Saturday, December 29, 2012

Champagne and Camembert


  • Receive a special soup bowl and plate from a friend at Christmas. 
  • Gently fry some garlic, shallots and a little potato in butter and olive oil.
  • After five, add chicken stock and Champagne. Do'nt drinzk thze rset of teh Chapanegbm to youerzsklef.
  • Cover yourself in saucepans and simmer for half an owl.
  • Remove the rind of the Camembert. Melt the cheese slowly into the soup.
  • Add cream or crème fraîche. 
  • Season, whiz, bow.
  •  
What did it taste like? Confirmation that wine and cheese should be consumed together always. Decadent and delicious.

Tips:
  1. Use sparkling wine instead of Champagne. I used a Crémant which is a sparkling wine made with the same methods as Champagne but in a different region. 
  2. I took this recipe from a Covent Garden Soup book which I found at the very friend's who gave me this delightful bowl. I found the same recipe online and actually followed it on quantities for everything except the Champagne which I added in possibly greater volumes. Here it is.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas dinner soup!


  • Prepare Yorkshire pudding batter and refridgerate.
  • Make your meatballs. Minced turkey, cranberries and sage, breadcrumbs, a bit of egg, lots of salt and pepper. Pan fry. Eat a few in solitude.
  • Quarter some sprouts and roast for twenty with salt and pepper and garlic if you wish.
  • Sing Christmas songs that you don't know the words to while peeling and chopping the carrots.
  • Get your best chicken stock on the heat. When gently bubbling, add the carrotts.
  • Get your Yorkshires going.
  • Pop in your meatballs, and once everythings cooked, get your roasted sprouts in. 
  • Serve with Yorkshire puddings to dip.

What did it taste like? Christmassy and dinnery. Even the sprouts were good :)

Tips:
  1. For Yorkshire puddings: First, mix flour and eggs. One egg to 100g flour. Maybe. When it's smooth, add milk gradually until you have a thin, yet cream-like consistency. Think pancake batter (it's the same!). Double the quantities for more. Leave in the fridge if possible for an hour or so. Just before you use, beat again and season HEAVILY with salt and pepper. Get your oven as hot as it will go, put a desert spoon of vegetable oil in each section of a muffin tin and when it's smoking, pour in batter to fill it a third. It should sizzle and splatter. Use something good for pouring for the batter, I suggest a jug. Keep the oven closed while you pour in the batter. Put the puddings in the oven and don't open for 15-20 minutes. They should rise into little crispy cups with irresistible interiors.
  2. To prepare your sprouts, peel off the outer layers, rinse, then snip off the stalk. 
  3. Once your carrots are peeled, hold one on a chopping board like a horizon. Hold your knife at a 45° angle to it, like one half of a roof to your carrot horizon (hello? Are you still with me?). Bring the knife down on the carrot, then turn your horizon a third and chop again. Keep doing this til the end; your carrot pieces should all be the same size.
  4. I used dried cranberries that I soaked in water overnight. I added some of the sweet water to the soup.
  5. I used proper chicken stock but added a live (jelly) chicken stock cube and some water to make it go further. It was delicious. I could have eaten it alone.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Spicy parsnip


  • Get oil very very hot. Throw in some fenugreek and black mustard seeds. They should sizzle profusely.
  • When your kitchen smells like a curry house, turn down the heat and add sliced onion.
  • Add a spoon of turmeric and a smidge of hot chili powder. If you didn't have any of the above mentioned seeds, add some ground cumin and ground coriander. Even if you did, you could live dangerously and add the ground stuff anyway.
  • Mix it up like an over-enthusiastic TV chef, then add roughly chopped potato and parsnip.
  • Cover with stock, bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and let bubble til the vegetables have lost the will to live (about twenty minutes).
  • Season and whizz. Add a knob of butter and blame it on me.

What did it taste like? Rooty and sweet and perfectly spicy.

Tip: Go for a teaspoon per spice per person, except for the chili powder, you will probably need less. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Beef + beer and barley


  • Season some flour and roll in it. Also, roll some chunks of braising beef in it.
  • Sear it on all sides in some hot olive oil. Remove. Using tongs will make you feel inexplicably proficient and professional. Do not secretly season and eat any of the beef at this stage. Even the small crispy yummy bits. Yum.
  • Add finely chopped carrots, parsley stalks, celery and dried herbs.
  • Get a mini chop on some mushrooms - they like it like that but are too shy to say.
  • Also, get a bay leaf in there and some garlic - I also used some roasted garlic from my previous soup :)
  • When the veggies start to sweat you'll be able to scrape up the good brown bits on the bottom of your pan.
  • When the vegetables have softened add some tomato purée and beef stock or water and a bottle of your favourite beer. Don't forget to put the beef back in.
  • I pressure cookered mine, but you can bring yours to a simmer then keep it plopping away for a few hours. Lid on to keep the moisture, lid off to reduce. Take your pick. Or go for something in between.
  • Twenty minutes from the end, season, add lots of black pepper, add another chopped carrot and a handful of barley.
  • Eat then hibernate.

What did it taste like? Like winter itself. But less snowy and more beefy.

Tips: Add in any other veggies you like towards the end. Something green might be nice. Break up the beef if you want it more soupy. Leave it in chunks if you want it more stewy. I suggest eating it the next day - I'm sure it will get even better.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Garlic soup + bread bowl!


  • Slice the top off a BULB of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap it cosily in tin foil and pop it in a 170°C oven for 45 minutes. Your house will smell amazing.
  • Make the bread bowl! Cut a circle in the top of a big boule of bread. Pull out the belly of the bread with your hands, following the shape of the loaf and leaving a thick bread lining. If you are anything like me, which I hope for your friends you are not, making a bread bowl will have you laughing and dancing round your kitchen like a lunatic. A bowl! Made of bread! I never knew it would make me feel this way. (And we haven't even got to the good bit yet.)
  • When your garlics have cooled pop them out of their pouches. 
  • Fry some shallots in olive oil then add your garlic, some chopped potato and chicken stock and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes. Salt and pepper it. Whiz.
  • Your bread bowl will take 15 minutes to crisp up in a 200°C oven.
  • Do not serve in an ordinary bowl. There is a marvellous bready one in the oven. Go get it!

What did it taste like? The countryside! It's garlic, Jim, but not as we know it. It's mellow and sweet and savoury and moreish. The soup soaks the inside of your bread bowl and you scrape bits of bread from the sides as you go. It reminded me of sopping up gravy with a slice of white bread at the end of a Sunday roast. Anyone on a non-carb diet needs to take a serious look at the priorities in their life.

