Monday, 4 January 2010

The leeky cauldron

Day three and I've done my second vegetable shop, this time spending £2.56 on two days' worth. That got me two leeks, 8oz of local mushrooms, an onion, two carrots and three and a half pounds of potatoes.

In the two days so far of this experiment, I've learnt that a starter and a main course hide a multitude of shortages. So yesterday I served cheese soup and stew. Today, leek and potato soup (an idea put into my head by my friend Sandi) will be followed by toad in the hole.

My usual leek and potato soup (actually, like most of my best recipes, my mum's leek and potato soup) is a bit of a caloriefest, although still healthier than anything you'd get out of a tin and much tastier. This one I'm trying to make conform to World War II standards. Compare and contrast:

21st Century L&PS: roughly chop two or three leeks; peel and roughly chop two or three large potatoes. Make a roux (heat oil or butter in a pan, add flour and two crumbled stock cubes until all the oil is bound, add milk until there's a paste, add more milk until there's a thick liquid) in a large pan or stock pot and put the leek into it. Get it covered in the roux and keep adding milk. Keep stirring. When the milk covers the leeks, add the potatoes. Cover with water, stock or more milk, bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and serve when the potatoes are done - say half to three-quarters of an hour.

WW2 L&PS: finely slice two leeks. Scrub and dice two potatoes. Put a knob (about a heaped teaspoon) of marg into a heavy-bottomed pan. Make up a pint of Household milk. Heat the marg and, when it begins to melt, tip in the leeks and start stirring. Eventually, you'll hear the leeks start to sizzle. Chuck in a handful of oats to soak up the remaining fat. Keep stirring. Add more oats if there's still any sign of liquid in the pan. Keep stirring. Add half of the pretend milk and stir well. Add a pint of stock from your stock pot and stir well. Add the rest of the "milk" and keep stirring. Add some salt and pepper (or mustard powder) and some "extract" (a teaspoon of Bovril or a good dash of Maggi). Keep stirring. Bring almost to the boil: this will happen quickly thanks to the Household milk and, again thanks to the Household milk, if you're not already stirring it will burn on the bottom. Put it on a lower heat and keep it simmering, staying attentive and - yes, you've guessed it - keep stirring. Cook uncovered to let it reduce, stirring all the more.

It's a wonder that 40s housewives arms didn't fall off! I'm a lazy cook, doing my prep in advance but also over dozens and dozens of bowls, containers, cups and tupperware as I start to run out of anything vaguely round. I enjoy getting the meal started, but then like to leave it to do its thing whilst I drink, smoke and look for naughty pictures on the kitchen computer. This is possibly the most demanding meal I've ever cooked and it's only the first course! I don't even know if it's going to be even slightly edible: and CJBS is awaiting my first wartime kitchen disaster (he's either got the perfect sympathetic look rehearsed or he's planning on doing a little dance; I can't tell).

Still, if I manage to ruin the soup, at least I can top that with the toad in the hole, which should combine my (inherited, there, I've said it, Mum) inability to make Yorkshire pudding batter rise with using powdered milk and egg.

I'll post more after the fire brigade has left.

Edit: The curse is broken! The Yorkshire pudding rose (not hugely, but nevertheless) and CJBS wolfed it down.


Kif............ said...

Well, that was remarkable. It's amazing what a meal can be made of a limited set of ingredients if there is some talent in the cook.. The leek and potato soup actually tasted leakish and potatoey - though I did add some table salt - and was not bland like potato soups can sometimes be. The toad in a hole was succulent and satisfying. The onion gravy was a useful tool in keeping it moist. This meal is a hit and can well be repeated. Though I suspect the sausages were of a higher quality than WW2 ones!

RJ Graham said...

By the end of the war, the amount of lean meat in sausages had declined to around 2 to 5%. The rest was rusk, rice flour, fat and various adulterants. It's surprising how long people put up with this - well into the 1980s, supermarket sausages were commonly 60% meat and below. Things are changing now: certainly the sausages you had last night were close on 100% meat!

Tanya Jones said...

I've never had any problem with getting Yorkshire Pudding to rise: strange that you and your mum do!