Sunday, December 18, 2005

Cream... Sh-boogie bop

As you might have gathered from my title, both courses of tonight's meal involved cream. And lots of it.

207. Cream of Chicken Soup
208. Risotto-Inspired Rice Pudding

These recipes are from the One & Two chapter, and they're pretty much storecupboard. Saturday night dinner found Mum and I home alone, and with no energy to shop, so I thought I'd give these a whirl.

I had some double cream in the fridge (leftover from the seven-minute steamed chocolate pudding), and a couple of leeks (intended for consommé... wait for tomorrow!) from which I could scavenge 200g for my soup. Technically, Nigella stipulates "dwarf leeks", but concedes that the white parts of ordinary leeks, "very finely sliced", will suffice.

This soup is a lot more trouble in real life than it seems on the page. You've got to cook the finely sliced leeks in butter in one pan, then in a second pan, poach a chicken breast in milk and stock, with a peeled garlic clove and some bay leaves. Then add some flour to the leeks in the first pan and cook until no longer raw and floury. Remove the chicken from the first pan and set aside, then add the poaching liquid to the first (leek+flour) pan, and cook for a few minutes. You then have to shred the chicken, add it to the mixture, and cook it for a few more minutes, before adding butter and letting it cook some more. After this, you blend the whole thing in a blender, (I removed the bay leaves first and left the garlic clove in, even though Nigella doesn't say to do either), before returning it to the rinsed-out saucepan, and heating through. To finish, you stir through (off the heat), a beaten egg and some cream. Are you still following me?

By this stage, you will have used 3 pans, 2 chopping boards, a ladle, a wooden spoon, 2 knives, a couple of little bowls, and endless spoons and forks.

I didn't actually have a chicken breast at home, and was so not in the mood for going out to buy one. So, I rummaged around in my freezer and found some chicken drumsticks, which I thawed and boned with a sharp knife, before chucking the scraggly bits of mutilated meat into the poaching liquid.

Now on the topic of chicken, I find that lots of people seem to be oddly loyal to either breasts or thighs. One girl I know, in particular, only goes for breasts, and will not eat chicken legs/thighs. Ever. At all. So just stop asking and get that thigh off my plate, Sarah. Others I know will only eat drumsticks, complaining that the breasts are dry and tough. You might have picked up the fact that I hold no particular preference for either, as long as it's tasty. And I couldn't see that it would make much of a difference anyway, seeing as it gets blended up in the end. Thighs also have the advantage of being done faster than breasts (especially when ripped off the bone into small pieces in my usual unskilled way).

Soup with toast (Phillpa's bakery's Corn Bread)

Mum and I ate this in front of the TV, (Futurama, of course), and I found it to be enough for two of us, with me taking the lion's share and with Mum supplanting her smaller serving with some noodles. It tasted good, and was everything you'd expect a good home-made cream of chicken soup to be. But by God it was an effort. I wouldn't recommend making this for a quiet dinner for one or two, unless you felt like some quiet pottering around the kitchen.

After dinner...

Me: Hey Mum, did you want me to make a dessert?
Mum: ears pricking up and eyes widening... YES!

I wasn't exactly planning on making a dessert at all, but looking at Mum's sweet face, I could hardly say no. So, the sweet risotto. It's also from One & Two, and comes under the title "comfort food". It reappears in Nigella Bites, (complete with photo) and I'm glad I had that reference with me so that I could check that my risotto was going right. I'm not always super confident with risotti, as I've said previously, my ones always end up taking at least double the time and with double the stock. Nigella said that the sweet one might take up to 35 minutes, so I was afraid I might be at the stove for an hour.

You cook this rice-pudding risotto with the same method as you'd use for a normal risotto. Start off with some butter and vanilla sugar in a pan, then stir in the rice, and add warm milk ladleful by ladleful until all is creamily absorbed and the rice is swollen and tender. It's simple, but it takes fucking forever. For some reason, rice absorbs milk much more slowly than stock. I started at about 9:00pm, hoping (optimistically) to be ready to eat by about 9:30pm, and then ready to leave my house at 10:30 pm to go out. Well, 9:30 came, and I was still standing there stirring. And I know a risotto needs constant attention and stirring, but make-up does need to be applied, hair needs to be blowdried, clothes need to be changed and MSN conversations need to be carried out. So it was about this time that I started multi-tasking - I'd add a scoop of milk, run to the bathroom, apply foundation, run back to the risotto, stir some more, go to the computer, back to the risotto, back to the bathroom and so on for the next 20 minutes, until the risotto was done. I was a bit worried that I might screw up the rice this way, but it didn't suffer for the lack of constant stirring.

I had only used about half the amount of milk when the rice was cooked, for your information. The end result is a pudding that is rich and creamy, even before you add the double cream.

Risotto - before the addition of cream

Even though it looked allright as it was, I added some double cream anyway, because we had it, and because Nigella says to. I multiplied the recipe (which serves 1) by 1.5 for my mum and I, and it turned out to be waaaaay too much. The recipe says 60g of rice per person. Halfway through cooking, the ever-expanding mass of rice in the pot was looking kinda suss, so I had a look at the quantity of rice I used in the last rice pudding I made. That rice pudding also uses 60g of rice... and feeds THREE. (It fed us pretty decently, too, as I recall). I suppose that when Nigella wants food for comfort, part of the comfort lies in the enormous quantity available. Mum & I ate just over half of this one.

Bowl of risotto

It was warm, it was sweet, it was soft, it was comforting. I loved it. But seriously, it's very rich, and a small taste was quite enough.

Typical, eating in front of the computer.

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