I love Bridget Jones. When she first exploded onto the scene – by which I mean the novel by Helen Fielding, as I’d never read the forerunner Independent column – she was a breath of fresh air. The diary style of the novel was unusual for its time (though the epistolary novel has been around since at least 1748 with Samuel Richardson’s famous ‘Clarissa’, fact-fans and literature geeks like me) and not the cliché it is now, but it was Bridget herself who was ground-breaking. Here was a heroine who was flawed, funny and fond of giant pants. She made singledom both depressing and hilarious, and made ‘smug marrieds’ into a catchphrase that I still hear today. I was in a relationship when the film came out, so while I wasn’t quite a smug married, I could read Bridget’s adventures without worrying that I too would die alone and be eaten by cats (one of Bridget’s fears). But when I suddenly became single at 30, Bridget was more of a role model – if this ‘overweight’ (though actually a perfectly standard size), chain-smoking, career in a mess woman could find true love with Mr Darcy, who likes her just as she is, then so could I.
Evelyne at Cheap Ethnic Eatz has chosen Bridget Jones’ Diary for Food ‘n’ Flix this month which did bring a smile to my face. I’m not going to describe the plot of the film any more than I have above, because you have almost certainly already seen it, and if you haven’t, you must DO SO NOW.
The idea of Food ‘n’ Flix is to cook a dish inspired by the film; it can either be a meal featured in the film or something inspired by the characters, setting etc. But as soon as I saw the movie choice this month there was really only one thing I could possibly make: blue soup. I’m sure you all remember that scene, where Bridget is trying hard to throw herself a birthday dinner party and cook an elaborate menu, which goes horribly wrong. But can you actually remember what she was trying to make?
Her planned menu is:
Veloute of Celery
Char-grilled Tuna on Veloute of Cherry Tomatoes Coulis with Confit of Garlic and Fondant Potatoes.
Confit of Oranges. Grand Marnier Creme Anglaise.
And as she says in the book, “Will be marvellous. Will become known as brilliant but apparently effortless cook.
People will flock to my dinner parties, enthusing "Oh it's marvellous to be going to Bridget's for dinner, one gets Michelin star-style food in a bohemian setting."”
What Bridget actually ends up serving is blue soup, omelette, and marmalade.
As it’s harder to quote the film here is the relevant passage from the book.
7pm Hurrah! Just got home. Right. Soup will be absolutely fine. Will simply cook and puree vegetables as instructed and then - to give concentration of flavour - rinse blue jelly off chicken carcasses and boil them up with cream in the soup.
8.30pm Aargh aargh, just took lid off casserole to remove carcasses. Soup is bright blue. And have not even started veloute of cherry tomatoes. And fondant potatoes should have been ready 10 minutes ago and are rock hard.
9pm Love the lovely friends. Were more than sporting about the blue soup, Jude and Tom even making lengthy argument for less colour prejudice in the world of food. Why after all - just because one cannot readily think of a blue vegetable - should one object to blue soup?
Aargh aargh. Just looked in fridge and tuna is not there. What has become of tuna? What? what?
9.30pm Thank God. Magda come in kitchen and helped me make big omelette and mashed up half-done fondant potatoes and fried them in the frying pan in manner of hash browns. Tom put the recipe book on the table so we can all look at the pictures of what char-grilled tuna would have been like. At least confit will be good. Looks fantastic. Magda said not to bother with Grand Marnier creme anglaise but merely drink Grand Marnier.
10pm V sad. Looked expectantly round table as everyone took first mouthful of confit. There was an embarrassed silence.
"What's this, hon?" said Tom eventually. "Is it marmalade?" Horror-struck, took mouthful myself. It was, as he said, marmalade. Realise after all effort and expense have served my guests:
Am disastrous failure. As Tom remarked, "Michelin-style cookery? Kwik- Fit, more like."
