Thursday, 27 March 2008

Courgette Soup (egg free, dairy free, gluten free)

When I was little, my parents would sometimes give Dinner Parties. These were not relaxed, informal dinners amongst friends; these were ‘grand affairs’. My Mum would consult a hefty tome from her complete collection of ‘Supercook’ books – they had white vinyl covers and gold embossed lettering. She would make her selection and set to work. Sometimes I would leaf through the books and stare at the photographs of all the delicious food she might conjure up. These Dinner Parties always meant that the house had to be tidied and the dining room prepared. I remember a heavy glass decanter would be produced, and on really special occasions, they would use…the Heated Hostess Trolley.

Finished in faux mahogany, to the untrained eye it could be mistaken for a piece of tacky furniture. Yet when you slid the lids aside, there underneath was a range of serving dishes, each with their own silver lid. They were sunk into a metal base. When you plugged the sideboard in, the metal base would heat up thus keeping all the food warm. How fantastic is that? I imagine that after the starter had been served (prawn cocktail I reckon), and the meat placed on dinner plates, my Mother would quietly say,
‘now, if you would like to help yourselves to vegetables from the hostess trolley…’
and the guests would politely shuffle along. Or better still, did she wheel it around the table and each guest would load up their plates, carefully replacing each silver lid so that it didn’t make too much of a clanking sound? Perhaps she would strike poses as they helped themselves, a bit like Anthea Redfern on The Generation Game? Would my Dad be tempted to do a Bruce Forsyth impression,
‘doesn't she look lovely, give us a twirl!’?
Oh what I wouldn’t give for one of those trolleys, I could have hours of Dinner Party fun.

Anyway, as the party preparations reached fever pitch, I would finish watching Doctor Who and be packed off to bed. My bedroom gave me a great view of the guests arriving up the dark lane. As the lion’s head door knocker summoned my parents, I would creep onto the landing and watch the grown up rituals begin. Effusive cries and greetings, mwah’s and handshakes, the wine gifts accepted with thanks, alien cologne wafting up the stairs.

I was – I’m fairly sure – a precocious little brat. Do you think it was because I was once a flower princess at the village fête? Maybe the success went to my head, but for whatever reason, I always felt the guests would welcome a little break from adult tedium. I would time my entrance for about halfway through the first G&T. The conversation would die and my Mother’s face would freeze, her teeth bared in an attempt at a smile. I knew that I had about 5 minutes before she deemed that the mark had been well and truly over-stepped. I’d produce my corny excuse; ‘I heard a noise’, bask a little in the grown-up attention, then scuttle back upstairs. I’d then resume position on the landing so that I could eavesdrop. If someone appeared unexpectedly in the hall, I’d have to dart back into my room, heart thumping, hysterical giggles just below the surface.

I’d wake in the morning to a silent house. Going downstairs was like wandering into an alien world. Not the usual tidy, uneventful kitchen, but a scene from a play, or perhaps the aftermath of a crime. Glasses everywhere. Some tipped over; their contents pooled on the table or swilling happily around in the bottom. Carelessly stacked plates - not even scraped off - waiting to confront my Mum when she came down to start the bleary clearing up. I half expected to see bodies sprawled under the table, or cobwebbed skeletons propped up in chairs. Judging by the amount of empty bottles, I suspect that some of those guests would have done better to bed down under the table rather than lurch happily to their cars, and veer home down country lanes. I don’t think Drink-driving laws had really caught on in the ‘70’s.

The best part of the Dinner Party carnage was the pudding leftovers. Somehow they had made it back into the fridge, and were waiting for me to surreptitiously scoop my fill. My favourite was that culinary classic of my parent’s generation; the ginger biscuit pudding. This über-kitsch dessert consisted of ginger biscuits from a packet, soaked in sherry, sandwiched together with cream, and then smeared all over with cream. How that constitutes a pudding worthy of guests, I don’t know, (born-again Delia might) but the mix of alcohol, sugar and fat was delicious. You see - the seeds of my downfall were sown early in my life.

These Dinner Party memories were swirling around my head recently, triggered by some courgettes I bought. For at least one of her dinners, Mum served a ‘Courgettes Fried in Butter’ dish. To my young mind they looked foul – like green slugs I remember thinking – but I suddenly fancied trying them again. Using Mum’s dish as a starting point I concocted this courgette soup. It’s really simple, and you’ll feel all smug and healthy when you eat it. Do you know how it would best be served? From one of those beautiful heated hostess trolleys! Must have a look on Ebay…

Courgette Soup ( very good with Archimedes' GF bread rolls)
I think I have fallen in love with this soup. I love it because it's green, which instantly makes me feel as though it has life-giving powers. I love it all the more because my allergic girlie gobbles it up and asks for more. It's a good one for small babies, although it is not advisable to give spinach to children under the age of four months due to nitrates (here's a good explanation). If you are in any doubt, just leave the spinach out, it still tastes good. You might also want to reduce the stock cubes if feeding this to a baby.