Tips: 
  1. Before roasting, peel off as much papery stuff as you can from your garlic without peeling the cloves themselves or breaking the bulb apart.
  2. For the bread bowl - hold your knife at a 45° angle to the bread to cut off the top. 
  3. Serve the bowl on a big plate in case it decides to leak.
  4. Use the mie (the insides of the bread), to test your soup as it's simmering.
  5. Don't throw away your bread bowl at the end! If you haven't used it to dip into the soup, cut it in quarters and make a sandwich.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Kulajda


  • Boil some cubed potato in salted water with carraway seeds and bay leaf.
  • Make a roux, then add milk and vegetable stock until you have a silky, soupy consistency.
  • Go to another country and buy sour cream. If you live in France, get crème fraîche instead.
  • Stir in a generous amount of the cream, adding the drained potatoes, salt, a truckload of dill and a good splash of white vinegar.
  • Serve with a soft poached egg and more dill.
  • Ask yourself how you feel about eating potatoes with sauce for dinner.

What did it taste like? To be honest, you could put an egg on cornflakes and I'd eat it, such is my love for the runny bundles of joy. This soup was an easy, warming dish with slightly sweet and sour notes.

Tips:
  1. Make the roux with equal parts butter and flour in a pan over a medium heat until you have a little, beige, conglomerated ball. Then very gradually add a little liquid, mixing constantly over the heat and lifting the pan if it catches, until it comes together as one. Keep adding splashes of liquid and incorporating it thoroughly before adding any more. The more liquid your preparatiion becomes, the more liquid you can add at a time.
  2. To poach an egg, line a ramequin with clingfilm, brush with oil, add seasonings, then crack in your egg. Twist the top together then pop into gently boiling water for three minutes. Hoorah - perfect poached egg!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blackberry + Beaujolais



  • If you are making this today, hoorah! Go get some Beaujolais Nouveau and put it to good use. If it is not currently today, choose any red wine that you vaguely trust.
  • Pour some into a pan with some blackberries and sugar, a cinnamon stick and a slice or two of orange peel.
  • Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for ten minutes, until the sugar thickens the wine a little. Taste and adjust sugar.
  • Serve with vanilla ice cream.
  • Swoon.

What did it taste like? Divine! Sweet and sharp, hot and cold - this is the easiest soup I've made so far and an impressive, elegant dessert. I pretty much lifted the idea directly from the Covent Garden Book of Soups, a birthday gift from my friend David (or as I like to refer to him, 'my readers'), where Avril O'Reilly shares her mum's recipe (a teetotaller who is apparently OK with booze in food and attempts this at any opportunity), though I changed the wine to honour today's sortie du Beaujolais Nouveau.

Tips:
  1. Avril recommends Häagen Dazs ice cream which melts much slower. I did not have this in my supermarket so went with the poshest one I could find. I was happy because it tasted like milky bars.
  2. Hold back a few blackberries from the molten wine to make the dish look pretty at the end.
  3. Try and find some Beaujolais bread to eat before, to complete your Beaujolais meal (this is basically an empty suggestion since it is highly unlikely you will find any; I am probably just trying to make you jealous). I found this lovely pink bread at the bakery near my office - made with wine, hazelnuts and Rosette (a peppery saussicon from Lyon). Yes! Meat baked into the bread, look!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sausage + savoy cabbage



  • Set up an organisation to bring kale to France. Or buy a savoy cabbage.
  • De-sausage a sausage or two (i.e. take off its coat (i.e. remove casing)) and fry in bit of olive oil, breaking up as it starts to brown.
  • Remove from the pot, get rid of most of the fat then add onions/leeks at least, celery and carrot if you have. Leave the lid on so that the veggies sweat and the moisture starts to break down the crispy, brown bits of sausage stuck to the bottom of your pan. Now add garlic and sweat a bit more.
  • Turn up the heat, and add some white wine, bay leaf, seasoning, three corn on the cobs, a pancake and two and a half litres of spaghetti bolognese.
  • Check nobody's messing with you. 
  • Reintroduce the sausage and add some vegetable stock to not quite cover everything.
  • Bring up to a simmer, add some rosemary, and keep it gently bubbling, lid mostly on, til the cabbage is tender. 
  • If you want, mustardise: spoon some of the liquid into a bowl, add a spoon of dijon mustard and mix, then pour back in.

What did it taste like?  Hearty, stewy and deeply delicious. Cabbage is tasty, don't you forget it.

Tip:
  1. Get a good sausage.
  2. Nip the sausage at the tip with a sharp knife. Make the universal sign for scissors with your hand and in sections 'cut' the sausage with your fingers and squeeze the meat out. If you know the sausage well enough, why not adjust the seasonings to bring it in line with your oral predeliction? Shape it into a big patty and break it up as it browns in your pan.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Celeriac + Lemon and Parmesan



  • Go to the market and buy the ugliest vegetable you can find. 
  • If, when you get home, you discover it is not a celeriac, go back out and buy a celeriac.
  • Cut off its gnarly bottom and discard.
  • Slice the skin off. It is now both naked and ugly. Congratulations, you have successfully humiliated a root vegetable.
  • Chop it into pieces, and roast at 220°C with some peeled potato, all smothered in olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • When tender, gently fry some onion and garlic in a saucepan with the lid on. Oil or butter, you choose. 
  • After five minutes or so, add the potatoes and celeriac, and enough vegetable stock to undercover them (i.e. not quite cover).
  • When it comes to the boil, whiz it with some cream and lemon juice - I used half a lemon, but added it gradually. See what you like.
  • Serve with grated Parmesan.

What did it taste like? Well, celeriac tastes like celery. And I am not a fan of celery. But apparently that's got more to do with texture than flavour because I thoroughly enjoyed this soup. The lemon is a magical companion to the rootiness of this vegetable, elevating it to a point where I became so enamoured with its citrusy powers that I nearly rubbed my whole body in it and squeezed it into my eyes. Happily I resisted this temptation and continued with the recipe. PS The lemon and Parmesan combination reminded me of eating risotto.

