Okay, all you heart-ridden Valentines boobies. Listen up. There will be none of that Hallmark rubbish in this little corner of the Internet today. It will be business as usual here, which means at least one dubious joke about genitals, a picture of something in my only good serving bowl, and a couple of pop-culture references that are hopelessly out of date, which just illustrates how direly out of touch I am.
Right. Carry on.
While some people might say ‘let Jesus take the wheel’, I’m usually more comfortable when my wheel is being taken by a 15th-level Barbarian with a Greatsword +5.
And by ‘wheel’ I don’t mean…okay never mind.
Surprise. I can be a gigantic raging nerd sometimes, but here’s the thing; the older I get the less inclined I am to hide it. Back in the day, it was a one-way ticket to getting either my head stuffed down a toilet or having to lick a door handle, but these days it’s a totally viable alternative to, like…having children. Or pets. Or a job.
I mean, in a world where pushing a ‘like’ button on the bajillionth picture of a cat doing something cute can be passed off as a legitimate way to spend one’s free time, I feel I can be totally left alone to read books that have wizards with pointy hats on the cover and play boardgames that require me every now and again to say something like: “Agarthan the Bard casts Flaming Hands at the Orc leader.” You know?
Better than scraping clean the grouting in the guest-shower I say.
So, when about two weeks ago I stumbled onto this:
…there was absolutely no way I was going to leave it there for some sweaty fifteen year-old to buy for his friends to touch (sweatily), rather than me buying it for mine (look, we’re just as sweaty, but the reason for that is all the expensive drugs we take, not pre-teen slime). So I pushed aside the gaggle of rank, shiny kids who were trying to pool R10 notes and some guy who swore he could remember the numbers off his mom’s credit card, and got that thing in a plastic bag and into my car before any of them knew what hit them.
It’s like bullying, just with money.
The nice thing about playing these types of games when you’re (slightly) more grown up. Is that the catering is always a lot better. For one thing, we can drink whiskey now, and our perception of what makes a legitimate party snack has progressed beyond “I don’t really care, as long as its got melted cheese on it.”
For example, as a kid, our gaming menu was always inevitably something along the lines of:
Soya mince bolognese.
Cheese Curls (or, Cheese Hurls as we thought we were so clever calling them)
Coke (a cola, not the other kind)
Unfathomably sweet tea and Marie biscuits.
Scully and Mulder impressions.
So, because people need to eat when they’re locked in a death-struggle for the Iron Throne (and I mean something other than the flesh and blood of their enemies), some wine was thrown on the table, a pot and pan or two were theatrically rattled in the kitchen, and people happily got their fantasy ass-kick on.
Chicken Nerdvana (adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe in the 2011 round-up edition of his magazine)
This recipe makes truly the best sauce ever, and the use of the limes really does give it a fantastically fresh zing which I reeeally like.
a whole chicken, cut into pieces
1 large carrot, chopped up
1 large stick of celery, chopped up
1 large red onion, chopped up
1 large handful of button mushrooms, quartered
A splash of olive oil
1 large bunch of thyme, bound up with string
500 ml of chicken stock
1 glass of white wine
5 bay leaves
1 knob of butter
2 egg yolks
40 g of flour
1 cup of cream
The juice of one lime
2 tbsp dried tarragon
What to do
Heat some olive oil in a pan, season your chicken pieces with a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, and brown them until golden. Set aside on a plate lined with paper towel to drain off the excess oil.
Pour some of the olive oil and chicken juices from the frying pan you’ve just used into a fresh, large pot, heat and add the celery, onion and carrot. Fry it all up until soft and fragrant – which should take about five minutes or so. Then pour in the wine and vigorously simmer that off until about reduced in volume by half. Now bung in the thyme, the mushrooms and the bay leaves, stir it up and let that simmer for another ten minutes. Finally add the chicken pieces and the stock, reduce the heat so that it settles into a gentle bubbling, and leave it for an hour.
Once that’s done, remove the pot from the heat and strain out the liquid into a bowl to set aside (you can also fish out and throw away the thyme at this point, it’s done it’s job). Gently heat the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and quickly stir together. When it’s just foaming and starting to bubble, mix in the liquid from the chicken that you’ve strained out. Whisk it up and let that roll for ten minutes or so until silky.
While that’s on the go, whisk together the two egg yolks with the cream and then sprinkle in the dried tarragon. Combine this with the chicken liquid mix, stir it up good and proper, and as a finishing kick, add the lime juice. Season to taste, then pour over the chicken pieces and vegetables. Top with a bit of chopped parsley if you fancy, and serve it with potatoes and crusty bread to a room full of hungry nerds doing this: