Food, Glorious Food

Let's face it, food is pretty important and as a committee, we've found it to be a potent force for binding us together into a coherent whole - there's not much more coherent than a committee stuck together with chocolate and ice cream. In the interests of fannish harmony, we'd like to share with you the food we've found so helpful, starting with Bridget's Primordial Soup Without Cabbage.

2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium leeks, chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz smoked bacon(optional)
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 pints beef or vegetable stock
2 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons tomato puree
2 oz small pasta shapes
4 oz shredded cabbage
1 pint milk
2 x 213g can red kidney beans, drained
Salt and freshly-milled black pepper
To garnish: freshly-chopped parsley

First acquire your ingredients and perform the necessary draining and chopping preparations upon them. Put the milk aside in a warm place. Gently cook the onion, leek and celery in the olive oil in a large pan till softened but not brown. Add bacon and cook, stirring, for another minute. Add all the rest of the ingredients except for the milk, pasta and garnish, realise your pan is too small, take out the cabbage, squash it all down a bit and bring to the boil. Worry as it all spills over the side of the pan, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes or until it's tender. Adjust seasoning if necessary, and serve piping hot garnished with freshly-chopped parsley. Serve with grated Parmesan and crusty French bread. A nice dollop of sour cream probably wouldn't go amiss here, either.

Serves between two and six people, depending on how many people have brought enough food to feed the whole committee with them.


Colin Greenland's Pancake Cake

Serves two. Pancakes are a good thing to serve to yourself and one guest, more laborious for any more than that. Quantities are a bit imaginary because I always do everything by eye and experience rather than weights and measures. Many people seem to be scared of making pancakes but they're actually good fun if you've got the right utensils. My favourite filling exploits the wonderful natural affinity of mushrooms, aubergines and slices of dead pig, but you can put anything in this if it's moist enough.

For the pancakes

2 oz 100% wholemeal flour
quarter pint of milk
1 large egg or 2 smaller ones
dessertspoonful of oil

Mix well - a watertight bottle or beaker is good - just bung everything in and shake it a lot. The more you shake, the lighter the batter. Then you can pour it directly into the pan without messing around with ladles. Allow to stand, to give the flour time to absorb the liquid - 15 minutes, say, or longer won't hurt - shake every so often to stop the mixture separating. When you're ready to use it it should be thick and gooey but flow easily. If it doesn't, add more milk; you can always thin a batter that's too thick - the other way round is guaranteed to go lumpy.

For the filling

frying oil
small onion
clove of garlic
6 rashers of bacon
6 oz mushrooms
1 (not enormous) aubergine
shake of thyme, a little less of oregano, still less of sage
salt and pepper if you want, but the bacon adds salt, and pepper's always best ground fresh onto the plate.

Chop everything small. In an oven-top casserole fry onion until soft, then add herbs, garlic, bacon; cook for a bit , then add aubergine and mushrooms. Make sure the mixture is not dry, then cover and simmer (very low) until the aubergine goes soft and moist. If your mushrooms produce a lot of liquid, thicken it with a couple of teaspoons of cornflour.

Light the oven and put a large ovenproof plate or dish in to warm. You can put the casserole of filling in too. Make the pancakes. The secret of pancakes is lots of egg, a heavy pan with a good undamaged surface, lots of heat and hardly any oil. (Traditionally lard, but I've never understood why.) Put just enough oil in the pan to cover the surface, pour off any excess, then heat it until it hazes and begins to smoke. Shake up batter furiously and tip in just enough to cover the bottom, tilting the pan every which way to make sure it does cover the bottom. Then leave it until the batter turns from shiny to matte, loosening the edges meanwhile if necessary. Slide spatula under pancake and turn it - I have never tossed a pancake in my life and don't see any need to make a delicate job into a hazardous one. The other thing about pancakes is the first one is always disappointing, and they only really get good as you run out of batter. I know no explanation or solution for this.

Take pan or turn down very low while you put pancake on a warm plate, top with dollop of filling, then cover and return to oven. Repeat until you have a pile of pancakes layered with filling. The advantage of this method is that you don't have to fill and roll pancakes individually and you can adjust the size of each dollop to make sure you don't run out of filling or have any left over. You can leave it in the oven long enough to cook a quick green vegetable, but no longer. Bring cake to the table and cut in half straight across the middle.


Mary's Tiramisoara

1 tub marscapone
3 eggs
2oz sugar
2oz or lots more framboise
1/2 packet trifle sponges
2oz or lots more plain chocolate
fruit - about 2 apricots, 1 peach, 1banana, 1 kiwi fruit

Separate eggs - mix the yolks and sugar together into a smooth, pale yellow mousse and get someone else to whip the egg whites to a fierce and frothy mass. When they've done that, take the chocolate out of the fridge, give them a big sharp knife and ask for finely sliced chocolate curls and slivers (get sticking plaster ready).

Stir the marscapone in to the yolks and sugar till smooth, then lightly mix in the egg whites. Taste in moderation, or there won't be enough to go in the dish. Slice the fruit over a bowl to catch any juice, set aside on a plate. Add the framboise to the fruit juice. Slice the trifle sponges and dip the slices quickly in the alcohol - not too long or you end up with a hand of crumbs and framboise but long enough that there's no dry spots. Place a layer in the bottom of the dish - alternatively place a layer of trifle sponge slices in the dish and pour over alcohol, which uses more framboise. Add a layer of fruit, a layer of marscapone custard and a sprinkle of chocolate. Repeat with layers of trifle sponges, then fruit, marscapone and chocolate until the disk is full. End with a layer of marscapone and the last of the chocolate.

Allow your egg whipper and chocolate slicer to help you lick the bowl out while you put the dish in the fridge for at least an hour. Serve in small bowls to about 6 people who will appreciate your genius. This dish is really Simon's variation on Tiramisu, from my original recipe, but I got fed up of being told it wasn't a `real Tiramisu' and decided anything this alcoholic should be fannish...