Tips:
  1. To peel your celeriac, place it on its now-flat bottom and slice from the top down and around. Turn the vegetable and continue. You will lose some of the vegetable to this method (but it is preferable to hacking at it uselessy with a vegetable peeler and risking flesh divots in your hands). You could use the peelings in a vegetable stock if you are feeling frugal (but in this case, make sure you washed it well before peeling).
  2. If you fancy something different, save some celeriac, cut into slices, then into matchsticks and roast in a very hot oven with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper, turning ocassionally. When they resemble chips, serve with mayonnaise, and eat alone in the kitchen.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Lobster bisque


  • Get a friend or fishmonger to give you lobster leftovers. I had cooked shells and heads from two. Chop up the heads and break their legs. See tips.
  • Fry a finely diced carrot, celery stick and onion in butter. If you're feeling fancy, go ahead and call this a mirepoix. But do it in the privacy of your own home, in case you get the pronunciation wrong.
  • Once the veggies (as I will go ahead and call them) have softened, add a dollop of tomato purée (I'll trust you on the pronunciation of this one) and stir.
  • Get the lobsters in. Hoorah! Make sure the heat is highish.
  • Add some brandy and white wine and let it sizzle.
  • When you can bear to stand over the pot, inhaling without passing out from the alcohol, move on to the next step.
  • Insert bay leaf, parsley stalks, sliced garlic, a chopped tomato, dried thyme, salt, pepper and water til it's nearly covered, not submerged.
  • Yes, you guessed it, bring to thy boil.
  • Simmer gently for an hour or so adding cream halfway through.
  • Strain and bring back to a gentle bubble. Optionally whiz for aesthetic, cappuccino-style froth.

NB At this point I thought I was done, so I served and took photos. The soup was delicious. However, it was rather thin so I decided to go against a number of authorities on the matter and thicken it with a roux. This is what I did:
  • Place equal quantities of butter and flour (let's say 20g each) in a pan on a medium heat. Mix with a wooden spoon until they come together in a uniform paste. If it is dry and crumbly, add a little more butter. If it looks wet and does not amalgamate into a blob add a little more flour.
  • I used about a tablespoon of roux for the bisque above (I had to remove a little from the pan).
  • Now add a ladelful of your hot bisque into the roux and mix. You may feel more confident using a whisk at this point, but the spoon will do.
  • Your mixture will separate and look lumpy and unappealing. Don't worry. Continue mixing and make sure the heat is not too high. If so, just lift the pan off the hob for a moment as you continue to mix.
  • Once you have a uniform consistency, go ahead and add more bisque and repeat the mixing process.
  • Have faith.
  • At each stage, make sure all the lumps are incorporated before adding more bisque.
  • The more liquid the bisque becomes, the more bisque you can add at a time. 
  • You should end up with a slightly thicker, silkier consistency which coats the spoon rather than slipping straight off.
  • Congratulations, you have disobeyed some lobster bisque authorities, but at the same time made one of the most important and satisfying culinary basics ever created. (Béchamel is made in the same way but with milk as the liquid.)

Right. What did it taste like? Dee-lish! I was really happy with the rich, lobster flavour I got with my mere leftovers. I think the tomato and brandy were essential additions to the vegetable base. And I chose to use a sweet white wine because I really thought this would compliment the overall dish. I was right! But I do have a sweet tooth when it comes to savoury food.

Tips: 
  1. Use dry white wine if you want a more savoury flavour - simple.
  2. I used Armagnac. You can use Cognac if you like.
  3. I lifted the head-shell from the brain (?) from the neck end. It may need a little tug, but you can do it. Then I chopped the heads into small pieces and broke up and craked the rest of the shells and spindly legs to ensure maximum flavour extraction. I saved the head-shell for decoration but I don't see why you can't smash that up and get it in your soup too.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Wild mushroom + garlic and Madeira



  • First, eliminate all possible desire to make a pun using the word mushroom.
  • Fry a selection of mushrooms in butter. Season.
  • Once the water they have produced has been sucked back up/evaporated and they are starting to colour, add sliced garlic.
  • Add a good glug of Madeira and let it bubble.
  • Pour in some white wine and a little water, bring to the boil and then add parsley and cream :)
  • Let everything intermingle on a lively heat whilst sporadically dipping in the end of your baguette (this is not a euphemism).
  • Whiz.

What did it taste like? Richly earthy and satisfyingly creamy with a hint of sweetness from the booze.

Tips: 
  1. Fresh wild mushrooms will be grubby. Do not worry. Rinse them. You may have heard terrifying stories about combining funghi and H²O, but really, don't fret. You are going to add water anyway because it's a soup so let's use a little common sense shall we? Rinse, shake and just get on with it.
  2. You can use frozen mushrooms if you know a good quality supplier. This should be less expensive than fresh and will avoid you needing to clean them at all. They will however produce an abundance of water as they cook though, so I suggest draining it off, letting them fry then adding the mushroom water back in at wine stage.
  3. Try some regular mushrooms with a little porcini if a whole bag of wild ones is out of your budget this month. 
  4. You could replace the Madeira with Sherry or another fortified wine. My friend Linda says white port!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Butternut squash


  • Slice a squash in half longways and scoop out the seeds and mush from the centre.
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil.
  • Roast in a 220°C oven for an hour or so, depending on the size of your squash. When it's ready it will be easy to scoop out with a spoon.
  • Whiz with water, more salt and pepper and some nutmeg if you wish.
  • That's it! Unless you want to add chives, but I'll leave you to figure out how.

Optional:
  • Rinse the seeds, then dry on a tea towel.
  • Put them in a bowl and coat in sea salt (and spices if you want - I used ground coriander and cumin).
  • Dry fry in a pan, shaking regularly, til starting to pop.
  • Add a little oil and continue frying til brown and crispy.
  • Sprinkle on top of your soup for a toasted, popcorny crunch.
  • (I should have fried mine longer, so yours should not be as pale as mine.)

What did it taste like? For a practically one-ingredient recipe, this is amazing.

