Lovely Lobster Lights Up My Culinary World ... And My Hair!

I've made two soups from The Soup Book so far this month: creamy kidney bean by Roopa Gulati (7th December) and brandied lobster chowder by Carolyn Humphries (yesterday - 21st December).

Creamy kidney bean soup

The kidney bean soup was the 166th from The Soup Book and the first soup from the Pulses and Nuts section in six months. With ingredients such as fresh root ginger, green chillies and lime juice to counteract the kidney beans and tomatoes, I expected my tastebuds to be tingling with delight. Unfortunately, they weren't. As Eamon Dunphy might have said, it was a good soup but not a great soup. The older son was the food critic on that occasion and I think he was a little disappointed. I brought the remainder into work for my lunch the following Monday and thought it had improved slightly. It's not on my "make again" list.

Brandied lobster chowder 

Now this is my sort of soup! Lobster, white wine, shallots, brandy, tomato, anchovy essence, new potatoes, cream, mangetout ... I've underlined my favourite ingredients for your guidance, in case anyone should ever wish to make a soup for me.

Soup number 167. I'd put off making this soup because I didn't know where I'd get a lobster from and if I was able to buy one, would it be very expensive. German discount store to the rescue. A new shop has opened close to where I live and on my first visit, the spouse pointed out frozen lobsters to me. I remembered the two lobster soup recipes in the book. We went in to buy wet suits and train sets, and we came out with two lobsters instead, for less than a tenner each. Where would you be going?

The lobster came neatly packaged. I left it in the fridge to defrost and when the time came to make the chowder (ie, yesterday evening) I was surprised by how hard it still was. I'd been expecting a package of lobster meat, but what I had in my hands was a whole beast. Exactly what I needed. The spouse did the dismembering and disembowelling for me while I finished preparing the vegetables.

I made stock with the shells, water, wine and a bay leaf. Then life became dangerous. I fried the shallots and called in the younger offspring to see the spectacle when I added the brandy. I poured the spirit into the pan and used a long match to ignite it. The next thing I knew there was a large blue flame and the smell of burning. My fringe was singed and all I could think was how much of my hair was going to fall out and what would I look like over Christmas. Fortunately, I still have most of my hair ... and my eyebrows.

Back to the cooking. Once everything had calmed down, I tipped the diced tomatoes, potatoes and baby corn into a clean pan with some mashed up anchovies (I couldn't find anchovy sauce), poured in the strained stock, and left the lot to simmer for twenty minutes. During this time I blanched and refreshed some mangetout, which I then added to the stock mixture along with cream and the lobster meat.

Time to serve up the chowder. I ladled out three bowlfuls, leaving a portion for the older offspring. The spouse, younger offspring and I sat down to eat. Delicious. The boy left only the tomato in his bowl. Despite my reservations, I could be making my way back to the discount store.

Wishing you all a very happy Christmas and all the best in the new year.



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