February 19, 2007

Soup High Friday?

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Cold weather is perfect for soup so when Alanna of A Veggie Venture announced that this month was soup month, I was game. For a while I had been making soup about once a week but somehow got out of the habit. Now was a good time to bring soup back. I found a recipe that was a light version of Potato Leek soup and used tofu to thicken it instead of cream. That sounded good, but tofu is kind of wussy. My soup was definitely not going to be wussy so I added some of my homemade bacon. Bacon makes everything better! So does cheese, so I added some sharp cheddar. So much for light...

Since my first soup was such a success I thought I’d go ahead and make another one. I’ve been having a lot of luck stealing, er, I mean spreading some love by highlighting other bloggers’ recipes so why not try another? I basically want to make everything I see over at Habeas Brulee. Danielle takes beautiful photos and all of her recipes sound delicious. One that had caught my eye was a Crypto-Jewish Brazilian Yellow Stew. Even the name sounds intriguing, and this stew/soup doesn’t disappoint. It’s a little bit spicy, a little bit sweet and a whole lot of tasty. I didn’t change anything except for substituting venison for the beef, and putting the pot in the oven as opposed to on the stove top. This was a definite winner.

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Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to make and eat soup, but oringinally this was supposed to be a post about a beautiful layered maple cake for Sugar High Friday #28. Then that siren Nigella ruined it. I’ve tried to like her, I really have. Some very reliable people have encouraged me to give her a chance. But it has been one disaster after another for Nigella and I. And now she’s gone TOO far. Ruining SHF is unacceptable. How dare she?! The theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict was sweet seduction and as usual, it was open to interpretation. I started to think of what I could make; chocolate was an obvious answer, since Valentine’s Day just passed heart shapes are big, maybe something with cherries… No, none of that was right. As I flipped through a stack of cookbooks, looking for some inspiration, I came across an “Autumn Birthday Cake” by Nigella “no one can be a Domestic Goddess but me” Lawson. I had seen this cake numerous times before, but had never really looking at the ingredients. For some reason the name didn’t appeal to me so I had never considered making it. This time I actually read the recipe and was surprised to find that there was a whole lot of maple syrup involved in this cake. It was at that point that I decided my theme for SHF would be a Canadian seduction. You’d be crazy not to be seduced by Canada after having a layered maple syrup cake.

I set to work making the cake, with cake flour as the recipe said, and then popped it into the oven. When the buzzer went I took the cake pans out of the oven, which was difficult because they were like bricks. It was the most dense cake I’ve ever seen, brownies are not even this dense. Before putting the cake into the oven I had the sense that something was missing, but put it out of my mind. When it came out as heavy as it did, I reread the recipe only to discover that Nigella had specified “self rising cake flour”. Who has that?? I had mistakenly read cake flour, minus the self rising. So I was frustrated with both myself and Nigella and I still didn’t have anything for SHF or the dinner I was attending that night. Since the failure of the maple syrup cake was partially my fault, I decided to give Nigella yet another chance, this time with her Coconut Layer Cake. At this point the whole Canadian Seduction thing was out the window, I just wanted a pretty cake. When I took this one out of the oven it was definitely lighter than the last one, but it still didn’t rise very high at all and wouldn’t make for a very impressive cake. It looked pretty pathetic and I wanted to throw both cakes into the snow.

As I stood in my kitchen trying to figure out what to do with two failed cakes, I broke a piece off of the maple brick cake and popped it in my mouth. The flavour was really good, but the texture was all wrong. To lighten up the denseness, I decided to cut one of the maple layers in half horizontally and put it in between the two coconut cake layers. Things were looking up. I separated the layers with coconut whipped cream, (not Nigella’s suggestion, I was through giving her anymore chances) and sprinkled some coconut and made a little decoration out of 5 candied pecans. There were supposed to be more pecans, but I ate them. I had used Dorie’s recipe to make candied nuts and they turned out fantastic. Of course they did, it was a Dorie recipe, she’s always reliable, I should never have strayed from Baking: From My Home to Yours. Anyways, I was so annoyed with the whole cake production that I refused to take a picture even though the final product actually looked quite nice. I didn't even taste it. This cake was the ultimate mood killer, it didn't have a trace of seduction. You can click over to Jasmine's for a round up of the seductive sweets that other people dreamt up, I’m sure they were less anger inducing.