Tips:
  1. Cutting 101: When cutting a hard, raw squash in half, be careful not to slip and kill yourself. Death will significantly hinder the completion of this soup. You may need to make two longways incisions that meet in the middle. Use a big, heavy knife if possible, point the tip through the centre of the squash, then lean down on the back of the knife, slicing through the stalk. Remove severed fingertips, turn around (the squash, not you, silly), then do the same with the bottom half, so the cuts join up through the centre.
  2. It's a pretty sweet soup so depending on your palate, you might want to add a different vegetable to balance it up, and you'll definitely want to add a truckload of black pepper. Black pepper is highly complimentary to sweet veggies such as squash or sweetcorn.
  3. If you want to do the seed thing, then keep a close eye on them as they toast and beware of the popping. Have a lid handy for your pan to keep them under control. But don't forget them and let them burn; they will do so as soon as you look away, much the same as pinenuts.
  4. You could add cream, crème fraîche, cream cheese, or coconut milk at the end. I also heard that adding Roquefort is a wonderful contrast to the sweetness of this soup, so I am eager to try this out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Red cabbage + apple


  • Sliced red onion and butter. You know what to do.
  • Add a spoon of carraway seeds and a bay leaf. Stir and sizzle.
  • Add half a shredded red cabbage and a peeled, diced apple. Stir and season. Easy on the salt. I have some delightful dried thyme from the south of France so I added a bit of that.
  • After five or ten, add some red wine, stock (I used a beef stock cube in fresh tomato juice that I had accidentally made the day before), a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon or so of soft brown sugar.
  • Bring to the boil, then simmer with the lid on until the cabbage is very soft. This may take an hour or so dependng on how stubborn your cabbage is.
  • As always, adjust seasoning during cooking. You are looking for a flavour that is, er, nice, and you like. 
PS I relied heavily on the recipe of the lovely Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall for this. Thank Hugh!

What did it taste like? Sweet and sour, hearty but not heavy. The apple was not visually discernable, but provided its sharpness and sweetness without being obvious.
 
Tips:
  1. Add your apple later if you want it to keep some firmness. Mine was pretty mushy, but I liked that as it meant the flavours had time to blend better.
  2. You could go more wintry on the flavours adding a little cinnamon or clove.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Miso


  • For two people, heat two bowls of dashi in a pot. Here is how you make dashi. It is the easiest of all stocks to make from scratch.
  • Add a tablespoon of mirin and a few drops of sesame oil, if you have.
  • Don't upset the stock. You are going to add miso paste, and miso paste does not like bubbles. Keep it below boiling, and ladle some of the stock into a bowl.
  • Whisk a tablespoon per person of miso paste into the bowl. You can get light paste, and dark paste, and everything in between. I went for a medium one.
  • Once combined, pour back into the pot.
  • Now add your garnishes. I put sliced shitake mushrooms, tofu and spring onion.
  • Serve immediately.

What did it taste like? This soup is deeply satisfying, complex but light. The umami moreishness creeps up on you gradually and unexpectedly. The silky soft tofu melts in the mouth, the mushrooms are earthy, and the onion adds freshness and bite. Half an hour after finishing my soup, I was smacking my lips for more.

Tips: 
  1. There are lots of different shortcuts to making dashi and miso, but really, this is so simple that it's worth trying if you have access to a Japenese supermarket.
  2. Try out different miso pastes, mix different ones and see what you like. I was totally happy with my medium paste, and will use it in other recipes for dressings and sauces. The lady in the shop told me it keeps for six months in the fridge. 
  3. There are also different types of tofu, I got a soft one, but you can get firmer ones too.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Carrot and coriander


  • Buy an onion. I didn't have one, which is illegal in my house, but I had a leek, so I used that. Chop it and fry it gently in butter with two or three heaped teaspoons of ground coriander, a bit of ground cumin and some chopped coriander stalks.
  • After about five or ten, add three peeled, chopped carrots, a chopped pomme de terre and a minced garlic clove.
  • Keep it gently sizzling for five, then add water - not too much, don't quite cover everything. Add a vegetable stock cube. Add black pepper if you so wish.
  • Stir it and keep it simmering until 9.30pm, or until the carrot slips easily off a knife when poked and lifted out. Make sure your potato is on the same wavelength as your carrot.
  • Whiz, then stir in some fresh coriander leaves.
  • Taste, then shake your head in disbelief.

What did it taste like? Really, really good. If I had my own trumpet, I would blow it. This soup is the very destiny of the carrot. It should be eaten at least once a day. The fresh herbs provide a bite here and there, against the warmth of the spices and the sweetness of the carrots.

Tips
  1. I didn't use any salt at all. The stock cube I used (which was one of those live ones (i.e. jelly in nature)) was enough. 
  2. You can leave out the cumin, but I wanted a little more depth. I used a small teaspoon of it. 
  3. Grate or slice your garlic if mincing is not your strong point. 
  4. I kept my soup quite chunky, but you can purée it as you please. I needed to add a little water at the end to get the consistency I wanted.
  5. Using coriander stalks is non-negotiable. They have lots of flavour and if you have bought fresh coriander for the soup, you might as well use the whole lot.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Chinese chicken noodle



  • Get some real chicken stock on the stove. Add sliced ginger and garlic, sugarsoy sauce, sesame oil and a teaspoon of chinese five spice. Let it infuse to your heart's content.
  • Add some egg noodles.
  • When they're cooked, pop in some pak choi. Slice each leaf in half longways. Let them just wilt.
  • Serve with roast chicken, spring onion and hot red chili if you like it like that.

What did it taste like? So delicious. I don't know how authentic it was but my tastebuds told me it was Chinese and chicken and delicious. And bloomin' hot.

Tip: To serve, place noodles in the bowl, put the pak choi on one side, the chicken (warm it up in the microwave if it's cold) on the other, add some liquid, then garnish.

Here is a photo, mid-eat:


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chicken + green olive


  • Boil some batons of peeled potato.
  • Rough slice some onion and fry in a little olive oil.
  • Add roast chicken, sizzle a second, then add proper chicken stock.
  • Season, then add your cooked potato.
  • Finish with your favourite type of sliced/quartered green olives. If you don't know what your favourite are, use my favourite, but please let me know what they are because I don't know.

What did it taste like? Roast chicken. And olives. Simple and delicious.

Tip: Undercook your potatoes so that when they go into the soup they can take a bit more cooking without falling apart.

Roasted aubergine and garlic + lemon and thyme


  • Slice an aubergine longways, then stab it gently. Don't think murder, think friendly knife play.
  • Put it on a baking tray with a few peeled potatoes, a peeled, quartered onion and some smashed garlic cloves.
  • Douse in olive oil, salt and some thyme.
  • Bake at about 200°C for an hour or so until the aubergine is squishy.
  • Heat a saucepan, add olive oil and get your roasted onions and garlic in.
  • Scoop out the aubergine and add. Fry a little, then add your potatoes and some chicken stock.
  • Whiz.
  • Drizzle with lemon and olive oil.

