Look up dumplings in a cookbook and it probably describes them as small balls of bread, egg, and meat; and broth as water, stock and chopped vegies. So the task seemed simple enough. Pete was expecting to knock March's recipe, Canederli Di Pancetta in Brodo (Dumplings in Soup), over single-handedly and in no time at all. Well you know what they say about best-laid plans. Before too long he had Rachel and Drew furiously hand shredding sourdough, chopping herbs and overseeing the delicate alchemy of broth making. Daniel assisted by having a lie down.
We had envisioned this month’s De Bortoli dinner to be a cakewalk; small meal, small guest list, but it was fast becoming a precision operation. Pete was sweating over his broth, testing the prototype dumplings to see if they really would float to the top when cooked, just like Emeri De Bortoli says in her recipe. The issue of using pancetta in the dumplings and chicken stock in the broth when catering for a vegetarian was cause for minor debate. To improvise, we made a vegetarian option with sun-dried tomato and basil. But we were now faced with both a culinary and ethical dilemma; could both dumpling types be cooked simultaneously in the same broth? What would happen if a rogue pancetta chunk hitched a ride on a vego dumpling during their little swim in the broth? Some of life’s questions are just too big for a Saturday afternoon.
We had to then carry the large pot of scalding broth through the streets of Kings Cross, to Rachel’s place nearby. An afternoon rainstorm had provided a dangerously greasy path underfoot and negotiating the four flights of stairs up to Rachel’s door was a potential OH&S apocalypse. Visions of months in an intensive care burns unit were eventually allayed as we set about tackling the evening’s simplest of tasks once our guests Katie Dyer and Daniel Joyce had arrived: cracking open a bottle of Windy Peak Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay.
We sat around for an hour or so, while Pete tinkered away in the kitchen, preparing the dumplings and a few simple side dishes of bocconcini salad and cooked asparagus and baby carrots, to be served with the recommended De Bortoli Gulf Station Pinot Grigio. We all surmised that the dumplings may not have been filling on their own. How wrong we were! Small parcels of big fun, a few dumplings later and we were all bursting at the seams.
After dinner, Rachel attempted a rather lame game of film-themed Charades. Drew humoured her for about five minutes because it was an opportunity to pay homage to eighties teen star Corey Haim, who overdosed a few days ago, and not on dumplings. You can just imagine how The Lost Boys was acted out. Later Rachel was more successful at group participation when she turned on Fleetwood Mac's greatest hits CD and turned her lounge room into a makeshift dancefloor. Daniel went off to the kitchen to sneak a few more cold dumplings, while Pete explained to Katie and the other Daniel how without seeing Fleetwood Mac at the Hunter Valley last December we wouldn't have dreamed up Cooking your Calendar. Pop culture references kept being amplified throughout the evening as everyone got more and more tipsy while outdoing one another with 'broth' puns. Among them were David Lee Broth, Philip Seymour Brothman, Broth Whitlam, and The Brothman Prophesies. Rachel even suggested Broth as the new name for the eighties pop group Bros. But the hands-down winner and perhaps a new name for our project, should we need a more glamorous stage name: New Kids on the Broth.