Working for a now defunct chain of booksellers, I picked out a copy of Bridget Jones Diary from the rickety and appallingly dusty Picador stand. ‘Sounds like a laugh’, I thought and duly took the book home (contrary to popular belief, staff in book shops don’t get to read all day – though they should probably spend a little more time wielding the duster round the Picador stand, obviously).
For the uninitiated here’s a brief run-down. Bridget, working in publishing, 30-ish, single and a bit of mess, falls for her charming but slimy boss Daniel. After a few romantic mishaps and by over-coming her own pride and prejudices (yes, there are some rather direct links with Jane Austen), she falls for the right man, who seemed like the wrong man, and lives happily ever-after. Well, sort of.
Fielding had tapped into something many women my age were feeling. Like many of my ‘singleton’ friends, Bridget with her disastrous, hilarious self-obsessions made me, at the time, feel just a bit less pathetic. As she aired her calorie, nicotine and alcohol worries in her diary, mine was filling up with spookily similar, but no less hilarious, issues.
Though it may not be my favourite film, Bridget does have its glorious moments.
photo courtesy of the British Film Institute
There’s one scene in particular that makes me want to cry out to Poor Bridget. She’s cooking a birthday dinner, a wildly exotic and complicated menu designed to show off her ‘skills’ as a ‘cook’ to her dearest friends. Just when she thinks she’s got things under control, aided by generous gulps of ‘helpful’ wine and vodka, our heroine peers into the leek soup which has become…blue leek soup. Never, girls and boys, tie your leeks together with blue twine.
Cringing but giggling nonetheless, I’m happy to report that the film version IS as much fun as the book. Bridget’s become a favourite of my teenage step-sons who love her use of the word ‘f**kwittage’. And the knickers jokes. And the fight scene (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve watched it – if not go out and borrow it right now. Seriously. There’s nothing funnier than seeing Hugh Grant fighting like a girl. Brilliant).
Tom (one of her nearest and dearest): Well done Bridge, four hours of careful cooking and a feast of blue soup, omelette and marmalade. I think that deserves a toast, don't you? To Bridget, who cannot cook, but who we love…just as she is.
And don't you, just as she is?
Blue soup – for 4
Well, not quite. Leek and Two Potato Soup would be more accurate. The ‘blue’ here comes from the beautiful Purple Congo potato, in the form of blue-ish croutons added just before serving to preserve their unique colour and create a little textural difference. There’s not a lot to disguise in a recipe as simple as this, so make sure you use sparklingly fresh produce.
4 large leeks, white parts only
675g (1 ½ lbs) of organic, waxy-fleshed potatoes
2 tablespoons of butter or best olive oil
1.5 litres (6 cups) of water
250g (about ½ lb) of blue potatoes
1 bunch of chives, snipped finely
Wash the leeks well, then shake dry and finely chop. Quarter each waxy-fleshed potato lengthways and then thinly slice (if your potatoes are organic, don’t bother to peel them).
Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F).
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the leeks and waxy-fleshed potatoes, cover with a lid and sweat over a low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the water to the saucepan with 1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, partially cover with a lid and cook until the potatoes fall apart (about 30-35 minutes).
Meanwhile, lightly oil a baking sheet. Slice the blue potatoes into quarters lengthways and slice into pieces just less that 1cm (1/3 inch) thick. Toss with just enough oil to coat lightly, arrange them in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet, carefully turn the potatoes and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. When ready, sprinkle while still hot with a little salt.
Puree the soup in batches. If it’s too thick, add a little more water or milk or even cream to reach a consistency you’re happy with. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the blue potatoes followed by a showering of chives.