Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pity the theme wasn't "things that are soggy"

This past Friday, as we all know, was the much-anticipated opening of the Rugby World Cup. In celebration of this event, Lauren and Tom had asked a few people around to watch the opening ceremony, followed by the All Blacks vs Tonga opening match.

Since our opponent was Tonga, the evening had an island theme, and we were all supposed to dress and bring food to match the theme. Finding something 'island' from the Edmonds book was a bit of a stretch, until I started thinking outside the box. After all, you really can't fault apricot islands (p215) as not being in keeping with an island theme.

Lauren had also asked me to bring a salad, so I had a look at the remaining salad recipes and chose rice salad (p178). Probably not authentically islandy, but at least it had pineapple in it!

I got home on Friday afternoon and headed immediately into the kitchen, putting rice on for the salad and making a start on the apricot islands. Apricot islands are one of the 'desserts with Edmonds' recipes, and basically consist of canned apricot halves with cake mixture spooned into the cavity, and a few sliced almonds sprinkled on top.

The recipe uses madeira cake mix, but that doesn't seem to be available anymore. Using the actual madeira cake recipe as a guide, I figured a plain buttercake mix with a bit of lemon zest would be a suitable substitute. I made up the cake mix from the box, added my lemon zest, and set about spooning it into the apricots.

I have a suspicion that canned apricot halves used to be bigger. The ones I got were tiny, but the recipe stated I should be able to put a tablespoon of mixture into the cavity. I barely got a teaspoon's worth in them, and even then, they were overflowing. I sprinkled on the almonds and got them into the oven.

There was quite a lot of cake mix left over. The recipe anticipates this, stating "use remaining mixture to make cupcakes". I hadn't expected to have so much left, since I'd filled a whole can's worth of apricots, and the recipe is for only eight. Still, I had this mixture, so I went ahead and filled up some cupcake cases.

Meanwhile, I'd checked my rice and found it horribly gluggy: I'd forgotten to rinse the rice before cooking, something I don't bother with for my usual basmati, but is apparently necessary for the ordinary long grain I'd cooked for the salad. Since I had to cool it down anyway, I had a go at rinsing the glugginess off post-cooking. It seemed to work, and I left the rice draining in a sieve while I finished off the apricot islands and got the cupcakes in.

The apricot islands came out looking shrivelled, soggy and completely unappealing. I left them on a rack to cool down and made a start on the salad, adding to the rice pineapple, sultanas and chopped red pepper. A quick vinaigrette and it was done, but it wasn't looking too great. The rice was still softer than it should be and I hadn't drained it enough. It was an unusually wet rice salad.

At least the cupcakes were looking beautiful, so I quickly whipped up some icing for them, choosing to make it subtly lemon-flavoured and colouring it yellow to match. Of course, I didn't check that I had enough icing sugar before undertaking the icing, and I had to use every bit of what I had to get the icing to almost-ok consistency. About this time I found I had dyed my fingers and fingernails bright yellow (which still hasn't come off) and I was getting more than a little frustrated at my inability to produce even one decent dish to take to Lauren and Tom's.

What I did end up taking was my soggy apricot islands, my soggier rice salad, and a tray of eye-wateringly yellow cupcakes that had no connection to the theme. Well, the cupcakes all got eaten, and most people claimed to like the tangy flavour of the apricot islands, if not the unappealing texture. The rice salad was barely touched, and considering the range of more appetising food there was to choose from, I'm not at all surprised. I'm not a huge fan of rice salads at the best of times, but add wet, gluggy rice into the mix and it's quite disastrous.

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