Sunday, 25 September 2011

Flirting with Hermann, and tired vegetable soup for a tired mummy

The husband returned home late on Friday for a flying visit back from Wales and before heading off for Italy this morning. The children had social engagements planned (a birthday party for Blue) and engineered (I asked a friend to have Pink) for the afternoon, so I just had to fill in a couple of hours after he'd gone before I could have a whole lovely afternoon to myself.

I always find it's better to have a focus in situations like this, otherwise the kids just start to crumble, so the goal for this morning was Hermann - otherwise known as the German friendship cake. Now, there was a batch of Hermann floating round the village earlier in the year, but this one came from the Husband's boss. Basically, it's a sourdough type cake starter - you are given a portion of starter - fairly sloppy, and a set of instructions about how to care for it and in 10 days time, how to make a scrummy cake with it. Essentially it's a stirring and feeding process. Put the starter into a big bowl and cover. Stir every day and on day 4 and 9 you add sugar flour and milk. Having done this on day 9, you divide your bowl of starter into 4, give 3 away along with the instructions, and then make your cake using the 4th bit of starter. The cake is a lovely appley cinammon cake, and you can add nuts and/or dried fruit as you wish. School has a no nuts rule, so I didn't put nuts in this time, and I baked it all in a big roasting tin do I could cut the finished cake into lunchbox- sized squares, half of which I have wrapped individually in clingfilm and bunged in the freezer as a timesaver for packed lunches.

I was interested to see if this one would be different from the one that I'd had previously - someone once told me about another friend who had made sourdough bread, and the bread she had made using a starter made in one house was totally different from the bread that came from a starter 'grown; in a new house that they had moved to - different wild yeasts etc. If I thought about it, I'd try and get some starter going myself. The starter for this Hermann smelt much more alcoholic than the one I'd had previously, and was more liquid when I got it, but the cake at the end of it was still pretty darn tasty. Pink picked out the raisins on the basis that they were 'suspicious' (??) but Blue in much less discriminatory.

I'm feeling quite tired after a foul cold that hit on Friday. It's clearing up now but I'm still feeling pretty wiped out. Fortunately, I had some tired veg in the fridge, so the easy lunch solution for today (and for the next few days!) was 'Tired Vegetable Soup'. Fried up an onion and some celery, chopped up a potato and the left over veg, which today was some brocoli and cauliflower, add a 1.5 litres of stock, bring to the boil. simmer till the veg is cooked, then liquidise. Just too easy for words. I remembered a tip from somewhere that if you keep your old parmesan cheese rinds and chuck them in to soup, it adds 'depth of flavour', and amazingly, I did have an old parmesan rind, which I had saved for just this purpose. The chances of the 2 events combining (that is, me remembering the tip, and actually having the wherewithal to act on the tip) are fairly unlikely but obviously, the kitchen gods were smiling today.  I forgot to take it out before I liquidised the soup, but I don't think it's any the worse for it, and to be honest, I think it might have nelted down anyway.

I hardly ever follow a recipe for soup, and it's just the easiest thing. I remember having the wierdest conversation with my former step-mother in law who asked in amazement "You can make soup?" Apparently it had never occurred to her to do anything other than buy it in a tin or a tetrapak. She was even more freaked out that I couldn't tell her what the recipe was - I can't remember what soup it was that I'd made but it was probably some form of squash, probably with ginger and chilli. To give her her due, she did then have a Damascene conversion to soup making - and we got soup everytime we went there, although she did never get beyond leek & potato.

Soup for me is just a brilliant thing to have around. Allotment Junkie (a.k.a. my mother) is the queen of soup making - she will start off with some type of soup, around October time, and it gradully morphs over the weeks into something completely different. Instead of starting fresh, she just chucks what's leftover back into the soup pan along with some more of whatever stock she's got, bubbles it all up, quick liquidise, and there you go - new soup. She'll vehemently deny it, but (and don't read this if you're of a nervous disposition - or if you're likely to eat at her house during the winter months) I'd hazard that she doesn't actually wash up the soup pan from October to March. Good job we've all got cast iron stomachs. I don't quite subscribe to her methods, but I do agree that you can't beat a good bowl of soup.

Did I mention that I had a whole afternoon to myself? Well I did. After I'd dispatched the kids and walked the dog I got home for a toasted bagel and a bowl of tired vegetable soup. I read a bit of  Gordon Ramsay dessert book, but somehow I just can't get excited about his stuff - he writes about food too clinically - even though I'm sure it tastes delicious. We have people coming over for dinner next Saturday and I was wondering about pudding, but, sorry Gordon, it's going to be Thomasina Miers' summer (just) lemon and raspberry meringue cake. I did some ironing, did some writing and all of a sudden it was time to pick them up again. Time flies...

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