You may or may not remember but last week I was making pecan pie. What you won’t remember (because I didn’t tell you) was that my first batch of sweet shortcrust pastry for the pie ended in disaster – or so I first thought.
It was only after that first pastry had been knocked up, flattened, wrapped in clingy and retired to the fridge for a chill-out that I realised that I hadn’t made enough to cover my 9-inch pastry tin. Not only that, I’d forgotten to add sugar to the pastry. Those two errors effectively rendered my so-called sweet shortcrust pastry useless for the task at hand.
That same evening, as I was lamenting the useless pastry still in the fridge, I happened across a story on the Beeb about new cooking robots which will be going on sale in the New Year.
According to London-based Moley Robotics, “The future is served” with the world’s first fully robotic kitchen.
“I’ll bet robo-chef wouldn’t have forgot to add the stupid sugar to the stupid pastry,” I says to meself.
After reading the article about how these mechanised cooks come with a paltry price tag of only £150,000, I had a look at the Moley website to see them in action and I have to admit, they look mighty impressive.
“The Moley Robotic Kitchen allows you to save time, free up your day from routine cooking, plan and adapt your menu according to different diets and lifestyles, enjoy international cuisine anytime, control calories and get cooking tips and recipes from chefs around the world,” the website explains.
“Not only does the robot cook complete meals, it tells you when ingredients need replacing, suggests dishes based on the items you have in stock, learns what you like and even cleans up surfaces after itself.
“Our vision will turn your knowledge about cooking and nutrition upside down. Now’s your chance to become the owner of the first robotic kitchen in the world.”
Wondering about whether or not to re-mortgage the house and fork out the necessary £150,000 on robo-chef, I remembered another story I had read about how love affects a diner’s taste and perception of food.
Various studies have shown that a spoonful of love really does make food taste better. Almost a decade ago, in fact, a study from the University of Maryland discovered that good intentions can pacify pain and increase pleasure. This, in short, means that your mother’s Sunday lunch will always be unbeatable and the shortbread made by your granny will forever taste better that even the most expensive stuff available in the shops.
Ergo, hypothetically at least, your mother’s pecan pie will always be better than robo-chef’s because, even if she forgets to add the sugar, she can still provide that special ingredient which he can’t: Love.
For some reason, this realisation made me feel a little better about my useless shortcrust pastry. It may not have been scientifically perfect but it was made with the best intentions and for the benefit of the other members of the clan.
Armed with this knowledge, I hoked the pastry out of the fridge and decided to figure out a new mission, one which would use up the shortcrust and hopefully, delight the diners.
Conveniently, at the time, I had a simple beef mince stew bubbling in the background and with only the slightest smidgen of cerebral endeavour, I managed to link the bubbling aromas with the at-first, seemingly useless pastry.
“Beef mince stew pies!” I announced at the Moley Robotics website, which was still ticking away on my laptop.
As you can see from the pictures, the resulting pies were the very essence of savoury crumbly loveliness and all the more satisfying because they were unexpected.
The stew included shallots and carrots and garlic, with a little tomato puree, honey, rosemary and reduced beef stock – and to a pie, they were demolished with a great many oohs and aahs.
You might also imagine my great pleasure when one of the little humans enquired that, as she loved the pies so much, could she take one to school the following day for lunch.
OK, so robo-chef wouldn’t have forgotten the sugar or neglected to make as much pastry to cover the 9-inch tin in the first place but nor could he (it) have turned such a negative into a positive.
Whether or not the love came through in the pies, I don’t know (I’d like to think that it did) but if nothing else, seeing the pleasure on smiling faces as the clan munched through pastry and into the thick stew within, was priceless. Part of the reason I cook is seeing those looks and hearing those oohs and aahs.
Sure, robo-chef might be able to cook… but where’s the fun in that?
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere
SUBSCRIBE TO CURRENT EDITION TODAYand get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
(CLICK ON THE TITLE BELOW TO SUBSCRIBE)