Welcome to 2014! The year so nice, it seems, Nottingham decided not to bother with a winter but just do another six weeks of that rubbish bit of Autumn where it just rains constantly. Not even good rain either, the sort that bounces off pavements and is frequently present on those mean streets lonely men must walk down. Presumably to the chippy. Because they’re lonely. And don’t feel good about themselves. So they go get chips and…
Anyway! Since last we talked about food I’ve moved house, redcoated at a convention, written lots of stuff and got engaged. All of these are lovely and now I’m finally in a position to come stumbling back to the kitchen and start writing about deliciousness.
There is just one problem.
The extra bit of Autumn, filled with rain so ineffectual and yet so irritating, if it was a word it would be ‘mnnnnnnnnneh’. I have also conducted seconds of research into the onomatopoeic representation of weather patterns as you can see. Also in how to spell onomatopoeic.
The big issue with this weather, aside from it being all kinds of bobbins, is this; it doesn’t encourage you to eat right. It does encourage you, as the festive season does, to fill your face with delicious confectionery treats and believe me that task has been achieved very successfully. But, eating healthily in winter or, indeed, in mnnnnnnnnneh as we presently are, is very difficult.
This article? Will not help you to do that. Because cheese and potatoes are involved. However, it will give you the basis for a good soup that…
LOCK THE DOORS, VICTOR! WE’VE GOT A RUNNER!
I get it. Soup is not a word that thrills some people. Hell, in the past it’s not been a word that’s thrilled me. Done right, soup is a hearty, filling meal that’s made of all those things you never quite get around to eating that fills you with health, vitamins and carbohydrate. Done wrong, soup is ennui in a bowl, the lightly strained, ever so slightly tomatoey broth of mild apathy. Soup, done wrong, is what Philip Larkin would have made if he was a chef and not a poet.
Oh yeah! Poetry references! Brave new year!
Anyway, we’ve all had rubbish soup. We’ve all had good soup. In an effort to raise the aggregate amount of good soup in the world, we are instigating Soup Sunday, Every Sunday we’ll make a different kind of soup and this is, I can assure you, very, very good soup. It’s going to form an accompaniment to tonight’s main meal. That will be homemade burgers constructed by Marguerite. She’s got the duty on this for a couple of reasons; as I write this she’s deep in the middle of exam prep and welcomes the chance to cook as a means of decompression and we both subscribe to a simple, burger related philosophy. The Way of Burger-Do, if you will;
Never trust a burger not made by an American.
Which reminds me, digression! I’m going to try some new stuff with Al Dente this year and the first one will be…FIELD TRIP! Well, I say field, I actually mean a meal out/food report and, possibly, interview. Annie’s Burger Kitchen is the single best burger place in Nottingham. The reason for this is Annie, a food ninja of the first order and a full on Burger Artist. She’s American, makes the best burgers and I’ll be writing about them soon.
And we’re back. So, let’s talk potato soup. Specifically, the slow cooker potato soup from Eatathomecooks.com. In fact, let’s talk slow cookers for a minute. We now have one, thanks to Christmas and family members and it’s BRILLIANT. I’ve been trying to come up with a decent metaphor for a while and I think the closest I’ve got is this;
It’s like Cricket was a kitchen appliance.
You know how cricket is a game you really don’t need to check in on for more than about 15 seconds a day and then you can go about your business? Slow cookers are exactly the same. You put the stuff you want to slow cook…er in, set the time and eight hours later, England have been crushed, or you have soup. Or let’s face it, probably both. With that in mind, Victor! The suspects!
So what do we have here?
-Potatoes-Baking ones. There’s a subset of this soup (Try saying that really fast) that involves baking them first, shucking them and filling the skins with deliciousness. As the deliciousness is being provided by burgers this time, I decided to go with the non-skins variant. Much like my preference during those interminable games of indoor football at school when the wind from Siberia was so strong, year 7s were being hurled off the island. I hear some of them made a life in Dublin, where they landed. I hear one still circles the world, his plaintive cries of ‘But I’ll miss Geology…’ echoing through the atmosphere.
-Butter. Just a tablespoon or so.
-Salt and pepper.
-The gelatinous excretions of Marco Pierre White. Or, Chicken Stock, as we all call it so we don’t have to confront the horror.
The first stage is really easy, peel the potatoes and cube them. Do not be subtle here. I peeled and chopped mine into twelve pieces. Each was big enough to make even the burliest potato guns weep, and each went into the slow cooker pot.
The other great thing about the slow cooker, as you can see, is that it makes arty ingredient shots really simply. Next up, take not one but two pieces of Marco Pierre White gel (Oh GOD…) and make up 32 fluid ounces of chicken stock. Then add that, and a tablespoon of butter to the mixture and top it off with enough water to cover the potatoes and the lingering sense of discomfort you may still have about the Marco Pierre White joke.
Look at it? All arty and maybe, just maybe, a touch out of focus.
Next, it’s timer…time. The model we have is very simple to use. There are three settings, LOW, HIGH or KEEP WARM. I went for low and set the timer for eight hours.
Which means once the slow cooker is up over 50 miles an hour then…sorry, wrong meeting.
Anyway, seven hours later…
The liquid’s escaped.
Not to worry though! This is actually all part of the plan. Take a stick blender and have at the lumpy potato goop you have down there. It’ll take a while, during which you will become convinced that there is an angry fly trapped in your blender who is PISSED at having to work this hard. Stick with it and add about another 30 fluid ounces of Marco Pierre White. That way when the fly has done his work you’ll be left with amazing, creamy soup and not mashed potato you’ve spent eight hours making.
Oh HELL yes. Next grate some cheddar over the top, add some chives and serve.
That tasted great, and was very easy to do too. Also the recipe makes loads. We had one and a half bowls and there were at least four more bowls worth left.
So there you go, the first Soup Sunday and the first Al Dente of 2014. I’ll see you next week for…
Oh wait, what about the squash?
Oh God DAMN IT.
See you next week!