This week is all about dinner tomorrow night. The Man and I enjoy having friends for dinner even if I always manage to get all if a fluff about it. It's often quite easy to plan -- some kind of first course like avocado and shrimp/prawn coctail or in the summer melon and proscuitto or in this case soup. In winter and generally in England the second course is usually a roast or perhaps salmon en croute or even coq au vin. In summer it's nearly always a barbecue and that is almost always chicken. If it's chicken The Man likes to do it and he is now after several years very good at it, too. And next there is dessert -- usually I make it myself, but when in France I often buy delectable pastries in the local bakery. And then, in the English way, we have cheese and biscuits/crackers and fruit followed by coffee and mints.
Tomorrow, however, is not usual and somewhat challenging for me. Two of my guests are vegetarian and two of my guests are dairy intolerant! Until a few days ago I thought one of those was also unable to eat wheat or wheat products. What relief to discover that she had outgrown that problem. Rice was o.k. and we could have bread!
The menu I decided on is fresh leek soup; homemade chili con carne with rice and sweet corn; raspberries and blueberries soaked in raspberry liqueur.
No matter how I try to plan and shop I always forget something or want something I thought I didn't want. Today it was a green or red pepper. And because I don't usually make chili from scratch -- I'm ashamed to admit I rather like Uncle Ben's chili sauce in a jar and nothing could be simpler than browning the meat and plopping in the sauce -- I've been spending time researching which recipe I want to use. My vegetarian guest has graciously donated some vegetarian chili she had made, and although I could have opted for vegetarian chili all around, The Man would not have been happy not having meat and since he was already not thrilled with having chili anyway ...
So I looked at recipe after recipe and took a bit of this one and a bit of that -- and the finished product sits now atop my hop infusing all the flavours and it won't be too spicy but have should have enough tang for me! Yes, the chili came together without too much fuss. It was the soup that has been the most challenging.
The recipe I have for fresh leek soups calls for 10 ounces of milk and this with the other ingredients is simmered for 40 minutes. So I was a bit worried about the soya milk alternative I was going to try. Especially after going to the Alpo website to find out about cooking with the stuff. Apparently you can cook with it, but it added that when adding tea or coffee it could curdle, so I was worried. But it worked out ok. Although it did curdle initially, by the time the 40 minutes were up it had been well absorbed by the liquid and it didn't separate upon cooling. However, I wasn't happy with the taste because the delicate flavour of the leeks was over-powered by the soya milk. It didn't taste horrible, it just didn't taste right. I thought that by a bit of adjustment I might be able to fix it and I think I have. I still had two leeks remaining so I prepared them and added the required stock and cooked that up for forty minutes in order to lessen the percentage of soya milk. I've now added the two mixtures together and am quite satisfied that the first course will be a success. A lot of trouble, but the guests are worth it -- I think!!