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I’ve been trusting the magical culinary dwarves in my kitchen a lot lately. And, frankly, I think that’s why I’ve had a string of duds. While they were out gathering dibbleberries or whatever the hell they eat (frankly, it smells disgusting), I had a sneaky peep in their quarters under the sink, and, well: all I can say is that culinary dwarves don’t have posters of saplings and samples of oak bark stashed under their beds. When they got back, we had a heart-to-heart and they admitted they weren’t culinary dwarves, but landscaping dwarves on the lam for crimes against compost. I explained that I really couldn’t harbour fictitious fugitives in my kitchen, and they were very understanding. They were gone by sundown, with a few dry Weetbix tucked into their pants for the road.

Anyway, with the deceptive dwarves and their faintly pungent aroma gone from my kitchen, I decided to undertake some baby-steps cookery to rehabilitate my withered cooking skills. And frankly, I was in The Zone. I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t post pictures of my triumphs, if only because I am setting myself up for the kind of spectacular crash that is such good blog fodder.

Firstly, a tasty leek and potato soup as a warm-up.  Finely chop two fat leeks, a brown onion and a clove of garlic and sizzle it all in butter. Deglaze with white wine, stand very close to the pot and inhale deeply, then throw in some cubed potatoes, three cups of stock, a bit of chopped thyme and a bay leaf. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, cool, then purée. Photos too boring to post. Low-hanging fruit in terms of triumph and gloating rights, but still worth it. Time to take it to the next level: baking.

Fluffy triumph!

Lime and poppyseed muffins. Bugger me: astonishing what happens when you check a recipe. [explicit language warning] Pretty DAMN good. At the begging of the populace, I used more sugar than planned. If left to my own devices, I would have halved the sugar and tripled the limes. As it is, I think they could be limey-er, but I grudgingly concede they would probably not benefit from less sugar. (Probably. Further research is needed.) A simple mix-the-dry, mix-the-wet, mix-it-together affair. I will say that one of the best tips I’ve ever had for baking is to put a bit of acid (like lime juice) into the milk and let it curdle slightly before using: the higher acid content reacts to the baking powder and you get fluffier results.

And now, the big test. Lime butter. Check it out:

Sticky triumph!

Deceptively simple in concept, you can cock up lime butter in the wink of an eye. It’s pretty similar hollandaise: you have eggs (and flavouring) whisked and primed, and then you whisk in hot melted butter, which cooks the eggs without setting them. Then you whisk and heat gently to thicken.  In one bowl, butter, sugar and lime zest; in the other, whisked eggs and lime juice. I haven’t got much tolerance for double-boilers, so I poked tradition in its stupid eye and made my lime butter in the microwave. After whisking the hot butter/sugar/lime into the eggs/lime, I put it in the microwave for bursts of 40 seconds at 75% power, whisking thoroughly in between — after about four bursts, it was starting to thicken; after six or seven it was really thick and ready to go.

Drink in the triumph...

And ooooooh baby, is it good. Powerful good. Limey, tangy and thick; looks like a jar of bottled sunlight; completely awesome mixed through fresh yoghurt for breakfast. Next time I’m going to make it even limey-er.

Now my kitchen is purged of deceptive dwarves, I feel like I’m back in the saddle, spoonfully-speaking, and free of duds! It’s a good place to be, up on this high horse. (My horse’s name is Hubris, what’s yours called?)

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