4 medium courgettes
2 cloves of garlic
1 small potato
1-2 tbsps dairy free spread
black pepper
1-2 gluten free vegetable stock cubes
500-750ml water (perhaps a little more)
a handful of spinach/rocket/other green leaf
  • Wash the courgettes and slice into rounds
  • Peel and roughly chop the garlic
  • Peel the potato and cut into slices
  • Over a low heat, melt the dairy free spread in a frying pan
  • Add the courgettes, garlic and potato and stir until everything is coated in spread. Leave to cook until the courgettes are slightly tender; about 5-10 minutes. Stir often so that the potato doesn't stick and the dairy free spread doesn't burn
  • Grind a little black pepper over the frying pan, doesn't that look lovely?
  • When the courgettes have softened (you don't want them brown), remove the frying pan from the heat
  • Transfer the contents of the frying pan to a large, deep saucepan. Put the pan back on a medium heat
  • Add 500ml of water; it should just cover the top of the vegetables. Add more if required
  • Bring the pan to the boil and sprinkle in the stock cubes (now I know I'm vegetarian, but I reckon that chicken stock would be pretty good with this too)
  • Stir the pan, cover, and let it bubble gently until the potato is tender; about 15 minutes?
  • Add the handful of spinach and let it wilt for a minute or two. Turn off the heat
  • Use a hand held blender to blitz the soup until it is smooth. If you find it too thick you could add more water at this point
  • Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste; I like to add more black pepper
  • Transfer your soup to your serving receptacle of choice; if you have a heated hostess trolley I'm going to be really jealous!
© Pig in the Kitchen

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Mya said...

Woohooo!I'm first!!
Oh Pig, I think we must have been existing in a parallel universe. You describe my childhood so accurately! My parents used to do the same thing (Mum actually loathed it, but had to do it for Dad's job) and she would have these menus that she would inflict on different sets of people. She had to keep accurate records to make sure she didn't do the unthinkable and serve someone the same thing twice. I always remember something called Lemon Slice - my sisters and I would fight over that creamy, lemony confection.And goulash of course... and this strange coconut chicken thing - she only tried that once. Oh happy days!
Thanks for the lovely courgette recipe - I always have a Suummer glut,Mrs.

Mya x

Pig in the Kitchen said...

mya, oh my goodness, your mum was a professional DPH! (dinner party hostess). She MUST have had a hostess trolley, no? Now you've got me thinking about lemons and LEMON MERINGUE PIE! My mum made fab lemon meringue pie...

Casdok said...

My parents had a hostess trolley!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

casdok, i think anyone who was anyone had a hostess trolley!

elizabethm said...

Wonderful description of the dinner party Pig. I remember those Supercook books very clearly and I think we had the ginger pudding too.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

elizabethm, I've just seen a set of the cookbooks for sale on ebay, I'm sorely tempted!

A Mother's Place is in the Wrong said...

Thank you, thank you, for visiting my Blog and introducing me to your wonderful world. Oh that food looks just fabulous and I'm going to start following your recipes. Yummy. Margot xx
I remember Hostess Trolleys, think my Mum had one too. :)

the mother of this lot said...

I feel a 70's menu coming on...Quiche Lorraine, Prawn Cocktail, Black Forest Gateau, Fondue....I'm getting quite reminiscent. I'm also getting a megaphone.

Alex in Beverley said...

Ahhh Pig have just been transported back to my youth, I also did the sneaking of dessert the next morning before anyone was up!! Sometimes mum even brought me in a piece of dessert on the actual evening - it was heaven eating this in bed knowing i should have been asleep!! Happy days. The soup looks great can't wait to try it.

Grit said...

oh yes, the heated hostess trolley... it was a proudly maintained piece of equipment in dig's house and is now passed on and cherished at aunty dee's.

and we will hopefully get a crop of courgettes this year (if they survive the planting out experience) & we will of course be partaking in soup.

Potty Mummy said...

I think all our mothers went to the same convent... We didn't however reach the heady heights of the hostess trolley, settling instead for a hostess plate warmer sitting on the sideboard. (I actually think this was simply my mother's attempt to show off the Royal Doulton ivy leaf china on the rare chances she got to use it...).