What did it taste like? Beautiful. Earthy and sweet and just like mamma used to make. Except she didn't. But if she did, it would taste like this.

Tip: Easy on the lemon, but don't forego it. Get your guests to squeeze it on, themselves (or on themselves). Use fresh thyme or really good dried stuff. I'm not showing off, but look how lovely mine is.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gazpacho


  • Get tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, onion and red pepper.
  • Also, get olive oil.
  • Peel your cucumber and put everything in a blender. Sixty percent tomato, fifteen percent cucumber, ten percent red pepper, five percent onion and the rest, garlic and your own adjustments, herbs and sugar. I only used some dried herbs. Please use fresh. Basil. Oregano. Marjoram. I don't know if this is authentic. But taste it. You will know.
  • You may need a little water to get it moving in the blender, but be sparse; there's a lot of water in these veggies.
  • Add a few tablespoons of olive oil or more, and a teaspoon or two of sherry vinegar.
  • Why does it still not taste great? Because you have not added salt. Do I really need to tell you this?
  • Add pepper too. (This really doesn't warrant a bullet point of its own.)
  • Serve now, or better, leave it in the fridge overnight, then adjust seasoning.
  • I wasn't getting moody earlier, I just have every faith in you.
  • Eat with grilled, olive-oiled bread.
 

What did it taste like? GARLIC. Go easy on the stuff. It's potent when it's raw. Apart from that, it was refreshing and juicy.

Tip: Smell your tomatoes. This is not a euphemism. Smell your tomatoes in the place of purchase (if people look at you funny, smile and wink - this is sure to freak them out). You will know if it's a good tomato if it smells of something. Also, use good olive oil and put more on top to serve.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Courgette and corn chowder + bacon and cheddar


  • Go to England and buy some proper cheddar.
  • Fry some smoked bacon til crispy. Make a bacon sandwich to keep you going. Save some of the bacon for your soup.
  • Fry spring onions and/or normal onion in the bacon fat, adding pepper, a bay leaf and some thyme. Save some of the green of the onion for the topping.
  • Decide if you want to chop or slice your courgette. Stick to your guns. Then add it to the pan.
  • Blend some milk and some sweetcorn in a food processor with salt, pepper and tabasco.
  • When your courgette is tasty (I waited til there was a little browning on some bits), add the milky concoction. Simmer gently for five or ten. Add more milk or cream if you wish.
  • Before serving, add some more corn, heat through then serve with the bacon, spring onion, and grated cheddar.

What did it taste like? Good. Savoury rice pudding. No really, it was delicious. But I guess in quick succession to the bacon sandwich, I shouldn't have expected it to compare. Nothing much in this world does. (Check back next year for 'A Bacon Sandwich A Week'.)

Tip: This is apparently the season for sweetcorn. But despite the abundance of shops and markets around here, I was unable to find fresh sweetcorn or even frozen. I was crushingly disappointed at having to resort to tinned, which despite being contrary to the very inspiration for this post, revealed this is a tasty dish you can make easily any time of year. I will endeavour to try it with the fresh stuff and see if I can taste the difference.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Persian yoghurt soup


  • Whisk Greek yoghurt and cold water in a bowl - about four parts yoghurt to two/three parts water. Season with salt and pepper. Your grandmother will thank you for it.
  • Add skinned/seeded/diced cucumber and mint.
  • Then mix in your choice of roasted pistachios, roasted walnuts, pine nuts, dill, corianderchives, parsley, sultanas, tomato, pomegranate, spring onion, apricot, dried fruit. (My selection is in bold.)
  • Chill.
  • Sprinkle with sumac before serving with whatever grilled bread you can get your hands on. I used naan.
What did it taste like? It's rather refreshing and delicious. The separate flavours all tasted good, but I don't know if a) they all came together successfully into one well-balanced soup, or if b) the combination was too sophisticated for my barbaric pallate. There are all kinds of regional variations on this soup which in fact range from dip to drink, the most well known perhaps being tzatziki and lassi at the respective ends of the scale. With my leftovers, I plan to add some spring onion and serve it as a kind of salad with some grilled lamb chops, as I feel this may be the alternate destiny to this delightfully fresh dish. I will let you know how it goes.

Tips: If you have crossed the city to procure sumac, don't forget to sprinkle it on the top before serving, especially if you are taking photos of it for your blog.

Update: Indeed it was amazing with lamb chops. I added a bit of spring onion and the combination was a treat.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ajo blanco (White garlic soup)



  • This chilled summer soup practically makes itself, you just have to supervise.
  • Put twice as much blanched almond to day-old bread in a food processor.
  • Add a finely chopped garlic clove (I don't trust my food processor to do this correctly but if you trust yours, be my guest).
  • Pour in some satifying glugs of olive oil, and a splash of sherry vinegar.
  • Season with salt, and start whizzing. Add water until you have the desired consistency. Chill.
  • Wait until hungry.
  • Serve with slices of white grape.

What did it taste like: Hummous. Kind of. It's a different and delicious soup and perfect with the addition of grapes.

Tip: The consistency should not be too thick, otherwise it's like eating dip, and ensure that it is well chilled. Although I love garlic, I am a bit scared of it raw. I always use less than other recipes. I was happy with the strength in this soup, it was obviously one of the main ingredients, but it didn't stay with me for the rest of the day.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pineapple and mint + pine nuts and honey


  • Prepare your spikey monster. (If you don't have one, get a pineapple and prepare that.) Reserve a little for the garnish.
  • Whiz it with a little water, some mint and a little honey if you wish.
  • Gently toast some pine nuts in a dry pan, then mix with some diced pineapple.
  • Serve with your chilled soup and drizzle with honey.

What did it taste like? Sweeet. The occasional nutty bite was a delight against the honey.

Tips:
  1. To prepare your pineapple: Behead and bebottom it. Stand it on its bare bottom. Use a big knife to cut from the top down in slight curves to remove the skin and eyes. The trick is to not get upset about losing a bit of fruit. This way you will cut out all the eyes successfully - don't worry, they are not real eyes and there will be plenty of flesh left for your soup. Chuck away the skin (why does this tip sound so bodily?), cut it in half and then quarters, lengthways across the core, then, keeping each quarter standing up, cut the triangle of core off and send it packing.
  2. Watch your pine nuts while they toast. They have a habit of going from pale yellow to black-as-the-night as soon as you look away.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Chilled avocado + bacon and mangetout crunch


Per person:
  • Whiz half a shallot, the juice of half a lemon and an avocado. Use more lemon/shallot if the planets are suitably aligned.
  • Add salt, half an optional small green chili and as much coriander as you have/feel like.
  • Pour in 250ml of the delicious vegetable stock you made for last week's minestrone.
  • Chop some raw mangetout and mix with some smoked crispy bacon.
  • Serve the soup chilled, with your crunch mixture. Hoorah!


