i remember once going to the ottolenghi website and being absolutely disgusted because every bloody thing on the menu had sultanas in it. it's like it was the perfect restaurant designed by satan for me. why ruin a perfectly good dish by putting sultanas in it?

    and really, all you british types, just because you give it a sexy exotic sounding name, like it's wearing a veil and writhing sensually on a silk-covered ottoman in diaphanous harem pants and twirly-toed hand-embroidered shoes, doesn't make it any less of a goddamn raisin. just sayin'.

    but i do love me some food porn.

  8. Does an Iranian lemon taste like shi ite?
    Thanks for the laugh Ali, I needed that this morning.

  9. Food porn is always the best kind LOL loved this post xx

  10. I hate to cook, but I did used to steal the Mom's romance novels and read the dirty bits when I was a teen.

    Love you.


  11. Dear Ali, I think in my teens I read everything Jackie Collins ever wrote. And Molly Parkin. I've never read a cookbook though.

    When you come to London I'll take you to Otto Lenghi. It's five minutes away. Or Elaine's place which is wonderful.

    I had no idea what the Turkish chilli flakes were. Surely you can do it with other chilli flakes?

    And step away from the puff pastry. I'm on your case after the Scotch pie post.

    Hope you're good, love C xx

  12. Christina - ooooh yes, to BOTH if you don't mind lol! Yes, probably, but it's the fact they're SO specific in the recipe that ticks me off ;-)

    SB - your secret's safe with me *mwhahahaaa*

    Ruby - lifestyle porn is also good :)

    Legend - that's a REALLY good joke. Might even be true!

    Polish Chick - I love me a sultana though!

    Vix - that's not because of where you live, it's because it's Asda, my friend. The one at my mother's is the same :-)

    YaH - so do you live near Christina then? Or are there loads of Otto Lenghi places? I am v much looking forward to the cake. But only if I can eat it without the horse-kick pain in the ribs :-)

    Butterfly - couldn't agree more! Or at least put in some alternatives that would do a passable job.

    Ali x

  13. This is my pet hate. When I buy a cookery book I do the random ingredient test before buying it (most of the time).

    Even in the city lights of Dundee, it's difficult to get anything even vaguely exotic!

  14. That's hilarious, I've got the Ottolenghi book but then I never stick to the recipe anyway : )

  15. Ali, you are very brave even to read those high falutin cookery books. I keep well away, i do not want to be reminded of my culinary inadequacies. i thought orange blossom was a perfume from Jo Malone. I have though read the odd Jackie Collins. But only for the cookery tips. xx


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