Have nominated you for best of blog in the food, wine and cookery section, btw.

Iota said...

I LOVED this description. 'alien cologne' was my favourite bit of it. The whole thing viewed as a child, and now made sense of as an adult, is so rich and vibrant and layered. (It's a pity the recipe isn't for some kind of cake or trifle, and then I could make a clever comparison!)

You were so calculating as a child, weren't you? It made me remember that I, too, was capable of that kind of thing, and that therefore I am probably rather underestimating mine...

Lucy said...

Oh that ginger log pudding! My granny used to serve that, and it was indeed delicious. In fact, I was thinking about it just the other day, and even contemplating trying it myself - in a faux, ironic fashion naturally ...

dulwichmum said...

Thanks for this lovely idea dear chum. I adore courgettes and I hadn't tried to make soup with them.

Elsie Button said...

my grandma has one of those trolleys - i was always fascinated with it but slightly baffled by it - an awful lot of effort seemed to go into getting the food on and off it! she also had a teasmaid in her bedroom - and when I first spotted it, i nagged and nagged my mum for one until she gave in. I was about 8, didn't drink tea but just loved having it there, sitting in my bedroom. A great description of a dinner party!

muddyboots said...

the hostess trolley, eeeeeeeeeeee those awful glass inserts for the veg, l had thought l had forgotten all about that! oh am am very sorry, but l have tagged you, sorrrrry

Mopsa said...

The bizzareness of the hostess trolley - I remember my parents discussing those owned by their friends, but whether they thought they were too naff for words or just too expensive, I'll never know. Either way, they had to make do with serving the food directly from the kitchen through the serving hatch (!!!) and into the dining room. Now everyone has bashed their serving hatches to smithereens to create the kitchen/dining room where no ingredient or faux pas can be hidden from guests. If Delia rules the waves again, I think serving hatches will come back into fashion or everyone will see the frozen mash.

rilly super said...

PITK, you may have grown up in a Mike leigh play but you seem to have come out all right in the end my dear.

That pic of Tom Baker has caused a major incident of childhood regression by the way, almost as much as the time I met him and then hid behind the sofa when he was going Monarch of the Glen, although there wern't any awful robotic characterless types around, as that bloke who took over from Archie must have gone out for a smoke at the time

Charlie Blockhead said...

Congratulations!!! You have been nominated for a 2007 Best Of Blog Award!! Especially designed to bring attention to lower profile bloggers, The BoB’s as we like to call them are currently taking nominations in over 20 different categories. To find out more about how your site has a chance to become one of this year’s Best Of’s and how to nominate other bloggers, visit us at Remember voting begins April 14th so make sure you pass the word to your friends, family, and faithful followers.

Bill Beck
Project Mgr.

Suzy said...

What fantastic memories!

Love the detail in your writing.

"Effusive cries and greetings, mwah’s and handshakes, the wine gifts accepted with thanks, alien cologne wafting up the stairs."

You put us right there!



Jess P. said...

Oh my gosh, now I desperately want to host a 70's dinner party. Too much fun! My favorite "adult" dessert was a Grasshopper - Mom only made it for her other Mommy friends. It had an oreo cookie layer, chocolate pudding, whipping cream (I think mixed with green food coloring and peppermint schnapps) and more whipped cream. It was to die for. Probably more so because we could only have a small taste of it (wouldn't want to get the kiddos drunk on peppermint schnapps!).

knitsational said...

Hi! I just found your blog. You have some really great looking recipes here. Can't wait to get cooking!

Brom said...

Mrs. B just got herself a hostess trolley - except it doesn't have any wheels..

It's still pretty cool though..

We haven't plugged it in yet!

Sheltie Girl said...

This looks simply delicious. My Mom used to have to entertain for my Dad's job too. Lucky for me, when they retired I inherited all these lovely table linens.

Sheltie Girl @ Gluten A Go Go

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Dear lovely commentatorers (that's a Bushism, or it should be), thank-you for visiting, and sorry to not answer personally. I'd love to say i've been offered a six book deal with Bloomsbury and have been frightfully busy with photoshoots...but i haven't.
Just lazy.

Sue B said...

Excuse me! But I still use those Supercook books - they have some great recipes.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Sue B, I was speaking of them with awe! I'm gutted that my Mum's collection has been lost in the mists of time!

Lorna said...

Coming in here a year later... but just to say I STILL have my Supercook series. I brought it 6000 miles to Vancouver, Canada and STILL use it. And I also used to give dinner parties like your mum.. but mine were far from formal! Great fun!

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