Friday, February 10, 2012

Dinner and Movies: Africa on Film

Greta Scacchi, in a still from White Mischief.

This post was originally going to be about the book and film White Mischief. I was able to get the book (written by James Fox, not the actor) through interlibrary loan and enjoyed it, so I thought, "Why not make a 'Dinner and a Movie' out of it?" My library just happens to have a copy of White Mischief (1987) on VHS. I thought I had hit a goldmine...until Paul and I watched it. Except for the synthesized music (it's supposed to be 1940), it's difficult for me to say exactly why this movie doesn't work, but it doesn't, and no amount of gratuitous sex, nudity or violence can make up for it (take note, future filmmakers). The story should be fantastic fodder for a movie--the young wife of a much-older peer takes up with a reckless, womanizing earl. Everyone is living it up in an exotic locale (Nairobi) while the rest of the world is at war. Suddenly there's a shocking murder that wasn't considered "solved" until 2007. Just read the book.

So--what to do? Thankfully, TCM has several hours of movies set in Africa planned for next Wednesday and Thursday that you can watch instead. Even better, these films star some of my favorite actors: Gene Tierney and George Sanders (Sundown), Clark Gable (Mogambo) and new favorite Ralph Richardson (The Four Feathers). There'll be more about The Four Feathers in July--it's a Life "Movie of the Week."


In the book White Mischief, James Fox writes that the British in Kenya were amazed at how well their native servants prepared British food. In the film version, Jock Broughton is served a very English dinner at his Tudor-style house outside Nairobi:

Brown Windsor Soup
Roast Beef
Yorkshire Pudding
Plum Duff with Custard

I've only prepared the Brown Windsor Soup and Plum Duff for today; you'll find my Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding recipe at this post. The Brown Windsor Soup was very tasty, but I didn't pulverize it as suggested in the original recipe. I'll leave the puréed meat to the babies.

Brown Windsor Soup

3 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, thinly sliced
2 carrots, chopped
1 lb stewing steak, cut in 1" cubes
1 1/2 tablespoons flour1
2 quarts beef stock
4 sprigs parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons minced parsley for garnish
sea salt, to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat in a large stock pot or dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and cook for a couple of minutes, turning the heat down if it starts to brown. Add the leek and carrot and cook another 5 minutes, stirring frequently, keeping the heat low enough to prevent browning.

Turn the heat up to medium-high, push the vegetables off to the side and add the stewing steak. Brown on all sides. Meanwhile, make a slurry of the flour and a bit of the beef stock. Add to the pan and stir around for a minute or so before adding the rest of the stock. Bring to a boil.

Add the sprigs of parsley and thyme and the bay leaf, cover pot and turn heat down so soup simmers for two hours. Remove the herb sprigs (the leaves will have fallen off) and the bay leaf and season to taste with salt.

Serves 8

Adapted from "Brown Windsor Soup" at The Great British Kitchen.


Plum Duff is supposed to be eaten right after it's cooked, so I made a tiny Plum Duff just for two.

Plum Duff for Two

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar2
3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup warm water, plus more if needed
1/2 cup sifted sprouted whole-wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice

Place the sugar, yeast and 1/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Stir and set aside to foam.

Stir together the flour and salt then add the foamy yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add more warm water, as necessary, just to get the dough to come together. It will be stiff. Cover and set aside for a couple of hours to rise.

Punch down the dough and knead in the raisins and mixed spice. Form into a ball and place in a greased pint-capacity heatproof bowl or pudding basin. Cover basin with tin foil and steam for 1 hour 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm, covered in custard.

Serves 2

Adapted from "Plum Duff or Dough" in Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, The Victorian Cookbook (New York: Interlink Books, 1989), 129.


Brandy Custard

1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon GMO-free cornstarch
pinch of salt
drop of vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon brandy

Bring the water in the bottom portion of a double boiler to a simmer (not a boil!). In the top portion, whisk the egg and egg yolk thoroughly then beat in the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in the vanilla extract and place on top of the bottom part of the double boiler and cook, whisking.

Meanwhile, bring the milk to nearly a boil (just until it starts bubbling) and add gradually, continuing to whisk, to the egg mixture in the double boiler. Cook, whisking like mad, until thickened. Remove custard from the heat and beat in the brandy.

Serves 2

Adapted from "Rich Custard" in ibid., 116.


  1. I used sprouted whole-wheat flour that had been sifted of some of the larger pieces of bran, but feel free to use an all-purpose flour.
  2. For once, I felt a dessert recipe I tried didn't have enough sugar. I'd up this to at least a tablespoon next time.


  1. It looks like a great lineup on TMC...hopefully all our TVs won't be on basketball! Your soup looks yummy...I'm with you on not pureeing the meat :/ Have a great weekend, Lauren~

  2. Amazing how a movie ought to be fabulous and they just can't pull it off! I am very surprised you needed more sugar!!!

  3. I'm gona have to wrestle the remote control away from the hubby this week. Great lineup. I love the soup and the desserts. Yum!

  4. I think I saw White Mischief not long after it came out, but I have no memory of it. It can't have been very good. Greta Scacchi looks like she's trying to duplicate a certain Madonna photoshoot of that same (general) era.

  5. LOL - I have always wondered what plum duff was. It certainly looks delicious.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.