Last month I started feeling that I had lost my cooking mojo. Simple dishes like spaghetti bolognese would turn out either too dry or too watery. My Easter Sunday roast pork was first undercooked, then after another hour of cooking, came out too dry. And don't even get me started on the roast vegetables. Suffice it to say that I felt obliged to eat most of them.
Why on earth I decided to cook braised beef in soy sauce, an untried recipe, despite my bad run in the kitchen I just do not know. There must be a masochist hiding inside me. Anyway, I just decided one day a few weeks ago that instead of cooking my usual beef afritada, which Simon and the kids love (yes, even Sofia!), I would try braised beef in soy sauce instead. So I went recipe-browsing on the internets, found one that didn't call for beer or some other ghastly ingredient I would never dream of putting in my food, and proceeded to cook. The recipe called for dry sherry. We had medium dry sherry, so I poured some onto the braising steak that I bought from Waitrose, added a cup of soy sauce, switched the cooker on, and went into the lounge to play with Lucas and Sofia.
Fifteen minutes later, I walked into the kitchen to find it filled with smoke. Yup, I burned the beef. And the casserole pot. I had completely forgotten that I was using a volatile liquid in cooking, and hence should have kept checking it every few minutes. The beef was unsalvageable, so I had to serve the family a tub of reheated afritada instead.
For days I soaked and scrubbed the pot, and through sheer perseverance, I managed to make it come out clean again. Just in time for cooking a meal for a newfound friend and her little daughter. And what did I cook in my kaserola? Beef afritada, of course.
It took me another few weeks to try cooking braised beef again (yes, there's definitely a masochist in here somewhere). This time I made sure to check the pot every five minutes. And you know what? The result wasn't so bad. In fact, Lucas enjoyed it a lot. So yeah, cooking mojo's back. But I think I'd still prefer beef afritada to braised beef any day!