What did it taste like? Guacamole! The addition of the crunch-mix adds essential texture so as not to feel like one is eating puréed dip (not that this should be at all frowned upon). Silky and delicious, with a very subtle spiciness. Heavenly combination.

Tips:
  1. Cut your mangetout once lengthways, then chop into little pieces. 
  2. I used allumettes which are ready cut slivers of bacon, but you could use rashers then break them up after - this would increase the crunch-factor.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Minestrone


  • Think about the wonder of vegetables.

Minestrone is a soup of seasonal vegetables usually with pasta or rice, so choose what you want to put in it and chop the veggies beforehand.
  • Start with onions and garlic on a gentle heat. I don't know why they always get to go first but they do, so just humour them, ok?
  • Once they've softened, add hard vegetables like celery and carrots. Then let in things like courgettes.
  • Once you've got a bit of a sizzle going, add your homemade stock.
  • Keep it going for at least half an hour, seasoning and tasting as you go.
  • When you're happy with the flavour add the vegetables that don't take much cooking, like asparagus, peas and beans, then introduce some cooked pasta or rice and perhaps some fresh basil.
  • Douse your dish with olive oil and Parmesan, and dunk in fresh bread.

Optional extra: Cut batons of day-old bread and coat with parsley, dried herbs, olive oil and salt. Bake in the oven at 200°C for about ten minutes, shaking/turning as necessary. You could also add some grated Parmesan into the mix. I didn't because my dinner guest is somewhat averse to cheese.

What did it taste like? Fresh and wholesome; the Parmesan adding essential frolics to this super-healthy dish. It was actually better the day after, once the flavours had developed more. I was initially afraid of overcooking the more delicate vegetables but on gentle reheating, I was really happy with the result; the asparagus et al graciously kept their crunch.

PS The fresh parsley on the breadsticks went delightfully crispy.

Tips:
  1. You can add pancetta at the start of cooking to get more flavour. I didn't because I was interested in the depth of flavour I could obtain with vegetables only. 
  2. A Parmesan rind in the soup will also deepen flavour. Remove it before serving and don't tell your dinner guest if, like mine, he is anti-cheese.
  3. The vegetables in my soup, in order of appearance/addition to the pot, were: carrots, leeks, swiss chard (stalks), courgettes. The stock went in at this point, then when it was nearly ready I added asparagus, swiss chard (greens), broad beans, kidney beans and fresh peas.
  4. If using canned beans, give them a good rinse before adding. 


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Caesar Soup


  • Soften an onion in some olive oil. Then add chopped lettuce. I used three little gems as I couldn't find Romaine.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper then add a little water.
  • Once the greens have wilted, whizz with Parmesan and half the juice of a lemon.
  • Heat olive oil on a very gentle heat with fat slices of garlic and a couple of anchovies.
  • Once the anchovies have melted down into the oil (you must be patient) remove the garlic slices and turn up the heat (don't worry if the anchovy doesn't completely melt - it is a fish after all).
  • Chuck some cubes of bread into the pan and shake it like a polaroid picture.
  • Serve the soup with more Parmesan, the croûtons, and a drizzle of the garlic/anchovy oil.


What did it taste like? Yum! It had all the right flavours, but it did however lack the creaminess of a Ceasar salad - something which could be remedied with some sort of dressing on the top instead of the oil. I would also like to try it as an unwhizzed broth. To be experimented...

Tips:
  1. Too-fresh bread is difficult to cut into cubes. Better if it's a bit old. I managed with fresh baguette though, so it's not the end of the world if you have to buy it on the day.
  2. I made too much oil, so removed some before getting the bread in. 
  3. Check your oil is hot enough for the croûtons by chucking in one or two cubes to test.
  4. Don't take photos of your soup - croûtons are not very patient and become soggy during photoshoots. If you insist on taking photos, use professsional croûtons or make an abundance of amateur ones as back-up

Monday, July 2, 2012

Chilled red pepper + potato croûtons


  • Simmer half an onion and a glove of garlic in some veggie stock for five minutes.
  • Whizz them with two red peppers, two tomatoes, some of the stock, salt, olive oil and lemon
  • Chill.
  • Parboil some cubed potato, drain then fry in olive oil and/or butter til super crispy. Season.
  • Serve together and if you want, make silly patterns with a little yoghurt.

What did it taste like? Sweet and delicious and full of red-pepper punch.

Tip: I simmered the onion and garlic to take the edge off their raw flavours - you don't have to if you are happy to disobey me.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Cucumber + mini greek salad


  • Blenders at the ready!
  • Roughly chop a cucumber, a teeny piece of garlic and a quarter of an onion.
  • Plonk into the blender with salt, a pot of plain yoghurt and some herbs de provence.
  • Er, blend.
  • Make a mini greek salad with tomatoes, cucumber and feta. Dress it nicely with red wine vinegar and olive oil.
  • Serve together with more olive oil.

What did it taste like? Cool and greek-salady. Feta is absolutely necessary (in life as well as in this soup).

Tips: 
  1. I bought feta in oil with herbs simply because there was no plain feta left in the supermarket. This was a happy accident as it's more flavoury and I used the herby oil to dress the salad.
  2. I am not a big black olive fan, but if you are, I am sure they would love to join the greek salad party.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strawberry and white peach + sweet basil cream


In defiance of this miserable June, I hereby propose my first summer soup.(Measurements are per person.)
  • Whiz one mini pot of fromage frais (60g) and two big basil leaves with a teaspoon of sugar, then refrigerate.
  • One handful of strawberries and one peeled white peach get blended with one level tablespoon of sugar and a small glass of dry white wine (very small for you English/Aussie/US wine guzzlers).
  • Adjust ingredients to your taste (but I don't need to tell you that)
  • Serve and consume the two concoctions together. 
  • The end.

What did it taste like? Slightly alcoholic smoothie meets sophisticated fruit fool. Beauty combination if I do say so myself :)

Tip: If your ingredients are already chilled there's no need to chill it further. Mine were not even that cold, but the temperature was perfect. I used a Grenache wine, but I suppose that any good dry wine will be good also.