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Potato, Leek and Bacon Soup (Adapted from Cooking Light)

5 thick slices bacon, chopped
6 cups thinly sliced leek (about 3 large)
8 ounces peeled Yukon gold or red potato, quartered and thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
Pinches of dried parsley, thyme, paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt

2 bay leaves
2 cups water
1 cup white wine
1 cup chicken stock

1 cup reduced-fat firm tofu (about 6 ounces)
¾ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Heat a pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon and give it a little stir until it’s fully cooked. Remove the bacon and all but 1 tablespoon of grease. Add leeks, and sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; add potato, spices and bay leaf. Cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water, wine and stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf.

Combine 3-4 cups potato mixture, cheddar and tofu in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return the puréed potato mixture to pan, along with the bacon. Cook for 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Add some pepper and salt if necessary.

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FH said...

Beautiful soup and excellent photography.Really looks delicious!

wheresmymind said...

You have homemade bacon????? Dang I so want some

Sara said...

Brilynn, you're even more of a superstar now, making your own meats! And I'm thinking, maybe you and Nigella should take a break. See other people...

Anonymous said...

Homemade bacon! That's great! Oh, I want some.

Also, I am delighted that you made and enjoyed the stew!

Freya said...

Hi Brilynn!
The soups look delicious!
With regard to Nigella, if you are using US conversion books, you are probably going to have issues. I have read many, many reports of how sloppily the book has been converted. I might suggest you try and get ahold of a UK version, I have generally found her cakes to be for the most part reliable (although not tried this one). Or, as Sara says, perhaps you should have a trial separation!

Lis said...

Ugh.. that two-bit domestic floozy! I hate that she did it to you again. I mean really, who says she's so great anyway? The woman deep fries candy bars for crissakes. Wait. That sounds good in a total artery collapsing kinda way..

Anyhoo.. I agree with the other gals.. it's time you finally took control of your own life and just stopped seeing Nigella. You need to go it alone, live life for YOU for a change.. I'm just happy there are no kids involved.

Psst.. that soup looks flippin divine.. although I think it needs more bacon. :P

Nidhi said...

YUM!YUM! Looks very delicious, The pics are nice too!

Anonymous said...

About the cake... this is when you turn it into a milkshake mix in :) Perfect!

Anonymous said...

I am GREEN WITH JEALOUSY of your homemade bacon (also in awe).

Your soup is beautiful - my ventures into health food tend to come undone with the help of cheese and bacon. (Not this week though, because I have some fabulous chorizo waiting...)

It sounds like you should wash your hands off Ms. Lawson, at least for a while!

Kathryn said...

I agree with Freya - it seems that the US conversions of Nigella's recipes are often out.

But the soups look beautiful!!! Really fantastic.


Alanna Kellogg said...

Well I'm obviously late to this party and the word's out, I'm the host!

I just knew there was going to be a story behind Soup-High Friday! (It has a certain ring, doesn't it?!!)

So glad the soup worked out, you deserved a treat (homemade? bacon, I'm drooling! and cheese?!) after all that.

Thanks so much for playing along with such a lovely spirit!

foodiemama said...

looks and sounds amazing. the thick cut of that bacon has me drooling.

Anonymous said...

Your soup looks great... and probably more soul (and waist) soothing than a piece of cake anyway! :)

Anonymous said...

I had leftover leeks and mashed potatoes - I searched tastespotting for potato leek soup and this recipe looked the best! I sampled a couple bites and this is my new go-to potato leek soup recipe. YUM! I didn't use any cheese since my mashed potatoes already had some heavy cream & butter in them.

Anonymous said...

funny read and lovley looking soup! Can't wait for fall so I can get in the mood of making some.