Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The last gasp of Winter

The predicted cold snap hit Christchurch around four this afternoon, marked by an icy wind and a sudden furious hailstorm. I walked home through a neighbourhood that looked a bit like someone had burst a giant beanbag all over it. I detoured to the supermarket on the way home for some soup ingredients.

There are only a few soups left - I'd assumed I'd get these done at some stage during the cold months, but somehow Winter came and went without me completing a single one of them. When facing tonight's icy blast,  mussel soup (p88) with melba toast (p93) seemed like the ideal warming dinner.

I started out by rather inexpertly cleaning and debearding the mussels. I got most of the beards off, but some of those mussels were clinging on tight to their beards and closed over the remnants after I pulled off what I could.

The first step in the soup was to cover some fish fillets with water and boil for 15 minutes. For my half-recipe, the fish cooked much more quickly and was falling apart after about 6 minutes. I removed the fish and reserved the cooking water for the soup.

The method for the soup is one I haven't come across before. It begins with with stirring curry powder and flour into melted butter in much the same way as a white sauce or cream soup. The liquid that is then gradually added is made up of the cooking water from the fish, the juice from some canned tomatoes, and a slosh of white wine.

I had finished adding the liquid before I remembered about the melba toast. It's pretty much just thin slices of bread - crusts removed and cut into triangles - grilled on both sides, then split through the middle and grilled again. The recipe is for a full loaf of bread, hand-cut into 5mm slices, but I just used a couple of slices of sandwich bread. I'd grilled the first side before I remembered to cut off the crusts, so I did this before bunging them in to grill the second side.

While the melba toast was in the oven, I added the drained tomatoes, a small amount of dried basil, and some tomato paste, then brought the soup back to the boil and chucked in the mussels.

It took a few minutes for the mussels to cook and open up. Meanwhile, I'd taken my tray of melba toast out of the oven and was trying without much success to split them as described in the recipe. By the time I'd finished, the melba toast was a pile of ragged bready shards on the tray. With a shrug, I arranged them ungrilled-side up and bunged them back in the oven while I made the finishing touches to my soup.

The mussels had opened up while I was faffing about with the melba toast. I finished the soup by stirring through the fish I'd cooked earlier, and seasoning with salt and pepper. I was busy ladelling soup into a bowl when I caught a whiff of burnt toast. D'oh. I hastily grabbed my tray of charcoal shards out of the oven, switching on the rangehood with the other hand in the hope that it would suck up any smoke before it set the alarms off.

So the melba toast was a writeoff.  Looking at the recipe, it's clearly something you can prepare in advance and store in an airtight container - a much better plan than attempting to keep an eye on it in your spare moments while you're actually concentrating on something else.

The soup was quite good - definitely an ideal dish for a chilly night. The thing is, even though it's a mussel soup, the mussels were actually a bit distracting. I found myself eating them just to get those clunky shells out of the way of the soup I was actually trying to eat. In truth, I'm not a huge mussel fan, so I guess it's no surprise that I'd actually prefer this soup with twice the fish and no mussels at all.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular posts this week