PS Look at these strawberries!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

African peanut soup


  • Chopped onion, grated ginger and some spices get sautéed in the pan. I used garam masala, though I don't know how African that is. 
  • Diced red pepper and white cabbage go in with grated garlic.
  • Add a can of chopped tomatoes, and season with salt and sugar
  • Add a little vegetable stock and a big ol' tablespoon of peanut butter. Mix well.
  • I added a little green chili.
  • Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for as long as you wish. I think thirty minutes would do, but I left it for a good hour on a low heat. 
  • When you're happy (with the soup, not in life), whiz it partially.
  • Serve with some chopped red pepper and cabbage, and crushed peanuts.

What did it taste like? Deeply nutty, creamy, spicy and slightly sweet. I don't know if it tasted authentic, but it sure tasted good. The crunch from the topping was lovely against the softness of the cooked veggies.

Tips:
  1. Make sure your peanut butter is mixed in well, otherwise it will drop to the bottom of the pan and burn. You may wish to add it later if you are going to simmer for a while.
  2. I used organic peanut butter with one ingredient only (peanuts). I have the rest in my fridge if anyone wants to come round and take it, I'm not really a peanut butter person.
  3. For me, it was essential to use sugar with the peanuts, but play around with the seasoning and see what tastes best to you. Use chili flakes or cayenne pepper at the vegetable stage if you wish. I only had fresh chili (I just lied - I have a pot of tiny chilis in my freezer (they were fresh when I froze them)).
  4. Many other recipes use curry powder but this is against my religion hence the garam masala. 
  5. Other vegetables which could be good: sweet potato, chickpeas, coconut milk (the latter of course, not strictly being a vegetable).

Sunday, June 3, 2012

London Particular (Split pea and ham)



  • A ham hock and a selection of vegetables (onion, leek, celery, parsley stalks, garlic and a carrot) get cosy in a pan, with peppercorns and bay leaf. Cover them with water to muffle their cries.
  • Bring to the boil then simmer gently for a few hours half covered. (I cheated with my pressure cooker.)
  • When the meat is tender, strain the stock into a bowl, discarding the veggies and shredding the meat. 
  • Rinse a handful per person of green split peas til the water runs clear, then soften some diced onion (and garlic, if you're feeling raunchy) in butter and add in the peas.
  • Pop in some of your stock, bring to the boil and simmer, skimming off any scum.
  • When tender (30-40 mins), blitz half the lentils, return to the escape-peas, and add in some meat.

What did it taste like? Deeply flavourful, hearty and terribly satisfying.

Tips: 
  1. Make too much stock, then use only enough to cook your peas. You can then adjust the consistency once everything comes together. 
  2. Be careful with seasoning - less/no salt if you have a smoked hock. If it isn't smoked you might want to add some fried lardons at the pea-simmering stage (fat drained off). If it is smoked, check your stock isn't too salty before adding to the peas (you can add water to reduce the saltiness and/or pre-soak it overnight before you start cooking it). 
  3. You can also use pork ribs if you haven't got a ham hock to hand - in this case, I strongly advise the addition of lardons. 
  4. This is really a winter soup but if June is misbehaving (as it is this year in Paris), go wild and make it then.



Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nettle soup + garlic bread


  • Go to the bar for a few glasses of your favourite after-work tipple (I chose beer).
  • Go home and make a soup with an ingredient you have never before tasted.
  • Take a terrible photo of it.
OR 
  • Sober up.
  • Sweat onions and garlic in a pan with butter.
  • Make some mashed potato.
  • Don rubber gloves and rinse your nettles, removing any particularly stalky stalks.
  • Add the greens to your softened onions and add a little water, not too much, you can always add more at the end.
  • Once they've wilted, season and whiz.
  • Stir in your mashed potato and an avocado, then whiz again.
  • Serve with garlic bread.
  • Take over the world.

What did it taste like: Nettles taste like the sea! I have no idea why. This soup was creamy and green and delicately sea-weedy. It might sound weird, but I assure you, it was delicious. Plus, nettles are nutritiously outstanding, 40% protein and loaded with vitamins and minerals, including an abundance of vitamin K. (KER-POW!) And tell me, is there anything more magnificent you can do with a baguette than transform it into garlic bread? 

Tip: If you can't find nettles, make friends with someone who can. Apparently spring is the best time to get them, and once they start flowering they are not to be eaten. Take the leaves from the top of the plant. And protect yourself well.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hot and sour + prawn


  • Buy some Tom Yum soup paste and put a big tablespoon of it into some chicken stock.
  • Add fresh ginger slivers, fish sauce, lime, sugar and lemongrass.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer then add sliced mushrooms, fresh chili and prawns.
  • Before serving add some beansprouts and coriander.

What did it taste like? Hot! And sour. The heat is extremely kicky and will target the back of your throat, but it's not the sort of burn that stays. It is cleansing, satisfying and definitely moreish. I don't think I've ever seen a recipe for this with beansprouts, but I like the crunch so there.

Tip: Be very careful when you eat this. If it goes down the wrong way you will cough and splutter. Nothing like a little danger at the dinner table.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Spring onion


  • Chop up a big bunch of spring onions, keeping the white and green separatish.
  • Melt some butter in a pan on a lowish heat and add the whites.
  • When they've become translucent, add the green and some garlic and let it all soften. 
  • Keep it going for fifteen minutes or so.
  • Season, add a little water, then whiz.
  • You may want to add some milk or cream, but I did not.
  • Serve with the crunchiest bread you can find.

What did it taste like? Sweet and creamy, even without cream. I served with a toasted country baguette without butter (and you know how I feel about butter).

Tip: Don't let anything brown.Taste your onions before whizzing to make sure you've cooked off any raw flavours.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Chicken fajita soup!


  • Diced red onion goes into olive oil. There should be sizzling.
  • Add a hefty spoon of cumin (and some paprika if you wish) and keep the onions moving for seven minutes 49 seconds. 
  • Add chicken breast pieces, ensuring continued sizzling.
  • Once the chicken has coloured, get some diced peppers, tomato and grated garlic in.
  • Turn down, shake and season.
  • Put your choice of stock in to barely cover the ingredients. In fact, they should be rudely and abundantly poking above the surface of the liquid.
  • While it's getting up to a gentle boil, chop tomatoes, avocado, spring onion, green chili, and coriander.
  • When it tastes delicious, serve with the above plus sour cream (or if you live in France, crème fraîche) and grated, melty cheese (Cantal, if you are still in France).

