Deciding what to make for an office shared lunch can be quite a challenge. You certainly don’t want your colleagues to think you are incompetent in the kitchen (even if you are, some things should be kept out of the office) but you also don’t want to get too complex. No one likes a show off, or to be accused of trying to pass off a shop-bought item as one of their own. Then there’s the added issue of actually getting the food to the office – there’s no way I’m carting anything bigger than a standard sized tupperware box across London on three tube changes and a bus ride. Yeah, my commute is worse than yours; I know.
Given the list of dietary requirements, general likes and dislikes, and the scrutiny of some discerning diners in your midst, I would recommend you do what I do and play it safe. Chocolate brownies are the answer; a guaranteed crowdpleaser. If by chance there is someone in your team who doesn’t like chocolate brownies, someone else will no doubt be rubbing their hands together with delight because that means there’s another one going spare…
Since I’ve moved to London, my list of ‘things to get round to’ keeps growing longer and longer. Along with the things to do, places to see, food to eat, I’m embarrassed to confess that laundry is frequently on the list… But thank goodness for my little shopping addiction and well stocked wardrobe eh? This hyperactive city coupled with my short attention span means that while I intend on doing one thing, I often end up doing another.
Just when I think I’m finally getting round to trying out that steamed bun place with the horrendous queues, I end up taking us to this other place that’s been making me salivate at the sight of my Instagram feed all week. There are the friends from uni I’ve been meaning to catch up with since they or I moved here, and now I’m getting an invite to their leaving party. Even then, I can’t go. I’ve got those books stockpiled on my kindle, those pop-ups I bookmark in every week’s Time Out, and all that theatre I keep reminding myself to get tickets for.
There are certain types of people I mistrust from the outset: politicians (like the rest of the world), parking wardens (how are they always conveniently around the corner, ready to pounce) and people who don’t like chocolate. How? Why?! I just cannot fathom not liking the smooth, creamy delight so am naturally suspicious of chocolate haters. Were they robbed of a childhood of chocolate eggs and bunnies at Easter or endless Milk Trays at Christmas? Did no one else share with them the simple pleasure of a rich chocolate cake covered in ganache? Do they even like their taste buds?! I better stop before I fall further into despair.
Needless to say, I absolutely love chocolate… I’m not a huge consumer of sweets or lollies but chocolate is my guilty pleasure, my afternoon pick-me-up, pretty much my favourite sweet treat! I find it very hard to look beyond a chocolate dessert so decided to try making one of my favourites – the chocolate mousse. I’ve tested it out on two sets of dinner party guests and am happy to report this dark chocolate mousse was devoured in record time and there was a lot of glass scraping to get every last bit!
I would class myself as a bit of a slap-dash, taste and tweak as you go kind of cook. My parents are exceptionally good cooks so I guess I picked up basic skills by diffusion as I never made a meal until I moved out of home at the start of university. Our family home has shelves of cookbooks but I doubt my parents meticulously follow the recipes, only really using them to get ideas for dishes and flavour combinations. In most cases when I ask my mother how much of this or that she puts into a certain dish of hers I’m trying to recreate, she unhelpfully tells me it’s ‘angga-angga’, which is her Malay version of saying ‘approximately’. Like I said, unhelpful!
So how she manages to turn out amazing cakes and Malaysian kuih I’ll never know, perhaps after years of practice she’s perfected her own imperfect precision? I, on the other hand, do not have years of experience on my side and still lack the discipline of precision so most of my baking and desserts are basic affairs. This must explain why I almost always order a dessert at the end of the meal and didn’t have to think twice about heading along to Basement Sate for a dessert degustation then a pastry masterclass! I get to eat something and learn to make something – no brainer really.
I’ve been to a lot of restaurants where you can tell the dessert menu is an afterthought. They’re generally the ones with a crowd-pleasing chocolate dish and some fruit based thing to appease those watching their figures but as disappointing as this can be, I’d rather boring than bad. As long as that chocolate brownie is gooey or your crumble has the right fruit to crumb ratio, I’ll forgive your lack of originality. I guess they are smart enough to know they only need to meet the minimum requirements to satisfy those schmucks out there who’ll eat anything to end on a sweet note. Schmucks like me. I’ve been burned before, I’ve eaten at enough restaurants, I should know better but even when I do smell a rat, the devil that is my sweet tooth just takes over and orders anyway. I know, I have willpower issues, is there a group for this?!
A friend once asked, with a slightly disgusted glint in her eye, whether we ate pudding every night because that would just be outrageous right? Well at the time I was shamed into denying it, ‘oh no, of course not, maybe just once a week’ but of course that’s a big fat lie with a quenelle of ice cream on the side. Sorry pudding-police, t’s more like several nights a week. However on Sunday I pushed myself further, not just one dessert but five, in one sitting, oh yes the things I do for my craft! With a couple of sweet toothed friends in tow, I skipped the main and went straight for desserts at Happy Endings Presents a Month of Sundaes at POND Dalston.