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Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

When life hands you lemons…

You may or may not have noticed the rice question trending on Twitter last week but it turned out to be quite the conversation starter.

@aliqasim (he’s apparently an influencer and entrepreneur) posed the question: If you could add just two ingredients to plain rice, what would they be? Hot off the virtual press, the tweet went viral over the course of just a few days, garnering thousands of retweets and likes.

Knowing me to be a bit of a greedy-gut, a friend asked me what two ingredients I’d add and I have to admit, I was initially stumped. Mayo and spring onions for a simple salad?

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Mushrooms and soy sauce? Sugar and cream? Bangers and mash?

I remember as a student doing a spot of fusion cooking when I tipped ravioli out of a tin into hot rice. As you might imagine, this wasn’t the tastiest meal I’d ever eaten but at the time, the finances dictated this beggar student couldn’t be a choose-y diner. And, in fairness, I’ve eaten worse.

But going back to the @aliqasim tweet, as you might also imagine, there were some interesting suggestions. One woman opted for teriyaki sauce and chicken and personally, I’d be all over that combo.

Then there was another lady (@mxcodediva who describes herself as middle-aged, gay-for-everyone, non-binary trans woman, screaming into the void) who suggests seaweed and smoked salmon. Like white on rice, I’d be on that too and actually, I might actually give that one a try in the coming weeks – minus the screaming into the void, of course.

However, whether it was the mere mention of rice that day or the fact that I was then thinking about rice and the various rice dishes I’ve enjoyed over the years – to consider what duo of ingredients I might add – that evening I decided to forgo the restrictive two-added-ingredients rule and make veggie egg-fried rice.

This is basically the vegetable version of the smoked ham fried rice I included on this page some weeks ago or the ‘healthy’ version, you might say, with eggs, soy, ginger, oyster sauce, garlic, carrots, extra spring onions, tenderstem broccoli and chillies.

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Anyway, it was Friday night and since the frying pan is only so big, I was making the fried rice in two batches. I was also enjoying a glass of wine as an aperitif when I made the first batch for the little humans and so I was deliberately taking my sweet time with things. But when the time came to hoover up the off-spring’s left-overs I was astonished at how good they were, even lukewarm. I exclaimed as much mid-hoover, “thith ith the betht fried rith a’ve ever made!” Alas, my euphoria was short-lived.

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After those two glasses of wine by the way of the aperitifs, by the time it came to making my own batch, my “driving” seemed to be somewhat… impaired. I used exactly the same set of ingredients and with the same technique but somehow, it wasn’t as magnificent. It was still good but it wasn’t as perfect as Round One. Go figure, MD! Either that, pal or stay off the vino when cooking.

At this stage you’re most likely wondering when I’m gonna shut up about rice and move onto the baking illustrated in the pictures, which are most obviously unrelated to rice. So
that’s exactly what I’ll do.

These pictures are of a lemon drizzle cake which the biggest of the little humans made recently and thankfully her “driving” was not impaired in any way. Washed down on consecutive days with first tea and then coffee, I can confirm it was the lightest, most moist and most satisfying-est lemon drizzle cake I have enjoyed in a many a long time. OK, so it was the only lemon drizzle cake I’ve enjoyed in many a long time; I can only hope it becomes a regular on Sarah’s baking repertoire.

The little baker herself also admits, quite humbly, that it was very easy to make, the hardest part being the squeezing of the lemons. So without further ado… when life hands you lemons, get the biggest little human to make lemon drizzle cake.

INGREDIENTS
180g of golden caster sugar
180g of soft butter
180g of self-raising flour
3 medium eggs
1 un-waxed lemon
100g of granulated sugar
big pinch of hundreds and thousands (or as they’re known in our house, ‘spwinkles’)

THE PLAN
Get Sarah to make it.
I joke!

THE REAL PLAN
Pre-heat the oven to 180C and as that’s happening, dump the eggs, caster sugar, flour, SOFTENED butter and the grated zest from the lemon into a large bowl and beat furiously with a wooden spoon until smooth.

Grease and line a baking tin or loaf tin and then scrap all the mix out of the bowl and into the tin.

Retire to the oven for exactly 40 minutes or until golden and beginning to shrink away from the edges of the tin.

Remove onto a plate and when it’s still warm, juice the lemon and mix this juice with the granulated sugar and then pour this grainy mixture all over the cake (trying not to make too much of a mess for the aul boy to clear up). Finish with the spwinkles and then set the cake onto a wire rack to cool.

When cool, slice thickly and savour at length with a fork and either the tea or the coffee.

I told her at the time – and I wasn’t exaggerating – but this was the best thing she’s ever baked. Better even than the chocolate brownies, the cookies, the Victoria sponge, the chocolate cake and the buttermilk pancakes.

What two ingredients would I add to plain rice?

Sarah’s lemon drizzle cake and tea.

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