Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pumpkin and fennel + bacon

  • Roast a fennel bulb and a big tranche of pumpkin, all in pieces, with olive oil and salt.
  • While it's cooking, take your anger out on an onion. Slice it and fry it viciously in oil with fennel seeds and a brave dose of cumin. It should colour, otherwise you are not angry enough.
  • Add your softened, roasted vegetables and some stock to the onion, bring to the boil then simmer for ten to twenty minutes, depending on your level of patience.
  • Whiz it. Season. Add crispy bacon.

What did it taste like? Weird. I tried to be clever and added honey to my bacon to reflect the sweet/savoury theme of the soup. Alas, it went chewy and did not complement the flavour of the soup. It would have worked amazingly, had I only been in an parallel universe. The soup itself was good.

Tip: Don't be afraid of fennel. Have lots of pumpkin as backup in case the fennel gets a bit self-important. If you want to try adding bacon, don't do what I did. Use bacon rashers, get them crispy then crumble on top with a dollop of crème fraîche. I think that would work. I'll try it again one day and get back to you.

Update: I tried the above suggestion and it didn't really work. Have I really found the only food that bacon can't make better?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pea and mint + feta fingers

  • Start with onions in the pan (make sure pan is on cooker and cooker is on).
  • Sweat, soften and other words to that effect.
  • Add a bit of cubed potato and then cover with stock. Bring to the boil then simmer til potatoes are soft. Add frozen peas, heat then whiz.
  • Fresh mint can be added before or after the blitz. You must make this decision for yourself.
  • Lightly toast some kind of bread product.
  • Mix feta cheese with fresh mint, spread on the toast then grill again.
  • Fling olive oil all over the kitchen.
What did it taste like? Fresh and springy. Sweet and salty.

Tip: Don't be shy with the mint in your feta fingers. You need an abundance to stand up to the salty cheese. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012


  • Cook red lentils in water. One part lentils, two parts water. A handful of lentils per person?
  • Meanwhile in another pan, get some oil nice and hot à la Ken Hom. Add fennel seeds, then sliced onions, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, ten minutes. Let's say a sparing teaspoon per spice per person. If it catches, add a little water.
  • Add chopped ginger and garlic, salt and pepper. Turn down and cook slowlyish while you wait for your lentils. When they have expanded and softened (30-40 minutes), add the onion mix to them. Stir, season, add water if you want it soupier. Taste it. Let the flavours mingle while you do the last bit.
  • Brown one more sliced onion in hot butter and if it pleases you, add more spices and a smidgen of sugar.
  • Serve the dhal with some of these miraculous onions on top. 
  • Weep with joy.

What did it taste like? This is truly wonderful, and though not usually referred to as a soup, it can be eaten as one. 

  1. Lentils produce a bit of scum as they boil. Don't get upset, they do it with everyone. Spoon it off, and add more water if the pan starts looking a bit dry. 
  2. Season lentils at the end of cooking.
  3. Even though I am extremely attached to fresh coriander, which I added at the end, it would have been perfect without.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Chicken soup + ginger dumplings

  • Take a roast chicken.
  • Eat your favouite bits, alone over the kitchen sink. Remove the rest of the meat for later.
  • Put the bones in a pot and cover with water - I didn't completely cover my chicken (if he really wants to escape, I thought I should at least give him a fighting chance).
  • Bring to simmer, remove any scum then add unchopped onionleekcelery stick, peeled carrotsbay leaffresh parsleygarlic, salt and pepper. Whatever you want really.
  • Simmer gently while you completely reorganise your wardrobe (mine is big and was very messy). 
  • Strain the liquid (not down the sink!), and put it in the fridge overnight. If there's any good meat left, rescue it then put the veg, skin and bones in the bin. 
  • The next day if your stock has turned to jelly run for your life, you have spawned an alien mother. Not really, jelly = good. You are amazing. Scrape the fat off the top (discard) then reheat, adding in however much meat and any vegetables you want (I highly recommend carrots and mange-tout for colour, crunch and flavour). Only ten/fifteen minutes for the carrots, five for the mange-tout.
  • Make dumplings from one tablespoon of butter to three of self-raising flour, lots of salt and pepper, and a smidgen of fresh ginger. Rub ingredients together between your fingers for a fine crumbly mixture, then add a very teeny bit of water to combine. Roll into balls the size of dumplings and cook for the last fifteen minutes or so directly in the gently bubbling soup or separately (either way, covered), depending on how clear you want the finished soup.

What did it taste like? So good. The freshness of the ginger lifts the salty chicken goodness and the dumpling/mange-tout combination was a surprising delight.

  1. The longer you cook the original stock, the later you should put in your veg. Mine went for 3 or 4 hours I think. But the veg only half of that. Also, the longer you cook it, the jellier it will be; apparently this has lots of exceedingly good health benefits. One hour absolute minimum.
  2. For the dumplings, as much water as you can cup in your hand and successfully transport across the kitchen is probably enough to start with. Press the mixture together, gathering all the crumbs. It should be a playdough consistency. I made about six little dumplings.
  3. I bend a tablespoon to a right angle to facilitate scraping the layer of fat that has come to the top of the stock. 
Extra points: Don't get excited, these are just for me - I had to complete my soup and dumplings without a working cooker, because it died while my soup was in the fridge :( I had to oven my soup and veg and microwave the dumplings :)

Here is the finished result: