Monday, 3 September 2012

One thing led to another

Sometimes, it's hard to not look a gift horse in the mouth. However, I have learned that not all 'free' things are actually free. One thing leads to another and, before you know it, your free gift has cost you a fortune in time and money. Let me explain ...

Years ago, my dad bought me a car stereo for Christmas. The standard tuner that came with the car needed a band expander to get most New Zealand stations and I only had two basic front speakers. Having just paid a lot of money for a car, a new stereo and rear speakers were on my wish list but not something I could afford just yet.

So, I was thrilled when Dad bought me a stereo with a CD player. He helped me buy some rear speakers and I paid for them to be installed a few days after Christmas. I had planned to drive up to New Plymouth for New Year (don’t ask) and wanted my stereo working before the 5 hour journey ahead of me. However, 10 minutes into the trip, my new stereo promptly blew up the existing front speakers, leaving nearly 5 hours and a return trip listening to buzzing and popping coming from 2 dead speakers instead of good, loud music on my road trip. One thing led to another (I refuse to say this) and my Christmas present ended up costing me several hundred dollars, plus I had to get four new speakers that I hadn’t planned on buying. The sound in my car was amazing but my free gift was anything but free. Oh well!

Recently, someone left a bag of lemons in a communal space with a note saying: "help yourself". How could I resist! I thought about what I could bake with fresh lemons but wanted to try something different to my usual lemon cupcakes or lemon slice. How about lemon meringue tarts for Fathers' Day? Great idea! I would be able to use my new individual tart tins. I was planning to buy a tart tamper anyway and had some short, sweet pastry in the freezer. All I needed to do was try blind baking the pastry for the first time (mental note: that non-stick rolling pin has got to go), learn how to make lemon curd, learn how to make meringue topping ... one thing led to another and this project was rapidly expanding.

I got busy. Jo Seager's lemon curd recipe was fantastic and the kitchen smelled amazing as it cooked then cooled. I felt like a pro using my new tart tamper to press the pastry into my new flan tins. Blind baking by just pricking the rolled pastry and leaving it in the fridge for half an hour before cooking did the trick so I didn't need to use rice or beans. The meringue topping turned out surprisingly well and everything came together perfectly, even though I had used a range of sources guessed the quantities and cooking times for each part of the recipe.

All up, it took several hours over 2 days, spending more money on equipment than anticipated (but that I can use again) and planning the bulk of my weekend around each cooking phase to yield eight lemon meringue tarts.

But, I used the free lemons!

Lemon meringue tart
So that's how a small bag of free lemons turns into a 2-day project. Thankfully, Dad and the rest of my family loved the lemon meringue tarts but, much like croissants, I can see why people just buy them instead of making them from scratch.

Have you ever had a free gift end up costing you far more time, money and energy than you ever would have anticipated?

1 comment:

Chelsea Tabott said...

HAHA! LOL. I am laughing while reading this. It’s really funny indeed, I can relate what you mean by receiving free gifts and it’s not really free it will just cost you much. On the other hand it was great seeing your lemon meringue tart that was loved by your family. Well, it is good that you bought some equipment because we are looking forward for your next recipe.