So my intention was to make Bridget's planned dinner party menu for me and my boyfriend on new year's eve, but to do it properly. Unfortunately, it went wrong - though in different ways to Bridget's - so it was a complete disaster! It would have been funny but my boyfriend's family pet rabbit was unexpectedly put to sleep by the vet that day so we were all miserable and it was the icing on the cake of a terrible day!
Some of the food turned out OK and since this is my entry for this month's Food 'n' Flix I thought I'd still share with you what I did and what went wrong.
First up: Veloute of Celery aka Blue Soup.
I'm not really sure what the difference is between a veloute and a smooth soup so I made a simple celery soup recipe. I sweated some onion and celery in butter, and brought it to a simmer in a pan of vegetable stock.
Season, puree in a blender... and if desired, add blue food colouring so it looks something like this!
For the main course: Char-grilled Tuna on Veloute of Cherry Tomatoes Coulis with Confit of Garlic and Fondant Potatoes
I'd been thinking about doing steak for new year's eve before I decided to cook Bridget's menu and my boyfriend doesn't eat tuna so I was going to do that for me and steak for him, then somehow forgot that she did tuna and cooked steak for both of us!
I found a Martha Stewart recipe for roasted cherry tomato sauce which was easy to make. I had a packet of cherry tomatoes which I put into a roasting tin and drizzled over some oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, thyme and salt and roasted in the oven for about an hour.
Martha Stewart serves them as they come and they do look very attractive - I forgot of course that for Bridget Jones the menu is a coulis, so I should have put it in the blender. This is the sauce after being blended, which I did with the rest to put in the freezer:
Confit of Garlic
I found this recipe on FoodandStyle.com. All you really do is heat some cloves of garlic in a saucepan, covering them with oil, over a low temperature for about an hour. After that you will have cloves of garlic that are slightly crispy or browned on the outside but beautifully soft on the inside - if you press one, the garlic inside squeezes out - and also some garlic-infused oil which you can use for another recipe.
This is where things really started to go wrong. In the book, Bridget complains hers are still rock solid; mine turned to mush. Unfortunately I was so disappointed I forgot to take a photo. The recipe I used was from BBC Food.
I peeled and fried the potatoes then poured in the stock and garlic. I tried to cook them until tender but they went very quickly from being not quite cooked to being far too soft and falling apart. Also, I used a whole stock cube with the 75ml water which I think was too much for this amount of liquid as the potatoes had a strongly overpowering taste of stock which wasn't very nice. I've had fondant potatoes in restaurants so knew what they were supposed to be like, and mine were nothing like that. I decided the stock flavour was so overpowering that I threw the potatoes away and put some chips in the oven!
So instead of tuna steak, veloute of cherry tomatoes coulis, confit of garlic and fondant potatoes, we had beef steak, roasted cherry tomatoes, confit of garlic and chips. And very nice it was too!
Confit of Oranges. Grand Marnier Creme Anglaise.
Bridget's confit of oranges turns out to be marmalade, and I don't think she attempts to make the crème anglaise in the end. I'm pretty sure crème anglaise is just custard and I had an open carton of custard in the fridge so thought I would allow myself one cheat and use that instead.
For the confit of oranges the recipe I used was from Snapguide. It was easy to follow though I reduced the quantities; I didn't think it was setting enough though so I turned the heat up and boiled it for longer. I then left it to cool and when it returned to the pan, it was solid - I couldn't even get a spoon into it! The only thing for it was to reheat it a little so it would soften, and then put it into serving dishes, which I did but the consistency had changed - it was a little like sugar that has dissolved then set into crystals again. And when I did get it into serving dishes, it was rock solid again within minutes - I wouldn't recommend over-boiling it! So whereas Bridget had marmalade, I had solid orange-flavoured sugar... we gave up and had a bar of chocolate for dessert instead.
So like I said it would have been funny if it hadn't been for the rabbit being put down that day - but I can still sort of see the funny side that Bridget had a total disaster with this dinner and so did I!