What did it taste like? How can this combination of ingredients evoke anything other than brazen delight?

Tip: Make more than enough, you will become thoroughly and inconsolably depressed if there aren't any seconds.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Beetroot and goat's cheese + basil


A deep-seated, beetrooted mood for purple food has come upon me.
  • Start with a roughly chopped red onion in olive oil. Let it colour with a bay leaf while you chop two cloves of garlic.
  • After ten minutes, get your garlic in and turn down the heat.
  • After another five or so add four cooked, hacked up beetroots
  • Let it all mingle then cover with veggie stock.
  • Bring to a gentle simmer and leave for a small moment until the garlic flavour has mellowed.
  • Whiz, adding water to achieve a silky smooth consistency.
  • Blend in 150g of Chèvre Doux. It's a mild, creamy cheese (and to help you on your shopping trip, it's made with pasturised goat's milk and cream, is 12% fat and of a spreadable consistency and comes in a little pot).
  • Season.
  • Serve with fresh, chopped basil.

What did it taste like? Amazing. What a great flavour combination. I am probably a genius.

Tip: It is very difficult to prepare beetroot without your kitchen looking like you have murdered someone in it. I am very lucky because my market sells cooked beetroot which you plonk into bags with the fork provided. At home, I covered my chopping board with a big sheet of grease-proof paper which I tucked underneath to hold it in place. I forked out my beets, scrapped off the skin with my knife and chopped. By the end of cooking, numerous red flecks will inevitably adorn you and your worktops, so don't wear white or your favourite frock.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

White asparagus


  • White asparagus needs to be peeled. It's a little fussy like that.
  • Once it's been peeled it likes a hot bath. Put it in boiling, salted water for ten minutes or so. If you can bite into it easily, it's cooked. If you can't, put it back in the water (don't do this step in front of your guests).
  • Drain the asparagus, saving ther water. Cut the best looking tips off and save for the garnish. 
  • Blend the rest of the asparagus with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and a little bit of the water.
  • In a bowl, stand up your winning tips, entwine with some sort of cured ham (I used some smoked stuff which was marvellous), shave over a little parmesan and drizzle with olive oil. 
  • You may need to reheat the soup at this point. If so, reheat it.
  • Eat.

What did it taste like?  Delicate but with a nice kick up the bum from the garnishes.

Tip: To peel the asparagus, hold the tip, and use your peeler in downward strokes, while turning the asparagus slowly. To remove the woody base, snap it - it will miraculously snap at the right point. You can take a bite, it's crunchy and sweet!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Muligatawny


  • Use 500g of lamb (tops of the leg, chopped up) or chicken.
  • Heat some oil in a pan and add 2 tsps each of turmeric, ground coriander and cumin, plus one of chili powder.
  • Add the meat and 25g of red lentils. Stir it up.
  • Brown the meat well. Make sure the meat is brown. Colour the meat. Cook the meat on the outside. Sear the meat. Did I say meat? Meat (lamb).
  • Season and add a generous amount of water, bring to the boil then simmer til meat is tender. I added half a can of coconut milk with the water, and the rest at the end of cooking. (The end of cooking is when the meat is very tender and the soup is the consistency you want (soupy). Let's say thirty or forty minutes.) 
  • Serve with lemon wedges.
  • I'm pretty sure eating this with bread and butter ups the anglo in this dish - I strongly recommend.

What did it taste like? England meets India in a bowl. It's really simple to make and very very tasty.

Tip: Use lamb instead of chicken - it makes it taste so much more like your nanny's cooking.


NB 
Nanny = grandmother
'Your nanny's cooking' = my nanny's cooking
My nan is a real anglo-indian so I followed her recipe which calls for no onions or garlic, vegetables or apple (!), as many others do. I am not a stickler for authenticity, but when your grandmother gives you a recipe, you follow it, right? Especially if it's so much simpler than any new fandangled versions :)
I did not have chili powder so I used green chili - this was the only change I made to her recipe apart from a tweak on quantities.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cauliflower cheese + chive


  • Put some butter in a big saucepan.
  • Is that it? Come on, put some more.
  • Add a roughly chopped onion and some garlic. Sweat, don't colour.
  • Add some potato, then water, bring to the boil. Simmer for ten. Now, pop in a whole chopped cauliflower. Don't worry if everything is not completely covered but put a lid on if the cauliflower is trying to raise his head above the water. Sometimes you've got to be cruel to be kind.
  • When everything is cooked, whiz, adding salt, white pepper and a little water/milk/cream to achieve desired consistency/calories.
  • Add cheese in vast quantities. My dearest Cheddar was not returning my calls so I used Vieux Gouda and Cantal. Stir in until melted. Lick the spoon.
  • Sprinkle gratuitously with grated cheese and chives and serve with crusty baguette and butter for your ultimate contentment.

What did it taste like? Cauliflower cheese! Which I had not had for many years and was as comforting and tasty as I remember. Perfect for a cool, cloudy day when my little flat would just not warm up.

Tip: Check the cheese is delicious by eating small quantities during the course of the soup-making process.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Fresh tomato + double-sided croûtons


  • Chop a red onion into little squares and fry gently in olive oil.
  • Chop your lovely tomato flesh into cubes and add to the onion. Mix, then leave them to it for five minutes on a lowish heat. 
  • Put a bit of hot vegetable stock in, then add salt, pepper and sugar (my sugar is often jealous of my salt, so I use a bit in savoury dishes and always post it in bold).
  • Leave the cooker on low so everything comes together gradually, and your tomato squares stay intactish.
  • I took a little soup out, whizzed it, then poured it back in. The rest of the soup looked pretty relieved.
  • Meanwhile, slice mozzarella, put it on some sturdy, seasoned bread (I used light rye) and cut into cubes. 
  • Heat olive oil, and place your cheesy pieces carefully into the pan, bread side down bien sûr. 
  • Serve the soup with the double-sided croûtons (some right side up, some upside down) and fresh basil.

What did it taste like? Miraculously, just as I wanted. Fresh and light and tomatoey. The cheese on the upside down croûtons had oozed kindly into the soup, their crispy, olive-oil bottoms unsoggied and delicious.

Tip: For the croûtons: there should be some sizzle as you lower the bread into the oil, but don't have the pan too hot; you want to leave them in there long enough to let the heat rise up and start melting the cheese, without burning their bready underbellies.