She barely remembers the chicken Caesar salad main, in honour of her Pizza Express favourite. Hardly a ringing endorsement...but she does remember pudding.
It was a strawberry cheesecake, with the commensurate depth of a small stack of pancakes and a little bit too, er, cheesy in taste.
The disastrous, drab dessert still lingers in the depths of Facebook as a haunting token of my culinary clumsiness.
But our relationship (and digestive systems) somehow survived the ordeal – and times have changed.
On Sunday, pudding was an ambitious attempt at a dish by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge, produced by the fair hands that crafted that catastrophic cheesecake: caramelised white chocolate parfait, salted almond ice cream, orange tuiles, orange nougat, poached cherries and a caramel-dipped hazelnut.
Granted, it was nowhere near Kerridge’s lofty standards.
And yes, it did take me most of the weekend to prepare, with a four-year-old chucking cherries in my egg yolks like a budding Barnes Wallis.
But the progression from DisasterChef to a step closer to MasterChef is surely something to be celebrated.
Recreating Michelin dining as an amateur a tricky task
My love of the BBC cooking show, starting a family and time on my hands during the Covid lockdowns inspired me to attempt to learn to cook.
Such was my passion for the hobby, I’m now the main cook in our house.
Keen to bury Cheesecake-gate 2011, I have documented my cooking journey on Instagram page Headline Food.
From simple roast dinners to the fancier souffle and chocolate fondants – the downfall of many a MasterChef hopeful – my attempts are there for all to see.
Trying to emulate a Michelin work of art was a tricky task, though.
Kerridge’s Hand & Flowers cookbook isn’t really written for your average home cook.
He references an eye-wateringly expensive list of equipment, from Thermomixes to ‘Robot Coupes’, which to me sounded more like the next generation of electric car than a kitchen gadget. Turns out it’s a high-powered blender, which you can get by without, but other items, like a spray gun to cover your parfait in white chocolate ‘flock’, are harder to replicate.
Ingredients are also sometimes hard to track down.
Elements of the parfait called for dextrose – not sold in my local Tesco – nor something I wanted to order in quantities designed for a bodybuilder or commercial baker.
So I had to be creative, and substituting a couple of ingredients saw me come unstuck and by unstuck I mean completely the opposite.
Orange nougat ‘take one’ was pale, refused to set and was 90 per cent almond, 10 per cent goo.
Grudgingly scraped off the once-pristine baking mat into a special side bowl known as the ‘Caramel Graveyard’, it was just the latest sugary shocker to meet such a fate.
‘Take two’, improved by altering the suggested cooking temperature, perhaps to account for the change in ingredients, was more successful and closer to the darker colour in the book, although perhaps not perfect.
The blasted nougat nearly derailed the whole thing in the end, too, when the warm poached cherries began to melt it and the tower formation Kerridge envisaged kept collapsing, like I’d fatally pulled out the wrong Jenga block.
In normal times, I’d have presented it ‘deconstructed’ – but that’s not so great when you’re trying to copy a restaurant-standard meal and I’m not sure John Torode and Gregg Wallace would buy it, either.
On the contrary, my parfait turned out well and the ice cream, churned in a comparatively budget ice cream maker in Kerridge stakes, was smooth and tasty.
I can’t ever quite get the hang of the cheffy quenelle presentation though. Any tips greatly appreciated!
Share your disasters and your triumphs
I hope my experience can inspire others to give cooking a go.
Learning some basic dishes is a great place to start and there are plenty of free recipes online. Check out BBC Good Food for starters.
Share your cooking stories – the triumphs and the disasters – on Facebook or by emailing me at [email protected]
I hope to share more tales of my culinary exploits – and other people’s journeys – soon.