From the sublime to the… sous vide

When I Am Pregnant, Anish Kapoor, 1992

And so, on April Fool’s Day (the latest this fool could possibly leave it to drag a reluctant husband away from the ritual Easter lawn-mow), we finally made it to the Museum of Contemporary Art to wallow in the wonders of the Anish Kapoor exhibition. Our expedition started well – a free, legal park (oh frabjous day!) just up the road, and a queue of only a handful of people – families mostly – with all manner of cool kids dressed exactly like their hipster parents.

First, a quick sortie to walk around Kapoor’s wonderful Sky Mirror, whose majestic, mercurial charms my mother and I had enjoyed earlier this past summer (though, apparently, from the wrong angle). We’d not realised that, in fact, it was best seen reflecting the sky and not the dour, static sandstone walls of the MCA, allthough, I still love the image I took of us both tucked into the massive porch of the museum, mother and daughter in miniature (and not dressed in any way alike, as it happens).

Back inside among the ever-increasing throng, we were, like everyone else around us, bedazzled and bewitched by all the shiny (and unshiny – sorry, but I can’t find the right word to describe some of the ‘anti-reflective’ exhibits that drew us deep into their inky darkness) things to play with – Kapoor’s art making artists of us all (or at least, insatiable photographers). And amid all that hilarity, all that brilliant, brittle, hall-of-mirrors fairground folderol, the serene, sensual beauty of a simple, perfectly smooth, matte-white-painted bump protruding from a wall, gently forming and reforming as you walked up to and around it, and, ultimately, disappearing when you viewed it from front on. Peace at last.

I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like…

Which brings me somewhat clunkily to the ambivalent art of vacuum-pack cooking.

It proved a creative old Easter break, to be sure, with much experimenting to be done for work’s sake. This largely entailed (at least to start with) relieving large kitchen appliances of their cumbersome cardboard packaging (and trying to find somewhere to store it all for safekeeping without incurring the resident recycler’s wrath), then concentrating for long enough to decode the manufacturer’s instruction manual. I was testing the efficacy of a newly minted home sous vide machine.

Yes, this is what my life has come to. Curses upon the Blumenthals, the Trotters, the Adriàs and the kingdom of MasterChef for creating aspirational domestic cuisine. It hasn’t improved the skills of anyone on My Kitchen Rules, has it? If you want the sort of food you get in restaurants, why not just eat in a f#*%king restaurant? God knows, they need the business, people.

Ahem… It actually worked very well, this sous vide machine, once I’d worked out which end of the open plastic bag to stick into the vacuum-sealer (this being, blog-buddies, a separate, and equally well-packaged appliance, with no mean benchtop footprint of its own). Thankfully, the lawn-mowing was well out of the way by the time I got to that stage, so my life partner was able to lend a hand, and not a little encouragement, through my travails.

Thank goodness someone in our household is of a technical bent. Which is why he loved the Kapoor exhibition as much as I did, in his own architecture-y way. He just couldn’t understand why the MCA’s brand new wing appeared to have been built only to house stairs and the toilets.

Nine hours later, and after much anxious peering through the condensation on the lid, my plastic pouches were ready to fish out of their bain-marie-by-any-other-name. By this time we – and the sous vide machine – had an audience. A very patient audience, it must be said, who had been waiting quite some time to dine (I’d meant to sous vide overnight, but was so tired from the day’s anxious preparation and cardboard storing that I’d forgotten to turn the damn thing on).

And, despite all misgivings, the lamb turned out rather well once it was released from its packaging’s plasticky embrace. The patient audience improved things further by chucking it on the barbie to caramelise the outside a bit.

Dessert, however, was another matter entirely. Two cake mixes for the testing, which proved a cinch to make – line cake tin, pour dry contents into a bowl, add eggs, oil and water and stir. Pour mixture into cake tin. Bake.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Heston.

The result was moist and toothsome, though the texture bore little resemblance to cake as we know it, and I doubt I would repeat the experience.

But please come back soon, Anish Kapoor. I’m missing you already.