Monday, July 26, 2010

Business as usual

It's time to get out of 'holiday mode' and back into my usual routine: that means making something for my lunches this week. I had some potatoes that had started growing eyes while I was away in Canada, so I decided that a pot of leek and potato soup (p87) was in order.

I don't recall ever eating leek and potato soup before, much less making it, and a soup recipe that includes a whole pot of mashed potato seemed a little odd to me. Still, the concept did seem to indicate a nice, thick soup: sounds ideal for a winter lunch!

The first step is to peel and chop all the potatoes, and get them on to boil. Once they're simmering away nicely, you start sauteing the leeks with garlic and chopped bacon. When the leeks are tender, add 6 cups of chicken stock, with a bay leaf and a sprig of parsley (of course, I'd forgotten to get any parsley, so I had to do without).

This mixture is simmered for 20 minutes, after which you stir in the mashed potatoes. It was quite interesting to see the potato dissolve in the stock - I expected it to thicken up the soup, but it just sort of disappeared. Bring this to the boil and simmer some more, then, finally, add some milk and chopped parsley.

Well, I was doing without the parsley, and when I went to get some milk I discovered I had only the merest dribble in the bottom of the bottle. I had to make some up from milk powder and water. It didn't look quite right, but it was all I had - in it went.

After careful seasoning, I ladled myself a bowlful, garnished with grated cheese as per the recipe, and sat down to eat. The soup did have a reasonably pleasant flavour, but it was hard to get past the unappealing grey colour, and very watery texture. I'm sure it shouldn't be like that, so either I've made a mistake somewhere, or there's too much liquid in the recipe. The large pot of mashed potato I'd added had thickened only the last few spoonfuls at the bottom of the bowl.

I think if I were to make this again, I'd put in only 1 litre of stock, not 1.5 - that would make it more palatable to me, because I prefer a thick soup. Can anyone tell me what the texture of a leek and potato soup is supposed to be like? Surely it's not supposed to be thin and watery!

When I'd had my soup, I also had another task ahead of me: something to have for my morning teas this week. I went back in the kitchen to make some chocolate fruit fingers (p62). It's a pretty straightforward recipe - you start by rubbing the butter into the flour and baking powder, then add brown sugar, cocoa, plus chopped dates and walnuts. Lastly you mix through a beaten egg to make a stiff dough, press it into a sponge roll tin, and bake.

The slice came out looking just fine. I left it to cool for an hour or two, then went back to ice it later in the evening. I planned to try chocolate butter icing (p76) on this slice, the third and final chocolate icing in the Edmonds book. I was, however, brought to a halt by the fact that I didn't have enough icing sugar. I wasn't about to go out and get some at that time of the evening, so I had to put off icing the slice.

Today, after work, I walked up to the supermarket for some icing sugar (and milk!). On my return I attempted chocolate butter icing. It sounds quite simple: just beat the butter, then add vanilla, cocoa, and beat the icing sugar in gradually, adding hot water as necessary. I tried to make it by hand, mostly succeeding in getting cocoa and icing sugar all over myself and the kitchen. I should have dug out my mixer for this recipe: it would have been much easier.

While I was still beating in the first cup of sugar, the icing had a nice dark colour and a rich chocolate taste. But by the time the last of the sugar was stirred through, the icing was hardly chocolatey at all: it had a nice buttery texture, but mostly just tasted of icing sugar. I added another 1/2 tablespoon of cocoa, but I think I should have put in more. The icing still came out a sickly light brown colour without a noticeable chocolate flavour. I think this one could use some experimentation.

Finally, I smoothed the icing onto the slice, and sprinkled it with chopped walnuts before putting it in the fridge to set. And a little while later, my chocolate fruit fingers were ready to taste: they weren't bad, but certainly weren't wonderful either. The slice itself would be extremely ordinary without the icing - there's not enough cocoa, or enough fruit in it to justify the name "chocolate fruit fingers" - and the icing itself is far too thick and very very sweet.

So on the whole, slightly disappointing results for my first Edmonds attempts since returning from Canada. I could try and blame it on lingering jet lag, but who would I be kidding? Forgetting ingredients, last minute dashes to the supermarket, making a mess of the kitchen (and my clothes).. it's definitely business as usual!

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