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. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Avgolemono (Greek lemon and egg soup)

  • Hello! How are you?
  • Do you have some chicken stock? Good. Bring it to the boil, add a handful of rice then simmer.
  • Beat two eggs til frothy and smooth, and whisk in the juice of half a lemon.
  • When the rice is cooked, turn off the heat.
  • Gradually add some of the stock to your eggs, mixing all the time. Three hands are useful here, but I only had two and it all turned out OK.
  • After three ladles or so, pour the egg mixture back into the pan.
  • Season and keep stirring til it thickens and becomes glossy :)
  • A knob of butter wouldn't go amiss. 
  • Serve with parsley and a little spring onion if there is some hiding out in your fridge.

What did it taste like? Simple and moreish, this quick, tempered soup is perfect for when you need some moderation in your life.

Tip: Mix the stock into your eggs slowly so the eggs don't curdle. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Watercress + crème fraîche

  • Chop leeks and sweat with oil for five (the leeks, not you, but it is not prohibited for you to sweat a little). 
  • Add some diced potato, season, coat in the oil and continue to stir like you know what you're doing.
  • Add water to cover the veg, bring to the boil then turn down to simmer til the potatoes are cooked.
  • Add watercress, loads of it, wait for it to wilt then whiz it all up. Check seasoning.
  • To serve, squeeze some lemon in if you have some, mix it up and spoon on a generous dollop of créme fraîche.
  • If it's St. Patrick's day, arrange some watercress leaves like a shamrock on top.

What did it taste like? Watercress. This is a good thing. But the addition of the créme fraîche tempers the peppery persuasion of this valiant vegetable.

Tip: The stalks of the watercress will be more peppery than the leaves. Keep this in mind when deciding how much of them to put in. I tore off the bottom half of mine.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Thai style mussel + coconut

  • Grate ginger and garlic
  • Get some spring onions. Finely chop the white part, roughly chop the green.
  • Fry the white + ginger + garlic in vegetable/sunflower oil for a minute, then add a mug or two of hot vegetable stock (I used a cube).
  • Add bashed lemongrass stalks, a spoon of fish sauce (or salt), a big squeeze of lime, a can of coconut milk and a spoon or so of sugar.
  • Bring to a simmer and let them all get friendly for five to ten minutes.
  • Add your mussels (I used Picard frozen), then red peppers and the green bits of the onion. Keep it going for another five or so.
  • Add coriander and if you can, thai basil. If you want to cleanse your soul, add fresh green chilies.
  • Serve with crusty French baguette for that authentic Thai touch.

What did it taste like? I am a sucker for anything with coconut milk. Or ginger. Or coriander. So this pleased me (and my dinner guest) immensely. On the stove I thought it was missing something, but once it had mingled, been served and cooled down to slurping temperature, it was divine. And it only took about 15 minutes.

  1. To prepare your lemongrass, behead and bebottom it, remove the outer layers then bash it with a wooden spoon. It will infuse your soup with its heavenly, lemony oils. Remove it before serving.
  2. The higher the percentage of coconut extract in your milk, the better.
  3. From what I know, Thai dishes often have a careful balance of sweet, salty, spicy and sour. Palm sugar, fish sauce, chili and lime are often used respectively to obtain the mix. You might have to play a bit to get the amounts right for you. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Soupe gratinée à l'oignon

  • Make beef stock (or don't). I did and it made me immeasurably happy.
  • Slice four onions.
  • Fry onions in two tbsp each of olive oil and butter. Keep the temperature highish for ten to fifteen.
  • But! Don't let them catch and go crispy. You must teach them how to colour patiently. Turn the cooker down and let them ooze and whistle for a good half an hour. Add some thyme if you have.
  • Meanwhile put a slice of baguette or pain de campagne (per person) in the oven to dry out and crisp up. Let's go crazy and call this a croûton. Also, grate a truckload of Gruyère.
  • Add two pints of beef stock to the onions, bring to the boil them simmer super gently for an hour.
  • Season.
  • Dive in.
  • Put a crouton in your serving bowl then ladle soup on top.  Cover it with cheese. 
  • Put your bowls on a tray and place it as close as you can under a really hot grill until it looks like it might explode.
  • Jump up and down with excitement.

What did it taste like? What an exceptional combination. Well done France.

  1. For my croûtons, I chose a loaf of bread with the same diameter as my soup bowl so I could obtain croûton nirvana :)
  2. Put onions in your serving bowl first, then the crouton, then more liquid. That way your crouton gets juicy without getting drowned.
  3. Photographing it extensively when it's ready is the only way to avoid stripping your mouth of all sensitive tissue.